SPONSORED:

Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police

Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police
© Getty Images

Happy Monday 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: Washington is facing a bipartisan uproar over reports that the intelligence community concluded months ago that Russia offered bounties to incentivize Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers, including a chorus of Republicans who are typically reticent to confront President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE, are demanding answers as Trump seeks to deflect blame and responsibility.

But congressional Republicans and Democrats — calling the reported Russian operation “egregious” and “disturbing” — say Trump’s explanations only raise more questions that the administration must answer immediately.

“Anything with any hint of credibility that would endanger our service members, much less put a bounty on their lives, to me, should have been briefed immediately to the commander-in-chief and a plan to deal with that situation,” said Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryChamber of Commerce endorses former White House physician Ronny Jackson for Congress Overnight Defense: Senate passes stopgap spending bill hours before shutdown deadline | Brief military mentions in chaotic first Trump, Biden debate | Lawmakers grills Pentagon officials over Germany drawdown Lawmakers grill Pentagon over Trump's Germany drawdown MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, who is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.

Background: The New York Times first reported Friday that the intelligence community concluded months ago that a unit within the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, secretly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants for attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan last year.

Trump was briefed on the intelligence, and officials had deliberated potential response options but the White House had not authorized any further action, the report said.

The Washington Post then reported Sunday that intelligence assessments concluded the Russian bounties led to the deaths of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Other news outlets have since confirmed the Times reporting, with some newspapers citing British government officials, who were briefed by the U.S. last week on the intelligence.

White House responses: Statements by the White House and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) have disputed that Trump was briefed but have not addressed the credibility of the intelligence.

Shortly after the Post’s Sunday report, Trump claimed the intelligence was not credible.

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” he tweeted late Sunday night. “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Trump, however, stands alone in questioning the accuracy of the intelligence. Later Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said there was “no consensus” and “dissenting opinions” within the intelligence community about the credibility of the information, remarks that are markedly different from Trump’s claims.

She did not answer questions about whether elements of the intelligence were included in Trump’s daily presidential briefing. 

Briefing for Republicans, Dems call for more: On Monday, the White House briefed at least seven Republicans: Thornberry, House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulWarren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates Bipartisan action needed to counter Chinese influence Hillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments MORE (Texas) and Reps. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneySteve King defends past comments on white supremacy, blasts NYT and GOP leaders in fiery floor speech GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power Graham vows GOP will accept election results after Trump comments MORE (Wyo.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jim Banks (Ind.), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerFox News reporter defends confirming Atlantic piece despite Trump backlash: 'I feel very confident' GOP lawmaker defends Fox reporter after Trump calls for her firing Lindsey Graham: 'QAnon is bats--- crazy' MORE (Ill.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikWomen gain uneven footholds in Congress, state legislatures Republicans cast Trump as best choice for women The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Pence rips Biden as radical risk MORE (N.Y.), a source familiar with the meeting said. 

Democratic leaders are calling for briefings for the full House and Senate.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas MORE (D-Calif.) sent a letter Monday to Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeHillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Ratcliffe, Schiff battle over Biden emails, politicized intelligence Juan Williams: Trump's search for dirt falls flat MORE and CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelFormer Trump campaign adviser named to senior role at CIA: report CIA letting less intelligence on Russia reach Trump: report Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide MORE requesting a full-House briefing, saying that “Congress and the country need answers now.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump to lift Sudan terror sponsor designation Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts The 2016 and 2020 Senate votes are about the same thing: constitutionalist judges MORE (D-N.Y.) released his own statement, making the same request for the two intelligence leaders to immediately brief senators.

Thornberry and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithBlue Origin takes one small step toward being a competitor to SpaceX Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy Watchdog to audit Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds on defense contractors MORE (D-Wash.) have also demanded a briefing from the Pentagon for their full committee this week, but Thornberry and a Democratic committee spokesperson said they have not received a response from the Defense Department.

“If the reports are true, that the administration knew about this Russian operation and did nothing, they have broken the trust of those who serve and the commitment to their families to ensure their loved one’s safety,” Smith said in a statement Monday. “It is imperative that the House Armed Services Committee receive detailed answers from the Department of Defense.”

The Pentagon “has received the invitation” from Smith and Thornberry and “is working to address the request,” department spokesman Jessica Maxwell said. The department declined to comment on the reports about the intelligence.

NDAA AMENDMENTS TARGET HOT BUTTON ISSUES: The Senate’s version of the annual defense policy bill cleared another procedural hurdle Monday, with senators voting 89-4 on a motion to proceed.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendments are also still rolling in. As mentioned in this space before, hundreds of amendments are filed to the NDAA every year but only a handful normally end up getting a roll-call vote on the floor.  

One amendment from a bipartisan group of senators tries to place limits on Trump's ability to remove troops from Germany unless the administration is able to meet a slew of requirements. 

The proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal 10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed The Memo: Trump's second-term chances fade MORE (R-Utah), would prohibit the administration from reducing the number of active-duty troops in Germany below 34,500 unless the Pentagon can certify to Congress that it is in the national security interest of the United States and would not negatively undermine European alliances or NATO. 

It would also require the Defense secretary to certify that the move would not impact the U.S. military's ability to "execute contingency plans," wouldn't negatively impact ongoing operations, won't impact military families and that the Pentagon has consulted with allies including NATO and Germany.  

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (R-S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOwners of meatpacker JBS to pay 0M fine over foreign bribery charges Questions raised about conflicts of interest around Biden son-in-law America needs an industrial policy — now more than ever MORE (R-Fla.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Sunday shows - Trump Michigan rally grabs the spotlight Democratic Delaware senator says he is open to expanding the Supreme Court MORE (D-Del.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats have no case against Amy Coney Barrett — but that won't stop them Pence-Harris debate draws more than 50M viewers, up 26 percent from 2016 Five takeaways from the vice presidential debate MORE (D-Va.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenJustice indicts two members of ISIS 'Beatles' cell ISIS militants expected to be sent to US for prosecution: report New Hampshire poll finds Biden up 8 points over Trump MORE (D-N.H.) are co-sponsoring the proposal.  

In addition to Romney's amendment, Graham filed a separate proposal throwing the Senate's support behind the U.S.-Germany relationship. 

"The presence of United States military forces in Germany is a strong deterrent against Russian aggression in Europe and strengthens the capability of NATO," Graham's resolution reads.

Limiting military equipment for police: Another bipartisan group of senators introduced an NDAA amendment Monday to limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies, a practice that has come under increased scrutiny amid protests against police brutality sparked by George Floyd's death last month.

Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel Schatz Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize MORE (D-Hawaii), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court This week: Clock ticks on chance for coronavirus deal Climate change — Trump's golden opportunity MORE (R-Alaska), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter As VP Kamala Harris could be a powerful voice for women's retirement security The clock is ticking and Trump is still taking a shellacking MORE (D-Calif.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-Ky.) are offering the measure.

“There is a growing bipartisan consensus that giving local law enforcement military equipment such as bayonets, grenade launchers, armor-piercing bullets, and tear gas is immoral and does nothing to keep people safe,” Schatz said in a statement. 

The bipartisan proposal would place limits on the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, which allows the Defense Department to pass on excess equipment to local agencies, by prohibiting the transfer of equipment including tear gas, armor-piercing firearms and ammunition, bayonets, grenade launchers and grenades, combat tracked vehicles, and drones, according to a release from Schatz’s office.

The proposed amendment would not prohibit the transfer of defensive equipment.

The program has been back in the spotlight amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racial inequality sparked by Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody. 

In the House: This week is also a big week for the NDAA in the lower chamber as the House Armed Services Committee prepares to consider its version Wednesday.

In his conference call with reporters Monday, Thornberry predicted an amendment on the Germany issue, but said lawmakers are still in discussion about the exact language.

Thornberry was also asked where he stands on the issue of renaming Confederate-named bases. Thornberry would not explicitly state where he stands on the expected amendment to require the Pentagon do that, citing the fact that the exact language is still being worked out.

But he said bases’ local communities should be given ample say in the matter rather than lawmakers “making rash decisions in the heat of the moment.”

“I think most everybody is willing to move forward in some way,” Thornberry said. “It's a question of how and when and, for me, making sure that all of these folks who care about this, have an interest in this are heard from.”

“I just am always hesitant about Congress having a know-it-all attitude without even talking to the folks who live there,” he added. “The country's eyes have been opened a lot on residual racism and evidence of it over the past several weeks. And in many ways, I think that's a healthy thing. … So I think that's good, we just need to, again, not assume that we know everything in Washington better than the rest of the country.”

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear from outside experts on “COVID-19 and U.S. International Pandemic Preparedness, Prevention and Response” in a virtual hearing at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/2BlWAV4

Mark Lewis, the Pentagon’s director of defense research and engineering for modernization, will discuss the department’s modernization priorities at noon in a video event hosted by the Hudson Institute. https://bit.ly/2CTpdJG

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Senators move to boost state and local cybersecurity as part of annual defense bill

-- The Hill: US ends defense exports to Hong Kong over China's national security law

-- The Hill: Pentagon announces July 4th flyovers across northeast

-- The Hill: Opinion: Russia is testing Trump's reactions

-- CNN: From pandering to Putin to abusing allies and ignoring his own advisers, Trump's phone calls alarm US officials

-- Defense News: US could buy Turkey’s Russian-made S-400 under Senate proposal

-- Associated Press: Worst virus fears are realized in poor or war-torn countries