Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
U.S. RELATIONS – FLYING OBJECTS
President Biden is expected to give public remarks as soon as today about the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon and three unidentified aerial objects shot down by the administration in recent days. During these remarks, Biden is also expected to outline his decision to direct his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, to lead an interagency team to develop parameters for how the U.S. will deal with unmanned, unidentified airborne objects moving forward. Yasmeen Abutaleb reports for the Washington Post.
The Senate unanimously passed a pair of resolutions yesterday condemning China for sending surveillance balloons over the U.S.. The first measure, written by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), condemns the Chinese Communist Party for an “invasion” of U.S. airspace and calls on Biden to be “transparent with the American people and Congress” about the incident. The second, a bipartisan resolution from Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), rebukes China for a “brazen violation” of U.S. sovereignty. The measures bring the Senate in line with a resolution passed by the House last week. Karound Demirjian reports for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi could meet this week on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. This is according to people familiar with the matter, who said that the U.S. and China have been discussing setting up such a meeting. William Mauldin and Keith Zhai report for the Wall Street Journal.
JAN. 6 ATTACK AND 2020 ELECTION PROBES
Former Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday that he is willing to take his fight against a Justice Department subpoena for his testimony all the way to the Supreme Court. “I am going to fight the Biden DOJ subpoena for me to appear before the grand jury because I believe it’s unconstitutional and unprecedented,” Pence told reporters. The subpoena was issued in relation to the Justice Department’s probe into efforts by former President Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election. Tierney Sneed and Veronica Stracqualursi report for CNN.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was subpoenaed late last month by the special counsel investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The demand for Meadow’s testimony came as special counsel Jack Smith escalated his probe into steps taken by Trump and his allies to keep Trump in office. Meadows would be among the closest advisers of the former president to be summoned before the grand jury. C. Ryan Barber and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.
An FBI agent testified yesterday that a Washington, DC, police officer told the leader of the Proud Boys that he might be arrested in the days before the Jan. 6 attack. The testimony from agent Peter Dubrowski came during the seditious conspiracy trial of five members of the far-right group. Dubrowski detailed how Metropolitan Police Lt. Shane Lamond’s relationship with Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, went beyond what was appropriate for a law enforcement agent talking to a source. His testimony is part of a core disagreement between prosecutors and defense attorneys as to whether Tarrio, and the Proud Boys as a whole, wanted to help law enforcement or were prepared to be violent against them. Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lynbrand report for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
House and Judiciary Republicans have subpoenaed the chief executive officers of 5 tech firms for information about their companies’ communications with the executive branch over how their content is moderated. The move by committee Chair Jim Jordan against Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft is a notable escalation of his effort to prove that big tech companies have colluded with the federal government to suppress conservative voices. The subpoena letters issued yesterday follow voluntary requests sent by Jordan in December. Annie Grayer and Alayna Treene report for CNN.
The FBI conducted two searches at the University of Delaware in recent weeks in connection with the investigation into President Biden’s handling of classified documents. The previously undisclosed searches were conducted with the consent and cooperation of the president’s legal team, a source familiar with the matter said. Investigators retrieved materials from two university locations on two different days. The material did not appear to have classified markings, according to the source, but they are now being reviewed by the FBI. Paula Reid reports for CNN.
The Justice Department has decided not to bring charges against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) following a lengthy federal sex-trafficking investigation. Senior officials reached out to lawyers for multiple witnesses in the case yesterday to inform them of the decision not to prosecute Gaetz, according to a source familiar with the matter. The decision not to bring charges appears to be motivated in part by concerns over whether a central witness in the investigation would be perceived as credible before a jury. Paula Reid and Hannah Rabinowitz report for CNN.
One person was killed and three people were injured after gunfire erupted inside a mall in El Paso, Texas. Two people were taken into custody in relation to the shooting, authorities said yesterday. The motive behind the shooting remains unclear. Tim Stelloh and Gemma DiCasimirro report for NBC News.
The man who killed 10 people in a racist attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, last year was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without parole. The 19-year-old white gunman, Payton Gendron, pleaded guilty to 15 counts brought by Buffalo prosecutors. Gendron’s charges included first-degree murder and domestic terrorism, with the latter carrying a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. Jennifer Calfas reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia launched a “massive missile attack on critical infrastructure facilities” in Ukraine overnight, firing at least 36 missiles, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a post on Telegram. At least 16 of the missiles were destroyed by Ukrainian air defenses, the post said. Energy generation has not been affected by the strikes. Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova report for CNN.
The head of the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group has claimed to have founded the Internet Research Agency, a shadowy company that has carried out Russian information warfare across the globe. The admission by oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin affirms his role at the center of Russia’s aggressive interventions on the world stage, on the ground and online. Aaron Gregg, Andrea Salcedo and Natalia Abbakumova report for the Washington Post.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that Belarus will not send troops to Ukraine unless the country is attacked. “We are peaceful people, we know what war is and we don’t want war,” Lukashenko said at a press conference in Minsk at the Palace of Independence. Lukashenko also said that Russia has “never asked” him to join or start a war, adding that “Russia is our ally, legally, morally and politically.” Fred Pleitgen, Zahra Ullah and Claudia Otto report for CNN.
The U.K. estimates that Russia has now deployed around 97% of its entire army in Ukraine, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said yesterday. Wallace also said that there was little evidence so far of a big offensive, saying that instead there has been an effort to advance on all fronts which has “come at a huge cost to the Russian army.” Russian military-industrial output is also struggling to keep pace with the war, the U.K.’s Defense Ministry said yesterday. Isabel Coles and David Luhnow report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Pentagon is reviewing its weapons stockpiles and may need to boost military spending after seeing how quickly ammunition has been used during the war in Ukraine. This is according to Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the joint chiefs of staff, who said that the war in Ukraine is forcing U.S. planners to reconsider assumptions made in recent decades that had led military strategists to retool capabilities for counter-terrorism and irregular combat theaters such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Felicia Schwartz reports for the Financial Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 102.906 million people and has now killed over 1.15 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 673.284 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.86 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.