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 MulvaneyTrump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit On The Money: Judge rules banks can give Trump records to House | Mnuchin pegs debt ceiling deadline as 'late summer' | Democrats see momentum in Trump tax return fight | House rebukes Trump changes to consumer agency House rebukes Mulvaney's efforts to rein in consumer bureau 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 SmithOvernight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info MORE (D-Wash.) and Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthPelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Nancy Pelosi fends off impeachment wave — for now CBO: Medicare for All gives 'many more' coverage but 'potentially disruptive' 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 TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit 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 ClapperTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Comey: 'The FBI doesn't spy, the FBI investigates' How I learned to love the witch hunt MORE, former Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelSwalwell says he will convene a bipartisan 'blended cabinet' if elected president Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan For planet and country: National security's climate moment 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 KerryTrump's rejection of the Arms Trade Treaty Is based on reality Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie becomes first African to deliver Yale graduation speech Dem Sen. Markey faces potential primary challenge in Massachusetts 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.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

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

 

ICYMI

-- 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