Overnight Defense: Trump at G-20 | Calls Ukraine 'sole reason' for canceling Putin meeting | Senate passes resolution condemning Russian actions | Armed Services chairmen warn against defense cuts

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, 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: President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Freedom Caucus calls for Congress to work on shutdown through break Democrat previews Mueller questions for Trump’s AG nominee Trump inaugural committee spent ,000 on makeup for aides: report MORE was in Argentina on Friday for the Group of 20 (G-20) summit and "exchanged pleasantries" with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the White House.

"They exchanged pleasantries at the leaders session as he did with nearly every leader in attendance," a White House official told pool reporters.

Trump later said he and the crown prince "had no discussion."

"We had no discussion. We might, but we had none," Trump told reporters.

Intense scrutiny: Crown Prince Mohammed has been under intense scrutiny in the United States and worldwide following the slaying of Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

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Many are skeptical Khashoggi would have been killed without the knowledge or approval of the crown prince, who is the kingdom's day-to-day leader. The CIA has reportedly concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the killing.

But Trump has pushed back on those reports, saying in an eyebrow-raising statement last week that "we may never know all of the facts surrounding" Khashoggi's death.

"No, no, they didn't conclude," Trump told reporters about a CIA report. "No they didn't conclude. They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings certain ways. I have the report."

Trump's statement last week also made clear he has no plans to curb the U.S.-Saudi relationship because of the Khashoggi killing, though he has been under immense pressure to do so from lawmakers.

Also at the summit, Trump explains Putin meeting cancellation: Trump also on Friday said Russia's recent military actions against Ukraine were the "sole reason" he decided to scrap a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit.

In remarks to reporters, Trump downplayed the notion that the meeting was canceled due to developments in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation into Moscow's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"We don't like what happened, we're not happy about what happened," Trump said during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, referring to Russia's seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels and personnel earlier this week. "On the basis of what took place with the ships and sailors, that was the sole reason."

Background on the Putin meeting: The Kremlin said Thursday morning that the White House confirmed plans for the meeting and announced it would occur on Saturday morning on the sidelines of the G-20, but Trump abruptly announced later in the day that he would no longer meet with Putin.

Trump's planned meeting with the Russian leader was one of the most highly anticipated events heading into the global summit.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that the decision was made aboard Air Force One en route to the summit after Trump discussed the Ukraine situation with his national security team.

Some in Washington said they suspected Trump may have wanted to avoid appearing with Putin after Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about plans in 2016 to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Russia blames 'domestic political situation': Russian officials on Friday cast doubt on Trump's official reason for canceling the formal meeting with Putin, saying that the "U.S. domestic political situation" was the reason for Trump's decision.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry, said there was reason to doubt the Trump administration's given explanation of rising tensions between Russian and Ukrainian forces along the border of Crimea for the cancellation, according to CNN.

"I think that you still need to look for answers in the U.S. domestic political situation," she said.

 

TOP ARMED SERVICES LAWMAKERS WARN AGAINST DEFENSE CUTS: The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees are urging President Trump to reconsider cutting next year's defense budget.

"A last-minute directive to cut $33 billion from defense would be dangerous," Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberrySyria too complex to make decisions in 280 characters … even for a president The Hill's Morning Report — Back to the drawing board as shutdown reaches 19 days Congress poised to push back at Trump on Saudi Arabia, Syria MORE (R-Texas) and Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Senators say questions remain after Syria briefing | Trump inches closer to declaring emergency to build wall | Air Force accepts Boeing tankers despite flaws Senators say questions remain on Trump strategy in Syria after briefing Emergency declaration option for wall tests GOP MORE (R-Okla.) wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Thursday night and emailed out by their press offices Friday.

"President Trump can prevent this $33 billion cut and the resulting damage by ordering the Pentagon to move forward with the $733 billion budget he originally proposed for 2020," they added in the op-ed titled "Don't Cut Military Spending, Mr. President."

What Trump wants to cut: Trump said in October he would order his Cabinet heads to cut their fiscal 2020 budget proposals by 5 percent because of rising deficits.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later confirmed the Pentagon received and was carrying out an order to plan a $700 billion budget -- $16 billion less than fiscal 2019 and $33 billion less than originally planned for fiscal 2020.

 Two proposals: The Pentagon already finished writing the $733 billion budget when it received the order to cut and so is planning to present Trump with both proposals so he can see the "tradeoffs," Shanahan has said. The lower budget will prioritize cyber, space, Army modernization and hypersonics, he added.

Lawmakers' argument: In their op-ed, Thornberry and Inhofe highlighted the recent National Defense Strategy Commission report that warned the United States "might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia."

The pair also took a swipe at Democrats "seeking tax dollars to spend on their own priorities" and embracing the defense cuts.

"But our top priority is the troops," they wrote. "Any cut in the defense budget would be a senseless step backward."

Inhofe, who will retain his gavel next year, has previously said $733 billion should be considered a floor for next year's budget.

 

ICYMI: SENATE CONDEMS RUSSIAN AGGRESSION AGAINST UKRAINE: The Senate cleared a resolution Thursday night condemning Russia's "provocative actions" against Ukraine, after Moscow seized three of the country's ships. 

The Senate cleared the non-binding resolution spearheaded by Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTSA absences raise stakes in shutdown fight The Hill's Morning Report — Washington searches for answers as shutdown hits 24 days GOP senator: 'I would hate to see' Trump declare national emergency over border MORE (R-Wis.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDem senator jokes about holding drinking game for Trump's primetime address The Hill's 12:30 Report: Opening day for the 116th Congress | Dems take control of House | Historic day for Pelosi Trump complains Senate isn't confirming ambassadors MORE (D-Conn.) by unanimous consent as it wrapped up its business for the week. 

Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin is "testing the West," and that he was "pleased the Senate spoke with one voice to reaffirm our support for the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian government and Ukraine's territorial integrity."  

"Today, the Senate took action and sent a clear message to Putin that his government's aggression against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov will not be tolerated. We strongly condemn any military action taken by Russia to unilaterally rewrite international rules," Murphy added. 

What the resolution says: The resolution "strongly condemns" Russia's actions and urges the country to release the Ukrainian crew members. It also warns Russia that the confrontation off the coast of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula is "destabilizing" the region and "invites further escalation." 

The Senate "urges members of the international community to unite in opposition to the actions of the Government of the Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait, as they infringe upon fundamental principles of international law affecting all nations," the Senate-passed resolution adds. 

The background: The passage of the resolution comes as Russia's seizure of the ships is posing a new test for Trump, who has caused heartburn on Capitol Hill for his warmer rhetoric toward Putin. 

Ukraine is accusing Russia capturing three vessels and 24 crewmembers off the coast of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 to international condemnation. Moscow has countered that the boats were operating unlawfully in its territorial waters. 

 

ICMYI:

-- The Hill: Flake: Mueller bill has votes to pass Senate

-- The Hill: Top White House China hawk at G-20 summit after reports he would not attend

-- The Hill: French president to Saudi crown prince: 'You never listen to me'

-- The Hill: Putin greets Saudi crown prince with high-five at G-20 summit

-- The Hill: British officials say Putin approved nerve agent attack: report

-- The Hill: Trump defends potential 2016 Russia deal: Business was 'very legal & very cool'

-- The Hill: Migrants stage hunger strike at Mexican border

-- Defense News: US lawmakers tangle over nuclear arsenal, Russia treaties

-- Reuters: How Iran spreads disinformation around the world