Connect with us

Politics

Trump and Macron Spar at NATO Summit

Published

on

  • 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.

Trump-Macron Meeting

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)

Politics

McConnell Says He Would Block a Biden SCOTUS Nominee in 2024

Published

on

The Senate Minority Leader also refused to say whether or not he would block a hypothetical nominee in 2023 if his party overtakes the chamber’s slim majority in the midterm elections.


McConnell Doubles Down 

During an interview with conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to block a hypothetical Supreme Court nominee from President Joe Biden in 2024 if Republicans took control of the Senate.

“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled,” he said. “So I think it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election.” 

McConnell’s remarks do not come as a surprise as they are in line with his past refusal to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court in February 2016 on the grounds that it was too close to the presidential election.

The then-majority leader received a ton of backlash for his efforts, especially after he forced through Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation just eight days before the 2020 election. At the time, McConnell argued the two situations were different because the Senate and the president were from the same party — a claim he reiterated in the interview.

McConnell also implied he may take that stance even further in comments to Hewitt, who asked if he would block the appointment of a Supreme Court justice if a seat were to be vacated at the end of 2023 about 18 months before the next inauguration — a precedent set by the appointment of Anthony Kennedy.

“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell responded.

McConnell’s Calculus

Many Democrats immediately condemned McConnell’s remarks, including progressive leaders who renewed their calls to expand the court.

“Mitch McConnell is already foreshadowing that he’ll steal a 3rd Supreme Court seat if he gets the chance. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again. We need to expand the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Ma.).

Some also called on Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest SCOTUS judge, to retire.

“If Breyer refuses to retire, he’s not making some noble statement about the judiciary. He is saying he wants Mitch McConnell to handpick his replacement,” said Robert Cruickshank, campaign director for Demand Progress.

Others, however, argued that the response McConnell’s remarks elicited was exactly what he was hoping to see and said his timing was calculated.

The minority leader’s comments come as the calls for Breyer to step down have recently grown while the current Supreme Court term draws near, a time when justices often will announce their retirement.

On Sunday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was asked if she thought Breyer should leave the bench while Democrats still controlled the Senate. She responded that she was “inclined to say yes.”

With his latest public statement, McConnell’s aims are twofold here: he hopes to broaden divisions in the Democratic Party between progressives and more traditional liberals, who are more hesitant to rush Breyer to retire or expand the court, while simultaneously working to unite a fractured Republican base and encourage them to turn out in the midterm elections.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Hill)

Continue Reading

Politics

Gov. Abbott Says Texas Will Build Border Wall With Mexico

Published

on

The announcement follows months of growing tension between the Texas governor and President Biden over immigration policies.


Texas Border Wall 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced during a press conference Thursday that the state would build a border wall with Mexico, extending the signature campaign promise of former President Donald Trump.

Abbott provided very few details for the border wall plans, and it is unclear if he has the authority to build it.

While some of the land is state-owned, much of it belongs to the federal government or falls on private property.

Even if the state were able to build on federal ground, private landowners who fought the Trump administration’s attempts to take their land through eminent domain would still remain an obstacle for any renewed efforts.

During his term, Trump built over 450 miles of new wall, but most of it covered areas where deteriorating barriers already existed, and thus had previously been approved for the federal project.

The majority of the construction also took place in Arizona, meaning Abbott would have much ground to cover. It is also unclear how the governor plans to pay for the wall.

Trump had repeatedly said Mexico would fund the wall, but that promise remained unfulfilled, and the president instead redirected billions of taxpayer dollars from Defense Department reserves.

While Abbott did say he would announce more details about the wall next week, his plan was condemned as ill-planned by immigration activists, who also threatened legal challenges.

“There is no substantive plan,” said Edna Yang, the co-executive director of the Texas-based immigration legal aid and advocacy group American Gateways. “It’s not going to make any border community or county safer.”

Ongoing Feud

Abbott’s announcement comes amid escalating tensions between the governor and the administration of President Joe Biden.

Biden issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office, and has since undone multiple Trump-era immigration policies. Abbott, for his part, has blamed Biden’s rollback of Trump’s rules for the influx of migrants at the border in recent months. 

Two weeks ago, the governor deployed over 1,000 National Guard members and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the border as part of an initiative launched in March to ramp up border security dubbed Operation Lone Star.

Last week, Abbott issued a disaster declaration which, among other measures, directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to strip the state licenses of all shelters that house migrant children and have contracts with the federal government.

The move, which federal officials have already threatened to take legal action against, could effectively force the 52 state-licensed shelters housing around 8,600 children to move the minors elsewhere.

During Thursday’s press conference, Abbott also outlined a variety of other border initiatives, including appropriating $1 billion for border security, creating a task force on border security, and increasing arrests for migrants who enter the country illegally.

“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows,” he said. “Our efforts will only be effective if we work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve.”

See what others are saying: (The Texas Tribune) (The New York Times) (CNN)

Continue Reading

Politics

Biden Ends Infrastructure Talks With Republicans

Published

on

The president is now looking at other paths forward, including a plan being drafted by a bipartisan group of senators or the possibility of passing his proposal without Republican support.


Biden Looks to Bipartisan Group as Negotiations Collapse

After weeks of negotiations, President Joe Biden ended his efforts to reach an infrastructure deal with a group of Senate Republicans Tuesday.

Hopes for the centerpiece of Biden’s domestic agenda, however, are not dead. Lawmakers have already moved quickly to craft contingencies, outlining three main pathways for the next steps forward.

First, while an agreement between Biden and Republican senators is no longer an option, a joint deal is not off the table. Amid the ongoing negotiations, a bipartisan group of centrist senators have been quietly crafting an alternative plan in case the talks collapsed.

Currently, very few details of that plan are public, but the moderates have made it clear that their biggest division right now is the same sticking point that hung up Biden and the GOP group: how to fund the plan.

Negotiations on that front could prove very difficult, but they could also yield more votes. As a result, Biden indicated this path is his first choice, calling three members of the group Tuesday evening to cheer on their efforts.

Even if the group can come up with a deal that appeases Biden, the possibility still exists that not enough members would embrace it. In addition to funding questions, there are still disputes between Democrats and Republicans in regards to what constitutes “infrastructure.”

The president wants to expand the definition to more broad, economic terms. Republicans, however, have repeatedly rejected that, instead opting for more traditional conceptions of infrastructure.

As a result, while GOP lawmakers are worried that any proposal from the moderates would be too expansive, Democrats are concern that key provisions would be cut.

Other Alternatives

If a joint agreement cannot be reached, Biden’s second option for his infrastructure plan would be to forge ahead to pass a deal with just Democratic support in the Senate through budget reconciliation, the same procedure used to get the stimulus bill through.

Biden, for his part, does appear to at least be considering this option. In addition to calling the bipartisan group moderates Tuesday evening, he also spoke to Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about drafting a new budget outline Democrats could use for the reconciliation process.

That path, however, also faces hurdles. In order for Democrats to even approve legislation through this process, they need all 50 members to vote in favor — something that is not guaranteed, given that some moderate senators have voiced their opposition to passing bills without bipartisan support.

While Schumer did say that he would still start work on a reconciliation package, he also outlined the third possible option: two separate bills.

“It may well be part of the bill that’ll pass will be bipartisan, and part of it will be through reconciliation,” he said Tuesday. “But we’re not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NBC News)

Continue Reading