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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.
FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS
The House Ways and Means Committee voted yesterday to release former President Trump’s tax returns. The committee’s 24-16 vote along party lines followed a more than four-hour closed-door meeting. The Wall Street Journal reports.
The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday released a summary report on the Inland Revenue Service’s (IRS) mandatory audit program for presidents. The report concluded that the IRS failed to audit Trump’s taxes as required under the program. Trump filed his 2015, 2016 and 2017 tax returns during his first two years as president, which should have triggered an IRS examination of those returns. However, the agency did not initiate an audit of any of the returns that Trump filed while in office until April 3, 2019 – the same day committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) first asked the IRS to provide six years of Trump’s tax returns. Benjamin Guggenheim reports for POLITICO.
The committee also released a supplemental report from the Joint Committee on Taxation that offered a summary of Trump’s tax returns between 2015 and 2020. The report highlights some of the stall tactics that Trump and his legal team used during the audit process. Those included seeking additional information under the Freedom of Information Act, failing to provide all the facts needed to resolve certain issues and saying that they would probably have more relevant information to present in protest or appeals. Alan Rappeport reports for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK AND 2020 ELECTION PROBES
Former President Trump’s White House ethics lawyer told Cassidy Hutchinson to give misleading testimony to the Jan. 6 committee, sources say. On Monday, the Jan. 6 committee alleged that it had evidence that a Trump-backed attorney urged a key witness to mislead the committee. Whilst the committee did not identify the people involved, CNN has learned that Stefan Passantino, the top ethics attorney in the Trump White House, allegedly advised his then-client, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, to tell the committee that she did not recall details that she did. Hutchinson, who dropped Passantino before her public testimony, provided key insights into Trump’s state of mind and actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. Katelyn Polantz, Pamela Brown, Jamie Gangel and Jeremy Herb report for CNN.
The Jan. 6 committee has begun handing over evidence and transcripts from its probe to the Justice Department. Much of the material from the committee’s probe relates to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and John Eastman, the Trump lawyer at the heart of the “fake elector” scheme. The committee has sent the Justice Department all of Meadows’ text messages and related evidence, as well as transcripts of interviews with several witnesses related to the “fake elector” scheme and the efforts by Trump and his allies to pressure states to overturn their election results, particularly in Georgia. Punchbowl News reports.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Elon Musk said yesterday he would resign as Twitter’s CEO once he found a replacement. Musk asked his Twitter followers on Sunday whether he should step down as Twitter’s chief executive, saying he would abide by the results of the poll. The survey attracted 17.5 million votes, with more than 57% agreeing he should step down. Musk will remain the company’s owner. Ryan Mac and Kate Conger report for the New York Times.
Two New York men have been indicted for working with Russian hackers to hack the electronic taxi dispatch system at Kennedy International Airport. The scheme allowed taxi drivers in a holding lot waiting to pick up their next fare to jump the line – for a $10 fee. The scheme “enabled as many as 1,000 fraudulently expedited taxi trips a day,” the indictment said. The defendants, Daniel Abayev and Peter Leyman, have been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. Benjamin Weiser and Nate Schweber report for the New York Times.
The U.S. military has captured six Islamic State (I.S.I.S.) operatives, U.S. Central Command announced yesterday. The operatives were captured during three raids in eastern Syria, which took place in the space of 48 hours. Those captured included a senior I.S.I.S. official who U.S. officials claim was involved in planning and enabling terrorist attacks in Syria. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
The Taliban released two U.S. citizens who had been detained in Afghanistan. One of those released is thought to be Ivor Shearer, an independent filmmaker who had been held since August. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the release was not part of a prisoner exchange and that no money was paid. It appeared to be a “good-will gesture” on the part of the Taliban, he said. Katie Rogers reports for the New York Times.
Unrest in Iran and Russia’s war in Ukraine may have distracted Tehran and Moscow from interfering in the 2022 U.S. midterm election, according to a top U.S. military cyber official. “We collectively saw much less focus from foreign adversaries, particularly the Russians” in targeting the 2022 election compared to previous elections, Maj. Gen. William J. Hartman said in a press briefing. Hartman said he was “surprised” by the relative lack of activity from the Russians and Iranians during the midterm election, adding that the security services in both countries were preoccupied in the weeks and months before the election. Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet President Biden at the White House today, before delivering a prime-time address to a joint session of Congress. The trip by Zelenskyy to Washington is intended to “underscore the United States’ steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. Michael D. Shear and Emily Cochrane report for the New York Times.
Biden is expected to announce a $1.8 bil aid package for Ukraine today, senior administration officials said. The package will include, for the first time, a Patriot missile battery, the most advanced U.S. ground-based air defense system. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will send a Patriot battery that is already overseas to Ukraine, the officials said. Helene Cooper reports for the New York Times.
Congressional leadership is working to introduce a bill condemning Russia as an “Aggressor State.” The designation would provide Biden with new sanctions authorities to target Russian officials. However, it falls short of Zelenskyy’s demand that the U.S. designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism – a label that would compel the U.S. to impose costs on countries engaging with the Kremlin. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
There is no conclusive evidence that Russia was responsible for the September attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. This is according to over 20 diplomatic and intelligence officials across nine countries. Some officials went so far as to say they didn’t think Russia was responsible. Others who still consider Russia a prime suspect said positively attributing the attack to any country may be impossible. No one doubts, however, that the damage to the two Baltic Sea pipelines was deliberate. Shane Harris, John Hudson, Missy Ryan, and Michael Birnbaum report for the Washington Post.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold a meeting with the expanded board of Russia’s Defense Ministry today. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will present a detailed report on the invasion of Ukraine, and military targets for the upcoming year will be discussed. The meeting will be attended by military district commanders and chiefs of federal military authorities. An additional 15,000 military officials will join via videoconference. Niha Masih reports for the Washington Post.
Deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev held surprise talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing. In a video posted on Telegram Medvedev said he and Xi had discussed the two countries’ “no limits” strategic partnership, as well as Ukraine. Reuters reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an unannounced visit to the front-line city of Bakhmut yesterday. During the visit, Zelenskyy handed out awards to Ukrainian forces defending the city. Fierce fighting had raged in the city for nearly six months. Isabel Coles reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Afghan government yesterday barred women from attending university. The latest blow to women’s rights under the Taliban was delivered in a letter from the higher education ministry. The letter ordered both private and public universities to suspend women from attending class and to inform the ministry once they had done so. Christina Goldbaum and Najim Rahim report for the New York Times.
Mexico said yesterday that it had granted asylum to the family of ousted Peruvian President Pedro Castillo. At the same time, Peru’s Foreign Ministry declared Mexico’s ambassador to Peru persona non grata and accused Mexico of meddling in its domestic affairs. Mexican Ambassador Pablo Monroy has 72 hours to leave Peru, the ministry said. Tensions between the two countries have risen since Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador threw his support behind Castillo following his failed attempt to dissolve congress on Dec. 7. Ryan Dube and Juan Montes report for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 99.950 million people and has now killed over 1.09 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 654.053 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.67 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.