Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon chief says delay in Ukraine aid didn't hurt US security | Dems subpoena Pompeo for Ukraine documents | House for second time votes to block Trump emergency

Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon chief says delay in Ukraine aid didn't hurt US security | Dems subpoena Pompeo for Ukraine documents | House for second time votes to block Trump emergency
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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: Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPentagon sends 3 cargo planes to Lebanon filled with aid as questions on blast remain Overnight Defense: Esper says 'most believe' Beirut explosion was accident, contradicting Trump | Trump later says 'nobody knows yet' what happened in Lebanon | 61-year-old reservist ID'd as fourth military COVID-19 death Trump tempers his description of Beirut explosion as an attack: 'Nobody knows yet' MORE on Friday broke his silence on the Trump administration's delay in sending $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, a move now at the center of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Esper did not comment on the political nature of the delay, only saying that it did not affect national security.

"At this point most of the money is out the door. And at no time or at any time has any delay in this money, this funding, affected U.S. national security," Esper told reporters ahead of a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart at the Pentagon.

The controversy: The aid in question is in the center of a controversy that includes whistleblower allegations that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE froze the money in an attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Trump executive order is 'a reckless war on Social Security' Trump got into testy exchange with top GOP donor Adelson: report Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections MORE's son Hunter.

Democratic lawmakers have launched a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump over the whistleblower claims that Trump sought to use the funds as leverage in seeking Ukraine's help to tarnish Biden, the current Democratic front-runner for the 2020 presidential nomination.

Background on the aid: First announced on June 18, the aid was delayed until Sept. 11, which Trump has said was due to concerns about corruption in Ukraine.

But a May letter indicated the Department of Defense (DOD) had certified that the nation had taken action against corruption.

Esper up until now has remained quiet on the topic, telling reporters traveling with him earlier this week that he's "trying to keep DOD out of politics."

Senate Democrats, however, on Wednesday insisted the Pentagon look into the matter, calling on the department's watchdog arm to investigate the delay.

"The delay would appear to have hindered the Department's statutory obligation to provide security assistance to Ukraine at a critical moment, and raises serious questions about whether DoD officials were involved in any scheme to target a political opponent," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote in a letter to acting Inspector General Glenn Fine. 

"As a result, it is imperative that your office pursue a thorough review of DoD's potential role in these allegations, and provide your findings to the congressional defense committees in a timely manner." 

Pentagon to cooperate: Esper said Friday that the Pentagon would provide to lawmakers "whatever information we can provide with regard to this incident, with regard to this matter, just as we would with any other matter."

And Dems subpoena Pompeo: The chairmen of three House Committees have subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBeirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally Advocacy groups come out against Trump pick for ambassador to Germany US pledges million in disaster aid to Lebanon MORE for documents relating to the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine. 

The subpoena letter said that the documents were being demanded as part of Democrats' impeachment inquiry into Trump and that failure to produce them would be evidence of obstruction.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief MORE (D-Calif.) in recent days announced that the House would begin a formal investigation inquiry after a whistleblower claimed that Trump withheld aid from Ukraine in a deliberate effort to pressure its president to investigate former Biden and his son Hunter.


Read more:

-- GOP battens down the hatches after release of Trump whistleblower complaint

-- Trump demands Schiff resign over account of Ukraine call

 -- Feinstein calls for 'word-for-word' transcript of Trump call at heart of impeachment inquiry

-- Pelosi: Attorney general 'has gone rogue' to protect Trump



HOUSE FOR 2ND TIME APPROVES MEASURE BLOCKING TRUMP'S EMERGENCY DECLARATION FOR WALL: The House passed a joint resolution on Friday that would overturn Trump's emergency declaration at the southern border, which has allowed him to divert other government spending to his wall.

The 236-174 vote drew support from 11 Republicans, but not enough to overturn an expected veto from the president.

The measure is aimed at preventing the diversion of $3.6 billion for military construction projects toward work on Trump's wall along the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval.

Passage of the measure marks the second time Congress has approved legislation challenging Trump's authority to invoke emergency powers to build his wall.

The president vetoed an earlier resolution in March.

The second try: Under the National Emergencies Act, Democratic lawmakers can force a vote to end the emergency declaration every six months.

The new measure was approved by the Senate earlier this week in a 54-41 vote, with 11 Republicans joining Democrats in voting to block Trump.

The lead up: The president's decision to declare a national emergency in February sparked sharp pushback from Democrats and a number of GOP defense hawks and constitutionalists. Critics argued it was a violation of the separation of powers, as Congress is tasked with deciding how federal funds should be allocated.

Trump and the Republicans supporting him say failing to build the wall would be a threat to the country's national security.

The president centered his 2016 campaign on building a wall and having Mexico pay for it. The White House is now using funds from U.S. military projects to pay for the construction of the wall.

Trump appears to see making progress on building the wall as crucial to his reelection effort.


US STRIKES ISIS IN LIBYA: The U.S. military has conducted three airstrikes on ISIS fighters in Libya over the course of eight days after not striking Libya for more than a year.

U.S. Africa Command (Africom) announced Friday that it conducted an airstrike Thursday targeting ISIS fighters in southwest Libya.

Seventeen alleged militants were killed, according to a news release. Africom believes no civilians were killed or injured, the release added.

"This ongoing campaign against ISIS-Libya demonstrates that U.S. Africa Command persistently targets terrorist networks that seek to harm innocent Libyans," Navy Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, director of intelligence for Africom, said in a statement. "We will continue to pursue ISIS-Libya and other terrorists in the region, denying them safe haven to coordinate and plan operations in Libya."

Earlier strikes: Friday's announcement followed a strike Tuesday near Murzuq, Libya, that Africom said killed 11 suspected ISIS fighters and no civilians.

That in turn was preceded by a Sept. 19 strike near Murzuq that Africom said killed eight alleged fighters and no civilians. 

U.S. forces conducted eight strikes in Libya in 2018, but up until Sept. 19 had not conducted any this year.

Violence, chaos since 2011: Libya has been embroiled in violence since the 2011 uprising that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi.

The chaos intensified this year after rebel strongman Khalifa Haftar began marching on the United Nations-backed unity government in Tripoli in April. The small number of U.S. troops that were in Libya were pulled out after Haftar launched his offensive.



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