Overnight Defense: First transgender recruit signs up for military | North Korea open to talks with US | Pentagon gives State funds to counter foreign propaganda

Overnight Defense: First transgender recruit signs up for military | North Korea open to talks with US | Pentagon gives State funds to counter foreign propaganda
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THE TOPLINE: The Pentagon confirmed Monday that a transgender person has signed a contract to the join the U.S. military for the first time since the ban on transgender recruits was lifted due to a court order.

Maj. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the contract was signed Friday and that the individual met all standards, including medical, to serve in the military.

Eastburn declined to comment on which branch of the military the recruit is joining.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE tweeted last July that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military in any capacity. He followed through in August with a memo that banned transgender recruits from enlisting, blocked funds from being used for gender transition-related surgery and directed Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump insists Turkey wants cease-fire | Fighting continues in Syrian town | Pentagon chief headed to Mideast | Mattis responds to criticism from Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: White House does damage control after Mulvaney remarks Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' MORE to study what to do with existing transgender troops.

Several courts have prevented the ban from being enforced while lawsuits are pending. Because of those rulings, the Pentagon was required to begin accepting transgender recruits Jan. 1, as it had planned to before Trump's ban.

Since Jan. 1, several transgender people have applied to join the military.

The first contract was signed the same day Mattis delivered his recommendation on policy for transgender people in the military to the White House.

Read more here.


LATEST ON NORTH KOREA: The Winter Olympics in South Korea have closed, but not before more talk of diplomacy with North Korea.

On Sunday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with a delegation from North Korea. A statement from Moon's office after the meeting said Pyongyang expressed "ample intentions" of holding talks with the United States.

The White House responded by issuing a statement saying the United States is committed to denuclearizing the peninsula.

"We will see if Pyongyang's message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Sunday. "In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea's nuclear and missile programs are a dead end."

On Monday, Moon said both the United States and North Korea need to lower the bar for talks to happen.

"There is a need for the United States to lower the threshold for talks with North Korea and North Korea should show it is willing to denuclearize," Moon said. "It's important the United States and North Korea sit down together quickly."


BREAKING DOWN NEW NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS: The chatter about U.S.-North Korea talks comes after the Trump administration levied new sanctions against Pyongyang aimed at cracking down on illicit maritime activities.

The sanctions against 27 shipping and trade companies, 28 vessels and one individual are aimed at preventing North Korea and others from evading international sanctions through ship-to-ship transfers.

Over the weekend, we broke down five things to know about the new sanctions package. If you missed that, read it here.


STATE LAUNCHES COUNTER-PROPAGANDA INITIATIVE: The State Department and the Defense Department have inked a memorandum of understanding that transfers $40 million from the Pentagon to State for counter-propaganda initiatives.

The Hill's Morgan Chalfant reports:

The State Department is launching a $40 million initiative to crack down on foreign propaganda and disinformation amid widespread concerns about future Russian efforts to interfere in elections.

The department announced Monday that it signed a deal with the Pentagon to transfer $40 million from the Defense Department's coffers to bolster the Global Engagement Center, an office set up at State during the Obama years to expose and counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.

The new influx of funds will bolster the center's operations in the current fiscal year.

"This funding is critical to ensuring that we continue an aggressive response to malign influence and disinformation and that we can leverage deeper partnerships with our allies, Silicon Valley, and other partners in this fight," Steve Goldstein, the department's undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, said in a statement.

Read more here.



Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump sends nomination for Russia ambassador to Senate Democrats eye Pompeo testimony On The Money: IMF estimates US-China trade war to shave 0.8 percent from global economy | NY prosecutors urge appeals court not to block Trump tax subpoena | Turkish bank linked to Giuliani client charged with fraud, money laundering MORE will testify first before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 9 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. http://bit.ly/2F0mxcr

Adm. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Extremists find new home in online app Telegram MORE, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. at the Hart Senate Office Building, room 216. http://bit.ly/2F2bGic

Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, will testify before the House Armed Services Committee at 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2118. http://bit.ly/2sL5NRE

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Women's Role in Countering Terrorism" with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2172. http://bit.ly/2F1EgAw

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be assistant secretary of State for international organizational affairs, director of the Peace Corps, U.S. alternate executive director of the international bank for reconstruction and development, and chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation at 2:30 p.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. http://bit.ly/2ome7mq



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