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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.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
Federal District Court Judge James Boasberg on Monday ordered former Vice President Pence to appear in front of a grand jury investigating former President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The order largely swept aside two separate legal efforts by Trump and Pence to limit Pence’s testimony. Trump’s lawyers unsuccessfully claimed specific issues were subject to executive privilege, while Pence’s lawyers invoked the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, a provision intended to protect the separation of powers. While Boasberg acknowledged the clause applied, he ruled that Pence would nevertheless have to testify about any potentially illegal acts committed by Trump. Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
District Judge Lewis Kaplan yesterday denied former President Trump’s bid to throw out E. Jean Carroll’s defamation claim from next month’s trial over whether Trump raped the former Elle magazine columnist in the 1990s. Kaplan rejected Trump’s claim that “absolute litigation privilege” immunized the former president for allegedly defaming Carroll last Oct. 12 on his Truth Social media platform by denying the rape occurred. Jonathan Stempel reports for Reuters.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Judge Eric Davis has heard arguments from Fox News’ lawyers who argued that Fox chairperson Rupert Murdoch should be excused from testifying in court as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit. In a letter to Davis, Fox’s lawyers wrote it would be an “inconvenience” for Murdoch, 92, to provide testimony in the courtroom. Davis did not rule on whether Murdoch will be required to testify in person for the trial, which is set to begin on Apr. 17 and last six weeks. Dareh Gregorian reports for NBC News.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin defended policies that support service members who travel out of state for abortions during the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday as Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) holds up Defence Department nominations for officers. “Not approving the recommendation for promotions actually creates a ripple effect through the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be,” Austin said. Tuberville said during the committee hearing that his hold is about “not forcing the taxpayers of this country to fund abortion.” Haley Britzky reports for CNN.
Judge Colonel Matthew McCall has expressed impatience with the stalled plea talks that began a year ago concerning five defendants in the case over the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. McCall has canceled each scheduled hearing, partly due to joint requests from prosecutors and defense lawyers to delay the proceedings while the Biden administration evaluates the so-called “policy principles.” These “policy principles” detail how the accused would spend the rest of their lives in prison. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
Jurors in the recently concluded trial of six Oath Keeper affiliates were “horrified” by the defense attorney’s disturbing tactics, one juror said yesterday in a C-SPAN interview. One defense attorney’s strategy to provoke his autistic client into a “breakdown” on the witness stand was interpreted as a “stunt” by the jurors. The jury’s six-day deliberations resulted in a conviction of four defendants — including William Isaacs, the defendant with autism — on all charges. A fifth defendant, Bennie Parker, was convicted of one felony count and a misdemeanor but acquitted of other charges. A sixth, Michael Greene, was convicted of a single misdemeanor charge and acquitted of several others. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
President Biden said yesterday that he has exhausted executive action on gun control and urged Congress to pass more stringent legislation. The comments came one day after a shooter armed with two AR-style weapons and a handgun killed three students and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville. Azi Paybarah and Mariana Alfaro report for the Washington Post.
A member of Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) staff was stabbed on Saturday after leaving a Washington D.C. restaurant by a man who had been released from federal prison 24 hours earlier, records show. The authorities said the attacker did not say or demand anything of the victim. The victim sustained severe injuries requiring surgery. McKenna Oxenden reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
The Biden administration is calling for the creation of a joint tribunal in which Ukraine and international allies would try Russian leaders for crimes of aggression, Beth Van Schaack, the State Department’s ambassador, said on Monday. Russian President Vladimir Putin could be immune from prosecution. Van Schaack acknowledged the administration’s reluctance to create a precedent that could pave the way for a similar court to prosecute U.S. leaders. Several former diplomats and academics want the U.N. General Assembly to set up a purely international judicial institution like the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which has ruled that it need not honor immunity for sitting heads of state. Glenn Thrush and Charlie Savage report for the New York Times.
The U.S. has informed Russia that it will no longer exchange key data on its strategic nuclear forces following Moscow’s decision to suspend its participation in the New START treaty, U.S. officials said yesterday. The U.S. data being withheld include detailed information on the number of bombers, missiles, and nuclear warheads deployed at specific U.S. bases that had been exchanged every six months under New START. Michael R. Gordon for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia’s economy is predicted to enter a long-term regression as oil and gas exports to Europe stop and the labor force shrinks due to young people joining the military or fleeing. There is no sign that the economic difficulties pose a short-term threat to Russia’s ability to wage war. However, state revenue shortfalls may make it challenging to reconcile ballooning military expenditure with the subsidies and social spending that shield civilians from hardship. “Despite Russia’s resilience in the short term, the long-term picture is bleak: Moscow will be much more inward-looking and overly dependent on China,” said Maria Shagina, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in London. Georgi Kantchev and Evan Gershkovich report for the Wall Street Journal.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen today said, “external pressure will not stop Taiwan from engaging with the world” as she left for the U.S. after China threatened retaliation if she met House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. While not officially confirmed, Tsai is expected to meet McCarthy in California. Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said that such a meeting “will be another provocation that seriously violates the one-China principle, harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and destroys peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” and that China would “resolutely fight back.” Fabian Hamacher and Bernard Orr report for Reuters.
The Biden administration yesterday imposed new trade restrictions on five Chinese companies for allegedly aiding in the repression of the Uyghur Muslim minority. At least four companies facing new curbs belong to a Chinese surveillance camera maker. Reuters reports.
A Russian intelligence operative in the guise of a Brazilian student attempted to penetrate the U.S. security establishment, according to an indictment the Justice Department filed in federal court on Friday. Sergey Cherkasov studied at Johns Hopkins University and was offered a position at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Cherkasov is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Brazil, after being deported from the Netherlands, for document fraud related to his fake identity. Greg Miller reports for the Washington Post.
At least 38 people have died at a migrant processing center in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in a fire that officials say started during a protest against deportations on Monday. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said migrants had set mattresses ablaze “when they learned that they’d be deported.” A statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection said they were “prepared to receive and process those who were injured in the fire and are being transported via ambulance from Mexican to U.S. medical facilities for treatment.” Vanessa Buschschlüter reports for BBC News.
Saudi Arabia’s cabinet today approved a decision to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O.) as Riyadh builds a long-term partnership with China despite U.S. security concerns. The S.C.O. is a political and security union of countries spanning much of Eurasia, including China, India, and Russia. It is intended to act as a counterweight to Western influence in the region. Reuters reports.
The Israeli government and the opposition yesterday began the first direct negotiations to reach a compromise on the controversial judicial overhaul. Four government negotiators and eight opposition counterparts held a meeting hosted by Israel’s figurehead president, Isaac Herzog. Participants said the meeting was mainly a preliminary effort to set ground rules for future discussions. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
North Korea is engaging in an increasingly prolific cyberespionage operation that uses social engineering and fraudulent personas to gather intelligence, according to a new report released yesterday by cybersecurity firm Mandiant. North Korean hackers, known as Advanced Persistent Threat 43, play the “long con” through unusually aggressive social engineering targeting South Korean, Japanese, and American individuals with insight into international negotiations and sanctions affecting North Korea, and stealing cryptocurrency to sustain their operations, according to Mandiant researchers. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Tim Starks report for the Washington Post.
Greek authorities foiled a terrorist attack against Jewish and Israeli targets in Greece and arrested two Pakistanis over an alleged plot that Israel’s foreign minister blamed on Iran, officials said yesterday. According to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Israeli intelligence service Mossad helped Greek authorities unravel the alleged terror network and identified the link to Iran. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.