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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
Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, is due to be sentenced for seditious conspiracy and other crimes today concerning his role in the Jan. 6 attack. The prosecution seeks a sentence of 25 years, while Rhodes is asking for “time served,” which has been 16 months. Rhodes argues that “perhaps one of the most important factors” supporting his request for leniency is his founding and leadership of the Oath Keepers – the very organization whose members have been convicted for conspiring to use force to prevent the counting of the Electoral College ballots on Jan. 6. Mary B. McCord and Jacob Glick report for Just Security.
Richard “Bigo” Barnett, an Arkansas man who became notorious for putting his foot on a desk in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Jan. 6 attack, was sentenced yesterday to four and a half years in prison. Barnett was found guilty at a trial in January of eight criminal offenses, including interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder and obstructing the certification of the 2020 election. Alan Feuer and Zach Montague report for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Energy Department, which is in charge of the country’s nuclear weapons safety, has not fully implemented a program aimed at addressing “insider threats,” according to the Government Accountability Office. The nonpartisan congressional watchdog said the department had not implemented seven out of 26 minimum requirements to address these threats. The department concurred with the watchdog’s recommendations, including that it should create a process to integrate responsibilities better, adopt a single department-wide approach, and identify the resources it needs. Rachel Frazin reports for The Hill.
President Biden will introduce Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. as his nominee to become the next chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today. If confirmed by the Senate, Brown would replace Gen. Mark A. Milley. Brown would become the second African American to hold the Pentagon’s top uniformed post. Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post.
Investigators found that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had sought to interfere in an FBI probe into Austin real-estate investor Nate Paul, a friend of Paxton’s who donated $25,000 to him. After Paxton asked the state to spend public money on a proposed $3.3 million settlement to end a lawsuit by former staffers who accused him of on-the-job retaliation, the Texas House General Investigating Committee launched a secret probe into Paxton’s behavior. Four investigators laid out what they said were years of legally and ethically improper actions by Paxton. Elizabeth Findell reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A China-focused special House committee passed proposals yesterday for legislation to address China’s ill-treatment of ethnic minorities and bolster U.S. support for Taiwan. The proposed measures would stop American finances that may contribute to China’s mass detention and surveillance of Uyghurs. The recommendations also outline ways to hasten the delivery of weapons already promised to Taiwan. James T. Areddy reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A Chinese state-sponsored group has hacked into critical U.S. infrastructure, Microsoft and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance warn. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a joint advisory with its Five Eyes partners, warning that the “Volt Typhoon” hackers threatened all five allied countries following a “recently discovered cluster of activity.” The hack was launched against the U.S. territory of Guam, which has three U.S. military bases and would play a strategic role should the U.S. need to respond to any potential Chinese military attack on Taiwan. Rebecca Falconer reports for Axios.
Alexander Vinnik, a Russian citizen and co-founder of a bitcoin exchange facing U.S. money-laundering charges, is mounting a campaign to be included in any prisoner exchange with Russia that could free detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. Louise Radnofsky and Dustin Volz report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month was likely orchestrated by one of Ukraine’s special military or intelligence units, U.S. officials said. U.S. intelligence agencies reached their preliminary assessment partly through intercepted communications in which Ukrainian officials said they believed their country was responsible for the attack. U.S. officials say their level of confidence that the Ukrainian government directly authorized the Kremlin drone attack is “low.” Julian E. Barnes, Adam Entous, Eric Schmitt, and Anton Troianovski report for the New York Times.
Washington is investigating reports that U.S. military vehicles were used in raids on Russia this week, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said yesterday. “We’ve been pretty darn clear: We don’t support the use of U.S.-made equipment for attacks inside Russia … we’ve been clear about that with the Ukrainians,” Kirby said. Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder on Tuesday said the U.S. had not authorized nor received Ukrainian requests for transferring equipment to paramilitary groups. Veronika Melkozerova and Alexander Ward report for POLITICO.
China and Russia solidified their partnership with high-level meetings between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin yesterday. The meetings signal a departure from China’s recent efforts to play down its alignment with Russia, as it seeks to play the role of peacemaker in Ukraine. Both sides affirmed their mutual interests and plans for cooperation. Austin Ramzy and Selina Cheng report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Three Russian hypersonic missile technology experts, arrested on suspicion of treason, stand accused of betraying secrets to China, two people familiar with the case have said. One suspect, Alexander Shiplyuk, head of Siberia’s Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, is suspected of handing over classified material at a scientific conference in China in 2017. Filipp Lebedev, Lucy Papachristou, and Mark Trevelyan report for Reuters.
The defense ministers of Russia and Belarus today signed a document on the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Moscow will retain control over the weapons and any decisions on their use, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is quoted as saying. Reuters reports.
The head of the Russian paramilitary group, Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), which said it was behind a cross-border raid into Russia from Ukraine, has vowed more incursions. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu promised a “harsh response” to future attacks. Ukraine denies involvement in the raid. RDK leader, Denis Kapustin, is a known Russian nationalist, and his group openly says it wants a mono-ethnic Russian state. BBC News reports.
Yevgeniy Prigozhin, chief of the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner group, warned that Moscow’s brutal war could plunge Russia into revolution unless its detached wealthy elite committed to the conflict. Prigozhin also said the war had backfired spectacularly by failing to “demilitarize” Ukraine, one of President Vladimir Putin’s stated aims of the invasion. “Russia needs to live like North Korea for a few years, so to say, close the borders … and work hard,” he added. Mary Ilyushina reports for the Washington Post.
Sporadic clashes between Sudan’s warring factions threaten the week-long truce, which had maintained relative calm in the capital of Khartoum. Khalid Abdelaziz report for Reuters.
Iran unveiled what it dubbed the latest iteration of its liquid-fueled Khorramshahr ballistic missile today. Defense Minister Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said the missile could be prepared for launch in a short period. AP News reports.
Canada and Saudi Arabia yesterday agreed to restore full diplomatic ties and appoint new ambassadors, ending a 2018 dispute that damaged relations and trade. The dispute started when Canada’s embassy in Riyadh published a tweet in Arabic urging the immediate release of women’s rights activists held by Saudi Arabia. Steve Scherer reports for Reuters.