Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump's Armistice Day trip marked by controversy | US ends aerial refueling to Saudi coalition in Yemen | Analysts identify undeclared North Korean missile bases

Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump's Armistice Day trip marked by controversy | US ends aerial refueling to Saudi coalition in Yemen | Analysts identify undeclared North Korean missile bases
© WhiteHouse.gov

Happy Monday 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: It's been a relatively quiet Veterans Day in Washington after President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE's tumultuous weekend trip to Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the World War I.

Trump ignited a firestorm Saturday when he decided not to go to an American cemetery in France as originally scheduled.

The White House blamed rain preventing Marine One from taking him to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and later added that Trump thought taking a motorcade to the cemetery in northern France would be disruptive.

The decision to skip the cemetery visit was blasted by people ranging from former Obama administration officials to Winston Churchill's grandson.

Other tensions: Aside from that dustup, the trip also laid bare tensions between Trump and U.S. allies.

Almost immediately after landing in Paris on Friday evening, Trump tweeted a criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron responding to comments Macron made a day earlier.

On Sunday, Trump arrived at the Armistice Day ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe separately from other world leaders who attended the event. The White House said Trump took a bus from the Élysée Palace instead of walking down the Champs-Élysées with the other leaders "due to security protocols."

Then, during the ceremony, Macron took what appeared to be a thinly veiled shot at Trump, saying that "patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism."

"Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism," Macron said. "By saying our interests first ... we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what gives it grace, and what is essential: its moral values."

What Trump did visit: Trump skipped the Saturday cemetery visit, but he did make his scheduled visit Sunday to the Suresnes American Cemetery outside of Paris.

There, he paid tribute to American and French service members who died in World War I.

"The American and French patriots of World War I embody the timeless virtues of our two republics. Honor and courage. Strength and valor. Love and loyalty, grace and glory," Trump said.

"It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago," he added.

Who Trump spoke to: The other closely watched aspect of the Paris trip was how much interaction Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was also in Paris for the Armistice Day commemorations.

Leading up to the trip, Trump and the Kremlin had been contradicting each other on whether he and Putin would talk. Trump said nothing was scheduled, while the Kremlin said the two would speak briefly during a lunch Sunday.

In a statement, the White House said Trump discussed "key issues" with Putin, Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the lunch with world leaders in Paris.

"The leaders discussed a variety of issues, including the INF (nuclear treaty), Syria, trade, the situation in Saudi Arabia, sanctions, Afghanistan, China, and North Korea," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. "They had very good and productive discussions during the two-hour lunch."

Sanders's statement contradicts claims from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who told Russian news agency Interfax that Trump and Putin did not discuss the nuclear treaty. Trump has said he intends to withdraw from the Cold War-era agreement.

While in Paris, Trump also spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the killing of U.S.-based journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi. The conversation happened after Erdogan said publicly for the first time that Turkey has audio of Khashoggi's dying moments and has shared it with the Americans.



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US ENDS SAUDI REFUELING: The other big foreign policy story of the weekend was the Friday night announcement from Saudi Arabia and the United States that the U.S. military would no longer provide aerial refueling for aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen's civil war.

The Saudis and the Trump administration framed the announcement as the Saudis' decision, saying they now have the ability to do aerial refueling on their own.

"We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the U.S. government, to use the coalition's own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen," Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week James Mattis: Afghanistan papers not 'revelatory' Overnight Defense: Watchdog to audit company's border wall contract | Pentagon to step up vetting of foreign students after Pensacola | Report finds former defense official sexually harassed staffers MORE said in a statement. "The U.S. will also continue working with the coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country."

But the announcement came after mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers over concerns about U.S. complicity in a spiking civilian death toll largely blamed on Saudi airstrikes.

For critics, good, but not enough: Those who have been most vocal about ending U.S. support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen said Friday's announcement was a long overdue, positive step.

But they also said the United States must end all support to the coalition. The military provides other logistics and intelligence to the coalition, and the United States sells the Saudis billions of dollars in weapons.

"By finally ending refueling missions for Saudi bombers, the Trump administration is admitting our joint operation in Yemen has been a disaster," Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal Schumer: Trump 'sold out' on China trade deal MORE (D-Conn.) said in a statement. "So why only cut off refueling support? Why are we still helping the Saudis with targeting? Why are we still selling them the bombs at a discount? Now that it's no longer a secret that the war in Yemen is a national security and humanitarian nightmare, we need to get all the way out. I will join several other colleagues to introduce a resolution in the coming weeks to do just that."

"Ending U.S. refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft is an encouraging step towards ending U.S. involvement in the Yemen civil conflict," Democratic Reps. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons House passes defense bill to establish Space Force, paid family leave for federal workers Pentagon leaders: Trump clemencies won't affect military order and discipline MORE (Wash.), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaReject National Defense Authorization Act, save Yemen instead Sanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE and Mark PocanMark William PocanHouse passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House panel unveils rival fix for surprise medical bills | Democrats punt vote on youth vaping bill | Pelosi drug bill poised for passage after deal with progressives Pelosi reaches deal with progressives to avert showdown over drug price bill MORE (Wis.) said in a joint statement. "The Yemeni people are facing the world's gravest humanitarian crisis. The U.S. should be squarely focused on alleviating this crisis and doing everything we can to encourage an end to the civil conflict that has exacerbated the dire humanitarian situation. Picking sides and supporting the Saudi-coalition is contrary to those goals. In addition to ending refueling efforts, the United States should pause sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia."

The trio added that Congress should pass their bill to end all military support to the coalition in the lame duck session.

More than two-dozen former Obama administration officials said in an open statement Sunday that all support must end. While the Obama administration started support for the coalition, the former officials said that "unfortunately, our approach did not succeed in limiting and ultimately ending the war" and that Trump made the situation worse by "removing restrictions we had put in place."

"The war in Yemen is a full-blown crisis," they wrote. "We unsuccessfully tried conditional support to the coalition. This administration has demonstrated the folly of unconditional support. Now, we must cease support altogether."


ONE WAY TO MARK VETERANS DAY?: A Republican lawmaker who was defeated in last week's midterm elections wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal blaming the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE (R-Ariz.) for the GOP losing its majority in the House.

Rep. Jason LewisJason Mark LewisTwo swing-district Democrats raise impeachment calls after whistleblower reports GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (R-Minn.) said McCain is to blame because of his vote against the Republican effort to repeal ObamaCare.

The op-ed was published Sunday, Nov. 11, the traditional day of Veterans Day (it was observed Monday this year because the date fell on Sunday).

McCain was captured during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for five years, during which he was also tortured. He died in August after being diagnosed with brain cancer a little more than a year earlier.


HIDDEN MISSILES: A Washington-based think tank said Monday it has identified 13 of an estimated 20 undeclared missile operating bases in North Korea.

The bases, which researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Beyond Parallel identified using commercial satellite imagery, are scattered throughout North Korea and can be used for all classes of missiles, the report said.

The first of the 13 bases Beyond Parallel released information on was Sakkanmol, a base for short-range ballistic missiles and one of the closest to the border between North and South Korea.

"North Korea's decommissioning of the Sohae satellite launch facility, while gaining much media attention, obscures the military threat to U.S. forces and South Korea from this and other undeclared ballistic missile bases," the report said.

Surprising?: Despite Trump's declarations that North Korea is "no longer a nuclear threat," North Korean leader Kim Jong Un never agreed to stop producing missiles.

Indeed, in his 2018 New Year's address, he promised the exact opposite.

"The nuclear weapons research sector and the rocket industry should mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles," Kim said.

It's a statement some alluded to in their analysis Monday.

"It is NOT deception," tweeted MIT professor and nuclear proliferation expert Vipin Narang, reacting to the New York Times headline about the report. "Kim literally ordered ballistic missiles to be mass produced on New Year's day 2018. He never offered to stop producing them, let alone give them up. Ever. He is doing exactly what he said he was going to do."

Why it still matters: One of the sticking points in negotiations has been that the United States wants North Korea to provide a full accounting of its nuclear and missile program, including declaring all sites such as the ones identified in the report.

The findings underscore the difficulty the United States faces in negotiating with North Korea as the bases would "presumably have to be subject to declaration, verification and dismantlement in any final and fully verifiable denuclearization deal," the report said.

Latest trouble: The report is just the latest example of difficulties the Trump administration has been having with North Korea.

Over the weekend, The Hill's Ellen Mitchell took a look at some of the other recent setbacks, including Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump greeted with cheers at 120th Army-Navy game Judge orders State Dept. to search for and provide more Ukraine docs Pompeo launches personal Twitter account amid speculation over Senate run MORE's canceled meeting and Pyongyang's threat to restart nuclear development if the United States doesn't lift sanctions.

Catch up on that story here.



Michael Griffin, under secretary of Defense for research and engineering, will speak about "Reenergizing the Missile Defense Enterprise" at 9:30 a.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. https://bit.ly/2z8o24c

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies will host "The Battlefield of Today and Tomorrow: Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare" conference starting at 10 a.m. Speakers will include B. Edwin Wilson, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for cyber policy. Livestream at: https://bit.ly/2qKlWmE

Former director of national intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperTrump predicts 'historic' conclusions from DOJ's watchdog report on 'spying' The curious timeline for taking down Trump Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward MORE will speak at 3 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. https://bit.ly/2RRcJEy



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