Overnight Defense: Trump, Erdogan confirm White House meeting | Public impeachment hearings set for next week | Top defense appropriator retiring

Overnight Defense: Trump, Erdogan confirm White House meeting | Public impeachment hearings set for next week | Top defense appropriator retiring
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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: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to the White House is on.

Despite reports that Erdogan was rethinking the trip in protest of congressional votes Turkey opposed, he and President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE shored up plans for the trip in a phone call Wednesday.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he looked forward to welcoming Erdoğan to the White House on Nov. 13.

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Trump also said the two discussed the situation in Syria, "the ending of hostilities with the Kurds" and the Turkish capture of ISIS fighters.

Background: The House -- infuriated by Turkey's offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces, which was enabled by Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria -- last week passed a bill to sanction Turkish officials and a resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide.

Both measures infuriated Turkey, which does not recognize the Ottoman Empire's massacre of 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide.

Flashback: Erdoğan's last trip to the U.S. to meet with Trump was marred by violence when members of the president's security team attacked a group of protesters outside the Turkish Embassy. The beatings were filmed by bystanders, and members of Erdoğan's entourage were later charged.

Senators push sanctions: Later Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators released a letter pushing Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSondland brings impeachment inquiry to White House doorstep Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Senate eyes sending stopgap spending bill back to House | Sondland delivers bombshell impeachment testimony | Pentagon deputy says he didn't try to block official's testimony Five bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony MORE on reports of Turkish violations of the ceasefire in northern Syria. They urged the administration to respond with "tough economic sanctions."

"On several occasions, President Trump has threatened to 'destroy Turkey's economy' should Turkey violate its obligations," the senators wrote in a letter to Pompeo on Wednesday. "In keeping with this position, we ask that the Administration take swift measures to enforce the October 17 agreement with tough economic sanctions. In the meantime, we will continue to work in Congress on the passage of a bipartisan sanctions bill to protect our allies and uphold the credibility of the United States."

The letter was organized by Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Democrats raise privacy concerns over Amazon home security system Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (D-Md.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Report on alleged surveillance abuse in 2016 to be released Dec. 9 McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack MORE (R-S.C.) and was co-signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising 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 MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenProgressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters 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 Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows MORE (D-N.H.).

 

IMPEACHMENT LATEST: Wednesday marked the third day of House Democrats publicly releasing transcripts from the closed-door impeachment depositions.

Wednesday's release was the transcript of William Taylor, who serves as the chargé d'affaires for Ukraine.

Taylor is viewed as a key witness who previously testified in meticulous detail about what he considered an effort by Trump and his allies to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations that would benefit Trump politically.

The contours of that Oct. 22 deposition have been known for weeks, since Taylor's opening statement was widely disseminated at the time. But the 324-page blow-by-blow transcript provides new layers of detail about Trump's efforts to find dirt on political rivals -- and the extent to which it alarmed veterans in the State Department.

"By mid-July, it was becoming clear to me that the [White House] meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian influence in the 2016 elections," Taylor testified.

Public hearings scheduled: Taylor is also scheduled to be the first witness in public impeachment hearings, which were announced Wednesday.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffNunes's facial expression right before lawmakers took break from Sondland testimony goes viral Sondland brings impeachment inquiry to White House doorstep Maloney wins House Oversight gavel MORE (D-Calif.) said lawmakers initially plan to call in three witnesses as Democrats begin making their case to the public that Trump pressured a foreign power to investigate political opponents.

Schiff said Taylor and George Kent, a top State Department official, will testify next Wednesday. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is then expected to testify next Friday.

White House defense: The White House is doubling down on its insistence that there was no quid pro quo in Trump's interactions with Ukraine in the face of a growing body of evidence that military aid to Kiev was contingent on the foreign making public statements about launching investigations sought by the president and his personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiBiden: Impeachment hearings show 'Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee' Sondland brings impeachment inquiry to White House doorstep FBI sought interview with whistleblower at heart of impeachment probe MORE.

White House aides have seized on select portions of testimony from officials they see as bolstering their claims, while questioning the credibility of those who have described in closed-door depositions with House investigators an alleged quid pro quo related to Ukraine.

"The transcripts that were released ... show exactly what the president has been saying all along, and that is that he did nothing wrong and there was no quid pro quo," press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamLive coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' Vindman clashes with GOP MORE said Tuesday night on Fox Business Network.

"These transcripts are actually ... good for the president," she added.

The White House is also expected to add a pair of aides tasked with leading its impeachment communications team as the House prepares to go public with its inquiry into Trump.

Two officials confirmed to The Hill that former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh will join the White House communications staff "to work on proactive impeachment messaging and other special projects as they arise."

Their roles will be temporary and they will be designated as special government employees, according to a senior administration official.

 

TOP DEFENSE APPROPS DEM RETIRING: Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection next year.

Visclosky, who has served in the House since 1985, currently chairs the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing defense spending.

"For those who wish to serve our next generation of citizens I would encourage each to apprise us of your vision for our area and the priorities you will dedicate your attention to at the national level," Visclosky said in a statement. "Be for something and not against someone. Strive to overcome the intolerance that grips our nation and recognize that only through mutual respect, rational discourse, cooperation and fair play can we build a good and strong community and country."

The politics: Visclosky's 1st Congressional District, in northwestern Indiana, is expected to remain under Democratic control.

Visclosky handily won reelection last year by about 30 points over his GOP challenger.

While Trump carried Indiana by 19 points in 2016, Visclosky's district went for Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Harris rips Gabbard over Fox appearances during Obama years Steyer, Gabbard and Yang shut out of early minutes of Democratic debate MORE by nearly 13 points.

Visclosky is the eighth House Democrat to date to announce they won't seek reelection in 2020.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Defense One will hold the "Outlook 2020" conference at 8 a.m. at the Conrad Hotel. Speakers include Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens Lawmakers spar over upcoming Sondland testimony Johnson: Whistleblower 'exposed things that didn't need to be exposed' MORE (D-Conn.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). https://bit.ly/2Q0a65s

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a closed-door briefing on Afghanistan with special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/2rkG6qV

 

ICYMI

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-- ProPublica: How Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceFive bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony 2019 Louisiana governor's race spells disaster for Trump in 2020 House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues MORE's office meddled in foreign aid to reroute money to favored Christian groups