Overnight Defense: Trump takes steps to punish Saudis | Pence won't rule out nuclear weapons in space | Second Trump-Putin summit planned for November

Overnight Defense: Trump takes steps to punish Saudis | Pence won't rule out nuclear weapons in space | Second Trump-Putin summit planned for November
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Happy Tuesday 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. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.


THE TOPLINE: The Trump administration has taken its first step to punish those it suspects are involved in the killing of journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo2 US service members killed in Afghanistan after Pompeo visit The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? State Department need not be at odds with itself on Republic of Cyprus policy MORE announced Tuesday that the United States is revoking visas for Saudis who have been implicated in the killing.

The announcement came minutes after President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again MORE upped his rhetoric, signaling a growing frustration with the Saudis.

Here's the state of play on the international crisis and U.S. response:

Erdogan speaks: Tuesday morning started with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rebutting the Saudi version of events, saying Khashoggi's death at the consulate in Istanbul was a "savage" premeditated murder directed by top Saudi officials.

The Saudis admitted Friday that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, but said it happened in a fight during an effort to return the journalist to Saudi Arabia that was not officially approved.

Erdogan's speech to members of the Turkish parliament largely recapped details that had been leaked by Turkish officials to the press.

But it was the first time the Turkish president himself spoke extensively about the issue, dialing up the pressure on the Saudis to admit what happened and for Trump to respond.

Trump reacts: By Tuesday afternoon, Trump ramped up his rhetoric, calling the kingdom's efforts to hide Khashoggi's killing the "worst cover-up ever."

"They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups," Trump told reporters at the White House. "They had the worst cover-up ever."

Still, Trump continued to oppose efforts to stop arms sales, saying doing so would just be "hurting ourselves."

But he indicated he would let Congress take the lead on the response, to a certain extent.

"In terms of what we ultimately do, I'm going to leave it very much -- in conjunction with me -- I'm going to leave it up to Congress," Trump said, adding he hopes a decision will be bipartisan.

Pompeo announcement: Minutes after Trump wrapped up his comments, Pompeo spoke to reporters at the State Department to announce the visa revocations.

He did not immediately provide more details on the action, including how many visas have been revoked.

But he promised it would not be the last thing the United States does to response, saying his department is working with the Treasury Department on the possibility of global Magnitsky sanctions meant to target those responsible for gross human rights violations. The sanctions determination was requested by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But even as Pompeo announced steps to punish those responsible for Khashoggi's death, he stressed that the U.S.-Saudi alliance remains in place.

"We continue to maintain a strong partnership with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he said. "Neither the president nor I are happy with this situation. Our shared strategic interest with Saudi Arabia will remain. We continue to view as achievable the twin imperatives of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi."

Other headlines on the issue:

-- Saudi crown prince gets standing ovation at global conference

-- G7 foreign ministers condemn Khashoggi killing, call for protecting journalists

-- Saudi king, crown prince meet with Khashoggi's family

-- Pence vows US response to Khashoggi death: Those responsible will be held accountable


NUKES IN SPACE?: The Trump administration's plans for Space Force are moving apace, with the National Space Council sending six recommendations to Trump on Tuesday for steps to stand up the service.

The recommendations mirror what Vice President Pence laid out in his August speech on Space Force at the Pentagon.

What did raise eyebrows, though, was what Pence said -- or rather wouldn't say -- ahead of the space council meeting.

During a Washington Post event Tuesday, Pence said "it's in the interest of every nation" to ban the use of nuclear weapons in space. But he would not definitely say the United States would uphold the current ban.

"I think that what we need to do is make sure that we provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of America, and that's the president's determination here," Pence said.

"I think it's in the interest of every nation to continue to ban the use of nuclear weapons in space, but what we want to do is continue to advance the principle that peace comes through strength."

At issue: Pence was asked about the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forms the basis of international space law.

The multilateral treaty bans countries from placing weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit. It also bans military bases and weapons testing on the moon or other planets.

The treaty has not been called into question previously, but the Trump administration has shown a penchant for ending international agreements. Most recently, the administration confirmed it is withdrawing the United States from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.


TRUMP-PUTIN ROUND TWO: Mark your calendars for Nov. 11.

After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, national security advisor John Bolton said the two presidents plan to meet that day in Paris, where Trump was already planning to be to commemorate Armistice Day.

Bolton said that it was Putin who suggested the meeting.

"I said yes, in fact, that President Trump would look forward to meeting with him in Paris," Bolton, who has been in Moscow for two days of high-level talks, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.

Election meddling: The Nov. 11 date puts the meeting days after the midterm elections.

Bolton told reporters that he raised the issue of Russia's election meddling in the meeting with Putin.

"We discussed our continuing concern with Russian meddling in elections and why it was particularly harmful of Russian-American relations without producing anything for them in return," Bolton said.

He also doubled down on his belief that Russian interference had no impact on outcome of the 2016 election, an assertion he made during an interview with a Russian radio station Monday.

INF double-down: In his press conference alongside Putin, Bolton also reaffirmed Trump's decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty.

Bolton said a formal notice of withdrawal "will be filed in due course." He added that Russian violations of the treaty were a "major factor in our decision to withdraw."

"It is the American position that Russia is in violation. It's the Russian position that they are not in violation," Bolton said. "It's not like this is a new subject."



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