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

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
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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: President Trump has found himself increasingly isolated in Washington at a crucial point of his battle against House Democrats’ fast-moving impeachment inquiry. 

Trump alienated many Republicans with his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria as Turkey mounted an offensive against U.S.-allied Kurds, touching off a controversy that has reverberated for more than a week. 

Meanwhile, the president’s White House team has largely been absent from the airwaves as the administration’s blanket refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry is put to the test.

As a result, it has fallen largely on Trump to serve as his own messenger and defender on matters of policy and politics.

He has responded by lashing out in increasingly coarse terms at Democrats pursuing an impeachment case and his critics who question his foreign policy strategy.

Trump’s problems: Trump is dealing with a converging series of bad headlines on different topics.

Democrats in late September launched an impeachment inquiry, and a steady stream of witnesses have come to Capitol Hill over the past week to deliver damning testimony.

Each witness seems to create a bad headline for Trump. On Tuesday, it was Fiona Hill, the senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs who said former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonJudge appears skeptical of Bolton's defense of publishing book without White House approval Maximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales MORE described Trump’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting CIA found Putin 'probably directing' campaign against Biden: report Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate MORE as a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

On Monday, the White House faced questions about a violent video shared at a conservative gathering over the weekend that depicted Trump gunning down media organizations and prominent liberals. The White House denounced the video, but Trump has yet to say anything about it.

And Trump has come under intense criticism over his Syria maneuverings from lawmakers in his own party, who represent his lines of defense on impeachment.

Republican strategists and former Trump advisers doubt that Republicans will break with Trump on impeachment because of differences over Syria, no matter how angry they are.

 

 

Some support from Graham on sanctions: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Key Democrat opposes GOP Section 230 subpoena for Facebook, Twitter, Google MORE (R-S.C.) said on Monday night that he backs Trump’s decision to slap new financial penalties on Turkey and that the administration deserved "reasonable time and space" to implement its strategy in Syria.

"I strongly support President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE’s decision to initiate executive order sanctions against Turkish officials and economy for Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria. Turkey is attacking the Kurdish forces that supported us the most in destroying the ISIS Caliphate," Graham, one of the most vociferous opponents of Trump's recent move to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, said in a statement. 

Graham's comments came after he spoke with Trump and took part in calls with the president, administration officials and "key leaders in this conflict." 

Graham added that his colleagues should publicly push back against Turkey's invasion of northern Syria and back Trump's sanctions plan, which the president announced earlier Monday

 

POMPEO TO JOIN PENCE ON TURKEY TRIP: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPutin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Pompeo accused of stumping for Trump ahead of election MORE will join Vice President Pence on a trip to Turkey this week in an attempt to broker a cease-fire in northern Syria.

Pence will lead a delegation on behalf of President Trump that includes Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O'Brien, the vice president's office announced Tuesday.

Pence will meet Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a bilateral meeting as the two sides seek to broker a deal to end the bloodshed that was sparked after Trump announced he was pulling U.S. troops out of the region.

The delegation will depart on Wednesday. It's unclear when they will return.

Pence’s part: The vice president has become the leading voice on the push for a cease-fire in the region as Trump remains committed to pulling troops out of Syria and has called on other countries to fill the void left by the U.S.

"We’re having very strong talks with a lot of people," Trump said at a White House ceremony on Tuesday afternoon to honor the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. "We want to bring our soldiers back home after so many years. They’re the greatest warriors in the world. They’re policing. They’re not a police force.”

"We’re being very tough on Turkey and a lot of others," he added. "They have to maintain their own properties now. They have to maintain peace and safety."

Pence told reporters on Monday that Trump urged Erdoğan to halt a Turkish invasion into northern Syria and begin negotiations with Kurdish forces in the region.

Shift in strategy: Efforts to broker a cease-fire, paired with sanctions on Ankara announced Monday, mark a shift in strategy for the White House amid fierce bipartisan backlash over Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria.

The change in strategy has had a ripple effect in the roughly 10 days since it was announced.

Within days, Turkey had launched an offensive into the region. The Turks targeted Kurdish forces, which have served as a key ally to the U.S. in the years-long fight against ISIS in the region.

In an effort to turn back the Turkish offensive, the Kurds struck a deal to join Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. The two had previously been on opposing sides of a bloody civil war, and Assad is backed by Russia.

But Turkish troops still on the move: Turkey advanced its assault in northeastern Syria on Tuesday after Trump announced sanctions over its military campaign.

Syrian fighters backed by Ankara said they would continue their advance toward the city of Manbij, a key flashpoint west of the Euphrates River, according to Reuters. A Reuters cameraman also reported heavy bombing of the Syrian border town of Ras al Ain, where a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group largely made up of Kurdish fighters, reported an ongoing battle was taking place.

 

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ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Association of the United States Army will host Day 3 of its annual meeting starting at 7 a.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Gen. John Murray, commanding general, U.S. Army Futures Command; and Gen. Gustave Perna, commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command will speak https://bit.ly/2B0CLim

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on ‘An Examination of US-Iran Policy,” with testimony from Brian Hook, State Department special representative for Iran, at 10 a.m in Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. 

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on "Afghanistan's Fourth Presidential Election: Voting for Peace,” with Afghanistan Ambassador to the United States Roya Rahmani, at 12:30 p.m in Washington, D.C. 

The House Armed Services subcommittees on intelligence and emerging threats and readiness will hold a joint hearing on “Resiliency of Military Installations to Emerging Threats,” at 2 p.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. 

 

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ICYMI

-- The Hill: Rand Paul rips Lindsey Graham: 'Wrong about almost every foreign policy decision'

-- The Hill: Russian troops patrolling between Turkish and Syrian forces following US withdrawal

-- The Hill: EU countries agree to halt arms exports to Turkey

-- The Hill: Opinion: A decade of policymaking failures is to blame for new Syria crisis

-- The Hill: Opinion: The beginning of the end of a US role in the Middle East?