Defense & National Security — Pelosi touches down in Taiwan for historic visit

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) landed in Taiwan on Tuesday for a historic visit, rebuffing repeated warnings from China.

We’ll talk about the trip. Plus, we’ll tell you the latest developments on the Senate burn pits bill and talk about why the Pentagon didn’t retain some text messages about Jan. 6, 2021.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Pelosi lands in Taiwan, ignoring China’s threats

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, capping off days of speculation regarding whether the third-highest ranking official in the U.S. government would visit the self-governing island amid criticism from China.

Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei was broadcast on major television networks. It is her latest stop on a days-long trip to Asia with a congressional delegation.

Who joined the speaker? Pelosi on Tuesday was joined by a delegation of House Democrats including Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (Calif.) and Reps. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.) and Andy Kim (N.J.).

Republican applause: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), along with 25 other Republican senators, released a joint statement praising her decision to visit to Taiwan minutes after she landed on the island.

“We support Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan,” the statement reads.

“For decades, members of the United States Congress, including previous Speakers of the House, have travelled to Taiwan,” it continues. “This travel is consistent with the United States’ One China policy to which we are committed. We are also committed now, more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act.”

China’s response: The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement condemning Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, saying it “gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence.’”

In addition, China is also reportedly planning large-scale military drills around Taiwan. The “live-fire drills” will begin on Thursday, and not end until Sunday.

GOP senators agree to deal on veterans bill

Senate Republicans have reached an agreement to pass legislation expanding benefits for veterans suffering illnesses due to toxic exposure, after they blocked the bill last week and sparked outrage from the veterans community.

“We expect to have an agreement on the PACT Act with amendments,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “I believe it will pass and pass this evening. So, that’s very good news.”

A vote on the measure is expected early Tuesday evening.

Schumer said that the Senate will vote on three amendments to the bill, with 60 votes being needed to pass those bills. The upper chamber will then move to finally pass the bill.

Read more here.

DOD ‘wiped’ phones of Trump-era leaders

The Department of Defense (DOD) failed to retain text messages from a number of its top officials relating to Jan. 6, 2021, because it wiped their phones during the transition, a watchdog group that sued for the records said Tuesday.

American Oversight filed a public records request for the communications of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy in the days after the attack on the Capitol.

But they were informed during litigation that the records were not preserved.

About the suit: The suit sought the military leaders’ communications with former President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. The request also asked for communications from Kash Patel, Miller’s chief of staff; Paul Ney, DOD’s general counsel; and James E. McPherson, the Army’s general counsel.

Patel was also subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

American Oversight sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate, noting that each official’s phone appears to have been wiped after their records request was filed.

Messages ‘not preserved’: “DOD and Army conveyed to Plaintiff that when an employee separates from DOD or Army he or she turns in the government-issued phone, and the phone is wiped. For those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore could not be searched,” the agencies wrote in a March court filing.

More lost texts: The disclosure follows news that numerous officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also had their messages erased during the transition, including former acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli. Both had their phones reset following the inauguration, losing any texts from Jan. 6 in the process.

The inspector general at DHS also notified Congress last month that text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 were “erased” as part of a device replacement program.

The agency contends any text messages that might be missing were lost through a software transition.

Read more here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission will hold a hearing on “Challenges from Chinese Policy in 2022: Zero-COVID, Ukraine, and Pacific Diplomacy” at 9:30 a.m.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a nominations hearing at 10 a.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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