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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
President Biden yesterday said that he would be willing to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin under certain circumstances. Such talks would have to be in consultation with NATO allies, and would only take place if Putin indicated he was “looking for a way to end the war.” Biden’s comments came during a White House news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has championed the need for dialogue with Moscow. Roger Cohen and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report for the New York Times.
Officials in Spain have increased security measures at consulates and public administrative buildings after at least six letter bombs were mailed to several offices in Madrid. Those targeted include Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the American and Ukrainian Embassies. Only one minor injury was caused by the letters. José Bautista, Isabella Kwai and John Ismay report for the New York Times.
The executive arm of the E.U. has asked its 27 members to cap the price of Russian oil at $60, officials and diplomats have said. All 27 countries need to sign off on the proposal for it to move ahead as planned on Monday. Whether this will happen depends on a response from Poland, which has pushed for a cap set far below the price at which Russian oil is being sold. However, as of yesterday evening, European officials remained confident that the price cap plan will be agreed on today. Laurence Norman and Andrew Duehren report for the Wall Street Journal.
Vessels linked to Russia’s largest grain trader shipped thousands of tons of stolen Ukrainian grain to global buyers, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal has found. The ships are linked either through their management or ownership to companies controlled by Russian businessman Peter Khodykin, who also owns the country’s largest grain exporter. The grain is disguised and transported using a sophisticated system of feeder vessels and floating cranes. Jared Malsin, Anna Hirtenstein and Alistair MacDonald report for the Wall Street Journal.
Democratic Republic of Congo’s armed forces said yesterday that 50 civilians had been massacred by M23 rebels and their allies. The massacre reportedly took place in the eastern town of Kishishe. The U.N. and a U.S. diplomat also said they had information about civilian killings in the town, but did not give details. Reuters reports.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (A.N.C.) will meet on Friday to decide the fate of the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa. The meeting follows a report released on Wednesday which concluded that Ramaphosa may have broken the law in attempting to cover up a robbery at his farm in 2020. Lawmakers are due to vote early next week on whether to accept the report and set up an impeachment committee with full powers of investigation. There is pressure on the A.N.C. to vote in favor of the report, which would make Ramaphosa’s presidency untenable, even if he survives the next few days. Joseph Cotterill reports for the Financial Times.
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu signed a deal yesterday to give an ultranationalist religious party oversight over the construction of West Bank settlements. Under the deal, a minister from the Religious Zionism party led by Bezalel Smotrich will be placed within Israel’s Defense Ministry and be responsible for settlements inside the occupied West Bank. The move brings Netanyahu closer to forming what could be the country’s most right-wing and religious government in its history. Dov Lieber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A man was killed in northern Iran during celebrations by anti-government protesters following the country’s defeat against the U.S. at the FIFA World Cup earlier this week. This is according to Norway-based rights group Iran Human Rights, which said that Mehran Samak was shot in the head by security personnel when he was out celebrating. Jomana Karadsheh and Celine Alkhaldi report for CNN.
Afghanistan’s Taliban yesterday blocked transmissions by two news radio stations funded by the U.S. government. The Taliban said that the stations had repeatedly “failed to adhere” to government press laws, “violated journalistic principles” and aired “one-sided broadcasts.” Both of the stations had operated for years within Afghanistan. Pamela Constable reports for the Washington Post.
The U.S. and its allies have imposed sanctions on three North Korean senior officials associated with the country’s recent missile tests. “Today’s actions have been taken in close coordination with the Republic of Korea and Japan and further align our policies with our E.U. partners on the global DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] threat,” a statement from the U.S. State Department said. Monica Miller reports for BBC News.
A federal appeals court yesterday halted the third-party review of documents seized from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The three-judge panel reversed U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s order appointing a special master to sort through the documents seized from Trump’s home. The ruling is a major defeat for Trump, removing a significant obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into the mishandling of government records from his time in the White House. Tierney Sneed reports for CNN.
Just Security publish a Mar-a-Lago Clearing House containing all the key documents in the investigation. The collection of materials is put together by Ryan Goodman.
2020 ELECTION PROBES
A federal judge has ordered former Trump White House lawyers, Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin, to provide additional testimony to the Justice Department’s criminal probe of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Cipollone and Philbin appeared before the grand jury in Washington, DC, in September, but declined to answer some questions, citing Trump’s claims of executive and attorney-client privilege. Sara Murray, Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz report for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A judge in Arizona yesterday ordered the governing body of Cochise County to certify the results of the Nov. 8 election. Superior Court Judge Casey F. McGinley found that the board had no authority to shirk their duty under state law to certify the results. The court order ended a standoff in Cochise County that threatened to upend the state’s process for affirming the will of Arizona’s electorate. Isaac Stanley-Becker and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez report for the Washington Post.
IRS research audits in 2017 and 2019 that selected FBI leaders James Comey and Andrew McCabe for intensive exams were random, according to an inspector general’s report. Comey and McCabe were both fired under then-President Trump and have questioned whether they were chosen on purpose. However, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found no misconduct or evidence that the Internal Revenue Service’s National Research Program was manipulated to ensure that specific taxpayers would be chosen. Richard Rubin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration is considering substantial new limits on the number of migrants who could apply for asylum in the U.S.. According to those familiar with the matter, the proposal under consideration would prohibit migrants who are fleeing persecution from seeking refuge in the U.S. unless they were first denied safe harbor by another country, like Mexico. While some have criticized the policy as being too similar to the approach embraced by Trump, one person briefed on the discussions said that if adopted the new policy would be rolled out alongside expanded opportunities for migrants to come to the U.S. legally. Eileen Sullivan and Michael D. Shear report for the New York Times.
Kanye West’s Twitter account was suspended early this morning after Elon Musk said it violated the platform’s rules on inciting violence. Whilst it is not clear which specific tweet prompted the suspension, yesterday evening West tweeted an altered image of the Star of David with a swastika inside. Rob McLean reports for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 98.788 million people and has now killed over 1.08 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 643.426 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.64 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.