Overnight Defense: House poised for historic vote to impeach Trump | Fifth official leaves Pentagon in a week | Otto Warmbier's parents praise North Korea sanctions bill

Overnight Defense: House poised for historic vote to impeach Trump | Fifth official leaves Pentagon in a week | Otto Warmbier's parents praise North Korea sanctions bill
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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: This evening, President TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE is headed to become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

Lawmakers have been debating the impeachment articles on the House floor since about noon when they approved the rule governing the debate.

Votes on the two articles of impeachment are expected to start between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., according to the latest floor schedule update.

That sets up a split screen with Trump, who will be holding a "Merry Christmas" campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., at 7 p.m.

Stay tuned to TheHill.com for the latest.

Republican stall tactics: House Republicans moved quickly Wednesday morning to demonstrate that they won't concede impeachment without a fight.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) offered a motion to adjourn shortly after the chamber gaveled in at 9 a.m., just as the debate on the rule for debate was set to begin.

The motion, which ultimately failed in the Democratic-controlled chamber, forced a time-consuming vote designed to delay the process even before it gets off the ground.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Mark Mellman: A failure of GOP leadership MORE (R-Calif.) offered another procedural motion directly after the motion to adjourn, a question of privilege, condemning how Democrats handled the impeachment probe. Democrats moved to table the motion.

That motion took aim at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Schiff pushes back: Defense team knows Trump is guilty MORE (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump defense team signals focus on Schiff Impeachment has been a dud for Democrats Nadler calls Trump a 'dictator' on Senate floor MORE (D-N.Y.), including language "Disapproving the manner in which Chairman Adam B. Schiff of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence & Chairman Jerrold Lewis Nadler of the Committee on the Judiciary have conducted committee action during the impeachment inquiry of President Donald John Trump."

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Trump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' MORE (R-La.) also raised a point of order against the rule for the two articles of impeachment against Trump, arguing the minority did not receive a hearing while proceedings were taking place in the House Judiciary Committee. It was ruled out of order.

And Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Apple reportedly dropped plans to let iPhone users encrypt backups | Justices decline facial recognition case | Critics fear Facebook losing misinformation fight | Truce on French tech tax MORE (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the House, unsuccessfully pushed for manual roll call votes to be taken on the articles.

Pelosi opens debate: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views on misinformation Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (D-Calif.) kick-started the hours-long impeachment debate with a speech stating that the House must move to impeach Trump in order to protect the republic.

Pelosi described the role of the House as being the "custodians of the Constitution," saying that Trump put his own interests ahead of those of the nation when he invited a foreign nation to interfere in an upcoming presidential election in a way that would benefit him politically.

"Our founders' vision is under threat from actions at the White House," Pelosi said on the House floor, wearing all black as she faced her colleagues on both sides of the aisle. "That is why today as Speaker of the House, I sadly and solemnly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States."

Pelosi began her floor speech by asking House members to recall the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag, emphasizing that the debate over two articles of impeachment charging Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors will center around the line in the pledge: "The Republic for which it stands."

And she concluded her remarks by praising the legacy of the late House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBaltimore unveils plaques for courthouse to be named after Elijah Cummings GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi taps Virginia Democrat for key post on economic panel MORE (D-Md.), who died earlier this year, as well as praising other members for showing courage with their vote to impeach Trump.

"Today we are here to defend the democracy for the people," she concluded.

As the Speaker walked off the House floor, Democrats rose in a standing ovation.

Trump takes to Twitter: Trump fired off dozens of tweets and retweets Wednesday morning as House lawmakers debated two articles of impeachment accusing him of abusing his power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstructing the congressional inquiry.

Among them, Trump lashed out at Pelosi, claiming she will be remembered as the "worst Speaker."

"Will go down in history as worst Speaker. Already thrown out once!" Trump tweeted Wednesday, sharing another post from Fox News commentator Gregg Jarrett claiming Pelosi couldn't "be bothered" to read a scathing letter Trump sent her on Tuesday eviscerating the impeachment proceedings.

Pelosi reclaimed her gavel as Speaker after Democrats won back the majority in the lower chamber during the 2018 midterm elections. She previously held the position between 2007 and 2011.

 

PENTAGON'S EMPTY HALLS: Two more Pentagon officials are leaving the department, the fourth and fifth key defense officials to announce their resignation within a week.

Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Kari Bingen submitted her resignation on Dec. 5 and will leave Jan. 10, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah Orland confirmed in a statement. Her departure was first reported by Politico.

Bingen was the Defense Department's No. 2 intelligence official and has been in the role since May 2017. Prior to that, she served as the House Armed Services Committee's policy director for four years and held a number of other positions on the committee's strategic forces panel.

Not alone: The Defense Department’s senior adviser for international cooperation earlier this week left the Pentagon, marking the fifth top official in seven days to leave or announce their departure.

Amb. Tina Kaidanow, a long-time State Department official who began working in her Pentagon role in September 2018, resigned on Dec. 16, the Pentagon confirmed. Defense News first reported her departure.

Who else: Their announced departures follow three others within seven days: the Dec. 12 notification that top Asia policy official Randall Schriver would leave after two years on the job; the Dec. 13 announcement that top official in charge of personnel and readiness Jimmy Stewart had resigned after a little over a year on the job; and on Tuesday Defense News reported that Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency leader Steven Walker will leave in January for a private-sector job.

Those vacancies add to a number of openings within the Defense Department, with six of the 21 deputy assistant secretary of Defense policy jobs still empty. Several other roles are filled in an acting capacity, including chief management officer, comptroller, deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy, and assistant Defense secretary for international security affairs.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Veterans group seeks Trump apology for comments on brain injuries | Pentagon says dozens of troops suffered traumatic injuries after attack | Trump unveils Space Force logo Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Dozens of US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries after Iran missile strikes MORE earlier this week downplayed the departures, telling reporters that there is a "rhythm" to people leaving and taking positions and said there was already a replacement for Stewart.

 

NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS CLEAR CONGRESS: A day after the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) cleared Congress with tough new North Korea sanctions in hand, the senators who championed the language joined with Otto Warmbier's parents to commend passage.

Warmbier was the U.S. student who died in 2017 after being returned from a North Korean prison in a vegetative state.

At the news conference touting the sanctions, Otto Warmbier's mom, Cindy Warmbier, urged Trump not to accept a "bad deal" with North Korea as it threatens to send the United States a "Christmas gift."

"I've always said the same thing: don't make a bad deal and don't believe a word they say. And nothing's changed," Cindy Warmbier said Wednesday when asked by The Hill about her message to Trump in the face of renewed North Korean threats.

She also had a message for North Korea: "People matter. Otto matters. We're never going to let you forget our son."

About the sanctions: Folded in the massive defense policy bill that passed the House last week and the Senate on Tuesday was legislation named after Otto Warmbier to impose secondary sanctions on financial entities doing business with North Korea.

Sponsors of the sanctions measure argue it's necessary to plug the "leaky" sanctions regime that exists right now, particularly against Chinese banks facilitating business with North Korea.

Fred Warmbier, Otto Warmbier's dad, expressed hope the sanctions will force North Korea to change its behavior.

"This banking bill is very important to our efforts because it gives us more tools to force the North Koreans to engage on some level," he said. "This to us is a great tool, and I think this is the method that can change North Korea's behavior."

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Atlantic Council will hold an event on the effects of sanctions legislation against Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/36PvNdP

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Senate committee approves legislation to sanction Russia

-- The Hill: Omar calls on US to investigate Turkey over possible war crimes in Syria

-- The Hill: Trump administration, South Korea fail to reach agreement on troop costs

-- Foreign Policy: Pentagon's policy chief under fire as senior officials head for the exits

-- LA Times: China deepens ties to Middle East as Trump downsizes U.S. role

-- Associated Press: US and India pledge cooperation as domestic crises play out