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
© Getty Images

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 TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 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.


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 MnuchinNew book questions Harris's record on big banks On The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive 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 PompeoProtests serve as backdrop to Erdoğan's visit to White House Chris Wallace: Taylor testimony 'very damaging to President Trump' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats open televised impeachment hearings 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 EsperTrump holds chummy meeting with Turkey's Erdoğan Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Syrian oil revenue going to Kurdish forces | GOP chair accuses Dems of using Space Force as leverage in wall fight | Dems drop plans to seek Bolton testimony Pentagon: Revenue from Syria oil fields going to Kurdish-led forces 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 RoudaClub for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment Overnight Energy: Jerry Brown testifies on emissions fight | Brown presses climate action: 'Impeachment is important, but the climate is even more important' | Dems look to protect Grand Canyon from drilling Jerry Brown: 'Impeachment is important, but the climate is even more important' 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 ScaliseLive updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Bottom Line Trump allies assail impeachment on process while House Democrats promise open hearings soon 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 ByrneTrump attends football game with Jeff Sessions' Alabama Senate race opponent Bradley Byrne The Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race Trump: 'We'll have to see' on endorsing Sessions's Senate bid MORE (Ala.), Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzSchiff told Gaetz to 'absent yourself' in fiery exchange: impeachment transcript Do Republicans understand the Constitution? Ocasio-Cortez: 'Major crime' against Katie Hill will deter other female candidates MORE (Fla.), Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertLive coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing GOP lawmaker invokes possibility of 'civil war' after House votes on Trump impeachment procedures Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy MORE (Texas) Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingWhy the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy MSNBC's Donny Deutsch: 'Pathetic' Republicans who stormed closed hearing are 'boring, nerdy-looking white guys' 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 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 SchiffGraham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial Democrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing 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 SchultzDem rep defends calling Ken Cuccinelli a white supremacist Both sides claim win in White House official's impeachment testimony Ex-Rep. Livingston pressed for Ukraine ambassador's firing, says witness 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 SwalwellKey takeaways from first public impeachment hearing Kent, Taylor say they're not 'Never Trumpers' after Trump Twitter offensive Live coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsDemocrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay Key takeaways from first public impeachment hearing 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 BidenGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides 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 MattisFormer Mattis staffer: Trump 'shooting himself in the foot' on foreign policy Former staffer hits back at Mattis's office over criticism of tell-all book Former speechwriter for General James Mattis: Has the national security state grappled with Donald Trump? 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 BezosA book can explain why Elizabeth Warren's ideas bother billionaires so much Excitement over Bloomberg's trial balloon should concern Democrats Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez see 'class solidarity' in report Bezos asked Bloomberg to run 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."



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 SmithJudd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem 'Marketplace of ideas' turns 100 — it's not what it used to be Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Syrian oil revenue going to Kurdish forces | GOP chair accuses Dems of using Space Force as leverage in wall fight | Dems drop plans to seek Bolton testimony 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 



-- 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