Overnight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran

Overnight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran
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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: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanEsper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall MORE has withdrawn from consideration to lead the Pentagon on a permanent basis, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE announced Tuesday.

Trump said in a pair of tweets that Shanahan wanted to "devote more time to his family." The messages were posted shortly after the publication of multiple media reports describing past domestic violence incidents involving Shanahan's family.

"Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family," Trump tweeted.

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Shanahan said in a statement that going forward with the confirmation process "would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family's life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal."

"I would welcome the opportunity to be secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father," he said.

 

Who will replace him: The president said he would name Mark Esper, who currently serves as secretary of the Army, as the new acting Defense chief. Trump did not say if Esper would be nominated for the permanent role. Esper, who was confirmed by the Senate 89-6 in the fall of 2017, is a former infantry officer and previously served as a top executive at the defense contractor Raytheon.

 

Bad timing: The decision leaves the Pentagon without a permanent leader at a time of rising tensions with Iran, which the Trump administration has accused of attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The administration on Monday ordered another 1,000 troops to the Middle East.

 

What caused the decision: Trump's announcement Tuesday came just over an hour after USA Today reported that Shanahan's FBI background check was being held up by an alleged 2010 domestic fight with his now-ex wife.

The White House first announced in May that Trump intended to nominate Shanahan as Defense secretary. But his nomination was never officially sent to the Senate. As more and more time passed, questions began to swirl about whether Trump was souring on Shanahan.

But after rumors circulated under the radar for weeks, reports began to come out publicly this week that the process was being marred by the alleged domestic incident.

 

The specifics: As reported by USA Today, police reports and court filings showed that an August 2010 fight between Shanahan and his now ex-wife escalated into a physical clash. The wife, Kimberley Jordinson, reportedly told police he punched her in the stomach, while he told police she was the aggressor and punched him "10 or 20 times."

She was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, but prosecutors later dropped the charges citing a lack of evidence.

The Washington Post on Tuesday also detailed a 2011 incident in which Shanahan's son hit Jordinson with a baseball bat and left Jordinson unconscious in a pool of blood.

"Bad things can happen to good families ... and this is a tragedy, really," Shanahan told the Post in an interview published shortly after Trump's tweets. Dredging up the episode publicly, Shanahan said, "will ruin my son's life."

 

Capitol Hill shocked: Shanahan's abrupt withdrawal left senators fuming and the Defense Department rudderless at a time of rising tensions with Iran.

It raises questions anew about how much longer the Pentagon will go without a confirmed leader at a time of turmoil with Iran many lawmakers fear could turn to war.

The announcement left senators angry they had been left in the dark about many of the details from Shanahan's past even though he had already gone through a confirmation process to be deputy Defense secretary.

"I feel that there was possibly a deliberate concealment here," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I think there ought to be an investigation by the IG in the Department of Defense. ... There ought to be a complete investigation of that whole process. ...  This is potentially a violation of criminal law."

Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Veterans group seeks Trump apology for comments on brain injuries | Pentagon says dozens of troops suffered traumatic injuries after attack | Trump unveils Space Force logo Dozens of US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries after Iran missile strikes Six mayors making a difference MORE (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he was aware during Shanahan's deputy secretary confirmation of a "contentious divorce," but that many of Tuesday's reported details were new.

"The more we know, the better off we are," Reed said when asked if the committee should have known the rest.

 

GOP caught off guard: Republican senators quickly backed Shanahan's decision to withdraw in the wake of multiple reports describing past domestic violence incidents involving his family, with some voicing surprise at the allegations.

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says he wants to see Bolton manuscript Bolton upends Trump impeachment trial  Juan Williams: Democrats can't let Trump off the hook MORE (S.C.), a top ally of President Trump, called the move Tuesday a "smart decision," adding that he hadn't heard about the domestic violence allegations "in detail" but had heard "rumors about them."

"It probably was a smart decision given the issues before the White House. ... I really appreciate what Shanahan has done," Graham told reporters. "Now we have got to find a replacement."

Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBroad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Senators take oath for impeachment trial MORE (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he was in the dark about the fact that Trump and Shanahan were discussing pulling the nomination, and had told reporters only minutes before that the Defense secretary pick was safe despite reports of trouble.

"I was responding not more than two hours ago that no there's no problem ... then three minutes after that I got a call from the president," Inhofe said.

 

SENATORS DEMAND TRUMP EXPLAIN DECISION TO DEPLOY TROOPS: A bipartisan group of senators called on President Trump to explain his decision to deploy troops to the Middle East and warning that Congress hasn't authorized military action against Iran. 

Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThis week: Senate barrels toward showdown on impeachment witnesses Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Senate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' MORE (D-Va.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe self-fulfilling Iran prophecy No patriotic poll bump for Trump, but Soleimani strike may still help him politically Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it MORE (R-Utah) spearheaded the letter, which was also signed by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' Environmentalists, Oregon senators oppose DOT increasing transport of natural gas by rail Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP Iowa senator suggests Trump impeachment defense could hurt Biden at caucuses On The Money: Stocks close with steep losses driven by coronavirus fears | Tax season could bring more refund confusion | Trump's new wins for farmers may not undo trade damage Sanders launches first TV ads in Nevada MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyRepublicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum MORE (D-Conn.), and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLindsey Graham will oppose subpoena of Hunter Biden Marsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial Sekulow indicates Trump should not attend impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.), saying they are "concerned' that escalating U.S.-Iran tensions will lead to a military conflict. 

"We remain concerned that increasingly escalatory actions by both sides will lead to an unnecessary conflict. Given that growing risk, we want to reiterate that, as of this date, Congress has not authorized war with Iran and no current statutory authority allows the U.S. to conduct hostilities against the Government of Iran," the senators wrote.

They added that they "expect" the Trump administration would come to Congress for a military authorization before they deploy forces "into hostilities or areas where hostilities with Iran are imminent" and stick to "legitimate principles of self-defense" absent congressional authorization.

 

Background: The letter to Trump comes after acting Defense Secretary announced on Monday night that the administration will send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes. 

U.S.-Iran tensions are running high after Tehran's nuclear agency announced it will soon exceed the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile unless Europe intervenes, and in the wake of an attack on oil tankers near the strategic chokepoint of the Straight of Hormuz, which the Trump administration blames on Tehran.

 

More briefings: Senators are getting a new round of briefings from the administration, including a top State Department official meeting with Senate Republicans during a closed-door lunch on Tuesday. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — CDC, State Department warn against travel to China | Biden says Trump left US unprepared for epidemic | Justices allow Trump 'public charge' rule to move forward Progressive group targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment witnesses MORE (R-Ky.) also said key committees would also be getting briefings. 

The letter to Trump comes as the Senate is expected to start debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) later this week. 

 

Pompeo talks Iran at CENTCOM: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoState Department removes NPR reporter from Pompeo trip Overnight Defense: US military jet crashes in Afghanistan | Rocket attack hits US embassy in Baghdad | Bolton bombshell rocks impeachment trial Please stop calling the impeachment proceeding a trial — it's a charade MORE said Trump does not want war with Iran, but that the administration wants to protect U.S. interests.

Pompeo made the statement while speaking to reporters after a closed-door meeting at the U.S. Central Command (Centcom) headquarters in Florida. 

"We are there to deter aggression. President Trump does not want war," Pompeo said Tuesday, according to videos posted of his remarks. "We will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region."

He also said there were issues with Iran of beyond the attacks on two oil tankers that he has blamed on Tehran, saying there have been other recent attacks, some of which were thwarted, in recent weeks.  

"We shouldn't focus on just those two attacks. Since the beginning of May, there are now over a half-dozen different instances of Iranian attacks in the region," he said. 

 

SENATE TO VOTE ON BLOCKING TRUMP'S SAUDI ARMS SALE AS SOON AS THIS WEEK: Senators are paving the way to block Trump's arms deal with Saudi Arabia as soon as this week. 

Senate leadership and supporters of blocking the arms sale are in negotiations aimed at getting a deal on how and when the resolutions of disapproval will be brought to the Senate floor. 

Without an agreement each resolution is subjected to up to 10 hours of debate, which would eat up the Senate's schedule. 

 

How they plan to do it: Senators are using a provision of the Arms Export Control Act to block the 22 sales by only a simple majority after Trump last month invoked an emergency provision within the law to push through the roughly $8 billion sale without congressional approval. With at least four Republicans expected to join all 47 Democrats in supporting the resolutions of disapproval, the Senate is expected to have the votes to block the arms sale and force Trump to issue a veto.

"Everybody would like to get to a UC," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), referring to a unanimous consent agreement that would set a streamlined process for the Senate's floor votes.

Murphy said they were aiming to hold votes this week even with a mammoth defense bill and a slate of nominations already on the schedule. 

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) started the clock on one of the 22 resolutions of disapproval on the Senate floor Tuesday. Lawmakers have a 30-day window to take action, giving them until they leave for the July 4 recess. 

 

DEFENSE BILL AMENDMENTS CONTINUE: Every year hundreds of amendments are filed on the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), while only a few, if any, are actually voted on.

The Hill's Jordain Carney is pouring over the amendments to highlight the most interesting.

Among them is an amendment to prevent unauthorized military operations against Iran.

Sens. Paul, Kaine, Murphy, Merkley, Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Republicans face pivotal moment on impeachment witnesses Democrats see Mulvaney as smoking gun witness at Trump trial Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (D-Ill.), and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallIt is time for companies and governments to holistically tackle single-use plastics Citizens United decision weathers 10 years of controversy Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall MORE (D-N.M.), filed the amendment, as they worry that the administration would try to use the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to cover a conflict with Iran. 

"No funds may be used to conduct hostilities against the government of Iran, against the armed forces of Iran or in the territory of Iran except pursuant to an act or a joint resolution of Congress specifically authorizing such hostilities," the amendment reads.  

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

State Department Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and Republic of Korea Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Do-hoon Lee will give the keynote remarks at 9:30 a.m. and Reps. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraLA Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Biden Even in a time of impeachment, health care is on the agenda Global health is the last bastion of bipartisan foreign policy MORE (D-Calif.), and Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoThe US must to continue to prioritize research and development, especially through NASA The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment face-off; Dems go after Buttigieg in debate The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - An unusual day: Impeachment plus a trade deal MORE (R-Fla.), will participate in a discussion on "Charting Korea's Role in U.S.-China Strategic Competition in the Indo-Pacific," at 2 p.m. at the Atlantic Council's East Asia Foundation Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. 

Defense Department Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer Essye Miller will participate in a discussion on "Women in Leadership: Movers and Shakers, Ceiling Breakers, Ruckus Makers," at 9:45 a.m. at the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. 

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will speak at 10 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford will speak on U.S. military and defense strategy in conflict areas around the world and the current state of cooperative efforts with U.S. allies at 6:30 p.m. at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Tensions with Iran reach new stage over uranium threat

-- The Hill: Air Force base landlord falsified maintenance records, exposed families to asbestos: Reuters

-- The Hill: China asks US to 'alter its extreme pressure methods' on Iran 

-- The Hill: Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills

-- The Hill: Russian lawmakers back Putin on withdrawal from nuclear arms treaty

-- The Hill: Pompeo blocks Saudi inclusion on list of countries that recruit child soldiers: report 

-- The Hill: Russia warns US is trying to 'provoke war' with Iran

-- The Hill: Iran's president: 'We do not wage war with any nation'

-- The Hill: House Homeland Security Republicans to introduce slew of cybersecurity bills

-- The Hill: Opinion: 2020 Dems can't give Trump the high ground on national security

-- Reuters: Trump creates doubt over use of U.S. force to protect Gulf oil

-- Defense News: How long will it take to get a new defense secretary now?