Editor’s Note: Morning Defense is a free version of POLITICO Pro Defense’s morning newsletter, which can be delivered to our readers each morning at 6 pm. The POLITICO Pro system combines the news you need with resources you can use to take action on the day’s main stories. Act to the information with POLITICO Guru .
— The House Armed Services Committee voted to slow troop reductions in Germany and Afghanistan and sunset a top Pentagon post.
— Both parties moved nearer to defying President Donald Trump over military bases named for Confederates.
— Alarm over Russia’s anti-U.S. actions in Afghanistan climbed as the president called it”a hoax.”
IT’S THURSDAY AND WELCOME TO MORNING DEFENSE, where we wish you a safe and enjoyable Independence Day and the United States of America a healthful 244th birthday. Our birthday message is cribbed from future President Abraham Lincoln’s admonition in 1858 that does not seem so outdated: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Tips: [email protected], and follow on Twitter @bryandbender, @morningdefense and @politicopro.
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ABOUT LAST NIGHT: The House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act just before midnight after lawmakers on both sides picked their own battles but then approved the $741 billion measure in a blowout 56-0 vote.
The panel largely breezed through the markup prior to handling some of the very contentious issues, such as Confederate names on military bases and President Donald Trump’s proposed troop withdrawal from Germany.
Here are some of the highlights:
Removing Confederate names from foundations: The committee adopted 33 to 23 an amendment from Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) , an ex-Army colonel, also Don Bacon (R-Neb.) , a retried Air Force brigadier general, which would establish a process to remove the titles of leaders. Two Republicans, Bacon, and Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan, broke with their party in backing the proposal.
The Senate NDAA also includes a provision to wash the titles from foundations within three decades. A compromise bill will almost certainly incorporate a provision to rename, if both last.
No more Confederate flags: Confederate flags could also no longer be displayed on military property under another amendment from Brown that was adopted, our colleague Jacqueline Feldscher reports. It carves out some exceptions, like a state flag which incorporates the Confederate battle flag or one displayed as part of a Civil War exhibit in a museum on Defense Department land.
The change blocks a decrease from current troop levels unless the Pentagon certifies it will not significantly undermine the security of the U.S. or allies along with the defense secretary has consulted with European allies.
Running down: The panel, following the lead of the Senate NDAA, embraced an amendment from Rep.Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) to eliminate the article of Pentagon chief management officer, even although both chambers have different time frames for winding down the article that has been widely panned as inefficient.
Afghanistan: The panel approved 45 to 11 an amendment from Rep.Jason Crow (D-Colo.) That would put limits on the reduction of troops from Afghanistan under two separate troop levels, 8,000 and 4, 00, until the Pentagon submits a report certifying that they wont harm counterterror operations, threat U.S. personnel, or increase danger of expanding terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan.
Yemen: HASC embraced 31 into 25 an amendment from Khanna to pub logistical support for air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition from the Houthis in Yemen. The move is just another swipe at U.S. involvement in Yemen’s civil war. Provisions to draw U.S. support from the coalition were included in the House bill last year but had been dropped in discussions with the Senate amid opposition from the White House.
No women in the draft The panel set off a vote on an amendment by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) To implement recommendations from an independent commission which called for demanding women to register for the Selective Service. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) , seat of the staff subcommittee of the panel, promised to have a hearing on the problem.
The Mac Thornberry NDAA: The previous modification accepted Wednesday night, provided by HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) , names the bill after Republican Thornberry of Texas. Thornberry, a well-known purveyor of Rip It energy drinks who chaired the panel for four years, is retiring at the conclusion of the Congress later 13 terms.
Need an amendment? We have been adding text of dozens of alterations into the Guru Document Drawer throughout the markup. Subscribers can read them all here.
Watching the clockRemember when we mentioned they would breeze through the markup? HASC gaveled out at 11: 47 p.m. last night, making it the fastest markup of the previous nine decades .
And congratulations to Jonathan Clifford, whose figure of 11: 33 p.m. came closest to the committee’s real end. Jonathan has the distinction of becoming a back-to-back champ, having won last year when HASC wrapped up just before 7 a.m. Enjoy a second year of bragging rights and a Rip It on us.
Meanwhile, over in the Senate, where its own version of the NDAA is on the ground this week Republicans looked unfazed from Trump’s hazard to veto the last invoice if it moves forward with the provision to rename U.S. military facilities named for Confederate leaders, Andrew Desiderio and Marianne LeVine report.
“It was expected,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), an Armed Services Committee member who supports renaming the bases. The committee’s chair, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) , also noted there is plenty of time. “The veto would take place sometime likely in November,” he explained. “And we have a long, long time between now and November. So we will see.”
Democrats were not so sanguine. “Prioritizing the base names of Confederate generals within the welfare of our troops is just plain irresponsible and wrong,” Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the panel, said in a statement.
Keeping troops in Afghanistan: During Wednesday’s debate, the Senate voted 60-33 to kill Sen. Rand Paul‘s (R-Ky.) Proposal to mandate that the removal of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within a year of this bill becoming law and a repeal of the 2001 war authorization which underpins U.S. counterterror operations.
A final deal on the horizon? ) The Senate is expected to resume consideration of its version of the NDAA today. “We think we have created a package that’s acceptable to everybody and we’re going to be hotlining it tonight,” Inhofe said late Wednesday night on the Senate floor. “The Senate will come back into session at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning and hopefully we’ll be able to lock in our deal .”
WHAT GETS IN POTUS’ INTEL BRIEF? “The furor over intellect assessing that Russia offered bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops is pulling the curtain back on an extremely secretive process that’s had to adapt to Donald Trump’s whims — that the delivery of the President’s Daily Brief,” Natasha Bertrand and Kyle Cheney report.
“The president was not briefed because in the time of these allegations,” they were uncorroborated,” national security advisor Robert O’Brien said on Wednesday. “The intelligence community did not have not a consensus. Because of this, the livelihood CIA briefer of the president decided not to short him since it had been unverified intelligence. And, by the way, she’s an exceptional officer and understanding all of the facts I know, I certainly support her decision.”
However, former intelligence officials say that is not the way the briefing system generally works. Uncorroborated intelligence”is included all of the time” in the PDB if it is deemed significant enough to be on the president’s radar,” stated David Priess, a former CIA officer who served as a daily intelligence shorter throughout the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
Trump known as the Enforcement dilemma”a hoax,” which as the Washington Post pointed out, contrasts him with the Taliban and Russia than his own spies. 1 Republican senator who was briefed on the intellect, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, said it raises questions, The Hill reports. And much more briefings for Congress are planned for now, The Hill added.
Call for sanctions: Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee led by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a letter on Wednesday to use sanctions to punish Russia for the actions.
“These actions by the Russian Federation justify not delay or silence but rather a strong and coordinated response,” they wrote. “To that end, we urge you to freeze assets and trades of Russian persons and financial institutions that have enabled those violent acts.”
Moscow along with the Taliban: A Pentagon report published Wednesday also says Russia has been working with the Taliban to reevaluate a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, our colleague Lara Seligman reports.
The report, which covers December 2019 into May 2020, states that includes offering to facilitate intra-Afghan peace discussions. “Russia very likely continues to encourage U.S.-Taliban reconciliation efforts in the hope that reconciliation will prevent a long-term U.S. military existence,” the report states.
Connected: Afghan contractor handed out Russian cash to kill Americans, officials say, via The New York Times.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN LOW: Sadly, no summer sojourn into tony Aspen, Colo., for its annual Aspen Security Forum this year, as a result of coronavirus. Nevertheless, the high-level gathering of policymakers will go on next month almost, it announced on Wednesday.
The sessions will take place Aug. 4-6, and while details are still to come, there’s absolutely no secret what the subject of the discussions will be. Says Ambassador Nicholas Burns, executive director of the Aspen Strategy Group:”The coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide financial crisis are possibly the greatest challenges to this U.S. since the Second World War.”
— Program of events released for D.C. Fourth of July festivities: NBC Washington
— Startup Anduril increases $200 million to create defense contractor: The Washington Post
— Rough seas for NATO as Turkey clashes with allies over Libya: POLITICO Europe
— Putin wins right to extend his rule until 2036: POLITICO
— Air Force chief’s final battle: shaming the defense lobby: POLITICO Pro