Overnight Defense: Uproar over report Army discharging some immigrants | Latest on Pompeo in Pyongyang | Trump hits NATO ahead of summit

Overnight Defense: Uproar over report Army discharging some immigrants | Latest on Pompeo in Pyongyang | Trump hits NATO ahead of summit
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THE TOPLINE: News that the U.S. Army has begun quietly discharging some immigrant members, despite a promise of citizenship, is causing an uproar.

The Associated Press reported that more than 40 immigrant recruits and reservists had been discharged from their service, with some unaware as to why they were discharged and some told they were labeled a "security risk" because of relatives abroad or incomplete background checks.

Spokespeople for the Pentagon and the Army told the news outlet that they could not comment on the discharges or say if there have been any policy changes due to pending litigation.

The Defense Department told the AP in a statement that "[a]ll service members (i.e. contracted recruits, active duty, Guard and Reserve) and those with an honorable discharge are protected from deportation."

A growing trend: It appears that the Pentagon under Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Biden under pressure to remove Trump transgender military ban quickly Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties MORE is making it harder for members of the military, or those who would serve, to become American citizens.

The number of service members seeking and gaining U.S. citizenship through the military has dropped 65 percent since October, when Mattis directed additional background checks for non-citizen troops, Military Times reported in May.

Potential, non-citizen recruits now face additional background checks before they can enter the military, and upon enlistment, any non-citizen service members must serve at least 180 days minimum and potentially undergo more screenings before they can seek citizenship.

Even completing the additional requirements has become more difficult, with the government in January closing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices at three basic combat training sites: Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Jackson, S.C. The offices help recruits to more quickly gain citizenship immediately after they complete basic training.

Military members in jeopardy: Immigrant military members can obtain citizenship if they receive an honorable discharge. But the AP reported that basic training has been delayed for discharged immigrant soldiers, which means they can't become naturalized citizens.


POMPEO IN PYONGYANG: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSchumer meets with Biden national security picks To promote human rights and democracy, Biden should start with China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms MORE is in Pyongyang until Saturday trying to nail down details that will make the aspirational statement signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a reality.

The statement out of last month's Singapore summit committed North Korea to the "complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," but included no details on how to achieve that such as a timeline or verification process.

After the first round of meetings on this trip, Pompeo tweeted that he's "proud of my team's work," but did not divulge any details on progress.

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time: Pompeo reportedly had a gift in tow for Kim: a CD containing the Elton John song "Rocket Man."

Recall that Rocket Man was Trump's preferred nickname for Kim for months. But Kim apparently never heard the song, a fact that came up during the Singapore summit, according to South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo.

So, according to the paper, Trump had Pompeo bring a copy of the song. Trump also signed the CD, according to the report.

Reporters traveling with Pompeo said he laughed when he was asked to confirm the report.

Pressure's on: Pompeo has been under pressure to hash out the details of a denuclearization agreement since the Singapore summit.

But reports in recent weeks that cast doubt on Pyongyang's sincerity in the talks have upped the pressure considerably.

Among those reports were ones that said North Korea was continuing to improve infrastructure at a nuclear site, is increasing production of fuel for nuclear weapons, is planning to hide facilities during talks and is continuing to expand a missile manufacturing facility.

Dems want hearing: In response to those reporters, a trio of Democrats asked the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday to hold a hearing with administration officials before the August recess on North Korea.

"We are extremely concerned by this active, cumulative deception on the part of the North Korean regime and the corollary impact on our bilateral denuclearization talks," the committee members wrote to Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceCalifornia was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Top donor allegedly sold access to key politicians for millions in foreign cash: report Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (R-Calif.).

"As the committee of jurisdiction, we would be responsible for a potential winding down of sanctions on North Korea and for approving any other 'sweeteners' agreed to as part of a comprehensive deal. It is vital to our continued oversight that the committee hear from the administration on these concerning revelations and their assessment of ongoing discussions."

The letter was signed by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyThis week: Congress races to wrap work for the year GSA offers to brief Congress next week on presidential transition Democrats gear up for last oversight showdown with Trump MORE (D-Va.) and Dina TitusAlice (Dina) Costandina TitusCoordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Safe, responsible casino gaming supports state economies at crucial time MORE (D-Nev.).


TRUMP ATTACKS NATO AGAIN AHEAD OF SUMMIT: Trump on Thursday night spent his Make America Great Again rally in Great Falls, Mont., largely criticizing NATO allies.

"We're paying for anywhere from 70 to 90 percent to protect Europe, and that's fine. Of course, they kill us on trade," Trump told the crowd. "We have $151 billion in trade deficits with the EU. And on top of that, they kill us with NATO."

Trump was referring to an agreement made at the NATO summit in Wales in 2014, which stipulated that nations should put 2 percent of their gross domestic product towards defense spending by 2024. Only a handful of countries have reached the pledge so far.

Trump attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of making the U.S. "schmucks."

He said that Germany, "which is the biggest country of the EU," spends 1 percent on defense. The country actually spends 1.2 percent.

"They want to protect against Russia, and yet they pay billions of dollars to Russia, and we are the schmucks that are paying for the whole thing," Trump said.

He also once again threatened to reduce U.S. military support in Europe.

"I said, you know, Angela, I can't guarantee it, but we're protecting you, and it means a lot more to you than protecting us because I don't know how much protection we get by protecting you."

But NATO ambassador had different message: The permanent U.S. representative to NATO, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, earlier Thursday has an entirely different message than Trump.

Hutchison told reporters in a conference call that 16 out of the 29 NATO nations are on track to meet the 2 percent pledge by 2024. And she said all member countries have increased their military budgets, which she called "the biggest increase in defense spending by our allies since the Cold War."

She also said that the administration does not plan to raise the topic of troops based in Germany.

The Pentagon bases about 35,000 troops in Germany. Hutchison said if a withdrawal was being considered, she's "heard nothing different about that."



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