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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 – JAN. 6, ATTACK
Dominic Pezzola, a defendant in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy case, lashed out at prosecutors from the witness stand yesterday, attacking them for conducting what he described as a “corrupt trial” marred by “fake charges.” The outburst occurred during a testimony meant to humanize him for the jury but seemed to expose his combative nature instead. Closing arguments could begin today as the trial is winding down. Alan Feuer and Zach Montague report for the New York Times.
Nathan Pelham, a Jan. 6 defendant wanted on misdemeanor charges opened fire at Hunt County sheriff’s deputies last week as they conducted a “wellness check” on him ahead of his expected arrest, leading to a lengthy standoff. In addition to charges related to breaching the Capitol, Pelham now faces a felony charge that could result in years of jail time for allegedly firing a 9mm pistol in the direction of deputies. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A federal appeals court temporarily blocked a House committee subpoena to a former Manhattan prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz, postponing yesterday’s testimony in Republican lawmakers’ inquiry into the prosecution of former President Trump. The court temporarily put the subpoena on hold so that a three-judge panel could consider whether to delay the subpoena more broadly while the appeal of a lower-court order plays out. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
District Judge Lewis Kaplan presiding over writer E. Jean Carroll’s sexual assault lawsuit against former President Trump, rejected his legal team’s argument that his appearance at an upcoming trial would overburden New York City. The decision comes after Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, requested on Wednesday that the judge instruct jurors that Trump “wishes to appear” at the trial, but his absence “avoids … logistical burdens.” Kaplan also said, “Trump is under no legal obligation to be present or to testify.” Jacob Knutson reports for Axios.
A forensic psychiatrist testified yesterday that a Saudi prisoner accused of plotting the suicide bombing of a Navy destroyer voluntarily confessed to having a role in the attack after four years in the CIA’s secret prison network. The defense lawyers for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 58, said he was conditioned to tell federal agents at Guantánamo Bay what they wanted to hear because he had been waterboarded, humiliated, threatened, and kept in isolation for years. The psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Welner, a government consultant, based his decision on the documents he reviewed, including transcripts of agents’ descriptions of interrogations, testimony and notes by a military psychiatrist who was treating the prisoner, prison guards’ notes, and Nashiri’s “account of his unwanted experiences in custody.” Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
Terrorist organizations and violent domestic extremists have increased their online threats against the White House, the LGBTQ+ community, journalists, perceived enemies of Islam, and critical infrastructure in recent weeks, according to an intelligence memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security. The agency also reported increased demands for attacks against law enforcement, government, and military entities. The memo highlights some pro-Al-Qaeda media outlets that allegedly spread photos of U.S. citizens visiting Yemen with guidance to kill them. Shannon Vavra reports for The Daily Beast.
U.S. RELATIONS – CHINA
Senate and House lawmakers introduced the Taiwan Cybersecurity Resiliency Act yesterday, which would boost cybersecurity collaboration between the U.S. and Taiwan to counter cyberattacks from China. The bill would require the Department of Defense to broaden and strengthen cybersecurity cooperation with Taiwan by conducting cyber training exercises, defending the country’s military networks, infrastructure and systems, and leveraging U.S. cybersecurity technologies to help defend Taiwan. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen yesterday said protecting national security would be the U.S. priority in its relationship with China even if it slows economic growth. “The United States will assert ourselves when our vital interests are at stake. But we do not seek to decouple our economy from China’s,” Yellen said at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Andrew Duehren reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The Pentagon is moving more troops to the African nation of Djibouti to prepare for a possible evacuation of U.S. Embassy staff in Sudan. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said yesterday that because of the fighting at the capitol’s airport, “it is currently not safe to undertake a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens.” An estimated 19,000 American citizens are believed to be in Sudan. Helene Cooper, Elian Peltier and Farnaz Fassihi report for the New York Times.
The U.S. military repatriated a prisoner, Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush, 52, to Algeria yesterday after being held at Guantánamo without charge for over two decades. Bakush was among about 20 suspected low-level fighters rounded up by Pakistani security services in a 2002 raid in Faisalabad on dwellings believed to be Al Qaeda safe houses. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
Iran’s navy forced a U.S. submarine to the surface as it “violated” Iranian borders, Iranian navy commander Shahram Irani told state television yesterday. However, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet denied the incident and called it “disinformation.” Reuters reports.
A Russian fighter jet accidentally bombed the Russian city of Belgorod near Ukraine’s border yesterday, Moscow’s defense ministry said. Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said that three people were injured and several buildings were damaged. There was no explanation for the bombing other than what is described as an “abnormal descent of aviation ammunition.” George Wright reports for BBC News.
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, during his first visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, said yesterday that Ukraine’s “rightful place” was in the alliance. Despite these comments, accession remains a “long-term project.” There is division among NATO countries about whether Ukraine should be offered any kind of detailed “road map” toward membership at the Vilnius summit this summer. Enjoli Liston reports for the New York Times.
Pro-Russian hackers carried out a cyberattack on the website of the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, the air-traffic control agency said yesterday. A senior agency official familiar with the situation said that the agency had ringfenced its operational systems and that air-traffic safety was not at risk. However, there are growing fears that Moscow could interfere with the region’s critical infrastructure as its confrontation with the West escalates. Killnet, a Russian hacking group, announced their attack on the agency on their Telegram channel on Wednesday. Bojan Pancevski reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia is attempting to build an antiwar coalition in Germany comprising both far-left and far-right elements, according to a trove of sensitive Russian documents that were obtained by a European intelligence service. The documents record meetings between Kremlin officials and Russian political strategists. The Kremlin ordered the strategists to focus on Germany to build antiwar sentiment in Europe and dampen support for Ukraine. Catherine Belton, Souad Mekhennet, and Shane Harris report for the Washington Post.
Eight new storm brigades totaling 40,000 soldiers are being trained by Ukraine to be used during a counter-offensive against Russian occupiers in the coming weeks or months. The units have benefited from an aggressive recruiting campaign on social media and billboards to attract highly motivated volunteers. The success of the counter-offensive is crucial for Kyiv, as a failed attempt to seize back territory from Russian forces could dim optimism among key Western backers and push them to encourage Kyiv to seek negotiations with Moscow. Sergiy Karazy and Anna Dabrowska report for Reuters.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
China is building sophisticated cyber weapons to “seize control” of enemy satellites, rendering them useless for data signals or surveillance during wartime, according to leaked intelligence reports. A CIA-marked document assesses that China’s push to develop capabilities to “deny, exploit or hijack” enemy satellites is a core part of its goal to control information, which China considers a key “war-fighting domain.” Mehul Srivastava, Felicia Schwartz, and Demetri Sevastopulo report for the Financial Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Diplomatic pressure is being stepped up to end the fighting in Sudan, which has left more than 300 people dead in the last week. The U.N., U.S., and other countries have been pushing for a three-day truce to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Two previous attempted ceasefires failed to take effect. George Wright and Paul Adams report for BBC News.
The Russian paramilitary organization Wagner group has been supplying Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces with missiles to aid their fight against the country’s army, Sudanese and regional diplomatic sources have told CNN. Nima Elbagir, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Tamara Qiblawi and Barbara Arvanitidis report for CNN.