Lawmakers torch Trump plan to pull 11,900 troops from Germany

Lawmakers in both parties are panning the Trump administration’s plan to pull nearly 12,000 U.S. troops out of Germany.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Toobin: McConnell engaging in 'greatest act of hypocrisy in American political history' with Ginsburg replacement vote The Memo: Court battle explodes across tense election landscape MORE (R-Utah) blasted the move as a “grave error,” while Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseChamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Ben Sasse is mistaken with idea for the election of senators in America Big Ten football to return in October MORE (R-Neb.) said President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE shows a “lack of strategic understanding.”

“Once more, now with feeling: U.S. troops aren’t stationed around the world as traffic cops or welfare caseworkers – they’re restraining the expansionary aims of the world’s worst regimes, chiefly China and Russia,” Sasse said in a statement.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPutin is about to turn his attention to the American way of life Putin critic Navalny posts photo of himself walking: 'Long' path to recovery FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden MORE “are reckless – and this withdrawal will only embolden them,” Sasse added. “We should be leading our allies against China and Russia, not abandoning them. Withdrawal is weak."

Republicans and Democrats alike have been pushing back since reports first surfaced last month that Trump was on the verge of a massive drawdown in Germany, but the latest comments come after Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTop admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Oldest living US World War II veteran turns 111 MORE filled in details of a plan he argued would help the United States deter Russia, contrary to criticism.

Right now, about 36,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Germany, which is home to the headquarters for U.S. European and Africa commands.

Under the plan outlined by Esper on Wednesday, about 11,900 troops are set to leave Germany. About 5,600 of them will move elsewhere in Europe, while about 6,400 will come back to the United States.

For those returning to the United States, many will be turning around and conducting rotational deployments into Europe, Esper added. 

Esper cast the move as a strategic realignment of forces that had been in the works for months, saying Trump’s June decision merely accelerated the process.

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But Trump has repeatedly cast the move as punishment for Germany not fulfilling NATO’s goal of countries spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

On Wednesday, moments after Esper argued the drawdown is about strategy, Trump reiterated that he is doing it to penalize Berlin.

"We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills,” Trump told reporters while departing the White House. “It’s very simple. They’re delinquent.”

Democrats quickly pounced. Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezKasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage MORE (D-N.J.) said that “champagne must be flowing freely this evening at the Kremlin” and called on Republicans to “stand up to the president and put an end to this abdication of his oath to protect the United States from enemies foreign and domestic."

Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedWhen 'Buy American' and common sense collide Hillicon Valley: Russia 'amplifying' concerns around mail-in voting to undermine election | Facebook and Twitter take steps to limit Trump remarks on voting | Facebook to block political ads ahead of election Top Democrats press Trump to sanction Russian individuals over 2020 election interference efforts MORE (D-R.I.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, lamented that former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden courts veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies Trump says he wanted to take out Syria's Assad but Mattis opposed it Gary Cohn: 'I haven't made up my mind' on vote for president in November MORE might have been able to stop the drawdown in the past and said Wednesday’s announcement was “just a thin outline of an irrational and ill-conceived proposal.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithWhen 'Buy American' and common sense collide Overnight Defense: Marine Corps brushes off criticism of Marines' appearance in GOP convention video | US troops injured in collision with Russian vehicle in Syria | Dems ask for probe of Vindman retaliation allegations Democrats press Pentagon watchdog to probe allegations of retaliation against Vindman brothers MORE (D-Wash.), meanwhile, said he is “very concerned” about “an arbitrary cap” on the number of U.S. troops stationed in Germany.

“By the secretary’s own admission, this plan was not drafted in consultation with U.S. allies or with the military services, but instead all parties – including Congress – were notified after decisions had already been made,” Smith said in a statement. “Not only does the plan fail to consider major logistical issues, questions about deterrence and implementation of the National Defense Strategy, and concerns about implications for U.S. efforts in Africa and elsewhere, but also it will almost certainly result in significant costs to the department.”

Among Republicans, Romney, who is a frequent foil for Trump on foreign policy, quickly criticized the move.

“The plan outlined by the administration today to remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany is a grave error,” Romney said in a statement. “It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression.”

Romney offered an amendment to the Senate’s version of the annual defense policy bill that sought to prevent a Germany withdrawal, but the measure was not granted a vote.

The House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), though, does include a bipartisan amendment aimed at blocking a drawdown by requiring several certifications before it can move forward. The two versions of the bill now need to be reconciled.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeChamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Overnight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Top admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' MORE (R-Okla.), who will be a key negotiator for the final version of the NDAA, is one of the few Republicans backing the Germany drawdown. Inhofe first announced his support last week after being briefed by Pentagon officials and reiterated it after Esper’s announcement.

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“As I said last week after I was briefed, any plan for realigning our posture in Europe must maintain a strong forward presence, sustain force projection, and take care our military families,” Inhofe tweeted Wednesday. “The concept @EsperDOD outlined today adheres to these principles.”

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryTrump payroll-tax deferral for federal workers sparks backlash Overnight Defense: Woodward book causes new firestorm | Book says Trump lashed out at generals, told Woodward about secret weapons system | US withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq Top Armed Services Republican 'dismayed' at Trump comments on military leaders MORE (Texas), remains skeptical of the plan, but was more muted Wednesday than in previous criticism. Thornberry last month organized a letter co-signed by most of the committee’s Republicans urging Trump to reverse course on withdrawing from Germany.

"The administration’s plans to redistribute U.S. forces across Europe are complex and will have long-lasting consequences,” Thornberry said in a statement Wednesday. “While some of the proposed moves clearly have merit, other aspects - such as an arbitrary limits to the number of troops stationed in certain countries — remain troubling.”