Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Senate approves Russia, Iran sanctions | GOP chair expects to surpass Trump defense budget | Nude photo scandal could lead to court-martial

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THE TOPLINE: The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia and giving Congress the ability to block President Trump from lifting current penalties.

Senators voted 98-2 on the bill, which also includes new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfer of weapons and human rights violations. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against the measure.

The legislation marks the Senate’s most significant check on the Trump administration’s foreign policy, which has flirted with lifting sanctions in a bid to entice Moscow into an agreement.

The bill now heads to the House, where it faces an uncertain future amid signs of pushback from the administration.

The Hill’s Jordain Carney has the full story here.


SANDERS SLAMS IRAN SANCTIONS: Following the vote, Sanders criticized the Senate’s decision to levy new sanctions on Iran, saying that the penalties could put the 2015 nuclear deal at risk.

{mosads}He said in a statement after the vote that, while he fully supported penalties against the Kremlin for its efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, the Iran sanctions could have dangerous consequences.

“That is not a risk worth taking, particularly at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its allies,” Sanders said in a statement. “I think the United States should play a more even-handed role in the Middle East and find ways not only to address Iran’s activities, but also Saudi Arabia’s decades-long support for radical extremism.”

Read the rest here.


DEFENSE APPROPS CHAIR EXPECTS TO SURPASS TRUMP BUDGET: The chairwoman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee said Thursday she expects to give national security funding more money than the $603 billion requested by the Trump administration.

Asked by The Hill after a hearing with Defense Secretary James Mattis whether she expects to appropriate more than the administration’s request, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) said, “Yes.”

“We’re still trying to put things together with the Budget Committee,” she said. “It’s just a very difficult year. I will keep fighting for the highest number I can.”

Thursday’s hearing before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee capped a week of hearings in which Mattis defended a budget request that has pleased few on Capitol Hill.

Read more here.


DEM ASKS IF TRUMP KNOWS ABOUT QATARI JET SALE: One of President Trump’s most vocal critics in the House questioned Thursday whether the president was aware of a deal to sell Qatar up to 36 F-15 fighter jets.

“I don’t mean to be facetious about this, but does the president know that?” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) asked Tina Kaidanow, acting assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing.

On Wednesday, Qatar and the Pentagon announced the completion of the $12 billion deal to sell the country the Boeing-made jets. The deal has been in the works going back to the Obama administration.

The finalization of the deal comes after several Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, moved to isolate Qatar this month, cutting off diplomatic ties and closing all land, sea and air borders.

The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel has the rest here.


MARINES NUDE PHOTO SCANDAL COULD LEAD TO COURT-MARTIAL: Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller on Thursday said one service member could face a court-martial and another has been discharged following the military branch’s nude-photo-sharing scandal revealed in March.

Neller told Senate Armed Services Committee lawmakers that 65 individuals were identified in the scandal — in which service members allegedly shared nude photos of female Marines and veterans in the private Facebook group “Marines United,” — and that 59 were sent to their commands for possible disciplinary or administrative action.

Of the 59 individuals, seven have received non-judicial punishment, 20 have received “adverse administrative actions,” and one Marine has been administratively separated.

Read more here.



— The Hill:  Treasury acts to disrupt ISIS financing network

— The Hill: Qatar signs $12B deal for US fighter jets in midst of blockade

— The Hill: Pence hires outside lawyer for Russia probes

— The Hill: Dem proposes center dedicated to fighting Russia hacks

— The Hill: Top House Dem: Obstruction should be part of Trump-Russia probe

–The Hill: British hacker admits to accessing US military satellite system

–The New York Times: Saudi Arabia tries to ease concerns over civilian deaths in Yemen

–Defense News: US lawmakers skeptical of arms sale to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Lebanon


Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com, and Ellen Mitchell, emitchell@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@Rebecca_H_K@EllenMitchell23

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