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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: Early Edition: December 10, 2020



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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news

US DEVELOPMENTS

Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son, is currently subject to a federal criminal investigation over his business deals and potential tax evasion, including a failure to report income from China-related business deals, according to people familiar with the matter. Hunter confirmed yesterday in a statement the existence of the tax probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware, which started in 2018, with an FBI interview expected soon, as well as potential subpoenas on Hunter and his associates, suggesting that more investigative work is needed to collect enough evidence to take the case forward. “I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter said in a statement, adding, “I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.” Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Colby Itkowitz report for the Washington Post.

The federal probe into Hunter is wider than what he indicated, a person with knowledge of the investigation said, stating that investigators in both Delaware and the securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York have, since as early as last year, been investigating potential money laundering and foreign ties. Federal investigations into the Biden’s also spans to the brother of Joe Biden, James, who is currently under the spotlight as part of a criminal investigation by federal authorities in the Western District of Pennsylvania looking into a hospital business James is linked to. There’s no evidence that Joe is included or implicated in either investigation into his son or brother, although the matters will likely complicate his time in office. Ben Chreckinger reports for POLITICO.

The State Department hosted a party Tuesday at the presidential guesthouse with around 200 guests, two officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said, which “included a tour of the White House’s vaunted holiday decorations followed by a self-guided tour across the street at Blair House, where foreign diplomats, their families, U.S. staffers and friends and acquaintances of the State Department’s chief of protocol convened.” The tour is usually followed by the “Holiday Cheer” reception but was cancelled this year over concerns about spreading Covid-19, although two drinks bars were erected in the guesthouse, which saw masked guests consuming beverages and congregating in groups, the officials said. Among those who attended were the ambassadors of Afghanistan, Egypt, South Korea, and Guatemala, with several more holiday functions expected to be hosted this week and next by the State Department — two receptions next week will be hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with over 900 invitees expected at one of those receptions. John Hudson reports for the Washington Post.

Biden is expected to nominate Katherine Tai as the US Trade Representative, according to people familiar with the matter, although Tai and Biden’s transition team have not responded for comment. Yuka Hatashi and Andrew Restuccia report for the Wall Street Journal.

17 Republican state attorneys general yesterday filed a brief in support of a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday which seeks to overturn the election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the challenge is also being supported by President Trump who in a filing to the court yesterday asked if he could intervene in the case and requested the court to block millions of votes in battleground states. Ariane de Vogue and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.

The House yesterday passed a weeklong extension in funding for the federal government, the stopgap bill, in an effort to keep the government open until Dec. 18 as current government funding expires Friday, giving lawmakers more time to continue to negotiate spending bills and emergency coronavirus relief. The bill passed by 343-67 votes, and now requires approval from the Senate, which is expected to be quickly passed, and will then be sent to Trump for approval. Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis reports for the Washington Post

House lawmakers yesterday said they would further look into a report released yesterday that revealed “major flaws” and a leadership climate which allowed for a string of violent deaths, suicides and sexual harassment and assault at a military base in Fort Hood, TX. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), the chair of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee, described the report as “a damning indictment of Fort Hood and its leadership.” Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller also endorsed the report’s findings, and voiced his support for the firings and suspensions that have taken place. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

The Veterans Affairs (VA) inspector general (IG) recently told federal prosecutors of potential criminal conduct by Secretary Robert Wilkie, a Trump appointee, which was unearthed during an investigation into whether he attempted to discredit a congressional aide who said she had been sexually assaulted, according to three current and former federal officials. The Justice Department has decided not to pursue a case against Wilkie, with prosecutors telling IG Michael Missal that there was not enough evidence to warrant charges, according to two federal officials with direct knowledge of the case. Lisa Rein and Spencer S. Hsu report for the Washington Post.

48 state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday filed lawsuits against social media giant Facebook, accusing the company of anti-competitive acquisitions and asking a federal court to force the company to sell some of its assets such as Instagram and WhatsApp as independent businesses. “Facebook has maintained its monopoly position by buying up companies that present competitive threats and by imposing restrictive policies that unjustifiably hinder actual or potential rivals that Facebook does not or cannot acquire,” the commission said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., requesting the court to order the “divestiture of assets, divestiture or reconstruction of businesses (including, but not limited to, Instagram and/or WhatsApp).” David Ingram reports for NBC News.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) now has a full slate of six commissioners, the first time in years, after the Senate yesterday confirmed three new commissioners, Allen Dickerson, Sean Cooksey and Shana Broussard, all of which are Trump picks. The FEC now has the requisite quorum of four commissioners, the first time since August 2019. Zach Montellaro reports for POLITICO.

US RELATIONS

President Trump’s planned $23 billion arms sale to the UAE is on track for completion, after a bipartisan effort to block the sale was yesterday defeated in the Senate. There were two resolutions that attempted to block the sale of 50 F-35s worth $10.4 billion, up to 18 MQ-9B drones worth $2.97 billion, and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions worth $10 billion — but both failed to get the necessary majority votes. Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.

Iran’s foreign ministry said yesterday that the country had blacklisted the US ambassador in Yemen, a move that comes one day after the US imposed terrorism-related sanctions on Tehran’s envoy to the Yemeni Houthi rebel group. Reuters reporting.

The Treasury Department yesterday sanctioned Wan Kuok Koi, dubbed “Broken Tooth,” a leader of China’s 14K Triad organized crime group, as well as three entities which are “owned or controlled” by him, a press release by the department revealed, which described the group as “one of the largest Chinese organized criminal organizations in the world,” engaging in “drug trafficking, illegal gambling, racketeering, human trafficking, and a range of other criminal activities.” James Griffiths reports for CNN.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jim Risch (R-ID) yesterday introduced a resolution which called for the US government to consider imposing sanctions on any political or military officials responsible for human rights violations during the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. Reuters reporting.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 15.39 million and now killed over 289,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 69.01 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 1.571 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The Washington Post reported that the US yesterday set a single-day record of over 3,100 Covid-19, according analysis it conducted, with Texas, Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania reporting the highest numbers, more than 200 deaths in each state. The record came as the Pfizer vaccine currently being rolled out in the UK has caused allergic reactions in some people, The Post reported, with the country’s regulators instructing hospitals not to administer the new vaccine to people with a medical history of “significant” allergic reactions. The concerns with the vaccine come as a U.S. advisory panel will meet today to discuss whether it should recommend that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should approve the Pfizer vaccine in the United States, The Post reported.

“The Pentagon’s initial allotment of coronavirus vaccine will be administered at 16 defense sites in the United States and abroad, with health care workers, emergency service personnel and residents of military retirement homes getting top priority, officials said Wednesday,” AP reports, adding, “Next in line, once follow-on supplies of vaccine becomes available, will be military personnel who provide “critical national capabilities,” such as nuclear weapons crews and cybersecurity forces, as well as certain military units getting ready to deploy.”

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

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

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian.

The post Early Edition: December 10, 2020 appeared first on Just Security.

Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠