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Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors

Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors
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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: A National Guard officer is poised to tell a House committee that the Park Police’s action to remove protesters from Lafayette Square last month was an “unprovoked escalation.”

The testimony of Maj. Adam DeMarco, who served as a liaison between the Park Police and D.C. National Guard during the incident, contradicts Trump administration officials’ previous explanations for why they forcibly cleared the area of protesters.

“From my observation, those demonstrators – our fellow American citizens -- were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” DeMarco said in written testimony. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”

The House Natural Resources Committee released DeMarco’s testimony ahead of a Tuesday hearing on the Lafayette Square incident. DeMarco is scheduled to testify alongside acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan.

A Park Police spokesperson did not immediately return The Hill’s request for comment. 

DeMarco’s account: In his testimony, DeMarco wrote that Park Police briefed him on a plan to clear the area in order to erect a fence on the northern edge of Lafayette Square, but that he didn’t think it would start until after the 7 p.m. curfew D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed that night.

At about 6:05 p.m., he said, he saw Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Trump campaign, RNC announce 0 million post-election fundraising haul Michigan voter fraud hearing goes viral for alleged flatulence, unruly witness MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley walking across the square. Barr spoke with Park Police officers, while DeMarco gave a briefing to Milley on the situation. Milley told DeMarco to “ensure that National Guard personnel remained calm, adding that we were there to respect the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights,” according to the testimony.

After Milley and Barr left, at about 6:20 p.m., Park Police began warning demonstrators to disperse, but the announcements were “barely audible” from where DeMarco was standing 20 yards away from the protesters, and the protesters showed no sign of having heard the warnings, he said. The clearing operation started about 10 minutes later.

When, during the initial clearing operation, DeMarco saw smoke, a Park Police officer told him it was “stage smoke” and that no tear gas was being used against protesters, he said. 

“But I could feel irritation in my eyes and nose, and based on my previous exposure to tear gas in my training at West Point and later in my Army training, I recognized that irritation as effects consistent with CS or ‘tear gas,’” he continued. “And later that evening, I found spent tear gas canisters on the street nearby.”

DeMarco also said he saw some protesters fall to the ground as Park Police used shields as weapons and that he witnessed unidentified law enforcement officers firing “paintball-like” weapons that he later learned were firing pepper balls.

By 7:05 p.m., DeMarco said, he saw President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE make his now infamous walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which DeMarco said was a “complete surprise, as we had not been briefed that he would enter our sector.”

As for the fencing that was the stated reason for needing to clear the area, the material didn’t arrive until 9 p.m., and the new barrier wasn’t completed until later that night, he said.

DEMS UP PRESSURE AHEAD OF TATA HEARING: President Trump’s controversial nominee to take over the Pentagon’s policy shop will have his confirmation hearing this week, but Democrats are calling on him to withdraw beforehand.

In a letter released Monday, the 10 Senate Democrats wrote to Anthony Tata urging him to withdraw his nomination to be under secretary of Defense for policy, as well as resign from his current post as a senior adviser to Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperDefense bill revives Stars and Stripes newspaper after near dissolution Alyssa Farah resigns as White House communications director Compromise defense bill offers rebuke of Trump's Germany drawdown MORE.

“Your record of offensive and inflammatory comments disqualifies you from serving in your current position and the position for which you have been nominated,” the Democrats wrote in the letter, dated Friday.

The letter was organized by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSchwarzenegger says he would 'absolutely' help Biden administration Disney chair says he would consider job in Biden administration if asked Despite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill MORE (D-Mass.), a Senate Armed Services Committee member, and co-signed by fellow committee Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' Top Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Another Defense official resigns | Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' despite purge | Top contender for Biden DOD secretary would be historic pick MORE (D-Ill.).

The other signatories are Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats introduce legislation to strike slavery exception in 13th Amendment Overnight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising MORE (D-Ore.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOn The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry MORE (D-Md.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownACLU sues DHS for records on purchased cell phone data to track immigrants DHS watchdog to probe agency's tracking of Americans' phone data without a warrant Rare Mnuchin-Powell spat takes center stage at COVID-19 hearing MORE (D-Ohio), Cory BookerCory BookerJudge whose son was killed by gunman: 'Federal judiciary is under attack' Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Policy center calls for new lawmakers to make diverse hires MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersFormer Sanders press secretary: 'Principal concern' of Biden appointments should be policy DeVos knocks free college push as 'socialist takeover of higher education' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump MORE (I-Vt.).

“No one with a record of repeated, repugnant statements like yours should be nominated to serve in a senior position of public trust at the Pentagon,” they wrote. “Your views are wholly incompatible with the U.S. military’s values.”

Background: The nomination of Tata, a retired Army brigadier general most known for his frequent guest appearances on Fox News, has been a flashpoint since CNN resurfaced several inflammatory and racist tweets Tata wrote about former President Obama and other Democratic politicians.

In 2018 tweets, for example, Tata called Obama a “terrorist leader” and said Islam is “most oppressive violent religion I know of.” He also called Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersSweeping financial crimes bill to hitch a ride on defense measure Katie Porter in heated exchange with Mnuchin: 'You're play-acting to be a lawyer' Emergency housing assistance for older adults needed now MORE (D-Calif.) a "vicious race baiting racist” and said she and House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (D-Calif.) "have always been the same violent extremists."

Tata has since deleted many of the offensive tweets. After CNN’s reports and after several Armed Services Democrats, including committee ranking member Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedLawmakers release compromise defense bill without Section 230 repeal Top Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing 'chaos' MORE (D-R.I.), came out in opposition to Tata’s nomination, he also penned a letter to Reed and committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHillicon Valley: Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 | Defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal, includes White House cyber czar position | Officials warn hackers are targeting vaccine supply chain Lawmakers release compromise defense bill without Section 230 repeal Compromise defense bill offers rebuke of Trump's Germany drawdown MORE (R-Okla.) expressing regret at the tweets and calling them an “aberration in a four decade thread of faithful public service.”

PENTAGON NEEDS TO CONSIDER CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS ON CONTRACTORS, WATCHDOG SAYS: The Pentagon has not regularly assessed risks posed to contractors by climate change, potentially jeopardizing the department’s ability to carry out its mission, a government watchdog said in a report released Monday.

The Department of Defense (DOD) “has not systematically incorporated consideration of climate change into its acquisition and supply processes, consequently limiting the military departments’ ability to best consider the potential effects on their own operations from climate-related risks faced by their contractors as part of these processes,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote in the report.

“Excluding climate change and extreme weather considerations will limit DOD’s ability to anticipate and manage climate-related risks so as to build resilience into its processes, and could jeopardize its ability to carry out its missions,” the GAO added.

The GAO recommended the Pentagon and each of the military departments implement a 2016 directive on climate change by updating guidance on acquisition and supply.

Lawmakers press Pentagon: The GAO report was first released by Warren and Reed, who requested the watchdog study the effects of climate change on defense contractors and the defense supply chain last year.

In a letter to Esper released Monday, Warren and Reed urged him to implement the GAO’s recommendations.

“We recognize that incorporating climate risk analysis into the DoD’s contracting processes in a systematic way is a challenging task, but the potential risks to DoD operations and mission critical assets are significant,” they wrote. “If DoD fails to identify and address the impacts of climate change to its contracts and supply chains, it could jeopardize DoD’s ability to carry out its missions.”

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host an online event unveiling the “State of the Space Industrial Base Report 2020” with officials from the Defense Innovation Unit, Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Force and more at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/3f6DP5U

The House Rules Committee will meet to prepare the next “mini-bus” appropriations bill, which includes that fiscal year 2021 defense spending bill, at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/30Q33jH

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Lt. Gen. Glen VanHerck to be commander of U.S. Northern Command and Lt. Gen. James Dickinson to be commander of U.S. Space Command at 2:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/3g65mWp

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-- New York Times: An American mustache that irritated South Koreans is no more

-- Associated Press: Iran moves mock aircraft carrier to sea amid US tensions

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