Overnight Defense: Trump storms out after meeting with Dems | Warns emergency declaration coming without border deal | Pompeo visits Iraq on Middle East trip

Overnight Defense: Trump storms out after meeting with Dems | Warns emergency declaration coming without border deal | Pompeo visits Iraq on Middle East trip
© Greg Nash

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. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: 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 is doubling down on the possibility of declaring a national emergency to build his proposed border wall without congressional approval.

On Wednesday, Trump said he may declare a national emergency if spending talks fail.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I think we might work a deal, and if we don't, we might go that route," Trump told reporters during a bill signing in the Oval Office.

The president said he has the "absolute right" to declare an emergency, even though some legal scholars and Democratic lawmakers say he does not.

Trump added that his "threshold" for declaring a national emergency is if he cannot reach a deal with congressional Democrats, who have rejected his demand for $5.7 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Later: Trump made those comments before heading to the Senate to confer with GOP senators and a White House meeting with congressional leaders from both parties and chambers.

After the White House meeting, the shut down was no closer to being resolved.

Trump, for his part, called the meeting a "waste of time."

"Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time," Trump tweeted minutes after meeting with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Fox’s Wallace to Pence: Is government shutdown all about ‘leverage?' Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal MORE (D-N.Y.).

"I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier?" he continued. "Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

Vice President Pence confirmed Trump's account of the meeting's abrupt end to reporters, saying the president "said goodbye" after Pelosi spurned his request for a border wall.

"The president made clear today he is going to stand firm to achieve his priorities," Pence said while standing alongside GOP leaders.

At the Pentagon: Declaring a national emergency would likely mean dipping into Pentagon coffers, since U.S. law says it is military construction funding that can be used in the emergency.

But the Pentagon is staying mum on the issue. The Pentagon declined to comment Wednesday on the "hypothetical situation."

"We currently have no such order so we are not going to provide information on a hypothetical situation," spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said in an email to The Hill.

Shutdown effects: Coast Guard members may have gotten their final paycheck of the year despite the shutdown after some maneuvering, but they are still feeling the effects.

For one, the shutdown has frozen housing allowances that many Guardsmen rely on.

So the service offered them some advice to ease their financial woes: hold garage sales, babysit, walk dogs or work as a mystery shopper.

The tip came in a five-page sheet reported on Wednesday by The Washington Post. The Coast Guard removed the sheet from its website after the Post asked about it.

The suggestions do not "reflect the Coast Guard's current efforts to support our workforce during this lapse in appropriations," service spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride told the Post. "As such, this guidance has been removed."

 

POMPEO STOPS IN IRAQ: 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's Middle East reassurance trip continued Wednesday with an unannounced stop in Iraq.

While there, he met with Iraqi leaders and discussed the Trump administration's strategy in Syria and efforts to secure the region.

The State Department said Pompeo met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi, where the two discussed "the recent territorial defeat of ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] in Syria and the continuation of our cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces to ensure ISIS's lasting defeat throughout the region."

Pompeo held a separate meeting with Iraq's Council of Representatives, where the State Department said he underscored the U.S. commitment to its security partnership with Iraqi Security Forces.

After that: After Baghdad, Pompeo went to Erbil and met with leaders of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG).

In both his meeting with Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his meeting with Security Council Chancellor Masrour Barzani, Pompeo voiced "strong U.S. support for continued dialogue between the KRG and the central government," according to State Department statements.

Next stop: Pompeo will next travel to Egypt, where he is scheduled to deliver a speech on the U.S. "commitment to peace, prosperity, stability, and security in the Middle East."

 

KURDS CAPTURE AMERICAN TEENAGE ISIS SUSPECT: A U.S.-backed Kurdish militia fighting ISIS said Wednesday it has captured an American teenager among eight suspected militants.

The Kurdish force, known as the YPG, said in a statement Wednesday that their special forces conducted an operation in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor on Monday and Tuesday that captured eight members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who were plotting an attack.

The YPG identified one of the captured as a 16-year-old American named Soulay Noah Su, also known as Abu Souleiman al-Amriki.

The others captured were two Uzbeks, a Tajik, a Ukrainian, a Kazakh, a Russian and a German, according to the YPG.

The U.S.-led military coalition fighting ISIS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the YPG statement.

Context: Since President Trump announced last month that U.S. forces would be withdrawing from Syria, what to do with captured foreign fighters has become a major question.

The Trump administration has for years tried to convince countries to take back their citizens for prosecution but has had little success.

There have been few Americans fighting for ISIS captured on the battlefield, but those who have been have largely been transferred to the United States for prosecution.

In one case, though, the administration transferred the suspect to Bahrain after the U.S. military detained him for more than a year. In that case, officials said they did not believe they had enough admissible evidence to charge him in federal court.

Other recent detentions: The YPG's Wednesday announcement comes days after the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the YPG is a part, announced that it captured two Americans among five ISIS fighters in Syria.

ADVERTISEMENT

Those two were identified as Warren Christopher Clark and Zaid Abed al-Hamid. Clark, an English teacher originally from Houston, allegedly wrote a cover letter and resume for ISIS offering to be a language instructor for the terrorist group.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Armed Services Committee will receive a closed briefing on Syria at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/2Mm2Qjg

The sergeant major of the Marines and master chief petty officer of the Navy will discuss maritime security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/2SIB28s

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Congress poised to push back at Trump on Saudi Arabia, Syria

-- The Hill: Former US Defense secretary: 'American global leadership now is really nowhere'

-- The Hill: Former Guantanamo commander charged with obstruction in civilian's death at base

-- The Hill: Pelosi: Shutdown is hurting vets

-- The Hill: Opinion: President Trump's border security fight is the right one

-- The Hill: Opinion: Terrorism is not a thing to cry wolf about

-- The Hill: Our missile defense systems are no match for hypersonic weapons