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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 INDICTMENT
Former President Trump is expected to plead not guilty in today’s hearing, his lawyers have said. The hearing is scheduled for around 14:15 local time. Trump is expected to be released on bail and to return to his Florida home Mar-a-Lago this evening, where he plans to deliver remarks at 20:15 local time. Sam Cabral and Holly Honderich report for BBC News.
Former President Trump has hired the top white-collar criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, Todd Blanche, as his lead counsel. Blanche previously represented Trump ally Paul Manafort and Igor Fruman, a one-time associate of Rudy Giuliani who pleaded guilty in a campaign finance case. While defending Manafort, Blanche called the indictment “politically motivated,” a charge Trump levied at the district attorney, Alvin Bragg. Erica Orden reports for POLITICO.
The online threats featuring calls for violence have been disorganized, sporadic, and lacking in coherent planning compared to the lead-up to the Jan. 6 Attack, officials say. A constant theme on pro-Trump message boards in recent weeks has been a fear that any protests may be a trap set by federal agents. However, current and former national security and law enforcement officials remain wary that far-right extremists are more likely to use encrypted communications to plan their next move than public message boards. Sean Lyngaas, Zachary Cohen, and Donie O’Sullivan report for CNN.
Most Americans approve of the indictment of former President Trump, but many also believe that politics played at least some role, recent polls show. A CNN poll found that 60% of Americans approve of the indictment. An ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 45% of Americans believe Trump should be charged with a crime in the case, while 32% say he should not be charged. In a Quinnipiac University poll, 62% of Americans thought politics mainly motivated the indictment. Erin Doherty reports for Axios.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The House Committee on Homeland Security wants to obtain access to classified and unclassified government documents that expose potential security vulnerabilities posed by dozens of Chinese-made cranes at U.S. ports, said Committee chair Mark Green (R-TN). It is “extremely worrisome” that about 80% of American port cranes use software that a Chinese company manufactures, said Green in a statement. The Homeland Security Committee also wants to hold public and potentially closed-door hearings on the matter by Apr. 18, officials said. Gordon Lubold and Aruna Viswanatha report for the Wall Street Journal.
China is keeping at least one nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine constantly at sea for the first time, according to a Pentagon report, adding pressure on the U.S. and its allies as they try to counter Beijing’s growing military. The new patrols imply improvements in many areas, including logistics, command and control, and weapons. Greg Torode and Eduardo Baptista report for Reuters.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has confirmed he will meet Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in California this week, despite China’s warning this could lead to “serious confrontation.” Nicholas Yong reports for BBC News.
The Philippines yesterday identified the locations of four new military bases the U.S. will gain access to as part of an expanded defense agreement that analysts say is aimed at combating China. The four bases, three on the main island of Luzon, close to Taiwan, and one in Palawan province in the South China Sea, opened up under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Arrangement. Brad Lendon reports for CNN.
The U.S. yesterday carried out a military operation that killed a senior leader of the self-styled Islamic State militant group in Syria, the U.S. Central Command has said. Khalid’ Aydd Ahmad al-Jabouri was responsible for planning attacks in Europe and developed the leadership structure for the group. Reuters reports.
Saudi Arabia’s cuts to oil production demonstrate how Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is willing to set aside U.S. interests to pursue a “Saudi First” nationalist energy policy. The production cut led to an oil price increase of 6.3% yesterday, which the U.S. fears could benefit Russia as it fights in Ukraine. Officials and other people familiar with Saudi oil policy have said the higher prices are necessary to fund Riyadh’s massive development projects. Summer Said and Stephen Kalin report for the Wall Street Journal.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron have urged China to play a “constructive” role in bringing peace to Ukraine ahead of a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week. Von der Leyen emphasized that while President Xi Jinping visited Moscow last month, he did not call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “If there is a single country that can lead Moscow to change its calculations, it is China,” said an Elysée official. Sam Fleming and Leila Abboud report for the Financial Times.
Thousands of North Koreans work in China and Russia under brutal conditions to raise money for the North Korean regime, according to a new report published by the South’s Unification Ministry. Rights groups have described the working conditions as “state-sponsored slavery.” China and Russia, which have sought to make North Korea a partner in their rivalry with the U.S., have become loopholes in enforcing a U.N. Security Council resolution, which required countries to expel the workers by the end of 2019. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s former president and prime minister, pleaded not guilty to 10 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Kosovo Specialist Chambers of The Hague yesterday. Prosecutors are also pursuing three of Thaci’s former comrades in arms: the head of intelligence, Kadri Veseli; the rebels’ spokesperson, Jakup Krasniqi; and the director of operations, Rexhep Selimi. Marlise Simons reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was detained in Russia last week, has appealed his arrest, according to Russian state news agencies. A date has yet to be set for the hearing. Fewer than 1% of defendants in such cases manage to win an acquittal, a statistic cited widely by legal analysts and the U.S. State Department. Carly Olson reports for the New York Times.
Darya Trepova has been detained for the murder of Russian pro-war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky. Russian media reports say Trepova, 26, handed Tatarsky a statuette which was believed to contain the explosives that killed him and injured more than 30 people. Russian officials say the “act of terror” was planned and organized from the territory of Ukraine, and that the suspect is a supporter of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), headed by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Robert Greenall reports for BBC News.
Finland will become a NATO member today. The move will reshape European security, extending the NATO alliance’s reach to the continent’s Arctic frontier and doubling its land border with Russia. Rachel Pannett and Leo Sands report for the Washington Post.
The Russian paramilitary Wagner group leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said he has raised a Russian flag in Bakhmut on Sunday. Prigozhin stated that this flag-raising indicated that by “legal norms,” his forces had taken the city. He conceded that Ukrainian troops continue to hold western districts of the city. Jared Malsin reports for the Wall Street Journal.