Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
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
A March 2024 trial date has been set for former President Trump in relation to the hush money payments case. Trump has said the protective order to which he is subject will impede his election campaign. Shayna Jacobs reports for the Washington Post.
Special counsel Jack Smith has nearly finished obtaining evidence in his criminal investigation into whether former President Trump mishandled classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, according to people familiar with the matter. It is unclear whether Smith will charge Trump or if he has presented a recommendation to Attorney General Merrick Garland, who would make a final decision. Aruna Viswanatha, Sadie Gurman, and C. Ryan Barber report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A recent letter from a lawyer for an Internal Revenue Service supervisory agent to the Office of Special Counsel has exposed simmering tensions in the yearslong investigation into Hunter Biden, which is focused on his taxes and whether he made a false statement concerning a 2018 gun purchase. The supervisory agent made “protected disclosures” alleging that the Justice Department was not following established precedent in the probe. According to a copy of the letter, the supervisory agent and his team were removed from the criminal investigation at the request of the Justice Department. C. Ryan Barber and Aruna Viswanatha report for the Wall Street Journal.
Christopher R. Grider, 41, a Texas man who tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby on Jan. 6, was sentenced yesterday to nearly seven years in prison, the Justice Department said. Grider pleaded guilty last year to entering a restricted area and unlawfully parading at the Capitol. He went to trial on seven other charges, including civil disorder, violent entry, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. He was convicted on all counts. Eduardo Medina reports for the New York Times.
An Arizona judge has thrown out Kari Lake’s lawsuit alleging that Maricopa County had neglected to review voters’ signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes during her election bid. In his decision, Judge Peter A. Thompson wrote that the review process complied with state law. Lake said that she would appeal the ruling and that her lawyers were exploring various pathways forward. Neil Vigdor reports for the New York Times.
Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, who is accused of deliberately driving a U-Haul truck into a White House barrier, allegedly told authorities that he admires Nazis and wanted to “seize power” and “kill the president,” court documents released yesterday show. Tim Stelloh, Daniel Barnes, and Daniel Arkin report for NBC News.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is set to launch his 2024 presidential campaign on Twitter today. Steve Peoples reports for AP News.
After nearly three weeks, U.S. Central Command still does not know whether an American drone strike in Syria killed a senior al Qaeda leader or a civilian, officials said. Despite the uncertainty, Commander Gen. Erik Kurilla ordered the strike be announced on Twitter. Central Command did not open a review of the incident until May 15, twelve days after the strike. Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann and Haley Britzky report for CNN.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will meet her Chinese counterpart, Wang Wentao, tomorrow in what may be an opportunity to restore high-level exchanges between the United States and China. It will be the first cabinet-level meeting in Washington between the two countries during the Biden administration. Top defense officials from both countries could also hold talks on the sidelines of an annual security forum in Singapore early next month. These bilateral meetings would represent a “thaw” in relations, as predicted by President Biden over the weekend. Lingling Wei and Charles Hutzler report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. Navy warships stationed in the Persian Gulf region have increased their patrols through the Strait of Hormuz in response to recent moves by Iran to seize two oil tankers. Iran has “harassed, attacked or interfered” with 15 internationally flagged merchant ships since 2021, Pentagon and White House officials said this month. Eric Lipton reports for the New York Times.
The Pentagon is withholding support for the International Criminal Court’s (I.C.C.) prosecutions of alleged Russian war criminals in Ukraine in the hope that doing so will make the U.S. government more persuasive when it asks an international court to defer to the U.S. justice system. However, this may be an ineffective strategy, as the I.C.C. did not review the Russian government’s past policy toward other I.C.C. investigations before deciding whether to investigate. Helping the I.C.C.’s investigation of war crimes in Ukraine will not increase or reduce the chances of U.S. personnel being investigated in the future. Former NATO Supreme Allied Commanders in Europe, Philip Breedlove and Wesley Clark, and Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe, have written for Defense One.
A cross-border attack on the Russian Belgorod region by anti-Kremlin fighters aligned with Ukraine stretched into a second day yesterday. An explosion at a defense factory and skirmishes at a border crossing were reported. Yesterday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that it had pushed back all of the pro-Ukrainian fighters across the border and that scores of “saboteurs” had been killed. Andrew E. Kramer, Valerie Hopkins, and Michael Schwirtz report for the New York Times.
The United States has distanced itself from a cross-border attack on the Russian Belgorod region. Russia released pictures of abandoned or damaged Western military vehicles, including U.S.-made Humvees. The United States insisted it did not “encourage or enable strikes inside of Russia.” Frank Gardner and James FitzGerald report for BBC News.
The growing tension between the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner group chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and Russia’s armed forces leadership represents the first significant crack in the country’s establishment since the invasion began. Abbas Gallyamov, a former speechwriter for President Vladimir Putin, has said the tension demonstrates Putin’s weakness, “In times of war, keeping a united front is the basic task of a state. And Putin is unable to achieve that.” Yaroslav Trofimov reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A Russian court extended the pretrial detention of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter until at least Aug. 30. His pretrial detention was initially set to expire on May 29. Gershkovich is being held on an allegation of espionage that he and the U.S. government deny. Ann M. Simmons and Shelby Holliday report for the Wall Street Journal.
British special forces have been involved in covert operations in 19 countries in the past dozen years, including in Russia, Syria, Ukraine, and Sudan, a study by Action on Armed Violence reveals.
Chinese hackers targeted Kenya’s government in widespread, years-long digital intrusions against ministries and state institutions. Two sources assessed the hacks to be aimed, at least in part, at gaining information on debt owed to Beijing by Kenya. The hacking campaign demonstrates China’s willingness to leverage its espionage capabilities to monitor and protect economic and strategic interests abroad, two sources said. China’s foreign ministry said it was “not aware” of any such hacking. Aaron Ross, James Pearson, and Christopher Bing report for Reuters.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi today to sign a migration deal to boost Indian student and business travel to Australia. The leaders also discussed regional security. Kirsty Needham reports for Reuters.
Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi, chief of Israel’s armed forces, raised the prospect of “action” against Iran yesterday following the excavation of a new underground nuclear facility in Iran. Halevi’s comments were made as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser played down any immediate threat posed by the facility. Dan Williams reports for Reuters.