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
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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.

THE TOPLINE: The Senate sent a clear signal Wednesday to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity 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) SandersIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination 2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend Bill Maher defends Bernie Sanders campaign over sexual harassment allegations MORE (I-Vt.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news AG pick Barr wants closer scrutiny of Silicon Valley 'behemoths' Grassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back MORE (R-Utah) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDems demand answers following explosive new Cohen report Dem senators debate whether to retweet Cardi B video criticizing Trump over shutdown Cardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid MORE (D-Conn.).

In addition to Lee, 13 Republicans broke rank to advance the bill: Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown MORE (Tenn.), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyMnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote Trump on declaring national emergency: 'Not going to do it so fast' Acosta mocked for border reporting: 'Exactly – walls work!' MORE (La.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer MORE (Tenn.), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (Mont.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamExperts warn of persistent ISIS threat after suicide bombing Graham: Trump should meet Pakistan's leader to reset relations State of American politics is all power games and partisanship MORE (S.C.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions 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 (Kansas), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Kaine to force Senate to hold rare Saturday session amid shutdown MORE (Alaska), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal House Republicans call for moving State of the Union to Senate chamber GOP rep: 'Rand Paul is giving the president bad advice' on Afghanistan and Syria MORE (Ky.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators look for possible way to end shutdown GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight 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 YoungGOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown Trump's military moves accelerate GOP search for next McCain Kevin McLaughlin tapped to serve as NRSC executive director for 2020 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 PompeoPompeo: US 'absolutely not' getting out of the Middle East Pompeo taking meeting about running for Kansas Senate seat: report Ex-US envoy in ISIS fight: 'There's no plan for what's coming' after US troop withdrawal in Syria MORE and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisKerry rips Trump’s ‘pull-out, walk-away presidency’ Macron: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS Poll: Most Americans want US troops in Syria 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 DurbinBlagojevich's wife 'speechless' that officer's sentence less than half of husband's Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Democrats signal they'll reject Trump shutdown proposal 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 MarkeyDems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing Overnight Energy: Watchdog investigating EPA enforcement numbers | EPA's Wheeler faces Senate grilling | Interior's offshore drilling staff returning to work during shutdown EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks 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

 

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