Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — VA to allow abortions in certain cases

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) announced that it will provide access to abortions for certain veterans and beneficiaries “regardless of state restrictions.” 

We’ll share the details of that decision, plus we’ll pull back the curtain on the Ukrainian military commanders holding the front line in the country’s south and the east. Also, we’ll examine the new information about the volume of documents former President Trump stored in his personal office at Mar-a-Lago, then we’ll look at how the U.S. military is responding to the deadly floods in Pakistan. 

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 Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

VA will provide abortions in limited circumstances

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) on Friday said that it will provide access to abortions to pregnant veterans in limited circumstances. 

In a statement, the department said it submitted an interim final rule in the federal register to allow it to provide access to abortion counseling, as well as the procedure itself for people who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or if carrying a pregnancy to term endangers the life of the mother. 

When will it happen?: The department said the services would be authorized immediately after the final rule is published, and it will be made available for public comment for 30 days following publication. 

The VA’s reasoning: VA Secretary Denis McDonough called the move a “patient safety decision.” 

“Pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most. That’s what our nation owes them, and that’s what we at VA will deliver,” he added. 

Background: The move comes as trigger bans on abortion take effect across the country weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — the 1973 ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion. 

The changes: In its interim final rule, the VA notes that current regulations don’t allow the agency’s Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) program to cover the procedure unless the life of the pregnant person is endangered. 

Coverage for abortions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest is also excluded from CHAMPV, as is abortion counseling.   

The move would cover veterans and benefits under CHAMPVA program, the VA said. The department added that its employees may provide the service regardless of state restrictions as long as they are working within the scope of federal employment. 

Read the full story here 

WAR IN UKRAINE

Three nights with volunteers supplying the frontlines 

Dispatch from The Hill’s Laura Kelly

It’s nearly 9 p.m. when the Ukrainian commander who calls himself “The Greek” brings our group to a makeshift workshop in the east of Ukraine, where soldiers are tinkering with improvised explosive devices.  

The apparent head of the workshop, an engineer in his life before the war, welcomes us into a room that’s been repurposed from its original, civilian use — its exact description withheld for security purposes — but it looks distinctly like an arts and crafts center of death. 

Materials for mixing explosives and their components, grenades and fuses with English-language descriptions, are all neatly organized on bookshelves and in see-through plastic containers that one would find in a kitchen or classroom. 

Holding the line: The engineer is keen to talk to Jonas Öhman, the founder of the Blue/Yellow nongovernmental organization that, since 2014, has provided nonlethal support to Ukraine’s front-line troops — part of a volunteer force that has mushroomed since Russia’s invasion in February to keep Ukrainian forces fed, clothed, supplied and sane.  

I traveled with Öhman, along with his colleague and driver, Gabrielius Merzinskis, over the course of three days — between Aug. 19 and 21 — visiting with Ukrainian military commanders holding the front line in the south and the east. 

Read the full story here 

Also from The Hill: 

Unsealed inventory details Mar-a-Lago recovery

Justice Department records unsealed on Friday offer new details about the volume of documents former President Trump stored in his personal office at Mar-a-Lago, as well as other items seized during the search of his Florida home. 

The filing underscores just how many presidential records Trump was storing at his home and offers a breakdown of the more than 100 classified documents the Department of Justice (DOJ) says it recovered from Mar-a-Lago. 

What was found: FBI agents found 43 empty folders with classified banners in Trump’s personal office as well as another 28 empty folders that were labeled “return to staff secretary/military aide,” according to the inventory. 

The records were unsealed Friday by order of a federal judge who is reviewing a request from Trump to appoint a third-party special master to review the evidence seized, including a motion to block the FBI’s investigation during that review. 

What we know now: The inventory offers few new details about the classified materials themselves stored at Mar-a-Lago, but it does shed light on the extent classified materials were intermixed with Trump’s personal belongings. 

  • A brief filed by the government just before midnight Tuesday indicated they found three classified records within Trump’s very own desk.
  • But the Friday inventory details in broad strokes the others that were found within his office: three documents marked confidential, 17 documents marked secret and seven documents marked top-secret. 

Their location in Trump’s office could be significant to the Justice Department’s investigation, particularly after it alleged earlier this week that items were “likely concealed and removed.” 

Read that story here 

US sending team to Pakistan amid deadly floods 

The U.S. military is sending a team to Pakistan to figure out what support the Pentagon could provide amid deadly floods that have covered more than one-third of the country, the Defense Department announced Friday.   

U.S. Central Command will send the team to Islamabad to determine how the Pentagon can help the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Washington’s response to the crisis, the command’s top spokesperson, Col. Joe Buccino, said in a statement. 

Devastation: Floods that began in mid-June have ravaged Pakistan, and satellite images this week showed more than one-third of the country under water. 

The flooding has killed more than 1,100 people — at least 400 of them children — affected more than 33 million people and destroyed millions of acres of crops and hundreds of thousands of livestock, setting the country up for a major food shortage and humanitarian crisis.  

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called the floods “the worst in the country’s history,” estimating that the disaster has caused more than $10 billion in damages. 

Read that story here 

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 next week!

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Tags Denis McDonough Donald Trump

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