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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.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office began presenting evidence to a grand jury yesterday about former President Trump’s role in paying hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. The decision to impanel a grand jury to focus on the hush money represents a dramatic escalation in the inquiry and lays the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months. William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and Hurubie Meko report for the New York Times.
The Justice Department yesterday declined to provide Congress with additional information about classified documents found at President Biden’s Delaware residence and former private office. In denying the request of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the department’s top legislative liaison said longstanding policy prevented the disclosure of “non-public information that is central to the ongoing Special Counsel investigation” into the handling of those documents. C. Ryan Barber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Justice Department has closed its investigation into a retired four-star Marine general suspected of secretly lobbying for the government of Qatar. According to a statement by General John R. Allen’s lawyer, the investigation has been closed without any charges being brought against him in the case. Adam Entous and Mark Mazzetti report for the New York Times.
A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who stored files with classified information at his Florida home is set to plead guilty in February to one count of unlawful retention of national defense information. The defendant, Robert Birchum, served in the Air Force for more than 30 years and previously held top-secret clearance. According to his plea agreement, he stored hundreds of files that contained information marked as top secret, secret or confidential outside of authorized locations. Holmes Lybrand reports for CNN.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed to the occupied West Bank today to meet with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The two will meet in Ramallah, the authority’s administrative hub, after one of the deadliest months in the West Bank in several years. Yesterday Blinken met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and called on both sides to reduce tensions. Michael Crowley and Patrick Kingsley report for the New York Times.
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who narrowly lost re-election last year and has been in Florida since the beginning of this month, has applied for a six-month tourist visa to prolong his stay in the U.S.. Bolsonaro’s application was received by U.S. authorities on Friday, according to his lawyer, Felipe Alexandre, who has advised the former president not to leave the country while it is being processed — a period that could itself last several months. Joshua Chaffin reports for the Financial Times.
The U.S. is hoping to reach an agreement this week to open as many as four U.S. military sites in the Philippines. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is meeting later this week with recently elected Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Manila and hopes to secure the deal, which would rotate groups of U.S. forces to sites in the country, U.S. officials said. The move is part of Washington’s latest push to expand its presence in the region to counter threats from China. Nancy A. Youssef and Vivian Salama report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden has ruled out sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, despite calls from Ukrainian officials for urgent air support. Asked by a reporter yesterday if the U.S. would be providing the planes, Biden simply replied “no.” His comment comes a day after Germany’s leader Olaf Scholz also ruled out sending jets. Kathryn Armstrong reports for BBC News.
The last remaining element of a bilateral nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the U.S. could expire in three years without a replacement, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkob told state news agency RIA Novosti. Asked if Moscow could envisage there being no nuclear arms control agreement between the two nations when the extension of the 2011 New START Treaty comes to an end after 2026, Ryabkov said: “This is a very possible scenario.” In his comments, Ryabkov also said that recent U.S. actions have violated the spirit of the bilateral arms control treaty in the “most flagrant and ridiculous way.” Jonny Hallam and Josh Pennington report for CNN.
The new U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne M. Tracy began work in Moscow this week. Yesterday, Tracy presented her diplomatic credential to the Russian Foreign Ministry and met with the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister. Tracy will be “focused on maintaining dialogue between our capitals,” the U.S. Embassy in Russia said in a statement. She will also “advocate for the safety and fair treatment of all U.S. citizens detained in Russia,” the embassy said. Carly Olson reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s former speech writer believes that a military coup is becoming a possibility in Russia. Talking to CNN, speech writer turned political analyst Abbas Gallyamov said that as Russian losses mount in Ukraine and the country experiences hardship, Russians will begin to blame Putin. “At this moment, I think a military coup will become possible,” he said, signaling that this may come in the next 12 months. Mitchell McCluskey reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The death toll from yesterday’s suicide bombing in Pakistan has risen to 87, hospital officials said. The attack targeted a mosque frequented by police officers in the northwestern city of Peshawar. The area, which borders Afghanistan, has been the site of several attacks on police and military targets in recent months by the Pakistani Taliban. However, the group has denied playing a role in this attack. Salman Masood reports for the New York Times.
The Biden administration plans to let the COVID-19 public health emergency expire in May, the White House said yesterday. The announcement came on the eve of a scheduled vote in the House on a bill that would immediately end the public health emergency. In its statement, the White House warned that “an abrupt end to the emergency declaration would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system.” Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland report for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 102.283 million people and has now killed over 1.11 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 670.400 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.82 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.