House announces impeachment charges; NDAA nears passage; NORTHCOM ups force protection; Amazon’s JEDI complaints; and just a bit more...
House leaders announce impeachment articles against Donald Trump: New York Times: “House Democrats announced on Tuesday that they would move ahead this week with two articles of impeachment charging President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, as they accused him of violating the Constitution by pressure Ukraine for help in the 2020 election.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, House Judiciary chair: “Our president holds the ultimate public trust...When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security.” Read on, here.
The FBI was justified in investigating Trump’s Moscow connections, inspector general finds. Released on Monday, the Justice Department report debunked various conspiracy theories and rebutted months of false claims by the president and his allies. (Washington Post, NYT.)
Reminder: The special counsel’s report is still very much worth reading. Wrote Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes: “Mueller does not accuse the president of crimes. He doesn’t have to. But the facts he recounts describe criminal behavior. They describe criminal behavior even if we allow the president’s—and the attorney general’s—argument that facially valid exercises of presidential authority cannot be obstructions of justice. They do this because they describe obstructive activity that does not involve facially valid exercises of presidential power at all.”
From Defense One
Amazon Says Pentagon Got Almost Everything Wrong in JEDI Evaluation / Nextgov’s Frank R. Konkel: Company officials say Trump’s beef with CEO Jeff Bezos led to “substantial and pervasive errors.”
An End to Magical Thinking in the Middle East // William J. Burns, The Atlantic: It’s time to abandon the dogma that’s driven our foreign policy and led to so much disaster in the region.
Who’s Really to Blame for the ‘Ukraine Did It’ Conspiracy Theory? // Thomas Rid, The Atlantic: Judging on the basis of public evidence, the narrative about Ukraine was propagated first and foremost by Americans, not Russian disinformation puppeteers.
The Pentagon Is Ignoring Small Innovators // Rep. Ken Calvert: That’s why I’m proposing a law to give promising small firms an advocate inside the Defense Department.
With just 10 days left to avoid a government shutdown, federal employees could see their “biggest victory… in nearly 30 years” (updating parental-leave policy) if lawmakers can approve what the Washington Post calls the “must-pass defense package” that is the National Defense Authorization Act. Politico reports “The last-minute wrangling to bring spending bills to the floor is an attempt to take care of some must-do work heading into next week, when Capitol Hill will be consumed with a likely House floor vote to impeach President Donald Trump.”
About the NDAA, the Wall Street Journal reminds us it “establishes funding levels and sets policies for the Defense Department and Energy Department’s national-security programs.”
The expected outcome of NDAA negotiations at this point between lawmakers and the White House includes creating a new “Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military in exchange for new parental-leave benefits for the federal workforce,” the Post writes.
Some other items in the current NDAA include measures to ban "the use of federal funds to buy Chinese buses and railcars," the Journal reports. There's also a measure to "impose U.S. sanctions on any companies helping Russia lay the $11 billion [Nord Stream 2] pipeline." RFE/FL has more on that, here.
As for what’s next, “The final draft still must be signed by negotiators and pass floor votes in both the House and Senate before it can be signed into law by President Trump,” the Journal reports.
Bigger picture: “Reaching a deal this week,” writes Politico, “would be a major achievement for a Congress that has sent zero spending bills to the president's desk, more than two months into the start of the fiscal year.”
Happening today: Personnel chiefs for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force will testify at a House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing on “Diversity in Recruiting and Retention.” That starts at 2 p.m. ET. Find the full list of attendees and a livestream link, here.
Tomorrow: Syria policy and climate change. On Wednesday morning, the full House Armed Services Committee talks “U.S. Policy in Syria and the Broader Region” with SecDef Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley. Later in the afternoon on Wednesday, the HAS Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities talks about “Climate Change in the Era of Strategic Competition” with three DoD civilians and a member of the National Intelligence Council. Details for that one, here.
NORTHCOM just increased force protection measures after the Pensacola and Pearl Harbor shootings last week, Military Times reported Monday. “The DoD has five force protection conditions, or FPCON, for its installations that are set based on potential threats in [the] area. As the threat goes up, so does the FPCON... The current baseline FPCON, which has been in place for several years, is set at Bravo.”
If you’re wondering precisely what that means, tough luck since “NORTHCOM would not detail what force protection measures are taken at each level due to operational security concerns.” Background, here.
North Korea tested a rocket engine over the weekend in possible “preliminary steps toward a prohibited long-range rocket launch,” South Korea’s defense minister said today, AP reports from Seoul.
However, as far as what’s likely next from Pyongyang, “Experts say North Korea will likely opt for a satellite liftoff, instead of an ICBM launch, because it can repeat its argument that it has a sovereign right to a peaceful space development and draw support from China and Russia.” A bit more here.
China’s government will replace all of its foreign computer equipment and software within three years, the Financial Times reported (paywall) Sunday. The order appears to be a tit-for-tat response to the Trump administration’s (leaky) attempt to forbid U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei. But it is also part of a larger effort by China to stimulate its tech industry and reduce the country’s reliance on foreign gear. The Guardian has a bit more, here.
The leaders of Ukraine and Russia agreed to “a cease-fire and an exchange of prisoners by the end of the year,” the WSJ reports. However, what was decided Monday "was limited in scope, mainly reaffirming a peace deal reached four years ago in Minsk, Belarus". As well, Reuters adds, Russia and Ukraine’s leaders “also said they had agreed, over the next four months, to work toward local elections in Donbass, a major stumbling block up to now.”
Not part of the deal: Any formal update on the “the status of Donbass within Ukraine and who should de facto control the border between Donbass and Russia.”
Next up: Another round of talks in four months. More from Reuters, here.
Qatar sent its prime minister to a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, “the most concrete sign yet of a possible thaw in a regional dispute,” Reuters reports.
Reminder: In June 2017, Qatar was subjected to a political and economic boycott by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-GCC member Egypt, who charged that Doha was backing terrorist groups, allegations that Qatar denies. Read on, here.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to end more than two years of martial law in and around the southern city of Marawi, where Islamic militants seized commercial buildings in 2017, AP reports.
Nearly 1,000 people, mostly militants, were killed in the urban battles that followed. “Troops quelled the disastrous siege after five months of intense airstrikes and ground offensives with the help of American and Australian surveillance aircraft,” AP wrote. “Duterte decided not to further extend martial law, which expires at the end of the year, after his defense and security advisers provided an assessment that ‘the terrorist and extremist rebellion’ has been weakened with the losses of the militants’ leaders and a drop in crime in the region, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.” A bit more, here.