Overnight Defense: Trump issues first veto over 'reckless' emergency resolution | Pompeo moves to restrict international court probing war crimes | Trump taps Air Force general for NATO commander

Overnight Defense: Trump issues first veto over 'reckless' emergency resolution | Pompeo moves to restrict international court probing war crimes | Trump taps Air Force general for NATO commander
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Happy Friday 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: President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE on Friday issued the first veto of his presidency, stymying Congress's attempt to block him from obtaining funds for his wall at the U.S.-Mexico border without lawmakers' approval.

Trump vetoed a resolution of disapproval of his emergency declaration that passed the House and the Senate. The measure won support from both parties, including 12 Senate Republicans, in what was seen as a significant rebuke of the president.

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In an Oval Office ceremony, Trump said Americans would be put at risk if the "dangerous" and "reckless" resolution became law.

"Today I am vetoing this resolution. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it," Trump said.

What happens now: The resolution of disapproval will now return to the Democratic-controlled House, which is expected to hold a vote on March 26 on overriding Trump's veto, according to a leadership aide. But leaders lack the two-thirds support of the chamber necessary to pass the bill over the president's objections.

And despite the veto, the battle over the emergency will continue in court where a number of states and advocacy groups have sued to stop it.

The lead up: The 59-41 vote in the Senate on Thursday marked the first time Congress has voted to block a president's emergency declaration. The House passed the measure last month by a vote of 245-182.

The president's move capped off weeks of conflict with members of both parties over the wall, an issue that will play a key role in Trump's 2020 reelection race.

Opponents of the national emergency declaration denounced it as a violation of the Constitution's separation of powers.

Trump's reply: Trump framed the vote as a referendum on his immigration agenda, rather than his presidential authority.

"People hate the word 'invasion,' but that's what it is," the president said of the situation on the southern border.

Trump also said anyone voting to overturn the national emergency is voting "against reality" and asserted that Republican voters were "overwhelmingly" against the resolution.

Lawmakers' response: GOP senators voting against the president said the constitutional issues created by the emergency declaration were too great to ignore.

This week's vote, combined with the Senate's passage of a resolution against U.S. involvement in Yemen, showed some GOP lawmakers are willing to buck Trump in order to claw back powers of the legislative branch.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (D-N.Y.) also criticized Trump's veto, saying "it is no surprise that the president holds the rule of law and our Constitution in minimal regard."

"There is no emergency," Schumer said in a statement. "While the president has chosen to trample all over the Constitution, we Democrats in the Senate will never stop defending our country from an overreaching president."

 

POMPEO SEEKS TO BLOCK FOREIGN INVESTIGATIONS INTO US MILITARY: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference MORE announced Friday that the United States would restrict visas of any International Criminal Court (ICC) staffers who investigate actions by U.S. military personnel.

The move signifies an effort by the Trump administration to increase pressure on the ICC over its proposed inquiry into alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

"I am announcing a policy of U.S. visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of U.S. personnel," Pompeo said in remarks at the State Department Friday morning.

"This includes persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation. These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies' consent."

Limited details given: Pompeo declined to provide details on the number of visas that could be affected but said the administration had already begun implementing the policy. He described the restrictions as "part of a continued effort to convince the ICC to change course with its potential investigation and potential prosecution of Americans."

"If you're responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you will still have or will get a visa or that you will be permitted to enter the United States," Pompeo said.

The background: The Trump administration had already threatened stern action against the court. John Bolton, President Trump's national security adviser and a longtime critic of the ICC, said in September that the administration was prepared to impose sanctions on the court if it continues with the Afghanistan probe -- something Pompeo reiterated on Friday.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced in November 2017 that she would seek permission from the court to pursue a formal investigation into the Afghan conflict, citing a "reasonable basis to believe" war crimes had been committed in connection with the years-long war. A decision on whether the court will allow the investigation could come at any time.

What is the ICC? The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity after human rights groups and other nongovernment organizations pushed for its creation. The court boasts 123 member states, including the European Union, but the United States is not a party to it.

And Pompeo denies North Korean accusations: Pompeo also on Friday said a top North Korean official was "wrong" to claim that he and President Trump's national security adviser John Bolton created an atmosphere of hostility and distrust at the recent nuclear summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

"They're wrong about that," Pompeo said, describing his relationship with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, as "professional" and saying he expects both sides to continue discussions about denuclearization.

Pompeo's remarks came hours after Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said in Pyongyang that North Korea was disappointed by the collapse of talks at the summit in Hanoi last month and accused Pompeo and Bolton of making demands that created an atmosphere of mistrust and hostility.

Bolton also disputed Choe's comments as "inaccurate" on Friday. 

 

HOW DID THE PENTAGON SPEND $2.1B ON F-35 PARTS? Pentagon officials did not account for and manage $2.1 billion worth of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter parts and must now rely on the aircraft's maker, Lockheed Martin, to tell them where and when it spent the funds, according to a new watchdog report.

The scathing report from the Defense Department's (DOD) Office of Inspector General found that Pentagon officials "failed to implement procedures, and failed to appoint and hold officials responsible, to account for and manage government property for more than 16 years."

As a result of major oversights, "the DoD does not know the actual value of the F‑35 property and does not have an independent record to verify the contractor‑valued government property of $2.1 billion for the F‑35 Program," the report states.

What does this mean? The implications are significant, the inspector general noted, since without accurate records, F‑35 program officials have no metrics to hold Lockheed accountable for how it managed 3.45 million pieces of government property.

"The lack of asset visibility restricts the DoD's ability to conduct the necessary checks and balances that ensure the prime contractor is managing and spending F‑35 Program funds in the government's best interest and could impact the DoD's ability to meet its operational readiness goals for the F‑35 aircraft," the report finds.

A refresher on the fighter: The $400 billion F-35 program, the most expensive weapons program in history, has been decried by critics as a boondoggle. The fifth-generation fighter jet has been plagued with numerous issues over the years, including cost overruns, software delays, corrosion and even problems with tire durability.

It has also long been the target of lawmakers, most notably the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFormer astronaut running for Senate in Arizona returns money from paid speech in UAE Fox's Roberts: Trump 'glared at me like I've never seen him glare at me before' Lou Dobbs: Political criticism of McCain 'not an exhumation of his body' MORE (R-Ariz.). McCain, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in 2016 that the program has "been a scandal and the cost overruns have been disgraceful."

President Trump has also repeatedly bashed the F-35, including shortly after he was elected when he wrote on Twitter that the program's costs were "out of control."

What else the IG found: The report found, among other oversights, that the F‑35 program office did not make sure it recorded F-35 parts in an accountable property system of record (APSR) from August 2002 until October 2017.

And even though an APSR was selected in October 2017, F-35 program officials have not entered any property records into it as of December 2018. That means the only record of the F-35 parts is with Lockheed and its subcontractor Pratt & Whitney, which makes the fighters' engines.

In another misstep, the F-35 program office did not appoint the required personnel to make sure there was accountability throughout the life of the program.

The recommendations: The DOD Office of Inspector General recommended that the under secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment review the F‑35 program office accounting and management and "take appropriate action, if warranted, to hold the necessary officials accountable."

The watchdog also suggested that, before a decision is made to begin full-rate production of the F-35, the program office "immediately appoint" two Pentagon officials "to verify the existence and completeness of all F‑35 property and account for it on the appropriate financial statements."

Pentagon officials agreed with the inspector general's recommendations and plan to address them, according to the report.

 

TRUMP TAPS AIR FORCE GENERAL FOR NATO COMMANDER: Trump has nominated the top Air Force general in Europe to be NATO's supreme allied commander and the next head of U.S. European Command, the Pentagon announced Friday.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanTrump waiting on watchdog findings for Pentagon head: report Overnight Defense: Trump to reverse North Korea sanctions imposed by Treasury | Move sparks confusion | White House says all ISIS territory in Syria retaken | US-backed forces report heavy fighting | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE said in a statement that Trump tapped Gen. Tod Wolters, who since 2016 has been overseeing air operations in Europe and Africa as commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa.

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NATO has agreed to Wolters's appointment, Shanahan added.

If confirmed by the Senate, Wolters would succeed Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who has held the NATO and U.S. posts since 2016.

Current challenges in Europe: Wolters would take the new position as the Trump administration is requesting a smaller European Deterrence Initiative fund in its fiscal 2020 budget. The Pentagon's latest request for the program, meant to reassure allies wary about Russian aggression, is $5.9 billion, down from $6.5 billion this year.

Other challenges on the continent include increased Russian aggression in the Balkans, a possible new U.S. military installation in Poland and requests from Ukraine for more weapons.

His background: An Air Force Academy graduate and former F-15 pilot, Wolters has also flown the F-22, T-38, A-10 and OV-10 light attack and observation aircraft over the course of his career, which includes deployments during the first Gulf War and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  

ICYMI

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