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U.S. Airlifts Embassy Staff Out of Sudan As Fighting Intensifies
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U.S. Airlifts Embassy Staff Out of Sudan As Fighting Intensifies

Plus: Whistleblower alleges malfeasance in Hunter Biden probe.

Happy Monday! An enormous animatronic dragon caught fire during the “Fantasmic!” show at Disneyland in California over the weekend. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the inferno, but Ron DeSantis was out West on Saturday.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Saturday night the U.S. military had evacuated American embassy personnel from Sudan earlier in the day. Three Chinook helicopters operated by U.S. special forces airlifted fewer than 100 people—embassy staff and their families—from Khartoum and out of Sudanese airspace, temporarily closing the U.S. embassy in the African nation amid increasingly violent tensions. Several other nations—including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Canada—also evacuated their diplomats and other government personnel over the weekend. 
  • The Washington Post—citing Pentagon documents included in the recent Discord leaks—reported Saturday that Afghanistan has become a staging ground for terrorist activity in the two years since the United States’ withdrawal. The documents purportedly indicate U.S. officials were aware of 15 ISIS-planned attacks on churches, embassies, the World Cup, and other targets as of February, but that U.S. intelligence agencies have frequently been able to intercept ISIS communications and disrupt the plots. 
  • The U.S. military will begin training Ukrainian troops on Abrams M1 tanks in the next several weeks, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Friday. The training is expected to take ten weeks and would reportedly put battle-ready tanks on the ground in Ukraine by the fall. The Pentagon reiterated, however, the U.S. would not supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets
  • The Supreme Court on Friday granted the Justice Department’s request for a stay in the recent mifepristone litigation, putting on hold a ruling from a federal judge in Texas that suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion pill. As a result, the drug will remain available while the case returns to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal and litigation plays out. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would not have granted the stay, with Alito penning a three-page dissent.
  • House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told Fox News on Sunday he plans to bring his debt limit bill—which would raise the ceiling by $1.5 trillion in exchange for spending cuts—to the floor for a vote this week, vowing that it will pass despite reports suggesting he does not yet have the 218 votes necessary to advance it.
  • Former Manhattan prosecutor Mark Pomerantz will testify before the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee in May with the general counsel from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office present to observe the deposition, both parties confirmed Friday. The agreement ends a standoff between Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg and Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, after Bragg—who indicted former President Trump earlier this month—unsuccessfully sued to block a subpoena that compelled Pomerantz to testify before the committee. The motion was denied earlier this week on the grounds the D.A.’s office did not challenge the publication of Pomerantz’s book about his time working under Bragg. 
  • The House voted 219-203 on Thursday, entirely along party lines, to pass a bill that would amend Title IX—which bars sex-based discrimination in education—to define sex as based exclusively on reproductive biology and genetics at birth. The legislation—which will not pass the Democratic-controlled Senate—would bar biological male students from competing on female sports teams at federally funded schools and colleges, but permit them to train and practice with those teams.
  • Florida GOP Rep. Michael Waltz—who holds Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ former House seat—endorsed former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican primary last week, the ninth of now eleven members of Florida’s 20-seat congressional delegation to endorse the former president over the state’s current governor. “We need experienced and proven leadership back in the White House,” Waltz said in a statement to Breitbart. DeSantis’ campaign did get a boost on Saturday, with former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt—a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump—being named chairman of the Never Back Down PAC supporting DeSantis’ impending presidential bid. Laxalt, who was DeSantis’ roommate during their naval officer training, chaired Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign in Nevada and had Trump’s endorsement in his failed 2022 Senate run.
  • Talk radio host Larry Elder announced last week he is launching a longshot presidential bid, joining a growing Republican primary field two years after he lost a recall election in California against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
  • North Carolina’s Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson launched his gubernatorial bid on Saturday, joining a race that is expected to include Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, Republican Treasurer Dale Folwell, and GOP former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker. Robinson would be North Carolina’s first black governor if he were elected to replace Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

Evacuating Sudan

TOPSHOT – Sudanese demonstrators rally to protest the United Nations mediation, in front of the UN headquarters in the Manshiya district of the capital Khartoum, on October 29, 2022. (Photo by EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP via Getty Images)

A week after the fighting between forces loyal to two rival generals began in Sudan, United States officials quit waiting for the black smoke to stop rising from the Khartoum airport and sent in special forces—including the elite SEAL Team Six—to evacuate U.S. embassy personnel and their families. “I’m proud of our extraordinary service members who executed and supported this operation with outstanding precision and professionalism,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Saturday night.

The U.S. has now suspended embassy operations in Sudan, but hasn’t stopped calling for ceasefires. “This tragic violence in Sudan has already cost the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday announcing the evacuation. “It’s unconscionable and it must stop.”

As we reported last week, Sudan’s military—led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan—is fighting for control of the country with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo. The two helped oust dictator Omar al-Bashir four years ago after a popular uprising, but executed a coup in 2021, disrupting efforts to adopt a democratic civilian government. United Nations and U.S.-backed talks resumed to turn over power to a civilian government, but tensions rose between Burhan and Hemedti. Fighting broke out April 15, and more than 400 people have been killed, per the World Health Organization, and thousands injured—though the actual casualty numbers are almost assuredly far higher. On Thursday, the State Department said at least one American citizen was among the dead.

The warring parties have agreed to ceasefires nearly every day—including a three-day truce starting Friday to honor the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr and allow evacuations—but none have held. As Charlotte noted on Wednesday, foreign countries—chiefly Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia—are contributing military support to both sides of the conflict, and the situation is likely to spiral. The RSF fired on a U.S. embassy convoy last week, and combatants looted aid groups’ compounds, forcing most humanitarian organizations to pause operations

From the outset, fighting engulfed Khartoum, damaging the airport and forcing embassy and other governmental employees to shelter in place. As late as Friday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said U.S. forces had been deployed to Africa but not yet ordered into action. The deteriorating situation, however, forced officials to make a move. 

At about 9 a.m. eastern—according to Lt. Gen. Douglas A. Sims, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff—three Chinook helicopters took off from Djibouti, refueled in Ethiopia, and flew to Khartoum without taking ground fire. Special forces evacuated “under” 100 people including Americans and unidentified personnel from other embassies, Under Secretary for Management Ambassador John Bass told reporters, and the State Department vehemently denied the RSF’s claim that it had helped with the evacuation. “I want to emphasize this operation was conducted by the Department of Defense, and only by the Department of Defense,” Bass said. “[The RSF] cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members in the course of the operation.”

Even with embassy employees gone, an estimated 16,000 Americans reportedly remain in Sudan—most of them Sudanese Americans, dual nationals, or aid workers—and the Department of Defense is discussing how to aid their evacuations, particularly by overland routes. “DoD is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” said Chris Maier, assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict. “Secondly, the employment of Naval assets outside the Port of Sudan to potentially help Americans who arrive at the port.”

But officials emphasized American citizens shouldn’t expect another special forces mission. “We don’t foresee coordinating a U.S. Government evacuation for our fellow citizens in Sudan at this time or in the coming days,” Bass said. “We certainly continue to be in close touch with many American citizens resident in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan to give them our best assessment of the security environment and to encourage them to take appropriate precautions to the best of their ability.” 

“[But] we don’t anticipate those security conditions are going to change in the near term,” he added, “even though we’re going to continue to do everything we can to bring this fighting to a conclusion.”

Whistleblower Alleges Hunter Biden Receiving Preferential Treatment

If the Associated Press, the Washington Post, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS News are all correct, President Joe Biden is set to announce his 2024 reelection bid as early as tomorrow. The timing might be a little awkward.

Last Wednesday, a lawyer representing an unnamed IRS Criminal Supervisory Special Agent sent a letter to a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate alleging his client has been overseeing a “sensitive investigation of a high-profile, controversial subject since early 2020” and is willing to blow the whistle on what he or she believes to be grave misconduct on the part of Justice Department officials. 

“The protected disclosures,” Mark Lytle—the IRS Agent’s lawyer—wrote to the select lawmakers on the Judiciary, Finance, and Ways & Means Committees, “(1) contradict sworn testimony to Congress by a senior political appointee, (2) involve failure to mitigate clear conflicts of interest in the ultimate disposition of the case, and (3) detail examples of preferential treatment

and politics improperly infecting decisions and protocols that would normally be followed by career law enforcement professionals in similar circumstances if the subject were not politically connected.”

Oh, and the letter doesn’t mention them by name, but it’s referring to Hunter Biden and Merrick Garland.

The younger Biden’s legal troubles are nothing new—we’ve known for months investigators reportedly believe they have enough evidence to charge him on several counts—but last week’s disclosure certainly advances the story. And it did so at a time Hunter has re-emerged to take on a more public role in the Biden family—despite controversy over his previous substance abuse, relationships, business dealings, and even artwork.

Since 2018, the inquiry into the president’s son—reportedly centering on tax crimes and lying on a government form related to a gun purchase—has been led by David Weiss, the U.S. Attorney in Delaware nominated by former President Donald Trump in November 2017. The investigation is obviously politically sensitive, which explains why Weiss was one of only two remaining Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys Biden didn’t ask to resign upon taking office in early 2021. “There will not be interference of any political or improper kind,” Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee last spring. “We put the investigation in the hands of a Trump appointee from the previous administration.”

The attorney general doubled down on that assertion in additional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. “[Weiss is] not restricted in his investigation in any way,” Garland reiterated. “I have not heard anything from that office that suggests they are not able to do anything that the U.S. attorney wants them to do.” 

Republican lawmakers were already suspicious of that statement; last week’s letter only solidified their distrust. “It’s deeply concerning that the Biden administration may be obstructing justice by blocking efforts to charge Hunter Biden for tax violations,” GOP Rep. James Comer of Kentucky—chair of the House Oversight Committee—said. “We’ve been wondering all along where the heck the DOJ and the IRS have been. Now it appears the Biden administration may have been working overtime to prevent the Bidens from facing any consequences.”

That could very well be what the whistleblower will allege once he or she sits down with the relevant congressional committees—and it could very well be accurate. But it’s too early to say, criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Ken White told TMD. “I don’t think we have enough information yet really to evaluate the whistleblower’s credibility,” he said, noting inter-agency whistleblower claims can at times revolve around a misunderstanding. “The mere fact that an IRS Criminal Investigation Division [official] thinks that the Department of Justice is doing this wrong is not very probative to me. … Sometimes what federal agents perceive as interference is actually standard procedure or caution or any number of other things.”

That’s certainly what the White House will be pushing as the various investigations into Hunter ramp up. “President Biden has made clear that this matter would be handled independently by the Justice Department,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, reiterated Thursday, “under the leadership of a U.S. Attorney appointed by former President Trump, free from any political interference by the White House.” 

Hunter’s lawyer, Chris Clark, took a more aggressive approach. “It is a felony for an IRS agent to improperly disclose information about an ongoing tax investigation,” he said. “The IRS has incredible power, and abusing that power by targeting, embarrassing, or disclosing information about a private citizen’s tax matters undermines Americans’ faith in the federal government.”

Hunter’s legal team will reportedly meet with Weiss this week after his lawyers requested an update on the status of the investigation. The request reportedly came before the whistleblower revelation.

For now, whether you believe the whistleblower or the White House depends largely on your preconceived notions, as neither side has publicly presented evidence that would disprove the other’s assertions. But that could soon change. 

“You always wonder whether or not, when someone with extremely powerful connections is being investigated, whether some sort of improper influence is being used,” White said. “I think it’s a good thing for us to be vigilant about it.”

Worth Your Time

  • As the U.S. has moved out of the Middle East, China has moved in—at America’s peril, Ana Palacio argues for Project Syndicate. “After decades of heeding Deng Xiaoping’s advice to ‘hide its strength, bide its time, never take the lead,’ China has apparently decided that its moment to step into the global spotlight has arrived,” she writes, referencing China’s brokering of a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. “It is not difficult to see why the Middle East has long featured prominently in Chinese strategic planning: China is a voracious energy consumer, and the Middle East is a leading energy supplier. But, until recently, China focused mainly on expanding its economic footprint in the region. With the Saudi Arabia-Iran dialogue, however, China appears to be taking its regional engagement to a new level. The US will come to regret giving up its foothold in the Middle East. Chinese President Xi Jinping is taking advantage of America’s withdrawal to establish China not only as a regional power, but as a global leader capable of challenging the US-led world order built after World War II. The US must act urgently to restore its position in the Middle East. Winning back lost allies is much more difficult and costly than maintaining good relationships, so there is no time to waste.”
  • Lawmakers need to stop trying to speak for “the American people,” Joseph Epstein argues in the Wall Street Journal. “You can tell how phony a politician is by how often he uses the term ‘the American people,’” he writes. “The problem is in determining who these American people really are, especially with our country clearly divided. If anything, polls seem to show that at this moment, there is no unified American people—we are a vast number of people who have little more in common than living in the same country. By glomming onto the phrase, contemporary politicians seek to establish that they are the true representatives of representative government. With it engraved on their shields, they avoid any notion that they are party hacks or merely in business for themselves. Evoking ‘the American people’ also is meant to establish the earnestness and sincerity of a politician. Yet sincerity and politics are rarely found under the same roof, and one has to search American politics sedulously to find admirably sincere political figures. It is time, surely, for us the American people to rise up and insist that our politicians knock off all further mention of ‘the American people.’”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: Haley provides a look (🔒) at lawmakers’ recent wargame mapping out a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Chris argues (🔒) the 2024 GOP primary may not be two-man race after all, Nick chronicles how (🔒) the pro-life movement turned on Trump, and Jonah pens an ode to normalcy by way of parenting advice. 
  • On the podcasts: Jonah dives into an obscure Edmund Burke speech and the absurdity of the new Bull Moose Party, and Steve and Sarah get Jonah’s take on their bet ahead of a potential Biden presidential bid announcement (🔒). Plus, Dispatch contributor Thomas Joscelyn was on 60 Minutes last night—be sure to catch his recent appearance on The Dispatch Podcast if you missed it! 
  • On the site over the weekend: Timothy Sandefur celebrates Albert King on what would have been his 100th birthday, Alec reviews The Covenant, and Erec Smith warns about “social truths” and their ability to trump “empirical truths.”
  • On the site today: Chris Stirewalt examines the politics of very happy people, Price reports on the early stages of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, and Jason Blessing has suggestions for the Biden administration on spyware.

Let Us Know

Does the U.S. government have an obligation to help extract U.S. citizens in Sudan, in addition to the U.S. embassy personnel who were moved to safety this weekend?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.