Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales

Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales
© Greg Nash

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: President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE said Tuesday the U.S. is "not going to need an exit strategy" if war broke out with Iran.

"You're not going to need an exit strategy," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, prompting laughter. "I don't need exit strategies."

"We would love to be able to negotiate a deal if they want to. If they don't want to, that's fine, too," Trump added. "But we would love to be able to, and frankly, they might as well do it soon."

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Timing: Trump's comments are the latest move to heighten tensions between the U.S. and Iran following Iran's downing of a U.S. drone last week.

Trump later ordered and then called off a decision to strike Iran in retaliation.

On Monday, the president announced additional sanctions against the country's supreme leader and other top officials.

And he told The Hill in an exclusive interview that he did not need congressional authorization to launch strikes on the country.

Iran's reaction: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blasted the "outrageous and idiotic" sanctions on Tuesday, saying the White House is "afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do."

"Obviously, the people of Iran are great people," Trump said Tuesday. "I know many of them. I lived in New York -- I haven't been there very much in the last two and a half years -- but I know many Iranians living in New York, and they're fantastic people."

He added: "I have many friends that are Iranian, and it's very sad what's happening to that country."

In the Senate: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA —Biden unveils health care plan | Proposal pitches subsidies, public option | Biden vows if you like your health insurance, 'you can keep it' | Sanders protests planned Philadelphia hospital closure MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he's willing to vote on a controversial amendment that would require Congress to approve any military action against Iran, but warned colleagues it could signal disunity in Washington to a foreign adversary.

McConnell said he's open to voting on a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineAcosta defends Epstein deal, bucking calls for resignation Republican lawmakers on why they haven't read Mueller report: 'Tedious' and 'what's the point?' Schumer calls on Acosta to step down over Epstein MORE (D-Va.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHouse passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' | Republicans form conservation caucus | Pressure mounts against EPA's new FOIA rule Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' MORE (D-N.M.) that would block funding for military action against Iran without prior congressional approval.

The legislation also has support from Republican Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe buck stops here: How to restore accountability to the federal regulatory system Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Lawyer: Flynn will keep cooperating after co-conspirator revelations MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act exposes Silicon Valley's hollow diversity slogans Overnight Defense: Senate rejects effort to restrict Trump on Iran | Democrats at debate vow to shore up NATO | Senate confirms chief of Space Command MORE (Utah).

Dem worries: Democrats feared that McConnell would try to bypass a debate on Iran by voting as soon as Wednesday to cut off debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would be the vehicle for the Iran amendment.

But McConnell put those anxieties to rest Tuesday.

"We're not opposed to having the vote and we're working on having that vote, passing NDAA and doing the supplemental [border spending bill], all this week," he said.

He urged colleagues, however, to vote against the Iran war authorization amendment.

"I don't think it's good for this country to see the Iranians observing us arguing over all this, either. So my hope is that it will be defeated. We'll find out by how much of a margin but we hope to defeat it," he said.

McConnell argued that a war authorization "is not required under this set of circumstances."

"Nobody is advocating going to war with Iran. Not the president, not the secretary of State, none of the generals. No one," he said.

In the House: On the other side of Capitol Hill, a bipartisan pair of congressmen, including a vocal ally of Trump, on Tuesday unveiled a measure to prevent the president from conducting a military strike against Iran without congressional approval.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment, offered by Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaCongress, stop ducking war-declaration authority on Iran The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill MORE (D-Calif.) and Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Social media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech MORE (R-Fla.), would prohibit funding for U.S. military action against Iran unless Congress has declared war or enacted another specific statutory authorization.

"Last week, we watched President Trump come within minutes of striking Iran and involving the United States in yet another trillion-dollar war in the Middle East," Khanna said in a statement. "President Trump campaigned on ending costly wars overseas but given the advisors he chose and his recent risky actions, he is not living up to that promise."

Gaetz, who frequently backs the president, added that "Congress must resolve" to make sure any conflict with Iran is initiated within the constraints of the Constitution.

  

SENATE PANEL ADVANCES BILL TO RESTRICT EMERGENCY ARMS SALES: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would restrict the president's ability to approve emergency sales without a congressional review period.

The bill advanced by voice vote with some Republicans expressing opposition to the legislation.

The bill, dubbed the Saudi Arabia False Emergencies (SAFE) Act, comes as a response to President Trump's decision to use the emergency provision of the Arms Export Control Act in an attempt to muscle through 22 arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies without the typical congressional review period.

"This bipartisan bill directly addresses these abuses by restricting these emergency authorities to only our closest security treaty allies and security partner countries," said Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate passes .5B border bill, setting up fight with House Senate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week MORE (D-N.J.), the committee's ranking member and sponsor of the bill.

"These changes do not affect the 22 sales, which we dealt with by the resolutions of disapproval last week. But it will hopefully prevent us being faced with future uses of this nature, regardless of whether a Republican or a Democrat is occupying the White House."

Uphill climb: Despite advancing out of the Foreign Relations Committee, the bill faces an uphill climb to get a floor vote without committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischThis week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (R-Idaho) and Republican leadership's support.

Under normal procedures, the arms sale law requires a 30-day congressional review period before a sale is finalized.

But citing threats from Iran, the administration invoked a provision of the law allowing sales to go through immediately in emergency cases for the 22 sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

What's happened so far: Still, last week, the Senate approved resolutions to the block the deals. A resolution that would block two sales passed 53-45, while another that would block the other 20 sales passed 51-45.

The House is expected to follow suit, but Trump is expected to veto the resolutions, and neither chamber is expected to have enough votes to overturn the veto.

As part of the deal to bring the arms sale resolutions to a vote, Risch agreed to hold the markup on the SAFE Act, as well as another markup on a separate piece of Saudi Arabia legislation expected after the July 4 break.

Who backed the bill: Menendez's bill, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm MORE (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic Sen. Chris Murphy announces book on gun violence Lawmakers join Nats Park fundraiser for DC kids charity Democrats look to demonize GOP leader MORE (D-Conn.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip Democrats want investigation into cost, legality of Trump's July Fourth event MORE (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), would specifically limit emergency arms sales to NATO allies and Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. 

Lawmakers in both parties oppose the arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its conduct in the Yemen civil war, where a Saudi-led coalition has been blamed for the majority of civilian deaths, and the Saudi regime's killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered last year in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

 

MEDAL OF HONOR AWARDED TO FIRST LIVING IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Trump on Tuesday awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, making him the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the recognition.

Bellavia received the nation's highest military honor for his actions on Nov. 10, 2004, when he cleared out a block of houses in Fallujah, laid down cover fire and engaged multiple insurgents, saving numerous fellow U.S. soldiers in the process.

Trump praised Bellavia's "exceptional courage" during what was one of the bloodiest operations of the Iraq War. The third day of the battle -- Nov. 10, 2004 -- was Bellavia's 29th birthday, Trump noted.

"America is blessed with the heroes and great people like Staff Sgt. Bellavia, whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms and defends our great American flag," Trump said.

The details: Thirty-two service members who fought with Bellavia in Iraq, including 12 who were part of his unit in November 2004, also attended Tuesday's ceremony. Five Gold Star families whose children served with Bellavia and were killed were also recognized.

Five other servicemen have received the Medal of Honor for their actions during the Iraq War. Each was honored posthumously.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey speaks at the Association of the U.S. Army's Institute of Land Warfare breakfast at 6:30 a.m. at AUSA headquarters in Arlington, Va. 

Rep. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales MORE (D-Md.), vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and retired Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), will hold a discussion on congressional priorities going into this year's legislative cycle at 7:30 a.m. in Arlington, Va. 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein will speak on "The United States Air Force Role in Nuclear Modernization and Sustainment," at 8:30 a.m. at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C. 

Rep. Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornOvernight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill The GOP is making Ocasio-Cortez more popular MORE (R-Colo.), co-chair of the Congressional Directed Energy Caucus; Rep. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinOvernight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales House passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment MORE (D-R.I.), co-chair of the caucus; and Gary Woltering, deputy chief of the Air Combat Command's Advanced Weapons Systems Division, will speak at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement's fourth annual Directed Energy Systems Summit, beginning at 8:50 a.m. in Arlington, Va. 

Senate Armed Services Committee member Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanSenate sets new voting record with Iran war measure Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Senators weigh potential security risks from Chinese-made drones MORE (R-Alaska), will speak on "Defending the Arctic," focusing on the recent release of the June 2019 Defense Department Arctic strategy and Russian and Chinese influences, at 12 p.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: McConnell denies request to delay defense bill to after debates: 'Come on'

-- The Hill: TSA to send hundreds of workers to southern border to enforce immigration policies

-- The Hill: US targeted Iranian-backed militia group in cyberattack: report

-- The Hill: NATO: 'No indication' Russia intends to destroy new missil 

-- The Hill: Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions

-- The Hill: Senate investigation finds multiple federal agencies left sensitive data vulnerable to cyberattacks for past decade

-- The Hill: Bolton presses Iran to withdraw forces from Syria, areas of conflict

-- The Hill: Poll: More than a third would support pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea

-- The Hill: Japan: Trump committed to military treaty, despite report

-- The Hill: Bolton: Sanctions, other pressure will bring Iran to bargaining table 

-- The Hill: Iran: New US sanctions the 'permanent closure' of diplomacy