Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump blasts intel officials as 'passive and naive' | Lawmakers reintroduce Yemen war powers resolution | Dems push Pentagon to redo climate report | VA proposes new rules for private health care

Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump blasts intel officials as 'passive and naive' | Lawmakers reintroduce Yemen war powers resolution | Dems push Pentagon to redo climate report | VA proposes new rules for private health care
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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. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: A day after the top U.S. intelligence officials contradicted President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE's assertions on ISIS, North Korea and Iran, Trump is pushing back.

In a series of morning tweets, Trump responded to each of the most headline-grabbing assessments Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump MORE and CIA Director Gina Haspel made a day earlier during a Senate hearing.

The back-and-forth is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga of clashes between Trump and the intelligence community.

Here's a look at what each had to say this week:

 

On Iran

What the intelligence assessment said: "Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device."

What Trump said: "The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but…

"…a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"

It's unclear what rocket test Trump is referring to, though Iran attempted to launch a satellite into space two weeks ago.

 

On the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

What the intelligence assessment said: "The group will exploit any reduction in [counterterrorism] pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities, such as media production and external operations. ISIS very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States."

What Trump said: "When I became President, ISIS was out of control in Syria & running rampant. Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago. Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting."

 

On North Korea

What the intelligence assessment said: "[W]e continue to assess that North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, even as it seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization steps to obtain key US and international concessions."

What Trump said: "North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization...

"...Time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen. Now a whole different story. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made-big difference!"

 

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LAWMAKERS REVIVING YEMEN FIGHT: It's not just the intelligence community rebutting Trump's foreign policy.

Congress is poised to revive the fight over Trump's policies on Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks with resolutions seeking to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen civil war.

On Wednesday, a bicameral group unveiled the updated versions of their Yemen war powers resolutions, renewing a battle they first fought with Trump in the previous Congress.

"Today we are coming together to address one of the great humanitarian crises facing the planet and also in a historical way to make certain that the United States Congress reasserts its constitutional responsibilities in terms of war making," Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersAlan Dershowitz: In defense of Chelsea Clinton O'Rourke: Decisions on late-term abortions 'best left to a woman and her doctor' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina MORE (I-Vt.) said at a press conference Wednesday. "The United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic Saudi regime with a dangerous and irresponsible military policy."

Sanders introduced the resolution in the Senate with Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDems shift strategy for securing gun violence research funds The Hill's 12:30 Report: O'Rourke jumps into 2020 fray Overnight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget MORE (D-Conn.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over New Zealand coverage GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (R-Utah). In the House, Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi-led war in Yemen Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media MORE (D-Calif.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanTwo lawmakers just debated the merits of Nickelback on the House floor On The Money: Mnuchin urges Congress to raise debt limit 'as soon as possible' | NY officials subpoena Trump Org's longtime insurer | Dems offer bill to tax financial transactions Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez back 'end the forever war' pledge MORE (D-Wis.) spearheaded the introduction.

What's new: The resolution being introduced Wednesday expands on last year's measure.

It would still direct the president to withdraw U.S. forces in or "affecting" hostilities in Yemen in 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda or associated forces, but it also defines hostilities as including aerial refueling of non-U.S. aircraft conducting missions in the civil war. Though the U.S. military no longer provides such support, officials have previously argued that it wouldn't be covered by a war powers resolution anyway.

The new resolution specifies that it should "not be construed to influence or disrupt any military operations and cooperation with Israel."

It also would require two reports: one on the risks posed to U.S. and Saudi citizens by stopping support for the Saudi campaign; and one on the risks of a terrorist attack against U.S. forces abroad, allies or the U.S. mainland if Saudi Arabia were to end Yemen-related intelligence sharing with the United States.

Then and now: Recall that in December the Senate voted 56-41 to pass a resolution from Sanders, Murphy and Lee that would withdraw U.S. forces in or "affecting" Yemen, except troops fighting al Qaeda and associated forces.

It was the first time a chamber of Congress voted in favor of a war powers resolution since the War Powers Act was passed in 1973.

But the Republican-controlled House last year blocked Yemen war powers resolutions from coming to the floor for a vote. With Democrats now in the majority, Khanna's office said it expects the resolution to come to the House floor next month.

Opposition: Yemen's embassy in D.C. was out with a statement Wednesday afternoon opposing the resolution.

"This resolution to remove all U.S. support for the Arab Coalition in Yemen would deliver a massive victory to Iran who are supporting the extremist Houthi militias that have terrorized our country for the past five years," the embassy said.

"If the U.S. ends its involvement in the conflict, Iran will be empowered to continue their encroachment onto the Arabian Peninsula, threatening the stability of the entire region and the national security of the United States; and their support to the Houthis would sustain the violent aggressions perpetrated against the Yemeni people."

 

DEMS DEMAND PENTAGON REDO CLIMATE REPORT: Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee are asking the Pentagon to resubmit a report on climate change they say did not meet Congress' requirements.

Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithA Weld challenge to Trump would provide Republicans a clear choice House Armed Services chair denounces new limits on transgender service members Overnight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget MORE (D-Wash.), along with fellow committee members and Democratic Reps. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinHillicon Valley: Tech tries to stop spread of New Zealand shooting video | Booker says big tech must do more to combat online hate | US allies drawn into Huawei fight | O'Rourke not 'proud' of being in hacking group as teenager Escalating battle with Huawei ensnares US allies Papering over climate change impacts is indefensible MORE (R.I.), and John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiTrump's emergency declaration looms over Pentagon funding fight House Dems demand Pentagon provide details about plans to fund Trump border wall Dem lawmaker: 'The president has it in for California' MORE (Calif.), sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration Mulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet MORE to deliver a new report by April 1.

"Please consider this our formal request for the department to submit a revised report that thoroughly and clearly addresses the criteria outlined in Section 335 of the FY18 NDAA," they wrote, referring to the National Defense Authorization Act.

The issue: The Pentagon delivered a report to Congress earlier this month that said more than two-thirds of operationally critical military installations are threatened by the effects of climate change over the next 20 years.

But Democrats are upset the report did not include several elements the NDAA required.

For example, the report was supposed to include a list of the ten installations from each military service most vulnerable in the next 20 years.

It also lacked specific mitigation measures to alleviate climate risks at installations and cost estimates for such efforts.

 

VA PROPOSES NEW RULES FOR PRIVATE CARE: The Department of Veterans Affairs has released its proposal to implement changes required by last year's sweeping veterans bill.

The proposal could potentially make more than a million more veterans eligible for private health care than under current rules.

"Most Americans can already choose the health care providers that they trust, and President Trump promised that veterans would be able to do the same," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement Wednesday. "With VA's new access standards, the future of the VA health care system will lie in the hands of veterans -- exactly where it should be."

What's being proposed: The rules proposed Wednesday would allow veterans to see a private doctor for primary care or mental health care if they live at least 30 minutes driving time away from a VA facility or have to wait more than 20 days for an appointment.

For specialty care, the eligibility threshold would be increased to 60 minutes of drive time or a 28-day wait for an appointment.

Veterans would also be allowed to go to an urgent care facility outside of the VA system but within a forthcoming network of community care provides. Urgent care visits would be subject to a co-pay, but the bulk of the cost would be covered by the VA.

Background: The proposal released Wednesday seeks to implement the VA Mission Act, which Congress passed in June and which Trump has touted as a signature legislative achievement.

The $55 billion VA Mission Act seeks to address the issues with an earlier law by overhauling and consolidating the network of private health care providers where veterans can use their benefits.

The earlier law, the VA Choice Act, was passed in 2014 after the wait-time scandal where administrators were found to be doctoring appointment schedules. About 30,000 appointments per day are funded through the Choice program.

Right now, veterans can use their VA benefits to see private doctors if they live 40 miles away from a VA medical facility or have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host an expert panel to discuss expectations for the fiscal year 2020 defense budget at 1:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/2SdHYh4

 

IYCMI

-- The Hill: Bipartisan House group introduces bills to stall Syria, South Korea troop withdrawals

-- The Hill: Dems introduce bill barring US from using nuclear weapons first

-- The Hill: Opinion: The US Space Force is overdue

-- Stars and Stripes: Family of fallen Navy linguist fights regulation that forced her deployment to Syria

-- Associated Press: Taliban say they are not looking to rule Afghanistan alone