Overnight Defense: House panel probes Pompeo's convention speech | UN council rejects US demand to restore Iran sanctions | Court rules against Pentagon policy slowing expedited citizenship

Overnight Defense: House panel probes Pompeo's convention speech | UN council rejects US demand to restore Iran sanctions | Court rules against Pentagon policy slowing expedited citizenship
© Greg Nash

Happy Tuesday 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 PompeoBiden should expand contact between US and Taiwanese officials On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE’s controversial speech to the Republican National Convention, happening Tuesday night, has now elicited a House investigation.

Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroSunday shows preview: Washington prepares for an inauguration and impeachment; coronavirus surges across the US Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers Lawmaker to unveil bill ensuring nothing — 'no airport, no highway, no school' — is named after Trump MORE (D-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs panel's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, announced Tuesday he was launching an investigation, raising concerns that the move is an illegal violation of the Hatch Act and a breach of State Department regulations.

Castro raised his concerns in a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun and requested information on the secretary’s planned remarks.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that a sitting U.S. Secretary of State, America’s top diplomat, would use official taxpayer-funded business to participate in a political party convention, particularly after the State Department published guidance that explicitly prohibits such activity,” Castro wrote in his letter to Biegun. “This action is part of a pattern of politicization of U.S foreign policy, for which President TrumpDonald TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT MORE was impeached by the House of Representatives, that undermines America’s standing in the world. The American people deserve a full investigation.”

State policy: Castro said Pompeo’s actions directly violate the secretary’s owb instructions that State Department officials, specifically presidential and political appointees, are barred from engaging in political partisan activities abroad that are related to the U.S. elections.

Those instructions were laid out in two memos obtained and released by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday.

The first memo appears to be from December 2019 from the Office of the Legal Adviser and specifically states and highlights in bold and italics that “Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event.”

A second memo, summarizing and reiterating these points, was sent in July and signed by Pompeo.

More criticism: Several other prominent Democrats jumped in the fray to criticize Pompeo on Tuesday, including the campaign of Trump’s presidential opponent.

"Secretary Pompeo's decision to address the Republican Convention from Jerusalem isn't just an abuse of taxpayer dollars, it undermines the critical work being done by the State Department,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for Biden’s campaign.

“Every day America's diplomats abroad proudly represent our country — not a political party — but Mike Pompeo's repeated and blatant use of his office for overtly political purposes only serves to undercut their work, and it further weakens the critical alliances and global relationships that have already been so badly damaged by this administration's recklessness,” she added.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCowboys for Trump founder arrested following Capitol riot Retired Army general: 'We can't have demonstrators showing up at a state Capitol with damn long guns' Graham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump MORE (D-Calif.), meanwhile, called Pompeo’s speech “appalling.”

“Now he's doing just that thing, and then, of course, really sadly, discoloring our bipartisanship in terms of our support for Israel, which has always been bipartisan, and we always want it to be,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

“The image is something that's going to say, look at us, we're here in Israel making a speech to the Republican National Convention, violating our values in terms of the bipartisanship and our support for Israel, violating in many ways what he told his own employees,” she added.

UN BUCKS US ON IRAN SANCTIONS: In a move that was expected, but still notable for what it says about U.S. influence, the president of the U.N. Security Council has rejected the Trump administration’s demand to snap back sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal.

The U.N. ambassador from Indonesia, which holds the council’s rotating presidency this month, announced the rejection Tuesday in response to questions from Russia and China on the issue.

“It is clear to me that there is one member which has a particular position on the issues, while there are significant numbers of members who have contesting views,” Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani said during a virtual Security Council meeting on the Middle East.

“In my view there is no consensus in the council,” he continued. “Thus, the president is not in the position to take further action.“

Background: Pompeo formally notified the U.N. last week the United States was initiating the process to reinstate all U.N. sanctions on Iran after the Security Council soundly rejected a U.S. resolution to extend a conventional arms embargo on Tehran.

But the Trump administration's move relies on an argument that it is still a participant in the nuclear deal as defined by a Security Council resolution that backed the agreement, even though Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018.

Because the United States has withdrawn from the nuclear deal, other members of the Security Council argued Pompeo’s move last week was illegal.

US response: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft accused the Security Council of lacking “courage and moral clarity.”

“Let me just make it really, really clear: The Trump administration has no fear in standing in limited company on this matter, in light of the unmistakable truth guiding our actions,” she said in a speech during the meeting. “I only regret that other members of this council have lost their way and now find themselves standing in the company of terrorists.”

What’s next: The Security Council could revisit the issue next month when Niger takes over the presidency. But Niger has also expressed its view that the U.S. move is illegal.

FEDERAL COURT STRIKES DOWN PENTAGON POLICY: A federal court has struck down a Pentagon policy requiring immigrant troops to serve for six months to a year before they are eligible for expedited citizenship.

In a ruling Tuesday, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sided with arguments that the minimum service requirement is “arbitrary and capricious” and violates the Administrative Procedure Act.

“The United States has a long history of allowing noncitizens to serve in its military and providing those who serve with an expedited path to citizenship,” wrote U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle, a Clinton appointee. “But in recent years, despite its need for noncitizen enlistees to fill its ranks, the Department of Defense ... had placed obstacles in that path to citizenship.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

Background: At issue is a 2017 Pentagon policy that requires immigrant troops to serve for a minimum amount of time before being eligible for expedited citizenship.

Noncitizens who serve in the military are eligible for expedited citizenship under the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act. In order to qualify for the expedited process, troops must get a certification from the Pentagon that they have served honorably.

Troops used to be able to get that certification a day after starting service. But in 2017, the Pentagon changed the process. Among the new requirements are that active-duty troops have to serve for at least 180 days and members of the Selected Reserve for at least a year.

In April, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on behalf of eight noncitizen service members, filed a lawsuit against the policy, arguing the new steps unlawfully block troops’ ability to use the expedited process to which they are entitled.


The Atlantic Council will host “U.S. Defense Strategy and Posture for an Era of Great Power Competition,” featuring former under secretary of Defense for policy Michèle Flournoy and Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3hv27sj

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperWatch Out: Progressives are eyeing the last slice of the budget Biden needs to fill the leadership gaps on Day One US meets troops reduction goal in Afghanistan, Iraq MORE will deliver a speech on "Advancing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific" at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii at 11:30 p.m. Washington time. https://bit.ly/3jchUwu

Day Three of the Republican National Convention includes speaker Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceNewly released video from inside Capitol siege shows rioters confronting police, rifling through Senate desks Author: Meadows is history's worst White House chief of staff Democratic lawmaker says 'assassination party' hunted for Pelosi during riot MORE, Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnColbert asks Republicans 'have you had enough?' in live show after Capitol violence Congress rejects challenge to Arizona's presidential vote LIVE COVERAGE: Congress certifies Biden win after Pennsylvania, Arizona challenges fail MORE (R-Tenn.), Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Military survivors of child sex abuse deserve more NASA selects the next Artemis moonwalkers while SpaceX flies a Starship MORE (R-Iowa), Rep. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawGOP divided over Liz Cheney's future Crenshaw knocks Biden's stimulus: 'Stop plagiarizing the last relief bill' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Nine, including former Michigan governor, charged over Flint water crisis | Regulator finalizes rule forcing banks to serve oil, gun companies | Trump admin adds hurdle to increase efficiency standards for furnaces, water heaters MORE (R-Texas), Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikGOP divided over Liz Cheney's future GOP at crossroads after Capitol siege Top Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win MORE (R-N.Y.), Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinGOP divided over Liz Cheney's future READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Rep. Lee Zeldin fends off Democratic opponent in New York MORE (R-N.Y.) and former U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard GrenellRichard GrenellEdward Snowden, the media, and the Espionage Act Kentucky governor calls vandalism to McConnell's home 'unacceptable' Pelosi's, McConnell's homes vandalized as K stimulus check bill fails to pass MORE. 2020gopconvention.com


-- The Hill: CBO: Letting nuclear treaty expire could cost billions

-- The Hill: US Cyber Command leader vows to 'defend forward' in protecting nation from cyberattacks

-- The Hill: Pompeo: US 'deeply concerned' by reports Russian opposition leader was poisoned

-- The Hill: State Department condemns Erdoğan meeting with Hamas

-- The Hill: Trump praises Erdoğan during convention segment with freed hostages

-- Stars and Stripes: Ugandan guards evacuated from US base in Afghanistan after positive coronavirus tests now waiting to go home

-- Associated Press: Iran dismisses demands beyond nuke deal as IAEA head visits