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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 FBI is investigating the activities of Sarah Bils, a pro-Russia blogger and a former U.S. Navy noncommissioned officer, who helped spread the leaked intelligence reports. “The circumstances of the content of the investigation are unclear at this time,” a U.S. official said yesterday. Bils has said she discussed the leaks with the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and has stressed that she was not the sole administrator of the site where leaked documents appeared. Sadie Gurman, Gordon Lubold, and Bob Mackin report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Two-thirds of Americans would prefer congressional Republicans to let the investigations into former President Trump run their course rather than to stop them, according to a CBS news poll. However, 56% of Republicans say Republicans in Congress should try to stop these law enforcement investigations — a view driven by those who consider themselves part of the Make America Great Again movement. About 75% of Republicans say it is at least somewhat important that Republicans are loyal to Trump. Anthony Salvanto, Kabir Khanna, Jennifer de Pinto, and Fred Backus report for CBS News.
House Republicans yesterday held a hearing attacking Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s record on crime, two weeks after Bragg announced 34 criminal charges against former President Trump. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), chair of the Judiciary Committee, convened the panel, which was nominally about crime in New York. The hearing included exaggerated and sometimes outright false charges. Luke Broadwater and Jonah E. Bromwich report for the New York Times.
Former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg intends to turn over recently found evidence relevant to Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News. Grossberg alleged in a new sworn statement that Fox lawyers ignored reminders about an additional cellphone in her possession and did not search it during court-ordered discovery. Grossberg’s attorney, Gerry Filippatos, said a statement would be filed with the Delaware court as early as today. Jane C. Timm reports for NBC News.
Prosecutors have arrested two men in New York for allegedly operating a Chinese “secret police station” in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, both New York City residents, face charges of conspiring to act as agents for China and obstruction of justice. China has previously denied operating the stations, calling them “service centers” for nationals overseas. The stations are believed to be among at least 100 in 53 countries. Holly Honderich reports for BBC News.
An Ohio grand jury did not indict eight police officers who fired 94 rounds in the killing of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man who fired at least one shot at officers during a chase, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced yesterday. The state’s investigation found that Walker jumped out of his still-moving car, ran from police, and ignored commands to stop and show his hands. Some of the officers first used tasers to try and stop Walker, Yost said. He added that it is critical to remember that Walker had “shot first.” Patrick Orsagos and John Seewer report for AP News.
Expressions of hatred against Jews have become “mainstreamed and normalized,” and incidents of violence, vandalism, and harassment of Jews have increased, according to a report published yesterday. Conspiracy theories and hate once relegated to the fringes of the far-right “have seeped into the mainstream of the political right.” More than 3,600 antisemitic incidents were recorded in the United States in 2022. See Tel Aviv University’s Antisemitism Worldwide Report, published in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League.
Over a half dozen Senate Republicans have said they would vote against Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) effort to temporarily substitute Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Feinstein’s prolonged absence after being hospitalized for shingles in March has stalled Democrats’ efforts to advance judicial nominees. Andrew Solender reports for Axios.
U.S. RELATIONS – CHINA
The Group of Seven (G7) democracies are grappling with how to limit ties with China in specific sectors they view as strategic while preserving broader trade and investment flows. According to top Western economic officials, the G7 are increasingly concerned that China could cut off critical exports during a conflict or another pandemic. They also worry that Western investment and expertise, if left unrestricted, could help develop Beijing’s military. Andrew Duehren and Greg Ip report for the Wall Street Journal.
Chinese surveillance technology company Hikvision has denied it is illegally disguising its products sold to the U.S. government to enable Chinese espionage. In November, U.S. regulators put a nationwide ban on Hikvision products in place, citing national security concerns. In leaked intelligence reports, Hikvision is described as “partnering with Chinese intelligence entities” and “using relationships with resellers to disguise its products for sale to government suppliers.” Tessa Wong, Paul Adams, and Peter Hoskins report for BBC News.
A Chinese laboratory conducting coronavirus research had a series of biosafety problems in late 2019 that coincided with the pandemic’s emergence, according to a report released yesterday by a Republican member of the Senate Health Committee. The report estimates that the COVID-19-causing virus first emerged between Oct. 28 and Nov. 10, 2019— weeks earlier than the Chinese government’s timeline and close to that of an earlier assessment from U.S. intelligence. “The preponderance of circumstantial evidence … supports an unintentional research-related incident,” rather than a zoonotic origin, said the Senate report. Warren P. Strobel and Michael R. Gordon report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
U.S. Central Command has confirmed that Abd-al-Hadi Mahmud al-Haji Ali, a senior leader of the self-styled Islamic State militant group, was killed in a helicopter raid in northern Syria yesterday. U.S. Central Command announced on its Twitter account.
The FBI is building a war crimes case against senior officials in the Syrian regime after they tortured and executed Layla Shweikani, 26, a U.S. aid worker in 2016. According to four people with knowledge of the inquiry, the Justice Department has been investigating Shweikani’s killing, led by the U.S. attorney in Chicago. A federal indictment accusing the responsible officials of war crimes would be the first time the United States has criminally charged top Syrian officials with human rights abuses. Katie Benner and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken today said the apparent attack by fighters linked to the Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on U.S. diplomats was “reckless” and “irresponsible.” Blinken said the diplomatic convoy that came under fire yesterday was flying U.S. flags and confirmed nobody was harmed. Blinken urged the leaders of the battling factions to agree to a ceasefire and said they had a responsibility to “ensure the safety and wellbeing of civilians, diplomatic personnel, and humanitarian workers,” the State Department said. Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir report for Reuters.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
Egypt paused a plan to secretly supply rockets to Russia last month following talks with senior U.S. officials and opted to produce artillery ammunition for Ukraine instead, according to leaked intelligence reports. Missy Ryan, Evan Hill, and Siobhán O’Grady report for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – U.S. RESPONSE
The White House has criticized Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for accusing the United States of “encouraging” the war in Ukraine. Da Silva made the accusation after meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping last week. Visiting Brazil, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met da Silva and thanked Brazil for its efforts. U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby accused da Silva of “parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda.” George Wright reports for BBC News.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited occupied parts of the Ukrainian region of Kherson. Putin is also thought to have visited the Luhansk region. It is unknown when the trip to Kherson occurred, but at one point in footage released of the trip, Putin refers to the Easter holiday “coming up,” suggesting that it happened some days ago. Kathryn Armstrong reports for BBC News.
A Russian court yesterday convicted top opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza of treason for publicly denouncing Moscow’s war in Ukraine and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. The charges stemmed from a March 2022 speech to the Arizona House of Representatives in which he denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kara-murza, a dual Russian-British citizen, political activist, and journalist, has survived two poisonings he blamed on Russian authorities. AP News reports.
Two Russian men who claim to be former commanders of the paramilitary organization Wagner Group have said that they killed children and civilians during their time in Ukraine, according to interviews with Gulagu.net, a human rights organization. Former Russian convicts Azamat Uldarov and Alexey Savichev, pardoned by Russian presidential decrees last year, said Wagner mercenaries “were given the command to annihilate everyone” in the Ukrainian cities of Soledar and Bakhmut. Sarah Dean, Uliana Pavlova, and Josh Pennington report for CNN.
China is “the biggest threat to the Netherlands’ economic security,” according to the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service. China is using “cyber as a weapon” and sending agents to pursue the Netherlands’ technology, said the agency’s director-general, Erik Akerboom. Akerboom also highlighted overlapping threats ranging from terrorism, extremism, cyberattacks, espionage, covert influence, sabotage, and organized crime. Mike Corder reports for AP News.
Over 180 people have been killed and 1,800 injured as clashes intensified across Sudan yesterday. The fighting between rival military forces, which began in the capital Khartoum, has since spread to South Kordofan, North Darfur, Northern State, and other regions. U.N. News reports.