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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
WAGNER ARMED ACTION
The paramilitary organization Wagner group is no longer “participating in any significant capacity in support of combat operations in Ukraine,” a Pentagon spokesperson has said. Speaking to Russian daily Kommersant yesterday, President Vladimir Putin said, “Wagner does not exist.” Laura Gozzi and Phelan Chatterjee report for BBC News.
Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who is said to be close to Yevgeny Prigozhin, is being held and interrogated in Moscow, people familiar with the situation said. Surovikin has not been charged with a crime. Surovikin is said to have had advanced knowledge of the armed action but was not involved in it. At least 13 senior officers were detained for questioning shortly after the armed action, and around 15 were suspended from duty or fired. Thomas Grove reports for the Wall Street Journal.
American cluster munitions were delivered to Ukraine yesterday, according to a Ukrainian general and the Pentagon. “We just got them, we haven’t used them yet, but it can radically change [the battlefield],” Brig. Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavsky said yesterday. Sebastian Shukla, Alex Marquardt, and Dasha Tarasova-Markin report for CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s confrontational remarks challenging NATO leaders on Ukraine’s NATO bid almost caused U.S. officials to scale back Kyiv’s “invitation” to join, according to six people familiar with the matter. While support remains high, the incident indicates some of Ukraine’s staunchest allies’ frustration towards Zelenskyy’s pressure tactics. Michael Birnbaum reports for the Washington Post.
Russian hard-liners have demanded that Turkey be designated an “unfriendly” country after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted his veto on Sweden’s NATO bid. Erdogan also recently hailed the friendship between Turkey and Ukraine, expressed support for Ukraine’s independence, and said it deserved NATO membership. While the Kremlin’s criticism of Ankara was cautious, Turkey’s apparent shift to the West will be a worrying prospect for Russia, wary of losing one of its most valued relationships. Robyn Dixon, Kareem Fahim, and David L. Stern report for the Washington Post.
The bodies of at least 87 people allegedly killed by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan have been found in a mass grave, according to the U.N. The RSF and allied militias have denied involvement in the recent fighting in West Darfur. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said he was “appalled by the callous and disrespectful way the dead, along with their families and communities, were treated.” Antoinette Radford reports for BBC News.
Sweden’s top court yesterday blocked the extradition of two Turks that Ankara says are part of a terrorist group, which may complicate Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid. The Swedish government will ultimately decide on extradition requests. Turkey is seeking the extradition of two citizens on accusations that they are part of the Gulen movement. Turkey says U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind a coup attempt in 2016. Louise Rasmussen reports for Reuters.
Germany will reduce its dependence on China in “critical sectors,” including medicine, lithium batteries, and elements essential to chipmaking.” Germany seeks to “de-risk” its relationship with China because “China has changed. As a result of this and China’s political decisions, we need to change our approach…” according to the German Federal Government Strategy on China.
U.S. RELATIONS – CHINA
The recent attack by Chinese state-backed hackers demonstrates a leap in sophistication that has alarmed U.S. cybersecurity officials. Only a few years ago, Chinese hackers were better known for their crude smash-and-grab tactics. The recent attack demonstrates significant upskilling, prompting concerns that China’s infiltration into U.S. government and corporate networks is far greater than currently known. Dustin Volz, Robert McMillan, and Josh Chin report for the Wall Street Journal.
The United States must speed up its weapons deliveries to Taiwan in the coming years to help the island defend itself, U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today. Weapons deliveries to Taiwan have been delayed as manufacturers refocused on supplying arms to Ukraine. Idrees Ali reports for Reuters.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
President Biden yesterday said he was “serious” about negotiating a prisoner exchange to free Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich whom the United States called “wrongfully detained” in Russia. Gabriela Sá Pessoa reports for the New York Times.
President Biden authorized the military to call up 3,000 reserves to support operations in Europe, Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, the director of operations for the Joint Staff, said yesterday. It is unclear whether Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will actually deploy these reservists anytime soon. The U.S. sent 20,000 more troops to Europe after Russia’s invasion, bringing the total to over 100,000 in Europe. The authorization suggests that these forces are being stretched. Lara Seligman and Paul Mcleary report for POLITICO.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – JAN. 6 ATTACK
Kyle Fitzsimons, a butcher from Maine who assaulted five police officers during the Jan. 6 attack, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison yesterday. Prosecutors have described Fitzsimons as “one of the most violent” attackers. Alan Feuer and Zach Montague report for the New York Times.
Alan Hostetter, a former California police chief who relied on conspiracy theories to defend his actions during the Jan. 6 attack, was convicted of four felonies, including conspiring to obstruct Congress yesterday. District Judge Royce Lamberth said Hostetter “has a right to believe whatever he likes about the 2020 presidential election and to voice those opinions … But the First Amendment does not give anyone a right to obstruct or impede Congress by making it impossible for them to do their jobs safely.” Ryan J. Reilly and Daniel Barnes report for NBC News.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
Federal prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, asked Judge Aileen M. Cannon to reject a motion by former President Trump’s lawyers to postpone the trial concerning his handling of classified documents indefinitely. If the trial is pushed back until after the election and Trump wins, he could try to pardon himself or have his attorney general dismiss the case. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
Federal prosecutors investigating former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election have questioned multiple witnesses, including Jared Kushner, about whether Trump privately acknowledged that he had lost the election, according to four people familiar with the matter. This line of questioning could help establish whether Trump was acting with corrupt intent. Proving this could substantially strengthen any case prosecutors try to bring against Trump. Testifying last month, Kushner said it was his impression that Trump truly believed the election was stolen, according to a person briefed on the matter. Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is ramping up an investigation into alleged attempts by Republicans to overturn the 2020 election results in Arizona, according to two people familiar with the investigation. Mayes’ chief deputy Dan Barr said the investigation is in the “fact-gathering” phase. Investigators have contacted many of the pro-Trump electors and their lawyers. Investigators have also requested records and other information from local officials who administered the 2020 election. A prosecutor has inquired about evidence collected by the Justice Department and an Atlanta-area prosecutor. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports for the Washington Post.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – DEFENSE BILL
The House voted yesterday to adopt several controversial amendments pushed by conservative hard-liners to the critical National Defense Authorization Act. The hot-button issues, ranging from abortion to transgender rights to diversity programs at the Pentagon, make the bill challenging to pass, putting further pressure on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Lauren Fox, Clare Foran, Melanie Zanona, Haley Talbot, and Annie Grayer report for CNN.
The top three Democrats in the House announced yesterday night that they would vote against the National Defense Authorization Act, indicating that many Democrats will oppose the must-pass legislation today. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Only about 1 in 10 U.S. adults give high ratings to the way democracy is working in the United States, according to a new poll. 53% say Congress is doing a bad job of upholding democratic values, compared with just 16% who say it is doing a good job. Nicholas Riccardi and Linley Sanders report for AP News.
A White House memo yesterday frames the Republican party as complicit in the erosion of “military readiness and abuse [of] military families in the pursuit of an unrelated and extreme anti-freedom agenda” instigated by Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) blockade on military appointments. In the memo by White House communications adviser Andrew Bates, the Republicans are framed as enablers of Tuberville’s effort, accusing it of mounting “barely a word of protest.” Sahil Kapur and Kristen Welker report for NBC News.
Far-right influencers appear to be the first to benefit from Twitter’s move to share ad revenue with content creators on its platform, a move Twitter announced yesterday. Former Twitter staffers who worked on creator-focused products expressed skepticism over the rollout, with several calling it a PR stunt to “placate” a “specific subset of creators.” Taylor Lorenz reports for the Washington Post.