Overnight Defense: Pompeo criticized for GOP convention speech from Jerusalem | State Dept says UAE arms sales under review | California Guardsman becomes sixth military COVID-19 death

Overnight Defense: Pompeo criticized for GOP convention speech from Jerusalem | State Dept says UAE arms sales under review | California Guardsman becomes sixth military COVID-19 death
© Greg Nash

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: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoChina: US military presence in South China Sea a threat to peace, stability White House installs new leadership at federally-funded international broadcasters US carrier group enters South China Sea amid tensions between China, Taiwan MORE is coming under fire for his plan to deliver a speech to the Republican National Convention while on an official trip to Jerusalem.

The speech breaks the norm of secretaries of State avoiding such political events, and critics say there’s little to no distinction between Pompeo delivering his remarks in a personal capacity apart from his position as secretary.

They further accuse the secretary of violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials from taking part in political activity while on official duty, and exploiting Jerusalem, a city sacred to the world's three largest monotheistic religions, for partisan political gain.

“This is really a grievous and potentially very harmful act by Secretary Pompeo,” said Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of State for political affairs in the Obama administration. “Secretaries of State and Defense have traditionally stayed above partisan politics because they represent America to the world. It is truly breaking a norm to have the secretary of State do this.”

She also said that it is “wholly inappropriate to use Jerusalem as a prop in the Republican convention.”

That view was echoed by pro-Israel, Jewish and Democratic groups which condemned using Jerusalem as a backdrop, saying it threatens to turn the historically bipartisan U.S.-Israel relationship into a political wedge issue.

Pompeo’s address, which is expected to air at the convention on Tuesday night, was filmed at around sunset atop the famed King David Hotel overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, Tal Schneider, a reporter with the Israeli newspaper Globes, first reported.

The setting provides a powerful image that symbolizes what the administration considers its most crowning foreign policy achievement of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, giving formal American recognition of the city as Israel’s capital and a key play to President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE’s base of evangelical voters.

State’s response: A State Department spokesperson said no agency resources would go toward the secretary’s remarks and that no staff are involved in preparing the speech or in the arrangements of Pompeo’s appearance.

“The State Department will not bear any costs in conjunction with this appearance,” the spokesperson said.

At least four teams of lawyers cleared the secretary to make the personal speech, McClatchy reported, including Pompeo’s personal lawyer, the State Department legal counsel, Republican National Convention lawyers and White House lawyers.

More about the trip: Pompeo’s trip to Israel is part of a four-country tour this week meant to build on the Trump administration’s recent shepherding of new diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi. Pompeo will next travel to Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

On Monday, Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE.

After the meeting, Pompeo told reporters the United States would review selling more advanced weaponry to the UAE in the wake of its deal with Israel, but assured that the United States was committed to maintaining Israel’s military advantage in the region.

“The United States has a legal requirement with respect to qualitative military edge. We will continue to honor that,” Pompeo said. “But we have a 20-plus year security relationship with the United Arab Emirates as well, where we have provided them with technical assistance and military assistance.”

“We will now continue to review that process to continue to make sure that we’re delivering them with the equipment that they need to secure and defend their own people from this same threat, from the Islamic Republic of Iran as well,” he continued. “We are deeply committed to doing that, to achieving that, and we’ll do it in a way that preserves our commitment to Israel as well. I’m confident that both of these objectives can be achieved.”

The UAE has long wanted to buy the F-35 fighter jet, but has been stymied by U.S. concerns about maintaining Israel’s military advantage.

But reports in recent weeks have suggested the UAE-Israel deal could unlock the F-35 and other advanced weapons for Abu Dhabi.

Israel, however, continues to object to any F-35 sale to the UAE.

“I have to say simply that this deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal, and I don’t know of any arms deal that has been agreed upon,” Netanyahu said Monday. “It may be contemplated. Our position hasn’t changed.”

CALIFORNIA GUARDSMAN DIES OF COVID: A California Guardsman has become the sixth U.S. service member to die from the coronavirus.

The death was first revealed in Monday’s update of the chart of Pentagon-connected COVID-19 cases the department keeps on its website.

The soldier died Thursday, Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma, a spokesman for the California Military Department, said in an email.

He was a 36-year-old staff sergeant assigned to the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade in Fresno, Calif., Shiroma said.

Shiroma did not release the soldier's name or any other personal details, citing a request from the soldier's family.

More stats: In total, there have been 52,455 cases of COVID-19 connected to the Pentagon, according to Monday’s figures.

That includes 36,232 cases among service members, 20,830 of whom have recovered and 558 of whom have been hospitalized over the course of the pandemic.

There have also been 7,956 cases among Pentagon civilians, including 49 deaths; 4,824 cases among dependents, including seven deaths; and 3,443 cases among contractors, including 16 deaths.

ESPER’S TRAVELS: Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump administration official Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief Watch Out: Progressives are eyeing the last slice of the budget Biden needs to fill the leadership gaps on Day One MORE is also traveling this week. He’s in the Indo-Pacific region, visiting Hawaii, Palau and Guam.

“On this trip he will conduct meetings with military leaders, local officials and foreign partners; visit with our forces deployed through the region; and participate in commemorative events marking the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II,” the Pentagon said in a statement last week.


Navy officials participate in a Navy League webinar on the state of shipbuilding at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/2QovyAl

Nand Mulchandani, acting director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, participates in a webinar hosted by the Institute for Security and Technology at 1:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/3ldzbav

Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, hosts an “Ask Me Anything” about the Advanced Battle Management System at 2:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/3jbFCJa

Day two of the Republican National Convention includes speakers Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and First Lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpScorned and mistreated, Melania Trump deserved much better from the media The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' K Street navigates virtual inauguration week MORE. 2020gopconvention.com


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