Overnight Defense: Trump lifts sanctions on Turkey | 'Small number' of troops to remain by Syrian oil fields | Defense official's impeachment testimony delayed five hours after Republicans storm secure room

Overnight Defense: Trump lifts sanctions on Turkey | 'Small number' of troops to remain by Syrian oil fields | Defense official's impeachment testimony delayed five hours after Republicans storm secure room
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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: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE announced Wednesday that his administration would lift sanctions on Turkey after Ankara agreed to stop an offensive in northern Syria and agreed to a permanent cease-fire.

"Earlier this morning, the government of Turkey informed my administration that they would be stopping combat and their offensive in Syria and making the cease-fire permanent," President Trump said in remarks from the Diplomatic Reception Room Wednesday morning.

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Trump acknowledged the tenuous situation, adding: "You would also define the word permanent in that part of the world as somewhat questionable. We all understand that. But I do believe it will be permanent."

Trump said he has instructed Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGAO report details challenges of implementing Trump tax law Financial trade tax gains traction with 2020 Democrats Hillicon Valley: Agencies play catch-up over TikTok security concerns | Senate Dems seek sanctions on Russia over new election meddling | Pentagon unveils AI principles MORE to lift sanctions on Turkey announced on Oct. 14, which targeted top officials and agencies in Ankara, as well as increasing tariffs.

"So the sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we're not happy with," he said.

Trump said that his administration would "reserve the right" to reimpose sanctions on Turkey, including increased steel tariffs, if Ankara falls short of its obligations, including protecting religious and ethnic minorities.

Trump takes victory lap: The speech had the tone of a victory lap for Trump, even though he still faces widespread criticism for his withdrawal from Syria. He insisted he had kept his promises, arguing the U.S. had saved "tens of thousands of Kurds" in the short term alone.

Trump dismissed the idea that the U.S. bears blame for any negative consequences, instead declaring that the newfound cease-fire was a product of his administration.

"This was an outcome created by us, the United States, and nobody else. No other nation. Very simple," Trump said, flanked by Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Former Laura Bush staffer decries Taliban's treatment of women amid peace deal Bipartisan Senate resolution would urge UN to renew Iran arms embargo, travel restrictions MORE and national security adviser Robert O'Brien.

"We're willing to take blame and we're also willing to take credit," he added. "This is something they've been trying to do for many, many decades."

Trump vociferously defended his decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria and again asserted that the violent skirmishes between Turkish and Kurdish forces were necessary to get a cease-fire.

"Halting the incursion by military force would have required deploying tens of thousands of military troops against Turkey, a NATO ally," Trump said, cheering his "good" relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Troop presence: Trump also confirmed he would leave a "small number" of U.S. troops in Syria near oil fields. He said the U.S. troops would be "protecting" the oil and "deciding what we're going to do with it in the future."

Speaking later to reporters, a senior administration official would not specify the size of the residual force remaining in Syria but emphasized Trump's ultimate goal was to bring all U.S. troops home.

What about the ISIS escapees: Trump said just a "small number" of ISIS prisoners have escaped, adding, without evidence, that they have been "largely recaptured." He also said Kurdish Gen. Mazloum Kobani has assured him that prisoners remain under "very, very strict lock and key."

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperSaudi military students resume US flight training: report Overnight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Bipartisan Armed Services leaders tear into Pentagon over use of .8B for border wall MORE said Tuesday in an interview with CNN that "a little bit more than 100" ISIS fighters have escaped, while special envoy James Jeffrey told a House panel Wednesday that "we would say that the number is now over 100."

"We do not know where they are," Jeffrey added.

However, the senior administration official, pointing to press reports, questioned where the number "100" came from on Wednesday, saying the U.S. had been assured by Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that the majority of ISIS fighters had been contained.

"My understanding and what we've been told by various parties in the region ... is that the SDF continues to hold the vast majority of the ISIS fighters that have been detained," the official said. "It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground and we're monitoring it closely."

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here: Questions remain about how the United States will continue its anti-ISIS campaign in Syria with most U.S. troops leaving.

U.S. officials originally said the troops would move to western Iraq and conduct operations from there. But Iraqi officials, heeding the sensitivities of their constituencies at the appearance of a U.S. occupation, rejected that plan.

After meeting with Esper on Wednesday, Iraqi officials said U.S. troops would have four weeks to stay in Iraq before they have to leave.

 

CHAOS AT DEFENSE OFFICIAL'S IMPEACHMENT TESTIMONY: House Republicans stormed a closed-door hearing Wednesday to protest Democrats' impeachment inquiry process, breaking up the deposition of a top Defense Department official who was testifying about Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

"They crashed the party," said Rep. Harley RoudaHarley Edwin RoudaLet engineers make engineering decisions on local infrastructure projects EPA pushes back on Oversight review of ethics program House holds moment of silence for Kobe Bryant MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, one of three House panels leading the impeachment probe.

Dozens of Republicans, including some members of leadership like House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse passes historic legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Republicans root for Sanders nomination in battle for House Scalise after Democrat asks for examples of Sanders supporters 'being bad': 'I can think of an example' MORE (R-La.), barged into the secure hearing room in the Capitol basement where Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was set to provide private testimony.

Five hours later: Cooper's testimony finally started five hours after it was scheduled to begin.

It's unclear how the hours-long standoff was resolved.

The House Sergeant at Arms, Paul Irving, was seen going into the secure room around 2:30 p.m. But Democrats had rejected the idea that they would demand the physical removal of protesting Republicans, even as House rules stipulate that such depositions are limited to members of the relevant committees.

Cooper did not deliver opening remarks when her testimony finally began Wednesday afternoon, according to lawmakers in the room.

Inside the room: During the standoff, GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneRepublicans root for Sanders nomination in battle for House Trump looms as flashpoint in Alabama Senate battle Alabama Senate contender hits Sessions in new ad: 'Hillary still ain't in jail' MORE (Ala.), Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzBottom Line Graham: Trump has 'all the legal authority in the world' to pardon Stone Meghan McCain after Gaetz says Trump should pardon Roger Stone: 'Oh come on' MORE (Fla.), Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertHouse passes historic legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime House Natural Resources gives Grijalva power to subpoena Interior Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel MORE (Texas) Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingMother of child in viral meme sends Steve King cease-and-desist for using image in fundraising Nebraska Democratic Party Chair: Rural vote should be 'bedrock' of party With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response MORE (Iowa) and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus entered the room.

"When we walked in, they looked dumbfounded and the room just came to a stop," Byrne told The Hill. "And we lined up along the wall or sat in chairs expecting them to do something. And after several minutes, Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing | Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments MORE got up and just walked out. And while he was walking out I said, 'Don't go.'"

Roughly 25 Republican lawmakers occupied the room, according to Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzHarris, Castro introduce resolution condemning Trump aide Stephen Miller Iowa debacle deepens division between Sanders, national party US officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  MORE (D-Fla.). She said the Democrats' impeachment probe has "far too much fact for their comfort level, so they have to try to stop it from moving forward."

Wassermann Schultz said Cooper was not in the room at the time the Republicans entered. It's unclear, she added, what will happen next in terms of Cooper's testimony.

"It appears that they're refusing to leave," she said, referring to GOP lawmakers.

Cellphones: Some of the Republicans who barged into the hearing room were in possession of cellphones, a violation of the rules governing the so-called sensitive compartmented information facility, known as the SCIF, where the depositions have been taking place.

Some Democrats were outraged by GOP lawmakers bringing cellphones and cameras into a secure room.

"In short they have compromised the security of the room. And they not only brought in their unauthorized devices, they may have brought in the Russians and Chinese with electronics in a secure space," Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill California lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Chris Wallace: 'Just insane' Swalwell is talking impeaching Trump again MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid Lawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Conservative lawmakers warn Pelosi about 'rate-setting' surprise billing fix MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight Committee and a key Trump supporter, suggested the concerns over the cellphones were overblown.

"There's no cameras or phones in the SCIF, so I think that those phones actually went in, just because everybody went in," Meadows told reporters. "I can tell you I actually collected phones and brought them back out. You certainly want a secure environment but at the same time I think everybody wants to hear exactly what's going on."

Context: The move by House Republicans comes a day after another witness, top diplomat William Taylor, testified that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to conduct a pair of investigations -- one into 2016 election hacking, the other into the family of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket MORE -- that might have helped Trump's reelection campaign next year.

Scalise on Tuesday led more than 50 GOP members in a floor speech rally railing against impeachment efforts. The previous day, Trump called on Republicans to be more vocal in their defense of him as Democrats push forward with their impeachment efforts.

 

REVELATIONS FROM MATTIS AIDE'S BOOK: Details are starting to come out from a book written by the former speechwriter for former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Why US democracy support matters Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack | Amazon seeks Trump deposition in 'war cloud' lawsuit | Inside Trump's budget | Republican proposes FTC overhaul MORE.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Guy Snodgrass' book, "Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon With Secretary Mattis," comes out next week, and reporters who got early copies are starting to write about it.

According to a write up of the book in The Washington Post on Wednesday, Snodgrass wrote that Mattis said privately he'd "rather swallow acid" than watch the massive Fourth of July military parade that President Trump wanted.

Snodgrass also wrote that Mattis felt "iced out" by the administration and used a disagreement last December over keeping U.S. troops in Syria as a "pretext" to resign, according to the Post.

The book also says that Trump wanted to "screw" Amazon founder and CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosThe new American center Kickstarter union seen as breakthrough for tech activism Hillicon Valley: Officials worry about Nevada caucus technology after Iowa | Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei | Workers at Kickstarter vote to unionize | Bezos launches B climate initiative MORE by prohibiting Amazon from bidding on the Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI cloud network contract, a desire Mattis sought to stymie.

"We're not going to do that," Mattis reportedly told Pentagon officials. "This will be done by the book, both legally and ethically."

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Defense Secretary Mark Esper will speak at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels at 9:30 a.m. local time, or 3:30 a.m. Washington time. Livestream at https://bit.ly/2PdeQo7.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Democrats introduce bill to reverse Trump's shift of military money toward wall Bipartisan Armed Services leaders tear into Pentagon over use of .8B for border wall MORE (D-Wash.) will talk about nuclear policy at a Ploughshares Fund event at 8:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/32HTuTQ

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Vice Adm. Charles Richard to be commander of U.S. Strategic Command at 9:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. https://bit.ly/2pxzi8p 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Missing West Point cadet found dead on academy grounds

-- The Hill: Omar warns sanctions on Turkey would be ineffective in op-ed

-- The Hill: Opinion: Trump's Syria withdrawal: The right idea, disastrously executed

-- Associated Press: Syria's Assad gets a prize with US withdrawal, Russia deal

-- Task and Purpose: Senators push to reverse USCIS policy impacting citizenship for some children of troops overseas