Just Security

Early Edition: May 5, 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.


Federal prosecutors investigating former President Trump’s handling of classified documents have obtained the confidential cooperation of a person who has worked at Mar-a-Lago. With new subpoenas and grand jury testimony, the Justice Department is moving aggressively to determine whether Trump ordered boxes containing sensitive material moved out of a storage room as the government sought to recover them last year. Maggie Haberman, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Ben Protess, and Michael S. Schmidt report for the New York Times

Lawyers for former President Trump yesterday requested the federal court in Manhattan to take over the state criminal hush money payment case, arguing that the federal court has jurisdiction because the charges related to conduct that took place while Trump was president. A former Manhattan prosecutor, Marc Scholl, said the move is “certainly a potential delaying tactic.” Karen Freifeld and Luc Cohen report for Reuters

Lawyers for E. Jean Carroll and former President Trump rested their cases yesterday. Next week, a federal jury will deliberate whether Trump raped Carroll in a department-store dressing room in the 1990s. Corinne Ramey and James Fanelli report for the Wall Street Journal


Harlan Crow, a Republican megadonor, paid two years of private school tuition for a child raised by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who did not disclose the payments, Thomas’ lawyer acknowledged yesterday. The revelation of the tuition payments deepens the financial ties between Crow and Thomas. These ties have prompted questions about Thomas’ ethics and disclosure requirements. Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Alex Mierjeski, and Brett Murphy report for Pro Publica

The non-profit Judicial Education Project paid Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife tens of thousands of dollars the same year it filed a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case. Conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo arranged the payment and specified that Virginia Thomas’ name be left off the billing paperwork. Thomas operates a consulting firm, though the precise nature of any work Thomas did for the Judicial Education Project remains unclear. Emma Brown, Shawn Boburg, and Jonathan O’Connell report for the Washington Post


Five members of the far-right Proud Boys, including former leader Enrique Tarrio, face decades in prison after being found guilty for their role in the Jan. 6 attack. Four Proud Boys were convicted of seditious conspiracy, and all five were found guilty of obstructing official proceedings alongside other felonies. A mistrial was declared on 10 charges against the men, where the jury failed to come to a conclusion. Mike Wendling reports for BBC News

President Biden is expected to nominate Gen. C.Q. Brown, the first Black person to lead any military branch, to succeed Gen. Mark Milley as the next Joint Chiefs chair, three people familiar with the discussion said yesterday. Brown is the Air Force’s top officer and, if confirmed, would become the second Black Joint Chiefs chair in the nation’s history after the late Colin Powell. Lara Seligman, Paul McLeary, and Alexander Ward report for POLITICO

Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are working on legislation granting a temporary two-year authority to extend Title 42, which will end next week. Under Title 42, the U.S. may deny asylum and migration claims for public health reasons. However, the proposed extension does not rely on a public health order. The legislation, intended to grant “more time to put a plan in place,” is being co-sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX). Daniella Diaz and Jordan Carney report for POLITICO.

The House Republicans are increasingly divided over whether to defund or restrict the Department of Justice and FBI. Some Republicans are proposing ways to act on calls made by former President Trump to crack down on federal law enforcement, including considering recommending various budget cuts to the Department of Justice through the Appropriations process. Despite increasing pressure, Appropriations Committee member Dave Joyce (R-OH) said, “In reality, I don’t think there is ever going to be a blanket defund.” Annie Grayer reports for CNN


China and Russia would almost certainly exploit the “opportunity” a U.S. government debt default would present, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines warned Senate Armed Services Committee members yesterday. Haines said that both countries could exploit such an event for propaganda purposes through “information operations,” using it as evidence that the U.S. political system is chaotic, “that we’re not capable of functioning as a democracy.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said yesterday that granting the United States access to Philippine military bases was a defensive step that would be “useful” if China attacked Taiwan. Marcos did not respond directly when asked whether the United States could place weapons at the bases if China attacked Taiwan. Michael Martina, Don Durfee, and David Brunnstrom report for Reuters

The four sons of former Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman denied U.S. allegations that they were major traffickers of fentanyl, addressing the claims against them in a rare letter. One of the sons, Ovidio Guzman, was captured in Mexico in January and awaits extradition to the United States. The letter suggests that the Sinaloa Cartel’s leaders are the victims of an international misinformation campaign by companies, the media, and public figures portraying them as notorious drug traffickers. Reuters reports. 


The United States has denied Russian claims that it masterminded an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin on Wednesday aimed at assassinating President Vladimir Putin. A day after accusing Ukraine of carrying out the alleged attack, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the United States was “undoubtedly” behind the alleged attack without providing evidence. U.S. National Security spokesman John Kirby called it a “ludicrous claim.” Ukraine has said that the alleged attack was a false flag operation by Moscow. George Wright reports for BBC News

Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the paramilitary organization Wagner group, yesterday blamed the death of Russian fighters on the military leadership in Moscow. In a video Prigozhin posted, he said, “The blood is still fresh,” pointing to the bodies behind him. “They came here as volunteers and are dying so you can sit like fat cats in your luxury offices.” The video points to continued infighting in Russia’s military that could be exacerbated as the campaign fails to advance. Brad Lendon, Josh Pennington, and Uliana Pavlova report for CNN

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday delivered a speech at the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) pushing for a special tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders for crimes committed during the war. The crime of aggression, the legal doctrine that would most directly hold Russian leaders to account, cannot be pursued against Russia by the I.C.C. because it lacks jurisdiction. A State Department ambassador, Beth Van Schaack, said last month that a special tribunal would mark “the first prosecutions of the crime of aggression in the modern era.” Victoria Kim and Christopher F. Schuetze report for the New York Times

For two days, drone attacks have struck Russian military logistics hubs in an apparent effort to disrupt Russia’s battlefield supply lines ahead of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive. Ukraine has not commented on the attacks. Matthew Luxmoore and Laurence Norman report for the Wall Street Journal


President Biden has issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against Sudan, saying the fighting must end. Biden said the violence in Sudan was an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” Richard Hamilton reports for BBC News

The World Food Programme yesterday estimated that more than $13m worth of food aid destined for Sudan had been looted since fighting broke out last month. Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber reports for Reuters


Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang yesterday assured his Russian and Indian counterparts of deepening bilateral ties, promising that “coordination and cooperation” will only grow stronger. Reuters reports.

Canada is considering expelling Chinese diplomats after Beijing was accused of targeting Michael Chong, a Conservative member of parliament, and his family. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly summoned China’s ambassador yesterday to discuss the issue. It follows a report that Canada’s spy agency believes China sought details about Chong’s relatives to deter “anti-China positions.” Nadine Yousif reports for BBC News


Serbian police today arrested a gunman suspected of killing eight people and wounding 14 others in the second mass shooting in Serbia this week. The shooter fired an automatic weapon from a car before fleeing the scene yesterday in a village south of the capital. Serbia, which has the world’s fifth-highest rate of civilian gun ownership per capita, has moved to tighten gun laws after the first shooting earlier this week. Frances Vinall and Ellen Francis report for the Washington Post

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