Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home

Greg Nash

Happy Wednesday 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: President Trump has been impeached for a second time.

The House voted 232-197 on Wednesday to impeach Trump for his role in inciting last week’s deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, making him the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

And this time the impeachment was bipartisan. Ten Republicans joined every Democrat in voting to approve the single impeachment article, which accuses Trump of inciting violence against the government.

What’s next: Trump’s second impeachment trial will not start until at least next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday, formally rejecting calls to return the Senate to Washington early. 

“The Senate process will now begin at our first regular meeting following receipt of the article from the House,” McConnell said in a statement. 

He added that “there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial” could be wrapped up before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, even if he were to agree with a request from Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to return the Senate to Washington, D.C., early to start the trial. 

“This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact. The President-elect himself stated last week that his inauguration on Jan. 20 is the ‘quickest’ path for any change in the occupant of the presidency,” McConnell said.

McConnell also said Wednesday he is undecided on whether to vote to convict Trump.


NATIONAL GUARD FLOODING IN: The National Guard presence in and around the Capitol is swelling after last week’s insurrection as President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration nears, and now the Guardsmen are armed.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy authorized the troops to be armed at the request of federal authorities, the D.C. National Guard said in a statement. The troops were armed as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, it added.

“National Guard members are postured to meet the requirements of the supported civil authorities, up to and including protective equipment and being armed if necessary,” the D.C. Guard said. “The public’s safety is our top priority.”

More than 20,000 National Guardsmen are now expected to be in Washington for the inauguration, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said at a news conference Wednesday. That’s up from the 15,000 troops military officials said earlier this week were authorized for the event. The final number will be set by the Secret Service, Contee added.

Reporters entering the Capitol on Wednesday morning photographed hundreds of service members quartering inside the building with firearms at their sides.

The D.C. Guard stressed in a statement later Wednesday the troops seen resting in the building were doing so in designated areas in between shifts while on duty, but that the Capitol is “not where they are lodging when off-duty.”

“Being present is the first step in ensuring the safety of our citizens and our nation’s Capitol,” the Guard said in a statement. “Our security personnel work in shifts and rest when they can as others stand watch.”

Perspective: The 20,000 Guardsmen expected to be in D.C. for the inauguration will be four times more than the stated number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

The Pentagon is in the process of drawing down to 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq, numbers that are supposed to be reached by Friday.

Biden briefed: Biden was briefed by the FBI and Secret Service on Wednesday about potential security threats to his inauguration, his transition team said.

“President-elect Biden received a briefing from senior officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, and key members of his national security team,” the transition team said in a statement.

“The team is engaging with the current administration to gain as much information as possible on the threat picture, and on the preparations being put in place to deter and defend against violent disruptions or attacks,” the statement continued.

The transition team did not provide specific details about the contents of the briefing. Biden’s team expects to receive daily briefings on security and preparations for the inauguration, which will take place one week from Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol.


IN OTHER NEWS … ALABAMA CHOSEN FOR SPACE COMMAND HQ: Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., has won the Air Force’s competition to be the future home of U.S. Space Command, which as a reminder is different from Space Force.

Local officials announced the decision on Space Command on Wednesday, followed later in the day by the Air Force.

Secretary Barbara Barrett chose Huntsville because it “compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large, qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs,” the Air Force said in a statement.

“Additionally, Redstone Arsenal offered a facility to support the headquarters, at no cost, while the permanent facility is being constructed,” the statement added.

The competition: Becoming the home for a combatant command means bringing scores of jobs to the local community — in the case of Space Command, an estimated 1,400 jobs.

So the competition to win the headquarters was fierce. Last year, the Air Force announced it narrowed down its choices to six finalists: Huntsville; Albuquerque, N.M.; Bellevue, Neb.; Cape Canaveral, Fla.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and San Antonio, Texas.

Over the past month, the Air Force conducted virtual and on-site visits at each of the finalists, as politicians mounted lobbying campaigns.

Space Command’s current temporary home, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, had been seen as the frontrunner. But Huntsville has some powerful backers, including incoming House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

“Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things,” Shelby said in a statement.

Not over?: The decision announced Wednesday isn’t expected to be finalized until spring 2023, pending the results from the required environmental impact analysis, the Air Force said.

Lawmakers for the states that lost are calling on Biden to revisit the decision when he takes office.

“To rush such a large and consequential basing decision, mere days before the end of the Trump administration, should rightly lead to serious questions of political impropriety,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said in a statement, adding he has asked the Biden administration to “take a close look at this process and review the merits of this decision.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R- Colo.) wrote a letter to Biden on Wednesday calling on him to reverse the “foolish” decision.

“Moving a critical institution like Space Command for political reasons unrelated to national security would be foolish at the best of times,” Lamborn said in a statement. “In the midst of the ongoing great power competition between the U.S. and our allies against the forces of tyranny and absolutism represented by the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin, arbitrarily shuffling SPACECOM around like a political trophy would prove disastrous.”



The Heritage Foundation will host a virtual event on “Why America Needs the Long Range Standoff Weapon” with Air Force Lt. Gen. James Dawkins Jr., deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, at 1 p.m. 

The Hudson Institute will air a virtual panel discussion on the defense industrial base with under secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment Ellen Lord, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and others at 4 p.m. 



— The Hill: US service member killed in vehicle accident in Kuwait

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— The Hill: Biden formally appoints NSA’s Anne Neuberger to key national security position

— The Hill: ‘I saw my life flash before my eyes’: An oral history of the Capitol attack

— Washington Post: A Black officer faced down a mostly White mob at the Capitol. Meet Eugene Goodman.

— Defense News: Can Biden solve the Space Force’s public relations crisis?

— Foreign Policy: Another base attack in Afghanistan hushed up to hurry U.S. exit

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Doug Lamborn Joe Biden Mark Warner Martin Heinrich Mike Rogers Mitch McConnell Richard Shelby Ryan McCarthy Samantha Power Vladimir Putin
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