Overnight Defense: Saudi crown prince calls Khashoggi killing 'heinous crime' in first public remarks | Dems demand briefing on Trump leaving arms control treaty | Lawmakers want probe into Pentagon cloud computing contract

Overnight Defense: Saudi crown prince calls Khashoggi killing 'heinous crime' in first public remarks | Dems demand briefing on Trump leaving arms control treaty | Lawmakers want probe into Pentagon cloud computing contract
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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. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave his first public remarks Wednesday on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi -- attempting to distance himself from an act many are skeptical he did know about.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative business conference, Prince Mohammed called Khashoggi's killing a "heinous crime" and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"The crime was really painful to all Saudis, and I believe it is painful to every human in the world," Prince Mohammed said at an investment conference. "It is a heinous crime that cannot be justified. Today, Saudi Arabia is carrying out all legal things to finalize the investigation to work with the, cooperate with the Turkish government and to present the perpetrators to the court and take their judgment."

Timing: Recall that a day before, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE dialed up his rhetoric against the kingdom and his administration announced its first punitive steps against the Saudis.

On Tuesday, Trump called the Saudi response the Khashoggi's killing the "worst cover-up ever." He also for the first time suggested Prince Mohammed could be involved in the mission to kill Khashoggi.

"He's running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him," Trump told the Wall Street Journal.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTop North Korean official to meet with Trump this week: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi asks Trump to postpone State of the Union | US troops killed in Syria blast | Day 2 of Barr confirmation US calls China's death sentence for Canadian man 'politically motivated' MORE also announced Tuesday that visas will be revoked for those the United States has identified as suspects in the killing and said sanctions are also being considered.

Saudi-Turkish relationship: People in Washington have been questioning how the crisis will affect the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Prince Mohammed didn't address that. But he did vow the issue won't break the Saudi-Turkish relationship.

"We know that many are trying to use this painful thing to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey," he said. "I want to send them a message. They will not be able to do that as long as there is a king called King Salman bin Abdulaziz and a crown prince called Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and a president in Turkey called Erdogan."

Prince Mohammed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly spoke by phone Wednesday, a day after Erdogan called the killing a "savage" premeditated murder directed by top Saudi officials.

A laughing matter?: Prince Mohammed made his comments Wednesday on a panel alongside the prime minister of Lebanon and the crown prince of Bahrain.

As the panel wrapped up, Prince Mohammed decided to make a joke about allegations he kidnapped Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri last year.

"I just want to conclude with one thing: Prime Minister Saad is going to be here for two days, so please, no ideas that he is kidnapped," Prince Mohammed said at the end of the panel.

After the line, Hariri and Prince Mohammed laughed and shook hands.

In November 2017, Hariri was reportedly forcibly detained in Saudi Arabia as part of Prince Mohammed's efforts to pressure Lebanon on its relationship with Iran and Hezbollah.

While in Saudi Arabia, Hariri tendered his resignation as prime minister via a televised message. Weeks later, he returned to Lebanon and withdrew his resignation.

Critics say the bizarre episode with Hariri was early evidence of Prince Mohammed's strong-arm tactics that are even more apparent after Khashoggi's killing.

 

DEMS DEMAND ARMS TREATY BRIEFING: The top Democrats on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committee penned Wednesday a furious, four-page letter to Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFox's Griffin: Was told by diplomat that Syria attack was 'direct result' of US pullout decision GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding they personally brief lawmakers on Trump's decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

"We write to express our grave concern that the Trump administration is notifying Russia that the United States intends to unilaterally withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, without any notice to or consultation with Congress, even as our committees had requested a briefing on these issues," wrote Reps. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithDems seek House panel's support to block military funds for Trump border wall 2019 should be Trump’s free trade year Congress poised to push back at Trump on Saudi Arabia, Syria MORE (D-Wash.) and Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Trump rejects Graham call to end shutdown | Coast Guard on track to miss Tuesday paychecks | Dems eye Trump, Russia probes | Trump talks with Erdogan after making threat to Turkey's economy Dems zero in on Trump and Russia Top Dem: Congress may have 'no choice' but to subpoena Trump interpreter MORE (D-N.Y.), the ranking members of Armed Services and Foreign Affairs, respectively.

"If this action is taken, it would risk an arms race, would jeopardize the security of our allies in Europe and Asia, and would significantly undermine U.S. leadership on arms control," they added.

The letter was co-signed by Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksConservative leader Meadows condemns King comments 'in strongest sense' Corporate diversity is just another misguided policy from Democrats Democrats must stand up for Israel MORE (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats.

Concerns: The lawmakers ticked off a slew of concerns with Trump's decision to withdraw from the treaty that bans ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with intermediate ranges.

For one, they said, it "discards the results of the administration's own extensive review" on how to respond to Russia's treaty violations.

They also said it plays into Putin's hands, drives a wedge between NATO allies and is unsupported by any Pentagon determination on the need to test or deploy INF-banned missiles.

Questions: Lawmakers won't get back in town for any potential briefing until the week of Nov. 13.

In the meantime, the Democratic trio had a list of questions they want Pompeo and Mattis to answer in writing by Nov. 2.

They asked for an assessment of the military threat to the United States and its European allies of deploying intermediate-range missiles without restriction, the status of the administration's December 2017 announcement on using an integrated approach to push Russia back into compliance and the status of consultations with allies.

The lawmakers also raised concerns about the status of a separate treaty with Russia known as New START, which caps the number of nuclear warheads each country is allowed to deploy. The treaty is up for renewal in 2021.

 

JEDI QUESTIONS: Two Republican lawmakers are asking the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate the bidding process for a multibillion-dollar Defense Department cloud computing contract, which critics claim is biased toward Amazon.

Reps. Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackPelosi to make history with second Speakership GOP rep says Dems want to hand Trump a government shutdown House budget chairman says government shutdown remains up in the air MORE (R-Ark.) and Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeBottom Line Dems hit GOP on health care with additional ObamaCare lawsuit vote Overnight Health Care: House files motion to defend ObamaCare in lawsuit | Trump Medicaid director leaving after three months MORE (R-Okla.) in a letter dated Monday expressed their concerns about the process behind the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract, which they fear might be "tailored to one specific contractor."

They noted that currently the JEDI contract specifies that the vendor who wins it must meet Impact Level 6 requirements to host secret and top-secret data. The lawmakers called the requirement "unnecessary" and noted it can "only be met by one contractor."

They didn't specify the contractor, but the only company bidding that meets the requirements is Amazon Web Services.

The duo also expressed concerns about whether the contract bidding requirements violated Pentagon ethics rules.

Background: The letter is the latest flashpoint over the lucrative $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing contract. Since the start of the bidding process, critics, including many bidding competitors to Amazon, have alleged that the process is biased towards the Seattle-based company.

They say that Amazon lobbyists' connections to the Defense Department helped craft a contract tailor-made for the company and that other competitors, including Microsoft and IBM, have no realistic shot of winning.

Amazon did not immediately respond for a request to comment on the letter, but in the past the company has dismissed accusations that it has any sort of inside track in the contracting process.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Brookings Institution will host an expert panel to discuss "U.S. policy and the war in Yemen" at 10 a.m. https://brook.gs/2SejKAl

The Atlantic Council will host a panel including Norwegian Ministry of Defense policy director Svein Efjestad to discuss "Security in Northern Europe: Deterrence, Defense and Dialogue" at 3:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/2EjTEsU

Defense Secretary James Mattis will participate in a White House commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the suicide bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut at 6 p.m. https://bit.ly/2PSK8yd

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Pentagon expands bug bounty program with contracts to three private security firms

-- The Hill: Majority says Trump is too soft on Saudi Arabia: poll

-- The Hill: Iran: Saudi Arabia 'wouldn't dare' kill Khashoggi without US protection

-- The Hill: Kremlin: Trump's intention to develop new missile 'extremely dangerous'

-- The Hill: NATO: More nukes in Europe not likely in response to Russian treaty breach

-- The Hill: Opinion: Russia's threats go beyond elections

-- The Hill: Opinion: America's allies: The fourth strategic offset

-- The Washington Post: U.S. military scales back contacts with Afghans after 'insider' shootings

-- Associated Press: Retired US general says war with China likely in 15 years