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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.
TRUMP HUSH MONEY PROBE
Attorney Robert Costello, a longtime ally of former President Trump, yesterday appeared before the grand jury investigating Trump’s role in paying hush money to adult actor Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Costello, who appeared at the request of Trump’s lawyers, will likely be the grand jury’s last witness. Following his grand jury appearance, Costello told reporters that Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer, and key prosecution witness, was “totally unreliable,” adding that Cohen’s testimony was “far from solid evidence” of wrongdoing by Trump. Kelly Garrity and Erica Orden report for POLITICO.
Officials in New York and Washington, DC, are preparing for potential protests ahead of the possible indictment of Trump on charges related to the Stormy Daniels hush-money scheme. Whilst law enforcement in both cities are on high alert, there is currently no credible threat. Jack Forrest reports for CNN.
The New York Times has published an article by Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissman, outlining why a decision to charge Trump in connection with crimes arising from the Stormy Daniels hush-money scheme is consistent with the rule of law.
JAN. 6 ATTACK AND 2020 ELECTION PROBES
Lawyers for former President Trump have filed a motion to quash the final report of the Georgia special grand jury which investigated efforts by Trump and his allies to interfere in the 2020 election results in the state. The motion, filed in Atlanta, also seeks to suppress any evidence or testimony derived from the special grand jury’s investigation and asks that the office of Fani. T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, be disqualified from the case. Among other things, the motion claims that Willis has made numerous public statements that showed bias; that the judge presiding over the case had made prejudicial statements; and that the Georgia laws governing special grand juries are so vague as to be unconstitutional. Richard Fausset reports for the New York Times.
A jury yesterday convicted four people affiliated with the Oath Keepers of seditious conspiracy in relation to the Jan. 6 attack. The jury acquitted one defendant on the conspiracy charge and will continue its deliberations over another defendant today. Both of these defendants were convicted of entering and remaining in a restricted area, a misdemeanor charge. C. Ryan Barber and Jan Wolfe report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden yesterday signed into law a resolution to block a controversial Washington, DC, crime bill that opponents have criticized as weak on crime. The Senate voted earlier this month to pass the Republican-led resolution. And while a large number of Democrats ultimately supported the resolution, an announcement by Biden that he would not veto it surprised and upset members of his party as many believe Congress should not interfere in the political affairs of the district. Clare Foran reports for CNN.
President Biden yesterday signed into law a measure requiring his administration to declassify intelligence related to potential links between China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology and COVID-19. The COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 gives the director of national intelligence 90 days to declassify the information about the lab’s research and activities related to the outbreak, including details about any researchers who fell ill in the fall of 2019. It allows the director to make redactions necessary to protect sources and methods. Annie Linskey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Taiwan confirmed that President Tsai Ing-wen will transit the U.S. en route to Central America at the end of the month. However, there was no word on whether a highly anticipated meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will take place. McCarthy had told reporters earlier this month that he planned to meet with Tsai when she was in the U.S. but did not specify a date. Tara Subramaniam and Eric Cheung report for CNN.
Saudi Arabia released a U.S. citizen who had been sentenced to 19 years in prison over tweets criticizing the kingdom’s policies that he posted while living in Florida. Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72, who was arrested in 2021 after traveling to the kingdom to visit family, has had the charges against him dropped but is still unable to leave the country, his son said yesterday. The release, which followed pressure from the Biden administration, reflects a gradual thawing of U.S.,Saudi relations. Stephen Kalin and Summer Said report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MEETING BETWEEN VLADIMIR PUTIN AND XI JINPING
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday said that Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow amounted to “diplomatic cover” for Russian war crimes. He also said that any proposal by China to end the war in Ukraine, which did not include the removal of Russian forces from the country “would effectively be supporting the ratification of Russian conquest” as it would “allow President Putin to rest and refit his troops, and then restart the war at a time more advantageous to Russia.” Simone McCarthy reports for CNN.
U.S. officials are not certain that Beijing will provide weapons to Moscow for use in Ukraine, White House spokesperson John Kirby said yesterday. Seeking to downplay the significance of the meeting between Xi and Putin Kirby called the alliance a “marriage of convenience,” adding that arming the Russian military, he added, would run counter to Xi’s public pronouncements that the Chinese wanted a “peaceful” end to the invasion. Katie Rogers and Edward Wong report for the New York Times.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to travel to China later this year. The invitations come as the leaders hold talks in Moscow. Mishustin has already accepted Xi’s invitation, the Russian prime minister’s spokesperson was quoted saying by state news agency TASS. Duarte Mendonca and Anna Chernova report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Japan’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv today. In a statement, the ministry said Kishida would express Japan’s “solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine” and would “resolutely reject Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and unilateral changing of the status quo by force.” Kishida’s surprise visit comes as Chinese leader Xi Jinping holds talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Teele Rebane reports for CNN.
E.U. foreign and defense ministers have agreed to spend up to 2 billion euros ($2.14 billion) to supply Ukraine with artillery shells, replenish their own national stocks and ramp up Europe’s ammunition production. 17 of the bloc’s 27 member states, plus Norway, have also agreed to work with a Brussels institution, the European Defense Agency, on joint ammunition procurement. Germany has also agreed to let other countries join in its contracts with German defense manufacturers in an effort to speed up the process. Steven Erlanger reports for the New York Times.
A Russian soldier who allegedly shot a civilian in an attack caught on camera by a Ukrainian drone is being charged with war crimes in absentia by the Ukrainian police. The dossier of evidence against the soldier, identified as Klim Kerzhaev – a 25-year-old commander from Moscow, includes phone calls between the soldier and his wife and friend intercepted during a months-long investigation into the attack. The audio files have been shared exclusively with CNN. Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson, Olha Konovalova and Tom Booth report for CNN.
The Israeli government announced yesterday that it would attempt to enact the most contentious part of its judicial reform program – a change to the way that judges are appointed – by early April. The planned change to judicial appointments would allow government appointees to form a majority on a powerful committee that selects judges, giving the government greater control over appointments to the Supreme Court. As a concession to critics, the Israeli government said it planned to include a provision that would prevent more than two Supreme Court justices from being appointed during each parliamentary term without the support of at least one opposition lawmaker on the committee. The governing coalition also said that it would delay other parts of the program, including a proposal to limit the court’s oversight over Parliament, until at least late April. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.