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Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief working to exempt Iraqis from Trump order

Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief working to exempt Iraqis from Trump order
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THE TOPLINE: The fallout from President Trump's travel bans roiled Washington on Monday.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis is compiling a list of Iraqis who helped U.S. troops during the war, whom he wants to exempt from the ban.

On Friday, Trump signed an executive order that prohibits foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days. Those countries are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.

The order also bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely and halts all refugee resettlements for four months while officials aim to tighten the vetting process, which is already the strictest in the world.

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Iraqis who were granted what's known as special immigrant visas have been caught in the ban, with some detained at U.S. airports over the weekend. The special immigrant visa program allows Iraqis and Afghans who helped the United States as interpreters and in other roles during the wars in their countries to resettle in America.

The inclusion of Iraqis, many of whom helped U.S. troops, intensified the backlash to the order, with veterans, lawmakers and others highlighting that aspect in announcing their opposition to the ban.

Read more about the Pentagon's work on exemptions here.

LAWMAKERS BACK MATTIS: As Mattis works on his list, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has written to Trump in support of the exemptions.

"It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump on Monday. "We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger."

The letter was led by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who was one of the first lawmakers to endorse Trump, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who remained critical of Trump throughout the campaign. Both are Iraq War veterans.

It was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerBipartisan bill proposes to add billion in restaurant relief funds White House pressed on evacuating Afghan allies as time runs out Rivers, hydropower and climate resilience MORE (D-Pa.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing MORE (D-Vt.). Stivers and Moulton are also Iraq War veterans.

Read more about the letter here.

SENATE DEMS SEEK TO BLOCK ORDER: Meanwhile, a group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill Monday they hope will unravel the travel orders.

The Hill's Jordain Carney has the story:

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' 'Killibuster': Democratic angst grows as filibuster threatens agenda Senate GOP blocks voting rights bill MORE (D-Conn.) spearheaded the bill, which would withhold funding to keep the administration from enforcing the order.

"Trump's discriminatory executive order does not reflect who we are as Americans, and it puts our service members and the American public at risk," Murphy said in a statement.

He added that "both Republicans and Democrats criticized Trump for campaign promises of a ban on Muslims. Now that Trump's hateful rhetoric is reality, it's time for all Members of Congress to stand up and support our bill."

Democratic Sens. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHeat wave sparks historically unseasonable wildfires in West Senate Democrats threaten to block 2026 World Cup funds unless women's soccer team get equal pay Senate confirms Biden's top scientist MORE (Wash.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySchumer vows next steps after 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster Progressives fear nightmare scenario over voting rights assault This week: Senate set for voting rights fight MORE (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsLobbying world Cutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Progressive groups ramp up pressure on Feinstein MORE (Del.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOvernight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Democrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 MORE (Wis.) and Chris Van Hollen (Md.) are backing the bill.

Read more here.

TRUMP DEFENDS ORDER: As backlash to the order grows, Trump and his administration have been defending the order.

In trademark morning tweets, Trump blamed problems at airports over the weekend on protestors and the "tears of Senator [Chuck] Schumer," not his order.

Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, held back tears during a press conference Sunday where he called the order "mean-spirited and un-American."

Read more of Trump's reaction here.

TRUMP'S NEW NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: The White House also found itself under fire from both Democrats and some Republicans over the decision to allow Steve Bannon, President Trump's top strategist, to sit on the National Security Council (NSC).

Rankling the administration's critics even more, the changes to the NSC also include removing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

For more on the changes, click here.

CRITICISM MOUNTS: The White House defended the move, noting that Bannon had served in the U.S. Navy in the 70s and 80s. But criticism mounted over the weekend and on Monday.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden nominates Cindy McCain as ambassador to UN food agency Meghan McCain defends 'maverick' Sinema from attacks over filibuster stance GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster MORE (R-Ariz.) said he was 'worried" about the National Security Council. Democratic strategist David Axelrod said Monday that there was "no precedent" for Bannon's spot.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on policy options for North Korea with testimony from outside experts at 10 a.m. the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. http://bit.ly/2kND31P

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: Tillerson clears key Senate hurdle

-- The Hill: Obama 'heartened' by protests, spokesman says

-- The Hill: Pentagon IDs Navy SEAL killed in Yemen raid

-- The Hill: Iran conducts first ballistic missile test since Trump took office: report

-- Washington Post: North Korea at the top of the agenda as Mattis heads to Seoul

-- Wall Street Journal: U.S. to deploy tanks to the Baltics

 

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