Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit President Biden in Washington and meet with Congressional leaders next week. The visit will follow his in-person address to the United Nations in New York, and marks his second trip to D.C.
Will Zelensky’s visit help the impasse on Ukraine aid? Congress is in the midst of hashing out federal spending and Republicans are pushing for considerable cuts to the federal budget. That threatens the $13 billion in military aid and $8 billion in humanitarian funds Biden has requested for Ukraine.During his previous address to Congress, Zelensky urged Americans to view their contributions to Ukraine’s fight as an “investment” in democracy and global security. But with election season heating up and Ukraine skepticism growing on the MAGA right, it may be a harder sell this time around.
Federal prosecutors indicted U.S. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter on three federal gun-related charges on Thursday. The indictments come after a plea deal the younger Biden believed he had struck with federal prosecutors dramatically fell apart at the last minute in July. Hunter now faces up to 25 years in prison for allegedly lying about his drug use on a federal form that was required to purchase a handgun in Delaware in 2018.
President Biden is at no legal risk from his son's indictment. But the charges are politically inconvenient to say the least. They come just days after the House GOP began an impeachment inquiry that centers on so-far-unsubstantiated allegations that President Biden used his political position to profit from his son’s business dealings.
On top of that, the trial – which will likely get under way next year – will now serve as counter-programming to the multiple trials in federal and state court of former President Donald Trump which are slated to start in the spring. That’s right, America: as the 2024 campaigns hit the homestretch, the DOJ will simultaneously be prosecuting President Biden’s son as well as his likely election opponent, Donald Trump. What could be better for a bitterly divided nation?
Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, DC shares his perspective on US politics:
Mitt Romney is retiring from the Senate. Will he be missed?
Utah Senator Mitt Romney and former Republican presidential candidate announced this week that he won't be running for reelection in the Senate to represent Utah in the next election cycle. Some people are speculating that this is because he might lose a primary challenge.
Romney remains pretty popular in his home state, but he does represent a dying breed of Republican, which is kind of a Reagan's Republican, Reagan's Republican. He's firmly from the pro-business country club wing of the party that has really been demolished by President Trump over the last several years as more populist Republicans, who have a stronger appeal to white working-class voters, have really taken over the party and trying to reshape it in President Trump's image. Romney was well-liked by some people in Washington, but not necessarily by his Republican colleagues in the Senate, where he was a bit of an oddball, supporting President Trump's impeachment, going against the tide of several other Republicans on a host of issues. And even though he ran as a conservative Republican in the 2012 nomination process that he won, he's now retiring with a reputation as a moderate Republican in today's party.
Romney always had kind of a difficult time fitting into the political world. He was obviously a businessman who was looking for ways to succeed, running as pretty liberal on issues like abortion when he was governor of Massachusetts and then positioning himself as, quote, “severely conservative” when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2012. And his legacy, however, is probably going to be mostly defined by his opposition to President Donald Trump over the last several years in his tenure as a Utah senator.
He'll probably be replaced by somebody further to the right of him. And the Senate itself is set to go through a generational transition as more of the old era Republicans start to retire and a new crop comes up. It's going to move the party in this much more populist direction.
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After much back-and-forth in recent months, embattled House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has officially launched an impeachment inquiry against US President Joe Biden.
McCarthy says that the inquiry has merit, based on months of preliminary investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings – specifically the global financial exploits of Hunter Biden, the president’s son. Democrats, for their part, say this is a GOP political vendetta in response to the impeachments of Donald Trump, and that Biden himself has committed no impeachable high crimes or misdemeanors.
Still, launching an official inquiry gives relevant congressional committees broad powers to request documents and testimonies – a boon for House Republicans who have already been battling for greater access to Biden family financial records.
Why now? McCarthy is likely trying to throw a bone to far-right House Republicans, known as the Freedom Caucus, who despise the speaker and are threatening to remove him over a host of thorny policy disputes. Most notably, the tear-it-all-down caucus is mad at McCarthy for his apparent willingness to work with the White House to continue to fund the government at current levels through the end of the year. Failure to do so could result in a government shutdown after Sept. 30.
Impeachment is risky for McCarthy and for the GOP. House Republicans in purple districts (many that Biden won in 2020) say this is not a popular move with their voters and that it could backfire in 2024, when House Republicans will have a very narrow majority to defend.
But the Freedom Caucus is out for blood. Prominent McCarthy critic Rep. Matt Gaetz has already called the impeachment probe a mere “baby step.”
Hurricane Idalia is set to make landfall on Wednesday in the US state of Florida. The storm will be the first of many this hurricane season, but it blows in at a sensitive political moment for state Gov. Ron DeSantis. The woke-bashing Republican is currently a distant second to Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, but he’s also fending off an increasingly stiff challenge from the youthful upstart conservative tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. (Poll numbers here.)
If DeSantis handles Idalia well, it’ll enable him to look experienced and presidential, drawing a contrast with Ramaswamy’s scant political experience. Of course, if DeSantis flubs it, Idalia could deal a crippling blow to his campaign.
Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, DC shares his perspective on US politics.
Who were the big winners and the big losers from this week's Republican debate?
Three clear winners were probably Vivek Ramaswamy, who's done pretty well in making a name for himself as a first time politician, and came across as likable and energetic, full of some fresh ideas that are probably going to appeal to a lot of Republican voters who were otherwise thinking about supporting President Trump. Two is Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador and governor of South Carolina, who had herself a pretty good night scoring some points against Ramaswamy on foreign policy, and coming across as competent and credible. And of course, the third winner is Donald Trump, who didn't show up but kind of dominated the proceedings anyway and continues to be the front-runner even after the debate.
On the loser side, you had a couple of people who just didn't have great nights. Chris Christie got resoundingly booed for his strategy of attacking Trump and presenting himself as the alternative, or trying to create space for somebody else to get in that lane. Mike Pence really did nothing to distinguish himself. In fact, I kind of forgot he was up there at times, as I've forgotten that he's even running for president right now. Same with Tim Scott, who I think has a very great story and is a very likable guy, but just isn't resonating with a lot of Republicans.
And the biggest loser was probably Ron DeSantis, who's presented himself as the most credible alternative to Trump so far but has really been tailing off in the polling, has shown himself to be vulnerable to people like Ramaswamy, and last night didn't really do much to change that narrative. He kind of has his line of attack against the cultural left, which resonates with a lot of Republican voters. But there's no real reason to prefer him over President Trump at this point, and there probably aren't enough Republican voters who will do so, that will help propel him to the next level.
There won't be any votes cast in this election until Iowa, which is next year. And in the meantime, there's going to be another debate, probably also without Trump, in California, in late September. So, stay tuned for an entertaining Republican primary, but one that kind of feels like they're play-acting a little bit without the dominant force, former President Trump, up on stage.
Eight Republican presidential candidates faced off in Milwaukee on Wednesday night in the first debate (or screaming match) of the primary season.
After meeting the Republican National Committee’s qualification criteria to participate in the debate hosted by FOX News, former VP Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Senator Tim Scott, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum made their respective cases to the American people.
Plenty of important issues were raised, including abortion access, the economy, and education. But the candidates’ responses largely resembled prepared talking points that likely did little to excite those watching at home.
Still, the heated – and at times chaotic – exchanges revealed much about the state of the Republican primary race. Here are a few key takeaways:
Abortion is (still) a doozy for the GOP. Despite proclaiming their respective pro-life bonafides, nearly all candidates, excluding Pence, obfuscated when asked whether they’d support a federal abortion ban. It’s a very delicate balancing act in a party where uncompromising pro-life stances might resonate with the base, though a large swathe of Americans – some 47% – support abortion access in the early months of pregnancy. Indeed, a series of recent votes in states like Kansas and Michigan prove that gutting abortion access entirely is a losing strategy for the GOP.
Most, though not all, back ongoing Ukraine aid. Unsurprisingly, the contenders talked tough on Russia, with Pence and Christie in particular emphasizing their disdain for Vladimir Putin and their admiration for Ukraine. However, Ramaswamy, perhaps auditioning for Trump’s VP, tried to establish himself as fluent in MAGA, saying that the US should stop sending funds to Ukraine. He also derided some of the others for treating Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky like … the Pope, which is likely to offend some voters.
Haley, a former UN ambassador during the Trump administration, used the opportunity to tout her foreign policy bonafides and came out looking strong.
No one knows what to do about Trump. Almost an hour into the debate, the moderators finally raised the issue of “the elephant not in the room.”
Asked whether they would support Trump if he becomes the nominee – reiterating that he now faces four criminal indictments – Ramaswamy was the only one to raise his hand confidently, before most of the other candidates sheepishly looked around and followed suit.
It was yet another sign that the GOP hopefuls are still struggling to position themselves against the former president, their rival, who maintains a solid grip over the GOP base. (He’s currently polling at 52%, compared to DeSantis’ 15%.) Still, Haley went there, saying that Trump is the most unpopular politician in America. Will it backfire?
DeSantis might not be worth attacking. In the lead up to the debate, the DeSantis campaign, currently in second place, said that it expected to be attacked left, right and center. But that didn’t happen at all, highlighting that – after a series of recent setbacks – the Florida governor might not be viewed as a serious threat after all.
Indeed, the way that Haley and Pence in particular exchanged barbs with Ramaswamy suggests that, as Ian Bremmer recently said, the little-known tech entrepreneur might be Trump’s main emerging rival.
The winner who wasn’t there. Ditching the debate, Trump gave a pre-recorded interview with former FOX News star Tucker Carlson on X, formerly known as Twitter. And today, the former president will again steal the spotlight when he surrenders for arrest in Georgia following his indictment in the 2020 election case, meaning that the debate post-mortem will be short-lived.
The timing of Trump’s surrender in Georgia, coupled with the fact that much of the night descended into squabbling, suggests that the person who came out on top was the man who didn't even bother to show up.
“The winner of tonight’s debate wasn’t on stage at all,” says Jon Lieber, Eurasia Group’s chief US politics expert. “With the also-rans doing more to tear each other apart than go after him, former President Trump managed to for once stay above the fray and win by not playing the game at all.”