Overnight Defense: White House suggests stripping Confederate base names in exchange for repealing tech liability shield | Biden faces mounting hurdles to rejoining Iran deal | Military coronavirus cases up

Overnight Defense: White House suggests stripping Confederate base names in exchange for repealing tech liability shield | Biden faces mounting hurdles to rejoining Iran deal | Military coronavirus cases up
© Greg Nash

Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, 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: The White House has suggested to House Democrats that President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE could drop his objection to renaming Confederate-named military bases if they agree to repeal a legal shield for internet companies, a Democratic House aide confirmed to The Hill. 

The offer, made by White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe pandemic and a 'rainy day fund' for American charity House Democrat accuses Air Force of attempting to influence Georgia runoff races US national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration MORE (D-Wash.) as part of negotiations on the annual defense policy bill, was first reported by The New York Times.

The Democratic aide told The Hill that based on conversations with colleagues, “it’s highly unlikely this offer will gain any traction.”

“On its face, there’s issues of jurisdiction, lack of clarity on what the White House actually means when it says repeal Sec. 230, and also it’s unclear if congressional Republicans support this,” the aide said.

Still, the aide said the offer appears to be “a sign that the White House wants to pass the NDAA this year.”

Up in the air: The fate of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been an open question amid a standoff between Congress and Trump on a provision that would require the Pentagon to strip Confederate names from military bases and other property.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill include the requirement. The House requires the change in one year, while the Senate would mandate it in three years.

The language was added to the bills with bipartisan support amid nationwide protests over racial injustice that reinvigorated an examination of America’s legacy of slavery. Most prominently in the military, the Army has 10 bases named after Confederate military officers.

Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA over the requirement.

No movement: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has vowed to remove the requirement. But it is highly unusual for something that’s in both bills to be removed from the final version, and Inhofe has not explained how he expects to overcome bipartisan support for changing the names.

Democrats have also indicated they will not budge.

BIDEN FACES HURDLES TO REJOINING IRAN DEAL: President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE is facing mounting hurdles to reenter the Iran nuclear deal as the Trump administration uses its final days in office to try to cement its so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.

With just two months left in his presidency, President Trump is levying more sanctions and selling weapons to Iran’s enemies. He also reportedly even considered military action after international inspectors confirmed Iran’s supply of nuclear fuel has swelled since Trump withdrew from the deal.

Other roadblocks: Political considerations in Tehran, too, could complicate Biden’s path to rejoining the deal, as Iran prepares for its own elections and demands compensation to make up for Trump’s sanctions.

And while European allies are eager for a Biden administration to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, Israel has continued its strong opposition to the U.S. providing sanctions relief in the hopes of moderating Iran’s behavior and is bolstered by its growing alliance with Gulf countries.

“The Biden administration is going to have to face this sense of, ‘Well, we can't just snap our fingers and make maximum pressure disappear,’ ” said Kaleigh Thomas, an associate fellow at the Center for a New American Security. She added the administration will face a “political hurdle of how Biden messages to international partners and domestic partners and consults with them about, ‘Reentry to the JCPOA is just beginning for this whole U.S.-Iran policy that I've decided to undertake.’ ”

A plan to return: In a September op-ed for CNN, Biden pledged to offer Tehran “a credible path back to diplomacy,” saying he would return the United States to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Iran “returns to strict compliance” with the agreement.

“I have no illusions about the challenges the regime in Iran poses to America's security interests, to our friends and partners and to its own people. But there is a smart way to be tough on Iran, and there is Trump's way,” Biden wrote.

“By any objective measure, Trump's ‘maximum pressure’ has been a boon to the regime in Iran and a bust for America's interests,” he added.

More sanctions coming: On Wednesday, while traveling through the Middle East, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE made clear more Iran sanctions will be imposed in “the coming weeks and months.”

Pompeo, who has not acknowledged Biden won the election, also issued a warning to an unnamed audience that “we need not speculate about what a cessation of sanctions would imply for Iran’s funding for terrorism; we can simply look to the recent past.”

“Reducing that pressure is a dangerous choice, bound to weaken new partnerships for peace in the region and strengthen only the Islamic Republic,” Pompeo said in his Wednesday statement.

Read more here.

MILITARY CORONAVIRUS CASES UP: U.S. officials recorded more than 1,300 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 among members of the armed forces on Tuesday, a new record for the military over a 24-hour period.

Officials told CNN that the test positivity rate among the armed forces is now 6.8 percent, lower than the U.S. national average.

A dashboard operated by the Defense Department indicates that more than 69,000 cases have been confirmed among active members of the military, while tens of thousands more have been recorded among contractors and civilian members of the Defense Department.

The new totals come as the U.S. coronavirus outbreak has surged in pace over the last several week, with health officials recording more than one million new cases over the past seven days and the U.S. passing 250,000 deaths from the virus on Wednesday.

News of rising case members among the armed forces also comes a month after an audit was launched by the Pentagon's inspector general to determine whether the agency allocated funds it received under the coronavirus stimulus CARES Act appropriately.

And more cases on Navy ship: Nearly a quarter of the roughly 300 sailors stationed on guided missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy have tested positive for COVID-19, causing delays in training.

"Personnel assigned to USS Michael Murphy tested positive for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19), Nov. 4," Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a spokesperson for Surface Forces Pacific, told NBC News.

All of those infected on the ship have been moved on shore in Hawaii and no one has been hospitalized, the officials reported. However, a caretaking crew still remains on board while more sailors finish their quarantine, according to NBC.


The House Armed Services Committee will hear from defense experts on “The US military mission in Afghanistan and implications of the peace process on US involvement,” at 9 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings?ID=D65DA1E5-3291-4E44-9A4E-A800...


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-- The Associated Press: Accelerated US withdrawal rattles Afghan allies and adversaries alike