Overnight Defense: Senate rebukes Trump with Yemen vote | Mattis, Pompeo briefing fails to quell Senate concerns with Saudis | Graham demands CIA briefing on Khashoggi | Pentagon identifies three troops killed in Afghanistan

Overnight Defense: Senate rebukes Trump with Yemen vote | Mattis, Pompeo briefing fails to quell Senate concerns with Saudis | Graham demands CIA briefing on Khashoggi | Pentagon identifies three troops killed in Afghanistan
© Getty Images

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 Senate sent a clear signal Wednesday to President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE that it is unhappy with his Saudi Arabia policy.

In a 63-37 vote, the Senate advanced a resolution that would end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen's civil war.

The resolution was sponsored by Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHere's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris wants Barr to testify on Mueller report as 2020 Dems call for its release MORE (I-Vt.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over New Zealand coverage GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Utah) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySanders: 'We must follow New Zealand's lead' and ban assault weapons The fear of colorectal cancer as a springboard for change Dems shift strategy for securing gun violence research funds MORE (D-Conn.).

In addition to Lee, 13 Republicans broke rank to advance the bill: Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Trump signs executive order on campus free speech MORE (Tenn.), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidySenators ask CBO to review options for preventing surprise medical bills Five things to watch for in Trump's 2020 budget Overnight Health Care - Presented by Kidney Care Partners - FDA chief Scott Gottlieb resigns | House Dems to take up drug pricing bills next week | Planned Parenthood, doctors group sue over Trump abortion rule MORE (La.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (Tenn.), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesHillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records JOBS for Success Act would recognize that all people have potential Republicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump MORE (Mont.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report Graham expects 'thorough' briefing on Mueller report MORE (S.C.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  MORE (Kansas), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Alaska), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records Transparency advocate says government agencies face 'use it or lose it' spending Republicans need solutions on environment too MORE (Ky.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTrump faces political risks in fight over GM plant GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Ohio), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (Pa.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi-led war in Yemen GOP senators introduce bill to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (Ind.).

No Democrats voted against advancing the bill.

What now: The vote Wednesday was to discharge the bill from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That means it's now available for action on the Senate floor. But it's unclear how that action will unfold.

The Senate is expected to delay any additional votes related to the resolution until next week as the chamber works through a slate of previously scheduled nomination votes. And senators are privately discussing amending the resolution on the Senate floor, which would set up the sort of unpredictable outcome GOP leadership likes to avoid.

White House fails: The vote came after a full-court press from the Trump administration to stop momentum for the resolution.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference MORE and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief under investigation over Boeing ties | Trump uses visual aids to tout progress against ISIS | Pentagon, Amnesty International spar over civilian drone deaths Pentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing Overnight Defense: Judge says Trump can't implement transgender policy | Trump floats admitting Brazil to NATO | Mattis returning to Stanford MORE came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning to try to persuade senators against voting for the resolution. The Pentagon and State Department released their closed-door opening statements ahead of the briefing. Pompeo spoke to reporters after the briefing. And the White House issued a statement of administration policy less than an hour before the vote threatening to veto the resolution.

They argued that the resolution would undercut efforts to improve Saudi targeting in Yemen and kick-start peace talks.

And few people in the administration carry as much bipartisan respect than Mattis.

But none of that was enough. Senators said they found the arguments unconvincing. They were also upset that CIA Director Gina Haspel did not attend to answer questions about the intelligence assessment on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Where's Haspel?: Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said that Mattis and Pompeo told senators it was a White House decision not to send Haspel to the briefing.

"We asked why Gina Haspel wasn't there, and the two who were there said that was the decision of the White House," Durbin said.

But the CIA says that's not so.

"While Director Haspel did not attend today's Yemen policy briefing, the agency has already briefed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and congressional leadership on the totality of the compartmented, classified intelligence and will continue to provide updates on this important matter to policymakers and Congress," CIA Press Secretary Timothy Barrett said in a statement later Wednesday. "The notion that anyone told Director Haspel not to attend today's briefing is false."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was particularly unhappy at Haspel's absence, threatening to withhold his vote on "key" items until someone from the CIA briefs the full Senate, including a must-pass spending bill and judicial nominations.

Was it MBS?: The main things senators wanted to hear from Haspel was whether the CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman order Khashoggi's killing, as has been reported.

Pompeo told reporters that U.S. intelligence has no "direct reporting" showing that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing.

"I do believe I have read every piece of intelligence, unless it's come in in the last few hours," Pompeo said. "There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to kill Khashoggi. And that's all I can say in an unclassified setting."

Mattis later added that there is no "smoking gun" showing the crown prince was involved.

Outside groups cheer vote: Groups that have been desperate for the U.S. to end its military support in Yemen cheered Wednesday's vote as historic.

"Today's victory is a testament to the power of grassroots activism across the country to bring about change," Diane Randall, the Friends Committee on National Legislation's executive secretary, said in a statement. "This vote sets a historic precedent for future action Congress can take to reclaim its constitutional authority over war and end American involvement in wars around the world."

"This result sends a strong message today: the US public does not want to be complicit in Yemen's humanitarian crisis any longer," Scott Paul, Oxfam's humanitarian policy lead, said in a statement. "The Trump administration has made it clear they will placate an ally and business partner that is causing wanton suffering rather than save millions of Yemenis from violence, starvation, and preventable disease. Oxfam is calling on Congress to back up their words with a significant change in policy to cancel President Trump's blank check to Saudi Arabia."

"Even though this is a procedural vote, and the fight's not over, make no mistake: this is historic," Elizabeth Beavers, associate policy director at Indivisible, said in statement. "This is the first time that Congress has successfully moved forward to end this cruel war."

 

CASUALTIES IDENTIFIED: The Pentagon has identified the two U.S. soldiers and one airman killed Tuesday by an improvised explosive device (IED) in eastern Afghanistan while supporting the U.S.-led combat mission there, Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

Army Capt. Andrew Ross, 29, of Lexington, Va., Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Wash., and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pa., were killed Nov. 27 when their vehicle was struck by an IED in Andar, Ghazni Province, according to a Defense Department statement.

Ross and Emond had been assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), based in Fort Bragg, N.C., while Elchin was assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Trump's frustrations: President Trump in recent weeks has made clear his frustration with the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, with officials speculating he will seek to remove troops from the Middle East ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Trump floated such an idea on Tuesday in an interview with The Washington Post. He said he was only keeping a military presence in Afghanistan because "experts" told him that U.S. forces were still needed there, and he cited the lower price of oil as a reason to withdraw.

"Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? One reason to is Israel," Trump said. "Oil is becoming less and less of a reason because we're producing more oil now than we've ever produced. So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you don't have to stay there."

Rush for talks: With Trump again mulling a troop withdrawal, a report came Wedneday that his special envoy for Afghanistan is rushing to set up peace talks.

NBC News reported that U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is moving rapidly to reach out to as many top Taliban figures as possible in an attempt to start peace talks before the president orders a troop pullout without an end to the conflict.

Two foreign diplomats and three former U.S. officials told NBC News that Khalilzad has moved beyond the official Taliban office in Qatar to meet other members of the militant group, including meetings in the United Arab Emirates.

One Western diplomat described Khalilzad's method as "testing all channels."

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a daylong "China's Power: Up for Debate" conference starting at 8:15 a.m. Scheduled speakers include Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Overnight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars Why is my party prioritizing an extreme environmental agenda? MORE (D-Mass.) and Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. https://bit.ly/2rbEEnf

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs and principal deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration at 9:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. https://bit.ly/2B2qISp

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on U.S. policy in Syria with testimony from the State Department's special representative for Syria engagement at 2 p.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. https://bit.ly/2TUJ2nO

 

ICMYI:

-- The Hill: Investigators: More than 400 service members tricked out of $560,000 in 'sextortion ring'

-- The Hill: Retired Gen. McChrystal: Trump's attacks on military service members are 'disturbing'

-- The Hill: DOJ: Two Iranian hackers charged in SamSam ransomware attacks

-- The Hill: Panel to vote on renaming street outside Saudi Embassy in DC after Khashoggi

-- The Hill: Russia moving missiles to Crimea amid Ukraine tensions

-- The Hill: Opinion: US, allies must check Putin's latest move against Ukraine