Defense & Cyberspace

Will Trump abandoning the Kurds hurt him politically with former comrades in arms?
Military members and veterans have been among the commander in chief’s staunchest supporters

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who served with Kurdish forces during the war in Iraq, said they were “the one group you could have behind you and not worry about your back. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With President Donald Trump in essence abandoning former Kurdish allies in northern Syria who helped the U.S. beat back ISIS over the last half decade, some Republican lawmakers who served in the military and outside advocacy groups are divided whether the policy could damage the president’s support among current and former service members, which has remained high throughout his administration.

Despite the U.S. military and Kurds working hand-in-hand on military operations in the Middle East for more than two decades, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that the Kurds are “no angels,” and deemed his move to withdraw U.S. personnel who had served as a buffer between them and Turkish forces “strategically brilliant.”

Rare, and unapologetic, bipartisan congressional rebuke for Trump on Syria
Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Lindsey Graham, Liz Cheney all part with president

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s expressed his opposition to the president’s Syria policy in public and private. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

“I think Lindsey should focus on Judiciary,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday when asked about criticism from South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of his decision to effectively side with Turkey over the Kurdish population of Syria.

Graham, who is often an ally of the president, was comparing Trump’s move to pull back U.S. forces supporting the Kurds to the Obama administration policy of withdrawal from Iraq. The senator is chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the State Department.

House Republicans break 2-to-1 against Trump on withdrawal of Kurd support
Veterans who fought alongside them praise Kurds as allies who ‘had our back’

Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon joined 128 of his Republican colleagues in a resolution criticizing the withdrawal of forces in Syria that led to a Turkish assault on Kurdish allies (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By a 2-to-1 margin, House Republicans on Wednesday broke with President Donald Trump and opposed his decision to pull back U.S. forces in Syria, a move that exposed Kurdish fighters to attack from Turkey.

A resolution opposing the move passed 354 to 60, with 129 Republicans siding with the unanimous Democrats and 60 opposed. It was a noteworthy rebuke of Trump from Republicans who have long been wary of crossing the president.

Dems say Trump has meltdown at Syria meeting, calls Pelosi a ‘third-rate politician’
Amid impeachment inquiry, speaker says president appeared ‘very shaken’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, walk out of the White House after the Democrats met to discuss the situation in northern Syria with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, October 16, 2019. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Wednesday’s White House meeting on Syria deteriorated into a “meltdown” as Republican and Democratic leaders presented a unified front against President Donald Trump on his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria.

The two top House Democrats and the party’s top senator emerged from the West Wing following what they said was a substance-free and insult-filled few minutes with Trump. In a reverse of their last meeting with Trump on infrastructure in which he stormed out on the Democratic leaders, this time they walked out on him.

Senate floor debate beckons amid spending bill impasse
Under stopgap law, lawmakers have about five weeks to reach funding agreement

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby says there’s a “good chance” the chamber can start debating spending bills next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate next week could debate a package of spending bills that have received bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee, according to Chairman Richard C. Shelby.

“I’ve been hearing that and conversations lend me to think there’s a good chance,” the Alabama Republican said Wednesday, noting that the final decision is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I think there are five, six, seven appropriations bills that we could pass if we get to the floor.”

House spending panel skeptical of NASA moon landing plans
Appropriators question push by White House to move up 2028 timeline by four years

Rep. Jose E. Serrano, a New York Democrat, said he is "extremely concerned" by the plan to move up the moon landing timeline by four years. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday appeared wary of providing NASA with the additional money it wants to land the next Americans on the moon by 2024, after its administrator testified the agency likely won’t have a detailed cost estimate on speeding up its timetable until it submits its fiscal 2021 budget request in February.

The back-and-forth questioning by the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee was part of a monthslong debate between Congress and the Trump administration about whether it’s actually possible to push up the earlier 2028 timeline.

State Department official says Iran has been transferring missiles to terrorists
Administration says transfers justify abandoning the Iran nuclear deal

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., charged it is Trump who is endangering Israel’s security with his decision to order the withdrawal of U.S. special forces from northern Syria.. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The State Department on Wednesday revealed that Iran has been transferring ballistic missiles to regional partners that the United States views as terrorists.

The revelation by the special envoy for Iran policy, Brian Hook, came at the start of a contentious Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Hook argued that evidence of Iran’s transfer of ballistic missile technology to regional extremist groups justified the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.

Kurds are ‘no angels’ and their fight with Turkey is ‘not our problem,’ Trump says
In rare split, McConnell had sharp words about president’s decision to abandon Kurds in Syria

President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office on Wednesday while Italian President Sergio Mattarella listens. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued distancing the United States from Kurdish forces in Syria who once were Washington’s chief ally in fighting the Islamic State group.

Trump’s decision to remove American forces who were positioned between Turkish troops and the Kurds has angered both Republican and Democratic members. Both chambers are expected to soon approve a resolution condemning his decision, which he says is necessary to help bring an end to what he calls America’s post-9/11 “endless wars.”

Impeachment news roundup: Oct. 16
Hoyer’s timetable for impeachment investigation, Trump defends Giuliani and says Obama tried to influence 2016 election

An aide and members of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s security team stand outside the deposition of George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, in the Capitol Visitor Center on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff sent House Democrats a “dear colleague” letter Wednesday evening outlining progress made in the impeachment inquiry, clarifying the process the committee is using and discussing next steps.

“Witness interviews thus far have been thorough and productive, and we will announce further witnesses who will appear before the committees in the coming days,” Schiff said.

Democratic impeachment holdout touts legislative focus over inquiry he’s not backing
South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham spent recess discussing climate change, infrastructure, trade

South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham, here examining a turtle excluder device while touring a shrimp boat in Mount Pleasant, S.C., on Monday, is one of seven House Democrats not supporting the impeachment inquiry. (Lindsey McPherson/CQ Roll Call)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Rep. Joe Cunningham spent his final day of a two-week district work period here Monday talking to local fishermen about adjusting to climate change and to a conservation group about banning offshore drilling — top issues for constituents of his coastline district.

Cunningham, the first Democrat to represent the 1st District in more than a quarter century, did not talk about the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, except to answer reporters’ questions about why he has not endorsed it. The constituents he interacted with Monday did not broach the topic with him, although some complimented him generally for how he’s navigating a political tightrope.

Taking lead on impeachment legal message, Trump gives GOP cover to defend him
Campaign official says GOP is benefitting from inquiry with voter registration, donation surges

President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on Thursday. His legal argument on impeachment is that he committed no crime. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Senior White House officials and House Republicans are basing their counter-impeachment arguments on House Democrats’ process rather than legal arguments — but President Donald Trump is again doing his own thing and arguing the probe is invalid because, he says, he committed no crimes.

The president has no formal legal training, but that is not stopping him from leading his own legal defense, using tweets and public comments to claim House Democrats have no grounds to impeach him — and the Senate no reason to remove him — because he never outright asked Ukraine’s new president to investigate a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, in exchange for U.S. aid.

House passes trio of measures supporting Hong Kong protesters
All three measures were advanced to the floor unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in late September

Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., attends a Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing in Dirksen Building titled “Hong Kong’s Summer of Discontent and U.S. Policy Responses,” on September 17, 2019. One of three bills supporting Hong Kong protesters was passed by the House Tuesday was sponsored by McGovern. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed on Tuesday legislation aimed at helping Hong Kong democracy activists in their fight to preserve political freedoms from encroachment by mainland China.

The most important of the three bills, which passed by voice vote under suspension of the rules, would threaten Hong Kong’s continued special trade status with the United States if the State Department is unable to certify that the city is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing. The status gives Hong Kong easier rules on foreign investment, customs and export regulations.

LeBron James comments intensify debate over freedom, trade
Hawley joins chorus criticizing basketball superstar during NBA-China controversy

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri had harsh words for LeBron James. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Basketball megastar LeBron James has finally leaped into the NBA’s ongoing controversy over Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of Chinese protesters. Some critics, including Sen. Josh Hawley, find James’s stance sorely lacking. And the full House is also on record, passing a trio of bills Tuesday aimed at helping Hong Kong democracy activists in their fight to preserve political freedoms from encroachment by mainland China.

“I don’t want to get into a ...  feud with Daryl Morey but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke,” James told reporters Monday ahead of a preseason game with the Golden State Warriors. “So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.”

Schiff takes his show on the road
On friendly turf, Intel chair defends impeachment inquiry

“There is nothing enjoyable about this,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that is taking the lead on the impeachment inquiry. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

NEW YORK — Rep. Adam Schiff hasn’t had much fun lately.

The leader of the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine has spent recent weeks in a constant struggle with the White House over testimony and documents. He’s squared off with Republican colleagues who have questioned his motives and assailed his missteps. And he is one of several Democrats shown being “killed” by Trump in a fake video screened for the president’s supporters at an event in Florida last week.

Sanctions on Turkey go front and center as Congress returns
Trump’s proposed sanctions appear to buy some breathing room with GOP critics

Turkish troops drive their armored vehicles into Syria on Monday. (Aaref Watad/AFP/Getty Images)

Bipartisan, bicameral sanctions against Turkey over its incursion into northern Syria against longtime Kurdish allies of the U.S. are high on the agenda as lawmakers return from recess Tuesday, even as President Donald Trump appeared to try to undercut the emerging unity on the issue.

While the sanctions and trade actions declared by the president Monday fall short of what lawmakers had been proposing, they do appear, at least initially, to have bought him breathing room with some top Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has been leading the sanctions charge in the Senate.