Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall

Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm 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 Trump administration will leave 200 U.S. troops in Syria to act as “a small peacekeeping group” for an unknown amount of time after it pulls most forces from the country, the White House said on Thursday."A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, first reported by Reuters.A refresher: Trump in December abruptly declared victory against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the country and announced that the more than 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria would be withdrawn immediately. The administration has since changed its timeline and said that it will seek a withdrawal of most troops by the end of April.

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Trump's surprise decision prompted the resignation of former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey MORE, and Trump has since received strong pushback from lawmakers who worry the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) -- Kurdish forces who helped in the fight against ISIS -- would be threatened by Turkey without U.S. protection.Trump and Erdoğan talk: The announcement comes after Trump on Thursday spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about strategy in Syria ahead of a meeting between the top military leaders from each country.The two men spoke over the phone about the creation of a possible safe zone in Syria, the White House said. The Trump administration said it will pull U.S. troops out of the war-torn country and has sought assurances from Turkey that it will not attack Kurdish fighters in the region.Turkish state media said Trump and Erdoğan agreed to see through the U.S. withdrawal from Syria in a way that benefits both countries. The two sides also discussed trade.The administration previously has put conditions on a full withdrawal of troops, including the total defeat of ISIS and assurances from Turkey that it will not target SDF fighters in Syria.What's next: Thursday's phone call came as Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford are set to host their Turkish counterparts in Washington, D.C. TRUMP, KIM PLAN FOR ONE-ON-ONE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeteran, state lawmaker launches bid against Democratic NC governor Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports Dozens of British lawmakers stand behind minority lawmakers amid Trump attacks MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are planning to meet one-on-one during their summit in Vietnam next week, senior administration officials said Thursday.Speaking to reporters on a background call ahead of the summit, a senior administration official said more details on the exact format would be forthcoming, but that it would be "similar" to Trump and Kim's first meeting last year."It's going to be similar in format to what you saw last June 12 in Singapore," the official said. "There will be an opportunity for the two leaders to see one another one-on-one, to share a meal and engage in expanded meetings of their respective delegations."The details we know so far: Trump and Kim are scheduled to hold their second summit Feb. 27 and 28 in Hanoi with a goal of building off the joint statement they signed at their first meeting last year in Singapore.The Trump administration officials on Thursday's background call dodged questions on specifics of what might be agreed to during the Vietnam summit, saying negotiations are continuing ahead of the meeting."I don't know if North Korea has made the choice yet to denuclearize, but the reason why we're engaged in this is because we believe there's a possibility that North Korea could make the choice to fully denuclearize," one of the officials said.One area the official highlighted as a chance for progress is on coming to a shared definition of denuclearization with Pyongyang. But asked whether North Korea has given the United States its definition of denuclearizing, the official demurred.Flashback to the last time: The Singapore summit, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, started with Trump and Kim meeting one-on-one with only their translators in the room. That was followed by lunch and a meeting alongside their aides.The Singapore summit concluded with a joint statement in which North Korea pledged to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" in exchange for unspecific security guarantees from the U.S.What's on the table: The official also said the administration is not looking for a step-by-step process for North Korea's denuclearization, but added "we need to move very quickly" and "in very big bites."The United States further needs North Korea to fully declare its nuclear and missile stockpiles, the official added, adding that he "suspect[s] that will come well before the end" of the process. The officials did appear to rule out the possibility of agreeing to a withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea, with one saying that a withdrawal for an official peace treaty to end the Korean War "is not the subject of discussions" and the other saying, "I've never discussed that in any round of negotiations." DEMS DEMAND BRIEFING, INTEL ON KOREA NUCLEAR TALKS: The Democratic chairmen of three House committees are accusing President Trump of withholding "critical information" from lawmakers about his administration's ongoing negotiations with North Korea.In a letter to Trump sent Thursday -- days before he is scheduled to depart for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam -- the leaders of the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Armed Services committees criticized the administration for failing to brief Congress on North Korea denuclearization talks since the first summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore in June.What the lawmakers want: The Democratic chairmen demanded that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIn Afghanistan, give peace a chance — and a lot of time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia MORE brief all members of the House on the outcomes of both summits within a week after the forthcoming summit in Vietnam concludes.There is no legitimate reason for having failed to provide regular, senior-level briefings to the relevant committees of jurisdiction on a matter of such significance to our national security," Reps. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border MORE (D-N.Y.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJudge finds Stone violated gag order, blocks him from using social media The peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Trump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify MORE (D-Calif.) and Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Esper officially nominated for Defense secretary | Pentagon silent on Turkey getting Russian missile system | House, Senate headed for clash over defense bill House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (D-Wash.) wrote Thursday.The lawmakers also accused the administration of failing to provide Congress with appropriate access to intelligence on North Korea's nuclear and conventional weapons programs and failing to produce a report on North Korea's nuclear program as mandated by annual defense policy legislation. Worries over intelligence: The lawmakers also expressed skepticism about Kim's commitment to denuclearization, citing in part recent public testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Chuck Todd on administration vacancies: 'Is this any way to run a government?' MORE.Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month on a new U.S. intelligence assessment showing that North Korea is "unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability." The intelligence assessment also noted officials have observed "activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization." "We are perplexed and troubled by the growing disconnect between the Intelligence Community's assessment and your administration's statements about Kim Jong Un's actions, commitments, and intentions," the Democratic lawmakers wrote."Furthermore, our ability to conduct oversight of U.S. policy toward North Korea on behalf of the American people has been inappropriately curtailed by your administration's unwillingness to share information with Congress." PENTAGON ASKS DHS TO JUSTIFY MOVING FUNDS FOR BORDER WALL: The Pentagon signaled Thursday that it has asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a priorities list to justify using military funds to build President Trump's desired border wall."We've asked DHS for input facts, data, priorities; we are waiting to receive those," Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon."When we do, we will then ... match that with our mission analysis and begin the process I think I've described to many of you."The Military Times first reported Thursday that the Pentagon asked DHS for such a list in a Feb. 18 memo. The document asks for locations where border wall construction would improve the "effectiveness" of military troops deployed there.Briefing planned: Shanahan also told reporters that Pentagon officials will brief lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Friday "on the way forward and to give people a sense of not just the activities we are going to undertake but [also] the timing."The background: Trump announced last week that he would declare a national emergency to construct a border wall after Congress included only $1.375 billion for physical barriers along the border in a massive government funding bill -- well below the $5.7 billion the president requested.
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The president is seeking to redirect $3.6 billion from the military construction funds budget for construction of a border wall. That represents one third of the more than $11 billion Congress authorized and appropriated for the fund in the fiscal 2019 defense budget.Lawmakers were startled by the potential move and had urged Trump prior to last Friday's announcement to not divert the Pentagon dollars. ICYMI-- The Hill: Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange-- The Hill: Five things to know about Trump confidant Tom Barrack-- The Hill: Putin: 'OK' if US wants another Cuban missile crisis-- The Hill: Coast Guard lieutenant accused of planning domestic terrorism denied bail-- The Hill: Pence going to Colombia to demand Maduro step down-- The Hill: Trump seeks new momentum with pivot to foreign policy