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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’s aides have found a new batch of classified documents at a second location associated with Biden. It is not clear where or when the records were recovered, but Biden’s aides have searched various places since November when his lawyers discovered a handful of classified files at his former office at a Washington think tank. Glenn Thrush reports for the New York Times.
A federal appeals court yesterday considered a radical challenge to the Voting Rights Act in a case that could lead to another major Supreme Court showdown over voting rights. The case concerns whether private entities – and not just the U.S. Justice Department – can bring lawsuits under a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Two of the three members of the panel asked questions suggesting that they were leaning against the idea that the provision, known as Section 2, could be enforced in private lawsuits. If this is the outcome of the case, it would significantly diminish the use of the law to challenge ballot regulations and redistricting maps that are said to be racially discriminatory. Tierney Sneed reports for CNN.
The Supreme Court yesterday decided not to block the enforcement of New York’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act whilst litigation continues before the appeals court. The group of gun owners suing to strike down the new law argued that each day they are deprived of carrying a concealed weapon puts them at risk of violent crime, and asked the Supreme Court to block the law immediately. Whilst the Supreme Court declined this request, this action may not be the justices’ final word on the matter. After the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has made its determination, the losing side could appeal to the Supreme Court. Jess Bravin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. RELATIONS – CHINA
FBI counterintelligence agents raided a building last fall as part of an investigation into Chinese police outposts operating in the U.S. without jurisdiction or diplomatic approval. The search, which is the first known example of the authorities seizing materials from one of the outposts, represents an escalation in a global dispute over China’s efforts to police its diaspora beyond its borders. Beijing says the outposts aren’t doing police work, but Chinese state media reports say they “collect intelligence” and solve crimes outside their jurisdiction. Megha Rajagopalan and William K. Rashbaum report for the New York Times.
China is likely to appoint Xie Feng, a vice foreign minister and U.S. specialist, as its new ambassador to Washington, according to people familiar with the matter. Xie, who helped arrange the summit between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Biden in November, is widely regarded as a firm and even-handed conduit between the two countries. The decision to appoint Xie as U.S. envoy reflects a change in ethos, as Beijing tries to recalibrate its foreign policy in a bid to stabilize fraught ties with the U.S., according to people working inside the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Keith Zhai and Chun Han Wong report for the Wall Street Journal.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said yesterday that he seriously doubted that increased Chinese military activity near the Taiwan Strait was a sign of an imminent invasion by Beijing. “We’ve seen increased aerial activity in the straits, we’ve seen increased surface vessel activity around Taiwan,” Austin said during a press conference. “But whether or not that means that an invasion is imminent, you know, I seriously doubt that,” he added. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Ambassadors to Libya from the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, and the U.K. are due to meet in Washington tomorrow, to discuss the country’s failure to agree on the constitutional basis for national elections. Western leaders have grown increasingly impatient with the Libyan political elite, who have failed to reach an agreement for over a year, whilst boosting politicians’ salaries by more than 40%. The meeting will look at how to stage elections and whether to urge the new U.N. special envoy Abdoulaye Bathily to set a deadline for establishing a national Libyan body to agree on elections. Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
U.S. and Brazilian lawmakers are looking for ways to cooperate on an investigation into violent protests in the capital Brasilia last weekend. Officials from the two countries have held initial discussions sharing lessons from inquiries into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, people familiar with the talks said. According to one source, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chair of the recently dissolved Jan. 6 committee, is one of the lawmakers whose office is discussing collaboration. Gram Slattery, Brad Haynes and Maria Carolina Marcello report for Reuters.
Brazil’s Supreme Court yesterday extended the powers of local authorities to control anti-government protests. The court’s decision allows local government authorities to issue large fines to individuals and companies involved in activities such as blocking roads and invading government buildings. Luciana Magalhaes and Patricia Kowsmann report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia has replaced the general in charge of what the Kremlin calls its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine. Russia’s Defense Ministry announced yesterday that General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, would become the overall commander of the campaign, with the current commander, Sergey Surovikin, becoming one of his three deputies. It is the second time in just three months that the ministry has replaced the chief of the war effort. Tim Lister reports for CNN.
Poland and Britain are considering sending main battle tanks to Ukraine. The move would end the West’s nearly yearlong refusal to deploy some of its most advanced weaponry against Russia and would ratchet up pressure on other allies of Kyiv to follow suit. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times.
Russia has committed a “litany of violations of international humanitarian law,” during the war in Ukraine, according to Human Rights Watch. The group’s annual report said that evidence of war crimes in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, is part of a pattern that “has been repeated countless times.” It also highlighted the bombing of a theater in Mariupol, despite signs that children were sheltering there, as well as strikes on other civilian targets. Jack Guy reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Former Iranian deputy defense minister Alireza Akbari has been sentenced to death after being convicted of spying for the U.K., Iran’s judiciary announced yesterday. Akbari, who had lived in Britain for a decade as a dual national, was arrested in 2019 in Iran on allegations of being a “super spy” for MI6, the U.K.’s foreign intelligence service. The U.K. yesterday demanded that Iran halt the execution and release him immediately. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
At least five people were killed in an explosion near the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul yesterday. Responsibility for the explosion was claimed by ISIS-K, a local ISIS affiliate, which described it as a suicide bomb attack. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan condemned the attack in a statement, calling the “rising insecurity” in the country “of grave concern.” Ehsan Popalzai, Mostafa Salem, Eyad Kourdi, Karen Smith and Rhea Mogul report for CNN.
At least five people were killed and 13 others injured when a car accelerated through pedestrians at an intersection in the southern Chinese hub of Guangzhou yesterday. Local authorities said police had “controlled” the driver, a 22-year-old man from Guangdong province, and further investigation was underway. Simone McCarthy and Wayne Chang report for CNN.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said for the first time yesterday that South Korea would consider building nuclear weapons to counter the North’s growing nuclear threat. Speaking during a policy briefing, Yoon was quick to add that building nuclear weapons was not yet an official policy. He stressed that South Korea would for now deal with North Korea’s nuclear threat by strengthening its alliance with the U.S.. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 101.511 million people and has now killed over 1.10 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 665.848 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.72 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.