Overnight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons

Overnight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons
© Greg Nash

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: The annual defense policy bill is close to the finish line after the House easily passed the bill Wednesday.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed 377-48, with many "no" votes coming from progressive Democrats upset after several of their priorities were taken out of the legislation.

But with the compromise bill picking up Republican support that was absent when the House passed its original version in July, the chamber easily sent the bill to the Senate.

House passage of the NDAA comes two days after the compromise bill was unveiled, the result of months of negotiation between the Democratic-led House and the Republican-led Senate and White House.

Trump on board: President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE has said he will sign the compromise bill.

"Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don't delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!" Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Smith vs. progressives: Progressives balked at the final bill over what was excluded.

"There are many things you can call the bill, but it's Orwellian to call it progressive," Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaRep. Ro Khanna: You can't claim you're resisting President Trump and hand the Pentagon a blank check Sanders campaign co-chair calls for progressive unity amid senators' fallout The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-Calif.) said Wednesday.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall House Armed Services chairman exploring options to stop Trump from taking .2B in DOD funds for wall Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (D-Wash.) has defended the bill "as the most progressive defense bill in the history of the country, with Donald Trump as president and Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenators take oath for impeachment trial Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Senators see off-ramp from Iran tensions after Trump remarks MORE as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee."

"Throughout the negotiations I failed in one way: I was unable to turn President Trump, [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] and Chairman Inhofe into Democrats and convince them to suddenly accept all of the provisions they despise," Smith added in a lengthy statement ahead of Wednesday's vote. "Nonetheless, we have accomplished more with this bill than anyone ever thought possible given the realities of a Trump White House and a Republican-controlled Senate, and we should be proud of that."

"President Trump, Leader McConnell and Chairman Inhofe would have killed the bill over these provisions," Smith continued. "If we kill the bill, we would have gotten nothing. Not a single Democratic priority."

 

TURKEY SANCTIONS ADVANCE: A Senate panel on Wednesday advanced a sanctions bill targeting Turkey over its offensive in Syria and its purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

In an 18-4 vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the bill despite objections from the Trump administration and Ankara.

"We find ourselves at an inflection point with Turkey," committee ranking member Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (D-N.J.) said. "Turkey's actions over the past year are truly beyond the pale."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischSenate vote on Trump's new NAFTA held up by committee review Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (R-Idaho) argued Wednesday that Turkey "thumbed their nose at us" with its purchase of the S-400 air defense system and that "if we just look the other way on this ... we will be viewed as weak."

Turkey has claimed -- and Trump has echoed -- that it turned to the S-400 because the U.S. wouldn't sell it the Patriot missile defense system.

The U.S. has offered to sell Turkey the Patriot since the Obama administration, but would not share sensitive technology Turkey wants to be able to build its own weapons.

Risch called the idea that the U.S. wouldn't sell Turkey the Patriot an "absolute lie."

Floor vote?: Speaking to reporters after the committee vote, Risch said he was in discussions with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Republicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, but cautioned that the chamber is expected to be busy soon with impeachment proceedings.

McConnell has previously expressed concern about passing a Turkey sanctions bill because the country is a NATO ally.

Opposition: Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Graham on impeachment trial: 'End this crap as quickly as possible' MORE (R-Ky.) relayed the Trump administration's objections to the sanctions bill, saying the administration penned letters raising concerns. Among the issues raised was that the sanctions would take away "flexibility" in negotiating with Turkey, said Paul, who voted against the bill.

The other "no" votes Wednesday came from Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff MORE (R-Texas), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Barr asks Apple to unlock Pensacola shooter's phone | Tech industry rallies behind Google in Supreme Court fight | Congress struggles to set rules for cyber warfare with Iran | Blog site Boing Boing hacked Congress struggles on rules for cyber warfare with Iran Senators set for briefing on cyber threats from Iran MORE (R-Wis.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Democrats vow to force third vote on Trump's border wall emergency declaration Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall MORE (D-N.M.).

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Udall said he voted against the bill because Congress relies too much on sanctions.

"As Congress keeps considering more and more sanctions, foreign policy experts are telling us to slow down and take stock of the effectiveness of these efforts, and I believe we need a comprehensive reevaluation of this strategy," Udall said. "In this case we are rushing to consider a bill to impose sanctions on a long-time NATO ally without thorough analysis of how we got to this point, what these sanctions are intended to accomplish, and whether they are likely to succeed."

"If Congress is so concerned with U.S.-Turkish relations that we are resorting to sanctions, then we must also require that the president divest of his multi-million dollar per year licensing deal for Trump Towers in Istanbul," he added, saying he will push an amendment to require Trump to divest from Turkey if the bill comes to the floor.

 

TOP GENERAL ASSURES GOOD MILITARY ORDER AFTER TRUMP CLEMENCIES: The U.S. military's top general on Wednesday insisted the military would be able to maintain discipline among its forces following Trump's decision to intervene in three war crimes cases.

"We do maintain and we will maintain good order and discipline. We will not turn into a gang of raping, burning and pillaging throughout ... That is not going to happen as a result of this or anything else," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said before the House Armed Services Committee.

Milley's comments came after Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonOvernight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Congress reacts to US assassination of Iranian general Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far MORE (D-Mass.) pressed him to respond to criticisms he's heard from within the military over Trump last month granting clemency to Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, pardoning Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and waiving charges against Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall Overnight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon MORE, who spoke alongside Milley, declined to answer when asked if Gallagher should be labeled as a "war criminal."

"I'd have to review the crime he was charged with," Esper said.

The back and forth: Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, recounted a text message from a Marine sergeant major, who told him Trump involving himself in the cases is "appalling, basically setting a precedent that the rule of law in a combat zone doesn't apply and encourages folks to start burning villages and pillaging like Genghis Khan. ... The man has greatly marginalized the positions of the service leaders."

"Is this sergeant major of the Marines wrong?" Moulton asked.

"I think that the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the means by which we maintain good order and discipline are a critical element in order to maintain that capability and some level of humanity in combat zones," Milley replied.

"I understand where the sergeant major's coming from and I know the advice that was given, which I'm not going to share here, but the president of the United States is part of the process and he has the legal authorities to do what he did, and he weighed the conditions and the situation as he saw fit," Milley added.

Moulton retorted that "this is a sergeant major of the Marines who's got a Purple Heart and a Navy Cross, and we're defending the actions of a draft dodger in our president."

"I am not defending anyone's actions," Milley replied.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Armed Services Committee will have a closed-door briefing on national security issues in the Middle East at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/2t1SzR0

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will have a "Member Day" hearing at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. https://bit.ly/2RTkQ71

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars'

-- The Hill: Second federal judge blocks Trump from using military funds for border wall

-- The Hill: Congressional investigation finds Coast Guard leadership fell short on handling bullying

-- The Hill: Army investing in rare earths production: report

-- The Hill: Pentagon dismisses Amazon questions over Esper's recusal in 'war cloud' case

-- The Hill: Trump administration hits Iranian shipping network, airline with new sanctions

-- The New York Times: Taliban attack U.S. base in Afghanistan as negotiators talk peace

-- The Washington Post: In response to Afghanistan Papers, former president Karzai blames U.S. funding for fueling corruption