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

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
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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: Tensions with Iran appear to be easing for now after the crisis seemed to reach a fever pitch Tuesday night.

Tuesday's missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops did not kill or injure any Americans, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made clear the attack would be the extent of Iran's retaliation for the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani if the United States didn't fire back.

So Trump, addressing the nation Wednesday morning, took the off-ramp.

In his prepared remarks Trump claimed Tehran is "standing down."

He said the administration would impose additional economic sanctions on Tehran, called on European allies to play a larger role in ensuring stability in the region and appealed to Iranian leaders to work with the U.S. on "shared priorities."

"The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it," Trump said.

The big picture: Trump’s tone on Wednesday was a welcome development for his allies on Capitol Hill. His words appeased hawkish Republicans who had celebrated the strike against Soleimani, while not further risking a break with his “America First” campaign rhetoric of ending U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts.

More from The Hill's Brett Samuels and Morgan Chalfant on how Trump found an off-ramp in the Iran crisis.

Congress gets briefed: Later Wednesday, 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, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Overnight 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 House panel reinvites Pompeo to deliver Iran testimony MORE, CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelSchiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations House chairman: Pompeo won't testify at Iran hearing Tuesday MORE and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley descended on Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on the Soleimani strike.

After the briefings, Democrats said the Trump administration failed to present evidence supporting the claim that Soleimani was planning an imminent attack.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHouse war powers sponsor expects to take up Senate version of resolution Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' 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-Va.) said the evidence represented a "far cry" from an imminent attack, while Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyTrump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers 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-Va.) called the briefing "sophomoric."

"I was utterly unpersuaded about any evidence about the imminence of a threat that was new or compelling," Connolly said.

Sen. Robert 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.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration did not provide clarity on a potential attack and questioned why they were withholding information from Congress.

"I walk away unsatisfied in the key questions that I went into this briefing with, and it just makes me concerned that we cannot have clarity on those key questions -- imminency, target, all of those things," Menendez said.

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon GAO finds Trump administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid Lobbying World MORE (D-Md.) said the administration "did not establish in any way" that "an imminent threat was posed." Asked whether she was convinced, presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders over handling of feud with Warren On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Sanders defends vote against USMCA | China sees weakest growth in 29 years | Warren praises IRS move on student loans MORE (D-Mass.) said flatly "no."

Republicans disagree: Republicans have backed up the Trump administration's assessment of Soleimani's threat and walked away from Wednesday briefing saying the evidence was clear.

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-Okla.) said the evidence was "crystal clear," adding that Democrats used the briefing to "question these people's judgment on something that really shouldn't have been questioned."

"One of the things that came out of all of this is the tremendous hate and vitriol against this president, which is really coloring a lot of these people's judgement on the defense of this country," he added.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Biden calls for revoking key online legal protection GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff MORE (R-Mo.) said the administration did not give many details at the briefing on the plot itself, but described a timing "that would have made it imminent."

Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryRepublicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel 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-Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said he was "persuaded that we had strong intelligence that meant we had to take action."

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers 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 MORE (R-N.C.) said the briefing showed Soleimani was a "clear and present danger."

Lee, Paul rip briefing: GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' 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 (Utah) and 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 (Ky.) ripped the administration over the briefing, announcing they will now support a resolution reining in Trump's military powers.

Lee characterized it as "the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue."

Lee said the officials warned that Congress would "embolden" Iran if lawmakers debated Trump's war powers.

"I find this insulting and demeaning ... to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold. I find it insulting and demeaning to the Constitution of the United States," Lee said.

Lee did not say which briefer made the assertion but specified that no administration representative contradicted them. He added that he was going to have a "conversation" with Trump about the remarks.

"I find that absolutely insane. I think that's unacceptable," Lee added.

Paul added that he found the briefing "less than satisfying" and knocked the administration for using the 2002 war authorization as the basis for last week's airstrike against an Iranian general.

House to vote on war powers: The House will vote Thursday on a resolution to limit Trump's ability to take future military action against Iran without congressional authorization, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment Trump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team Trump: Impeachment timing intended to hurt Sanders MORE (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday afternoon after the briefing.

The resolution directs the president to end the use of U.S. armed forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran unless Congress has formally authorized it or if there is an "imminent armed attack upon the United States." It was introduced on Wednesday by freshman Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Michigan governor urges Zuckerberg to enforce community guidelines after hate speech, threats surface The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-Mich.), a former CIA analyst who served three tours in Iraq and represents a competitive district.

"Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the Administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward. Our concerns were not addressed by the President's insufficient War Powers Act notification and by the Administration's briefing today," Pelosi said.

 

IMPEACHMENT LATEST: Democratic senators are growing impatient over the delayed start of Trump's impeachment trial and some say it's time for Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Democratic lawmakers in the upper chamber say Pelosi has achieved her goal of putting a spotlight on 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's (R-Ky.) opposition to witness testimony and they're ready to start hearing House impeachment managers and Trump's defense team make their arguments.

"Time plays an unknown role in all of this, and the longer it goes on, the less the urgency becomes. So if it's serious and urgent, it should come over. If it isn't, don't send it over," said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate opens Trump impeachment trial Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (Calif.), the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Asked if colleagues are starting to get impatient, Feinstein said, "If it's going to happen, yes," referring to the likelihood of a trial actually taking place.

"I'm not a big fan of impeachment but I think there's enough to take a good look, and we should," she said.

Feinstein said she doesn't have "any sense" when the trial may start and neither do her colleagues.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterPelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week Pelosi says she'll send articles of impeachment to Senate 'soon' Pressure building on Pelosi over articles of impeachment MORE (D-Mont.) said he's ready to get the trial started.

"As far as I'm concerned, she can send them over at any time. I'm fine with that," he said.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

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.) and Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim US citizen dies in Egyptian prison after hunger strike President Trump's strike of choice MORE (D-Conn.) will speak at an Atlantic Council event on U.S.-Iran tensions at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/2FxUiAB

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Trump rips Obama's Iran policy in address to nation

-- The Hill: NATO agrees to up contribution in 'fight against international terrorism' after Iran missile attacks

-- The Hill: Senators see off-ramp from Iran tensions after Trump remarks

-- The Hill: Army warning of fake texts telling people they've been drafted

-- The Hill: FBI, DHS issue bulletin warning of potential Iranian cyberattacks

-- The Hill: Opinion: Withdrawal from Iraq would dangerously undermine American national security

-- The Hill: Opinion: Trump's strike will not save Iran's hardliners