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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 – TRUMP HUSH MONEY PAYMENTS
Former President Trump faces 34 felony charges of falsifying business records. All charges relate to the $130,000 hush-money payment to adult actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to prevent her from speaking about her alleged affair with Trump in 2007. Trump pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Anthony Zurcher reports for BBC News.
Prosecutors claim former President Trump falsified business records partly in a plan to deceive state tax authorities. For Trump to be guilty of a felony, prosecutors must prove that the falsification of business records was done in pursuit of a further crime. Trump’s alleged plan to deceive state tax authorities may offer judges and jurors alternative routes to finding that falsifying business records was a felony, particularly as proving that the hush money payment was made to affect an election illegally is substantively and procedurally difficult. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
Judge Juan Merchan advised former President Trump to “refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest.” The advice was given following Trump’s post on Truth Social, which showed a photo of him holding a baseball bat next to an image of Alvin Bragg, the district attorney in Manhattan. The prosecution says the post demonstrates Trump has behaved recklessly during the investigation, creating a threatening environment for parties to the case. Isaac Stanley-Becker and Jacqueline Alemany report for the Washington Post.
Intelligence officials are watching for any influence campaigns from Russia or China aimed at amplifying existing political divisions or stoking unrest among Americans over the indictment of former President Trump, according to two U.S. officials. Bret Schafer, who leads a team tracking Russian, Chinese, and Iranian disinformation efforts at the German Marshall Fund, a U.S. foreign policy think tank, said, “We haven’t seen Russia or China, at least through overt channels, amplifying outright disinformation about President Trump’s indictment and arrest.” Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee report for NBC News.
The indictment in the case of The People of the State of New York vs. Donald J. Trump.
The statement of facts in the case of The People of the State of New York vs. Donald J. Trump.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, and other top Fox News personalities will be available to testify in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, said Fox News in a letter filed yesterday. Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old chair of Fox’s parent Fox Corp, is not on the witness list. The jury trial is scheduled to start on Apr. 17 and is expected to last about four weeks. Jonathan Stempel reports for Reuters.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an emergency bid by former President Trump to block top aides from testifying in the special counsel investigation of his effort to subvert the 2020 election. While not immediately apparent, Trump may have attempted to block the testimonies of Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, Stephen Miller, Robert O’Brien, John Ratcliffe, and Ken Cuccinelli. Trump could try to take the issue to the Supreme Court, though he has opted against doing so in several other defeats connected to the probe. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
Ed Badalian, who said he was following former President Trump’s “marching orders” on Jan. 6, has been found guilty of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States., obstruction of an official proceeding, and a misdemeanor count. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Badalian was focused on arresting President-elect Biden and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Jackson set Badalian’s sentencing hearing for mid-July. Ryan J. Reilly reports for NBC News.
Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) quietly met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen last week. Sullivan said he talked to Tsai about the Stand With Taiwan Act, a sanctions bill he reintroduced last week. The bill would, among other things, mandate sanctions on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members, Chinese financial institutions, and industry no later than three days after a U.S. administration determined China invaded Taiwan. Lindsay Wise and Joyu Wang report for the Wall Street Journal.
Jorge Ivan Gastelum Avila, a top member of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, is facing international drug trafficking and firearms charges after being extradited to the United States, the Justice Department said yesterday. The Department said Gastelum Avila had supervised at least 200 armed men and conspired to distribute cocaine to the United States. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison for the drug conspiracy charge and a mandatory consecutive sentence of 30 years for the firearms offense. Reuters reports.
Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Canadian Public Safety Minister’s office in Toronto yesterday, demanding an end to an asylum treaty between Canada and the United States after eight people drowned trying to cross the border. The deaths come less than two weeks after the Safe Third Country Agreement pact was amended, which critics say is separating families and pushing immigrants to try to cross the border via deadly informal routes. Molly Cone reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
The Biden administration pledged an additional $2.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine yesterday. The package includes about $500 million in equipment from U.S. military stocks for near-term transfer, plus $2.1 billion in arms that the administration will order using a congressionally approved fund known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, U.S. officials said. Dan Lamothe and Alex Horton report for the Washington Post.
The “no limit” relationship between China and Russia is “nothing but rhetoric,” said China’s ambassador to the E.U., Fu Cong, ahead of Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission visit to China today. These comments were made as E.U. leaders struggle to balance their deep trade ties with China against U.S. pressure to toughen their policies, especially in light of China’s support for Russia since the war began. Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Steven Erlanger report for the New York Times.
Darya Trepova, suspected of killing pro-war Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, has been charged with terrorism, Russian officials say. The court ruled the 26-year-old should remain in custody until Jun. 2. BBC News reports.
A Russian group known as the National Republican Army organized the killing of pro-war Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky “without any help from foreign structures,” according to Ilya Ponomaryov, the former member of the State Duma. Ilya Ponomaryov claimed on his Telegram Channel.
Japan will offer financial assistance to help nations bolster their defenses via its Overseas Security Assistance program, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno today. This marks Tokyo’s first unambiguous departure from rules that forbid using international aid for military purposes. The assistance will not be used to buy lethal weapons that recipient countries could use in conflicts with other nations, Matsuno added. CNN reports.
Top Saudi Arabian and Iranian officials will meet in Beijing tomorrow to discuss the next steps of their diplomatic rapprochement amid a China-brokered deal, an Iranian official and a Saudi-owned newspaper said. The meeting between Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, will be the first formal meeting between Saudi Arabia and Iran’s most senior diplomats in more than seven years. Reuters reports.
Israeli police have clashed with dozens of Palestinian worshippers at Jerusalem’s contested holy site, the al-Aqsa mosque. At least nine rockets were later fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Yaroslav Lukov reports for BBC News.