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Overnight Defense: Capitol Police plans to scale back fencing | Flap over Tucker Carlson's comments on women in military continues | US attempts to restart North Korea talks

Overnight Defense: Capitol Police plans to scale back fencing | Flap over Tucker Carlson's comments on women in military continues | US attempts to restart North Korea talks
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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: Some of the fencing around the Capitol will start to be scaled back in the coming days.

In a memo to lawmakers and staff on Monday, acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett said that Capitol Police officials have said that "there does not exist a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol Complex that warrants the temporary security fencing."

New perimeter: Due to the reduced threat level since supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE stormed the complex Jan. 6, the Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol will adjust the inner perimeter fencing this week to move it closer to the building and provide more street and sidewalk access.

The Architect of the Capitol will also remove the razor wire lining the top of the inner perimeter fence.

And late next week, the agencies will start removing the outer perimeter fencing and open Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue to traffic for the first time since January.

But the modified inner perimeter fencing will remain around Capitol Square while the Architect of the Capitol "continues to make necessary security repairs to the Capitol building," Blodgett said.

What about the Guard?: Blodgett also wrote in the memo that "it is anticipated" that the National Guard will start to reduce its presence at the Capitol in the coming weeks.

As previously reported, the Pentagon’s extension of the National Guard mission to May 23 is for 2,300 troops, down from the 5,100 or so there now.

But the memo’s statement that there is not a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol is sure to fuel calls to send all troops home sooner.

About those calls: Over the weekend, The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell took at the growing scrutiny of the Guard’s Capitol mission.

As we’ve previously noted in this newsletter, top lawmakers including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithDemocratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack The tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Congress must stop the march toward war with China MORE (D-Wash.), committee ranking member Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersA balance of pragmatism and agendas shaped the U.S.-Russia summit 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday 'Havana Syndrome' and other escalations mark a sinister turn in the spy game MORE (R-Ala.), Senate Armed Services Committee Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePentagon chief backs change to military sexual assault prosecution Overnight Defense: Biden participates in NATO summit | White House backs 2002 AUMF repeal | Top general says no plans for airstrikes to help Afghan forces after withdrawal Top Republican proposes leaving 1,000 US troops in Afghanistan into next year MORE (R-Okla.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP blocks voting rights bill Schumer, McConnell spar as GOP prepares to block voting bill Trump has 'zero desire' to be Speaker, spokesman says MORE have all recently questioned the continued need for the National Guard at the Capitol.

Leaders from the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) on Friday also released a statement saying it was “increasingly difficult to convince Guard soldiers and airmen that their continued presence at the Capitol is warranted,” after a year of unprecedented demand on the Guard thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and several natural disasters.

“National Guard soldiers and airmen here in Washington need to return home to their families, civilian employers and regular military obligations,” NGAUS Chairman Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire and retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, NGAUS president, said in the release.

THE MILITARY VS. TUCKER, WEEK TWO

The controversy over Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonHow critical race theory became today's defining culture-war issue Tucker Carlson on running for president: 'I guess if like I was the last person on Earth' New York Times: Tucker Carlson a source for many journalists MORE’s comments on women in the military is entering a new week as his conservative supporters jump to his defense.

You’ll recall that last week several top officers spoke out in support of women in the military and against Carlson after he said changes in recent years meant to attract and retain female service members -- such as efforts to buy maternity flight suits -- are making a “mockery” of the military.

The Twitter account for the II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) got in on the action over the weekend. One tweet had a picture of a female Marine training by carrying a fellow Marine over her back with the caption, “What it looks like in today’s armed forces @TuckerCarlson. Get right before you get left, boomer.”

In response to criticism of that tweet, the account told someone to “come back when you’ve served and been pregnant.”

But by Saturday evening, the account deleted those tweets and apologized.

“We are human and we messed up,” the II MEF account tweeted. “We intended to speak up for female Marines and it was an effort to support them. They are a crucial part to our corps and we need them to know that. We will adjust fire and ensure the utmost professionalism in our tweets.”

Cruz demands meeting: On Sunday, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Republicans: Newly proposed ATF rules could pave way for national gun registry DeSantis tops Trump in 2024 presidential straw poll White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE (R-Texas) shot off a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinPentagon chief backs change to military sexual assault prosecution Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system MORE decrying the military’s “campaign” against Carlson. He cited the II MEF tweets, as well as a headline from the Pentagon’s internal news service on the controversy that reads, “Press Secretary Smites Host That Dissed Diversity in U.S. Military.”

In the letter, Cruz demanded an in-person meeting with the Marine Corps’ top officer, commandant Gen. David Berger. He also requested an “official response from the department and implementation of a policy that insulates other units from being similarly mobilized against the speech of American citizens or in the service of left wing political causes.”

Omar fires back: In response to Cruz’s letter, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarYoung Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' Hillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters MORE (D-Minn.) blasted him and other Republicans defending Carlson as “hypocrites.”

“Republicans going after the military because of misogyny and a dangerously radical Fox News pundit is just wild and revealing. Like I said before, these hypocrites do ultimately tell on themselves,” Omar wrote in a tweet late Sunday. 

BIDEN ADMIN TRIES TO RESTART NORTH KOREA TALKS

Biden administration officials have tried to reach out to North Korea, but have gotten silence in response, the White House confirmed Monday.

“Diplomacy is always our goal,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBaltimore police chief calls for more 'boots on the ground' to handle crime wave White House draws ire of progressives amid voting rights defeat White House admits July 4 vaccine marker will be missed MORE said at a press briefing. “Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation. But, to date, we have not received any response.”

The White House is also consulting with former government officials, as well as engaging with U.S. allies Japan and South Korea to “to solicit input, explore fresh approaches,” she added.

Earlier: Psaki’s comments came after Reuters over the weekend first reported the attempted outreach.

“To reduce the risks of escalation, we reached out to the North Korean government through several channels starting in mid-February, including in New York,” a Biden official confirmed to The Hill over the weekend. “To date, we have not received any response from Pyongyang.”

The official said that despite multiple attempts by the U.S. to engage with Pyongyang, there hasn’t been any active dialogue for over a year.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command and Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command, will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3cDSqqf

The House Oversight Committee’s national security subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s 2021 “High-Risk List” at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/3cyBjWF

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on disinformation in gray zone conflict with testimony from Pentagon officials at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/38ItY5H

A House Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on the  Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s recommendations at 3 p.m. https://bit.ly/3tmqTA9

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Blinken, Austin op-ed: Alliances are 'force multipliers' for America

-- The Hill: Biden signals no rush to reverse Trump policy on Venezuela

-- Reuters: U.S. says envoy Khalilzad to attend Afghan peace conference in Moscow

-- New York Times: U.S. has 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than it disclosed

-- Defense News: Chaos, cash and COVID-19: How the defense industry survived — and thrived — during the pandemic

-- Reuters: North Korea warns new U.S. administration if it wants peace it must avoid 'causing a stink': KCNA