Overnight Defense: US marks 19th anniversary of 9/11 attacks | Trump awards Medal of Honor to Army Ranger for hostage rescue mission | Bahrain, Israel normalizing diplomatic ties

Overnight Defense: US marks 19th anniversary of 9/11 attacks | Trump awards Medal of Honor to Army Ranger for hostage rescue mission | Bahrain, Israel normalizing diplomatic ties
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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: Friday marked the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the day was filled with remembrances.

President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE marked the anniversary with a moment of silence aboard Air Force One and delivered remarks hailing the men and women who died aboard Flight 93 in Pennsylvania 19 years ago.

The president traveled to Shanksville, Pa., to attend a scaled-back version of the annual Flight 93 memorial service there. While en route, Trump and his staff observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. to denote the time the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Trump, 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, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader FDA chief says he was 'disgusted' by Capitol riots, considered resigning McMaster: Trump running again would be 'terribly divisive' MORE, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Trump leaves White House, promises to be back in 'some form' LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE and deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino were among those who stood around a table with heads bowed in the staff cabin of Air Force One. At the conclusion of the moment of silence, Meadows and Trump each said "God bless America."

The president offered lengthier remarks in Pennsylvania, where he hailed the men and women aboard Flight 93 as heroes and a symbol of American resolve.

"The heroes of Flight 93 are an everlasting reminder that no matter the danger, no matter the threat, no matter the odds, America will always rise up, stand tall and fight back," he said.

Pence, Biden in NYC: Meanwhile, in New York City, Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenDC residents jumped at opportunity to pay for meals for National Guardsmen Joe Biden might bring 'unity' – to the Middle East Biden shouldn't let defeating cancer take a backseat to COVID MORE and Vice President Pence exchanged pleasantries in a rare face-to-face meeting when both men attended a ceremony to honor the lives lost on 9/11.

The two arrived in Manhattan at the World Trade Center memorial site and greeted one another with an elbow bump. The two briefly spoke ahead of the service.

Biden and Pence stood alongside their wives. Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergEverytown calls on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to resign Biden selects Gina Raimondo for Commerce chief: reports 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics MORE, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination, stood between the two couples.

Sens. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCapitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? Schumer calls for DOJ watchdog to probe alleged Trump effort to oust acting AG Student loan forgiveness would be windfall for dentists, doctors and lawyers MORE (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocrats torn on impeachment trial timing OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: 12 removed from National Guard inauguration security | Austin backs lifting transgender ban Biden Pentagon pick supports lifting transgender military ban MORE (D-N.Y.), as well as New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoDisjointed vaccine distribution poses early test for Biden Three National Guardsmen killed after military helicopter crash in New York New York City reschedules 23,000 vaccination appointments due to supply issues MORE (D), were also in attendance and looked on as Biden and Pence exchanged hellos.

Pence went on to speak at a Tunnel to Towers Foundation event. He recognized those who lost their lives on 9/11 and their loved ones and read a Bible verse. When Pence finished speaking, a few in the crowd shouted "four more years" and applauded.

Biden in Pennsylvania: Later in the day, Biden also traveled to Shanksville, where he laid a wreath at the memorial and met with families of some those killed there.

Earlier in the day, Biden vowed he wouldn’t "make any news today" out of respect for the somber day.

"It’s a solemn day, and that’s how we’re going to keep it," Biden told reporters.

At the Pentagon: The Pentagon’s annual 9/11 remembrances started as they normally do with an unfurling of the American flag on the side of the building at sunrise.

But the main ceremony later in the morning was largely virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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 and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in a livestreamed ceremony.

Families of those killed at the Pentagon could not attend the ceremony, but were allowed to visit the memorial in small groups later in the day.

Navy scuttles ill-timed training flight: After fierce backlash, the Navy canceled a training flight in New York City that had been scheduled for Friday.

“A training flight was cancelled by the squadron and rescheduled for a later date,” the Navy said in a statement. “That flight had been previously approved in accordance with all Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations, and was unrelated to any 9-11 memorial commemorations.”

The city’s emergency notification system tweeted on Thursday that an F-18 jet would be flying over the Hudson River toward the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge at 2,500 feet.

The announcement created an uproar from critics who called it “tone deaf” to have a plan fly at a low altitude on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

TRUMP AWARDS MEDAL OF HONOR: While not directly a 9/11 commemoration, Trump on Friday also awarded a Medal of Honor to an Army Ranger who has said he felt compelled to enlist the day of the terrorist attacks.

Trump awarded the nation’s highest military decoration to Army Ranger Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, recognizing him for leading a 2015 raid that freed dozens of hostages held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

At a White House ceremony, Trump introduced Payne as “a warrior who has devoted the last two decades to fighting the forces of terror.”

Trump talked about Payne’s decision to join the service at the age of 18 following the 9/11 hijackings. He described in some detail the raid that Payne led in October 2015 to free more than 70 captives held by ISIS militants in Iraq’s Kirkuk Province.

“Pat, you embody the righteous glory of American valor,” Trump said, before placing the medal on Payne. “We stand in awe of your historic, daring and gallant deeds. You truly went above and beyond the call of duty to earn our nation’s highest military honor.” 

Payne joined the U.S. Army in July 2002. He was trained as an Infantryman and became an Army Ranger the following year. Trump marveled Friday that Payne made an “astounding” 17 deployments; he deployed in support of missions including Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support. 

ISRAEL, BAHRAIN NORMALIZING TIES: Trump announced Friday the normalization of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Israel, the second such breakthrough in recent weeks as the administration works to broker cooperation between Arab nations and Israel. 

"This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East. Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security and prosperity in the region," Trump said in a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE and King Hamad bin Isa Salman al-Khalifa of Bahrain.

The president, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, suggested that the development carried additional significance because it was announced on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“There’s no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11 than the agreement that we're about to tell you,” Trump said.

Context: The news comes roughly a month after Trump announced the normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Trump has pointed to both announcements as major foreign policy achievements, which he is likely to tout in the closing stretch of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Administration officials had expressed optimism that additional Arab nations would follow suit after the UAE normalized relations with Israel in mid-August.

"I am very hopeful that there will be more to follow," Trump said. "I can tell you there's tremendous enthusiasm on behalf of other countries to also join."

More to come?: The normalization of relations would likely not have been possible without approval from Saudi Arabia. The kingdom does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, but has been a key behind-the-scenes player in U.S. efforts to broker peace in the region.

Asked whether the UAE and Bahrain deals could be a prelude to an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerJilani: China 'sending clear message' to Biden officials with sanctions that opposition could lead to 'future pay cut' Would Trump have gotten away with a self-pardon? History will never know Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon MORE said he felt it was an “inevitability” that all Middle Eastern nations would eventually normalize relations with Israel.

“I think it’s definitely worth noticing the trend in the region and what I’ll just say is… the leadership in the region is — they recognize that the approach that’s been taken in the past hasn’t worked,” Kushner, who has led the administration's Middle East peace efforts, told reporters. “And they realize that their people want to see a more vibrant and exciting future. So we’ve been trying to bring the region together.”


Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown and others speak at Day 1 of the Air Force Association’s virtual 2020 Air, Space and Cyber Conference starting at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/3inSsEb


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