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Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs

Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs
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Happy Wednesday 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: The House on Wednesday approved a resolution formally rebuking President Trump over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria.

The measure passed in a 354-60 vote, with four lawmakers voting present. All 60 votes against the resolution came from Republicans, with the present votes coming from three GOP lawmakers and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashIncoming GOP lawmaker shares video of hotel room workout, citing 'Democrat tyrannical control' Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Romney congratulates Biden after victory MORE (I-Mich.). The top three House Republicans supported the motion in a rare split from the president. 

What the resolution does: The resolution -- which was sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin Dozens of progressive groups endorse Joaquin Castro for Foreign Affairs chair MORE (D-N.Y.) and the panel's top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: Pentagon prepping for Trump order to draw down in Afghanistan, Iraq | Questions swirl after DOD purge | 10th service member killed by COVID-19 Former VOA producer sues US global media agency over termination Record number of women to serve in the next Congress MORE (Texas), "opposes the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria."

The measure also calls on Turkey to end its military action, calls on the United States to protect the Kurds and calls on the White House "to present a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS."

"The measure we're considering today will send an unambiguous bipartisan, hopefully bicameral rejection of Trump's policy in Syria," Engel said ahead of the vote.

The background: Trump has ordered all U.S. troops in northern Syria to pull back, paving the way for Turkey to launch an offensive against Kurdish forces that were instrumental in the U.S.-led fight against the ISIS.

The decision was swiftly condemned by lawmakers in both parties as abandoning the Kurds, signaling to future partners the United States is untrustworthy and enabling ISIS to resurge in the chaos.

The House's resolution came to the floor under suspension of the rules, meaning it needed two-thirds approval to pass. The measure garnered support from all Democrats and 129 Republicans.

While the resolution breaks with Trump's decision, Trump is named just once in the measure when it notes he spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 6.

 

 

More action coming: The vote on the House resolution comes as lawmakers are crafting sanctions legislation against Turkey. Engel and McCaul have said they plan to introduce a bill to sanction Turkey, and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Trump: Liz Cheney's election remarks sparked by push to bring US troops home Biden's lead over Trump surpasses 6M votes as more ballots are tallied MORE (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday unveiled the text of her Turkey sanctions bill with more than 90 Republican co-sponsors.

In the Senate, Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Let's give thanks to Republican defenders of democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts MORE (R-S.C.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.) are expected to introduce sanctions legislation on Thursday.

The push for sanctions comes even after Trump levied sanctions on top Turkish officials, including the defense minister, interior minister and energy minister. Lawmakers have said Trump's sanctions did not go far enough to convince Turkey to change course.

Trump's reasoning: Trump said Wednesday that Turkey's offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria has "has nothing to do with us," defending his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region amid criticism.

"It's not our land," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

"If Turkey goes into Syria that's between Turkey and Syria," he added. "That's not between Turkey and the United States, like a lot of stupid people would like you to believe."

Trump reiterated his plan to withdraw the United States from "endless wars."

"Our soldiers are not in harm's way, as they shouldn't be, as two countries fight over land," Trump told reporters. "That has nothing to do with us."

Trump also downplayed the U.S. alliance with the Kurds, calling them "no angels" and saying the U.S. "paid a lot of money" for the Syrian Kurdish forces to fight alongside U.S. troops against ISIS.

More criticism from Graham: Graham said Wednesday that Trump appears "hell-bent" on repeating former President Obama's mistakes in Iraq after Trump said Graham should focus on investigating the 2016 election rather than the Middle East. 

"President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE is being told EXACTLY what President Obama was told before he withdrew from Iraq. He appears to be hell-bent on making the same mistakes in Syria as President Obama made in Iraq," Graham tweeted.

"The worst thing any Commander in Chief can do is to give land back to the enemy that was taken through blood and sacrifice. I fear those are the consequences of the actions being taken right now," he added. 

 

TRUMP URGED TURKISH PRESIDENT TO MAKE A DEAL ON SYRIA IN LETTER: Trump sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urging him to make a deal with the U.S. on Syria, according to a letter obtained by Fox Business. 

In the letter, sent ahead of the U.S. delegation meeting with Erdoğan on Thursday, Trump warned the Turkish president that "you don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy--and I will." 

Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE are on their way to Turkey to convince Erdoğan to call a cease-fire in his country's offensive against the Kurds in Syria. Trump announced the removal of U.S. troops from Syria last week, prompting Turkey's action.

"History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!" Trump's letter reads. 

A meeting gone awry: The letter was released following a meeting between Trump and Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House to discuss Turkey's incursion into northern Syria.

During the meeting, Trump called his former Defense secretary, Jim Mattis, "the world's most overrated general," after Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) read a quote from Mattis's appearance Sunday on "Meet the Press," where he warned that "ISIS will resurge" if the U.S. does not keep the pressure on in that region.

Trump cut Schumer off, according to two Democratic aides, and said that Mattis was "the world's most overrated general."

"You know why? He wasn't tough enough," Trump said, according to the aides. "I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in 1 month."

A 'meltdown': The meeting ended in conflict after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) said Trump had a "meltdown." Democrats claimed that the president disparaged Pelosi as a "third-rate politician," and the party's leaders walked out soon after.

The meeting was intended to focus on the response to Turkey as it carries out an offensive in northern Syria that has led to the bloodshed and uncertainty in the region. Trump has dug in on his decision earlier this month to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, even as lawmakers in both parties have warned him against the consequences of the move.

Read about what the members of the Democratic primary field think about Trump's Syria decision here and here.

 

And here are Five unintended consequences of Trump's Syria withdrawal

 

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SENATE CONFIRMS TRUMP'S AIR FORCE SECRETARY PICK: The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Trump's nominee to be the top civilian leading the Air Force.

The Senate voted 85-7 to approve Barbara Barrett to be Air Force secretary.

"Ms. Barrett will serve as the civilian head at the Air Force at a pivotal time for our military," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (R-Okla.) said in a statement after the vote. "We need to modernize and innovate if we want to keep up with China and Russia, and this is especially important if we want to maintain air and space supremacy. At her nomination hearing, Ms. Barrett demonstrated she shares these priorities, understands the challenges we face and is prepared to tackle these issues head-on."

The opposing votes all came from Democrats: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' Top Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Another Defense official resigns | Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' despite purge | Top contender for Biden DOD secretary would be historic pick MORE (Ill.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (N.Y.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySupreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising Trump supporters demonstrate across the country following Biden-Harris win Merkley wins reelection in Oregon Senate race MORE (Ore.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls Smith wins reelection in Minnesota Democrats expand Senate map, putting GOP on defense MORE (Minn.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (Ore.).

 

Months without leader: The Air Force has been without a Senate-confirmed secretary since the end of May when former Secretary Heather Wilson stepped down to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Wilson's relationship with Trump soured over his Space Force proposal. At her confirmation hearing, Barrett pledged to prioritize setting up a Space Force, a separate military branch for space that first must get congressional approval.

About Barrett: Barrett's resume includes past stints as chairwoman of the Aerospace Corporation, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and ambassador to Finland.

Barrett's nomination slowed after being advanced out of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month after Blumenthal placed a hold on her. Though she had her confirmation hearing and was advanced out of committee alongside Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyArmy secretary responds to news reports on sexual assault allegations in military: 'we must do better' OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing MORE, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's climate plans can cut emissions and also be good politics Acting Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on MORE (R-Ky.) had to file a motion to invoke cloture on Barrett's nomination rather than her being voice-voted like McCarthy.

Blumenthal has said he opposes Barrett because she would not commit to issuing a service-wide policy banning stays at Trump properties.

 

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ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord will speak at the IDEEA Inc. ComDef Conference on "Partnering for Rapid Change," at 8 a.m. in Washington, D.C. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear from Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperActing Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley during a classified hearing on "The Situation in Syria and the Wider Region," at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center Rm. SVC-217.

Principal Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Indo-Pacific Affairs David Helvey will speak "The Korean Peninsula Issues and United States National Security," at 1 p.m. at the Institute for Corean-American Studies symposium in Washington, D.C. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Trump adviser lays out plans to slash national security staff

-- The Hill: Senate Democrat demands details of Trump call with Erdoğan

-- The Hill: US envoy insists Syria pullout doesn't affect Iran strategy

-- The Hill: Poll: 57 percent of Republicans approve of Trump's Syria withdrawal

-- The Hill: Graham warns Trump Syria pullout could be 'complete and utter national security disaster'

-- The Hill: Trump adviser heads to Turkey ahead of Pence to urge cease-fire

-- The Hill: US hit Iran with cyberattack after strikes on Saudi oil facilities: report

-- The Hill: Opinion: US withdrawal from Syria makes countering ISIS more difficult

-- The Hill: Opinion: America adrift: Trump has ended the 'post-World War II era'