Overnight Defense: Fight over military sexual assaults heats up

THE TOPLINE: The fight over an amendment on military sexual assaults heated up as the Senate began debate on its annual defense policy bill.

Supporters of the amendment fired off two letters Monday. In one, a bipartisan group of senators called on President Obama to open up an independent investigation into allegations the Pentagon misled Congress on the issue. In another, the author of the report making the allegations shot back at the Pentagon's criticisms and asked for a sit down with Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

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At issue is an April report from Protect Our Defenders alleging the Pentagon misled Congress in testimony on sexual assault.

In 2013, a then-Pentagon official claimed military commanders pursued cases that civilian prosecutors refused to take up. But the Protect Our Defenders report says that in two-thirds of cases the military identified, the defendant was not accused of sexual assault, civilian prosecutors had not declined case or the military had failed to prosecute the offender for sexual assault.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would take the decision to prosecute those cases away from commanders and give it to independent military prosecutors.

Read more about the senators' letter to Obama here.

Read more about Protect Our Defenders' letter to Carter here.

 

ISIS WAR AUTHORIZATION TIED TO DEFENSE BILL: Another amendment to the defense bill filed Monday would get senators on record about whether the 2001 and 2002 war authorizations apply to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Hill's Jordain Carney has the details:

A bipartisan group of senators are tying a fight over authorizing the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to a wide-ranging defense policy bill currently before the Senate.

Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges McConnell discounts quick dismissal of Trump impeachment articles: 'We'll have to have a trial' GOP motions to subpoena whistleblower MORE (R-Ky.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeFed chief urges Congress to expand US workforce while economy still strong On The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments MORE (R-Utah) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Trump, Erdogan confirm White House meeting | Public impeachment hearings set for next week | Top defense appropriator retiring Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward Senate Democrat: Colleague was working on fantasy football trade instead of listening to Schumer MORE (D-Conn.) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that backs curtailing a president's powers to fight ISIS without specific authorization from Congress.

"It is the sense of Congress that the president, unless acting out of self-defense or to address an imminent threat to the United States, is not authorized to conduct military operations against ISIS without explicit authorization for the use of such force," according to the amendment.

The proposal would also find that neither a 2001 authorization or a 2002 authorization--both of which have been cited by the Obama administration--apply to the current fight against ISIS.

Read the rest here.

 

TRUMP ADVISER SUPPORTS SYRIA SAFE ZONES: A retired general who is advising presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE supports setting up "safe zones" in Syria, he said Monday.

The Hill's Kristina Wong has more:

The Obama administration has rejected creating air and ground zones in Syria for two reasons: a declaration of a no-fly zone would be an act of war against Syria, and it would take additional air assets as well as ground troops to patrol the zones around the clock.

But retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who advises Trump, told "The Hugh Hewitt Show" that he backs creating the safe zones.

"If we know that their headquarters exist in a place called Raqqa, Syria, we should eliminate -- we should destroy Raqqa, Syria. We should create, you know, safety zones, flight zones, whatever, both ground and air," he said.

Read more here.

 

NAVY BANS ALCOHOL ON JAPAN BASES: U.S. sailors in Japan have been banned from drinking alcohol on their bases after a series of incidents deemed "detrimental to the U.S.-Japan alliance," the Navy said in a statement Monday.

Navy personnel also will no longer be able to leave their bases in their free time.

"These measures are not taken lightly," Rear Adm. Matthew Carter, commander of naval forces in Japan, said in the statement.  "For decades, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with the people of Japan.  It is imperative that each sailor understand how our actions affect that relationship, and the U.S.-Japan alliance as a whole."

Monday's order follows the arrest of a Navy petty officer Saturday on suspicion of drunken driving after a head-on car crash in Okinawa.

Read the rest here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hosts a hearing on "Russian Violations of Borders, Treaties, and Human Rights" at 2:15 p.m. at the Senate Dirksen Office Building, Room 419. http://1.usa.gov/1WzvLiu

The House Veteran Affairs Committee will look into the VA and its academic affiliations at 4:15 p.m. at the Cannon House Office Building, Room 334. http://1.usa.gov/1U04WRa

 

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: 9/11 families plead with White House to release secret 28 pages

-- The Hill: Panetta: Trump's foreign policy remarks 'irresponsible'

-- The Hill: Benghazi chairman: Dems get to review, offer edits to report

-- BBC News: Two Weeks in January: America's secret engagement with Khomeini

-- Wall Street Journal: Pentagon raises new concerns about ending use of Russian rocket engines

-- New York Times: Greed, Corruption and Danger: A Tarnished Afghan Gem Trade

 

Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com 

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