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Fireworks above the Kremlin in Moscow on Jan. 1. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images

More peculiar details continue to come out about Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine arrested and charged with espionage while reportedly traveling to a wedding in Moscow last week.

Driving the news: Whelan, who is facing 20 years in a Russian prison, holds Canadian, British and Irish passports — a fact that threatens to drive a wedge between Russia and four Western countries that have now sought consular access. In 2006, Whelan was arrested for attempting to steal more than $10,000 of government money while on deployment in Iraq, the Washington Post reports. He was convicted and discharged for bad conduct in 2008.

  • According to The Daily Beast, Whelan's lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov is "a former Soviet government investigator who has never before tried an espionage case involving a foreign citizen."
  • Zherebenkov told ABC News that Whelan intends to plead not guilty, but then said — unprompted — that the most likely outcome is a prisoner exchange. Security experts believe that prisoner could be Maria Butina, a confessed Russian agent who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges last month, and that Zherebenkov was appointed by Russia’s domestic security agency to negotiate Butina's release.

Go deeper: American detained in Russia visited by U.S. ambassador

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

President Biden faces a deeply broken America

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As President Biden begins his term in office today, he'll be tasked with leading a country beset with deep, long-term problems.

Why it matters: Though the pandemic has made them worse, existential challenges around inequality, social alienation and political division in the U.S. were in place well before SARS-CoV-2 arrived on American shores. The country's future will depend in large part on whether the choices made over the next four years can flatten the curve of American decline.

Facebook, Instagram transfer accounts, followers to Biden administration

Screenshot of official White House Facebook account.

Facebook on Wednesday confirmed that it is transferring the millions of followers of the official Facebook and Instagram White House accounts to the Biden administration.

Details: The accounts for "@POTUS," "@VicePresident" ("@VP" on Instagram) and "@FLOTUS" are having the followers from their personal Pages and accounts be transferred over. It's unclear when that transition process will be complete.

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

Biden delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the Capitol. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden signs executive orders and swears in day one presidential appointees in a virtual ceremony.

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