Overnight Defense: Briefing calms senators' nerves over Trump-Kim summit | GOP chair looks to lock in Trump withdrawal from Iran deal | Senators offer bill to end Afghanistan war

Overnight Defense: Briefing calms senators' nerves over Trump-Kim summit | GOP chair looks to lock in Trump withdrawal from Iran deal | Senators offer bill to end Afghanistan war
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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: Senators emerged from a closed-door briefing Tuesday on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un assuaged the administration has a plan going forward, even if it remains unclear whether the plan will be successful.

"I see what the strategy is," said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael Kaine'Granite Express' flight to take staffers, journalists to NH after Iowa caucuses Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Senate panel approves Trump FDA pick | Biden downplays Dem enthusiasm around 'Medicare for All' | Trump officials unveil program for free HIV prevention drugs for uninsured Trump's FDA nominee approved by Senate panel MORE (D-Va.), who called the briefing "great." "The odds of success on the strategy are not high, but I think everybody's realistic about that."

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was being briefed by special envoy Stephen Biegun days after Trump walked away from his summit with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, without a deal on denuclearization.

The background: The talks in Hanoi fell apart after North Korea asked for all United Nations Security Council resolutions after March 2016 to be lifted in exchange for dismantling its main nuclear facility, followed by Trump challenging Kim to go "all in" on denuclearization, the administration has said.

Administration officials have said that despite the failure to reach a deal, the gaps between the two sides

narrowed. They have expressed hope that progress can be made by continuing with working level negotiations

A hopeful outlook: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoReport: Pompeo had secret meeting with GOP donors in London The shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment MORE said Monday he is "hopeful" a team will be back in Pyongyang in "in the next couple weeks," though he acknowledged "I have no commitment yet."

Asked about the possibility of success at the working level, Kaine suggested the issue lies with the North Koreans, not Biegun.

"They could if it were up to" Biegun, Kaine said of whether working level talks could be successful. "He's had, I think, difficult challenges on the other side of the discussions."

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senator blocks Armenian genocide resolution Hannity slams Stern for Clinton interview: 'Not the guy I grew up listening to' The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment MORE's (R-S.C.), described Biegun as an excellent briefer and said the meeting "was probably one of the best briefings I've ever had."

Democrats also on board: Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Trump administration releases 5M in military aid for Lebanon after months-long delay Senate Democrats ask Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters MORE (D-Conn.) said after the briefing that Trump walking away in Hanoi was the "only way" to force North Korea to revisit its stance.

"I hope they're right that this prompts a new round of negotiations," Murphy said. "But this also could just simply be another patented Kim family play for time. History has a way of repeating itself and nobody would be surprised if this little burst of negotiations goes nowhere and we don't hear anything for another 10 years."

He added there are not "a lot of other plays right now, so I think we got to all get behind this one no matter our deep reservations about the president's ineptitude." 

But issues with North Korea still loom: South Korean intelligence officials have reportedly seen signs of new activity at North Korean nuclear sites that the country previously pledged to dismantle.

Yonhap News Agency reported Tuesday that workers could be seen replacing a roof and installing a new door at the Tongchang-ri nuclear launch site, which North Korean officials promised last year to dismantle following the initial summit between Trump and Kim.

  

SENATORS INTRODUCE BILL TO END AFGHANISTAN WAR: Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law McConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' MORE (R-Ky.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Democrats ask Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters Bureau of Land Management staff face relocation or resignation as agency moves west Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows MORE (D-N.M.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would end the nearly two-decade-long Afghanistan War.

The 2019 American Forces Going Home After Noble Service Act would have the United States declare victory in Afghanistan and set a 45-day deadline for a plan to withdraw all U.S. forces within a year, according to a statement accompanying the bill's text.

It would also set a "framework for political reconciliation to be implemented by Afghans."

What else the bill would do: The legislation would also require the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to be repealed at the end of the withdrawal. Passed in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the AUMF has come under political scrutiny in recent years as it is still used to bypass Congress in justifying military operations against terrorist groups.

And the bill would have the federal government pay, within one year, a $2,500 bonus to the more than 3 million military service members who have served in the war -- a one-time cost of about $7 billion.

The argument: Paul's office notes that more than 2,300 service members have been killed since the start of the war in October 2001, with more than $2 trillion spent on the conflict.

"Endless war weakens our national security, robs this and future generations through skyrocketing debt, and creates more enemies to threaten us," Paul said in the statement.

"For over 17 years, our soldiers have gone above and beyond what has been asked of them in Afghanistan," he added. "It is time to declare the victory we achieved long ago, bring them home, and put America's needs first."

In the works: Trump administration officials are currently in high-level negotiations with Taliban leadership to end America's longest-running armed conflict.

The talks reportedly include a floated plan that would cut the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan by half within the next few months, with all troops withdrawn within the next three to five years.

Elsewhere in Congress: A group of Democratic and progressive lawmakers on Tuesday also pushed a separate effort to end the Afghanistan War.

The group, which includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez on food assistance cuts: 'If this happened then, we might've just starved' Youth climate activists grade top 2020 Democrats on Green New Deal commitment Sanders to join youth climate strikers in Iowa MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Castro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Buttigieg draws fresh scrutiny, attacks in sprint to Iowa MORE (I-Vt.), are sponsoring a pledge from a veterans group to "end the forever war."

Common Defense, a grass-roots organization of veterans and military family members, says that it has secured the backing of eight lawmakers for its pledge calling for the U.S. "to bring a clear end to these military interventions." The pledge was first posted last month.

 

GOP CHAIRMAN LOOKS TO LOCK IN TRUMP'S IRAN DEAL WITHDRAWAL: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East Pentagon official: 'Possible' more US troops could be deployed to Middle East MORE (R-Okla.) said Tuesday he'd like to include language in the annual defense policy bill that codifies President Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Inhofe was speaking to reporters in his office about a congressional delegation trip last month that included stops in Germany, Israel, Kosovo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Algeria.

Throughout the trip, Inhofe, a Trump supporter, said he found that countries such as Iran were "waiting Trump out."

"They think he's going to be defeated," Inhofe said. "The Iranians are waiting to reestablish the deal that [former Secretary of State] John KerryJohn Forbes KerryKerry to campaign with Biden in New Hampshire Kerry endorses Biden in 2020 race: He 'can beat Donald Trump' New Hampshire parochialism, not whiteness, bedevils Democrats MORE made, and they're all assuming that he'll be out of office."

To address that, Inhofe argued, Congress needs to codify what actions Trump has taken that it can, particularly support for Israel's military and the withdrawal from the Iran deal.

NDAA plans: Pressed further on whether there will be something in this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to make Trump's Iran deal withdrawal permanent, Inhofe said, "mhm."

Asked for elaboration by The Hill, a spokeswoman for Inhofe said putting language in the NDAA codifying the Iran deal withdrawal is a goal of his, but that he's flexible on the exact form since his priority is ultimately getting the NDAA passed.

Such language would likely be a nonstarter in the Democratic-controlled House, with which the Senate will have to negotiate to get the NDAA to the president's desk.

A refresher: Trump announced last year he was withdrawing the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed all the sanctions that had been lifted as part of the deal.

The agreement, reached by the Obama administration with Iran, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia, gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

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Regional experts have said Iran continues to abide by the terms in the nuclear deal in part because they are hoping Trump is a one-term president and that his successor will return to the accord. 

International inspectors said last month Iran remains within the key limits of its nuclear activities imposed by the deal.

  

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The House Armed Services Committee will hear from outside experts on nuclear deterrence policy and posture at 10 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118.

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on "The Way Forward on Border Security," at 10 a.m. in Cannon House Office Building, room 310.

A Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee will receive testimony on the military services' prevention of and response to sexual assault in two separate panels starting at 2:30 p.m. in Russell Senate office Building, room 222.

 

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