Defense & Cyberspace

How a Capitol Hill staffer and a James Bond screenwriter dramatized ‘The Report’
Political Theater, Episode 101

Journalists follow Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein as she leaves her office on her way to the chamber floor to speak about the CIA torture report being released by the committee on on Dec. 9, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report in 2014 was a compelling episode in American history, detailing as it did the CIA’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists and their lack of effectiveness. That doesn’t mean the seven-year investigation that led to the report automatically lends itself to high drama, particularly when one considers that many of those seven years were spent reading sensitive CIA documents in a windowless room. That makes the new movie “The Report” that much more of an accomplishment.

Director and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns had his work cut out for him, constructing a political thriller out of the efforts led by Intelligence Committee staffer Daniel J. Jones. Burns and Jones explained some of thinking that went into the film’s narrative, as well as the issues it explores, in the latest Political Theater podcast with CQ Roll Call senior staff writer Niels Lesniewski and me. 

‘Embrace the suck,’ Ernst and McSally tell young women considering military
Republican senators reflect on their ‘boot camp’ experience

Republican senators Martha McSally and Joni Ernst share a message for young women considering entering the military. (Sen. Joni Ernst’s Twitter)

Veterans Day is a significant time to honor those who have fought to serve the country. And while Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Martha McSally of Arizona did just that, the two military veterans also took time to address future generations of servicemembers, particularly young women.

In a video posted to Twitter Monday evening, the Republican senators gave advice to young women considering entering basic training, or “boot camp,” which is known to require significant physical and psychological stamina.

Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter to visit Capitol Hill ahead of Erdogan visit
Boston Celtics center has called the Turkish leader the 'Hitler of our century'

NBA center Enes Kanter meets with Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y. (courtesy of @EnesKanter / Twitter)

As President Donald Trump prepares to receive Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a Wednesday state visit at the White House, NBA player Enes Kanter, an outspoken critic of Erdogan, is scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill.

The Boston Celtics center plans to join Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton in the Capitol Visitor Center for a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon on protecting America’s Syrian Kurdish allies.

Google looks past Project Maven to work anew with the Pentagon
Company’s 2018 withdrawal from drone video program sent shockwaves through national security world

A Google sign at its 2019 Developer Days conference in Shanghai, China. (Lyu Liang/VCG via Getty Images)

More than a year after pulling out of a contract with the Pentagon that relied on technologies based on artificial intelligence to sort through drone videos, Google says it is ready to work with the Defense Department on a wide variety of applications that don’t involve weapons.

Google’s decision to engage with the Pentagon on non-weapons-related technologies stems from the company’s artificial intelligence principles published last year, said Kent Walker, senior vice president for global affairs at Google.

Trump to host Turkey’s Erdogan same day public impeachment hearings start
Bipartisan calls to cancel visit ignored, as experts say Washington still needs Ankara

President Donald Trump welcomes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey at the White House in 2017. The Turkish leader makes a controversial return Wednesday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be feted Wednesday at the White House despite his attacks on a longtime U.S. ally, his purchase of military equipment from Russia and calls from lawmakers in both parties to punish him.

President Donald Trump and top aides have ignored bipartisan calls to cancel Erdogan’s visit, which is expected to include a joint press conference on the same day public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry begin.

Report: Extreme heat a grave threat for military bases
At least 17 people have died of heat exposure while training at bases since 2008

A report, coupled with statistics from the Pentagon, notes significant physical dangers climate change poses to the U.S. military (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Days when the temperature breaks 100 degrees Fahrenheit at U.S. military bases will happen by 2050 nearly five times as often as they do now without action to address climate change, the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a report released Monday.

All told, it will amount to roughly another month of dangerous heat every year, according to the nonprofit group. Unsurprisingly, troops at bases in the Southwest and the South will suffer more than peers elsewhere, including the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz. and the MacDill and Homestead bases in Florida, which are forecast to be the three facilities that see the greatest increases.

Former VA nominee Ronny Jackson eyes run for Congress
Jackson withdrew from consideration amid misconduct allegations he called ‘completely false’

Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, a onetime nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, is considering running for Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson is considering a run for Congress in Texas, two sources familiar with his plans said Friday.

Jackson was the chief White House physician in 2018, when President Donald Trump nominated him to be Veterans Affairs secretary. But Jackson withdrew his name from consideration amid allegations that he abused alcohol and mishandled prescription drugs, although he said at the time the charges were “completely false and fabricated.”

Senators want more Hill opportunities for wounded veterans
McCain-Mansfield program would create two-year Senate fellowship similar to House

Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is proposing a fellowship program in the Senate for wounded veterans.  (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sens. Doug Jones and Mike Rounds want to expand a program started in the House that gives wounded veterans an opportunity to work in congressional offices.

The two introduced a resolution just before Veterans Day that would establish the McCain-Mansfield Fellowship, a two-year program giving each Senate office a “wounded warrior” to serve as a fellow in a state or Washington, D.C. office.

House to take up CR, Export-Import Bank and voting rights legislation in November
Hoyer outlines floor schedule for November, says action on prescription drug bill delayed to December

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Friday he’s hopeful “that we can finish our work and fully fund the government before the end of the year.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House will take up a stopgap funding bill, legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, and a voting rights measure in November, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a “Dear Colleague” letter Friday.

The House has been on recess this week and will return Tuesday after the Veterans Day holiday for two consecutive weeks of legislative sessions before recessing again for the week of Thanksgiving. 

Impeachment strains longstanding bipartisan support for Ukraine
Consensus built on keeping Ukraine inside the Western European camp

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy look on during a meeting at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 25. (Getty Images file photo)

The bipartisan backing for Ukraine in its long face-off with Russia has been a hallmark of Congress’ role in foreign policymaking for decades. Congress — both parties — has generally been willing to confront Moscow more forcefully over its treatment of Ukraine than the Trump, Obama or George W. Bush White Houses.

But with U.S. policy toward Ukraine the centerpiece of the impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump’s antipathy toward Kyiv out in the open, and Republicans not wanting to break with their GOP president publicly over Ukraine policy, concern is rising that this longstanding bipartisan consensus to keep Ukraine inside the Western European camp could erode.

December stopgap funding seems likely path forward for long-delayed appropriations
Another three- to four-week extension is expected as lawmakers hash out differences

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., left, said he had a “positive discussion” with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about the path forward for stalled spending bills. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional leaders and the White House agree they’ll need another three or four weeks to wrap up negotiations on 12 annual spending bills, and are likely to extend stopgap funding to Dec. 13 or Dec. 20, a decision that may finally propel the fiscal 2020 appropriations process forward.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said he had a “positive discussion” with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland on Thursday. Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer said in floor remarks that “we’re seeing some positive signs that we can get the process back on track.”

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 7
Bolton says he’ll fight subpoena, Pence aide to testify on Trump call with Zelenskiy, Jordan says he’ll subpoena whistleblower

Jennifer Williams, Vice President Mike Pence’s special adviser on European and Russia affairs, arrives at the Capitol on Thursday for a deposition to the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At the conclusion of Thursday’s closed-door testimony from Jennifer Williams, a longtime State Department official who is detailed to work with Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Eric Swalwell told reporters that it's not yet clear whether she'll be the last witness deposed in the first phase of the inquiry.

The committee would still like to hear from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday, although Swalwell acknowledged Mulvaney is unlikely to show. The California Democrat and member of House Intelligence, one of the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry, said the committee is still finalizing its schedule for the remainder of the week.

Taylor testimony: 5 key points expected to make a comeback at public hearings
Transcript release provides roadmap for next phase of the impeachment inquiry

William Taylor, center, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will be the first witness for open impeachment hearings. Transcripts of his closed-door deposition were released Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The newly released transcripts of October testimony from William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, give a window into the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. Taylor will be the first witness to return to Capitol Hill and testify in an open hearing Nov. 13.

What Taylor has already said behind closed doors and what questions lawmakers are asking offer clues about what evidence Democrats and Republicans will bring forward to the public hearings.

Trump administration shows up to USA Freedom hearing without answers to key questions about data collection
Mike Lee threatens monthly hearings after Justice Department remains not responsive to letter

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, suggested the Senate may need monthly hearings on FISA authorities. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senators expressed their displeasure Wednesday with the Trump administration’s inability to answer questions about the National Security Agency’s collection of call data records at a Judiciary Committee hearing. 

And one senator went so far as to suggest monthly hearings on foreign intelligence surveillance powers.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 6
Taylor transcript released, Schiff announces first public hearings, No. 3 State Department official testifying on ambassador’s ouster

President Donald Trump cited the testimony of former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, shown here arriving for his Oct. 3 deposition, as proof that House Democrats are conducting a “witch hunt.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democratic impeachment investigators Wednesday unsealed testimony of one of their potential star witnesses, William Taylor, who alleged some of President Donald Trump’s closest advisers sought a quid pro quo from Ukraine to advance the president’s political interests.

Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told lawmakers at his deposition earlier this month that some top officials in the Trump administration, led from the outside by the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pressured Ukraine to publicly announce anti-corruption investigations into the Bidens and other Democrats in exchange for the U.S. unfreezing $400 million in military aid.