Overnight Defense: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown on track to become longest ever | Military begins withdrawing equipment from Syria | Bolton taps new deputy

Overnight Defense: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown on track to become longest ever | Military begins withdrawing equipment from Syria | Bolton taps new deputy

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: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE isn't declaring a national emergency quite yet.

On Friday, Trump told reporters at the White House that while he has the authority to make an emergency declaration to jump-start construction of a border wall, "I'm not going to do it so fast."

The president reiterated that he prefers to work out a deal with Democrats in Congress, even though no agreement appears to be in sight after the partial government shutdown stretched into its 21st day.


"We want Congress to do its job," Trump said. "What we're not looking to do right now is national emergency."

The White House is now making preparations for the shutdown to last weeks longer, an administration official confirmed to The Hill.

Support: While the idea to declare the national emergency first received widespread pushback, close allies to the president are now urging him to do it.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE (R-S.C.) met with Trump at the White House on Friday and afterward said negotiations with congressional Democrats are a lost cause.

"It's clear to both of us that Democrats don't want to make a deal and will never support border wall/barriers on President Trump's watch," Graham said in a statement. "Mr. President, declare a national emergency now. Build a wall now."

Making history: The shutdown is set to hit a milestone this weekend.

Friday marked the shutdown's 21st day, which tied for the longest in modern history.

Congress left town on Friday and is not scheduled to come back until Monday, all but guaranteeing the shutdown becomes the longest in modern history Saturday.


US BEGINS WITHDRAWING EQUIPMENT FROM SYRIA: The U.S. withdrawal from Syria has begun.

The U.S.-led military coalition fighting ISIS "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan said in a statement Friday. "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements."

Several reports say so far only equipment is being moved out of Syria, not troops.

Prominent war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 armored vehicles and some trucks were seen leaving the Syrian town of al-Rmelan.

Why it's a shock: As recently as Sunday, national security advisor John Bolton indicated the withdrawal was not starting soon.

Trump did say when he first announced the withdrawal in December that it would happen "now."

But over the weekend, Bolton laid out conditions for withdrawal that suggested it wouldn't happen for months, including the defeat of ISIS and a deal with Turkey for the protection of the Kurds.

When Bolton's comments were cast as a backtrack from Trump's announcement, Trump tweeted that they were "no different from my original statements." Trump added that "we will be leaving at a proper pace."

Friday's announcement indicates the withdrawal is full-steam ahead.

BOLTON NAMES NEW DEPUTY: National security adviser John Bolton has a new deputy to replace the one that left after a high-profile clash with the first lady.

The White House announced Friday that Charles Kupperman will be President Trump's new deputy national security adviser.

"Charlie Kupperman has been an advisor to me for more than thirty years, including during my tenure as National Security Advisor to President Trump," Bolton said in a statement. "Charlie's extensive expertise in defense, arms control and aerospace will help further President Trump's national security agenda."

Who is Kupperman?: Kupperman is a former Reagan administration official and defense contractor who is a longtime associate of Bolton.

In the Reagan administration, he was a special assistant to the president, had a stint at NASA and served an advisory committee on arms control and disarmament.

He also worked on former President Reagan's campaign as a defense and foreign policy adviser.

Later, he worked at Boeing as a missile defense executive and then at Lockheed Martin in space operations.

Bolton brought in Kupperman as a senior adviser shortly after he assumed the role of national security adviser, but Kupperman's job was initially billed as temporary.

The last deputy: Kupperman will fill a role that has been vacant since the departure of Mira Ricardel following a high-profile clash with first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpWhite House mulling restoring daily press briefing with Sanders replacement: report White House mulling restoring daily press briefing with Sanders replacement: report Trump compares Melania to Jackie Kennedy: 'We have our own Jackie O' MORE.

In November, the first lady's office released a statement saying Ricardel "no longer deserves the honor" of serving in the White House after reports that she and Melania Trump's staff clashed over the first lady's trip to Africa.

A day later, the White House said Ricardel would "transition to a new role within the administration," without specifying what her new job would be.



The Brookings Institution will host an expert panel to discuss U.S. policy in Afghanistan at 10 a.m. https://brook.gs/2ARh2d9

The Wilson Center will host an expert panel on "Lessons from the Hawaii Nuclear Missile Scare" at 3 p.m. https://bit.ly/2BTefzH



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-- The Hill: Congress approves back pay for workers affected by current shutdown, future ones

-- Stars and Stripes: 'Things are slipping' as Coast Guard families brace for missed paychecks

-- Associated Press: Hundreds more active-duty troops may be sent to US-Mexico border

-- Navy Times: Ship owners to pay U.S. government for Fitzgerald collision