White House suggests stripping Confederate base names in exchange for repealing tech liability

The White House has suggested to House Democrats that President Trump could drop his objection to renaming Confederate-named military bases if they agree to repeal a legal shield for internet companies, a Democratic House aide confirmed to The Hill. 

The offer, made by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) as part of negotiations on the annual defense policy bill, was first reported by The New York Times.

The Democratic aide told The Hill that based on conversations with colleagues, “it’s highly unlikely this offer will gain any traction.”

“On its face, there’s issues of jurisdiction, lack of clarity on what the White House actually means when it says repeal Sec. 230, and also it’s unclear if congressional Republicans support this,” the aide said.

Still, the aide said the offer appears to be “a sign that the White House wants to pass the NDAA this year.”

Up in the air: The fate of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been an open question amid a standoff between Congress and Trump on a provision that would require the Pentagon to strip Confederate names from military bases and other property.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill include the requirement. The House requires the change in one year, while the Senate would mandate it in three years.

The language was added to the bills with bipartisan support amid nationwide protests over racial injustice that reinvigorated an examination of America’s legacy of slavery. Most prominently in the military, the Army has 10 bases named after Confederate military officers.

Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA over the requirement.

No movement: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has vowed to remove the requirement. But it is highly unusual for something that’s in both bills to be removed from the final version, and Inhofe has not explained how he expects to overcome bipartisan support for changing the names.

Democrats have also indicated they will not budge.

BIDEN FACES HURDLES TO REJOINING IRAN DEAL: President-elect Joe Biden is facing mounting hurdles to reenter the Iran nuclear deal as the Trump administration uses its final days in office to try to cement its so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.

With just two months left in his presidency, President Trump is levying more sanctions and selling weapons to Iran’s enemies. He also reportedly even considered military action after international inspectors confirmed Iran’s supply of nuclear fuel has swelled since Trump withdrew from the deal.

Other roadblocks: Political considerations in Tehran, too, could complicate Biden’s path to rejoining the deal, as Iran prepares for its own elections and demands compensation to make up for Trump’s sanctions.

And while European allies are eager for a Biden administration to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, Israel has continued its strong opposition to the U.S. providing sanctions relief in the hopes of moderating Iran’s behavior and is bolstered by its growing alliance with Gulf countries.

“The Biden administration is going to have to face this sense of, ‘Well, we can’t just snap our fingers and make maximum pressure disappear,’ ” said Kaleigh Thomas, an associate fellow at the Center for a New American Security. She added the administration will face a “political hurdle of how Biden messages to international partners and domestic partners and consults with them about, ‘Reentry to the JCPOA is just beginning for this whole U.S.-Iran policy that I’ve decided to undertake.’ ”

A plan to return: In a September op-ed for CNN, Biden pledged to offer Tehran “a credible path back to diplomacy,” saying he would return the United States to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Iran “returns to strict compliance” with the agreement.

“I have no illusions about the challenges the regime in Iran poses to America’s security interests, to our friends and partners and to its own people. But there is a smart way to be tough on Iran, and there is Trump’s way,” Biden wrote.

“By any objective measure, Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ has been a boon to the regime in Iran and a bust for America’s interests,” he added.

More sanctions coming: On Wednesday, while traveling through the Middle East, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear more Iran sanctions will be imposed in “the coming weeks and months.”

Pompeo, who has not acknowledged Biden won the election, also issued a warning to an unnamed audience that “we need not speculate about what a cessation of sanctions would imply for Iran’s funding for terrorism; we can simply look to the recent past.”

“Reducing that pressure is a dangerous choice, bound to weaken new partnerships for peace in the region and strengthen only the Islamic Republic,” Pompeo said in his Wednesday statement.

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