Overnight Defense: Appeals court sides with Trump on transgender military ban | Trump threatens years-long shutdown | Trump floats declaring national emergency to build wall with military

Happy Friday 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. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.


THE TOPLINE: The Trump administration got a win Friday in the ongoing legal saga over its transgender military ban.

But the policy still can't go into effect right now.


The win came at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where a three-judge panel overturned a lower court's injunction on the policy.

But several other courts have also issued injunctions against the ban, which is why it still can't take effect.

What the court said: The appeals court panel ruled that District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly made a "clear error" in deciding that the injunction should stay in place because a plan from former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisUS leaves dozens of 'high value' ISIS detainees behind amid Syria retreat: report White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions MORE was no different from President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE's policy.

Mattis' March 2018 plan would allow transgender people to serve if they do so in their biological sex.

The appeals court said Mattis' plan was not "foreordained" by Trump because it took into account a panel of military and medical experts, evidence from the implementation of the open service policy and "a reassessment of the priorities of the group that produced" the open service policy.

The appeals court also agreed with the administration that the Mattis plan is not a blanket ban.

"Although the Mattis plan continues to bar many transgender persons from joining or serving in the military, the record indicates that the plan allows some transgender persons barred under the military's standards prior to the [open service policy] to join and serve in the military," the judges wrote.

More to come: The appeals court didn't rule on the merits of the case, just the injunction. So the underlying case still has to be decided by the district court.

And the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), vowed to keep fighting.

"Today's ruling is a devastating slap in the face to transgender service members who have proved their fitness to serve and their dedication to this country," NCLR legal director Shannon Minter said in a statement. "We will keep fighting this cruel and irrational policy, which serves no purpose other than to weaken the military and punish transgender service members for their patriotism and service."

The Trump administration has also already asked the Supreme Court to leapfrog regular judicial order and immediately take up the case. The high court has yet to decide whether it will do so.


SHUTDOWN DAY 14: Another White House meeting appears to have done little to end the partial government shutdown.

And now President Trump is threatening to keep about 25 percent of the federal government closed for years until he gets his desired funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

He made the remark during a closed-door meeting at the White House with congressional leaders on the 14th day of a partial government shutdown.

Trump confirmed after the meeting that he "absolutely" said the shutdown could last more than a year, as first noted by Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor's race as Trump urges GOP support Trump urges Louisiana voters to back GOP in governor's race then 'enjoy the game' MORE (N.Y.) who was at the meeting.

The president added that he didn't think it would last that long, saying Democrats want to make a deal.

An emergency?: Trump has said multiple times before he wants to use the military to build the wall if Congress won't appropriate funding for it.

The problem with that is that Congress also needs to sign off on reprogramming funding for a purpose other than what it was originally approved for.

Trump now apparently thinks he can get around that if he officially declares a national emergency at the border.

ABC News first reported Trump was considering the strategy. Trump later told reporters in the Rose Garden that was the case.

"We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely. We can do it. I haven't done it, I may do it. I may do it, but we can call a national emergency and build it quickly, it's another way of doing it," he said at a press conference.

"If we can do it through a negotiated process, we're giving that a shot," he added.

U.S. law allows for military construction projects in the event of a national emergency. But Trump could face political resistance for using military funding for the wall.


COMMITTEE SHUFFLE: With the 116th Congress sworn in, the makeup of the Armed Services committees is solidifying.

On Friday, Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithTop Democrats warn against withdrawing from treaty that allows observation flights over Russia This year, let's cancel the Nobel Prize in economics Pentagon space agency to request .6 billion over five years: report MORE (D-Wash.) announced that he has been officially chosen to serve as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee by the House Democratic Conference.

The news was expected since Smith was the panel's ranking member when Democrats were in the minority. Friday's announcement just makes it official.

"This is an extremely challenging time for our country and the world. We are in dire need of oversight from Congress and principled, coherent thinking on U.S. national defense strategy," Smith said in a statement.

"As chairman, I will work with my colleagues to promote transparency and congressional oversight, enhance military readiness, combat inefficiency and waste at DOD, advance green technology in defense and address the threat climate change poses to our national security, fight for an inclusive military, and move towards a responsible approach to nuclear weapons."

Smith also pledged to continue the committee's "long track record" of bipartisanship and work with now-ranking member Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble Cheney slated to introduce bill to place sanctions on Turkey MORE (R-Texas).

In the Senate: On Thursday evening, Senate Republicans announced their committee assignments, which are expected to be ratified next week by the Republican Conference and full Senate.


The Senate Armed Services Committee is getting five new Republican members: Sens. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerMaryland manufacturers are stronger with the Export-Import Bank White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions MORE (N.D.) Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria MORE (Ariz.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe MORE (Tenn.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHong Kong dismisses concessions as protests escalate The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE (Mo.).

They replace Republican Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington The Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers return to work as Dem candidates set to debate MORE (Texas), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey Graham opens door to calling Hunter Biden to testify MORE (S.C.), Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseHong Kong protesters trample, burn LeBron James jerseys in wake of comments This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong MORE (Neb.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBlood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Rand Paul: 'We deserve to know' identity of Trump whistleblower Bottom Line MORE (S.C.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Graham and Cruz, though, won't be far removed national security issues. They're both joining the Foreign Relations Committee, which will also include new Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll shows Michelle Obama would lead in New Hampshire if she entered 2020 Democratic race Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong MORE (R-Utah).



The Brookings Institution will host an expert panel on the New START Treaty at 2 p.m. https://brook.gs/2CLAnO7



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