Happy Thursday 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 Trump administration is declaring victory after Turkey agreed to what Vice President Pence described as a ceasefire in Syria.
Pence made the announcement in a news conference in Ankara. He said Turkey agreed to halt its military offensive in Syria for 120 hours in order to allow Kurdish forces known as the YPG to evacuate. The agreement will also maintain a "permanent cease-fire" once the evacuation is complete.
In exchange, President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE will lift the sanctions on Turkey he imposed this week and not impose further sanctions, Pence said.
Both Pence and Trump hailed the agreement as a major breakthrough, with Trump tweeting that "this is a great day for civilization."
Trump also praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"I just want to thank and congratulate President Erdoğan. He's a friend of mine, and I'm glad we didn't have a problem because, frankly, he's a hell of a leader, and he's a tough man," Trump told reporters while traveling in Texas.
The but...: In his own press conference after Pence's, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the U.S.-Turkey agreement was "not a ceasefire."
"We will pause the operation for 120 hours in order for the terrorists to leave. We will only stop the operation if our conditions are met," Cavusoglu said in a separate news conference.
Further, key questions remain, including whether the Kurds -- which were not part of the negotiations and are feeling betrayed by the United States -- will actually withdraw and whether Russian and Syrian forces -- which have moved into the area at the Kurds' invitation -- will honor the arrangement.
There are also questions on whether Turkey will hold up its end after Washington and Ankara earlier this year made a deal for a "Security Mechanism," which Turkey broke.
Senators not satisfied: Senators are vowing to move forward with sanctions legislation against Turkey despite Pence's announcement.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Tim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter MORE (R-S.C.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJim Elroy RischDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Bipartisan senators call for Biden to confront Moscow over staffing ban at US embassies MORE (R-Idaho), who have each released separate sanctions bills, both said they would continue working on their bills despite the cease-fire.
"We're going to keep working," Graham said in response to questions about his legislative efforts.
On his bill, Risch said, "we're going to keep putting one foot in front of the other to move the bill."
Still, Risch and Graham said they see Pence's announcement as a positive development.
Other senators were less bullish.
"From what I understand, it's not a cease-fire," said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE (R-Fla.), who said he thinks Risch's bill is the best way forward. "It is, 'you have a hundred and X number of hours to get out of here before we kill you.' ... Other than giving Kurds a chance to leave so they don't get slaughtered, it doesn't sound like it changes any of the other dynamics."
Speaking from the Senate floor, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema MORE (R-Utah) slammed the deal and called Trump's decision to withdraw troops "a bloodstain in the annals of American history."
"The announcement today is being portrayed as a victory. It is far from a victory. Serious questions remain about how the decision was reached precipitously to withdraw from Syria and why that decision was reached," Romney said.
Earlier in the Senate: Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDemocrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' MORE (R-Ky.) blocked an effort to bring a House-passed resolution formally breaking with Trump's Syria strategy up for a vote.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden's Supreme Court commission ends not with a bang but a whimper Hispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act MORE (D-N.Y.) tried to get consent Thursday to bring up the resolution, arguing that "we're in real trouble."
"The most important thing we can do right now is send President Trump a message that Congress, the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans, demand he reverse course," Schumer said.
The resolution passed the House on Wednesday by a wide margin in 354-60 vote. All 60 votes against the resolution came from Republicans.
Under Senate rules any one senator can try to set up a vote on a bill. But because that requires unanimous consent, any one senator can block it.
Paul, a libertarian-leaning GOP senator, objected to Schumer's request for a vote, arguing that he was trying to sidestep the Constitution.
"He should come to the floor and say that we are ready to declare war. We are ready to authorize force, and we are going to stick our troops in the middle of this messy, messy, five-sided civil war where we would be ostensibly opposed to the Turkish government that has made an incursion," Paul argued.
In the House: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department MORE (D-N.Y.) and committee ranking member Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulMike Siegel: Potential McConaughey candidacy a 'sideshow' in Texas governor race Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Senate Democrat says hundreds of Americans, Afghan allies arrived in Qatar after being stranded in Afghan airport MORE (R-Texas) officially introduced their bill to sanction Turkey over its invasion of northern Syria.
The bill would target Turkish officials involved in the decision to invade and those committing human rights abuses.
"What's happening in northern Syria right now is a disgrace," House Foreign Affairs Committee Engel said in a statement announcement the bill's introduction. "Congress must speak out and show decisive action to hold accountable those who created this catastrophe: President Erdogan, who is directing this slaughter, and President Trump, who opened the door to the Turkish incursion and betrayed our Kurdish partners."
"The carnage that we have seen over the past week against our Kurdish partners and innocent civilians has been unbearable," McCaul added. "There must be consequences."
Engel released another statement on the ceasefire, saying that "we need more details before we know whether this agreement will have a true and lasting impact."
"As we've seen again and again during his administration, the president is an arsonist who later pretends to be a fireman," Engel said. "His actions have resulted in a loss for America, and a win for terrorists and America's enemies."
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LATEST ON IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY: U.S. diplomat Gordon Sondland is testifying before House impeachment investigators Thursday, where he was telling lawmakers Trump directed administration officials to work with his attorney, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiBook Trump signed for Giuliani fetches K at auction: 'I promise never to run against you' Judge: Request for Tucker Carlson personnel files is 'intrusive' White House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee MORE, on Ukraine matters.
According to his prepared remarks, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union offers a forceful rebuke as he seeks to distance himself from Trump and Giuliani's efforts to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate one of the president's top 2020 political rivals, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks State school board leaves national association saying they called parents domestic terrorists Sunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases MORE.
"We were also disappointed by the President's direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani. Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the President's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine," he will say, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by The Hill.
"However, based on the President's direction, we were faced with a choice: We could abandon the goal of a White House meeting for President Zelensky, which we all believed was crucial to strengthening U.S.-Ukrainian ties and furthering long-held U.S. foreign policy goals in the region; or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the President's concerns," his remarks continue.
At the White House: Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyJan. 6 committee issues latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 11, including Pierson, other rally organizers MORE indicated Thursday that the Trump administration held up military aid to Ukraine in part because officials wanted Kiev to investigate unproven election interference allegations linking the country to a Democratic National Committee (DNC) server.
"The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the things that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate," Mulvaney told reporters at the White House Thursday.
Mulvaney was referring to unsubstantiated allegations that Ukraine, and not Russia, was involved in the 2016 hack of the DNC server.
Mulvaney denied that investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden were factored into considerations about releasing military aid to Ukraine.
When asked if what he described was a quid pro quo -- withheld funding unless there was an investigation into the DNC server -- Mulvaney responded, "We do that all the time with foreign policy."
But hold on...: Mulvaney later walked back those statements, saying that the flow of security assistance to Ukraine was not conditioned on Kiev investigating a theory related to 2016 election interference.
Mulvaney issued a statement Thursday afternoon accusing the media of "misconstruing" his earlier remarks to the press at the White House "to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump."
"Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election," Mulvaney said. "The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server."
Mulvaney insisted the only reason security aid was held up was because the administration was reviewing whether other nations were contributing enough and out of concerns over corruption.
Not so fast...: Democrats on Thursday expressed interest in hearing from Mulvaney in person after his remarks. When asked if Mulvaney should testify, Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyTrump company in late-stage talks to sell DC hotel: report Trump Hotel lost more than M during presidency, say documents Biden meets with vulnerable House Democrats with agenda in limbo MORE (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Oversight Committee, quickly responded with an emphatic "yes."
Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchLeft warns Pelosi they'll take down Biden infrastructure bill Pelosi signals she won't move .5T bill without Senate-House deal Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden MORE (D-Mass.), another member of the Oversight Committee, said there's been a growing appetite for Mulvaney's testimony, even before Thursday's press conference.
"I'm sure a lot of people would like to hear from him," Lynch said.
The three House committees running the impeachment inquiry -- Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight -- had already issued a subpoena to Mulvaney earlier this month for documents. The deadline for the records is Friday.
Democrats, though, have not issued a subpoena for Mulvaney to testify in person.
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NO VETO OVERRIDE: The Senate on Thursday failed to override Trump's veto of a resolution that would have ended the emergency declaration intended to help build the border wall.
Senators voted 53-36, falling short of the two-thirds needed to successfully override Trump's veto.
Ten Republican senators voted to override Trump's veto: Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHartzler pulls in 6,000 for Missouri Senate bid with .65M on hand McConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (Mo.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call Republicans are today's Dixiecrats Biden's push for unity collides with entrenched partisanship MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeRetreating economy creates new hurdle for Democrats in 2022 McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' Senate locks in deal to vote on debt ceiling hike Thursday MORE (Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiAnti-Trump Republicans endorsing vulnerable Democrats to prevent GOP takeover GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema McConnell gets GOP wake-up call MORE (Alaska), Rand Paul (Ky.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call Biden shows little progress with Abraham Accords on first anniversary The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerWhite House scrambles to avert supply chain crisis We cannot miss this big moment for national service Four big takeaways from a tough hearing for Facebook MORE (Miss.).
Background: The vote came less than a day after Trump vetoed the resolution, which initially passed the House and Senate last month.
Trump, in his veto message to the Senate, said the national emergency has allowed the administration to "counter large-scale unlawful migration" and facilitated the construction of his long-promised border wall.
"In short, the situation on our southern border remains a national emergency, and our Armed Forces are still needed to help confront it," he added.
Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year after Congress gave him less than $1.4 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. As part of the declaration, Trump shifted $3.6 billion away from military construction projects to go toward the wall.
It's the second time Congress has failed to override Trump's veto of a resolution nixing his emergency declaration. The House tried, unsuccessfully, in March to override Trump's initial veto.
SENATE TO TRY TO PASS SPENDING BILLS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat Biden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan MORE (R-Ky.) is turning the Senate toward trying to pass a set of long-stalled appropriations bills.
"Congress has fallen badly behind schedule on appropriations. It's been a month since my Democratic colleagues filibustered government funding here on the floor, blocking defense funding and a pay raise for service members. We need to get moving," McConnell said from the Senate floor.
McConnell said the Senate will try to take up two packages of spending bills next week. The first, as an olive branch to Democrats, will include domestic priorities. The second package will include a mammoth defense bill, which is considered a top priority for Republicans.
"In order to meet Democrats halfway, the first House shell we will vote on will be a package of the domestic funding bills. If we can get bipartisan support to take up that domestic funding bill, we will stay on it until we complete it," McConnell said.
About the defense bill: The Senate previously tried to bring a mammoth package in September that would have included defense spending but Democrats opposed bringing up the bill.
Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to the Senate defense bill that would have limited Trump's ability to redirect Pentagon funding toward the border wall without congressional approval.
It's unclear if Democrats will agree to pass the defense bill. Leahy said Thursday that "defense is going to have to wait a bit."
Other hurdles: Democrats have been fuming after Republicans forced through top-line spending figures that they felt padded extra money into the Department of Homeland Security.
Shelby said Thursday that they had not yet reached a deal with Lowey on the topline figures but their staffs were talking.
In another hurdle for spending talks, Mulvaney announced Thursday that an upcoming Group of 7 (G-7) summit would take place at Trump's own Doral resort in Florida.
Two of the House-passed spending bills, covering the State Department and foreign operations and for financial services and general government, included language blocking the use of funds for the G-7 were it to be held at a Trump property.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
Reps. Susan DavisSusan Carol DavisOvernight Defense: Congress recommends nuclear arms treaty be extended | Dems warn Turkey | Military's eighth COVID death identified Bipartisan congressional task force recommends extending nuclear treaty with Russia The Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation MORE (D-Calif.) and Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyLobbying world House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit The year of the Republican woman MORE (R-Ala.) will speak about "What's Next for Democracy and Women's Rights in Afghanistan?" at 8:30 a.m. at the U.S. Institute of Peace. https://bit.ly/35M3htN
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