Trump Vetoes Defense Bill Over Section 230, Calls It 'Gift to China and Russia'

President Donald Trump vetoed the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Wednesday, priming both chambers of Congress to return after Christmas to vote to override his move.

This is the first time Trump has vetoed the annual defense policy legislation since taking office, and Wednesday was the last day he had to reject it before it became law without his signature.

The president indicated he was unhappy with the bill's details. He said he was returning it without his approval because it was a "gift" to Russia and China since it failed to include "critical" national security measures and was contrary to his administration's efforts to put America first.

"Your failure to terminate the very dangerous national security risk of Section 230 will make our intelligence virtually impossible to conduct without everyone knowing what we are doing at every step," Trump said in a message to the House of Representatives.

Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act shields social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook, from liability for what their users post. Trump has advocated repealing the law and said the failure to implement any "meaningful changes" to it "facilitates the spread of foreign disinformation online."

The NDAA does not contain any repeal measures for the act, despite Trump's repeated calls to Congress to include that.

donald trump veto defense section 230
President Donald Trump during a ceremony presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to wrestler Dan Gable on December 7. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

Trump also took issue with how the NDAA addressed renaming certain military installations. As part of the bill, 10 Army bases that honor Confederate generals would be renamed within three years. They include Camp Beauregard and Forts Polk, Benning, Gordon, Bragg, A.P. Hill, Lee, Pickett, Rucker and Hood.

"From these facilities, we have won two world wars," Trump said. "I have been clear in my opposition to politically motivated attempts like this to wash away history and to dishonor the immense progress our country has fought for in realizing our founding principles."

The House will return on December 28 for an override vote on Trump's veto, followed by the Senate on December 29. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had hoped Trump wouldn't veto the bill. On Monday, he said on the Senate floor that his intention "was and is to ensure the Senate continues fulfilling our obligation to the men and women of our armed forces."

To pass the bill over the president's objections, a two-thirds majority vote is needed in each chamber of Congress. Some legislators, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican who voted in favor of the bill, said they would not support overriding Trump's veto.

Lawmakers have until January 3 to pass the defense bill before the new Congress takes over. Otherwise, legislators will have to start from scratch on a new bill. If a veto override is unsuccessful, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith told Politico, the only other option is to try to pass the exact same measure after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office on January 20.