Overnight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in

Overnight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in
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Happy Friday 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: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Trump's WHO decision raises bipartisan concerns in House On The Trail: Trump, coronavirus fuel unprecedented voter enthusiasm MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThomas Kean wins GOP primary to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski Trump administration moves to formally withdraw US from WHO Senate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers MORE (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced Friday they are expanding their investigation into the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

The lawmakers announced they plan to conduct transcribed interviews with “key officials” who may know why Linick was fired and how his investigative work at the department may have been a factor in Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFeds investigating allegations TikTok failed to protect children's privacy: report Hillicon Valley: Pompeo floats TikTok ban | Civil rights groups slam Facebook after call | Election security funding included in proposal Top US general doubtful Russian bounties led to American deaths in Afghanistan MORE’s decision to ask President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE to remove him.

“We are aware that Mr. Linick’s office was working on at least two investigations that touched directly on Secretary Pompeo’s actions at the time that Secretary Pompeo recommended that the president fire him,” Engel and Menendez said in a joint statement.

“If Pompeo pushed for Mr. Linick’s dismissal to cover up his own misconduct, that would constitute an egregious abuse of power and a clear attempt to avoid accountability,” they said.

Last night: The announcement comes the morning after Pompeo escalated a growing feud with Menendez in a letter accusing the senator of "hackery" and attempted "character assassination.”

Pompeo said the Democratic senator had "shown an outsized interest" in his travels to Kansas, where national Republicans have been hoping he would run for Senate. So far, the former House lawmaker has shot those suggestions down.

"It is no surprise that you and I hold differing visions for America's foreign policy mission. But, for you and your staff to continue to address these different views by conducting character assassination attempts against me and my team ... is not honorable or worthy of the trust Americans have placed in you," Pompeo wrote in a letter to Menendez. 

In October 2019, Menendez requested that the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigate whether Pompeo violated the Hatch Act, a federal law governing political activities, with his trips to Kansas.

In Pompeo’s letter to Menendez, he also released a January letter from the OSC that said it found “no evidence” he violated the Hatch Act.

The OSC, as part of its determination, noted reports that Pompeo had recently told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill McGrath campaign staffers to join union Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ky.) that he did not plan to run for Senate in Kansas, where Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick Roberts Senate outlook slides for GOP Peter Thiel sours on Trump's reelection chances: report Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names MORE (R) is retiring at the end of the year.

"OSC is closing this matter, but reserves the right to reopen its investigation pending any new developments," the office added.

HOUSE SCHEDULES VOTES IN LATE JUNE: House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerAmy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay The Hill's Campaign Report: Primary Day in New Jersey MORE (D-Md.) released an updated floor schedule for the lower chamber on Friday that would have lawmakers staying in their home districts for most of June before returning to Washington, D.C., for votes on June 30.

The updated schedule comes as the District of Columbia enters its first phase of reopening on Friday following the coronavirus outbreak. House leaders have followed city guidelines closely, and officials say that large gatherings are still prohibited despite some businesses being allowed to open with restrictions.

What that means for defense: The House’s consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been delayed as the chamber’s schedule remained in flux.

In his announcement Friday, Hoyer said the House is aiming to take up “must-pass” legislation such as the NDAA in late June through July. He also said the House Armed Services Committee is aiming to mark up the NDAA at the end of June.

Per new House rules, committees must have two practice hearings using remote tools before they can remotely mark up bills.

To that end, the House Armed Services panel announced Friday it has scheduled its first hybrid remote and in-person hearing for next week. The hearing, scheduled for Thursday morning, will cover future force structure requirements for the Navy and feature testimony from former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Hudson Institute senior fellow Bryan Clark.

In the Senate: The Senate Armed Services Committee previously announced its NDAA markup schedule earlier this week.

If you missed that announcement, subcommittee markups will be held June 8 and 9, and the full committee markup will be June 10 and, if needed, June 11. As usual for the Senate panel, all the markups besides the personnel subcommittee’s will take place behind closed-doors.

NEW SECNAV TAKES CHARGE: Kenneth Braithwaite was sworn in as secretary of the Navy on Friday, giving the service its first Senate-confirmed civilian leader since November.

Braithwaite takes over the job amid the fallout from the USS Theodore Roosevelt coronavirus outbreak.

The Navy earlier this week said the investigation into that outbreak is being reviewed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday after being completed Wednesday.

In his first message to the force, Braithwaite warned that “we face significant challenges today,” adding the country is “up against perhaps the greatest test of our commitment to the ideals we hold dear than at any time in our history.”

“We must recognize this challenge for all it is and all it presents, lurking in the shadows of deceit or the depths of dishonesty,” he wrote. “However, our Navy and Marine Corps have faced tough times before. Each time we have prevailed and we will persevere again. It is our sacred duty and we shall do so by relying on our core values, the bedrock of our service and the key to our success: honor, courage and commitment.

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will host a virtual event on “Politicized Security on the Korean Peninsula” at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/36GsmXW

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Intel chief Ratcliffe declassifies transcripts of Flynn calls

-- The Hill: Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged Iranian sanction violations

-- The Hill: Trump to end special treatment for Hong Kong

-- The Hill: House pushes back schedule to pass spending bills

-- Bloomberg: F-35 costs drop for building jets but rise for operating them

-- Military Times: 2020 Warrior Games scrubbed by Marine Corps over COVID-19 concerns

-- Associated Press: Afghan government says Taliban attack on checkpoint kills 14