Overnight Defense: Senate sends $717B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support

Overnight Defense: Senate sends $717B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support
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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond.

 

THE TOPLINE: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is headed to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE's desk after the breakneck House-Senate negotiations and overwhelming votes of approval.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved the compromise fiscal 2019 NDAA in an 87-10 vote.

That keeps the bill on track to become law before the start of the fiscal year for the first time since the fiscal 1997 bill.

Some concern: The overwhelming Senate vote came despite some angst over its lack of a provision to block President Trump's deal to save Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.

ZTE had been slapped with penalties that prevented it from buying U.S. technology after admitting violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

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The provision to block Trump's deal was included in the initial Senate-passed NDAA but was stripped out in House-Senate negotiations.

Instead, the final bill aligns with the initial House-passed version. It would ban the government from contracting with ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese telecommunications company, or companies that do business with those two.

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees have said the Senate provision was stripped because it would have cost $1 billion that would have had to be made up by cutting mandatory spending such as troop's health-care or retirement benefits. That's because ZTE has already paid the government a $1 billion fine as part of the Trump deal.

But senators who sponsored the original ZTE provision fumed Wednesday, saying that taking it out of the bill allows a national security threat to persist.

"The threat posed by China and its telecommunications companies are so severe and so significant that it regrettably brings me to the point that I cannot support a bill I have always supported in my time here," Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers raise concerns over research grants to colleges with Confucius Institutes Paid family leave could give new parents a much-needed lifeline GOP looks to injure Nelson over Russia comments MORE (R-Fla.) said on the Senate floor. "We need to wake up to the threat that China poses to this country, because we are running out of time to do so."

The no votes: Rubio, as he said on the floor, voted against the bill. But Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump showcases ICE ahead of midterm elections Kamala Harris prepares for moment in the spotlight Dem campaign chairman expresses confidence over path to Senate majority MORE (D-Md.), who also spoke on the floor decrying the exclusion of the ZTE provision, voted in favor of the bill.

The other no votes came largely from the Democratic caucus: Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinWhat crime did Manafort allegedly commit? This week: Senate tries to avoid landmines on massive spending bill Dems to challenge Kavanaugh for White House records MORE (D-Ill.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandTrump lauds ICE at White House event Trump calls for public officials to praise ICE, Border Patrol agents Chelsea Clinton: Politics a 'definite maybe' in the future MORE (D-N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump lauds ICE at White House event The Hill's Morning Report — Trump showcases ICE ahead of midterm elections 2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump MORE (D-Calif.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTo make the House of Representatives work again, make it bigger Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints Make the moon a refueling station — then head to Mars MORE (D-Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyBipartisanship alive and well, protecting critical infrastructure Overnight Defense: Senate sends 7B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support Dem strategist: It's 'far-left thinking' to call for Nielsen's resignation MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Poll finds Libertarian Senate candidate running ahead of GOP in New Mexico Senate GOP targets musicians Ben Folds, Jason Isbell as 'unhinged left' ahead of rally for Dem candidate MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Trump lauds ICE at White House event Trump calls for public officials to praise ICE, Border Patrol agents MORE (D-Mass.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenGroup files lawsuit to force Georgia to adopt paper ballots Treasury releases proposed rules on major part of Trump tax law Rubio slams Google over plans to unveil censored Chinese search engine MORE (D-Ore.).

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway Lee2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up MORE (R-Utah) also voted against the bill.

Pentagon reaction: Later Wednesday, the Pentagon expressed gratitude at the speedy passage of the bill.

"I am grateful for the strong commitment of members on both sides of the aisle to pass this year's NDAA in record time," Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon says Trump canceled parade before cost briefing | Erik Prince renews push for contractors to run Afghan war | More officials join outcry over security clearances Erik Prince hopeful Bolton more open to contractors for Afghan war Pentagon: Trump canceled military parade before being briefed on cost MORE said in a statement. "Together, they have demonstrated the deep and abiding bipartisan support our military enjoys. It is now our duty to implement these policies responsibly and ensure a culture of performance and accountability."

 

TURKEY SANCTIONS: A week after Trump threatened to sanction Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, the Treasury Department has announced penalties against two Turkish government officials.

The department blocked Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu from the U.S. financial system and froze any of their assets subject to U.S jurisdiction. U.S. persons and businesses are also banned from any financial transactions with Gul and Soylu.

Gul and Soylu were targeted for their roles in the detainment of Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor who had been imprisoned by the Turkish government on charges of terrorism and espionage stemming from the failed 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdoğan.

"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable," said Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinPolicy expert: Erdoğan wants to ramp up anti-American sentiment to distract Turkish public Harriet Tubman on the bill would be smart for the president, his party and the nation Turkish president blasts ‘economic coup’ amid heightened tensions with US MORE. "President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately."

Turkey's response: Unsurprisingly, Turkey is not pleased.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry warned it would respond to U.S. sanctions imposed on the two Turkish officials "without delay."

In a statement, the foreign ministry said that it "strongly protests" the sanctions against Gul and Soylu.

It also called the sanctions a "disrespectful intervention in our legal system" that would harm "the constructive efforts toward resolving problems between the two countries."

Reminder: That NDAA that's headed to Trump's desk also targets Turkey.

Specifically, the bill would block the delivery of the F-35 fighter jet to Ankara until the Pentagon completes an assessment of U.S.-Turkish relations.

In addition to Brunson's detention, lawmakers are concerned about Turkey's plan to buy the S-400 air-defense system from Russia and its moves in Syria against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

 

KOREAN WAR REMAINS HEADED TO HAWAII: The 55 caskets of remains believed to be Korean War U.S. service members are expected to land in Hawaii tonight, where Vice President Pence will participate in what's called an "honorable carry ceremony."

The remains departed Osan Air Base, South Korea, after a formal repatriation ceremony. The video of that ceremony is up on U.S. Forces Korea's Facebook page.

Initial assessment: An official from the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency told reporters in South Korea that an initial forensic review indicated the remains are in fact from the Korean War and are likely American.

"There is no reason to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses," John Byrd, director of analysis at the agency, said, according to Reuters.

The initial "field forensic review" indicates that the "remains are what North Korea said they were," Byrd added.

 

SENATORS REASSURE ALLIES ON NATO SUPPORT: A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday met with diplomats from NATO countries to reassure them of the Senate's support for the alliance, The Associated Press reported.

The private meeting, which also included diplomats from European countries not in NATO, follows President Trump's criticism of the alliance at a summit in Brussels earlier this month, which rattled longtime allies and startled lawmakers.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) helped initiate the meeting and told the AP lawmakers wanted to "reassure these countries of our commitment to NATO and our commitment to their security."

Roughly 20 senators as well as ambassadors and representatives from about nine countries -- including from Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, Norway, Finland and new NATO member Montenegro -- participated in the session.

Durbin said Trump's name "never came up" in the hour-long meeting but it hung over the gathering.

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Iran preparing major military exercise in Persian Gulf: report

-- The Hill: GOP senator: 'Is anybody even paying attention anymore' to Trump's tweets?

-- The Hill: Opinion: North Korea's continued weapons activities show why we need to keep talking

-- Associated Press: IS fighters surrender to Afghan forces after Taliban assault

-- Reuters: No plans to engage with Iran at ASEAN meeting: U.S. official

-- The New York Times: Ordinary Iranians on Trump Talks Offer: 'Why Not Try the Americans?'