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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 – TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
Mark Meadows, the final White House chief of staff under then-President Trump, has testified before a federal grand jury, according to two people briefed on the matter. Meadows is part of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigations into Trump’s efforts to cling to power after losing the 2020 election and into Trump’s handling of hundreds of classified documents after he left office. Meadows has been out of contact with Trump’s team, and some of Trump’s advisers believe Meadows could be a significant witness in the inquiries. Jonathan Swan, Michael S. Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
A previously unknown federal grand jury in Florida has recently started hearing testimony in an inquiry into former President Trump’s handling of classified documents. The grand jury in Florida is separate from the one that has been sitting for months in Washington. The Florida grand jury began hearing evidence last month, and at least one witness has already testified there, and another will testify today. Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Ben Protess report for the New York Times.
Lawyers for former President Trump are trying to block another defamation case by E. Jean Carroll using the previous case she won against Trump. The filing in federal court in Manhattan argues that Trump could not have defamed Carroll by denying her rape accusation in the pending case because a jury in the other case found him liable for sexually abusing her but not rape. Adam Reiss and Dareh Gregorian report for NBC News.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called for more defense spending, including support for Ukraine, one day after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) came out against exceeding the spending caps set by his debt-limit deal. McConnell said the defense budget is “simply insufficient given the major challenges that our nation faces.” He cited “growing threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and terrorists emboldened by America’s retreat from Afghanistan.” Anthony Adragna, Connor O’Brien, Joe Gould, and Nancy Vu report for POLITICO.
The hard-right Republicans of the House Freedom Caucus blocked several bills this week in retaliation for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) handling of the debt ceiling bill last week. 11 Republicans broke with their party to vote with Democrats. It is unclear what the Freedom Caucus would need to overcome the impasse. Marianna Sotomayor, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Amy B Wang, and Paul Kane report for the Washington Post.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management has confirmed it played a role in transporting 36 migrants to Sacramento, California. The first flight of 16 migrants arrived last week, and then a second plane arrived on Monday with 20 migrants. California leaders are investigating if any laws were broken and if people were misled. Florida said all the migrants flew voluntarily. Chloe Kim reports for BBC News.
Two people have been killed, and five others sustained gunshot wounds yesterday evening during a high school graduation ceremony in Richmond, Virginia, police have said. Interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said that a 19-year-old man was detained over the shooting, and officers intend to pursue charges of second-degree murder against him. Ned Oliver and Rebecca Falconer report for Axios.
Senior U.S. and Chinese officials had “candid” and “productive” discussions on Monday, according to read-outs from both Washington and Beijing. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink and National Security Council Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs Sarah Beran met with Chinese officials in Beijing “as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and build on recent high-level diplomacy between the two countries.” Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
The United States and India are expected to reach a deal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington this month to manufacture jet-fighter engines in India. The deal, which would see General Electric engines being built for India’s Tejas jet fighter, is a vital part of India’s effort to boost its domestic defense industry. Rajesh Roy and Doug Cameron report for the Wall Street Journal.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will seek to raise the U.K.’s economic relationship with the United States to the same level as their defense and security cooperation in a bid to counter global threats. Sunak arrives in Washington today and will meet President Biden, U.S. business leaders, and members of Congress. Reuters reports.
The Biden administration is pressing Saudi Arabia to lift travel bans on some U.S.-Saudi citizens in a bid to recenter human rights, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Saudi Arabia this week, U.S. officials said. According to human rights activists, at least three U.S. citizens cannot leave Saudia Arabia because of travel bans. U.S. officials said the Saudis resisted their efforts to secure some human-rights concessions in parallel with Blinken’s three-day visit, which began yesterday. Dion Nissenbaum reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The United States, Philippines, and Japan held their first trilateral coast guard maneuvers yesterday. The exercises occurred amid growing unease over China’s maritime conduct in the region. The exercises involved more than 500 coast guard personnel and included search and rescue and counter-piracy scenarios. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – KAKHOVKA DAM
Thousands of people are being evacuated downstream of the Kakhovka dam that has collapsed in Russian-held Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 80 towns and villages may be flooded. Some have said the incident poses a catastrophic flooding risk to the city of Kherson. Alex Binley and Paul Adams report for BBC News.
Ukraine and Russia have traded blame over which side destroyed the Kakhovka dam. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of blowing up the hydroelectric power plant from the inside. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed that the damage was “a deliberate sabotage by the Ukrainian side” to deprive Crimea of water. “…this sabotage is related to the fact that the Ukrainian armed forces, having started the offensive two days ago, are not achieving their goals now,” Peskov added. Samantha Schmidt, Isobel Koshiw, Natalia Abbakumova, and Serhii Korolchuk report for the Washington Post.
A deliberate explosion inside the Kakhovka dam most likely caused its collapse yesterday, according to engineering and munitions experts. Experts said structural failure or an attack from outside the dam were possible but less plausible explanations. Ihor Syrota, head of Ukrhydroenergo, the state hydroelectric company, said, “A missile strike would not cause such destruction because this plant was built to withstand an atomic bomb.” James Glanz, Marc Santora, and Richard Pérez-Peña report for the New York Times.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
A drone attack in Moscow last week appeared to target the homes of Russian intelligence officers, a senior U.S. official and a congressional staffer with knowledge of the matter said. At least one of the apartment buildings hit in the drone strikes has ties to Russia’s SVR, the Foreign Intelligence Service, according to Strider Technologies, a strategic intelligence startup. Ken Dilanian, Dan De Luce, Courtney Kube, and Carol E. Lee report for NBC News.
Paramilitary organization Wagner group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin dismissed Russia’s claims to have inflicted heavy losses on Ukraine when Kyiv attempted offensive action. Russia’s defense ministry claimed Ukraine suffered over 3,700 casualties. Prigozhin said the claim was “simply wild and absurd science fiction.” This is the latest row between Wagner and the Russian armed forces. Matt Murphy reports for BBC News.
The United States received intelligence from a European ally last year that Ukraine was planning an attack on the Nord Stream pipelines three months before they were hit, three U.S. officials told CNN. Natasha Bertrand, Alex Marquardt, and Haley Britzky report for CNN.
Lawyers for Ukraine told the U.N. International Court of Justice yesterday that Russia bankrolled a “campaign of intimidation and terror.” The claims are part of a case brought by Kyiv concerning Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the arming of rebels in eastern Ukraine years before Russia’s full-scale invasion. Ukraine wants Moscow to pay reparations for attacks and crimes in the region, including for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down by Russia-backed rebels in July 2014. Mike Corder reports for AP News.
Sudan’s warring military factions agreed to indirect talks in efforts that may revive a ceasefire sponsored by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Reuters reports.
Iran reopened its embassy in Saudi Arabia. The reopening comes seven years after the rivals severed diplomatic ties. The two countries agreed to restore ties in a China-brokered deal three months ago. David Gritten reports for BBC News.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is polling 17-19% nationwide, a record high for the party that now vies with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats for second place in some surveys. AfD’s calls to stop migration and curb what it sees as a costly green agenda has resonated in the east of Germany, where it is on track to win three state votes. Germany’s domestic spy agency has branded the AfD’s youth wing “extremist.” The spy agency’s head also accused the AfD of helping spread Russian propaganda about the Ukraine war. Sarah Marsh reports for Reuters.
Brazil’s former president, Jair Bolsonaro, will go on trial this month on charges of abusing his power to make baseless attacks against Brazil’s election systems. He would be ineligible to run for office for eight years if convicted. Jack Nicas report for the New York Times.