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: A National Guard officer is poised to tell a House committee that the Park Police’s action to remove protesters from Lafayette Square last month was an “unprovoked escalation.”
The testimony of Maj. Adam DeMarco, who served as a liaison between the Park Police and D.C. National Guard during the incident, contradicts Trump administration officials’ previous explanations for why they forcibly cleared the area of protesters.
“From my observation, those demonstrators – our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” DeMarco said in written testimony. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”
The House Natural Resources Committee released DeMarco’s testimony ahead of a Tuesday hearing on the Lafayette Square incident. DeMarco is scheduled to testify alongside acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan.
A Park Police spokesperson did not immediately return The Hill’s request for comment.
DeMarco’s account: In his testimony, DeMarco wrote that Park Police briefed him on a plan to clear the area in order to erect a fence on the northern edge of Lafayette Square, but that he didn’t think it would start until after the 7 p.m. curfew D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed that night.
At about 6:05 p.m., he said, he saw Attorney General William BarrBill BarrPompeo’s China speech at odds with Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy Deteriorating relations with China put US companies on edge Cuomo says Wolf, Cuccinelli violated oath of office and should be investigated MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley walking across the square. Barr spoke with Park Police officers, while DeMarco gave a briefing to Milley on the situation. Milley told DeMarco to “ensure that National Guard personnel remained calm, adding that we were there to respect the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights,” according to the testimony.
After Milley and Barr left, at about 6:20 p.m., Park Police began warning demonstrators to disperse, but the announcements were “barely audible” from where DeMarco was standing 20 yards away from the protesters, and the protesters showed no sign of having heard the warnings, he said. The clearing operation started about 10 minutes later.
When, during the initial clearing operation, DeMarco saw smoke, a Park Police officer told him it was “stage smoke” and that no tear gas was being used against protesters, he said.
“But I could feel irritation in my eyes and nose, and based on my previous exposure to tear gas in my training at West Point and later in my Army training, I recognized that irritation as effects consistent with CS or ‘tear gas,’” he continued. “And later that evening, I found spent tear gas canisters on the street nearby.”
DeMarco also said he saw some protesters fall to the ground as Park Police used shields as weapons and that he witnessed unidentified law enforcement officers firing “paintball-like” weapons that he later learned were firing pepper balls.
By 7:05 p.m., DeMarco said, he saw President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to pay tribute to Lewis at Capitol on Monday Cotton called out for remarks on slavery in criticism of 1619 Project Congress set for messy COVID-19 talks on tight deadline MORE make his now infamous walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which DeMarco said was a “complete surprise, as we had not been briefed that he would enter our sector.”
As for the fencing that was the stated reason for needing to clear the area, the material didn’t arrive until 9 p.m., and the new barrier wasn’t completed until later that night, he said.
DEMS UP PRESSURE AHEAD OF TATA HEARING: President Trump’s controversial nominee to take over the Pentagon’s policy shop will have his confirmation hearing this week, but Democrats are calling on him to withdraw beforehand.
In a letter released Monday, the 10 Senate Democrats wrote to Anthony Tata urging him to withdraw his nomination to be under secretary of Defense for policy, as well as resign from his current post as a senior adviser to Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperWhy Trump’s ‘little green men’ in Portland are so alarming Overnight Defense: Senate passes annual defense policy bill that sparked Trump veto threat | Military has considered two waivers for transgender troops since ban Pentagon report: Military has considered two waivers for transgender troops since ban started MORE.
“Your record of offensive and inflammatory comments disqualifies you from serving in your current position and the position for which you have been nominated,” the Democrats wrote in the letter, dated Friday.
The letter was organized by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHarris seen as Biden VP favorite as clock ticks What’s lost if the parties abandon nominating conventions Charlamagne tha God rips Biden: ‘Shut the eff up forever’ MORE (D-Mass.), a Senate Armed Services Committee member, and co-signed by fellow committee Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDesiree Tims outraises longtime GOP Rep. Michael Turner by more than 0K in second quarter Biden campaign announces second round of staff hires in Arizona Democrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power Democratic senators call for ‘thorough and comprehensive’ review of Google’s Fitbit acquisition Lawmakers push NOAA to prevent future ‘Sharpiegate’ MORE (Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthVindman marks 1 year since call that led to Trump’s impeachment OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA effort to boost uranium mining leaves green groups worried about water | DNC climate platform draft calls for net-zero emissions by 2050 | Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country MORE (D-Ill.).
The other signatories are Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocrats hit Interior secretary for reportedly refusing to wear mask in meeting with tribes Overnight Defense: Senate passes annual defense policy bill that sparked Trump veto threat | Military has considered two waivers for transgender troops since ban Senate passes bill with plan to change Confederate-named bases over Trump veto threat MORE (D-Ore.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Wave of evictions could be coming for nation’s renters Trump signs bill imposing sanctions on China over Hong Kong MORE (D-Md.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate passes bill to prevent debt collectors from garnishing stimulus checks Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power Democratic senators call for ‘thorough and comprehensive’ review of Google’s Fitbit acquisition MORE (D-Ohio), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren, Booker call for OSHA standards for meatpacking plants in next relief package Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power Democratic senators call for ‘thorough and comprehensive’ review of Google’s Fitbit acquisition MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersHarris seen as Biden VP favorite as clock ticks What’s lost if the parties abandon nominating conventions Is Ilhan Omar one and done? Why she could lose the August primary MORE (I-Vt.).
“No one with a record of repeated, repugnant statements like yours should be nominated to serve in a senior position of public trust at the Pentagon,” they wrote. “Your views are wholly incompatible with the U.S. military’s values.”
Background: The nomination of Tata, a retired Army brigadier general most known for his frequent guest appearances on Fox News, has been a flashpoint since CNN resurfaced several inflammatory and racist tweets Tata wrote about former President Obama and other Democratic politicians.
In 2018 tweets, for example, Tata called Obama a “terrorist leader” and said Islam is “most oppressive violent religion I know of.” He also called Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersMaxine Waters jumps out of vehicle to monitor officers who pulled over Black motorist Pelosi urges Trump to tap emergency powers to meet medical equipment, testing needs Overnight Defense: Esper announces new steps on diversity in military but memo silent on Confederate flag | Defense bill amendment would sanction Russians over bounties | US accuses Russia of planting landmines in Libya MORE (D-Calif.) a “vicious race baiting racist” and said she and House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House, Senate GOP race to finalize coronavirus package ahead of Monday rollout Congress set for messy COVID-19 talks on tight deadline Sunday shows – Coronavirus relief, stimulus talks dominate MORE (D-Calif.) “have always been the same violent extremists.”
Tata has since deleted many of the offensive tweets. After CNN’s reports and after several Armed Services Democrats, including committee ranking member Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate poised to pass defense bill with plan changing Confederate-named bases Overnight Defense: Pentagon effectively bans Confederate flag | LGBT groups raise alarm that policy hits Pride flag, too | Trump reportedly eying South Korea troop drawdown The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: HHS Secretary Azar says US plans to have tens of millions of vaccine doses this fall; Kremlin allegedly trying to hack vaccine research MORE (D-R.I.), came out in opposition to Tata’s nomination, he also penned a letter to Reed and committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: GOP senator targets Confederate base rename | Trump OKs sale of more large armed drones GOP Senate chairman backs Germany drawdown Overnight Defense: House passes defense bill that Trump threatened to veto | Esper voices concerns about officers wearing military garb MORE (R-Okla.) expressing regret at the tweets and calling them an “aberration in a four decade thread of faithful public service.”
PENTAGON NEEDS TO CONSIDER CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS ON CONTRACTORS, WATCHDOG SAYS: The Pentagon has not regularly assessed risks posed to contractors by climate change, potentially jeopardizing the department’s ability to carry out its mission, a government watchdog said in a report released Monday.
The Department of Defense (DOD) “has not systematically incorporated consideration of climate change into its acquisition and supply processes, consequently limiting the military departments’ ability to best consider the potential effects on their own operations from climate-related risks faced by their contractors as part of these processes,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote in the report.
“Excluding climate change and extreme weather considerations will limit DOD’s ability to anticipate and manage climate-related risks so as to build resilience into its processes, and could jeopardize its ability to carry out its missions,” the GAO added.
The GAO recommended the Pentagon and each of the military departments implement a 2016 directive on climate change by updating guidance on acquisition and supply.
Lawmakers press Pentagon: The GAO report was first released by Warren and Reed, who requested the watchdog study the effects of climate change on defense contractors and the defense supply chain last year.
In a letter to Esper released Monday, Warren and Reed urged him to implement the GAO’s recommendations.
“We recognize that incorporating climate risk analysis into the DoD’s contracting processes in a systematic way is a challenging task, but the potential risks to DoD operations and mission critical assets are significant,” they wrote. “If DoD fails to identify and address the impacts of climate change to its contracts and supply chains, it could jeopardize DoD’s ability to carry out its missions.”
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host an online event unveiling the “State of the Space Industrial Base Report 2020” with officials from the Defense Innovation Unit, Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Force and more at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/3f6DP5U
The House Rules Committee will meet to prepare the next “mini-bus” appropriations bill, which includes that fiscal year 2021 defense spending bill, at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/30Q33jH
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Lt. Gen. Glen VanHerck to be commander of U.S. Northern Command and Lt. Gen. James Dickinson to be commander of U.S. Space Command at 2:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/3g65mWp
— The Hill: US, China jockey for advantage in space race
— The Hill: Ocasio-Cortez calls for end to federal funding for military recruitment in schools
— The Hill: Trump’s national security adviser tests positive for coronavirus
— The Hill: Opinion: In defense of Mark Esper
— The Hill: Opinion: The world once tried to ban armed drones, but now everyone has them
— New York Times: An American mustache that irritated South Koreans is no more
— Associated Press: Iran moves mock aircraft carrier to sea amid US tensions
— Navy Times: Honor Guard sailor collapses from ‘extreme heat and dehydration’ during procession for the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisBiden to pay tribute to Lewis at Capitol on Monday John Lewis carried across Edmund Pettus Bridge for last time John Lewis’s 7-year-old great nephew calls the civil rights icon ‘my hero’ MORE