Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, 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: Many of the Republican senators dismissing the relevance of former national security advisor John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Ex-Trump adviser Bolton defends Milley: 'His patriotism is unquestioned' MORE's testimony to President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE's ongoing impeachment trial are also his longtime friends and colleagues.
A fixture in Republican national security circles for decades and a former Fox News contributor, Bolton has long-standing relationships with much of the Republican conference.
The connections have put Republicans in a tough spot as Trump trashes his former advisor, with the senators walking a tightrope between defending Trump and respecting Bolton.
"I like John Bolton," Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (R-Mo.) told reporters this week, but quickly added he wouldn't vote for Bolton to be a witness in the trial. "The one thing I know for sure is John Bolton doesn't know a single thing today he didn't know before Christmas. It's the House's job to put a case together. It's then our job to deal with that in a prompt manner."
A key revelation: Bolton was thrust into the center of the Senate's fight over witnesses in the impeachment trial after the New York Times reported that Bolton's forthcoming memoir will say Trump directly tied a freeze in U.S. military aid to Ukraine to Kyiv announcing investigations into the Bidens.
The claim made in the draft of the memoir would give Bolton direct knowledge of a scheme alleged in Trump's impeachment.
Bolton previously said he'd appear before the Senate if subpoenaed after refusing to testify before the House during its impeachment inquiry, and Democrats seized on the revelations about his book to bolster their case for calling him as a witness.
A call to testify and a possible block: Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Democrats aim for maximum pressure on GOP over debt ceiling MORE (R-Utah), who has been the most vocal Republican in support of witnesses, called Bolton "a very responsible and capable person."
The pressure to call Bolton briefly scrambled GOP plans to quickly end the trial without witnesses, but in the days since the revelations about the memoir were first reported, Republicans have expressed confidence they have the votes to block witnesses.
Trump's trashing: Trump, meanwhile, has been lashing out at his former national security adviser, with whom he had an acrimonious split. On Wednesday, he tweeted that Bolton wrote a "nasty" and "untrue" book.
"For a guy who couldn't get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn't get approved for anything since, 'begged' me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying 'Don't do it, sir,' takes the job, mistakenly says 'Libyan Model' on T.V., and many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book," Trump tweeted.
Trump and Bolton parted ways in September amid policy disagreements on Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Afghanistan and other areas.
In a sign of the bitterness of the split, the two have not even agreed on the terms of Bolton's departure. Trump says he fired Bolton, while Bolton insists that he quit.
Bolton's GOP ties: Bolton, the national security hawk known for his advocacy of regime change in places such as Iran, forged his connections with Republican lawmakers as he held positions in the Reagan and both Bush administrations.
In the years between his roles in the George W. Bush administration and Trump administration, Bolton was a fixture on Fox News as a paid contributor.
Bolton's self-named political action committee has donated to dozens of Republican senators' campaigns over the years. For the 2020 campaign cycle, the PAC has given to Republican Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE (Ark.), Cory GardnerCory GardnerProtecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program MORE (Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) MORE (N.C.), according to Open Secrets.
Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), whose campaign received money from Bolton's PAC in the 2016 cycle, told reporters this week that "I got nothing for you" when asked what he thinks of Bolton. When pressed by a reporter on the campaign donations, Toomey did not appear to respond before another reporter asked a different question.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Trump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-S.C.), who has become a staunch Trump ally, noted that he's known Bolton for two decades and has a "very shared worldview" with him.
GOP FUMES OVER DEM MANEUVER ON IRAN BILLS: Republicans are fuming over a planned move by Democrats to consider Iran legislation alongside a commemorative coin bill, saying the floor maneuver is designed to prevent changes to the Democratic-backed measures reining in President Trump's ability to wage war.
The legislative maneuver would prevent House Republicans from using a procedural tool to alter the two Iran bills at the eleventh hour since the measures would be tacked on as amendments to the coin bill. GOP lawmakers accused Democrats of attempting to silence them and said the move would set a bad precedent.
"If that's the games they're going to play, I mean, that to me is a tremendous risk that they are taking," Rep. Brad WenstrupBrad Robert Wenstrup20 years later: Washington policymakers remember 9/11 House approves select panel to probe Jan. 6 attack Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation MORE (R-Ohio) told The Hill following a Tuesday briefing on the authorization for use of military force (AUMF). "If you want to stall everything, if they're going to change and play games like that, I think that that's a dangerous precedent to set."
The legislation is slated for a floor vote Thursday.
Background: The decision to bring up the Iran bills comes in response to Trump's decision to launch an airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. While Republicans have largely lauded the president's military action, Democrats have raised concerns over the constitutionality of the move, arguing it may further destabilize the region.
The GOP argument: GOP lawmakers argue that using a different bill to bring the Iran legislation to the floor prevents adequate debate on the two measures: one would block funding for military action against Iran and the second which would repeal the 2002 AUMF.
Rep. Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanHouse Democrats select Riggleman as Jan. 6 committee adviser Virginia Democrats seek to tie Youngkin to Trump's election claims The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week MORE (R-Va.), who served as an intelligence officer in the Air Force, said it would be "incredibly dangerous" to pass the measures without an AUMF replacement.
"Attaching it to a coin bill without a replacement ... makes it incredibly dangerous," Riggleman said. "This is very irresponsible during an impeachment hearing, without a replacement, to throw amendments on there, without even talking about it -- we are in a new era of warfare."
House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOSHA faces big challenge with Biden vaccine mandate Overnight Health Care — Nicki Minaj stokes uproar over vaccines Republicans ask FDA for details on any White House pressure on boosters MORE (R-La.) argued the two Iran bills could undercut the president's ability to take necessary military action against potential threats, adding that Democrats should work with Republicans on potential updates to the AUMF and war powers.
The Dem stance: Democrats dismissed such remarks as faux outrage on behalf of GOP lawmakers, arguing that using an unrelated bill as a vehicle for amendments is not unprecedented.
"We ping-pong bills between the House and Senate all of the time, and Republicans are being misleading," one Democratic leadership aide told The Hill on Tuesday evening, adding that Republicans can offer what's known as a motion to recommit on Thursday or the following week.
TRUMP URGES LAWMAKERS TO VOTE THEIR HEART ON WAR AUTHORITY REPEAL: Trump on Wednesday urged House lawmakers to "vote their HEART" on legislation to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).
The president appeared to give the green light to Republicans to vote in favor of the bill one day after the White House threatened to veto the measure.
"On the Iraq War Resolution being voted on tomorrow in the House of Representatives, we are down to 5000 soldiers, and going down, and I want everyone, Republican and Democrat, to vote their HEART!" Trump tweeted.
A veto threat: The White House signaled this week it would veto both measures. The administration warned that repealing the 2002 AUMF would "embolden our enemies" by curbing the president's ability to "defend itself and its partner forces."
The measure gives the president broad latitude to act in response to threats from Iraq and threats directed by Iran.
It's unclear how many Republicans will support the bills on Thursday. Just three GOP lawmakers supported a war powers resolution the House passed earlier this month that was also aimed at limiting Trump's ability to strike Iran.
Trump hits Pelosi: On Wednesday night, Trump again took to Twitter, this time to rail against Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans caught in California's recall trap Raise the debt limit while starting to fix the budget 'Justice for J6' organizer calls on demonstrators to respect law enforcement MORE (D-Calif.) over the vote.
"Nancy Pelosi wants Congress to take away authority Presidents use to stand up to other countries and defend AMERICANS. Stand with your Commander in Chiefs," Trump tweeted.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Defense Authorization request for Fiscal Year 2021 and the Future Years Defense Program, with U.S. Africa Command head Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, and U.S. Southern Command head Navy Adm. Craig Faller, at 9 a.m. in Dirkson Senate Office Building, room G-50.
-- The Hill: Pentagon identifies airmen killed in Afghanistan crash
-- The Hill: Number of US troops injured in Iran missile strikes rises to 50
-- The Hill: House committee advances bill that would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power
-- The Hill: Democratic senator asks intelligence agencies to open probe into Bezos phone hack
-- The Hill: Opinion: Trump peace plan attracts some Gulf states, but not consensus backing
-- The Hill: Opinion: An Arab case for the Trump peace plan
-- The Hill: Opinion: The urgent need to bolster US-Mexico security cooperation