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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
Social media posts and public remarks from former President Trump’s supporters have portrayed the indictment as an act of war, called for retribution, and stressed that much of his base carries weapons. An “Eye for an eye,” wrote Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) in a post on Twitter on Friday. Trump’s eldest son’s fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle, posted a photo with the words “Retribution Is Coming” on Instagram. The language used by some right-wing media figures was even more stark. Michael S. Schmidt, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
Federal and local authorities in Miami yesterday increased security preparations ahead of former President Trump’s first appearance in federal court on criminal charges tomorrow. Authorities have been monitoring plans for pro-Trump rallies in Miami, including one near the federal courthouse tomorrow purportedly organized by a local chapter of the Proud Boys. Shayna Jacobs, David Nakamura, Hannah Allam, and Isaac Arnsdorf report for the Washington Post.
Critical evidence relating to former President Trump’s retention of classified documents could come from Trump’s lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran, the federal indictment reveals. Corcoran’s detailed accounts of how Trump sought to avoid handing back any classified material could prove his obstruction of the government’s investigation. The indictment highlights the extent to which the charges were built on evidence from Trump’s inner circle, including text messages from several Trump employees and a recording of him by an aide. Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer, and Ben Protess report for the New York Times.
Walt Nauta, a former military valet, and aide to former President Trump, faces six charges, including conspiracy to obstruct and withholding a record. Federal prosecutors indicted Nauta last week, implicating him in an alleged scheme to hold on to and share sensitive military secrets that Trump knew he should no longer be able to access. Rebecca Ballhaus reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The FBI is investigating possible campaign finance violations by undercover right-wing operatives in Wyoming that aimed to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns, and the offices of elected representatives before the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the matter. The operatives used large campaign donations to gain access to their targets and sabotage the reputations of people and organizations considered threats to the agenda of then-President Trump. Prosecutors have issued subpoenas to Richard Seddon, a former British spy, and Susan Gore, a Wyoming heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune. Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti report for the New York Times.
Alexander Soros, a younger son of philanthropist and right-wing target George Soros, will take control of the $25 billion empire. The issues Alex cares about include voting and abortion rights, as well as gender equity. He plans to continue backing left-leaning U.S. politicians. “I’m more political,” Alex said, compared with his father. Gregory Zuckerman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration on Saturday said China has been spying on the U.S. from Cuba for years. The admission came after the White House denied on Thursday that China and Cuba had reached a new agreement to put an electronic eavesdropping facility in Cuba. An official said that the administration “inherited” the problem and that China even upgraded its intelligence collection facilities in Cuba in 2019. Dan De Luce, Carol E. Lee, and Courtney Kube report for NBC News.
The Biden administration last week notified the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that it has decided to rejoin the agency. The Trump administration announced it was withdrawing U.S. membership six years ago. The U.S. seeks to rejoin mainly to counter what it sees as the growing influence of the Chinese government on the U.N. agency’s agenda. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – U.S. RESPONSE
The Biden administration on Friday announced another security aid package for Ukraine valued at $2.1 billion, providing more air defense systems and munitions to Kyiv. The U.S. has provided Kyiv with more than $39.7 billion in security assistance since Russia invaded Ukraine. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
A Russian court on Saturday detained U.S. citizen Michael Travis Leake, a musician and former paratrooper, on drug charges. The Moscow court claimed Leake had “organized the sale of drugs to young people.” Leake denies the charges. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said embassy staff had attended Leake’s court hearing. Leake will be held in custody until 6 August, pending a possible trial. Oliver Slow reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – RUSSIAN MILITARY INFIGHTING
Russia appears to have moved to take direct control of the paramilitary organization Wagner group. On Saturday, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said that “volunteer formations” will be asked to sign contracts directly with the Ministry of Defense. The move comes after months of infighting between defense officials and the private military group. Matt Murphy reports for BBC News.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the paramilitary organization Wagner group, yesterday said that his fighters would not sign any contract with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Guy Faulconbridge reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – KAKHOVKA DAM
The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is “hugely worse” than before the Kakhovka dam collapsed, the U.N.’s Undersecretary-General, Martin Griffith, warned on Friday. An “extraordinary” 700,000 people require drinking water, Griffith said, warning that the flooding in one of the world’s most essential breadbaskets will lead to lower grain exports, higher food prices around the world, and less to eat for millions in need. Edith M. Lederer report for AP News.
The last reactor still producing energy at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine was shut down as a safety precaution after the dam’s destruction threatened the facility’s water supply, Ukrainian energy officials said. The dam’s destruction caused water to drain from the Kakhovka Reservoir, leaving less available water to cool the reactors. Russian forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant since the war’s early stages, but it is still run by Ukrainian staff. Marc Santora and Andrew E. Kramer report for the New York Times.
Russian forces targeted small boats rescuing elderly residents from flooded areas of southern Ukraine, killing three people and wounding 10, the regional governor said yesterday. Reuters reports.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Ukraine says it has liberated three villages in the southeast in the first victories of its much-anticipated counter-offensive. On Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed that the counter-offensive had begun. Ukraine says Russia has blown up another dam in the Zaporizhzhia region. Matt Murphy reports for BBC News.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – E.U.
The E.U. has promised Tunisia over $1bn of financial assistance as part of a proposed broader agreement encompassing action to tackle migration. The E.U. would provide Tunisia with over $100m this year in exchange for border management, search and rescue, and the return of migrants. Tunisian President Kais Saied, with whom the E.U. is negotiating, has been accused by critics at home and abroad of democratic backsliding. Danny Aeberhard reports for BBC News.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen started a trip to Latin America today, meeting the presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico to bolster political and trade ties that the E.U. admits it has sometimes neglected. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the E.U. has sought “like-minded” partners to provide other sources of trade and critical minerals required for its green transition. The E.U. also hopes new trade ties could help reduce its reliance on China. Philip Blenkinsop reports for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The number of operational nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the major military powers has risen to 12,512, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The rise brings to an end the period of gradual decline that followed the end of the cold war. Of the 86 new warheads since last year, 60 are held by China. The other new warheads are attributed to Russia (12), Pakistan (five), North Korea (five), and India (four). SIPRI notes that Russia, the U.S., and the U.K. have reduced their level of transparency since Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports.
Iran is on course for the highest annual number of executions in nearly a decade, as analysts say Tehran attempts to stifle protests. At least 142 people were executed in May, the highest monthly number since 2015, bringing the current total to more than 300 in 2023. Most executions in Iran are carried out in secret and without granting the accused access to legal recourse, according to the U.N. Sune Engel Rasmussen reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Britain’s former prime minister, Boris Johnson, abruptly resigned his parliamentary seat on Friday following an investigation looking into whether he had lied to Parliament over lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stephen Castle and Mark Landler report for the New York Times.
Saudi Arabia wants to collaborate, not compete, with China, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister declared yesterday, saying he “ignored” Western suspicions over their growing ties. The comments were made during the Arab-China business conference, which came just days after a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Beyond energy, the two countries have also deepened their security and sensitive tech cooperation. Aziz El Yaakoubi and Maha El Dahan report for Reuters.