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 ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary MORE has withdrawn from consideration to lead the Pentagon on a permanent basis, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? 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 ReedThis week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington Fury over Trump Syria decision grows Democrats warn Trump's Turkey sanctions don't go far enough 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 GrahamTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey Graham opens door to calling Hunter Biden to testify 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 InhofeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump declares 'case closed' as text messages raise new questions Top House Democrat: Trump did 'on camera' what Romney warned about GOP senators attack whistleblower's credibility 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 Kaine2020 general election debates announced Senators call for Trump administration to testify on Syria Schumer: Transcript 'absolutely validates' Trump impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Va.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeA decade of policymaking failures is to blame for new Syria crisis Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe MORE (R-Utah) spearheaded the letter, which was also signed by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Democratic senator on Trump's 'treason' comments about whistleblower: 'I worry about threats on his or her life' Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBacklash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Administration to give 'top secret' briefing on Syria amid pushback MORE (D-Conn.), and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Rand Paul rips Lindsey Graham: 'Wrong about almost every foreign policy decision' 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 McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey 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 PompeoOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Graham: Erdoğan pledged to Trump to stay away from Kurdish territory in Syria Trump honors Stanley Cup champions, talks impeachment, Turkey 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 DurbinSenators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds DEA allowed more opioids even as overdose deaths rose | Judge temporarily blocks Georgia abortion law | Three states report more vaping deaths | Dem proposes new fix for surprise medical bills During impeachment storm, senators cross aisle to lessen mass incarceration MORE (D-Ill.), and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallGreen groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds 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 BeraDemocrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Seniors deserve access to Health Savings Accounts Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations MORE (D-Calif.), and Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoCNN slams GOP for not appearing on network after mass shootings, conservatives fire back Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran 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?