Overnight Defense: Senate sends $717B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support

Overnight Defense: Senate sends $717B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support
© Getty

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


THE TOPLINE: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is headed to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE's desk after the breakneck House-Senate negotiations and overwhelming votes of approval.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved the compromise fiscal 2019 NDAA in an 87-10 vote.

That keeps the bill on track to become law before the start of the fiscal year for the first time since the fiscal 1997 bill.

Some concern: The overwhelming Senate vote came despite some angst over its lack of a provision to block President Trump's deal to save Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.

ZTE had been slapped with penalties that prevented it from buying U.S. technology after admitting violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea.


The provision to block Trump's deal was included in the initial Senate-passed NDAA but was stripped out in House-Senate negotiations.

Instead, the final bill aligns with the initial House-passed version. It would ban the government from contracting with ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese telecommunications company, or companies that do business with those two.

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees have said the Senate provision was stripped because it would have cost $1 billion that would have had to be made up by cutting mandatory spending such as troop's health-care or retirement benefits. That's because ZTE has already paid the government a $1 billion fine as part of the Trump deal.

But senators who sponsored the original ZTE provision fumed Wednesday, saying that taking it out of the bill allows a national security threat to persist.

"The threat posed by China and its telecommunications companies are so severe and so significant that it regrettably brings me to the point that I cannot support a bill I have always supported in my time here," Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCongress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia Rubio: Khashoggi killing was ‘disrespectful to Trump’ O'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot MORE (R-Fla.) said on the Senate floor. "We need to wake up to the threat that China poses to this country, because we are running out of time to do so."

The no votes: Rubio, as he said on the floor, voted against the bill. But Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDem senator: 'Shameful' seeing Trump serve as 'mouthpiece' for Saudi leaders Overnight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist MORE (D-Md.), who also spoke on the floor decrying the exclusion of the ZTE provision, voted in favor of the bill.

The other no votes came largely from the Democratic caucus: Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFarm bill negotiators should take advantage of the moment The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he is cutting foreign aid over caravan | Lawmakers point fingers at Saudi crown prince | DNC chair downplays 'blue wave' talk The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Early ballots pouring in with 15 days to the midterms MORE (D-Ill.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDems lower expectations for 'blue wave' Booker bill would create federally funded savings account for every child Affordable housing set for spotlight of next presidential campaign MORE (D-N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris presses young people to vote early in Iowa trip We need economic progress for more Americans Booker bill would create federally funded savings account for every child MORE (D-Calif.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyElection Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Senate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda MORE (D-Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Graham: Saudi’s findings on slain journalist not 'credible' MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHarris presses young people to vote early in Iowa trip Dems lower expectations for 'blue wave' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren wants probe into whether former U.S. soldiers worked as assassins for UAE 'Broad City' stars urge Clinton not to run again Big Dem donors stick to sidelines as 2020 approaches MORE (D-Mass.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (D-Ore.).

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCongress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia Senators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist MORE (R-Utah) also voted against the bill.

Pentagon reaction: Later Wednesday, the Pentagon expressed gratitude at the speedy passage of the bill.

"I am grateful for the strong commitment of members on both sides of the aisle to pass this year's NDAA in record time," Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon insists Mattis, Trump 'completely aligned' on leaving arms treaty | Trump 'not satisfied' with Saudi explanation on Khashoggi | Kushner says US still 'fact-finding' A solid budget requires tradeoffs Pentagon: Trump, Mattis 'completely aligned' on Russia arms treaty withdrawal MORE said in a statement. "Together, they have demonstrated the deep and abiding bipartisan support our military enjoys. It is now our duty to implement these policies responsibly and ensure a culture of performance and accountability."


TURKEY SANCTIONS: A week after Trump threatened to sanction Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, the Treasury Department has announced penalties against two Turkish government officials.

The department blocked Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu from the U.S. financial system and froze any of their assets subject to U.S jurisdiction. U.S. persons and businesses are also banned from any financial transactions with Gul and Soylu.

Gul and Soylu were targeted for their roles in the detainment of Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor who had been imprisoned by the Turkish government on charges of terrorism and espionage stemming from the failed 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdoğan.

"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable," said Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCongress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia On The Money: Trump to seek new round of tax cuts after midterms | Mnuchin meets with Saudi crown prince | Trump threatens to cut foreign aid over caravan Trump admin to make Iran oil waivers harder to get MORE. "President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately."

Turkey's response: Unsurprisingly, Turkey is not pleased.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry warned it would respond to U.S. sanctions imposed on the two Turkish officials "without delay."

In a statement, the foreign ministry said that it "strongly protests" the sanctions against Gul and Soylu.

It also called the sanctions a "disrespectful intervention in our legal system" that would harm "the constructive efforts toward resolving problems between the two countries."

Reminder: That NDAA that's headed to Trump's desk also targets Turkey.

Specifically, the bill would block the delivery of the F-35 fighter jet to Ankara until the Pentagon completes an assessment of U.S.-Turkish relations.

In addition to Brunson's detention, lawmakers are concerned about Turkey's plan to buy the S-400 air-defense system from Russia and its moves in Syria against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.


KOREAN WAR REMAINS HEADED TO HAWAII: The 55 caskets of remains believed to be Korean War U.S. service members are expected to land in Hawaii tonight, where Vice President Pence will participate in what's called an "honorable carry ceremony."

The remains departed Osan Air Base, South Korea, after a formal repatriation ceremony. The video of that ceremony is up on U.S. Forces Korea's Facebook page.

Initial assessment: An official from the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency told reporters in South Korea that an initial forensic review indicated the remains are in fact from the Korean War and are likely American.

"There is no reason to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses," John Byrd, director of analysis at the agency, said, according to Reuters.

The initial "field forensic review" indicates that the "remains are what North Korea said they were," Byrd added.


SENATORS REASSURE ALLIES ON NATO SUPPORT: A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday met with diplomats from NATO countries to reassure them of the Senate's support for the alliance, The Associated Press reported.

The private meeting, which also included diplomats from European countries not in NATO, follows President Trump's criticism of the alliance at a summit in Brussels earlier this month, which rattled longtime allies and startled lawmakers.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) helped initiate the meeting and told the AP lawmakers wanted to "reassure these countries of our commitment to NATO and our commitment to their security."

Roughly 20 senators as well as ambassadors and representatives from about nine countries -- including from Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, Norway, Finland and new NATO member Montenegro -- participated in the session.

Durbin said Trump's name "never came up" in the hour-long meeting but it hung over the gathering.



-- The Hill: Iran preparing major military exercise in Persian Gulf: report

-- The Hill: GOP senator: 'Is anybody even paying attention anymore' to Trump's tweets?

-- The Hill: Opinion: North Korea's continued weapons activities show why we need to keep talking

-- Associated Press: IS fighters surrender to Afghan forces after Taliban assault

-- Reuters: No plans to engage with Iran at ASEAN meeting: U.S. official

-- The New York Times: Ordinary Iranians on Trump Talks Offer: 'Why Not Try the Americans?'