Overnight Defense: Trump to hold one-on-one with Kim | What to watch as summit kicks off | Top general dodges on Trump emergency declaration

Overnight Defense: Trump to hold one-on-one with Kim | What to watch as summit kicks off | Top general dodges on Trump emergency declaration
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Happy Tuesday 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: All eyes are on President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE as he is slated to meet one-on-one Wednesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the first night of their two-day summit in Vietnam.

The White House released Trump's schedule for Wednesday, which shows the president greeting Kim at 6:30 p.m. local time at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi. Trump and Kim are then set to meet one-on-one for 20 minutes, followed by a "social dinner," according to the White House.


The dinner is scheduled to last roughly 90 minutes and conclude around 8:35 p.m. local time. Hanoi is 12 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. 

The White House had previously indicated the two leaders would meet one-on-one during the president's trip to Vietnam, but had not released specific times or details.

A history of controversy at meetings: Trump's past private meetings with foreign heads such as Russian President Vladimir Putin have drawn concerns from some Democratic lawmakers, who have pushed for detailed readouts of the meetings or wanted to speak with translators present.

Trump and Kim are expected to see a more formal round of negotiations on Thursday that includes their respective aides and advisers.

What happened last time: The summit this week marks the second time the two leaders will come face-to-face after their meeting in Singapore last June, which also began with a meeting involving just Trump, Kim and their translators.

That summit resulted in both sides signing an agreement for North Korea to work toward denuclearization in return for unspecified security guarantees from the U.S. Trump has publicly expressed optimism about the outcome of his talks with Kim since that summit but has said he's in "no rush" to get North Korea to commit to denuclearization as long as Pyongyang has halted missile testing.

What will happen before then: Prior to Wednesday's talks with Kim, the president will spend much of the day meeting with Vietnamese officials. 

He is scheduled to participate in a photo op, bilateral talks and a signing ceremony on commercial trade agreements with Vietnam's president, Nguyen Phu Trong.

Trump will then participate in a bilateral meeting and working lunch with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

And The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more on five things to watch at the second Trump-Kim summit.


TOP GENERAL DODGES ON JUSTIFICATION FOR TRUMP EMERGENCY DECLARATION: The general in charge of U.S. military operations in North America dodged questions on Tuesday on what specific threat at the southern border justifies President Trump declaring a national emergency.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command (Northcom), was asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) whether there is a national emergency at the border.

The exchange: O'Shaughnessy replied by citing the fact that Trump has declared a national emergency.

Pressed by Blumenthal for his own military opinion, O'Shaughnessy reiterated that Trump has declared an emergency.

Further pressed by Blumenthal on the specific threat that justifies declaring a national emergency, O'Shaughnessy said that "a secure border will reduce the threats to the homeland."

"That's a general statement," Blumenthal shot back, pressing the general again. "But what is it specifically at this moment in time that justified declaring a national emergency?"

O'Shaughnessy replied: "I would say the president has made that declaration."

Blumenthal interjected to say, "You're saying, in effect, I don't mean to be disrespectful, that there's a national emergency because the president has said there's a national emergency."

O'Shaughnessy concluded by saying he would refer to the Department of Homeland Security for the "characterization of the threat."

The question comes up again: Asked later by Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanLincoln Project targets Senate races in Alaska, Maine, Montana with M ad buy Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978 Trump administration blasts banks that refuse to fund arctic drilling MORE (R-Alaska) whether the number of drug overdoses in the United States constitutes an emergency, O'Shaughnessy said it is "clearly" a national "issue" that needs a "whole of government approach."

The background: The committee's annual posture hearing with the Northcom commander comes after Trump declared a national emergency earlier this month in order to shift funding to be used for his proposed border wall after Congress did not allocate the amount he demanded in a spending agreement.

As part of the emergency declaration, the Trump administration plans to use $3.6 billion from the military construction budget for the wall. A separate executive action was taken at the same time as the declaration to allow Trump to use $2.5 billion from the Pentagon's counter-drug funds for the wall.

Pentagon funds in the balance: The Pentagon's counter-drug account only has $85 million in it right now, meaning the department would have to shift funds from other accounts into it.

On Tuesday, O'Shaughnessy said the Pentagon is still drawing up the exact plans on which funds to shift into the counter-drug account and which military construction projects to take money from. 

And House votes to block emergency declaration: The House passed legislation Tuesday to block Trump's emergency declaration at the southern border, marking an unprecedented congressional challenge to a president's authority to invoke emergency powers.

The resolution passed easily through the Democratic-controlled chamber, 245-182, with Democrats voting unanimously to send it to the Senate. The GOP-led upper chamber is expected to hold a vote on the measure in the coming weeks.


'GRAVE CONCERN' OVER TRUMP'S DEFENSE OF TRANSGENDER MILITARY POLICY: More than 40 retired military officers are expressing "grave concern" with the Trump administration's legal defense of its transgender military policy, saying it could "undermine the integrity of United States military judgment."

"Military judgment is a solemn responsibility of each Commander-in-Chief and of the military chain of command," the 41 retired generals and admirals wrote in the statement, obtained first by The Hill.

"In a polarized climate, the defense of anti-transgender discrimination using 'military judgment' as a pretext risks inflicting harms that go well beyond the context of transgender service, threatening trust in the national security apparatus."

Who signed the letter: The most senior officer to sign the letter is retired four-star Gen. Johnnie Wilson, who led U.S. Army Materiel Command from 1996 to 1999.

A spokesman for the Palm Center, which organized the statement, said it appears to be Wilson's first public statement on the issue of President Trump's transgender military policy.

Most of the rest of the signatories have previously signed statements denouncing the policy.

A refresher: Trump first announced over Twitter in July 2017 that he intended to ban all transgender people from serving in the military.

Then-Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Most VA workers find racism 'moderate to serious problem' at facilities l Trump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war Trump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war: report Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results MORE later released a policy in March 2018 that would allow transgender people to serve in their biological sex.

In January, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to stay two district court orders that blocked Trump's policy from taking effect. The ruling allows the administration to temporarily enforce its restrictions on transgender people serving in the military.

The new policy still has not taken effect, though, because of one remaining injunction placed on it by a federal district court in Maryland.

The retired officers' argument: In their statement the retired officers said Trump's policy "contradicts the actual judgment of both current and former senior military leaders, as well as medical research and the experiences our own military and of other militaries."

"In truth, a solid wall of military sentiment opposes discrimination," they added.

The statement cited the study carried out by the RAND Corporation commissioned during the Obama administration that found allowing open service would have "a minimal impact on readiness."


The retired officers also pointed to congressional testimony by the current service chiefs that they have had no reports of effects to unit cohesion, morale or discipline since open service has been allowed. 

The administration's argument: The administration, though, argues the policy is "based on professional military judgment," as stated by a Pentagon spokeswoman after the Supreme Court ruling.



Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on "The Trump Administration's Foreign Policy: A Mid-Term Assessment. Witnesses," at 10 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172.

House Armed Services Committee member Seth MoultonSeth MoultonPortland: The Pentagon should step up or pipe down House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-Mass.), will discuss the future of the U.S. Navy and its role in American defense and foreign policy at 10:15 a.m. at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.

The House Armed Services military personnel subpanel will hold a hearing on the administration's policy on transgender servicemembers, featuring two panels, to start at 3 p.m. in Rayburn 2118.



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