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Overnight Defense: US marks 19th anniversary of 9/11 attacks | Trump awards Medal of Honor to Army Ranger for hostage rescue mission | Bahrain, Israel normalizing diplomatic ties


Happy Friday 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: Friday marked the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the day was filled with remembrances.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: I feel ‘deep down fury’ that Trump downplayed pandemic NYT reporter removed from Trump rally in Michigan Trump says he didn’t share classified information following Woodward book MORE marked the anniversary with a moment of silence aboard Air Force One and delivered remarks hailing the men and women who died aboard Flight 93 in Pennsylvania 19 years ago.

The president traveled to Shanksville, Pa., to attend a scaled-back version of the annual Flight 93 memorial service there. While en route, Trump and his staff observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. to denote the time the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Trump, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpOvernight Defense: Trump announces new US ambassador to Afghanistan | Pentagon officially withdraws plan to end ‘Stars and Stripes’ | Biden says Trump doesn’t understand national security, intel officials ‘don’t trust’ him Rose Garden, White House lawn undergo groundwork after convention events McCarthy told Trump trashing mail-in voting will hurt Republicans: report MORE, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTravel industry calls on administration to establish testing protocols for international travel Colorado attorney general asks DOT to investigate Frontier 14 states sue Trump administration over gas transportation rule MORE, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election Senate Democrats block GOP relief bill 2024 GOP presidential rivalries emerge on virus package MORE and deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino were among those who stood around a table with heads bowed in the staff cabin of Air Force One. At the conclusion of the moment of silence, Meadows and Trump each said “God bless America.”

The president offered lengthier remarks in Pennsylvania, where he hailed the men and women aboard Flight 93 as heroes and a symbol of American resolve.

“The heroes of Flight 93 are an everlasting reminder that no matter the danger, no matter the threat, no matter the odds, America will always rise up, stand tall and fight back,” he said.

Pence, Biden in NYC: Meanwhile, in New York City, Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris calls it ‘outrageous’ Trump downplayed coronavirus Historian predicts Trump downplaying pandemic will go down as ‘the greatest dereliction of duty’ in presidential history Overnight Defense: Trump announces new US ambassador to Afghanistan | Pentagon officially withdraws plan to end ‘Stars and Stripes’ | Biden says Trump doesn’t understand national security, intel officials ‘don’t trust’ him MORE and Vice President Pence exchanged pleasantries in a rare face-to-face meeting when both men attended a ceremony to honor the lives lost on 9/11.

The two arrived in Manhattan at the World Trade Center memorial site and greeted one another with an elbow bump. The two briefly spoke ahead of the service.

Biden and Pence stood alongside their wives. Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergTV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month Press: Trump gives military middle finger salute The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Postmaster General attempts to calm mail-in voting fears MORE, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination, stood between the two couples.

Sens. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice Treasury Dept. sanctions Russian, Ukrainian individuals for election interference North Carolina attorney general says DeJoy allegations merit investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandIn the next relief package Congress must fund universal COVID testing Expanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires’ wealth gains during pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.), as well as New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNJ governor designates Juneteenth as state holiday CDC report: dining out increases risk of contracting coronavirus more than other activities The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind – Woodward book revelations rock Washington MORE (D), were also in attendance and looked on as Biden and Pence exchanged hellos.

Pence went on to speak at a Tunnel to Towers Foundation event. He recognized those who lost their lives on 9/11 and their loved ones and read a Bible verse. When Pence finished speaking, a few in the crowd shouted “four more years” and applauded.

Biden in Pennsylvania: Later in the day, Biden also traveled to Shanksville, where he laid a wreath at the memorial and met with families of some those killed there.

Earlier in the day, Biden vowed he wouldn’t “make any news today” out of respect for the somber day.

“It’s a solemn day, and that’s how we’re going to keep it,” Biden told reporters.

At the Pentagon: The Pentagon’s annual 9/11 remembrances started as they normally do with an unfurling of the American flag on the side of the building at sunrise.

But the main ceremony later in the morning was largely virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Trump announces new US ambassador to Afghanistan | Pentagon officially withdraws plan to end ‘Stars and Stripes’ | Biden says Trump doesn’t understand national security, intel officials ‘don’t trust’ him Pentagon officially withdraws plan to end ‘Stars and Stripes’ Trump: Pompeo traveling to Taliban, Afghan government talks MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in a livestreamed ceremony.

Families of those killed at the Pentagon could not attend the ceremony, but were allowed to visit the memorial in small groups later in the day.

Navy scuttles ill-timed training flight: After fierce backlash, the Navy canceled a training flight in New York City that had been scheduled for Friday.

“A training flight was cancelled by the squadron and rescheduled for a later date,” the Navy said in a statement. “That flight had been previously approved in accordance with all Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations, and was unrelated to any 9-11 memorial commemorations.”

The city’s emergency notification system tweeted on Thursday that an F-18 jet would be flying over the Hudson River toward the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge at 2,500 feet.

The announcement created an uproar from critics who called it “tone deaf” to have a plan fly at a low altitude on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

TRUMP AWARDS MEDAL OF HONOR: While not directly a 9/11 commemoration, Trump on Friday also awarded a Medal of Honor to an Army Ranger who has said he felt compelled to enlist the day of the terrorist attacks.

Trump awarded the nation’s highest military decoration to Army Ranger Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, recognizing him for leading a 2015 raid that freed dozens of hostages held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

At a White House ceremony, Trump introduced Payne as “a warrior who has devoted the last two decades to fighting the forces of terror.”

Trump talked about Payne’s decision to join the service at the age of 18 following the 9/11 hijackings. He described in some detail the raid that Payne led in October 2015 to free more than 70 captives held by ISIS militants in Iraq’s Kirkuk Province.

“Pat, you embody the righteous glory of American valor,” Trump said, before placing the medal on Payne. “We stand in awe of your historic, daring and gallant deeds. You truly went above and beyond the call of duty to earn our nation’s highest military honor.” 

Payne joined the U.S. Army in July 2002. He was trained as an Infantryman and became an Army Ranger the following year. Trump marveled Friday that Payne made an “astounding” 17 deployments; he deployed in support of missions including Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support. 

ISRAEL, BAHRAIN NORMALIZING TIES: Trump announced Friday the normalization of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Israel, the second such breakthrough in recent weeks as the administration works to broker cooperation between Arab nations and Israel. 

“This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East. Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security and prosperity in the region,” Trump said in a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE and King Hamad bin Isa Salman al-Khalifa of Bahrain.

The president, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, suggested that the development carried additional significance because it was announced on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“There’s no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11 than the agreement that we’re about to tell you,” Trump said.

Context: The news comes roughly a month after Trump announced the normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Trump has pointed to both announcements as major foreign policy achievements, which he is likely to tout in the closing stretch of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Administration officials had expressed optimism that additional Arab nations would follow suit after the UAE normalized relations with Israel in mid-August.

“I am very hopeful that there will be more to follow,” Trump said. “I can tell you there’s tremendous enthusiasm on behalf of other countries to also join.”

More to come?: The normalization of relations would likely not have been possible without approval from Saudi Arabia. The kingdom does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, but has been a key behind-the-scenes player in U.S. efforts to broker peace in the region.

Asked whether the UAE and Bahrain deals could be a prelude to an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerCohen: ‘I guarantee that it’s not going to go well for whoever’ set up Woodward interview Trump to host Israel, UAE for historic signing ceremony at White House next week Kushner says ‘Alice in Wonderland’ describes Trump presidency: Woodward book MORE said he felt it was an “inevitability” that all Middle Eastern nations would eventually normalize relations with Israel.

“I think it’s definitely worth noticing the trend in the region and what I’ll just say is… the leadership in the region is — they recognize that the approach that’s been taken in the past hasn’t worked,” Kushner, who has led the administration’s Middle East peace efforts, told reporters. “And they realize that their people want to see a more vibrant and exciting future. So we’ve been trying to bring the region together.”

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown and others speak at Day 1 of the Air Force Association’s virtual 2020 Air, Space and Cyber Conference starting at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/3inSsEb

ICYMI

— The Hill: Militia groups continue to target US troops in Iraq, commander reports

— The Hill: McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’

— The Hill: Pompeo says negotiations in Afghanistan likely to be ‘contentious’

— The Hill: Trump says he didn’t share classified information following Woodward book

— Reuters: Removal of flag honoring veterans from White House sparks anger

— Bloomberg: F-35’s $10 billion funding gap hints at a jet too costly to fly

— Associated Press: Trump’s talk of secret new weapon fits a pattern of puzzles

— Washington Post: The Trump administration is considering moving U.S. Africa Command. It won’t be cheap or easy.



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