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: House Democrats are chugging along in their impeachment inquiry into President Trump, on Monday subpoenaing his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for documents related to his dealings on Ukraine.
The chairmen of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees asked Giuliani to hand over documents by Oct. 15.
“Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena, including at the direction or behest of the president or the White House, shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry and may be used as an adverse inference against you and the president,” the chairmen warned in a letter to Giuliani.
The subpoena requires Giuliani to produce communications — including text messages and phone records — regarding former Vice President Joe Biden‘s son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, and efforts by Giuliani or his associates to pressure current or former Ukrainian officials to investigate matters regarding Biden or any other American.
The chairmen also asked that Giuliani hand over communications regarding U.S. foreign assistance to Ukraine and any efforts to withhold or delay it. Trump has denied withholding the aid as leverage to pressure the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
Giuliani and President Trump had been pressing for an investigation into whether Biden, as vice president, pressured a Ukrainian prosecutor to drop a probe of the company. However, there is no evidence that Hunter Biden was ever under investigation.
DOJ says Trump contacted foreign countries over Russia inquiry: The Department of Justice said Monday that President Trump contacted foreign countries at Attorney General William Barr‘s request to ask them for assistance in an ongoing investigation into the origins of the Russian interference probe.
“As the Department of Justice has previously announced, a team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is investigating the origins of the U.S. counterintelligence probe of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries,” Justice Department Spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement Monday.
“At Attorney General Barr’s request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials,” Kupec said.
The Justice Department disclosed Barr’s efforts soon after reports emerged that Trump asked Australia’s prime minister during a recent phone call to assist Barr in gathering information for the inquiry, and that Barr had held meetings overseas seeking their help in it as well.
Trump wants to find whistleblower: Earlier Monday, Trump said the White House is “trying to find out” the identity of the intelligence community whistleblower who filed the complaint about the president’s interactions with Ukraine.
“We’re trying to find out about a whistleblower,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if he knows the person’s identity, alleging that they reported “things that are incorrect.”
The president’s remarks came one day after he demanded to meet the whistleblower and cast doubt on the individual’s complaint on Twitter.
Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s lawyers, told The Hill in a statement that his client’s identity must be protected by law, referring to testimony by Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on Thursday.
“As the acting DNI testified last week, the law and policy supports protection of the identity of the whistleblower from disclosure and from retaliation. No exceptions exist for any individual,” Zaid said.
Trump targets Schiff: In the morning, Trump also suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) be arrested for treason, a crime punishable by death or prison time, for exaggerating parts of the president’s call with Ukraine’s leader.
In a series of morning tweets, Trump ripped Schiff and the anonymous whistleblower who raised concerns about Trump’s conduct on the call with the president of Ukraine, the latter of which has accelerated a Democratic impeachment inquiry into Trump.
“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people,” Trump tweeted. “It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”
In his opening remarks at a hearing last week, Schiff recounted Trump’s call with Zelensky by paraphrasing aspects to emphasize allegations of wrongdoing, including saying that Trump directed Zelensky to “make up dirt on my political opponent” a full “seven times.”
Schiff defended his comments during the hearing Thursday amid Republican backlash, arguing they were made partially in jest.
“Of course, the president never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times,’ my point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words,” he said.
Senate would take up impeachment: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday the Senate would have “no choice” but to take up impeachment if the House passes articles against President Trump.
“Well under the Senate rules we’re required to take it up if the House does go down that path and we’ll follow the Senate rules,” McConnell said during an interview with CNBC.
Pressed on if he was saying the Senate would take action on impeachment, he added: “I would have no choice but to take it up, based on a Senate rule on impeachment.”
The GOP leader was asked last week, before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s (D-Calif.) announcement of an impeachment inquiry, about what he would do if the House sent over impeachment articles. But McConnell declined at the time to weigh in, saying he wasn’t going to comment on hypotheticals.
A GOP Senate leadership aide clarified in a memo to reporters over the weekend that if the House passes articles of impeachment against Trump, the Senate must take some action.
“There is no way we could somehow bar the doors and prevent the managers from presenting the articles (to the Senate). The rules of impeachment are clear on this point,” the aide said.
What an eventual trial would look like is up for debate, and negotiation.
THORNBERRY OUT: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, has announced his retirement at the end of this term.
“It has been a great honor to serve the people of the 13th District of Texas as their congressman for the last 25 years. They have given me opportunities to serve the nation in ways I could have never imagined, including as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee,” Thornberry, who served as committee chairman from 2015 until this year, said in a statement Monday.
“We are reminded, however, that ‘for everything there is a season,’ and I believe that the time has come for a change. Therefore, I will not be a candidate for reelection in the 2020 election,” he added.
Context: Thornberry’s decision makes him the sixth Texas Republican to retire from Congress this year.
Thornberry was first elected to the lower chamber in 1994. His district is solidly Republican; President Trump attracted 80 percent of the vote there in 2016.
Speculation over whether Thornberry would retire has swirled through the Capitol for months, with the Texas lawmaker slated to be term-limited out of his position as the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee — a rule House GOP leadership is considering changing in an effort to retain members.
Bipartisan praise: The man who succeeded Thornberry as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), offered praise to his colleague after the announcement.
“Congressman Thornberry has served his constituents faithfully for more than 20 years and his retirement is a loss for the Congress,” Smith said in a statement.
“I have known Mac since I first came to Congress in 1997 and have always been impressed by his intelligence and tenacity,” Smith added. “Since then we have worked together on all manner of national security issues as members of the House Armed Services Committee. Thanks to Mac’s leadership, during the 115th Congress we focused on acquisition reform and accountability at the Pentagon. Together we have passed smart reforms that give our men and women in uniform the resources they need to make our country safer.”
MILLEY IN: Army Gen. Mark Milley was sworn in Monday as the 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, becoming the highest ranking military officer in the United States at a time of turmoil both at home and abroad.
Outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford administered the oath at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., in a ceremony attended by President Trump and a cadre of top administration officials, including Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and all of the service secretaries and chiefs.
“You’re my friend, you’re my adviser, and you deserve this position. I never had a doubt,” Trump told Milley.
Trump also thanked Dunford for his service, claiming that the general gave him advice when they met at an awards ceremony in 2015 that “help[ed] me form an opinion” on running for president.
Milley, for his part, promised Trump that he will “always provide you informed, candid, impartial military advice.”
Milley’s challenges: Milley steps into the role as Trump’s top military adviser at a time when U.S.-Iran tensions have threatened to boil over into military conflict, the war in Afghanistan lurches into its 19th year after peace talks with the Taliban flamed out and the National Defense Strategy says the United States should be pivoting to focus more on competition with Russia and China than on the Middle East.
Milley, who previously served chief of staff of the Army, has been described as a blunt-talking intellectual whose political acumen helped him ascend to be the No. 1 general in the country.
He will need to employ those traits to manage advising a mercurial Trump who has cycled through several national security advisers, Defense and State secretaries and other national security team members.
Trump has also repeatedly pulled the military into the political fray, such as deploying troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and tapping military construction funds for his long-sought border wall.
Milley also becomes Joint Chiefs chairman at a time when the Pentagon has been trying to stay out of the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump. The Pentagon has been threatened to be pulled into the impeachment drama since military aid to Ukraine is at the center of the inquiry.
Bolton never mentioned Trump by name, but he expressed a view of North Korea that is in stark contrast to the approach Trump has taken.
In his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Bolton said he does not believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will give up his nuclear weapons in a deal with the United States.
North Korea “has not made a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons,” Bolton said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in his first public remarks since leaving the Trump administration.
“In fact, I think the contrary is true. I think the strategic decision that Kim Jong Un is operating through is that he will do whatever he can to keep a deliverable nuclear weapons capability and to develop and enhance it further.”
Kim may make “some concessions,” Bolton added, “but under current circumstances, he will never give up the nuclear weapons voluntarily.”
On the missile and nuclear tests: North Korea has tested more than a dozen short-range missiles since May. Trump has dismissed concerns about the tests, calling them “very standard.”
Bolton, while serving in the administration, said the tests violate United Nations Security Council resolutions. On Monday, Bolton said the United States is sending the wrong message to the international community about the missiles tests.
“When the United States, having led the fight to get those resolutions, says we really don’t care, other countries can draw the conclusion that they don’t really care about the sanctions contained in those and other resolutions,” Bolton said. “When you ask for consistent behavior from others, you have to demonstrate it yourself.”
Bolton also said North Korea’s moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests is not a victory. Trump has often touted the moratorium as a win.
The moratorium “tells us nothing about either North Korea’s intention or its strategy,” Bolton said. “One reason, one very good, very troubling reason why there’s no more testing of nuclear weapons for the moment or of long-range missiles is that North Korea has in its judgment for well or ill finished testing and can produce nuclear warheads and long-range ballistic missiles.”
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Brookings Institution will host “Global China: Assessing China’s growing role in the world and implications for U.S.-China strategic competition,” featuring a discussion with assistant Defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs Randall Schriver, at 9:30 a.m. https://brook.gs/2nRyMkI
The Council on Foreign Relations will host a conversation with Afghan national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib at 1 p.m. https://on.cfr.org/2nVWtZg
— The Hill: North Korea blames stalled nuclear talks on US ‘political and military provocations’
— The Hill: Car bomber hits US military base in Somalia
— The Hill: Washington Post marks anniversary of Khashoggi death
— Reuters: Front-runners each claim victory in Afghan election
— The Washington Post: Amid tension with Iran, U.S. Air Force shifts Middle East command center from Qatar to South Carolina
— Military.com: The naturalization process just got harder for noncitizen troops stationed overseas