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 TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis 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 SandersBernie Sanders2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Cardi B posts message of support for Ilhan Omar #IStandWithIlhan trends after crowd at Trump rally chants 'send her back' MORE (I-Vt.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeFirst responder calls senators blocking 9/11 victim funding 'a--holes' Jon Stewart rips into Rand Paul after he blocks 9/11 victim compensation fund: 'An abomination' Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business MORE (R-Utah) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic Sen. Chris Murphy announces book on gun violence Lawmakers join Nats Park fundraiser for DC kids charity Democrats look to demonize GOP leader MORE (D-Conn.).

In addition to Lee, 13 Republicans broke rank to advance the bill: Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Republicans make U-turn on health care Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid MORE (Tenn.), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown Laura Ingraham says her family won't wear Nike again after 'Betsy Ross flag' sneaker canceled MORE (La.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsHillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (Tenn.), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTwo GOP lawmakers back Trump's comments on Democratic lawmakers: 'I'll pay for their tickets out of this country' Former Navy officer, teacher enters race to unseat GOP senator in Montana Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out MORE (Mont.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Graham: Trump's attacks on minority congresswomen more 'narcissism' than racism Meghan McCain promotes July 17 as #GBMday to raise awareness of father's cancer MORE (S.C.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranEpstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse Bottom Line Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown MORE (Kansas), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse PBS premieres first nationally distributed kids' show with Native American lead MORE (Alaska), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFirst responder calls senators blocking 9/11 victim funding 'a--holes' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Jon Stewart rips into Rand Paul after he blocks 9/11 victim compensation fund: 'An abomination' MORE (Ky.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (Ohio), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight 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 MORE (Pa.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHouse votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship 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 PompeoIn Afghanistan, give peace a chance — and a lot of time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia MORE and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey 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 DurbinDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business 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 MarkeyDemocrats warm to idea of studying reparations Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei Senators press FTC over 'woefully inadequate' Facebook settlement 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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