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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 LEGAL MATTERS
Former Vice President Mike Pence will not appeal a ruling compelling him to testify before a grand jury investigating former President Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election, an adviser to Pence said yesterday. Judge James Boasberg noted Pence could decline to answer some questions related to his role as president of the Senate during the certification of then President-elect Biden’s victory. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against former President Trump has garnered skepticism, even from left-leaning legal experts, liberal pundits, and some of Trump’s Republican detractors. Their skepticism has been fueled by burning questions about the prosecution’s legal theories, which Bragg has mainly left unanswered. Some wondered why Bragg revived a case he had appeared to abandon just months ago. Others questioned whether the “falsification of business records” charges against Trump could be elevated into felonies. Kyle Cheney, Erica Orden, and Josh Gerstein report for POLITICO.
Former President Trump yesterday called on Republicans in Congress to slash funding for the Justice Department and the FBI. Trump took aim at federal law enforcement authorities even though it is a Manhattan district attorney who has pursued the criminal charges against him. Trump’s proposal is unlikely to be heeded by Congress. Rami Ayyub reports for Reuters.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Democratic Tennessee State Representatives Justin Jones, Justin J. Pearson, and Gloria Johnson may be expelled from the General Assembly today after participating in a protest for stricter gun laws that temporarily halted legislative proceedings. Despite the absence of any criminal charges or investigation, Republicans argue that the expulsions are warranted because the protesters defied the rules of procedure and decorum. Republicans hold a supermajority that provides the necessary two-thirds majority for removal. Emily Cochrane reports for the New York Times.
Chair of Fox Corp, Rupert Murdoch, could be forced to testify in person, said Judge Eric M. Davis yesterday, who is overseeing the Dominion Voting Systems $1.6 billion defamation trial against Fox News. His son Lachlan Murdoch is also expected to testify. Katie Robertson reports for the New York Times.
Twitter added a warning to NPR’s account on Tuesday, declaring it “state-affiliated media,” a label usually reserved for foreign media outlets representing a government’s official views. In the past, Twitter did not regard NPR as state-affiliated because it had editorial independence, despite getting some funds from the government. Twitter defines state-affiliated media as an outlet “where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.” Matt Novak reports for Forbes.
U.S. RELATIONS – TAIWAN
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy discussed speeding up weapons deliveries with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in California yesterday. “We must continue the arms sales to Taiwan and make sure such sales reach Taiwan on a very timely basis,” McCarthy said, adding that he believed there was bipartisan agreement. “Second, we must strengthen our economic cooperation, particularly with trade and technology.” Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom report for Reuters.
China today accused the United States and Taiwan of “serious wrongdoing” after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the United States had ignored “repeated warnings” against allowing Tsai to visit and promised “resolute and forceful measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the serious wrongdoing of U.S.-Taiwan colluding together.” China has not announced any large-scale military exercises similar to the display of force it put on after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August. Christian Shepherd and Vic Chiang report for the Washington Post.
China’s Fujian maritime safety administration launched a three-day special joint patrol and inspection operation in the central and northern parts of the Taiwan Strait that include moves to board ships, it said on its WeChat account. Taiwan’s Transport Ministry’s Maritime and Ports Bureau said in a statement yesterday that it has lodged a strong protest with China about the move. The move comes amid growing tensions as Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen met with U.S. officials this week. Reuters reports.
Paraguay may be the next state to end its recognition of Taiwan as China aims to whittle down the list of seven countries in the Americas that still recognize Taiwan, U.S. policymakers say. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Guatemala and Belize to shore up two remaining Central American partners underscored her government’s efforts to avoid further defections after Honduras switched its recognition to China last month. Paraguay’s potential flip to China after its nearing elections would be another blow to the U.S., which has had little success stemming the tide of Taipei’s diplomatic losses, and would be a new sign of China’s growing footprint in Washington’s neighborhood. Michael Martina, Matt Spetalnick, and Daniela Desantis report for Reuters.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The FBI and European law enforcement agencies have arrested more than 100 people as part of a global crackdown on a cybercrime forum that facilitated large-scale identity theft, officials said yesterday. “Operation Cookie Monster” targeted Genesis Market, a crime forum offering data stolen from over 1.5 million computers worldwide containing login details for over 80 million user accounts. Genesis Market “was one of the most, if not the most popular marketplace for stolen network and user information,” Azim Khodjibaev, senior threat intelligence analyst at Cisco Talos, said. “Based on my experience, the void will be filled by those who were not arrested.” Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
A statement on Iran’s nuclear program by Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week alarmed Israeli defense and intelligence officials, four Israeli officials have said. Milley testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that the United States “remains committed as a matter of policy that Iran will not have a fielded nuclear weapon.” The term “fielded” created the impression among Israeli officials that the United States had changed its policy on Iran and would tolerate Tehran having a nuclear weapons program. The Biden administration was asked for clarification by Israeli officials, and Joseph Holstead, a Joint Staff spokesperson, later confirmed that the “U.S. policy remains the same.” Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda pledged to send 14 more MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine yesterday. Once Poland receives the new Korean and U.S. fighter jets it has ordered, Duda said, “We will be able to transfer our entire remaining MiG fleet to Ukraine, should the need arise.” Christopher Miller, Raphael Minder, and Barbara Erling report for the Financial Times.
Belarus’ President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday to discuss expanding military and economic ties. Their close alliance has allowed Russia to bolster Belarus’ readiness to deploy nuclear weaponry. The Russian minister of defense, Sergei Shoigu, said on Tuesday that Russia had delivered to Belarus an Iskander-M missile system capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Neil MacFarquhar reports for the New York Times.
The U.K. and the United States yesterday said Russia is using its position as president of the U.N. Security Council to spread disinformation and propaganda. The United States, the U.K., and several other countries sent only junior representatives to a U.N. webcast of a Security Council meeting Moscow called to defend its removal of children from Ukraine. The representatives stood up and left the room as Maria Lvova-Belova, Moscow’s commissioner for children’s rights, spoke. The International Criminal Court last month issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lvova-Belova for the war crime of “unlawful deportation and … transfer” of children to Russia from Ukraine. Karen DeYoung reports for the Washington Post.
The United States is working through a formal process to determine whether the detention of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, by Russia is “wrongful,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday, adding that in his opinion, there was no doubt. Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk report for Reuters.
Following sanctions and export controls, Russia has limited access to parts, software, and technical skills needed to perform critical maintenance on hundreds of commercial jets, raising safety concerns among industry executives and regulators. In a December interview, the chief executive of Aeroflot-Russian Airlines PJSC, the country’s flagship international carrier, said the company had enough spare parts to last two to six months. Benjamin Katz and Georgi Kantchev report for the Wall Street Journal.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang welcomed “a new starting point” as French President Emmanuel Macron and E.U. chief Ursula von der Leyen began meetings with Chinese leaders in Beijing today. Macron and von der Leyen have said they want to persuade China to use its influence over Russia to bring peace in Ukraine or at least deter Beijing from directly supporting Moscow in the conflict. These talks also have a significant business dimension as Macron is traveling with a 50-strong business delegation. Michel Rose and Laurie Chen report for Reuters.
New Zealand is subject to “increasingly aggressive activity” by unnamed states, according to an annual report published by the Security Intelligence Service this week. The report has said agents from one unnamed foreign government have cultivated “a range of relationships of significant concern.” Analysts said New Zealand’s strategic importance in the Pacific and the growing global awareness of its politics had attracted the ire of authoritarian leaders such as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian.
Canada is repatriating six women and their 13 children who have been held for at least three years in a camp for ISIS affiliates in Syria, their lawyer said yesterday. It is unclear if any women being returned this week may face charges. Canada’s government has appealed a federal court order to repatriate four men who have not been formally charged with crimes but are imprisoned in camps in Syria. Madeline Halpert reports for BBC News.
London Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Mark Rowley, has said he expects hundreds of officers to be removed over the next two or three years after the force was branded institutionally racist, homophobic, and misogynist in a damning report last month. Four out of five investigations into officers accused of domestic abuse and sexual violence need to be reassessed, Rowley said. Of the 1,000 people surveyed in a BBC poll, almost half of the female respondents said they “totally distrusted” the force. BBC News reports.
Chinese government scientists yesterday published a long-awaited study about a market in Wuhan, acknowledging that animals susceptible to the coronavirus were there around the time the virus emerged. The study included several unlikely findings and “glaring errors,” said Alice Hughes, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong focused on conservation biology. The research’s “greatest asset is the fact that it releases a data set for other scientists to analyze more carefully and responsibly,” she added. Benjamin Mueller reports for the New York Times.