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Early Edition: January 13, 2023

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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

Attorney General Merrick Garland yesterday named Robert Hur as special counsel to examine why classified documents were found at President Biden’s home and office. Hur is a veteran federal prosecutor who was the U.S. attorney in Maryland during the Trump administration and a senior aide to the deputy attorney general. In a brief order, Garland said Hur would examine the possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents. “The Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” the order said. Sadie Gurman, Aruna Viswanatha and Tarini Parti report for the Wall Street Journal.  

The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday launched the panel’s investigation into the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX), requested a vast number of documents related to the withdrawal from the State Department, giving it a deadline of Jan. 26 to respond and threatening the power of subpoena if it fails to comply. Kylie Atwood reports for CNN

Prosecutors and defense attornies made their opening statements yesterday at the seditious conspiracy trial of five members of the far-right Proud Boys group. During their statements, prosecutors sought not only to place the group at the center of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol but also to tie it directly to Trump. The defense also pointed to Trump arguing that the defendants were being used as a “scapegoat” for the former president. Live reporting is provided by the Washington Post

Two Trump Organization entities will be sentenced today for running a decade-long tax fraud scheme. The Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. were convicted last month of 17 felonies, including tax fraud and falsifying business records. No individual will go to jail and the business is not at risk of being dissolved. Under New York law, the most the companies can be fined is about $1.6 million. Kara Scannell reports for CNN

In a court filing yesterday Google urged the Supreme Court not to scale back liability protections for websites such as YouTube and Facebook. In its filing, Google argued that doing so could lead internet giants to block more potentially offensive content – including controversial political speech – while also leading smaller websites to remove their filters to avoid liability that can arise from efforts to screen content. John D. McKinnon reports for the Wall Street Journal

U.S. RELATIONS 

Russia has released a U.S. Navy veteran who had been detained in Kaliningrad since April, a spokesperson for his family announced yesterday. Russian officials allowed Taylor Dudley to leave custody in the Russian enclave and cross the border into Poland where he was greeted by an official from the U.S. embassy. Dudley’s release marks the second time in just over a month that an American has been freed from Russian custody. Michael Crowley reports for the New York Times

RUSSIA, UKRAINE

The Russian defense ministry said this morning that its forces had taken control of the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar. According to the ministry, this will make it possible to cut off Ukrainian supply routes to the larger town of Bakhmut and trap the remaining Ukrainian forces there. Russia’s claim could not be verified, and earlier this morning Ukraine said that its forces were still holding out in the town. Reuters reports. 

The U.N.’s atomic energy agency is set to deploy international inspectors at all of Ukraine’s nuclear plants. The deployment will dramatically expand the International Atomic Energy Agency’s role in the war, with Kyiv hoping that increased U.N. presence will deter further Russian attacks. Drew Hinshaw, Laurence Norman and Joe Parkinson report for the Wall Street Journal

Russia’s replacement of its commander in charge of the war in Ukraine likely reflects “systemic problems” in the Russian army, a Pentagon spokesperson said yesterday. These include “logistics problems, command and control problems, sustainment problems, morale and the failure to achieve the strategic objectives that they’ve set for themselves,” spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder added. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times

A global recession can be avoided so long as China continues to ease its COVID-19 restrictions and Russia’s war with Ukraine does not worsen, the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) has said. Speaking to reporters in Washington yesterday, the managing director of the IMF expressed optimism that economic expansion could accelerate next year but warned that the global economy continues to be fragile. Alan Rappeport reports for the New York Times

BRAZIL 

Authorities in Brazil yesterday asked a federal court to block assets belonging to 52 people and seven companies in relation to the attack in the capital on Sunday. The individuals and companies in question are alleged to have helped fund the buses that carried supporters of defeated former president Jair Bolsonaro to the riot. The blocked assets would be used to compensate the government for the massive damage caused by rioters during the attack. Samantha Schmidt, Amanda Coletta and Diana Durán report for the Washington Post

Brazilian authorities have found a draft decree proposing the introduction of a state of defense to overturn the result of the country’s presidential elections in the house of Bolsonaro’s justice minister. The document was found during a search and arrest warrant at the house of Anderson Torres on Tuesday, a Justice Ministry spokesperson said. The document has not been signed by Bolsonaro, the spokesperson added. Rodrigo Pedroso, Vasco Cotovio and Karen Smith report for CNN

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS 

Israel’s new justice minister, Yariv Levin, has announced his controversial proposals for judicial change. The first proposal would reduce the Supreme Court’s ability to revoke laws passed in Parliament. The second would give the government greater influence over who gets to be a judge. Collectively, the two proposals would give more power to the government of the day, prompting sharp criticism from opposition leader Yair Lapid as well as a former defense minister and a former army general. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times

Sri Lanka’s top court yesterday ordered the country’s former president and several of his senior officials to pay compensation to the families of the victims of terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday in 2019. The court ruled that Maithripala Sirisena, the president of Sri Lanka from 2015 to 2019, and his security officials had failed to take steps to prevent the attacks despite detailed intelligence reports suggesting they were imminent. Skandha Gunasekara and Mujib Mashal report for the New York Times

Japanese prosecutors have indicted a man suspected of fatally shooting former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year. Tetsuya Yamagami has been indicted on murder and firearms charges, Nara prosecutors’ office said in a statement. Junko Ogura, Emiko Jozuka, Aliza Kassim Khalidi and Heather Chen report for CNN

Ethiopia’s defense forces say members of the Amhara special force – allies of the federal government – have started withdrawing from the Tigrayan city of Shire and its surrounding area. This comes as Tigrayan fighters began handing over their weapons early this week. Tigrayan forces long demanded the withdrawal of forces from Amhara and neighboring Eritrea from the region. Kalkidan Yibeltal reports for BBC News

COVID-19

COVID-19 has infected over 101.611 million people and has now killed over 1.10 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 666.328 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.72 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post

The post Early Edition: January 13, 2023 appeared first on Just Security.

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