Trump gives Pentagon authority to set troop levels in Syria and Iraq

zabelin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump has delegated to the Pentagon the authority to set the American military troop levels in Iraq and Syria. The move restores a process that was in place prior to the Bush and Obama administrations and is another sign of how the White House is giving military commanders greater flexibility in their operations.

"The President has delegated the authority for Force Management Levels (FML) for Iraq and Syria to the Secretary," said Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, referring to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Davis said the authority is being returned to the Pentagon where it had typically existed prior to the Bush and Obama administrations.

"It’s as much about auditability as it is authority," said Mattis. "The Secretary wants to ensure that we had a way to clearly understand the forces we have there and how they’re being used."

The adjustment does not mean that the numbers of troops in Iraq and Syria is going to change "nor does it change the process by which we will manage those forces" said Davis.

The Pentagon is currently authorized to have 5,262 American military forces in Iraq and 503 for Syria to train, advise and assist the Iraqi military and Syrian rebel forces fighting ISIS.

But the number of troops in those countries is actually higher because additional forces on temporary assignments lasting less than 180 days are not counted as part of the official Force Management Level. That means there are more than 6,000 American troops in Iraq and more than 900 American troops in Syria.

The capping of troops has also meant that some of the support and maintenance duties that would have been handled by military personnel are handled by contractors.

The delegation of the authority of Force Management Levels in Iraq and Syria was first reported by Buzzfeed News.

The Pentagon will now review the current system that has incrementally increased troop levels in the fight against ISIS and come up with its own system.

"It will account for the fact that there will be enduring baseline numbers and that there will be temporary enhancements above those," said Davis.

"Bringing the authority really back here where it’s historically been enables military commanders to be more agile, to more quickly and efficiently support partners, to have more rapid decision-making, and to keep units together," said Davis.

"This is not new," he added. "It simply restores authority and it’s a more effective way of managing it."

Mattis will be able to set troop levels in Iraq and Syria, but the broad strokes for the American military missions there will still be closely coordinated by the administration and other agencies.

The delegation of authority does not apply to Afghanistan where the number of troops is capped at 8,440. The Trump administration is currently reviewing its Afghanistan strategy and the authority for setting troop strengths there will still be handled by the White House.

The top U.S. military commander recently told a congressional panel that he would like to see additional troops to assist with the train and advise mission in Afghanistan.

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Experts weigh in on impact of Trump's tax plan

The CrimsonRibbon/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Experts are already taking issue with President Trump's newly-released tax plan -- in particular the White House's claim that economic growth would offset huge losses in government revenue from the proposed corporate tax cuts.

The plan calls for the corporate tax rate to be slashed from 35 percent to 15 percent. And the new plan would consolidate the seven tax brackets for individuals and reduce them to only three brackets: a 10-percent bracket, a 25-percent bracket and a 35-percent bracket.

Right now, the highest individual federal income tax rate is just shy of 40 percent. Trump's plan also doubles the standard deduction, meaning that a married couple would pay no taxes on the first $24,000 they earn.

The plan, summarized on just one page to reporters at the White House, lacks many of the details needed to make projections about its long-term effects.

Alex Raskolniknov, a tax professor at Columbia Law School, was alarmed by the lack of precision in the plan. "If this were any other president, this would have been a huge embarrassment of a "plan,'" he wrote to ABC News. "He's had more detail in his tax plan when he was running for president. What was all the hype about this time? ... It's hard to take this seriously ... except it comes from the President of the United States."

And every expert who spoke to ABC News said that the plan would result in a large drop in federal government revenue and a spike in the federal budget deficit.

“This is all candy and no vegetables,” said Marc Goldwein, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Goldwein said he thinks a 25-percent to 28-percent corporate tax rate would strike a good balance between economic competitiveness and fiscal responsibility.

Economists have estimated that Trump’s tax plan could cost between $2 and $7 trillion over the next decade. An analysis by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., concludes that a 15 percent corporate tax rate would reduce federal revenue by about $2 trillion over a decade, while the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center puts that estimate at $6 trillion. The bi-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget offers a range of costs from between 3 and 7 trillion dollars in lost revenue over the next decade.

“This is probably not to be taken seriously. It’s too huge a revenue loss. It is so fiscally reckless that it appears to be willful sabotage of the U.S. economy,” said Daniel Shaviro, a tax professor at NYU Law School.

Economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, who leads the Congressional Budget Office under former President George W. Bush, agreed that the economic growth won't be enough to offset the massive loss of revenue.

“Passing genuine tax reform would include structural changes. As long as those are not included, it is not reform. This bill as presented would add to the deficit. Growth alone cannot account for the loss of revenue from tax cuts. This means it cannot pass the reconciliation process and will not be able to become law,” said Holtz-Eakin.

“There was no thoughtfulness to this. It’s just cutting tax rates and wishful thinking about economic growth," said Steven Rosenthal from the Tax Policy Center. “All they can came up with was one page of platitudes.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin argued that economic growth will pay for most of the massive tax cuts. "This will pay for itself with growth and with reduction of different deductions and closing loopholes," he said at the White House briefing today.

Some experts agree that the U.S. corporate tax rate needs to be lowered to make the American businesses climate more competitive. While the highest American corporate tax rate is 35 percent, the average effective corporate rate in the U.S. is 29 percent, the third highest in the G-20, said Goldwein.

While lower taxes can lead to higher growth, there’s also a “fiscal drag,” said Daniel Shaviro, a tax professor at Columbia Law School. “There’s crowd-out, because there’s so much public debt and that takes money from private investment and bids up interest rates.”

The experts also cautioned that lowering the tax rate for "pass-through entities" -- like sole proprietorships, partnerships, hedge funds and real estate concerns -- could cause troubling distortions and further inflate the deficit. The Trump administration has proposed dropping the tax rate for these businesses from up to 39.6 percent to just 15 percent.

“You could have partners in law firms and surgeons paying less than their secretaries,” said Shaviro. “Very wealthy people can set up phony structuring to make themselves ‘self-employed,’” he added. “It’s like a fine for being an employee -- the government is saying ‘we hate employees, so we’re punishing you for not working for yourself.’”

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Senators describe 'long and detailed' White House briefing on North Korea

eurobanks/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Several Senate Republicans described the full Senate briefing on North Korea at the White House Wednesday as a thorough accounting of the administration's diplomatic and military options when it comes to dealing with Kim Jong Un.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called it "a long and detailed briefing."

"The military is obviously planning for a number of options, as they should -- minimal military action to more significant action," Cruz said. "It's of course the hope of the administration and Congress that military action isn't necessary. If there's a clear and imminent threat to the U.S., our military needs to be prepared to act and I believe they are prepared to act to keep our country safe."

The senators were invited at the personal invitation of President Donald Trump after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, requested a briefing. The president stopped by the briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.

Gardner said that one takeaway from the meeting was that "we are a long ways away from exercising all of our options on the diplomatic side."

"There were great questions within the briefing from both sides of the aisles," Gardener said. "It shows how important this issue is, to have that team assembled to talk about this and make sure North Korea knows they won't get away with this."

Separately, a senior administration official told ABC News that part of the current concern about North Korea comes from China's view of North Korea as a threat.

"I think what's different about how China is viewing the problem in North Korea today is that China is viewing that problem as the threat not only to U.S. interests and security or South Korean or Japanese interests and security, but also a threat to Chinese interests and security and so I think that is a big shift in and of itself," the senior administration official told ABC News.

White House officials say the South Auditorium would be turned into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or "SCIF," and the briefing will be led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats.

When asked about the bus ride to the White House ground for the meeting, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, said it was "a unique approach to a classified briefing."

Using the White House grounds for a full briefing with the Senate is a rare move, but administration officials told ABC News that too much shouldn't be read into the choice of location.

Officials said that after hearing of McConnell's request, the president suggested nonchalantly that the senators should come to the White House because he's a "gracious host." Trump has cultivated a reputation in his meetings at the White House for relishing the opportunity to show off his historic digs.

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US commander suggests missile defense in Hawaii amid N. Korea threat

3DSculptor/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- North Korea's ballistic missile threats towards the United States may one day match its rhetoric, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific told a Congressional panel, and to ensure defenses are at their best, he suggested placing ground-based missile interceptors in Hawaii.

Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), also told the House Armed Services Committee that he is "encouraged" by China's recent efforts to influence North Korean behavior and he believes that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "has noticed a change is afoot with regard to China."

Harris called defending the U.S. homeland his "top priority."

In light of that, he said, "I must assume that the Kim Jong Un's nuclear claims are true, I know his aspirations certainly are."

Harris noted "a mismatch” between North Korea's long range missile and nuclear capabilities and Kim Jong Un's threatening rhetoric towards other countries in the region and the United States.

"I can’t read his mind, all I can do is understand what he says," he added.

"With every test, Kim Jong Un moves closer to his stated goal of a preemptive nuclear strike capability against American cities and he's not afraid to fail in public," said Harris.

Over the past year North Korea's missile program has apparently progressed, despite some spectacular launch failures involving intermediate range mobile launched missiles.

While ground-based missile interceptors at U.S. bases in Alaska and California provide enough coverage to defend the U.S. mainland from a potential North Korean missile strike, Harris believes they might not be enough to fully defend Hawaii in the future.

The PACOM commander told the committee that North Korea is "clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today."

"I believe that our ballistic missile architecture is sufficient to protect Hawaii today, but it can be overwhelmed," Harris said. "Somewhere, we would have to make a decision about which missiles to take out and that's a hard decision."

"I have suggested that we consider putting interceptors in Hawaii that defend Hawaii directly," he said. "We need more interceptors."

More defensive radars would also be necessary for the state, Harris said.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea will be operational "in the coming days," he told the committee. Components for the system arrived in South Korea in early March and on Tuesday they were deployed.

The system's deployment is controversial in South Korea, where it has become an issue in the upcoming presidential elections.

The deployment has also drawn major criticism from China that sees the anti-missile system's long-range radar capability being used to track China's own missile systems.

Despite the friction with China over THAAD, Harris has been "encouraged" by China's recent contacts with North Korea to try to influence its behavior.

"China is doing things," he noted without providing details.

"I think we're in a good place," said Harris. "I'm reasonably optimistic now that China is having an influence and they're working in the right direction with regards to North Korea thanks to the efforts by our president and theirs."

"We’ll just have to see how this goes," Harris said. "I’m encouraged and I believe KJU (Kim Jong Un) has noticed a change is afoot with regard to China.”

Harris pointed out that China can use its economic leverage with North Korea since 80 percent of the North Korean economy is based on interactions with China. "I believe that’s a significant lever China could employ against North Korea," he said.

Harris also took responsibility for the mixed messaging over the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson’s announced deployment to the Korean peninsula earlier this month.

"That’s my fault on the confusion, and I’ll take the hit for it," said Harris. "I made the decision to pull the Carl Vinson out of Singapore, truncate the exercise that it was going to do south of Singapore, cancel its port visit to Australia and then proceed north."

A Navy press release issued on April 8 seemed to indicate that the aircraft carrier would be sent north to the Korean peninsula after a port visit to Singapore. But in fact the carrier and other supporting ships did not head north until almost 10 days later after it completed a scheduled exercise with the Australian Navy.

"Where I failed, was to communicate that adequately to the press and media," Harris told the Committee. "So that is all on me."

"But we’ve done exactly that," said Harris, adding that the carrier is east of Okinawa, Japan, in the Philippine Sea, "in striking range, in power-projection range of North Korea if called upon to that." He said the carrier is expected to move north in a few days.

Harris also called the guided missile submarine USS Michigan's port visit to Busan, South Korea a "show of solidarity" with that country -- as well as a "show of force" should North Korea consider aggression against South Korea.

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White House unveils tax plan touting 'massive' cuts

Ingram Publishing/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House unveiled a sweeping new tax reform plan on Wednesday that calls for dramatic cuts in federal taxes for businesses and simplifying rules for individuals.

The blueprint would slash corporate taxes down to 15 percent for both large and small businesses, as well as consolidate categories for individual tax rules, lowering the top bracket from nearly 40 percent down to 35 percent.

Experts interviewed by ABC News largely agreed that high corporate taxes hurt businesses in the United States from competing around the world, but they say the drastic tax cuts proposed by Trump would create a significant reduction in federal revenue, and the broad brushstrokes of the new White House plan lack the necessary detail on the issue's more complex and controversial questions.

Gary Cohn, White House Chief Economic Adviser, said the plan marks "one of the biggest tax cuts" in U.S. history. "We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something really big," he said in the White House press briefing.

"Under the Trump plan, we will have a massive tax cut for businesses," said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, echoing the Trump campaign's promise to slash the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. The current federal corporate tax rate ranges from 15 percent to 35 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The new plan would consolidate three tax brackets for individuals -- 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. It also doubles the standard deduction, meaning that a married couple would pay no taxes on the first $24,000 they earn. The current individual tax system has seven brackets, spiking at a rate just shy of 40 percent.

The wide-ranging tax reform blueprint, distributed to reporters on just one page, contains many of the same ideas that Trump campaigned on during the 2016 election, but does not include many intricate details of the plan needed to make accurate budget projections, experts say.

Critics of the plan say it will cause a problematic loss in revenue for the federal government. One independent analysis by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center found that the plan could result in a $6 trillion shortfall over the next decade, which experts say would add to the deficit and national debt.

And the plan faces an uphill climb in Congress, where Republicans must win some Democratic cooperation to bring the plan to a vote in the U.S. Senate. A statement from Republican leaders in Congress said Trump's plan will "serve as critical guideposts from Congress and the Administration as we work together" on a tax reform package.

Still, the White House maintains that the economic growth resulting from the tax cuts will make up for the lost dollars. "This will pay for itself with growth and with reduction of different deductions and closing loopholes," said Mnuchin.

Marc Short, the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, said the Trump administration was "not looking to propose a tax system that ends up adding to deficit."

"Our expectation is that with the growth we create and the elimination of many deductions that we will make it revenue neutral," he told ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast.

The plan also repeals the alternative minimum tax, which affects high-income Americans who take lots of deductions. Tax returns from 2005 showed Trump paid most of his taxes that year because of the AMT.

The blueprint would eliminate all personal tax deductions other than for mortgages and charitable giving. It would also eliminate the estate tax, known by critics as the "death tax."

Administration officials are calling this a "first draft" -- an outline of priorities and principles. In the final hours leading up to its release, some key parts were still a work in progress.

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Trump has 'no intention' of releasing tax returns, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says

Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump has "no intention" of releasing his tax returns, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Wednesday.

"The president has no intention. The president has released plenty of information and I think it's given more financial disclosure than anybody else and the population has plenty of information,” Mnuchin said when pressed by ABC News' Jonathan Karl at a White House briefing on whether the U.S. public has the right to know what's in Trump’s tax returns.

Asked a follow-up question by ABC News' Cecilia Vega citing the president's 2005 tax returns, Mnuchin brushed off her query and ended the briefing.

"What this is about is creating jobs and creating economic growth," he said amid the unveiling of the White House's sweeping new tax overhaul plan. "And that's what massive tax cuts and massive tax reform in simplifying the system is what we're going to do."

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Congresswomen meet to discuss missing women of color

SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following last month's spike in social media awareness around potential missing teens in the nation's capital, Congresswomen and law enforcement representatives convened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to discuss better ways to help the thousands of missing children and women of color across the nation.

While D.C. Police Youth and Family Services Commander Chanel Dickerson clarified that the social media rumors of an increase in missing D.C. teens are untrue, she made it clear that even one missing teen is too much.

"Actually it's a decrease. But when we talk about numbers, I'm not trying to minimize when I say there's not an up-tick or there's been a decrease," ABC News affiliate WJLA reported Dickerson saying. "It's just that we wanted to be transparent and input it out so everyone can see."

According to local police data, the number of missing child cases in D.C. dropped from 2,433 in 2015 to 2,242 in 2016. However, last month's increased social media attention around the issue drew eyes to the nation's capital, which is currently about 50 percent black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

During a press conference, Dickerson said that, although D.C. has investigated more than 19,000 missing person cases in the last five years, only 16 of those cases remain open.

"But one person missing in the District of Columbia is one person too many," she said, according to WJLA.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., and Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., plan to continue the "one person too many" conversation with a panel that will bring together members of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, law enforcement representatives, educators, representatives from historically black colleges and other community leaders.

During the event, leaders plan to discuss some of the elements that may contribute to this issue, including economic disadvantages, the disparate treatment of missing black women and girls by police and the lack of public awareness around the missing individuals.

According to the Black and Missing Foundation, an organization that raises awareness about missing black people nationwide, 37 percent of missing people in the United States are minorities.

Derrica Wilson, CEO and co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, told ABC News, "We all know that Black and Latinos, or any person of color, who go missing oftentimes do not receive the much needed media coverage, which could drastically increase the odds of their safe recovery."

The convening this afternoon will include two panels focused on fact-finding and best practices to advise lawmakers on proposals designed to help reconcile the disparity of attention.

The conversation will be held at the Library of Congress, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST, and will be live streamed on the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls' Facebook page.

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House Freedom Caucus backs amended GOP health care bill

tupungato/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The conservative House Freedom Caucus, which stymied recent efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare last month, announced Wednesday that it is backing the GOP health care bill with the inclusion of the MacArthur Amendment.

"Due to improvements to the AHCA and the addition of Rep. Tom MacArthur’s proposed amendment, the House Freedom Caucus has taken an official position in support of the current proposal," a statement from the group read.

"While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs. We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill."

While the group's support for the AHCA marks a significant development, it doesn't necessarily guarantee there are enough votes to pass the measure just yet.

The announcement also doesn’t mean that every member of the caucus of roughly 40 House Republicans will back the bill. The larger group isn't bound by the official position, but only a handful of no votes are expected.

One loyal Freedom Caucus member, who was one of the first Republicans against the GOP health care bill, told ABC News today he's undecided.

"I’m struggling with compromising on a position that still leaves Americans in a bad position, versus the risk of not doing anything that leaves Obamacare in place and Americans in a worse position," Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, told ABC News today.

The White House isn't taking no for an answer: Rep. Brooks said he's spoken with Vice President Mike Pence twice over the phone today, and during one of their conversations, handed the phone to President Trump.

Even if all House Freedom Caucus members are on board, GOP leaders will still need to the support from moderate Republicans.

Many say they are still reviewing the amendment, and several centrist Republicans who opposed the initial bill have indicated they don't support the new amendment.

Some moderates who previously planned to vote yes on the initial bill - including Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado - now say they are undecided.

When asked if the MacArthur amendment will get Republicans to 216 votes it needs to pass the AHCA bill, Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We think it's very constructive.”

“I think it helps us get to consensus,” Ryan said during a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Ryan also said he would hold a vote on health care “when we get the votes.”

In March, Republicans failed to garner enough support in March for its health care reform plan, the American Health Care Act. Divisions among House Republicans resulted in Speaker Ryan pulling the AHCA from the House floor moments before a vote.

Following the first big blow to his legislative agenda, President Trump attacked the House Freedom Caucus and some of its individual members on Twitter, writing that the group would “hurt the entire Republican agenda.”

The MacArthur amendment, proposed by moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., will make essential health benefits — requiring plans to cover things like prescription drugs or maternity care - the federal standard but offer limited waivers to states that want to handle things differently and can prove that their approach will lower the cost of health care or increase coverage.

So long as states can create and fund a high-risk coverage pool for affected consumers, they can apply for limited waivers from the community rating provision of the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

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Trump suggests he'll take 'sanctuary cities' case to Supreme Court

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After previous setbacks to his immigration agenda, President Trump on Wednesday criticized a federal judge's ruling Tuesday that the commander-in-chief cannot retaliate against so-called sanctuary cities by withholding funds, suggesting he'll take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"First the Ninth Circuit rules against the [travel] ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, referring to his revised travel ban executive order that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked last month.

Trump added, "See you in the Supreme Court!"

Tuesday’s ruling from Judge William Orrick blocks part of Trump's executive order on immigration enforcement he signed in January that called for "jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law."

Despite Trump’s pointing to the 9th Circuit, Judge Orrick actually sits on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, from which cases are appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

San Francisco and Santa Clara County had filed the lawsuit, arguing billions of dollars in funding are at risk.

Most sanctuary cities -- which include New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle -- provide some protections to undocumented immigrants by not fully cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

"Out of our very big country, with many choices, does everyone notice that both the 'ban' case and now the 'sanctuary' case is brought in the Ninth Circuit, which has a terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%)," Trump wrote over two tweets.

"They used to call this 'judge shopping!' Messy system," Trump said, referring to the common practice of filing several of the same lawsuits in hopes of getting a sympathetic judge.

Trump's tweets echo the White House statement released Tuesday night after the judge's ruling.

"Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping," the statement read. "But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States."

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus Tuesday night had also called the ruling "an example of the 9th Circuit going bananas."

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Trump invites full Senate to White House for special briefing on North Korea

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The full Senate is set to make a "field trip" to the White House Wednesday afternoon for a security briefing on the North Korean threat.

The senators were invited at the personal invitation of President Donald Trump after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., requested a briefing. The president is scheduled to "stop by" the briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.

White House officials say the South Auditorium will be turned into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or "SCIF," and the briefing will be led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats.

Using the White House grounds for a full briefing with the Senate is a rare move, but administration officials told ABC News that too much shouldn't be read into the choice of location.

Officials said that after hearing of McConnell's request, the president suggested nonchalantly that the senators should come to the White House because he's a "gracious host." Trump has cultivated a reputation in his meetings at the White House for relishing the opportunity to show off his historic digs.

Separately, the optics of inviting the full Senate to meet at the White House in advance of the president's 100-day marker are not being ignored.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., discussed the North Korea briefing during a dinner Monday evening at the White House with Trump, was asked on Capitol Hill whether the off-campus trip seemed normal.

"It’s not a normal administration," McCain replied.

Graham said he expects senators will get a chance to hear the Trump administration's stance on countering North Korea's latest aggressive moves.

“It's clear to me that this president will not allow North Korea to develop an [intercontinental ballistic missile] with a nuclear weapon on top to hit America," Graham told Fox News Tuesday. "And I think the senators are gonna hear that tomorrow night, and I hope the senators will understand if nothing changes, Kim Jong-un will have that capability relatively soon.”

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