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 TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press 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 PompeoPompeo promotes economic ties, takes aim at corruption in Africa visit Russian foreign minister says he sensed 'more constructive' approach after meeting with Pompeo Donald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim 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 HollenSenate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign Senate Democrats introduce legislation to change impeachment trial rules Warren asks for probe of whether Trump violated law by delaying Puerto Rico funds MORE (D-Md.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony US defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Lawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban MORE (R-S.C.) and was co-signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnAbortion wars flare up in Congress Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars Senate GOP blocks three election security bills MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia 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 SchiffSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump DOJ lawyers resign en masse over Roger Stone sentencing 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 GiulianiFederal prosecutors weighing new charges that would bring Parnas investigation closer to Giuliani: report Juan Williams: Don't count Biden out Sunday shows - Spotlight shines on Bloomberg, stop and frisk 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 GrishamBarr: Trump's tweets make it 'impossible for me to do my job' Hope Hicks to return to White House Record crowd numbers expected at India cricket stadium for Trump's visit 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 ClintonThe Democratic demolition derby Juan Williams: Don't count Biden out Candidates in Obama's orbit fail to capitalize on personal ties 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 MurphyLawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students Senators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial 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

-- The Hill: Iran temporarily detained nuclear inspector: report

-- The Hill: Pentagon chief to ask Trump not to intervene in war crimes cases: report

-- The Hill: Opinion: The difference between the Cold War and today's hot peace

-- The Hill: Opinion: The US must support the Chinese people against the Chinese communists

-- ProPublica: How Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceShort defends Trump's tweets as a 'very effective way' to communicate with Americans Trump's 'two steps forward, one step backward' strategy with China The state of the Democratic primary: Heading to a brokered convention?   MORE's office meddled in foreign aid to reroute money to favored Christian groups