Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Trump canceled parade before cost briefing | Erik Prince renews push for contractors to run Afghan war | More officials join outcry over security clearances

Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Trump canceled parade before cost briefing | Erik Prince renews push for contractors to run Afghan war | More officials join outcry over security clearances
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THE TOPLINE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE canceled his desired military parade before Pentagon officials briefed him on cost estimates for the event, a Defense Department spokesman said Monday.

"The president was not briefed by any member of the Department of Defense on any cost associated with the parade," Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.

Contradictions?: The statement seems to go against Trump's own tweet from Friday morning, in which he claimed he axed the event after receiving a high cost estimate. The parade's purported $92 million price tag leaked to the media on Thursday.

"The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it," he wrote on Twitter.

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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE disputed the cost estimate, telling reporters traveling with him Thursday in South America that whoever gave out that number is "an idiot."

Manning said at that time that he had not been briefed on figures.

What is the actual price tag? Manning could not confirm the $92 million amount, as "the planning had not reached that level."

"Any figure that was cited was predecisional. The planning committee for the parade had not reached a point where they have briefed senior leadership in the department. It was moving forward, it had just not matured to that point," Manning said.

And DC council pushes back: The Washington, D.C. city council on Monday slammed White House budget director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyProtect the Military Lending Act On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Warren suggests Mulvaney broke law by speaking to GOP donors MORE for suggesting that the heavily Democratic city inflated the costs of Trump's military parade to prevent it from happening.

"Opposition to a $92 million tax-funded parade is nonpartisan," The DC Council's official Twitter account wrote. "We'd have opposed a $92 million parade led by the Obamas & Chuck Brown, with statehood floats made of hemp"

The statement came just a day after Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday" that he thinks D.C.'s city council "is not trying to help the president accomplish what he wants to accomplish."

 

ERIK PRINCE RENEWS PUSH FOR CONTRACTORS TO PRIVATIZE AFGHAN WAR: Blackwater founder Erik Prince is hopeful new leadership in Trump's national security team will give his plan to replace most U.S. troops in Afghanistan with private contractors a shot at becoming reality.

In an interview with The Hill, Prince pointed to national security adviser John Bolton's comments Sunday about being "open to new ideas" as a sign Bolton's thinking may differ from his predecessor, now-retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

"Look, Gen. McMaster was a three-star serving Army officer who really wanted to be a four-star Army officer, and so the idea of him embracing anything unconventional is absolutely impossible," Prince said Monday during the phone interview.

"That being said, with John Bolton there now, I don't know that he's vested in a very conventional Pentagon approach. Maybe he's willing -- supposedly yesterday on the midday news shows he said he was open to exploring options for a solution in Afghanistan."

But Prince hasn't spoken to Trump: Prince said he has not spoken to Trump about his plan recently but that he knows "it's on his mind."

"Before we go headlong into another year of the same failed strategy, I think it's important that the president know that there are different options," Prince added.

The Hill has reached out to the National Security Council for comment.

What happened the last time Prince pushed this: A year ago Tuesday, Trump announced his strategy for the war in Afghanistan, now in its 17th year. He took away a timeline for withdrawal, added thousands more troops and loosened some rules of engagement.

At the time, Prince, now the head of Frontier Resource Group, tried to sell Trump on a plan to replace conventional U.S. forces with private contractors. His plan included sending 5,500 private military contractors to embed with Afghan forces at the battalion level - supported by a 90-plane private air force.

The plan was championed by former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, but was opposed by McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis, key leaders in Congress and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

 

OUTCRY OVER SECURITY CLEARANCES: Dozens of former national security officials have joined the chorus condemning Trump's decision to revoke former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanNew book: Putin tried to reinforce Trump’s belief in a ‘deep state’ undermining him Retired admiral resigned from Pentagon advisory committee after writing open letter to Trump Rand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump MORE's security clearance.

More than 150 former officials signed a brief statement Monday concurring with other recent statements opposing the "actual or threatened removal of security clearances from former government officials."

"All of us believe it is critical to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure," the statement reads. "But we believe equally strongly that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so."

The Monday statement follows a criticism from a dozen former officials, including past CIA directors, who called Trump's move "inappropriate and deeply regrettable" in their own statement.

What Trump did: Trump announced last week that he was revoking Brennan's clearance, saying through press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that the former CIA chief's "lying" and "increasingly frenzied commentary" meant his security clearance was a threat to national security.

The president is reviewing security clearances for a number of other former officials who have been critical of his administration, including former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyRosenstein report gives GOP new ammo against DOJ Gowdy: Declassified documents unlikely to change anyone's mind on Russia investigation Pompeo on Rosenstein bombshell: Maybe you just ought to find something else to do if you can't be on the team MORE and former Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline Yates NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation New Yorker disinvites Bannon from festival following backlash MORE. Former officials typically keep their clearances in order to provide counsel to their successors.

Dem lawmakers also push back: Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerKey House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms Russia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is trying to rein in Trump's ability to revoke the security clearances of the administration's political critics.

Warner said on Monday that he filed the proposal as an amendment to the mammoth Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor and Education funding bill that's being debated by the Senate.

"President Trump's actions over the last week are beyond outrageous," Warner said in a statement. "His tactics are reminiscent of another president who abused his office to settle scores and punish critics."

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) also lashed out at Trump's decision, arguing the move was driven by "spite and malice" and meant to silence a critic.  

 

US SERVICEMAN KILLED IN IRAQ: A U.S. serviceman was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday night in Iraq, the Pentagon confirmed Monday.

The helicopter crashed around 10 p.m. following a raid against an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) target, though there are no indications that it was brought down by enemy fire, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters.

Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the military campaign against ISIS, said in a statement that three other troops were evacuated for medical treatment. It is not known if they are also American.

"All personnel were recovered by Coalition forces immediately following the incident," according to a statement from OIR.

Manning declined to comment further on the crash pending next-of-kin notification.

Spokesman says US will remain there as long as needed: A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS said Sunday that American military forces will remain in Iraq to help stabilize the region, Reuters reported

"We'll keep troops there as long as we think they're needed ... The main reason, after ISIS is defeated militarily, is the stabilization efforts and we still need to be there for that, so that's one of the reasons we'll maintain a presence," Col. Sean Ryan reportedly said in Abu Dhabi.

ISIS has been driven out of the country following years of conflict, but about 5,200 U.S. troops are still stationed in Iraq, Ryan said. He added that a drawdown of those troops is possible once NATO forces arrive to help train the Iraqis.

  

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Alan Shaffer to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment; Veronica Daigle to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for readiness and force management; Casey Wardynski to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs; and Alex Beehler, to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for energy, installations, and environment, at 9:30 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. 

United Kingdom Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt will give a speak and hold a Q&A on foreign policy at 10 a.m., webcast from the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

The full Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on U.S.- Russia relations at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 419. 

 

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