Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council

Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council

Happy Tuesday 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: State governors are pulling their National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration that's separating families at the U.S-Mexico border.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced Tuesday that he would recall three members of the Guard deployed at the border.

Cooper tweeted that the policy, which has resulted in the separations of thousands of undocumented children from their families, was "cruel" and required a "strong response."

Other states follow: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Tuesday ordered the recall of Virginia National Guard troops from the southern border over Trump's family separation policy, ordering the return of a helicopter and four Virginia National Guard soldiers.

Northam said in a statement that Virginia would not support enforcement until Trump ends the policy. 

And Maryland's Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday recalled a National Guard helicopter and four crew members from New Mexico.

"Until this policy of separating children from their families has been rescinded, Maryland will not deploy any National Guard resources to the border," Gov. Larry Hogan (R) wrote on Twitter.

Others vow not to deply: Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), meanwhile, announced that she would not deploy the state's National Guard units to the U.S.-Mexico border if asked.

"I have not yet been asked, but if I am, I will not deploy units from the Rhode Island National Guard to the southern border to support the Administration's policy that is ripping families apart," Raimondo said in a statement.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) a day prior also said he will not deploy Guard troops from his state to the border, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) the same day canceled the deployment of his state's Guard troops to the border.

GOP senators ask administration to pause the separations: More than a dozen Republican senators led by Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (Utah), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake Nikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' Time magazine: Trump threatened reporter with prison time MORE asking for a moratorium of the controversial "zero tolerance" policy."

"We support the administration's efforts to enforce our immigration laws, but we cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents," the Republican senators wrote.

"We therefore ask you to halt implementation of the Department's zero tolerance policy while Congress works out a solution that enables faster processing of individuals who enter our country illegally without requiring the forced, inhumane separation of children from their parents," the senators continued.


NOMINEE TO HEAD AFGHANISTAN WAR APPEARS BEFORE SENATE LAWMAKERS: The special operations commander nominated to take over as head of the war in Afghanistan on Tuesday appeared before lawmakers for his nomination hearing.

Lt. Gen. Scott Miller - asked by senators about his strategy for the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan - repeatedly pledged to further assess issues in the war-torn country.

But many senators expressed skepticism about how to proceed in the long-running war.

The mood: In a largely genial hearing, several senators said they supported Miller and expected him to be easily confirmed to become the next commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

But senators also asked Miller what he plans to do differently after 17 years of war and nearly one year into the Trump administration's strategy for the region.

The most contentious exchange: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAbigail Disney: 'We're creating a super-class' of rich people Is Big Tech biased? The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations MORE (D-Mass.) pushed Miller the hardest on the issue, quoting several past defense leaders as saying Afghanistan reached a turning point.

We've supposedly turned the corner so many times that it seems now we're going in circles," Warren said. "So let me just ask you, do you envision turning another corner during your tenure as commander? After 17 years of war, what are you going to do differently to bring this conflict to an end?"

Miller replied by acknowledging the length of the war, saying "that's generational."

"I can't guarantee you a timeline or an end date -- I know that going into this position -- or offer necessarily a turning point, unless there is one, unless there's something to report back and something has changed," he continued.

Warren pushed back, saying Afghanistan is "in crisis," listing the Taliban's territorial gains, Afghan security force losses, spiking food insecurity and political corruption, among other benchmarks.

"Some of those underlying challenges will also have to be addressed," Miller said of political issues in Afghanistan.

"I'd like to assess": Miller left many questions unanswered, pledging to instead assess the query.

Asked Tuesday by Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Lawmakers demand answers on Border Patrol data breach Senators call on McConnell to bring net neutrality rules to a vote MORE (R-Miss.) whether he agrees with an inspector general assessment that there has been a lack of progress in recent months, Miller said he believes the counterterrorism mission is going well but has to further assess the train, advise and assist mission.

Under questioning from committee ranking member Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedTrump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions Overnight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless MORE (D-R.I.) about the capabilities of Afghan special operations forces and Afghan airpower, Miller said he agrees those are the country's most important military power against the Taliban. But, he added, "I'd like to look, go forward, take some time to make an assessment."

And when Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions MORE (R-Okla.) asked Miller whether he believes the military has the right amount of resources in Afghanistan, Miller replied that his "instinct" is that it does, but pledged to "come back to you with a better assessment."

Afghanistan's current strategyPresident TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE announced a new strategy for Afghanistan last summer that included bolstering U.S. forces in Afghanistan by a few thousand to help end a stalemate. Trump's strategy also took away a timeline for withdrawal, saying it would be based on the conditions on the ground.

The United States has about 16,000 troops in Afghanistan, according to figures cited by senators Tuesday. The troops are on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions.

Inhofe, a senior committee member who has been leading hearings while Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVeterans group to hand out USS John McCain T-shirts for July 4 on the National Mall Will we ever have another veteran as president? Meghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' MORE (R-Ariz.) is at home battling brain cancer, later told Miller that continuing on the same path as the last 17 years "is not going to be acceptable." 


US PULLS OUT OF UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: Trump administration officials on Tuesday said the U.S. has pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying that the international body is "not worthy of its name."

U.N. Ambassador Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions Nikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' Trump UN nominee: Climate change poses 'real risks' MORE announced the withdrawal alongside Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need Congress to approve Iran strikes in interview with The Hill | New sanctions hit Iran's supreme leader | Schumer seeks to delay defense bill amid Iran tensions | Esper's first day as acting Pentagon chief Pompeo meets with Saudi crown prince amid tensions with Iran Poll: 24 percent of voters want military action against Iran MORE, following multiple news reports that the move was imminent.

Haley blasted the council as a "protector of human rights abusers and cesspool of political bias" and accused the body of "politicizing and scapegoating countries with positive human rights records."

At issue: The withdrawal, which comes as the 47-member body begins a three-week session in Geneva, had been expected as a result of the Trump administration's frequent criticism of the group's treatment of Israel.

Haley repeatedly voted against U.N. measures that were critical of Israel, and she has rebuked the council for what she called a "chronic anti-Israel bias."

"We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights," she said, adding that the U.S. would be "happy" to rejoin the council if it is reformed.


B-1 BOMBER FLIGHTS TO RESUME AFTER ISSUES WITH EJECTIONS: The Air Force will restart B-1B Lancer bomber flights this week after an issue with its ejection system caused a two-week grounding of the fleet.

"We have high confidence that the fleet's egress systems are capable and the fleet is ready to return to normal flight operations," Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, head of the bomber force, said in a statement.

Air Force Global Strike Command grounded the B-1Bs on June 7 as part of a "directed safety stand-down," after a safety investigation board found issues with the aircraft's ejection seat components.

What caused the investigation: The investigation came about after a B-1 made an emergency landing May 1 in Midland, Texas.

"The stand-down allowed the command time to thoroughly evaluate the egress components and determine potential risks before returning to flight," the Air Force noted in the statement.

The Air Force said the safety investigation is still ongoing, but did not provide additional details.



Defense officials will speak at the 2018 Defense Communities National Summit starting at 7 a.m. at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C.  

Reps. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyAddressing climate change is a win for Republicans — why not embrace it? Pricing carbon: A solution whose time has finally come Activists push for tougher sanctions on Nicaragua's government MORE (R-Fla.), and Bill KeatingWilliam (Bill) Richard KeatingBottom Line Foreign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' Seniors are big winners in House elections MORE (D-Mass.) will speak on "Russia the 21st Century Disrupter in Europe," at 9 a.m. at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the policy response to Russian interference in the 2016 U. S. elections at 10 a.m. at the Hart Senate Office Building, room 216. 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy toward Afghanistan with Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary, at 10 a.m. at Rayburn house Office Building, room 2172. 

The Hudson Institute will hold a discussion on driving NATO's military transformation agenda forward with Adm. Manfred Nielson, NATO's deputy supreme allied commander of transformation, at 12 noon in Washington, D.C. 

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Trump-Kim summit, outcomes and oversight at 2 p.m. in Rayburn 2172. 

A House Armed Services subpanel will hear from defense officials on "Military Health System Reform: Pain Management, Opioids Prescription Management and Reporting Transparency" at 3:30 p.m. in Rayburn 2212. 



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