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Overnight Defense: Air Force joins Army and Navy in rooting out extremism | Biden axes Trump emergency order for border wall

Overnight Defense: Air Force joins Army and Navy in rooting out extremism | Biden axes Trump emergency order for border wall
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Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell (@EllenEMitchell), and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: Rooting out extremism in every branch

The Air Force’s top leaders on Thursday announced a new assessment of extremism in the service while calling on airmen and guardians to stand against extremist views.

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“The vast majority of us – whether active duty, guard, reserve, or civilian – spends every day upholding our Nation’s laws, policies, and standards. However, there is a small subset who fall short and are eroding the respect our Nation’s civilians have for its military,” read a letter signed by acting Air Force Secretary John Roth, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Space Force Chief Gen. John Raymond and the chief master sergeants of the Air Force and Space Force.

“While the First Amendment of the Constitution recognizes freedom of expression, it is our obligation to stand against extremism, as we should with anything that threatens to undermine good order and discipline, trust, and our culture of respect.” 

The Air Force will conduct a “comprehensive assessment of this issue,” the officials add.

Earlier: The letter follows similar messages from leaders in the Army and Navy. Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinFive questions about Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan Secret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE last week directed a U.S. military-wide “stand-down” to tackle extremism in the ranks.

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Acting Army Secretary John Whitley on Wednesday called on the force to combat “corrosive behavior” including discrimination, extremist views and sexual harassment, while Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday on Tuesday urged the fleet to “eliminate conduct that is driven by extremist beliefs.”

A lingering problem: Dangerous and violent extremist ideology, including white supremacy, has long been known to exist in the military but was brought to national attention after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol carried out by many supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE.

Of the 190 people charged in the insurrection, at least 30 are veterans and three are current National Guard members or reservists – nearly 20 percent of those charged.

 

NO MORE WALL: Biden axes Trump emergency order for border wall

President BidenJoe BidenSuspect in FedEx shooting used two assault rifles he bought legally: police US, China say they are 'committed' to cooperating on climate change DC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is MORE has rescinded the emergency order used by former President Trump to justify construction of the border wall, the White House announced Thursday.

“I have determined that the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted,” Biden wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote Biden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire MORE (D-Calif.).

“I have also announced that it shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall, and that I am directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to that end.”

The nail in the coffin: The proclamation is a final step from Biden after issuing an executive order on day one of his presidency questioning the validity of Trump’s national emergency and ordering a pause on all border wall construction.

It also comes after the administration asked the Supreme Court to cancel an upcoming hearing on the legality of the border wall, which the court then granted.

The background: Trump issued the national emergency at the border in early 2019 after repeatedly butting heads with lawmakers over funding for the project. The emergency declaration loosened the limits on taxpayer funding, paving the way for Trump to divert funds originally intended for other agencies, including the Defense Department.

But the move landed his administration in court, as environmental groups and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged $2.5 billion in Pentagon spending that had been diverted to complete construction.

Trump first floated the idea of a border wall on the campaign trail, repeatedly insisting that Mexico would pay for its construction. But in early 2020, Customs and Border Protection reported it had found $11 billion in funding for the wall.

Troops not coming home yet: Despite the end of the emergency declaration, the roughly 3,000 troops stationed along the border as part of the Trump effort will not be on their way home imminently, according to the Pentagon’s top spokesman John Kirby.

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The border mission – during which troops help Customs and Border Protection with surveillance and logistics while the wall is being built – is funded through the end of the year, Kirby told reporters on Thursday.

“I don’t have any changes to that mission to read out as a result of the president’s decision,” Kirby said.

Lawmakers react: The letter was welcome news to members of Congress long opposed to the wall who argued a physical barrier would do little to address immigration or security concerns.

“Trump's national emergency was never about security,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D), who represents a district covering more than half of Arizona's border with Mexico, wrote on Twitter.

“It was about stealing money to fund a monument to his racist policies along the Southern Border. Now we must cancel the contracts & ensure that not another foot of border wall is constructed.”

 

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