Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Donald Trump makes news about NATO, and not in a good way

Washington Post:

Trump says he’d disregard NATO treaty, urge Russian attacks on U.S. allies

GOP front-runner said he encouraged Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to member countries he views as not spending enough on own defense.

“NATO isn’t a pay to play set up, as Trump seems to think. It’s an Alliance that is first and foremost about US national security interests to prevent another world war originating in Europe,” said Alina Polyakova, president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis, in an email to The Post. “The US investment in NATO is worth every dollar – the only time that the article 5 collective defense clause was initiated was in response to 9/11. Our Allies came to our aid then, and it would be shameful and misguided to not do the same.”

Tom Nichols/The Atlantic:

Trump Encourages Putin to Attack NATO Members

At a rally on Saturday, the former president announced he would tell the Russians “to do whatever the hell they want” to states delinquent in their bills.

But leave aside (if we must) Trump’s record as a serial liar who lives in a world of his own fantasies. Trump’s comments today are a lot more dangerous than most of his unsettling puffery, and Americans should refuse to let this statement pass as if it were just another distasteful lump in the rancid stew Trump regularly serves up to his faithful.

Instead, we should concentrate on the more terrifying problem, a reality that exists independent of Trump’s imaginary “sir” conversations: The leader of one of America’s two major political parties has just signaled to the Kremlin that if elected, he would not only refuse to defend Europe, but he would gladly support Vladimir Putin during World War III and even encourage him to do as he pleases to America’s allies.


New York Times:

Favoring Foes Over Friends, Trump Threatens to Upend International Order

Former President Donald J. Trump suggested that he would incite Russia to attack “delinquent” U.S. allies, foreshadowing potentially far-reaching changes in the world order if he wins the White House again.

Mr. Trump has never believed in the fundamental one-for-all-and-all-for-one concept of the Atlantic alliance. Indeed, he spent much of his four-year presidency undermining it while strong-arming members into keeping their commitments to spend more on their own militaries with the threat that he would not come to their aid otherwise.

But he took it to a whole new level over the weekend, declaring at a rally in South Carolina that not only would he not defend European countries he deemed to be in arrears from an attack by Russia, he would go so far as to “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” against them. Never before has a president of the United States — even a former one aspiring to reclaim the office — suggested that he would incite an enemy to attack American allies.

Andrew Weissmann and Robert Goodman/Just Security:

The Real “Robert Hur Report” (Versus What You Read in the News)

How the Special Counsel report has been misinterpreted

To clarify thinking about this topic, let’s consider another way Hur could have represented his actual findings on page 1 of his executive summary:

“We have concluded that there is not a prosecutable case against Biden. Although there was a basis to open the investigation based on the fact that classified documents were found in Biden’s homes and office space, that is insufficient to establish a crime was committed. The illegal retention or dissemination of national defense information requires that he knew of the existence of such documents and that he knew they contained national defense information. It is not a crime without those additional elements. Our investigation, after a thorough year-long review, concludes that there is an absence of such necessary proof. Indeed, we have found a number of innocent explanations as to which we found no contrary evidence to refute them and found affirmative evidence in support of them.”

Below we first identify the relevant contents of the Hur report. We then provide a sampling of the erroneous press pronouncements.

Cloture was invoked on the Ukraine/Foreign Aid package Sunday afternoon (60 votes needed). From POLITICO:

GOP senators defy Trump by advancing foreign aid bill

The vote was a decisive 67-27.

“From this point forward, are you listening U.S. Senate (?),” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “No money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway.”

Trump had helped tank the bipartisan border-foreign aid bill, calling for Republicans to block that legislation as well. This time, many GOP senators didn’t seem concerned with his opposition.

Molly Jong-Fast/MSNBC:

Robert Hur took a page from the James Comey playbook — and made it worse

A Republican special counsel puts his finger on the scale once again.

Hur’s report was a partisan hit job, but it didn’t matter, as former Obama chief of staff Jim Messina tweeted: “Let’s be clear — the special counsel isn’t a dummy and we should be very careful not to take the bait after Comey pulled this in 2016. Hur, a lifelong Republican and creature of DC, didn’t have a case against Biden, but he knew exactly how his swipes could hurt Biden politically.”


Another story which should get more play than the Hur report, from Ron Brownstein/The Atlantic:

Trump’s ‘Knock on the Door’

The former president and his aides are formulating plans to deport millions of migrants.

Cumulatively these clashes demonstrate how much the terms of debate over immigration have moved to the right during President Joe Biden’s time in office. But even amid that overall shift, Trump is publicly discussing immigration plans for a second presidential term that could quickly become much more politically divisive than even anything separating the parties now.

Trump has repeatedly promised that, if reelected, he will pursue “the Largest Domestic Deportation Operation in History,” as he put it last month on social media. Inherently, such an effort would be politically explosive. That’s because any mass-deportation program would naturally focus on the largely minority areas of big Democratic-leaning cities where many undocumented immigrants have settled, such as Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, New York, and Phoenix.

“What this means is that the communities that are heavily Hispanic or Black, those marginalized communities are going to be living in absolute fear of a knock on the door, whether or not they are themselves undocumented,” David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told me. “What he’s describing is a terrifying police state, the pretext of which is immigration.”


Ryan Lizza/POLITICO Magazine:

‘No One Is in Charge Over There Right Now’: A Top Senate Dem on the GOP’s Border Meltdown

Sen. Chris Murphy helped negotiate a sweeping bipartisan border bill. Then he watched it fall apart.

Sen. Chris Murphy spent months negotiating a bipartisan border security bill with Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and the White House. Then, in a flash last Sunday, hours after the bill was released, Republicans sabotaged the effort.

Before the Connecticut Democrat went to sleep that night, he knew the legislation was dead. “They’re going to burn this bill down by the time we get up tomorrow morning, aren’t they?” Murphy texted Sinema.

I sat down with Murphy in his Capitol office this week to discuss the saga of the border deal for the latest episode of Playbook Deep Dive.

During our conversation, Murphy shared the inside story of the construction of the bill — from Lankford’s scrupulous attention to detail (“If you negotiate with James Lankford, you are negotiating text, not [just] ideas”) to Sinema’s role as mediator (She “is trying to figure out a way to get the two of us on the same page”) to the intense pain he experienced when the whole thing collapsed at the urging of Donald Trump.

Murphy also explained why Biden changed his views on immigration policy and why the president’s position is often misunderstood. And he discussed whether his high-profile role negotiating the border deal was an audition for higher office.


Roll Call:

House GOP had lowest win rate on ‘party unity’ votes since 1982 Vote Studies annual tally finds minority Democrats won nearly one-third of divided votes

House Republicans last year were the least unified party bloc on legislation in more than four decades, CQ Roll Call’s annual Vote Studies analysis of congressional data found.

And that’s the case even without the multiple ballots it took to pick a speaker at two different points in the year, though those fights were certainly symptomatic.

The data show Republicans had only a 63.7 percent success rate on “party unity votes” or roll calls on bills, amendments and resolutions in which majorities of the two parties were on opposite sides of roll call votes. The metric ignores votes where both parties were overwhelmingly for or against a bill to identify cases where a member’s vote had the most potential to tip the scales one way or another.

The last time a majority party lost more unity votes was when Democrats presided in 1982, the second year of President Ronald Reagan’s first term, and prevailed just 63.5 percent of the time.


Cliff Schecter:


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