Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Dems tee up Tuesday vote against Trump's emergency declaration | GOP expects few defections | Trump doubles number of troops staying in Syria to 400

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: House Democrats are scheduling a vote Tuesday on a resolution aimed at blocking President Trump's national emergency declaration.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the plan Friday on a conference call with reporters, where she framed Trump's unilateral move as an "institutional assault" that defies the constitutionally dictated separation of powers and threatens the working of the country's democracy.

"The president's act is lawless and does violence to our constitution and therefore to our democracy," she said. "We do not have a monarchy; we have a separation of powers in our country."

Rep. Joaquin Castro's (D-Texas) resolution, just one page long, would terminate Trump's emergency declaration, which aims to shift money from other programs to build the president's long promised border wall.

Defense connection: Trump declared the national emergency in hopes of tapping $3.6 billion from the military construction budget for his proposed border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Defense hawks had warned against the using military money for the wall, saying it would harm readiness by taking away money meant to restore crumbling military infrastructure.

But as The Hill's Mike Lillis and Scott Wong pointed out Friday morning, don't expect many GOP defections in next week's vote.

Only one Republican co-sponsor is on Castro's resolution: conservative Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich).

Amash's office said the congressman feels the situation does not qualify as a national emergency.

In the Senate: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted a "handful" of Republicans in his chamber will back a resolution to block President Trump's emergency declaration to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"A handful. ... [But] there will be enough [left] to sustain a veto," Graham told Fox News, when asked how many Republicans would vote with Democrats in the Senate.

Graham didn't offer a specific number for how many of his Republican colleagues he thinks will back the resolution.

He said that he would "absolutely not" vote for the Democrat-led resolution, adding that he is "100 percent with the president."

 

TRUMP DOUBLES TROOPS STAYING IN SYRIA: The Trump administration is now planning to leave roughly 400 U.S. troops in Syria indefinitely after withdrawing from the country, double the amount the White House announced a day prior.

A senior administration official told reporters on Friday that the 400 troops would be split between a "peacekeeping group" of about 200 in a safe zone currently being negotiated for northeast Syria, and 200 at the U.S. military base at al-Tanf, according to several news outlets.

The breakdown: The Washington Post reported that the 200 troops based at al-Tanf, near the Syrian border with Iraq and Jordan, will stay "for the foreseeable future," according to the official.

The official also said the 200 U.S. troops in the safe zone will be part of an expected 800 to 1,500 troops committed by European allies in order to set up and maintain the safe zone.

Shanahan mum: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters on Friday that he would not discuss troop numbers or movements.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said earlier Friday that the administration planned to keep 200 service members in Syria, but that it was a "rough estimate" and "not a specific number."

"At the end of the day, the president wants to bring our troops home and he's working towards that and he wants to do that in a safe and peaceful way, in the best way possible, to make sure that we have complete safety for our troops that are abroad," she said.

Trump's backtrack: The new plan backtracks from Trump's promise in December to immediately pull all 2,000 U.S. service members from Syria, after he declared the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria defeated in the country.

The decision drew intense criticism from both sides of the aisle and prompted the resignation of former Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The administration later said it would withdraw the troops by the end of April, before committing this week to leaving hundreds behind.

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

Georgetown Law's Journal of National Security Law and Policy will host a symposium on "The Continuing Threat of Nuclear Weapons" with expert panels starting at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/2Sewyud

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: UN nuclear watchdog: Iran maintains compliance with 2015 pact

-- The Hill: Kurdish-led Syrian administration cheers Trump decision to leave troops in region

-- The Hill: Father of Alabama woman who joined ISIS sues Trump administration

-- The New York Times: After shutdown, grounded planes and delayed repairs ripple through Coast Guard

-- Defense News: Congress' foreign policy flex in Europe

-- Associated Press: From Syria, IS slips into Iraq to fight another day

-- The Washington Post: Heather Wilson's commitment to Trump's Space Force was questioned. Now she leads the effort to build it.

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