Put America first: Support Ukraine

Put America first: Support Ukraine

Supporting Ukraine’s effort to defeat Russia is in the U.S. national interest. Unfortunately, recent comments by leading Republicans call into question whether the U.S. should continue to help Ukraine get what it needs to defeat Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

In a response to a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson of Fox News, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis first referred to the war as “a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia,” noting that “checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party” is vital, but later walked back the comments regarding the Ukraine war. In his response to Carlson’s question on Ukraine, former President Donald Trump said that opposing Russia was not a vital national strategic interest for the U.S., although it is in the interest of the Europeans.

There are certainly Republicans who are in favor of helping Ukraine, and congressional funding of Biden administration requests for sending Ukraine aid reflects that. But the fault lines in sustaining funds for Ukraine are there. The administration and others must continue to address why U.S. support for Ukraine is the right policy.

The premise of those who call into question our support of Ukraine is that “American interests must come first.” The U.S. should remain steadfast in aiding the Ukrainians precisely because, in so doing, it is putting U.S. interests and values first. Regarding interests, if Putin defeats Ukraine, it would have a dramatic impact on U.S. national security, emboldening him to attack his neighbors at will and further strengthening Russia’s relations with China. This, in turn, would affect U.S. economic interests as well. Finally, Putin’s success would undermine support for democracy, human rights and personal liberty, which are fundamental U.S. values.

The Biden administration reinstituted a policy of working with our allies and friends in common cause through NATO, the European Union, other international organizations, and bilaterally.  That was not the approach of the previous administration, and it undercut trust in the U.S. as a reliable partner. There is still some skepticism about whether the U.S. can be counted on over the long term. European political leaders wonder if the Biden administration is an interregnum or whether the Trump administration’s unilateral and often antagonistic attitude toward them was a passing phase.  

That matters because, if allies and friends believe that U.S. support for essential national security policies such as assisting Ukraine will not be sustained, they could doubt the utility of maintaining a close working relationship with the U.S. Trump indicated he would consider pulling out of NATO, according to John Bolton, one of his national security advisers. NATO works because its members trust each other, and NATO amplifies U.S. military strength and reach.  

Russia understands that violating the territorial integrity of a NATO nation means it will be confronted with the military capability of all its members. This has been integral to the U.S. and allied approach to supporting Ukraine. The idea that the U.S. might stop supporting Ukraine and leave NATO is right out of the Putin playbook.  

DeSantis and others have said the administration should focus on confronting China, not on the war in Ukraine. Again, pulling back from Ukraine is not only what Putin wants; it is what Chinese leader Xi Jinping expects. Xi recently visited Putin in Moscow to underscore the special relationship without conditions between the two countries. China helps keep the Russian economy afloat by buying Russian oil, and there is concern that China will supply Russia with much-needed military equipment to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

In addition, Xi is likely keeping a close watch on what the U.S. does with regard to helping Ukraine and what that might mean to his stated willingness to use military force against Taiwan as part of a reunification effort. If the U.S. pulls back from Ukraine, China will take this as a green light to help Russia and make a possible attack against Taiwan more likely.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a profound economic impact globally. A recent United Nations report lays this out clearly: “The economic impact of the war is reverberating worldwide, contributing to inflationary pressures, and impeding the post-pandemic recovery. The war led to elevated energy prices and exacerbated food shortages in many regions. The repercussions of the conflict are being felt both in developed economies, especially in Europe, which has been confronted with skyrocketing energy prices, threats to its energy security, and inflow of the Ukrainian refugees, and in developing countries, especially those with high shares of grains in their food consumption basket.”

If the U.S. pulls back in its support for Ukraine, the conditions described in the UN report could worsen, and Russia and China will gain the upper hand in responding to the global economic crises that the Ukrainian invasion has created. An article by scholars Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage points out that Russian success in Ukraine, which can be measured in various ways, would have profoundly negative economic consequences: “The United States and Europe will also be in a state of permanent economic war with Russia. The West will seek to enforce sweeping sanctions, which Russia is likely to parry with cyber-measures and energy blackmailing, given the economic asymmetries.” 

The recent meeting between Putin and Xi in Moscow stressed the economic ties between their two nations, as the New York Times reported: “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, declared an enduring economic partnership on Tuesday, promising to bring more Russian energy to China and more Chinese companies to Russia as the two leaders sought to insulate their countries from Western sanctions and other consequences of the war in Ukraine.” If Ukraine is forced to agree to Russia’s terms on ending the war — made much more likely if there is a lack of support from the U.S. — the Xi-Putin economic axis would become more formidable. China would be buoyed to ignore Western sanctions and related economic efforts against itself and Russia.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest for war crimes, including the kidnapping of Ukrainian children. His attack on Ukrainian civilians is another example of Russia’s war crimes. The Ukrainian people are victims of an unprovoked war they did not seek or incite. Putin has underscored the fact that he will do anything, including murder of women and children, as part of his strategy to subjugate the Ukrainian people. In addition, he and the Wagner Group, a militia fighting alongside the Russian military in Ukraine, are using Russian recruits as cannon fodder. Putin has shown disregard for the people he is supposed to represent. If the U.S. withdraws its support for Ukraine, Putin will prosecute his atrocities with impunity.

Those in the U.S. who question the administration’s support for Ukraine because it’s not in America’s interest need to look at the facts: That simply is not true. If the U.S. pulls back, it not only helps Putin, who has shown he will do anything to prevail, but also helps Xi by confirming his belief that the U.S. has a feckless foreign policy and failing political system. 

Putting America first is about understanding that helping Ukraine is unequivocally strengthening American interests and championing American values.  

William Danvers, a former deputy secretary general of the OECD, is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School and worked on national security issues for the Clinton and Obama administrations.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Jimmy Fallon Has Perfect Analogy For Donald Trump 'Indictment Watch'

Jimmy Fallon Has Perfect Analogy For Donald Trump 'Indictment Watch'

“The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon on Friday joked about the current non-indictment of Donald Trump, despite the former president’s claims.

Trump last weekend suggested he’d be arrested Tuesday following the Manhattan district attorney’s office investigation into hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels. But he remains uncharged.

“It’s day four of ‘Trump Indictment Watch 2023’ and … still nothing,” said Fallon. “It feels like one of those viral videos that says, ‘Wait for it,’ and two minutes (later) you’re like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to wait anymore.’”

Watch Fallon’s full monologue here:

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Trump campaign threatens anyone working for DeSantis, saying they will not get jobs if he wins White House

Trump campaign threatens anyone working for DeSantis, saying they will not get jobs if he wins White House

Donald Trump’s campaign has categorically stated that anyone currently working on Ron Desantis’s book tour or working on his campaign will not be considered for any federal job or position if Mr Trump wins the White House.

According to sources cited in news reports, Justin Caporale — who helps lead the advance team for the former president — has reportedly said that anyone who is on Mr DeSantis’ campaign or book tour will be considered “persona non grata”.

A source told Real Clear Politics that “it’s a time for choosing. If you work for Ron DeSantis’ presidential race, you will not work for the Trump campaign or in the Trump White House”.

Mr DeSantis has also recently started talking about his differences from the former president. In an interview with Piers Morgan last week, he said that there is a lack of “daily drama” within his administration, a dig at Mr Trump’s tenure at the White House.

He was also asked if “personal conduct in a leader matters”, Mr DeSantis responded by pointing to “people like our Founding Fathers”.

“It’s not saying that you don’t ever make a mistake in your personal life, but I think, what type of character are you bringing?” and added that George Washington “set the standard” after surrendering his role as commander-in-chief after the Revolutionary War.

Mr Trump has also lately sharpened his criticism of Mr DeSantis. In an interview, he said the Florida governor was still “Ron DeSanctimonious” and called him “an average governor” and “a disciple of Paul Ryan”.

Meanwhile, Mr DeSantis ruled out being Mr Trump’s running mate in the 2024 presidential election.

Newsmax host Eric Bolling asked Mr DeSantis if he would consider being Mr Trump’s vice presidential nominee on Thursday evening, which the governor rebuffed.

“I think I’m probably more of an executive guy,” Mr DeSantis said. “I think that you want to be able to do things. That’s part of the reason I got into this job is because we have action. We’re able to make things happen, and I think that’s probably what I am best suited for.”

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Trump lives rent-free in Americans’ heads amid possible indictment

Trump lives rent-free in Americans’ heads amid possible indictment

When Donald Trump took his final walk from the White House, boarded a helicopter and vanished into a cold sky, millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief. With the former US president retired to his Mar-a-Lago estate, they reasoned, they would no longer live in constant dread of new scandals or impulsive tweets.

Two years and two months later, it turns out that Trump addiction is hard to beat. His legal perils have dominated headlines all week. Republicans continue to define themselves in relation to him. He remains the favourite for the party nomination in next year’s presidential election. Trump is still living rent-free in the nation’s head.

“The hope that Donald Trump would melt away into Mar-a-Lago seems sweetly nostalgic,” said Jane Dailey, a history professor at the University of Chicago. “There is something about Donald Trump that fascinates and grabs the gaze and holds on to it. Nothing seems to hurt him ever. It’s just bizarre. Every single time we’ve thought he’s gone too far, he’s been rewarded.”

Now 76, Trump has continued to make news and make himself impossible to ignore. His conduct before and during the January 6 insurrection was the subject of primetime congressional hearings. He inserted himself into the midterm elections for Congress and declared his own presidential run. And now he is on the brink of becoming the first American president charged with a crime.

A grand jury in New York is examining his involvement in a $130,000 payment made in 2016 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about an alleged sexual encounter years earlier. Trump has denied the claim, insisted he did nothing wrong and assailed the investigation, led by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, as politically motivated.

With an indictment seemingly imminent, Trump last weekend used his Truth Social platform to predict that he would be arrested on Tuesday and call for his supporters to protest. With that single post, he triggered a week of breathless will-he-won’t-he media coverage and speculation that demonstrated, far from moving on from Trump, America remains as in thrall to him as ever.

New York police erected security barricades outside the Manhattan criminal court and Bragg’s office. News outlets deployed teams of reporters and braced for the spectacle of the former president in handcuffs. Fake AI-generated images of Trump being arrested received millions of views online. Pundits debated whether Bragg’s case hinges on an untested legal theory and whether it will benefit Trump politically by galvanising his base.

A Trump supporter waves a flag outside Mar-a-Lago in Florida on 22 March.
A Trump supporter waves a flag outside Mar-a-Lago in Florida on 22 March. Photograph: Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters

Tuesday came and went without an arrest, though the prospect of it reportedly helped Trump raise $1.5m in three days. The breaking news from the grand jury was no news: it gradually became clear that it would not reach a decision this week. Trump fired off a barrage of messages on Truth Social, describing Bragg as an “animal” who is “doing the work of Anarchists and the Devil”.

He also contrived to turn his imminent disgrace into a loyalty test for Republicans who for nearly eight years have rallied around him over and over again.

Dozens of congressional Republicans gathered at a conference in Orlando, Florida, to discuss the party’s legislative achievements instead found themselves talking about Trump and his potential indictment. Kevin McCarthy, speaker of the House of Representatives, told reporters: “I think you know in your heart of hearts that this is just political. And I think that’s what the rest of the country thinks. And we’re kind of tired of that.”

House Republicans drew comparisons with the Russian collusion saga and set about investigating the investigator. In a letter to Bragg on Monday, they demanded communications, documents and testimony relating to the “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority and the potential indictment” of Trump. Bragg dismissed the effort as “an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty”.

Potential rivals in the 2024 Republican primary were also forced to respond, rushing to defence rather than risking alienating his base. Former vice-president Mike Pence said Americans do not want to see Trump indicted. The New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu, and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a frequent Trump critic, suggested that he was being unfairly prosecuted.

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who has been losing ground to Trump in recent opinion polls, offered a mixed assessment when asked to address the potential indictment. He condemned Bragg as a “George Soros-backed” prosecutor “pursuing a political agenda and weaponising the office” but also said pointedly: “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”

Just as in the 2016 election, when Trump received free media coverage worth billions of dollars, these contenders were forced to talk about him rather than establishing their own identity or setting their own agenda. Political analysts suggested that it will be hard for any of his Republican rivals to cut through the noise.

Monika McDermott, a political science professor at Fordham University in New York, said: “DeSantis keeps aligning himself more and more with Trump’s own views. He talks about the witch-hunt of the New York DA and is clearly trying to capture Trump voters and keep himself on their good side in case something happens to Trump.

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“But that’s not necessarily a winning strategy, because if Trump doesn’t have anything damaging that’s going to take him down, then DeSantis isn’t going to go anywhere. He can’t win Trump voters if Trump is still a viable option. For others, just getting room in the public sphere is going to be hard because Trump is the 500lb gorilla.”

An anti-Trump activist holds a sign in front of the Wall of Silence installation by Donna Ferrato on display at a park across the street from the Manhattan criminal court.
An anti-Trump activist holds a sign in front of the Wall of Silence installation by Donna Ferrato on display at a park across the street from the Manhattan criminal court. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP

The hush money case is only the beginning: Trump is under scrutiny from special counsel Jack Smith for his efforts to overthrow the 2020 election and mishandling of classified documents after leaving office. In Georgia a prosecutor has been investigating whether Trump and his allies illegally meddled in the election in that state.

Although Trump’s call for protests this week fell flat, the higher-stakes investigations are only likely to drive up the temperature and increase the potential for social unrest heading into the 2024 election. On Thursday he wrote on Truth Social: “Our country is being destroyed, as they tell us to be peaceful!” – implying that peaceful demonstrations might not be enough.

Yet there is little prospect of the media ending its obsession with Trump given the way his perpetual dramas translate into ratings. Some commentators argue that his continued presence also suits Democrats just fine because he unites their coalition and has proven beatable in elections.

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center thinktank in Washington, said: “It’s extremely depressing that elements of the left want to keep scratching at the national scab. It takes two to tango and we definitely have a willing partner in this. Alvin Bragg does not have to bring this prosecution and yet he chooses to do so. Let’s apportion blame to all contributing actors.”

Trump’s enduring grip on the national psyche marks yet another break from his presidential predecessors, who have largely devoted their time to preserving their legacies through philanthropic work and presidential libraries. Although Barack Obama continues to campaign on behalf of Democrats during election campaigns, he no longer drives news cycles.

Trump’s refusal to leave the stage did not surprise Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton and biographer of Abraham Lincoln. “Our long national nightmare continues,” he said. “It was a delusion to believe, even after the coup attempt and the insurrection of January 6, that Trump would just fade away and cease to be a factor and that politics as usual could be resumed between two normal political parties.”

He added: “I don’t know if it requires the brandishing of a cross and the wearing of garlic to deal with the vampire. It’s entirely possible and even likely that Trump could be the Republican nominee and has a possibility of re-entering the White House to, as he has promised, abrogate the constitution and the republic, destroy the western alliance and, in effect, rule as a dictator.”

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Trump rallying supporters in Waco ahead of possible charges

Trump rallying supporters in Waco ahead of possible charges

Staring down a possible indictment, a defiant Donald Trump is hoping to put on a show of force Saturday as he holds the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign in a city made famous by deadly resistance against law enforcement.

The former president will gather with supporters at an airport in Waco, which will mark the 30th anniversary of the Waco massacre next month. In 1993, an attempted raid by law enforcement of a compound belonging to the Branch Davidians, a religious cult, resulted in a shootout that led to a 51-day siege, ending in a blaze that left dozens dead.

The rally comes as Trump has berated prosecutors, encouraged protests and raised the prospect of possible violence should he become the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges. Some of his recent rhetoric has echoed language he used before the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters seeking to stop the transfer of power.

“What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States … and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?” Trump wrote on his social media site early Friday.

Trump’s campaign insisted the location and timing of the event had nothing to do with the Waco siege or anniversary. Instead, a spokesperson said the site was chosen because it was conveniently situated near four of the state’s biggest metropolitan areas — Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio — and has the infrastructure to handle a sizable crowd.

“This is the ideal location to have as many supporters from across the state and in neighboring states attend this historic rally,” said Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung.

The city is part of McLennan County, which Trump won in 2020 by more than 23 points. The airport where the rally is being held is 17 miles from the Branch Davidian compound.

The rally had already been in the works before it became clear that a grand jury in New York was drawing closer to a possible indictment as it investigates hush money payments made to women who alleged sexual encounters with Trump during the height of his 2016 campaign. Trump has denied the women’s claims.

But the timing will give Trump an opportunity to demonstrate his continued popularity with the GOP base and to portray himself as the victim of a politically motivated “witch hunt” as he campaigns for a second term in the White House.

The grand jury investigating the hush money payment is expected to meet again Monday in New York.

Trump has spent weeks now railing against the investigation. In a move that seemed designed to preempt a formal announcement and to galvanize his loyal base, he claimed last Saturday that he would be arrested the following Tuesday. While that did not happen, Trump has used the days since to try to shape public perception, claiming, for instance, that the Manhattan district attorney’s office had plunged into “Total disarray,” though there was no evidence to suggest prosecutors were backing away from the case.

His efforts echoed a strategy the former president has used before, including during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Trump has also launched a series of increasingly personal attacks against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, calling him “a danger to our Country” who “should be removed immediately,” and using increasingly racist and dehumanizing rhetoric.

On Thursday, he sought to tie Bragg, Manhattan’s first Black district attorney, to George Soros, a liberal billionaire donor who doesn’t know Bragg and hasn’t donated directly to him. “A SOROS BACKED ANIMAL,” Trump wrote of Bragg, adding, “THIS IS NO LEGAL SYSTEM, THIS IS THE GESTAPO.” He also shared an article that juxtaposed a picture of Bragg with a photo of Trump swinging a baseball bat in Bragg’s direction.

The former president has also repeatedly involved violence. Last Saturday, he called on his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” And on Thursday, he bemoaned, “OUR COUNTRY IS BEING DESTROYED, AS THEY TELL US TO BE PEACEFUL!”

On Friday, a powdery substance was found with a threatening letter in a mailroom at Bragg’s offices, authorities said. Officials later determined the substance wasn’t dangerous.

Bragg’s office sent an internal email to staff last Saturday saying, “We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York.” After the powder was discovered, Bragg sent another email to staffers telling them their safety was the top priority.

“We will continue to apply the law evenly and fairly, which is what each of you does every single day,” he wrote Friday.

Even before the threatening letter was sent to Bragg’s office, Democrats warned that Trump’s remarks had the potential to incite violence.

“The twice-impeached former president’s rhetoric is reckless, reprehensible and irresponsible. It’s dangerous, and if he keeps it up he’s going to get someone killed,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said earlier Friday.

The Manhattan case focuses on a $130,000 payment that Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, made to porn actor Stormy Daniels as Trump was in the throes of the 2016 campaign. Trump later reimbursed Cohen and his company logged the reimbursements as a legal expense. Cohen has already served time in prison after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress, among other crimes.

Trump is also facing an investigation in Georgia over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election as well as federal probes into his handling of classified documents and possible obstruction, as well as his efforts on Jan. 6.


Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Sagar Meghani contributed to this report from Washington.

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Biden touts close ties to Canada, heralds modest successes during visit

Biden touts close ties to Canada, heralds modest successes during visit

The gala dinner at the Ottawa Aviation Museum concluded a busy day of meetings, photo-ops, speeches and a joint press conference. Biden’s visit marked the first true bilateral meeting in Canada between the two leaders since the Obama years.

“And today, I say to you, and to all the people of Canada, that you will always, always be able to count on the United States of America,” Biden said during his speech to Parliament. “I guarantee it.”

While the two leaders took advantage of the opportunities to lean into the imagery of a productive relationship, they discussed an array of complex topics behind closed doors.

The trip was not expected to produce much in terms of deliverables, but Biden and Trudeau made modest announcements on the North American Aerospace Defense Command, semiconductors, Haiti and climate issues. A deal they struck on migration drew the most headlines from the trip.

The two countries announced plans to apply the terms of the Safe Third Country Agreement to migrants between points of entry along the Canada-United States border, in an aim to deter illegal migration. The new policy was to go into effect at midnight Friday. Canada will also welcome an additional 15,000 migrants from countries such as Haiti, Colombia and Ecuador over the course of the year.

The agreement will allow Canada to turn away migrants from unofficial crossing points like Roxham Road, a small, well-traveled road that straddles the Canada-U.S. border between Quebec and New York. Quebec Premier François Legault has hammered Trudeau, calling on the prime minister to raise the issue with Biden. Roughly 40,000 asylum seekers entered Canada through this path last year.

“We couldn’t simply shut down Roxham Road and hope that everything would resolve itself because we would have had problems. The border is very long and people would have looked for other places to cross,” Trudeau said during Friday’s press conference. “And so that’s why we chose to modernize the Safe Third Country Agreement so that someone who attempts to cross between official crossings will be subject to the principle.”

The two leaders also fielded questions on Russia and China, in which Biden questioned the close ties of the authoritarian regimes. He noted that China hasn’t provided Russia with weapons in its war in Ukraine.

“I don’t take China lightly. I don’t take Russia lightly. But I think we vastly exaggerated. I’ve been hearing now for the past three months: China is going to provide significant weapons to Russia and they’re going to go up and talk about that. They haven’t yet. Doesn’t mean they won’t, but they haven’t yet,” Biden said.

He also defended the state of the economy amid the banking crisis, noting his administration did a “pretty damn good job” in its response. The president opened his remarks by addressing the U.S. military’s airstrikes in Syria after a suspected Iran-made drone killed a U.S. worker and wounded other troops.

“I’m also grateful for the professionalism of our service members who so ably carried out this response,” Biden said. “And to make no mistake, the United States does not — does not, emphasize — seek conflict with Iran. But be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people. That’s exactly what happened last night.”

Even on the crisis in Haiti — one of the more challenging topics Biden and Trudeau had to broach — the two leaders presented a united front. The White House for months has suggested it wants Canada to take the lead in a multi-national military intervention to bring stability to the country, but standing next to Trudeau on Friday, Biden lowered the pressure.

The president told reporters he wasn’t disappointed in Trudeau’s reluctance to lead the effort, calling it “a very, very difficult circumstance.”

The prime minister nodded in agreement.

Kierra Frazer contributed to this report.

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