A federal judge has denied the Justice Department’s motion to access the classified records stored at Mar-a-Lago, instead installing a recently retired judge to serve as the special master former President Trump requested. 

We’ll share the latest of that move, plus advice to the U.S. from a former press secretary to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and details on the State Department’s first-ever cyber ambassador.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Judge appoints special master, denies DOJ access

A federal judge on Thursday denied the Justice Department’s (DOJ) motion to access the classified records stored at Mar-a-Lago and installed a recently retired judge to serve as the special master former President Trump requested. 

The duo of orders from federal district Judge Aileen Cannon will ignite a Justice Department appeal to the 11th Circuit and also picks Judge Raymond Dearie to serve as the special master — the one candidate both the DOJ and Trump’s legal team could agree on. 

The order requires Dearie to complete his review by Nov. 30 — a slightly shorter deadline than Trump requested, but one that punts the determination past the midterms.

Cannon’s decision came after the DOJ asked for a partial stay of the judge’s motion, arguing they should be able to review the more than 100 classified documents taken during the search and arguing Trump could have no possible claim to the records as either personal property or under executive privilege.

“If the court were willing to accept the government’s representations that select portions of the seized materials are—without exception—government property not subject to any privileges, and did not think a special master would serve a meaningful purpose, the court would have denied plaintiff’s special master request,” Cannon wrote.

Read the story here.

Ukranian official: US must help Ukraine keep gains

The former press secretary to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is stressing the need for sustained U.S. aid in an interview with The Hill — even as the nation presses forward with a counteroffensive that has the potential to reshape the conflict.  

Iuliia Mendel, Zelensky’s press secretary from 2019 to 2021, argued that crucial gains would be wiped away if the United States did not keep buttressing Ukraine against the Russian invasion masterminded by President Vladimir Putin.   

“We all know there is always fatigue from every war. People can always ask themselves questions: ‘How long will we need [to support a] war?’” Mendel said. But, she added, “If the United States stops helping Ukraine, then all our achieved results will not make any sense because Putin [will] not stop killing us.”   

A new perspective: Mendel has written a book about her experiences, “The Fight of Our Lives,” which was published Tuesday. 

The book mixes details from her work with Zelensky — including her attendance at the Ukrainian president’s 2019 in-person meeting with Putin — along with more personal episodes, including her then-fiance’s decision to head to the front lines after Russia’s February invasion.  

“It is so stressful. I was asking him if it is fair,” she told The Hill, recalling her partner’s decision. “We were together for less than a year. I had the feeling that it wasn’t fair.” 

Read that story here 

Senate confirms first-ever cyber ambassador 

The Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Nathaniel Fick to head the State Department’s new cyber bureau

Fick will be the bureau’s first-ever ambassador-at-large following its launch in April. The bureau was established to deal with international issues related to cyber and emerging technologies. 

How its structured: It has three policy units: international cyberspace security, digital freedom, and international information and communications policy. 

“Today, with the confirmation of Cape Elizabeth’s Nate Fick, the United States has taken a historic, long overdue step to address our rapidly-changing cyber environment,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) in a statement. 

“Our country has lagged behind in shaping policies beyond our shores to defend us in this war without borders. I hope that ends today,” he added. 

Earlier: During his confirmation hearing last month, Fick vowed to establish a culture within his bureau and the entire agency in which expertise in cyber and digital technologies is a must. He also promised to focus on foreign threats, including Russian cyberattacks and the U.S.’s digital competition with China.  

“Countries such as the People’s Republic of China and Russia have a very different vision for cyberspace and the use of digital technologies, which is why American leadership matters in this arena,” Fick said at the hearing. 

Concerns: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), however, raised concerns there are too many cyber heads within the federal government and no clear lines separating their responsibilities. 

“What I’m concerned about is that we have overlapping responsibilities and authorities with regard to our cyber defense,” Portman said. 

“We seem to keep adding more and more top cybersecurity positions to our government,” he added.  

Filling a gap: Fick assured the senator that his role would fill an important gap within the government, adding that other key institutions, including the White House and the Department of Defense, have “a strong presence in cyberspace” and that the same is needed within the State Department. 

Read the full story here 


  • Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will speak at a Washington Post Live virtual discussion on “Americans held hostage abroad,” at 10:30 a.m. 
  • The Center for a New American Security will host a virtual discussion on “Russia in the Arctic,” with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Doug Jones, among others, at 11 a.m.  
  • House Intelligence Committee Republicans and RAND Corporation will hold a panel discussion on “Preparedness Against Biological Weapons,” with Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), and others at 1 p.m. 


That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!


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