Overnight Defense: White House eyes budget maneuver to boost defense spending | Trump heads to Hanoi for second summit with Kim | Former national security officials rebuke Trump on emergency declaration

Overnight Defense: White House eyes budget maneuver to boost defense spending | Trump heads to Hanoi for second summit with Kim | Former national security officials rebuke Trump on emergency declaration
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Happy Monday 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: The White House on Monday confirmed plans to try to bulk up defense spending while circumventing budget caps.

In an op-ed for Real Clear Politics, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought wrote that the White House's budget will put more money into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, which is not subject to budget caps, to increase defense spending.

"Making America safe and secure is the administration's top priority and the president's budget will reflect that," Vought wrote. "However, the budget will provide these investments while adhering to the spending caps already set in law. Additional needed defense resources will be designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, which are not subject to the spending caps."

Vought did not specify how much will be put in OCO, but several reports previously said the administration could request as much as $174 billion for the account, a significant increase over this year's $69 billion for OCO.

Do the math: One wondering where $174 billion comes from need only do subtraction.

The administration wants a $750 billion defense budget for fiscal year 2020. The Budget Control Act caps fiscal year 2020 defense spending at $576 billion.

$750 billion minus $576 billion equals $174 billion.

No go: OCO is supposed to be a war fund that is only used for temporary expenses associated with the wars in the Middle East.

Over the years, though, it has increasingly been used for base budget items, with critics calling it a slush fund.

The Trump administration, including former congressman and current acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyHillicon Valley: Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech | Senators call for better info-sharing on supply chain threats | Apple pulls app after Chinese pressure Overnight Energy: Dems subpoena Perry in impeachment inquiry | EPA to overhaul rules on lead contamination tests | Commerce staff wrote statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump Commerce staff drafted statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump's hurricane predictions MORE, was in the past among those critics.

But this latest plan would allow the administration to increase defense spending without agreeing to a deal with Democrats to also increase nondefense spending.

Congress, though, has the power of the purse, and top House Democrats quickly made clear Trump's plan is a no-go.

"If true, this is nothing more than a blatant attempt to make a mockery of the federal budget process, obscure the true cost of military operations and severely shortchange other investments vital to our national and economic security," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithTop Democrats warn against withdrawing from treaty that allows observation flights over Russia This year, let's cancel the Nobel Prize in economics Pentagon space agency to request .6 billion over five years: report MORE (D-Wash.) and Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthOn The Money: Trump signs stopgap spending bill | Shutdown fight delayed to November | Deutsche Bank reveals it has two individual tax returns tied to House subpoena | House Dems demand documents on Ukraine aid It's time to axe the unjust 'widow's tax' House Democrats demand White House turn over docs on Ukraine aid MORE (D-Ky.) said in a joint statement Monday. "Democrats will reject this cynical proposal to flout the basic principles of open and honest governance and will instead--with full transparency--pursue a course that invests in our national priorities and makes us stronger both at home and abroad."


TRUMP LEAVES FOR HANOI: President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE left Monday for his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Vietnam.

Ahead of his departure, Trump was upbeat about the summit, tweeting that he and Kim "both expect a continuation of the progress made at first Summit in Singapore."

"Denuclearization?" he asked.

Trump in a separate tweet said that Kim "realizes, perhaps better than anyone else, that without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the World."

Questions remain: Despite Trump's tweets, there remain several questions about what if anything Trump and Kim will accomplish this week.

We examined the uncertainty about the results of the summit over the weekend. Among the gaps that still remain between the United States and North Korea are basic questions, such as what denuclearization actually means.

Catch up here on what to expect before the summit kicks off.

Domestic distractions?: While Trump is Vietnam, House Democrats have lined up one of their most confrontational weeks with him yet since they took control of the chamber.

The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a measure overturning his emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border.

The next day, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hear testimony from Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, setting the stage for some of the strangest split-screen cable news shots in U.S. history.


EX-SECURITY OFFICIALS REBUKE TRUMP ON EMERGENCY: Speaking of that emergency declaration, a group of 58 former national security officials issued a 13-page letter Monday condemning Trump's declaration.

The former officials argued the president's declaration undermines the purpose of the national declaration and will ultimately damage the country's security.

"We are aware of no emergency that remotely justifies such a step. The President's actions are at odds with the overwhelming evidence in the public record, including the administration's own data and estimates," the letter reads.

The former officials also argued that Trump's declaration has "further eroded his credibility with foreign leaders, both friend and foe."

"Should a genuine foreign crisis erupt, this lack of credibility will materially weaken this administration's ability to marshal allies to support the United States, and will embolden adversaries to oppose us," they wrote.

Who signed: Most of the signatories served during the Obama or Clinton administrations.

Some of those marquee names include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperWe need answers to questions mainstream media won't ask about Democrats Whistleblowers and the hypocrisy of the ruling class Hillicon Valley: Clapper praises whistleblower complaint | Senators urge social media giants to take action against 'deepfakes' | Tim Cook asks Supreme Court to protect DACA | Harris pushes Twitter to suspend Trump MORE, former Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelGOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel White House aide moves to lobbying firm Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces MORE, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, ex-CIA Director Leon Panetta and former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryHe who must not be named: How Hunter Biden became a conversation-stopper Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Green groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight MORE.

There were some Republican signatures, but they've been critical of Trump in the past. For example, signatory John McLaughlin, who held the No. 2 spot at the CIA under former President George W. Bush, has publicly spoken out against the president.


US CITIZEN HELD HOSTAGE IN YEMEN BROUGHT HOME: Trump said Monday a U.S. citizen held captive in Yemen for more than a year has been reunited with his family.

The president announced on Twitter that Danny Burch "has been recovered and reunited with his wife and children."

Background: Trump's announcement comes after reports last month that Burch had been freed and sent to Oman after being captured by Yemeni rebels in 2017.

Burch, who worked for the Yemeni Safer oil company and is married to a Yemeni citizen, was detained in September 2017 after taking his children to school.

His wife and colleagues told news outlets that he was abducted from his car by gunmen on a busy street in Yemen's capital of Sanaa.

Sanaa is controlled by Iran-backed Houthi rebels who are fighting against a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition backing Yemen's internationally recognized government.

Saudi Arabia's main partner in the coalition is the United Arab Emirates, and, in his tweets, Trump thanked the Emiratis for helping in "bringing Danny home."

"Danny's recovery reflects the best of what the United States & its partners can accomplish," Trump tweeted.

Context: The United States supports the Saudi-led coalition with logistics, intelligence sharing and arms sales. Congress has been increasingly opposed to that support amid fury of Saudi Arabia's killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The House this month passed a resolution to end U.S. military support to the coalition. The Senate is expected to take it up and pass it in the coming weeks.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is also scheduled to get a closed-door briefing on Yemen on Monday night from State Department and Pentagon officials.



U.S. Strategic Command commander Gen. John Hyten and U.S. Northern Command commander Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. at the Hart Senate Office Building, room 216. https://bit.ly/2T0AGxs

The House Armed Services Committee has three hearings scheduled:

-- Two subcommittees will hold a joint hearing on naval surface warfare readiness at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. https://bit.ly/2TfiqQX

-- A subcommittee will hold a hearing on Pentagon information technology with testimony from officials at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2212. https://bit.ly/2EwxFwU

-- Another subpanel will hold a hearing on the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with testimony from former officials at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2118. https://bit.ly/2VkUGrU

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has three hearings scheduled:

-- A subpanel will hold a hearing on North Korea diplomacy with testimony from outside experts at 10:15 a.m. at Rayburn 2172. https://bit.ly/2Tk8lSM

-- Another subcommittee will hold a hearing on refugees, migrants and asylum seekers at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2200. https://bit.ly/2TgIPOd

-- Another subpanel will hold a hearing on the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2172. https://bit.ly/2TeWPrX



-- The Hill: Airstrike kills 35 al-Shabaab extremists, US military says

-- The Hill: US Navy sails more ships through Taiwan Strait

-- The Hill: Trump backs off total Syria withdrawal

-- The Hill: Trump amps up pressure on Venezuela with fresh aid, sanctions

-- The Hill: Opinion: Don't act too eager for a North Korea deal

-- The Hill: Opinion: A '5 percent monthly' plan to denuclearize, develop North Korea

-- Associated Press: Iran foreign minister resigns as his nuclear deal teeters

-- Reuters: Iran says it made successful submarine missile launch in Gulf war games