Overnight Defense

OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Ex-Clinton aide headed before Benghazi panel

THE TOPLINE: The House Select Committee on Benghazi is set to spend Tuesday with a member of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inner circle.

Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton confidant, will give the 12-member panel a deposition behind closed-doors about his knowledge of the events surrounding the siege that left four Americans dead.

Blumenthal is slated to appear at 10 a.m. and the private session will be broken up into one-hour rounds, divided equally between the panel’s Republicans and Democrats.

{mosads}One panel aide said Republicans and Democrats would conduct at least two rounds of questions, for a total of at least four hours, though proceedings could run longer if lawmakers want a third-round.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the Senate could move to wrap up work on its $612 billion defense policy bill.

The chamber’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been on the floor since June 3. Senators are poised to vote on at least two more amendments to the massive bill before holding a procedural vote that would move it toward final passage.

Senate Democrats could try to filibuster the NDAA over a $38 billion boost to the Defense Department’s war fund that allows the Pentagon to skirt existing budget caps. But Democrats may hold their fire until the Pentagon appropriations bill hits the floor later this week, with party leaders in the Senate vowing to block all spending bills unless Republicans sit down for budget talks.

GOP CHAIRMAN WARNS AGAINST A ‘BAD DEAL’ ON IRAN: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) expressed alarm over ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, warning the United States has made “breathtaking” concessions that risk creating a “bad deal.”

“It is breathtaking to see how far from your original goals and statements the P5+1 have come during negotiations with Iran,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said in a letter to President Obama, referring to a group that includes the U.S., the United Kingdom, China, France, and Russia plus Germany.

Corker said envoys have stopped trying to reach a 20-year agreement, settling for a 10-year one and seem poised to let Tehran continue to develop its ballistic missile effort and maintain research and development for advanced nuclear centrifuges.

He asked Obama to “please pause and consider rethinking the entire approach. Walking away from a bad deal at this point would take courage, but it would be the best thing for the United States, the region and the world.”

Iran and the six world powers hope to strike a deal by June 30 that would curtail Tehran’s nuclear effort in exchange for sanctions relief.

GATES: REVISE RULES AGAINST ISIS: Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says President Obama should expand the rules of engagement for U.S. troops training Iraq’s military.

“If the mission he has set for the military is to degrade and destroy [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria], the rules of engagement that he has imposed on them prevent them from achieving that mission,” he said this weekend in an online interview.

He argued that U.S advisers should be embedded down to the battalion level because “you have to be close to the fight to be able to provide the kind of guidance and, frankly, some spine to the Iraqis.”

Gates also chided Obama for saying the U.S. doesn’t have a “complete strategy” for defeating ISIS.

“If we think ISIS is truly a threat to the United States and to our interests we have to be willing to put Americans at risk. That’s just a fact of life,” he said.

However, that “doesn’t mean we re-invade Iraq,” according to Gates.

REPUBLICAN WARNS AGAINST SYRIAN REFUGEE EFFORT: House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) expressed concern about the administration’s plan to ramp up resettling Syrian refugees inside the U.S.

“We are increasingly concerned by the decision to accelerate the resettlement of thousands of Syrian refugees here in the United States despite the serious national security implications of doing so,” he said in a June 11 letter addressed to the president.

The U.S. could resettle 2,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year and potentially thousands more in fiscal 2016 under the State Department-led effort. The Homeland Security Department has authority to approve the admissions.

“My Committee and I have been sounding the alarm for months,” McCaul noted, adding the panel hasn’t received answers to a Feb. 19 letter that sought more details about the effort.

He asked the administration to address the outstanding concerns in a classified setting some time before July 7.


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– Did Russia, China hack Snowden files?

– Key Republican threatens to subpoena White House over hack

– EU agrees on unified data security laws


Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Martin Matishak, mmatishak@thehill.com.

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Tags Bob Corker Hillary Clinton

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