Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Furor over White House readout of Ukraine call | Dems seize on memo in impeachment push | Senate votes to end Trump emergency | Congress gets briefing on Iran

Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Furor over White House readout of Ukraine call | Dems seize on memo in impeachment push | Senate votes to end Trump emergency | Congress gets briefing on Iran
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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, 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: The impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE dominated Washington on Wednesday.

The White House released a five-page partial transcript of a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that revealed Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to work with his personal attorney, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Giuliani: Trump asked me to brief Justice Department, GOP lawmakers on Ukraine trip The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today MORE, and his attorney general to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Trump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE's role in the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor.

"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great," Trump told Zelensky in the July 25 call.

"Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me," Trump added.

The Ukrainian president then assured Trump that he would be installing his own prosecutor and officials and said he "will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue."

It's unclear if he was referring to Joe Biden or Crowdstrike, a company with ties to the Russia investigation that Trump raised earlier in the call.

Biden's name is mentioned three times on the call and Giuliani's name comes up five times, according to the document, which is titled formally as a "memorandum of telephone conversation." The document makes clear it is not a verbatim transcript of the conversation.

Trump told Zelensky on the call that he would have Giuliani and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Giuliani: Trump asked me to brief Justice Department, GOP lawmakers on Ukraine trip Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling MORE talk to him.

"I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I'm sure you will figure it out," Trump said.

Quid pro quo?: Many Democrats have argued that Trump raising an investigation of a political rival on a call with a foreign leader is sufficient proof of wrongdoing, even if there was no explicit quid pro quo.

Democrats are concerned that Trump pressured a foreign government to look into a political opponent, and that he may have used U.S. military aide as leverage.

While Trump highlights how the U.S. provides aid to Ukraine and expresses frustration that France and Germany don't contribute more, the transcript does not contain any explicit quid pro quo in which Trump directly ties aid for Ukraine to opening an investigation into the Bidens.

However, the document does show the Ukrainian leader thanking the U.S. for help on defense, with Trump subsequently requesting "a favor" before asking him to look into Biden.

Meeting Zelensky: Hours after the White House released the memo, Trump met one-on-one with Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.

Zelensky appeared reluctant to wade into the controversy when asked if he felt pressured by Trump to investigate Biden, saying he didn't want to get involved in "elections of USA."

"We've had I think [a] good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things," Zelensky said, adding that "nobody pushed me."

"And there was no pressure," Trump added.

But Trump insisted that Biden, who leads the president in multiple polls of hypothetical 2020 matchups, was guilty of wrongdoing.

Zelensky later clarified that he had not reached out to the country's prosecutor general to request an investigation into any matter.

Democrats bolstered: House Democrats are seizing on the release of the partial transcript as evidence that bolsters their case for impeachment.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles California GOP candidate arrested on stalking charges MORE (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the memo "confirms that the president engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security."

"The transcript and the Justice Department's acting in a rogue fashion in being complicit in the president's lawlessness confirm the need for an impeachment inquiry. Clearly, the Congress must act," Pelosi said.

Biden's response: Biden released a lengthy statement Wednesday afternoon blasting Trump's call with Zelensky, saying, "It is a tragedy for this country that our president put personal politics above his sacred oath."

"The 2,000-word summation of a 30-minute phone call released by the White House makes clear that days after the President ordered the delay of Congressionally-appropriated military assistance to Ukraine, he implored the President of Ukraine to work with his personal attorney to manufacture a smear against a domestic political opponent, using a malicious conspiracy theory that has been universally debunked by every independent outlet that has looked at it," he said.

Takeaways: The Hill's Brett Samuels and Morgan Chalfant broke down the memo into five essential takeaways. Catch up on that here.

 

 

SENATE VOTES AGAINST BORDER EMERGENCY … AGAIN: The impeachment drama may have grabbed the most headlines, but it wasn't the only setback for Trump on Wednesday.

For the second time, the Senate voted to nix Trump's emergency declaration, which he issued to be able to use billions in Pentagon funding to build his border wall.

Senators voted 54-41 on a resolution to end the declaration. Under the National Emergencies Act, a resolution ending the declaration needed only a simple majority to clear the Senate, making it likely to be approved.

But underscoring the broad swath of concern about Trump's actions among the Senate GOP caucus, 11 Republican senators voted to nix the declaration.

GOP Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderImpeachment surprise: Bills Congress could actually pass in 2020 Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills MORE (Tenn.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules Trump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans MORE (Mo.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' Defense bill includes fix for military families' survivor benefits MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules Hillicon Valley: Pelosi works to remove legal protections for tech companies from USMCA | Treasury sanctions Russian group over 0 million hack | Facebook sues Chinese individuals for ad fraud | Huawei takes legal action against FCC Senators defend bipartisan bill on facial recognition as cities crack down MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMcConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug bill Senators inch forward on federal privacy bill Hillicon Valley: Dueling bills set stage for privacy debate | Google co-founders step down from parent company | Advocates rally for self-driving car bill | Elon Musk defamation trial begins | Lawsuit accuses TikTok of sharing data with China MORE (Kan.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPotential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules MORE (Alaska), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMellman: Looking to Iowa Pelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules MORE (Ky.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE (Ohio), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Mellman: Looking to Iowa Potential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment MORE (Utah), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (Pa.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerLet's enact a privacy law that advances economic justice There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield MORE (Miss.) voted to end the president's declaration.

What Democrats say: Democrats have seized on the administration's decision to shift money away from military construction projects as a way to politically box in Republicans by forcing them to decide between breaking with Trump or voting to allow money to be shifted away from projects in their own states.

"The vote today is the surest and likely the only way to restore funding the president has stolen from our troops and military projects across the country," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerKrystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote.

He added that if Republicans voted to uphold Trump's use of his emergency powers they would be setting "a dangerous precedent that could embolden not just this president but future presidents to ignore congressional authority."

What Republicans say: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday McConnell: Senate impeachment trial will begin in January MORE (R-Ky.) knocked Democrats on Wednesday, arguing they were forcing them to hold a repeat vote even though they knew the outcome -- that Congress won't be able to override a veto.

"Still unwilling to work with the president and Republicans on a long-term bipartisan solution for border security, Senate Democrats are making us repeat the same show vote again. I would urge my colleagues to vote for border security and vote against Democrats' resolution," he said.

Republicans who support ending the emergency declaration argue that their decision isn't about Trump personally but about broader concerns on upholding the separation of powers.

"Let me be clear: The question before us is not whether to support or oppose the wall, or to support or oppose the President. Rather, it is: Do we want the Executive Branch -- now or in the future -- to hold a power that the Founders deliberately entrusted to Congress?" GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a co-sponsor of the resolution, asked earlier this month.

 

CONGRESS BRIEFED ON IRAN: Congress received classified briefings Wednesday on Iran following attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities the Trump administration has blamed on Tehran.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Hillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings MORE (R-S.C.), a typical Trump ally who has clashed with the president over how to respond to the attacks, emerged from the Senate's briefing continuing to push military action, but said he thinks President Trump is "waiting to see what happens with the coalition building."

"I am more determined now than ever to make the case that to restore deterrence Iran has to pay a price that they can feel and sanctions will never do the job and that we should be considering a military response," Graham said. "I'm hoping the president will respond in a fashion where the Iranians will not be confused about the price they pay to disrupt the world."

The briefing was conducted by mid-level Defense, State and intelligence officials, senators said.

Coming out of Wednesday's briefing, Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Why the Democrats' impeachment drive is in trouble — and what Nancy Pelosi needs to do about it The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment MORE (D-Conn.) said the Trump administration is living in "an absolute fantasy world."

"The administration continues to believe they're going to be able to put together some broad multilateral coalition to pressure the Iranians into coming back to the negotiating table when in fact the exact opposite is true," Murphy said. "Our European partners are actually actively trying to undermine our maximum pressure campaign. And [the briefers] sit in this room and try to pretend as if they're on the cusp of getting the Europeans to join us."

Iran at the UN: Earlier Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke at the U.N. General Assembly.

Rouhani warned that a "single blunder" in the Gulf region could "fuel a big fire."

"Our region is on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire," Rouhani told world leaders assembled at the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.

"We shall not tolerate the provocative intervention of foreigners," he continued. "We shall respond decisively and strongly to any sort of transgression to and violation of our security and territorial integrity."

 

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ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a joint hearing on "Sustaining U.S. Pacific Insular Relationships" at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. https://bit.ly/2lzV0Hn

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee will hold a hearing on Hong Kong at 10:45 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. https://bit.ly/2lPL10D

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on U.S. nonproliferation policy at 2 p.m. Rayburn 2172. https://bit.ly/2lbU4sz 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: US military warns service members about extremist violence at 'Joker' screenings

-- The Hill: Military pursuing new eligibility rules for burial at Arlington National Cemetery

-- The Hill: Opinion: Iran is surviving, in spite of Trump's 'maximum pressure'

-- The Hill: Opinion: How the 'Obama Doctrine' can solve the Iran stand-off