Today's D Brief: Capitol braces for attack; Testimony about Jan. 6; Warzone troop numbers; Drone strikes, limited; And a bit more.
Police in D.C. today are bracing for another violent attempt by far-right militants to breach the Capitol Building. This specific threat stems from far-right QAnon conspiracists who, for weeks since the election, have promoted March 4, 2021, as the “true Inauguration Day” when former President Donald Trump would return to power in the White House.
According to some of the threats posted to platforms like Telegram and Parler, Trump’s return to power later today will follow a wave of “executions” of Democratic lawmakers, Ben Collins of NBC News reported Wednesday.
Worth noting: “The volume [of the threats pertaining to today] is substantially less than 1/6, but this sort of talk is still 100% out there,” Collins tweeted. Read more on the QAnon and counter-QAnon dynamics at play today via Collins’s reporting with Brandy Zadrozny, here.
Update: More than 300 people have been charged for their involvement in the Jan. 6 failed insurrection, Reuters reports this morning. At least 33 of those charged have known military backgrounds, researchers at the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism reported in a big feature published Tuesday. Some of those 300 “face as many as 17 counts on their indictment, and charges range from trespassing and illegal entry on designated grounds to conspiracy against the U.S. government.”
“I'll look just like ANTIFA. I'll get away with anything.” We now have a formal instance of a Jan. 6 insurrectionist bragging he dressed as a far-left activist and fought police at the Capitol Building, NBC News reports. The man drove to D.C. from his home in South Carolina one day after texting his friends, “I'm dressing in all black. I'll look just like ANTIFA. I'll get away with anything,” according to a criminal complaint.
On Jan. 7, he texted his buddies again: “It worked,” he wrote. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.” Another seemingly very incriminating text of his included the following apparent confession that he assaulted a police officer: “I got a nice helmet and body armor off a cop for God's sake and I disarmed him. Tell me how that works.” There are several more similar apparently incriminating texts; read on at NBC, here.
Also: The DEA just suspended an agent who joined the crowd outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. Reuters calls it “the first known case of authorities examining the conduct of a fellow federal agent during the deadly riot.”
One way investigators were helped: The agent sent photographs of himself in the crowd outside the Capitol “to a group chat of other federal agents.” The DEA has now put that agent on leave and his security clearance is now suspended, Reuters’ Brad Heath reports.
ICYMI: “Unusual” restrictions placed on the commander of the D.C. National Guard prevented him from responding to the besieged Capitol on Jan. 6 more quickly, Maj. Gen. William Walker told Senate lawmakers during a high-profile hearing on Wednesday.
What restrictions? A Jan. 5 letter from the secretary of the Army — under whose authority the D.C. National Guard operates — required Walker to submit a “concept of operation” before deploying what is known as a quick reaction force, Defense One's Katie Bo Williams reported.
Why it matters: As rioters besieged the Capitol the following afternoon, Walker received an emotional plea for help from the Capitol Police Chief; he quickly sent the request to the Pentagon. More than three hours passed before he received permission to send his forces to defend the Capitol. Had he not been under those restrictions, he said, he could have immediately sent about 150 soldiers to the Capitol.
“I believe that number could have made a difference,” Walker said. “We could have helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.” Read on here.
This a.m. on the Hill, Colin Kahl, who is President Biden’s pick to be the military’s next under secretary of defense for policy, is testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning. That started at 9:30 a.m. ET. Livestream it here.
From Defense One
D.C. Guard Commander Says ‘Unusual’ Restrictions Prevented Swift Response To Capitol Riot // Katie Bo Williams: “I believe that number could have made a difference,” he said.
Boycott the Olympics? Cancel the Saudis? How Woke Can Biden Really Get? // Kevin Baron: Classic international relations realism and wokeness are two different things.
Trump Is Gone, but Democracy Is in Trouble // Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic: A new report reveals that democratic governments are in retreat around the globe.
Defense Innovation Unit Launched 23 Projects Last Year, Up One-Third // Mila Jasper, Nextgov: The group also sent 11 capabilities to Defense Department partners, according to its annual report.
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Biden limits counterterror drone strikes and begins a review of Trump-era policy. New York Times: “The military and the C.I.A. must now obtain White House permission to attack terrorism suspects in poorly governed places where there are scant American ground troops, like Somalia and Yemen. Under the Trump administration, they had been allowed to decide for themselves whether circumstances on the ground met certain conditions and an attack was justified.”
The new “interim” limits were imposed the day Biden took office and are just now coming to public light, the Times writes. “Officials characterized the tighter controls as a stopgap while the Biden administration reviewed how targeting worked — both on paper and in practice — under former President Donald J. Trump and developed its own policy and procedures for counterterrorism kill-or-capture operations outside war zones, including how to minimize the risk of civilian casualties.” More, here.
Read over POTUS46’s “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance,” published Wednesday by the White House, here.
Lawsuit shakes loose official Pentagon troop counts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. In December 2017, the Trump administration ended the decades-long practice of disclosing just how many American troops are deployed in various combat zones. Just Security filed a FOIA request, then sued, citing defense authorization acts that require such disclosures. Now the Defense Department has coughed up the numbers — the first, “official, consistent account of DoD’s own troop number estimates over the last three years,” as Just Security puts it.
- Find those on this page by searching for “estimated quarterly troop counts.”
A new U.S. Navy Virginia-class submarine was recently launched into Virginia'a James River during its “final outfitting, testing and crew certification" phases, sub-maker Huntington Ingalls Industries announced Wednesday. Virginia-class subs are nuclear-powered (not nuclear-armed), and are typically used as “fast attack” naval units.
The new sub, USS Montana (SSN 794), which began construction in 2015, “is approximately 92% complete and scheduled to be delivered to the U.S. Navy in late 2021,” HII said.
One more thing: This Virginia-class sub sources products from more states (all 50) than the F-35 program (48, with Hawaii and North Dakota not making that list).
And lastly today: Japanese authorities are on the verge of banning the crossbow — a move Pope Urban II took way back in 1096 CE. “After a series of horrific crimes using the weapons,” The Daily Beast reports, “there are now pending revisions to Japan’s laws which will limit their usage to sports and tranquilizing animals.”
What kind of crimes spurred this decision? “According to Japan’s National Police Agency, in the last 10 years there have been 32 cases of crossbows being used in crimes, with six people killed and 11 people injured,” TDB writes. “Of these murders, the most horrific was a familicide that left three people dead and one person in critical condition.”