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Early Edition: December 16, 2022

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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 – DEFENSE

The Senate passed a bipartisan $858 billion defense-policy bill yesterday. Lawmakers voted 83-11 to pass the annual National Defense Authorization Act, increasing America’s total national security budget by roughly 10%. The bill authorizes U.S. military leaders to purchase new weapons, increases pay for service members, and ends the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Katy Stech Ferek and Natalie Andrews report for the Wall Street Journal

Just Security has published an article on the bill titled “Missed Opportunities and Minor Progress: The FY 2023 National Defense Bill and War Powers.” The article is written by Brian Finucane and Heather Brandon-Smith. 

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

The House voted yesterday in favor of legislation that would allow Puerto Ricans to decide the future of the territory. The legislation would establish a binding process for a referendum in Puerto Rico that would allow voters to choose from three options: independence, becoming the 51st state, or a third approach whereby Puerto Rico would be a sovereign government aligned with the U.S.. The measure, which has the support of the White House, is very unlikely to become law in the short term, as it is certain to fall short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the Senate. Emily Cochrane and Patricia Mazzei report for the New York Times. 

Twitter suspended the accounts of roughly half a dozen prominent journalists yesterday. Each user’s Twitter page included a message that said it had suspended accounts that “violate the Twitter rules.” Some of the journalists whose accounts were suspended had written articles critical of Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter. Some had written about the accounts that were banned earlier this week for tracking his, and other high-profile individuals’,  private planes. Mike Isaac and Kate Conger report for the New York Times

The District of Columbia Bar yesterday handed down a preliminary determination that Rudy Giulian violated at least one professional rule while representing former President Trump following his 2020 election loss. The three-member disciplinary committee agreed that Giuliani’s handling of litigation in Pennsylvania crossed ethical lines – a finding that could result in the suspension or loss of his law license. Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein report for POLITICO

A federal judge in Texas has halted, for now, the Biden administration’s most recent attempt to end the so-called “Remain in Mexico” program. The ruling, which paused the termination of the program while litigation continues, marks a setback in President Biden’s effort to end the controversial Trump-era policy, which sends certain non-Mexican citizens who entered the U.S.  back to Mexico – instead of detaining them or releasing them into the U.S. – while their immigration proceedings play out. Tierney Sneed reports for CNN

The government yesterday released a fresh trove of documents related to the assassination of former President Kennedy. Many of the 13,173 documents had been released previously but now have fewer redactions or none at all, according to researchers who have already begun combing through the information. The National Archives said that more than 97 percent of the records in its collection related to the Kennedy assassination are now available to the public. Michael Levenson and Chris Cameron report for the New York Times

A Michigan judge yesterday sentenced the three men convicted of aiding a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico, who prosecutors argued supported the plot by providing training and facilities, were sentenced to prison terms as long as 20 years by Judge Thomas Wilson. Ben Kesling reports for the Wall Street Journal

RUSSIA, UKRAINE

Explosions and strikes have been reported in at least six cities in Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv. According to a Ukraine air force spokesperson, Russia had launched more than 60 missiles into the country, leading to widespread power and water outages. Victoria Bisset reports for the Washington Post

Poland’s police chief Jaroslaw Szymczyk was hospitalized with minor injuries after a gift that he had received in Ukraine suddenly exploded. According to a statement from the Polish government the gift was given during a visit by the Police Chief to Ukraine, where he met with heads of the Ukrainian Police and Emergency Situations Service. The gift came from one of the heads of Ukrainian services, the statement says. Poland has asked Ukraine to clarify what happened and a case has been opened with the prosecutor’s office and corresponding services. Zahid Mahmood, Josh Pennington and Dennis Lapin report for CNN

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS 

North Korea successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) engine this week, according to the country’s official news agency. This is the first time North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a large solid-fuel engine that could be used for an ICBM. It is more difficult to target solid fuel engines for pre-emptive strikes because unlike liquid fuel engines, it is not necessary to spend hours loading the fuel onto the missiles before they are launched. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times

Japan plans to increase its military spending from 1% to 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) by the fiscal year 2027. In its long-awaited military strategy, Tokyo also announced that $3.7 bil will be spent over the next five years on missile systems which would enable Japan to target foreign military facilities. The strategy document called the missile plans and other changes “a major transformation in our nation’s postwar national-security policy” designed to warn potential aggressors—mainly China, North Korea and Russia—that it would be too costly to attack Japan. Alastair Gale and Chieko Tsuneoka report for the Wall Street Journal. 

Peru’s ousted former president Pedro Castillo will remain in pretrial detention for 18 months, the country’s Supreme Court ordered yesterday. Castillo, who was impeached last week after he attempted to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government, has been accused of rebellion and conspiracy. Since his removal from office, there have been widespread demonstrations across the country, with his supporters declaring a “state of insurgency.” Caitlin Hu and Claudia Rebaza report for CNN

Mexico’s Congress yesterday passed legislation that will reduce the powers of the National Electoral Institute (INE). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has argued that the INE, a government agency that has won international praise for putting an end to decades of voting fraud, has become bloated, expensive, and penetrated by political interests. However, the proposal to overhaul the body has prompted a huge backlash, with hundreds of thousands of people protesting nationwide. The measure will now be signed into law by López Obrador. Mary Beth Sheridan reports for the Washington Post

A U.N. peacekeeper was shot and killed in southern Lebanon when the armored vehicle he was in came under gunfire. The peacekeepers, part of a U.N. mission deployed along the Lebanese border with Israel, were not on patrol at the time of the episode, which occurred outside the area where they operate. The U.N. is investigating the killing in coordination with the Lebanese army. Raja Abdulrahim reports for the New York Times

COVID-19

COVID-19 has infected over 99.628 million people and has now killed over 1.09 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 651.314 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.66 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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