Overnight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal

Overnight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal
© Korea Summit Press Pool/UPI Photo

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. We're Rebecca Kheel and Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond.


THE TOPLINE: The historic inter-Korea summit Friday offered a number of remarkable images and soundbites.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un became the first leader of his country to step foot in South Korean territory since the Korean War when he stepped over the military demarcation line to greet South Korean President Moon Jae-In. Moon then briefly stepped into North Korean territory at Kim's invitation, and then the two leaders headed off to the summit in the "truce village" of Panmunjom.


The highly choreographed meeting even included a few jokes, with Kim telling Moon he wouldn't interrupt his early morning sleep anymore in reference to North Korea's barrage of early morning missile tests last year.


But did it work?: The summit was capped off with a joint declaration that the countries are committed to "the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean peninsula."

They also agreed to pursue meetings with the United States and China "with a view to declaring an end to the [Korean] War and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime."

But the declaration had no concrete steps as to how to achieve denuclearization, and North Korea has made promises before only to break them. It remains to be seen whether this time will be any different.


Trump pleased: Still, Trump, preparing for his own historic meeting with Kim, heralded the summit. He tweeted that "good things are happening but only time will tell."

"KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!" he wrote in a second tweet.


Not so fast: Later on Friday, he insisted he will not get tricked by Kim.

"We're not going to be played, OK? We're going to hopefully make a deal, if not, that's fine," Trump said during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.


POMPEO: TRUMP UNLIKELY TO STAY IN IRAN DEAL: Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said Trump is "unlikely" to stay in the Iran nuclear deal unless he can get "substantial" fixes.

"There's been no decision made, so the team is working, and I'm sure we'll have lots of conversations to deliver what the president has made clear," Pompeo told reporters during a trip to Brussels for a NATO foreign ministers meeting. "Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May."


At issue: Trump has set a May 12 deadline for European allies to agree to a supplemental deal to cover what he sees as gaps in the international accord or else he will essentially withdraw the United States from the agreement.

The Obama-era deal between the United States, Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union provided Tehran billions in sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

Trump sees three main issues with the deal: several provisions sunset, inspectors can't demand to see some military sites, and it does not address Iran's other activities, including its ballistic missile program and support for terrorist organizations.


Pompeo's first overseas trip in new role: Pompeo made the remarks on the Iran deal after he arrived in Brussels late Thursday for his first overseas trip in his new post just hours after being confirmed by the Senate.


What he'll be doing there: Pompeo is set to meet with various NATO leaders and European counterparts in Belgium before setting off for a Middle East tour that includes a stop in Israel.

He is scheduled to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, and French Political Director Nicolas de Riviere during his visit to Belgium.

On Friday, Pompeo said the Iran deal was talked about "some" during the NATO meeting he attended.

He also expects it will also be a topic at stops later in his trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan.

The discussions will include, Pompeo said, "not only talking about the concerns that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE has expressed consistently, but talking about ways to potentially address those shortcomings, finding potential solutions to the very flaws that President Trump has identified for a long time now."


FALLOUT FROM VA DRAMA: Now that White House physician Ronny Jackson has withdrawn his nomination to be Veterans Affairs secretary, attention turns to who will lead the sprawling agency.

On Friday, President Trump said "many people" are looking to serve as the next secretary.

"I have many people that want the position, if you can believe it, with all this being said, we have some excellent people, some vey political people," Trump said Friday during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump also defended Jackson, who withdrew amid allegations of overprescribing medication, being drunk on the job and creating a hostile work environment that were detailed in memo released by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP angst grows amid Trump trade war Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to border wall | Dems blast move | House Dem pushes Pelosi to sue over Trump's Yemen veto Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to Trump border wall from Afghan forces, other accounts MORE (D-Mont.).

"The false accusations that were made about him by Sen. Tester from a great state, I don't think that state is going to put up with it. These were false accusations about a great man," Trump said.


About Tester: The senator's role in Jackson's downfall has put him at the top of Republicans' lists of targets for the 2018 election.

Tester hasn't been seen as a top target for Senate Republicans in a cycle where they have numerous pickup opportunities, but Republicans say that may have changed this week.

Asked if he was concerned about his reelection, Tester said: "I'm focused on doing my job as a U.S. senator. My job as a U.S. senator is to make sure we have the best VA secretary possible."

Still, on Thursday night, Tester's office blasted out two emails in his defense. One was an article from the Missoula Current headlined "Montana veterans defend Tester against Jackson fallout as Trump goes on attack." The other was a statement from former Defense Secretary and former Republican Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelSwalwell says he will convene a bipartisan 'blended cabinet' if elected president Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan For planet and country: National security's climate moment MORE saying "there is no one who cares more about veterans and looks out for their interests than my former colleague, Jon Tester."


Miller picks up support: Former House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff MillerJefferson (Jeff) Bingham MillerVeterans' suicides are an epidemic Bottom line VA's commitment to timely processing of claims and appeals is merely lip service MORE's (R-Fla.) name has circulated every time Trump needs to pick a new Veterans Affairs secretary. This time his name appears to be rising to the top of the pack.

One veterans group indicated it is pleased Trump is at least considering someone with experience this time around. Even before the allegations against Jackson, veterans groups were wary at his lack of experience leading a bureaucracy.

"President Trump is strongly considering a candidate in Mr. Miller who couldn't be more familiar to us in terms of his views on the VA, the privatization question, and his areas of greatest concern within the agency," AMVETS Executive Director Joe Chenelly said in a statement Friday. "Questions about his views as of late must be further answered, but he is the proverbial 'devil we know.' It appears the president has finally placed a higher premium on relevant experience this time around, something AMVETS has called for since former VA Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinTrump sent policy pitch from Mar-a-Lago member to VA secretary: report Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? It’s time to end the scare tactics and get to work for our veterans MORE's untimely dismissal."


ARMY ISSUES MORE THAN 1,000 WAIVERS FOR SOLDIER WITH MOOD DISORDERS: For more than a year, the Army issued waivers to over 1,000 recruits who had been diagnosed and treated for mood disorders and nearly 100 that self-mutilated, USA Today reported this week.

From Oct. 1, 2016, through Oct. 31, 2017, the service accepted new soldiers with a history of behavioral health issues – including bipolar disorder and depression - as it contended with meeting recruiting goals.

The active-duty Army gave waivers to 738 recruits with a history of mood disorders and 49 with a history of self-mutilation. The remaining waivers went to recruits in the Army Reserve and National Guard, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by the news outlet.


Army defends its decision: Service Secretary Mark Esper said last week that the Army gives out waivers only for mental health issues that have been resolved or were misdiagnosed. No waivers were issued for a history of drug overdoses or suicide attempts.

"The waiver is only for an historical condition that we look at and assess. We do not allow anybody in who is undergoing therapy, who is a cutter or was a cutter, identified clearly as a cutter or is using drugs. They are not allowed into the service. And I will not accept them," Esper said.


The background: The military in 2009 sought to limit suicides by eliminating waivers for numerous behavioral health issues.

But Army documents reported by USA Today last year showed that the service tried to relax the waiver process for recruits with a history of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder and depression.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), angered by the report, in November threatened to hold up Pentagon nominees over the change.

The Army downplayed the changes and said it was a "simple, administrative change," that allowed U.S. Army Recruiting Command or the state adjutant general for the National Guard to approve waivers. Before, waivers could only be granted by the Department of Army headquarters.

And Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley later said there was "no change in standards."



The Hudson Institute hosts a symposium on space policy featuring a keynote from Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, at 11:45 a.m. https://bit.ly/2HvP382

Experts from the U.S., South Korea and China will assess the inter-Korea summit at a Stimson Center event at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/2K1Qxog



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