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Early Edition: February 2, 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 

The FBI found no classified documents during a search of President Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, yesterday. Investigators did, however, remove some material, including handwritten notes seemingly from his time as vice president, Biden’s personal attorney said. The search is the third time property associated with the president has been searched as part of an investigation into the mishandling of government records. Glenn Thrush, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times

Two House Democrats yesterday urged the Justice Department’s independent inspector general to open an investigation into the special counsel review of the Russia inquiry. In making the request the lawmakers – Reps. Ted Lieu (CA) and Dan Goldman (NY) – cited disclosures in a recent New York Times article, which showed how the review became roiled in disputes over prosecutorial ethics, and “revealed possible prosecutorial misconduct, abuse of power, ethical transgressions and a potential cover-up of an allegation of a financial crime committed by the former president.” Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke yesterday at the funeral of Tyre Nichols, who died following an attack by Memphis police officers last month. In her remarks, she called on Congress to pass a Policing Act she helped author in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in 2020, adding that President Biden would sign it. In 2021 the bill passed in the Democratic-controlled House but failed in the Senate. Jacey Fortin reports for the New York Times

U.S. RELATIONS 

The U.S. is increasing its military presence in the Philippines, gaining access to four more military sites in the country. The agreement, announced today, allows Washington to position military equipment and rotate its troops through nine locations controlled by the Philippines. The deal comes as part of a broader U.S. effort to counter Chinese aggression. Sui-Lee Wee reports for the New York Times

North Korea has accused the U.S. of pushing tensions on the Korean Peninsula to an “extreme red line.” The comments from the country’s foreign ministry responded to recent promises by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to expand joint military drills with South Korea and enhance nuclear deterrence. In its remarks, the North’s ministry said that U.S. actions threatened to turn the peninsula into a “huge war arsenal,” adding that it would respond to military moves by the U.S. with “overwhelming nuclear force.” Dasl Yoon reports for the Wall Street Journal. 

The U.S. has opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands following a 30-year absence. The move comes as the U.S. seeks to foster diplomatic ties and combat China’s influence in the region. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the news yesterday saying that “more than any other part of the world, the Indo-Pacific region – including the Pacific Islands – will shape the world’s trajectory in the 21st century.” Charley Piringi reports for the Guardian

The U.S. is imposing new visa restrictions on certain current and former Taliban members, and others who are believed to be involved in repressing the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. In announcing the move, Blinken cited the Taliban’s recent ban on women attending university and working with non-government organizations as a reason for the new restriction. Kylie Atwood reports for CNN

The suspects in the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse made their first appearance at a federal court in Miami yesterday. The suspects agreed to detention, as the government accused them of a wide-reaching conspiracy to seize power. During the hearing, prosecutors detailed how the purported plot against Moïse evolved over time: from a plan to kidnap the Haitian president and escape the country via airplane to the assassination that was ultimately carried out. John Pacenti and Chris Cameron report for the New York Times

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE 

Ukrainian forces are unlikely to recapture Crimea from Russia soon, Pentagon officials told lawmakers in a classified briefing last week. The assessment, which was conveyed to members of the House Armed Services Committee, will frustrate leaders in Kyiv who consider retaking the peninsula one of their key goals. Alexander Ward, Paul McLeary and Connor O’Brien report for POLITICO

The Treasury announced sanctions yesterday against 22 people it says have helped Russia obtain weapons. The sanctions target the network’s leader, Russian arms dealer Igor Zimenkov, alongside his son and several other members, for supplying Russia with “high-technology devices” and “being involved in multiple deals for Russian cybersecurity and helicopter sales.” Kelly Garrity reports for POLITICO

The next round of U.S. military aid is expected to include longer-range smart bombs for the first time, people familiar with the matter have said. The package could be announced as soon as Friday, and comes as the U.S. and its allies move to provide modern battle tanks and other advanced weaponry to Ukraine ahead of an expected Russian offensive later this month. Nancy A. Youssef and Doug Cameron report for the Wall Street Journal. 

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

Ukraine’s defense minister said that Kyiv believes that Russia will mark the first anniversary of its invasion with a renewed offensive. “We think since they believe in symbols, they will attempt something around Feb. 24,” Oleksii Reznikov said in an interview. “They can attempt a push on two axes,” Reznikov said, adding that the Donbas and the south were likely targets. Mick Krever, Arnaud Siad and Yulia Kesaieva report for CNN

Ukrainian authorities yesterday launched criminal cases against six former defense-ministry officials. The accusations against the officials range from misuse of funds to embezzling and accepting bribes. The Ukrainian security services also raided the homes of former interior minister, Arsen Avakov, and billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, a former political backer of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The moves form part of an attempt by Zelenskyy to show Western governments that he is serious about quashing corruption in the country. Jared Malsin and Alan Cullison report for the Wall Street Journal

A former Russian army officer has claimed that he witnessed the torture of Ukrainian solder while stationed in southern Ukraine. In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Konstantin Yefremov, detailed allegations of brutal interrogations, which “continued for about a week.” Yefremov was dismissed from the army after he refused to return to Ukraine and has since fled Russia. He is the most senior official to speak openly about their experiences of the war. Steve Rosenberg reports for BBC News

The E.U. will double the number of Ukrainian troops it trains to 30,000, E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell announced yesterday. The announcement – the latest show of support for the embattled country – came as Borrell and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv for meetings with Zelenskyy’s government. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

Israel carried out airstrikes in Gaza early today after intercepting a rocket fired from the region, the Israel Defense Force said (IDF). The strikes targeted a chemical production site and a weapons manufacturing facility owned by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza, the IDF said in a Twitter post. Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jennifer Hauser and Jessie Yeung report for CNN

The suicide bomber who targeted a mosque in northwestern Pakistan earlier this week disguised himself as a policeman before carrying out the attack, a senior official has said. The bomber, who was a member of the Pakistani Taliban, was let through a police checkpoint since he was dressed in uniform, the official said. Sophia Saifi and Rhea Mogul report for CNN. 

COVID-19

COVID-19 has infected over 102.463 million people and has now killed over 1.11 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 671.100 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.84 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

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