Today's D Brief: Fed forces move to swing states; Trump threatens Election Day; How not to sell a European drawdown; Pentagon calls journalists ‘adversaries;’ And a bit more.

The Justice Department’s militarized police force is expanding to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee — which just happen to be “Cities in the swing states of Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin,” David Gura of NBC News pointed out Wednesday, after DOJ announced the pivot. 

Elsewhere, Oregon officials and the feds agreed to de-escalate in Portland. But the competing announcements of that change of plans — from both Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf — were made in such a way that supporters of both parties were seemingly able to declare they had won the standoff. 

The plan for Portland “calls for the U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Protective Service agents to remain inside a fence set up around the federal courthouse, along with some state police, to keep protesters out,” the Associated Press reports this morning. “State police will also be outside the fence to keep protesters back.”

President Donald Trump and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also claimed victory in respective tweets Wednesday, too. Trump added another this morning as well, which also featured a warning for Gov. Brown. 

ALERT: Trump suggests delaying November’s presidential election this morning in a tweet that also promotes entirely unsupported allegations of voter fraud.

The tweet: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” At press time this morning, that tweet remains pinned to Trump’s Twitter profile — making it the first one anyone will see if they visit his page.

Can he do that? “Let me put this VERY clearly. The 2020 Presidential Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020. The election date is set by federal law and has not changed since 1845,’ said Matt Wiel, director of Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. 

“Never in American history—not even during the Civil War and World War II--has there been a successful move to “Delay the Election” for President,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. 

Why now? It’s the economy, stupid: “Trump’s tweet came shortly after the United States reported its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression: a second-quarter crash in gross domestic product due to widespread shutdowns prompted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Reuters reports this morning.

How bad is that economic news? Here’s the Wall Street Journal: “The Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product—the value of all goods and services produced across the economy—fell at a 32.9% annual rate in the second quarter, or a 9.5% drop compared with the same quarter a year ago. Both figures were the steepest in records dating to 1947.”

And ICYMI from Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber on Tuesday: “Raytheon’s CEO Projects Three-Year Coronavirus Downturn

JUST IN: Tata postponed. Less than one hour before it was set to begin, the Senate Armed Services Committee cancelled the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s controversial nominee for the top policy job inside the Pentagon, retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata. 

Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.: “There are many Democrats and Republicans who didn’t know enough about Anthony Tata to consider him for a very significant position at this time. We didn’t get the required documentation in time; some documents, which we normally get before a hearing, didn’t arrive until yesterday. As I told the President last night, we’re simply out of time with the August recess coming, so it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose to have a hearing at this point, and he agreed.”

Behind the scenes: The Washington Post reports this morning “once Inhofe and the administration figured out late Wednesday that Tata did not have the votes needed, 'there was no need’ to go through a very difficult hearing. It can take weeks to formally withdraw a nomination.”

Is Tata done for? “Tata's nomination has been deeply controversial amongst Democrats from the beginning,” Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams tells The D Brief. “But the abrupt cancelation of Thursday's hearing suggests that the concerns might be bipartisan. Punting the hearing until after the August recess raises serious doubts about whether it will be rescheduled in the busy fall before the presidential election.”

From Defense One

Busting Up Big Tech is Popular, But Here's what the US May Lose // Patrick Tucker: Lawmakers don't like them, but what they bring to the competition with China may be too valuable to break up.

Boeing's Coronavirus Losses Now Bleeding Into Its Defense Accounts // Marcus Weisgerber: More layoffs, production slowdowns and factory closures are being considered, executives said.

US to Begin Removing 12,000 Troops From Germany 'Within Weeks' // Katie Bo Williams: The Pentagon says this is about Russia. Trump says it's about Germany.

Letter from the Editor: Welcome to the New Defense One // Kevin Baron: An even sleeker look with design upgrades, new features, and improved navigation.

Will Trump 'Wag the Dog' to Win Reelection? // Charles A. Stevenson: Americans are worried, but history shows the popular belief is wrong.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Kevin Baron with Ben Watson. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here

Got that? Trump dismissed his defense secretary’s framing of his Germany troop drawdown, within minutes of each other at the White House and Pentagon.
First, when reporters pressed for a reason for the withdrawal, Esper said: “These changes will achieve the core principles of enhancing U.S. and NATO deterrence of Russia, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies, and improving U.S. strategic flexibility and EUCOM operational flexibility,” Esper said when announcing the plans Wednesday morning.
Here’s what Trump said shortly afterward at the WH: "Germany's delinquent. They haven't paid their fees, they haven't paid their NATO fees. They're way off. And they've been off for years and they have no intention on paying it. The United States has been taken advantage of."
"Complex" and "troubling” is how Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee described it: 

  • “The Administration’s plans to redistribute U.S. forces across Europe are complex and will have long-lasting consequences. While some of the proposed moves clearly have merit, other aspects - such as an arbitrary limits to the number of troops stationed in certain countries — remain troubling. It is essential that we consult closely with our NATO allies on any changes. Our Committee will continue to engage with the Department of Defense as these plans evolve.” 

If anyone’s asking, "No current permanent change of station (PCS) orders to Europe will be cancelled,” Esper tweeted after the announcement Wednesday. “The changes I’ve described will take time, and we aim to make this process as transparent as possible."
FWIW: John Bolton does not approve, tweeting Wednesday as well, “Trump's decision to withdraw US Forces from Germany shows a broad lack of strategic understanding. It sends the wrong signal to our adversaries and leaves our allies vulnerable in the face of increasing global threats. It's simply unacceptable.”
Three things to keep in mind, via Bradley Bowman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: 

  • “It is certainly reasonable to press Germany to honor its commitments related to defense spending. Republican and Democrat administrations have done so for many years. But this should not be done in a manner that calls into question Washington’s commitment to honoring its Article 5 commitment. The military posture changes themselves—and the diplomatic messaging that accompanies them—matter.
  • “The continued effectiveness of NATO depends on U.S. leadership and commitment, as well as Germany’s continued support for the alliance. Anything that damages the bilateral defense relationship between the U.S. and Germany is unhelpful from a NATO perspective.”
  • Russian President Vladimir “Putin welcomes discord among NATO allies. We should avoid doing anything that furthers that key Kremlin objective.”

NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg plays nice: “Today’s announcement by Secretary Esper on US forces in Europe underlines the continued commitment by the United States to NATO and to European security. Peace and security in Europe is important for the security and prosperity of North America, and as we face a more unpredictable world, we are stronger and safer when we stand together. The US has consulted closely with all NATO Allies ahead of today’s announcement.”

China’s Ambassador to the U.S. suggests the two countries “Reset Their Relationship,” as Politico has headlined his op-ed, which just posted this morning.
After a breezy rhetorical tour through some of the major checkpoints in the U.S.-China diplomatic history, Ambassador Cui Tianki writes, “If there is a side to choose, then all countries, China and the U.S. included, should choose the right side of history, working within their countries to improve their own domestic governance, while working outside their borders to build together a world with lasting peace, common security and shared prosperity. The world needs strong solidarity, not growing division. Countries should be each other’s partners, not imaginary enemies.”
Make no mistake, he warns. “China’s U.S. policy remains unchanged...We are still willing to grow China-U.S. relations with goodwill and sincerity and hope the U.S. will return to the right track.” Read the rest, here.
What the ambassador didn’t say about how China has hardly acted like a “partner” to the U.S. could fill pages. Read Defense One’s complete coverage of China.  

Journalists are “adversaries,” according to new Pentagon employee training materials meant to clamp down on leaks to the press — protesters, too — Politico reported Wednesday. “The training materials are public and include a video message from Esper, as well as a July 20 memo outlining his concerns about operational security and directing all DoD personnel — military, civilian and on-site contractors — to take the course within the next 60 days.”
"This is wrong,” tweeted former Pentagon and Joint Chiefs spox David Lapan, “The new training & the terminology it uses are misguided and harmful to our military. Rather than rush to failure to implement this quickly, DoD should have carefully considered the language used & the consequences of its actions."
“This is wrong and dangerous,” said Brent Coburn, former top Pentagon public affairs official, in a tweet Lapan amplified. “I’ve been a protester, questioning US military policy. I’ve also overseen public affairs at DOD. Both were motivated by patriotism and a desire to serve my country. Words matter, and fellow Americans are not ‘adversaries.’”
If this sounds familiar, McClatchy’s Tara Copp shared a link from 2016 that confirms your suspicion. 

Across the Potomac, notorious mask-hater Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, making him the 10th member of Congress to contract the virus. Then he told an interviewer it was probably the mask’s fault. Said Gohmert to KETK news, “I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, if I might have put some… of the virus on the mask and breathed it in.”
Chaser: Masks in the House are now mandatory when voting in Chamber. AP explains, here

And lastly today: Britain will get a new spy chief in the coming weeks, and his name is almost a former James Bond actor. His name is Richard Moore, and Sky News’s Deborah Haynes reported the plan Wednesday on Twitter. “Moore will take over from Sir Alex Younger in the autumn. He currently heads political affairs at [the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office].”
FWIW, Moore was born in Libya, and was once the UK’s Ambassador to Turkey. More from Haynes, including obligatory Bond jokes, here.