Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade

Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade
© Greg Nash

Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond.

 

THE TOPLINE: The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel to lead the CIA despite engrained opposition over her involvement in the George W. Bush-era enhanced interrogation program.

Senators voted 54-45 to confirm Haspel, making her the first female director of the spy agency.

 

Who supported her: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and red- and purple-state Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bill Nelson(Fla.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) supported the nominee.

 

And who didn't: GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) sided with most Democrats in voting against Haspel. GOP Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War, also opposes her nomination but is in Arizona undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

 

The issue: Haspel is a veteran CIA official who has been with the agency for more than 30 years and by all accounts is well-liked by her colleagues. But her nomination received roughly half the support from Democrats that now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former House member, received last year when he was confirmed as President Trump's first CIA chief.

Her nomination was immersed almost immediately by controversy because of her involvement in the agency's post-Sept. 11 use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- now widely viewed as torture. In particular, senators homed in on her time spent running a CIA black site and role in the destruction of videotapes documenting the interrogation of an al Qaeda suspect.

 

What brought lawmakers around: The CIA and the White House launched an all-out charm offensive in order to build support for Haspel's nomination, playing up politically favorable aspects of her largely secret career, including her work on Russia.

Haspel herself worked to distance herself from the CIA's former interrogation techniques. She said during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee the program would not be restarted under her leadership, but dodged Democratic questions about the program's morality.

She went a step further in a letter this week to Warner, saying the agency should not have used the so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques.

 

TRUMP OFFERS NORTH KOREA 'PROTECTIONS' IF IT GIVES UP NUKES: Trump on Thursday sought to reassure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after Kim's government threatened to pull out of the upcoming nuclear summit with the United States.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he is "willing to do a lot" to offer Kim "protections" if the North Korean leader agrees to surrender his nuclear weapons. 

He will get protections that are very strong," Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with NATO's secretary-general. "The best thing he could do is make a deal."

 

Why this matters: Trump's comments show he is eager to address North Korea's concerns so the summit can take place. 

Nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang is the president's top foreign policy priority, so it would be major blow to Trump if the talks with Kim fell through.

 

The background: North Korea threw the June 12 summit into doubt on Wednesday when it said it may not show up if the U.S. continues to demand "unilateral" nuclear disarmament. 

Kim has been reluctant to denuclearize because he believes his arsenal is critical to his ability to maintain power. North Korean officials blasted national security adviser John Bolton this week for saying the U.S. is seeking a "Libya model" with North Korea.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was forced from power in 2011 with the help of NATO forces just eight years after striking a deal with the U.S. to give up his nuclear weapons. He was captured and killed that same year.

 

But the White House is moving forward: The president said preparations for the meeting are moving ahead "as if nothing happened," adding the U.S. has not heard official word from the North Koreans about any intention to pull out. 

"Our people are literally dealing with them right now in terms of making arrangements, so that's a lot different than what you read, but oftentimes what you read, if it's not fake news, is true," he said.

 

And the Pentagon says no changes made to drills with S. Korea: The Pentagon's top spokeswoman on Thursday said there was no discussion of scaling back planned military exercises between the United States and South Korea ahead of the June meeting between President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"There has been no discussion of that," Dana White said when asked whether there was any talk of scaling back future drills to ensure the U.S.-North Korea summit goes forward.

 

LAST MINUTE DEFENSE BILL AMENDMENTS: Thursday was the deadline to add amendments to the House's fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As of Thursday evening, lawmakers had submitted more than 500. The House Rules Committee plans to vote on whether to allow floor consideration of the individual amendments next week. 

Here are the notable amendments so far:

 

Dems target Trump's military parade: As it stands now, the NDAA would authorize a parade that includes small arms and munitions "appropriate for customary ceremonial honors" and military units that "perform customary ceremonial duties."

It would prohibit motorized vehicles, aviation platforms, munitions other than the ceremonial ones, operational military units or operational military platforms if Defense Secretary James Mattis determines that would hamper readiness, but it would not require Mattis to certify to Congress that readiness won't be affected.

But one amendment, offered by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), would add a certification requirement to the bill.

Another, from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), would aim to block the parade altogether by prohibiting funding for "any exhibition or parade of military forces and hardware for review by the president in order to demonstrate military force outside of authorized military operations or activities.''

 

Amendment looks to block F-35s from Turkey: House Foreign Affairs Committee member David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is looking to block an F-35 sale to Ankara until Trump certifies that the nation is not "taking steps to degrade NATO interoperability, exposing NATO assets to hostile actors," or "degrading the general security of NATO member states."

It also must not be "seeking to import or purchase defense articles from a foreign country with respect to which sanctions are imposed by the United States; wrongfully or unlawfully detaining one or more nationals of the United States ... or engaging in military action without taking proper steps to ensure that international legal norms are followed to prevent civilian deaths and suffering."

Washington is poised to hand over the first of an eventual 116 F-35 Lightning II fighters to Turkey, which has committed to buy the F-35A variant under the U.S.-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program.

 

Dem wants to block using military bases to house children immigrants: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would block the Trump administration from using military bases to house children immigrating illegally who have been forcibly separated from their parents.

"It's heartless and shameful that the Trump administration is ripping families apart and even considering keeping kids who are separated from their parents at the border on U.S. military bases," Connolly said in a statement. "My amendment to the [National Defense Authorization Act] would stop this cruel policy."

The Hill reported Tuesday on an internal Pentagon email that said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials are set to visit land parcels on four military installations to determine whether they are suitable to house unaccompanied minors or those separated from their families who have crossed the southwest border illegally.

 

Lawmakers take aim at Chinese tech giants: Several lawmakers attempted to insert amendments into the NDAA aimed at keeping products from Chinese tech giants like ZTE and Huawei out of the U.S. over national security concerns.

The moves come after President Trump surprised observers earlier this week by tweeting he would work help get ZTE "back into business, fast" after the company shuttered its operations due to U.S. penalties for allegedly evading sanctions.

One amendment drafted by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) proposed that the heads of government agencies report to Congress "any quid pro quo offers between the United States Government and the Government of the People's Republic of China to ensure the United States will reduce penalties, sanctions, or any other punitive action" against ZTE.

Another by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) would compel the director of national intelligence to provide Congress with an assessment of the national security implications of Trump's proposal to reduce penalties on ZTE.

Two more amendments from Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) would mandate that President Trump bar ZTE and its larger Chinese mobile phone competitor, Huawei, from bringing their telecommunications equipment into the U.S. until the administration receives confirmation that such companies don't pose a threat to national security.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Center for Strategic and international Studies will hold The Future of Force Forum starting at 8:30 a.m. in Washington, DC. 

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will hold a discussion on brokering peace in nuclear environments. 10 a.m. in Washington, DC. 

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will hold another discussion on what's next after the Iran deal at 11:30 a.m. in Washington, DC. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Air Force apologizes for tweet using 'Laurel vs. Yanny' meme to promote mission against Taliban

-- The Hill: Air Force: Taliban would rather hear 'Yanny' or 'Laurel' than roar of A-10

-- The Hill: Dem lawmaker moves to block White House from eliminating cyber post

-- The Hill: Assad meets with Putin in Russia

-- The Hill: South Korea offers to play mediator between US, North Korea

-- Defense News: Lawmakers seek registry for military water contamination cancers, illnesses

-- Reuters: New U.S. sanctions hit at Hezbollah-linked financier, companies