Overnight Defense: Senators to unveil bill to rein in 'national security' tariffs | Over 100 lawmakers urge Mattis to reverse transgender ban | AI debate flares at Google

Overnight Defense: Senators to unveil bill to rein in 'national security' tariffs | Over 100 lawmakers urge Mattis to reverse transgender ban | AI debate flares at Google
© Greg Nash

THE TOPLINE: Senators are planning to introduce legislation as soon as Tuesday evening to require President Trump to get congressional approval for tariffs implemented for national security purposes. 

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is spearheading the legislation, told reporters that he will roll out the bill as early as Tuesday and wants to try to get it attached to a defense policy bill that the Senate will start work on later this week.

"If a president decided he was going to invoke 232 and declare something a national security threat he would still go through all the processes he goes through now but, in the end, Congress will have to approve it," Corker said. 

Corker has his eye on the NDAA: Corker said that he is hoping to add his bill to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense policy bill that the Senate is expected to start work on as soon as Wednesday.

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"There's a lot of interest in it for what it's worth. I would hope that we would be able to add it to NDAA since it's a national security bill but, you know, doing anything around here is like pushing a major boulder uphill," he said. 

Potential roadblocks: Getting a vote on an amendment to the NDAA would require Corker to work out a deal with each of his colleagues, including members of leadership who have downplayed the chances that Congress will pass legislation addressing Trump's tariff actions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that there is "not much" Congress could do legislatively if Trump presses forward with the tariffs. McConnell on Tuesday, though, said he was open to an amendment on the matter, but would not bring up a standalone bill.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), McConnell's No. 2, though, told reporters on Monday that it was unlikely Congress would pass or Trump would sign legislation clawing back some of his authority on trade.

Any legislation would likely ultimately need support from two-thirds of both chambers, enough to overcome a presidential veto.

 

MORE THAN 100 LAWMAKERS URGE MATTIS TO REVERSE TRANSGENDER BAN: More than 100 members of Congress are urging Defense Secretary James Mattis to reverse a policy barring most transgender individuals from serving in the military, USA Today reported.

In a Tuesday letter led by Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), 120 lawmakers push back on a Pentagon study released in March that recommended anyone diagnosed with gender dysphoria should be banned from the military except under certain circumstances, according to the newspaper.

The letter's argument: Kennedy said the Defense Department "used outdated studies and cherry-picked data" to reach its findings.

"There is a deep chasm between established medical research and the underlying analysis your Department used to justify this policy, and we call on you to reverse your recommendations," Kennedy writes, according to USA Today.

The lawmakers point to statements from the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association which have all opposed the ban.

"The Trump Administration's decision to ban transgender troops abandons our proudest values, undermines our armed forces, defies established medical research and ignores basic science," Kennedy said in a statement to USA Today.

Other requests: The letter also asks Mattis to identify the members of a panel chosen last year to develop guidelines for allowing or not allowing transgender people into the Armed Forces. Pentagon officials have repeatedly refused to say who was on the panel.

 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DEBATE FLARES AT GOOGLE: Google's decision not to renew a controversial artificial intelligence (AI) contract with the Pentagon has reignited a debate about what Silicon Valley's role should be with regard to the military and war.

Google, facing internal pressure, told employees during a meeting on Friday that it would not renew its contract with the Defense Department's flagship AI program, known as Project Maven, after it expires in 2019, according to multiple reports.

The contract sparked a public relations crisis after a handful of employees reportedly resigned in protest and thousands of employees signed a letter urging the company's CEO not to allow Google to be drafted into the "business of war."

What was Google working on? Project Maven had recruited Google to help advance technology like surveillance drones, which are used to track the whereabouts of terrorist organizations and uncover devised plots before they unfold.

Why were privacy groups worried? Employees at Google and critics outside the company said the government's partnership with the search giant raised a series of ethical and legal questions given the amount of personal data Google holds through email accounts and Google Maps.

But Google's decision is worrying many security experts. They cast decisions by tech companies to not work on the projects as shortsighted. They argue that by working with the Pentagon, Google would have an opportunity to shape developments so that they are applied in a more positive way. And others are worried the U.S. will fall behind other countries.

The Hill's Olivia Beavers breaks down the debate here.

 

US, TURKEY AGREE ON WITHDRAWAL OF KURDISH MILITIA FROM SYRIAN CITY: The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia on Tuesday said it will leave Manbij, Syria, after Turkey and the United States the day prior agreed on the militia's withdrawal.

Turkey has long demanded the YPG withdraw from Syria's northern border with the nation. In a new roadmap agreed upon by Ankara and Washington on Monday, the Syrian Kurds will leave and the U.S. and Turkey will jointly maintain security in the city.

"We affirm that our forces will heed the call when necessary to offer support and help to the people of Manbij should it be needed," the YPG said in a statement.

What's Turkey's issue?: Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group, connected to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey.

Turkish forces in March seized Afrin, Syria, from the YPG, a move the U.S. State Department said it was "deeply concerned" over. 

After that battle, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would push east to Manbij with its forces, a move which would potentially confront U.S. forces stationed with the Kurdish militia.

The State Department's view: Washington has backed the YPG, which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in its fight against ISIS.

But On Monday, the U.S. sought to alleviate issues at a meeting in Washington between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The two agreed on a roadmap for removing the YPG from Manbij.

U.S. officials have since said details still need to be negotiated on the roadmap.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on countering malicious drones with government officials testifying at 10 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 342. 

Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherOvernight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations NATO head shoots down idea of naming new headquarters after McCain Overnight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel MORE will speak on founding principles as the pillars of our foreign policy at an event held by The Federalist Society at Noon at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. 

The House Oversight national security subcommittee will examine the reasons for U.S. withdrawal from the Iran deal and consider policy options for countering Iran's threat to the U.S. and its interests at 2 p.m. at Rayburn House Office Building, room 2154. 

A Senate Homeland Security subcommittee will hear from outside experts on war powers and the effects of unauthorized military engagements on federal spending at 2:30 p.m. at Dirksen 342. 

U.S. Southern Command head Adm. Kurt Tidd will speak at the Association of the United States Army at 5:30 p.m. in Arlington, Va. 

 

ICYMI

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