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Early Edition: April 7, 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.

RUSSIA, UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – U.S. RESPONSE

Classified documents detailing secret U.S. and NATO plans for bolstering the Ukrainian military ahead of an offensive against Russia were posted on Twitter and Telegram, senior Biden administration officials said. Military analysts said the documents appear to have been modified from their original format by overstating U.S. estimates of Ukrainian deaths and understating estimates of Russian deaths, which may indicate Russian disinformation efforts. The leaks comprise charts of anticipated weapons deliveries, troop and battalion strengths, and other plans, which represent a significant breach of U.S. intelligence in the effort to aid Ukraine. Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times

The U.S., Germany, and Hungary are pushing back against efforts by Poland and the Baltic states to offer Ukraine a “road map” to NATO membership during NATO’s July summit, four officials involved in the talks told the Financial Times. All 31 members of the alliance agreed that membership was not a short-term option and could not be seriously discussed amid the war. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that NATO’s “door remains open” for Ukraine but added that the immediate focus should be on helping Ukraine prepare its counteroffensive and on bringing its forces “up to NATO standards and … interoperability.” Henry Foy and Felicia Schwartz report for the Financial Times

OTHER RUSSIA, UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS

Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed willingness to speak to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but only when “conditions and time are right,” according to E.U. chief Ursula von der Leyen yesterday. Xi did not mention a possible conversation with Zelenskyy in his own comments after meeting von der Leyen. Michel Rose and Laurie Chen report for Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping showed no sign of changing his position over Russia’s war on Ukraine after yesterday’s talks with French President Emmanuel Macron. After what French officials described as “frank and constructive” talks that lasted an hour and a half, Xi had not changed his public position, saying only, “China is willing to jointly appeal with France to the international community to remain rational and calm.” Clea Caulcutt, Jamil Anderlini, and Stuart Lau report for POLITICO

Ukrainian officials in the Zelenskyy administration reiterated their vow to liberate all of Ukraine’s territory yesterday after some mixed messaging on their stance on recovering Crimea from Russian occupation this week. Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser, reaffirmed that the basis for any peace negotiations had to be a “complete withdrawal” of Russian forces from Ukraine’s borders as they were internationally recognized after the fall of the Soviet Union – including Crimea. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times

The Moscow City Court yesterday said it would hear an appeal from the lawyers of Evan Gershkovich, the jailed Wall Street Journal reporter who was detained last week and accused of spying. Ann M. Simmons reports for the Wall Street Journal

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

The Biden administration yesterday published a document in which it blamed then-President Trump for the deadly and chaotic 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. While the summary acknowledges that the evacuation of the United States and allies from Afghanistan should have started sooner, it blames the delays on the Afghan government and military, and on U.S. military and intelligence community assessments. The National Security Council drafted the document with input from President Biden rather than an independent entity. Zeke Miller and Nooman Merchant report for AP News

Read the 12-page White House release summary of Pentagon’s review of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Republican legislators in Tennessee voted yesterday to expel Democratic Rep. Justin Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson from the state House over their protests in the chamber against gun violence last week, while a vote to expel Rep. Gloria Johnson fell short. It is the first time that Tennessee House members have been expelled for alleged chamber rules violations. The House voted largely along party lines. Jones and Pearson are Black. Johnson is White. Adam Edelman, Zoë Richards, and Tim Stelloh report for NBC News

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ ties to a billionaire Republican donor have triggered calls for resignation, impeachment, and sweeping reforms to the nation’s highest court by Democrats. The conservative justice accepted almost yearly luxury trips from Texas real estate magnate Harlan Crow for two decades without disclosing them. While Thomas and Crow are friends, by accepting the trips on Crow’s private jet and superyacht and failing to report them on his financial disclosures, Thomas broke long-standing norms and potentially a post-Watergate ethics law. Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski report for Pro Publica

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) has subpoenaed Mark Pomerantz, a former county special assistant district attorney, to appear behind closed doors for a deposition on Apr. 20, as part of an investigation into Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office. Jordan wrote to Pomerantz in a separate letter, saying he is “uniquely situated to provide information that is relevant and necessary to inform the Committee’s oversight and potential legislative reforms.” Jordain Carney reports for POLITICO

David Pecker, the former chief executive of American Media Inc., could hurt former President Trump by serving as a witness in the Manhattan hush-money payment case. During the 2016 presidential race, Trump enlisted Pecker, then chief executive of the National Enquirer’s publisher, to protect him from sex scandals that could surface, according to prosecutors. Pecker offered to purchase the exclusive rights to articles and sit on them indefinitely, a tabloid practice known as “catch and kill,” prosecutors said. Prosecutors signaled they intend to use Pecker to back up evidence given by Michael Cohen. Joe Palazzolo and Rebecca Ballhaus report for the Wall Street Journal

A juror in the federal trial of five Proud Boys members accused of plotting to stop Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election has raised fears that she was being followed, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. In sealed hearings this week, other jurors also told the court that they had been “accosted,” one source told CNN, though it is unclear to what extent. It remains unclear what, if anything, will happen as a result of the allegation. Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz report for CNN

U.S. RELATIONS

The United States, South Korea, and Japan expressed deep concern over North Korea’s “malicious” cyber activities to support its weapons programs in comments released in a joint statement today. A new report released by the U.S. Treasury Department yesterday said actors like North Korea were using decentralized finance, a thriving segment in the crypto sector, to transfer and launder their illicit gains. Soo-Hyang Choi and Ju-min Park report for Reuters

China has imposed sanctions on U.S. nationals linked to the Taiwan president’s visit to the United States this week and placed further restrictions on Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim. The individuals sanctioned include the chair and director of the Hudson Institute and the current head and former director of the Reagan Foundation; both locations hosted Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen during her visit. The sanctions prohibit the targets and their family members from entering China and prohibit investors and firms related to them from cooperating with mainland organizations and individuals, state media reported today. Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

Israel struck targets belonging to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in southern Lebanon and Gaza today, amid rising tension days after Israeli police stormed the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The Israeli launches came hours after dozens of rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory, which the Israeli military blamed on Palestinian militants. Lebanon said it would submit an official complaint to the U.N. Security Council, calling Israel’s strikes a “flagrant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty.” The White House said it was “extremely concerned by the continuing violence, and we urge all sides to avoid further escalation.” Richard Allen Greene, Hadas Gold, Tamara Qiblawi, and Mia Alberti report for CNN

The Chinese military plans to deploy a national mega-constellation of almost 13,000 low-orbit satellites to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink following concerns that the internet-beaming satellites pose a national security threat to China. Chinese military scientists are pursuing research on how to “suppress” or even damage Starlink satellites in wartime scenarios. SpaceX has more than 3,000 satellites in operation, with plans to eventually deploy about 42,000. The company has sent thousands of its Starlink terminals to Ukraine since the war began, and the service has become a critical tool for military communications. Cate Cadell reports for the Washington Post

China has launched military drills in response to a meeting between Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports for BBC News

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran held talks in Beijing yesterday in the highest-level meeting between the regional rivals since they cut ties seven years ago. In a joint statement, the two governments said that given their natural resources and economic potential, they saw “great opportunities to achieve shared benefits for their two peoples.” Vivian Nereim reports for the New York Times

U.K. police in Northern Ireland have warned of the potential of public disorder linked to dissident republicans over the Easter period, as events are being held to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Chief Constable Simon Byrne has said there could be an attempt to draw officers into gun or bomb attacks. The U.K. security service, MI5, recently raised Northern Ireland’s terrorism threat level to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. Julian O’Neill reports for BBC News

 

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