Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump suspends landmark nuclear treaty with Russia | Trump sees 'good chance' of national emergency | Bolton says military action in Venezuela not imminent | Trump says he forced Mattis to resign

Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump suspends landmark nuclear treaty with Russia | Trump sees 'good chance' of national emergency | Bolton says military action in Venezuela not imminent | Trump says he forced Mattis to resign
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Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. We're Rebecca Kheel and 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: The end of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is nigh.

The Trump administration announced Friday it will suspend its obligations under the landmark Cold War-era treaty effective Saturday.

At the same time as the suspension, the United States will provide Russia and other Soviet-successor states formal notice it is withdrawing from the treaty, kicking off a six-month process to leave.

"Russia has refused to take any steps to return to real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days," Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMore money at the gas pump may be the price of pressuring Iran The Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Kim to meet with Putin as tensions with US rise MORE said Friday.

"The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty effective Feb. 2, and we will provide Russia and the other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF Treaty effective in six months pursuant to Article 15 of the treaty," he continued.

How we got here: The Obama administration first publicly accused Russia of violating the 1987 treaty in 2014 by flight-testing a banned missile.

Under the Trump administration, the United States further accused Russia of deploying the banned cruise missile system in 2017.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE signaled his desire to withdraw from the treaty in October, and in December, Pompeo gave Russia a 60-day deadline before the United States would suspend its obligations.

Talks in Geneva earlier this month failed to reach an agreement. One final last-ditch effort on the sidelines of an international meeting in Beijing this week also ended at an impasse.

What now: The treaty outlines a six-month process once a party gives formal notice it intends to withdraw.

The Trump administration says it will continue to engage Russia during that six-month period on the off-chance it will come back into compliance. But officials are not hopeful the treaty will be saved.

"We are not optimistic, having tried everything possible since May 2013," a senior administration official told reporters Friday. "But, they do have a final chance."

Even before the withdrawal goes through, suspending its obligations means the United States is free to develop a treaty noncompliant missile.

It remains unclear, though, what work the U.S. military will undertake.

"It will take us time to make decisions about what kind of capability would we deploy, what kind of capability would we test. What we do know is that we are some time away from a flight test," a senior administration official said. "We are certainly time away from an acquisition decision and from an eventual deployment decision."

Takeaways: We also took a look at five takeaways from the Trump administration's decision.

Read up on how this might affect a separate arms treaty with Russia, what China has to do with this, what U.S. allies are saying and other key lessons here.

 

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TRUMP PREDICTS 'GOOD CHANCE' OF DECLARING NATIONAL EMERGENCY: The odds of Trump declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build his proposed border wall appear to be growing.

In his latest comments, Trump said Friday there is a "good chance" he will declare a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I think there's a good chance we'll have to do that," Trump told reporters in the Cabinet Room of the White House.

The president suggested he may reveal more details about his plan to build the wall in Tuesday's State of the Union address, saying people should "listen closely" to the speech.

Growing frustrations: Trump's comments provide one of the clearest signs yet he may act on his own to build the wall, as his frustration builds with congressional Democrats over their determination to block one of his core campaign promises.

He once again blasted a bipartisan conference committee debating wall funding as a "waste of time" and predicted Democrats would pay a price for opposing the wall.

"I don't think it's good politically," he said. "I think [Speaker] Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Julián Castro: Trump should be impeached for trying to obstruct justice 'in very concrete ways' Swalwell on impeachment: 'We're on that road' after Mueller report MORE [D-Calif.] should be ashamed of herself because she's hurting a lot of people."

A refresher: The committee is negotiating a potential spending deal that must pass before Feb. 15 to avert another partial government shutdown.

An emergency declaration, which Trump has repeatedly threatened to invoke, could help the president access billions in federal funding for the wall while avoiding a second shutdown, for which Republicans in Congress have little appetite.

But it would face legal challenges that could stymie construction and curtail the president's powers.

Friday's remarks came a day after Trump said he will not accept a spending deal unless it includes money for his proposed border wall, an announcement that Pelosi quickly hit back on, saying that Democrats remain opposed to wall funding.

Trump pushes ahead: Trump said he has "very, very strong legal standing" to build the wall on his own but acknowledged the possibility a federal judge could block the move.

He added that his administration is moving forward with building 115 miles of barriers along the southwest border "regardless," with "cash on hand." He did not provide further details.

 

VENEZUELA MILITARY ACTION NOT IMMINENT: An imminent U.S. invasion of Venezuela is not in the cards, national security advisor John Bolton says, even as he reiterated the administration's refrain of "all options" being on the table.

Asked on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt's show if the United States, Brazil, Colombia or a combined force is close to intervening militarily in Venezuela, Bolton replied, "No."

"The president said all options are on the table. But our objective is a peaceful transfer of power," Bolton said.

The comments suggest the administration intends to stick by its use of soft power, at least for now.

"We've been imposing economic sanctions, increasing political pressure from around the world," Bolton said. "The overwhelming majority of the people of the country want the Maduro regime thrown out. That's what we hope and expect to do."

Why it's a question: The Trump administration has launched a major effort to push Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro out of power, including backing National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as the country's interim president.

Trump has repeatedly floated the possibility of a U.S. military intervention to push out Maduro, even though foreign policy experts believe such a strike is unlikely.

Bolton was photographed at a White House press briefing this week holding a yellow notepad with the phrase "5,000 troops to Colombia" written on it.

He declined to comment on the message, telling Hewitt "when we say all options are on the table, we want to keep it at that level. And going beyond that, I think, would be imprudent."

 

TRUMP SAYS HE FORCED MATTIS OUT: President Trump says he forced former Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign as he "wasn't happy with the job that he was doing at all," according to an interview the president gave to The New York Times.

"So I wasn't happy with Mattis. I told Mattis to give me a letter," Trump told the Times.  "He didn't just give me that letter. I told him."

"I didn't like the job he was doing. I wasn't happy with it. I wasn't happy with the -- I got him more money than the military has ever seen before. And I wasn't happy with the job that he was doing at all. And I said it's time," the president continued.

Flashback: Mattis in December announced his departure from the Pentagon following Trump's surprise announcement that the administration would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

In his resignation letter, Mattis stated that Trump deserved a general "whose views are better aligned with yours," and signaled his concern with the way Trump treated allies in NATO as well as rivals such as China and Russia.

 

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