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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.
A group of former U.S. national security officials held secret talks with Russians close to the Kremlin, including Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov, intending to lay the groundwork for negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, six people familiar with the discussions said. These discussions happened with the knowledge of the Biden administration but not at its direction. There are growing signs that the West is eager for peace talks once the counter-offensive concludes. Josh Lederman reports for NBC News.
President Biden has approved the provision of U.S. cluster munitions for Ukraine. The move will bypass U.S. laws prohibiting the transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1 percent. Most countries ban cluster munitions. The high failure rate means that some bomblets may not immediately explode, threatening civilians. Karen DeYoung, Alex Horton, and Missy Ryan report for the Washington Post.
WAGNER ARMED ACTION
Yevgeny Prigozhin is no longer in Belarus, where he is ostensibly in exile, according to Belarus’ leader Alexander Lukashenko, who suggests Prigozhin returned to Russia. Prigozhin’s troops have also remained in their permanent camps in Russia, Lukashenko said yesterday. A Telegram channel that purports to carry out recruitment for the paramilitary organization Wagner group on Wednesday called on its almost 250,000 subscribers to join a gathering in St. Petersburg tomorrow. Ann M. Simmons, Benoit Faucon, and Matthew Luxmoore report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Russian state media has launched a campaign to discredit Yevgeny Prigozhin after his failed armed action last month. Searches of Prigozhin’s lavish homes were aired, and his greed and criminal past were discussed. Vitaly Shevchenko reports for BBC News.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – TRUMP CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS CASE
Former President Trump’s aide Walt Nauta pleaded not guilty to charges related to his handling of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Nauta faces six charges, including conspiracy and making false statements. Madeline Halpert reports for BBC News.
Prosecutors involved in the case concerning former President Trump’s handling of classified documents are facing considerable harassment and threats, according to extremism experts and a government official familiar with the matter. Far-right Trump supporters are posting the names of prosecutors and government workers online and sometimes revealing details about their personal lives. Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett report for the Washington Post.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – 2020 ELECTION
Special counsel Jack Smith’s investigators have asked several witnesses about a chaotic meeting in the final days of the Trump administration, during which former President Trump considered some of the most desperate proposals to keep him in power. Rudy Giuliani last month met with investigators for a voluntary interview to discuss that meeting, among other things. Three further Trump advisers are also of interest: former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, one-time national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. Kaitlan Collins, Zachary Cohen, Paula Reid, Sara Murray, and Katelyn Polantz report for CNN.
L. Lin Wood, a lawyer who tried to overturn former President Trump’s 2020 election loss, has given up his law license in Georgia in exchange for the two pending disciplinary charges against him to be dropped. The State Bar of Georgia transferred Wood’s attorney status to “retired” on Jul. 4. Anjali Huynh reports for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Biden administration is appealing a court ruling that limits government officials and agencies from communicating with social media companies on content moderation, according to court filings on Wednesday. In a court filing, the Department of Justice attorneys yesterday called the preliminary injunction “both sweeping in scope and vague in its terms” as it asked for the order to be stayed. Rebecca Falconer reports for Axios.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has been voted out of the House Freedom Caucus group. The expulsion comes weeks after she engaged in a heated clash on the House of Representatives floor with another Freedom Caucus member Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), over Boebert’s plan to force a vote to impeach President Biden. Kanishka Singh reports for Reuters.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled yesterday that former President Trump can be deposed in the lawsuit brought by former FBI agent Peter Strzok against the Justice Department for his wrongful termination after the Russia investigation. Strzok alleges Trump’s vendetta against him led to his wrongful termination. Strzok also alleges that the Justice Department wrongfully released text messages he exchanged with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who is also suing Trump. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrived in Beijing yesterday for meetings billed by some Chinese observers as an opportunity to establish more avenues for dialogue between the two countries that have struggled to maintain high-level talks in recent years. However, tensions remain high as trade relations sour. Chun Han Wong reports for the Wall Street Journal.
In response to the Jenin raid by the Israeli Defense Forces this week, the White House said it supported “Israel’s security and right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups.” While the Biden administration has had a relatively fraught relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, there is little sign that the Biden administration is willing to adopt a tougher position on Israeli actions in the West Bank. Palestinian officials and analysts see the U.S. response as another sign of Washington’s complicity in a military occupation and settlement project considered illegal by the U.N. last year. Ishaan Tharoor reports for the Washington Post.
Russian jets disturbed U.S. drones conducting a mission against the self-styled ISIS militant group targets for a second time in Syria yesterday. Col. Michael Andrews, an Air Force Central Command spokesperson, said two Russian fighters engaged in a “sustained” and “unprofessional” interaction for almost an hour. Oren Liebermann, Haley Britzky and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – NATO
A Swedish court has jailed a Kurdish man for four-and-a-half years for crimes, including attempting to finance terrorism. This case marks the first time Sweden’s new terror laws have been used in relation to the Kurdish militant PKK group. Turkey has long called on Swedden to crack down on Kurdish separatists and has made it a condition for Turkey’s greenlighting Sweden’s NATO bid. Paul Kirby reports for BBC News.
NATO leaders hope to convince Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to greenlight Sweden’s NATO bid during a summit set to begin in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto of Hungary has said that if Turkey supported Sweden, Hungary would not obstruct the process. NATO officials worry that Swedish membership could be delayed for months. Ben Hubbard and Steven Erlanger report for the New York Times.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will join NATO leaders in Lithuania on Tuesday to ensure the alliance does not lose sight of Chinese and Russian activity in Asia, which Japan considers a global security challenge. Sakura Murakami and Tim Kelly report for Reuters.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – IRAN
Iran seized the chemical tanker Nada II which may have been engaged in smuggling as it sailed in international waters in the Arabian Gulf yesterday, according to a US official. Ships like this frequently smuggle sanctioned Iranian oil to sell for a higher price abroad, though it remains uncertain what the ship was carrying. “Ultimately, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command assessed the circumstances of this event did not warrant further response,” said Commander Tim Hawkins, a US Naval Forces Central Command spokesperson. Oren Liebermann reports for CNN.
The U.K. will create a new sanctions regime for Iran, giving the UK more powers to target Iranian decision-makers, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly announced yesterday. The new sanctions may be imposed on those who undermine peace, security, democracy, or the rule of law, as well as those who spread the use of Iranian weapons or target British nationals. The British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Israel Defense Forces shelled a village in southern Lebanon yesterday following explosions in a disputed border area. Recent incidents have raised fears of a multifront escalation between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza. “The multifront stuff that … is bound to continue, and Israel is limited in what it can do,” said Mairav Zonszein, senior analyst for Israel-Palestine at the International Crisis Group. Stephen Kalin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday instructed the military to deepen war and combat planning to improve the odds of victory in actual combat. Xi said the world is in a new period of turmoil and change, and China’s security situation has become more unstable and uncertain, according to state-run media Xinhua. Reuters reports.
The U.N. Security Council should “act now” to prepare to deploy a multinational force to Haiti amid growing insecurity and gang violence, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged yesterday. Reuters reports.