Trump and Macron Spar at NATO Summit
- At the NATO summit in London, President Donald Trump criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for previously saying NATO was experiencing “brain death” due to the lack of U.S. commitment under Trump.
- While condemning Macron, Trump defended NATO, a sharp reversal from previous stances taken by the president.
- Later, Macron and Trump sparred over the Turkish incursion in Syria and Turkey’s relationship with NATO.
- U.S.-French relations have experienced recent strains. The meeting between the two leaders follows an announcement made by the U.S. the day before saying it was considering levying tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of French goods.
Trump Condemns Macron Remarks
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron publicly sparred during a meeting on the first day of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit Tuesday.
Speaking during a press event with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier in the day, Trump condemned a remark made by the French leader in an interview last month.
In that interview, Macron said that NATO was experiencing “brain death” because America’s commitment to the organization has been called into question under Trump.
“NATO serves a great purpose,” Trump said, responding to a question about Macron’s statement. “And I hear that President Macron said NATO is ‘brain dead.’ I think that’s very insulting to a lot of different forces.”
“When you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to 28 — including them — 28 countries,” the president continued, referring to the NATO member-states, which number 29.
“They’ve had a very rough year and you just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful,” he added.
Trump’s defense of NATO came was a surprising reversal from his previous stance on the intergovernmental military alliance, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Trump has a long history of being critical of NATO. He has argued that the U.S. is being treated unfairly by other NATO members because they do not spend as much money on their militaries as the U.S. does.
NATO members are required to spend at least 2% of their GDP on their own national defense. Trump has claimed that many members are not meeting that goal.
Trump also repeatedly called NATO “obsolete” while on the campaign trail, though he later backtracked on those comments once he was elected. And there have been multiple reports that Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO altogether.
Even before Trump’s comments, experts and leaders were anticipating tensions and possibly even conflict between Trump and Macron at the summit.
The two leaders, who in the past have had a strong relationship, have recently seen strained ties.
On Monday, just one day before the summit began, the U.S. threatened to put new tariffs on $2.4 billion in French products including wine, cheese, and yogurt.
Trump’s chief trade negotiator said the tariffs would be in response to a French digital services tax that the U.S. believes discriminates against American internet companies.
During the press conference with Stoltenberg, Trump indicated that the U.S. was moving forward with the tariffs.
“They’re starting to tax other people’s products so therefore we’re going to tax them,” the president said. “That’s just taking place right now on technology and we’re doing their wines and everything else.”
However, shortly after, Trump sat down for his meeting Macron, where he emphasized the positive trade relations between France and the U.S. in his opening remarks.
“We do a lot of trade with France,” Trump said. “We have a minor dispute I think we’ll probably be able to work it out. But we have a big trade relationship and I’m sure that in a very short period of time, things will be looking very rosy.”
Trump also went on to say that some NATO members were not paying enough in defense spending, but that the organization has gotten a lot more flexible since he assumed office.
Macron for his part defended his earlier statements about NATO being “brain dead,” and said he stood by it.
The Turkey Situation
The conversation started to escalate when the two leaders began to discuss ISIS and the situation with Syria and Turkey.
Trump and his administration have frequently claimed that ISIS has been defeated in Syria.
This claim, which has largely been debunked, was a big part of the justification for Trump’s decision to remove troops from Northern Syria and step aside to let Turkey launch a military operation to clear Syrian Kurdish groups at the border.
Turkey considers those groups to be terrorists, but the U.S. and many other NATO members consider them key allies who have fought alongside the U.S. to combat ISIS in the region.
The Turkey question also appeared to be a point of conflict between Trump and Macron.
Trump claimed that most of the captured ISIS fighters in Syria were from Europe. Macron responded by contradicting Trump, and pointing out that only a small amount of captured fighters were European.
The French leader also condemned Turkey for fighting against the Kurds and said the situation today has lead to more ISIS fighters in the region and that getting rid of ISIS was the number one priority.
Trump responded by saying that Macron’s response “was one of the greatest non-answers I’ve ever heard.”
Macron hit back by saying that it is not Europe’s responsibility, and added that “any ambiguity with Turkey vis a vis these groups is detrimental to the situation on the ground.”
Still, Trump emphasized his strong relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a move many experts argue will cause even more divisions within NATO.
Erdogan is already in hot water with the alliance over the Turkish incursion in Syria, as well as the fact that Turkey recently purchased an antiaircraft missile system from Russia, which goes against NATO commitments not to buy Russian systems.
Despite the tension between NATO and Turkey, Erdogan has already asked NATO members at the summit to recognize the Syrian Kurdish Forces as a terrorist group.
The Turkish leader also threatened to oppose NATO’s plans to update the defense of member states like Poland and other Baltic countries if the organization does not agree to his demands.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Axios) (Reuters)
White House Endorses Bipartisan Senate Bill That Could Ban TikTok
The measure does not target TikTok specifically but instead would set up a framework to crack down on foreign products and services that present a national security threat.
The RESTRICT Act
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow the federal government to restrict or even outright ban TikTok and other technologies produced by foreign companies.
Under the legislation, dubbed the RESTRICT Act, the Commerce Department would have sweeping authority to identify and regulate technologies that pose a risk to national security and are produced by companies in six “foreign adversary” countries: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.
In other words, the proposal would not explicitly ban TikTok, but instead creates a path for future prohibitions on the Chinese-owned platform.
While the bill’s text does not specifically mention TikTok, the group of senators made it clear that the app is their number one target, directing most of their criticism to the platform in statements announcing the measure.
The legislation, however, would go way beyond TikTik: it is also designed to prepare for future situations where apps or technologies from an “adversary” country become popular in the U.S.
The bill’s Democratic sponsor, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Ma.), echoed that point in his remarks Tuesday.
“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S.,” he said. “Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices.”
“We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”
Proponents of the bill also hope that, given the broad scope of the legislation, it will gain more traction than past proposals that zeroed in on TikTok. Support for the measure was further bolstered when the White House announced it would back the move shortly after it was rolled out.
“This bill presents a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “We look forward to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the President’s desk.”
A Bumpy Road Ahead
Despite the bipartisan push, there are still some hurdles for the RESTRICT Act to overcome.
Although the legislation does not directly ban TikTok, because that is clearly its intent, the same issues with an outright prohibition still stand. One of the most serious concerns is that banning TikTok would violate the First Amendment.
There is past precedent on this front: in 2020, a federal magistrate judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple and Google to take the Chinese-owned app WeChat off their app stores.
In that decision, the judge argued that the government only had “modest” evidence about the app’s risks and that removing it from app stores would “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security.”
TikTok has emulated that argument. In a statement responding to the RESTRICT Act Tuesday, a spokesperson for the company said the legislation could “have the effect of censoring millions of Americans.”
Meanwhile, even if the act does pass, there is also the question of whether the Biden administration would decide on a full-scale ban.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would be the one responsible for overseeing the process under the bill, and while she said she said in a statement that she “welcomed” the proposal and promised to work with Congress to pass it, she has also previously expressed hesitation for a full prohibition.
On the other end of the equation, there are concerns that this measure will not ultimately get enough bipartisan support from Republicans who do want an outright ban and will refuse to accept anything that falls short of that.
While speaking with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said the new plan did not go far enough and argued that Congress “should pass a bill that bans TikTok.”
Even if the legislation does get enough support in the Senate, its path is unclear in the GOP-held House, where it also does not yet have a companion bill. Republicans in the House recently introduced a measure that would give the president the power to unilaterally ban TikTok in the U.S.
That proposal, however, is not bipartisan like the RESTRICT Act, which will be a key test to see if legislators can find a middle ground on the matter.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (NBC News)
What You Need to Know About Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Race — The Most Important Election in 2023
Gerrymandering, abortion, the 2024 presidential election, and much more are on the line.
An election to fill an empty seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that has been described as the most consequential race of 2023 has now been narrowed to two candidates after the primary Tuesday.
Liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz easily took first place, winning 46.4% of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. In second place with 24.2% was conservative Daniel Kelly, a former Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice who was appointed by the state’s then-Republican governor in 2016 but lost his re-election in 2020.
Notably, the wide discrepancy in votes can be explained by the fact that Kelly split Republican ballots with another conservative candidate who came in a close third with 21.9%. As such, the general election is expected to be tight.
Also of note, this race is technically supposed to be non-partisan, but Protasiewicz has closely aligned herself with Democrats and Kelly has done the same with Republicans. Both parties, as well as dark money groups, have poured millions of dollars into the high-stakes election that will determine whether liberals or conservatives will have a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court at an incredibly consequential time.
There are a number of paramount issues at play here that have widespread implications not just for Wisconsin but America at-large.
Gerrymandering and Elections
Wisconsin is one of the most important swing states in the country: it helped decide the outcomes of both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and it is the center of debates on gerrymandering and free and fair elections that have played a role in those races.
The state Supreme Court, which has had a conservative majority for the last 14 years, has been instrumental in shaping those policies, having weighed in on many of the most crucial topics and almost always siding with Republicans.
For example, in what VICE described as “arguably the most important decision the court made in recent years,” the court ruled 4-3 last year to uphold one of America’s most gerrymandered maps that gave Republicans a massive advantage.
“The maps are so gerrymandered that Republicans hold six of Wisconsin’s eight House seats and nearly two-thirds of legislative seats in the state—even though Democrats won most statewide races last year,” the outlet reported.
That ruling created something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the conservative majority court has decided so many critical topics because the state government is deadlocked with a Republican majority in the legislature and a Democratic governor.
So, by approving a map that massively favored Republicans, the conservative court kept that system in place, ensuring that they would continue to have the final say on so many of these essential areas.
However, if Protasiewicz wins the general election, the court is all but certain to revisit the gerrymandered map. Protasiewicz, for her part, explicitly stated in a recent interview that a liberal majority could establish new election maps. Kelly, meanwhile, has said he has no interest in revisiting the maps.
A decision unfavorable to the GOP-drawn maps would have significant implications for the internal politics of Wisconsin and control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans currently hold a very slim five-seat majority.
To that point, the Wisconsin Supreme Court also plays a big role in how the state’s elections are administered and how its ten Electoral College votes will be doled out in the 2024 presidential election.
Last year, the conservative court banned absentee ballot drop boxes, and in 2014, it upheld a GOP voter ID law that studies have shown suppressed Black voters. While the court did vote against considering former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to try and overturn the 2020 election in Wisconsin, it only did so by a thin margin of 4-3.
The court will very likely be tasked with wading into elections-related cases in the coming years. Already, it is anticipated that the justice will hear a lawsuit by a conservative group aiming to further limit voting access by banning mobile and alternate voting facilities.
Abortion and Other Important Statewide Subjects
In addition to the ramifications for America broadly, there are also plenty of paramount issues concerning the state Supreme Court that will materially impact the people of Wisconsin.
Much of the race has been centered heavily on the topic of abortion and reproductive rights because the composition of the court will almost positively determine whether or not abortion will be legal for the state’s six million residents.
Following the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade, an 1849 Wisconsin law banning abortion went back into effect. Currently, a lawsuit against the ban is winding its way through the court system, and it is all but assured that battle will eventually go before Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
Experts and analysts say that if Kelly wins, it is essentially guaranteed that abortion will remain illegal in almost all cases. Protasiewicz, by contrast, has campaigned extensively on abortion rights and vocally supported the right to choose.
Beyond that, there are also several other major issues the court will likely rule on in the coming years. For example, Protasiewicz has also said she believes a liberal majority could reverse a 12-year-old law that basically eliminated collective bargaining for public workers. All of that is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Everything is at stake, and I mean everything: Women’s reproductive rights, the maps, drop boxes, safe communities, clean water,” Protasiewicz told VICE. “Everything is on the line.”
See what others are saying: (VICE) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)
Republicans Want to Cut Food Stamps — Even As Pandemic-Era Programs Wind Down
Experts say cuts to food stamps could have a devastating impact on the 41 million Americans who rely on the program.
GOP Weighs SNAP Cuts in Budget
In recent weeks, top Republican lawmakers have floated several different ideas for cutting food stamp benefits.
Earlier this month, Republicans now leading the House Budget Committee flagged food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP — as one of the ten areas they would support cuts to in their new budget proposal.
In a memo, the panel argued that stricter work requirements would “save tens of billions,” while a more rigid verification process for applicants would limit waste, fraud, and abuse. The idea comes as part of a broader effort to reduce the federal deficit.
Experts, however, say the proposed changes could result in debilitating cuts for the 41 million Americans who rely on food stamps and exacerbate an ongoing hunger crisis at a time when inflation has sent food prices rising.
SNAP provides low-income households with an average of around $230 a month for groceries. For many of those families who are also the most impacted by inflationary price increases across the board, that money is absolutely essential.
Experts have also noted that any additional cuts to SNAP would be especially harmful because Republicans are still proposing new cuts despite the fact that Congress already agreed just two months ago to end a pandemic-era program that had increased benefits in some states.
Under the pandemic policies, SNAP was expanded so households could receive maximum benefits instead of benefits based on income testing while also giving bigger payouts to the lowest-income Americans.
That expansion is now set to expire in March, and according to the anti-hunger advocacy group the Food Research and Action Center, an estimated 16 million households will see their per-person benefits drop by around $82 a month.
The Farm Bill Debate
Even if Republicans do not end up cutting SNAP in the budget, the program may still be in hot water.
While raising the debt limit is at the forefront of ongoing partisan battles at the moment, there is already a fight shaping up over another essential piece of legislation: the farm bill.
The farm bill is a package that has to be updated and reauthorized every couple of years. One of the most important legislative tasks Congress is responsible for, the farm bill includes many important subsidies and programs that are imperative to America’s food systems, farms, and much more.
SNAP is among the nutrition-based programs that fall under the purview of the farm bill, and Republicans have already tossed around the idea of cutting food stamp benefits in their ongoing negotiations.
Those debates are quite forward-looking, though it is normal for such discussions to occur early during a year in which Congress is charged with passing the farm bill. Lawmakers have until Oct. 1 to either enact a new version or agree on some kind of extension.