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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 – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
The leaker of the intelligence reports may have been a young man who worked on a military base, according to his online friends. The potential leaker went by the online alias “OG” and controlled an online chatroom for about two dozen, mostly men and boys interested in guns, military gear, and God. The motivation for the leaks appears to have been to impress the group, which one member described as “very close to each other, like a tightknit family.” The group members did not share OG’s real name and location. Shane Harris and Samuel Oakford report for the Washington Post.
The Biden administration aims to expand how it monitors social media sites and chatrooms after U.S. intelligence agencies failed to spot the leaked intelligence reports, according to a senior administration official and a congressional official briefed on the matter. An official said that the administration is considering expanding the universe of online sites that intelligence agencies and law enforcement authorities track. The leaks have also raised new questions about how sensitive intelligence information is handled and whether the pool of people allowed to access it needs to be scaled back. Carol E. Lee, Ken Dilanian, and Dan De Luce report for NBC News.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Former President Trump is suing his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for $500m, alleging breach of contract. Trump says Cohen breached his duty as an attorney to act in his client’s best interests. Cohen is a crucial witness in the New York fraud case against Trump concerning hush money payments to adult actor Stormy Daniels. Kayla Epstein reports for BBC News.
Justin Pearson, the second of two Black Democrats expelled from the Republican-led Tennessee House, was reappointed to his position by Shelby County commissioners yesterday. Jonathan Mattise reports for A.P. News.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is facing calls to resign amid concerns that her medical absence is keeping Senate Democrats from confirming more judges. The 89-year-old Feinstein has missed 58 Senate votes since she was diagnosed with shingles in February. Feinstein has asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve until I’m able to resume my committee work.” Eugene Scott and Andrew Solender report for Axios.
Federal investigators are asking witnesses whether former President Trump used a map containing sensitive intelligence information, taken after leaving office, to show off to aides and visitors, four people with knowledge of the matter said. Whether Trump was displaying sensitive material after he left office is crucial as investigators try to reconstruct what Trump was doing with boxes of documents that went with him to his Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago. Maggie Haberman, Adam Goldman, and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
A federal appeals court panel yesterday rejected a bid by former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro to retain hundreds of government records despite a judge’s order to return them to the National Archives. The Justice Department sued Navarro last year, seeking to reclaim hundreds of records in Navarro’s personal ProtonMail account. Navarro contended that no mechanism exists to enforce that requirement and that doing so might violate his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Navarro has been ordered to return the records “on or before” Friday. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
Judge Eric Davis, overseeing Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News, yesterday said that he was imposing a sanction on Fox and would very likely start an investigation into whether Fox’s legal team had deliberately withheld evidence. Davis held that if Dominion had to do additional depositions or redo any, Fox would have to “do everything they can to make the person available, and it will be at a cost to Fox.” Katie Robertson and Jeremy W. Peters report for the New York Times.
The State Department is increasing efforts to push against disinformation campaigns by helping Balkan governments strengthen their capability to identify and shut down Russian and Chinese disinformation sites on their territory. These efforts mark a shift in focus from countering Middle East militants to “great power” competition with Russia and China. In this competition, “We are massively behind,” said James Rubin, the envoy leading the Global Engagement Center at the State Department tasked with countering foreign propaganda and disinformation abroad. Michael R. Gordon and Dustin Volz report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
“Negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023 in all considered scenarios,” according to leaked intelligence reports. A stalemate is described in the document as “the most likely scenario.” A stalemate could lead to a “full mobilization” of Ukraine’s remaining eligible population. In a stalemate, Ukraine would probably intensify its reliance on strikes in Russian territory, the document says, which some U.S. officials fear could compel Russian President Vladimir Putin to escalate the conflict or prompt China to provide lethal support to Russia. John Hudson reports for the Washington Post.
The United States believes the U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, is too willing to accommodate Russian interests, according to leaked intelligence reports which suggest the U.S. is spying on the world’s leading diplomat. One leaked document focuses on the Black Sea grain deal, brokered by the U.N. and Turkey in July following fears of a global food crisis. To preserve the deal, “Guterres emphasized his efforts to improve Russia’s ability to export,” the document says, “even if that involves sanctioned Russian entities or individuals.” Guterres’ efforts were “undermining broader efforts to hold Moscow accountable for its actions in Ukraine,” the document said. Paul Adams reports for BBC News.
Russia’s military leadership is distracted by infighting over the war in Ukraine and grappling with the outsize role played by the paramilitary organization Wagner Group, according to leaked intelligence reports. According to the leaks, Valeriy Gerasimov, the chief of Russia’s General Staff, reportedly ordered a stop to munitions supplies to Wagner even as it suffered significant losses in Bakhmut. The leaks further suggest that the Kremlin had to intervene to ease tensions between Wagner and the Russian military. Matthew Luxmoore and Jared Malsin report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S.-made smart bombs are being jammed by Russia in Ukraine, causing them to miss their targets, according to leaked intelligence reports and confirmed by a Defense Department official. Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO.
Serbia agreed to supply arms to Kyiv and may have sent them already, according to leaked intelligence reports, despite Serbia’s professed neutrality in the war and its refusal to sanction Russia over the invasion. “Serbia did not, nor will it be selling weapons to the Ukrainian nor the Russian side, nor to countries surrounding that conflict,” Serbia’s Defense Minister Milos Vucevic said. The leaks come just over a month after documents posted in a pro-Russia channel on Telegram purportedly showed the shipment by a Serbian arms maker of ground-to-ground rockets to Kyiv in November. Vucic called those allegations “a notorious lie.” Jonathan Landay and Aleksandar Vasovic report for Reuters.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – U.S. RESPONSE
The United States yesterday imposed sanctions on at least four Turkey-based entities it said violated U.S. export controls and helped Russia’s war effort. A U.S. administration official said the sanctions targeted entities and people in Turkey’s maritime and trade sectors that were “primarily” Russia-owned or Russia-linked. Jonathan Spicer reports for Reuters.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal yesterday directly appealed to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for U.S. fighter jets and longer-range missiles in its fight against Russia. While Austin did not comment on the request, he did commit to investing in the U.S. defense industrial base to ramp up the production of weapons sent to Ukraine. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Kenyan M.P.s have voted to amend a defense agreement with the U.K. so that U.K. soldiers can be tried for murder, among other offenses. The amendment was made following allegations that U.K. troops training in Kenya committed severe crimes. The amended deal will now go to the Kenyan Ministry of Defence for further negotiation with their British counterparts. BBC News reports.
French President Emmanuel Macron clarified his position on Taiwan, saying it had not changed and that he favored the current “status quo” following Western backlash after his China tour. French “policy is constant and has not changed,” Macron told a news conference during a state visit to the Netherlands. Michel Rose reports for Reuters.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock began a two-day visit to China yesterday, where she is expected to “set the record straight” following the French President’s China trip. Baerbock aims to “underline the common European conviction that a unilateral change in the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and especially a military escalation, would be unacceptable.” Hans von der Burchard and Gabriel Rinaldi report for POLITICO.
Germany is reviewing its decision to allow Chinese shipping conglomerate Cosco to buy a stake in a container terminal in Hamburg port after it emerged that the terminal had been classified as critical infrastructure. According to Germany’s law on foreign investment, such a classification gives the economy ministry greater powers to block acquisitions by companies from non-EU states. Katharina Dröge, head of the Green Party’s parliamentary group, said, “We must not allow ourselves to become dependent on authoritarian states that can blackmail us.” Guy Chazan reports for the Financial Times.
China said it would ban vessels from an area north of Taiwan on Sunday due to the possibility of falling rocket debris, China’s maritime safety administration said today, without providing details. Reuters reports.
North Korea today conducted its first intercontinental ballistic missile launch in a month, possibly testing a new, more mobile, harder-to-detect missile for the first time. The missile may have been its first solid-fuel ICBM, one of the high-tech weapons North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to build. Japan briefly urged residents on a northern island to take shelter, indicating its vigilance over North Korea’s evolving missile threats. Hyung-Jin Kim, Kim Tong-Hyung and Mari Yamaguchi report for AP News.