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Nikki Haley condemns Trump’s Nato comments, accusing him of embracing Putin – live


Nikki Haley among Republicans to criticize Trump’s attack on Nato

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Donald Trump continues to attract widespread outrage in response to his disparaging comments about Nato over the weekend. Speaking at a rally in South Carolina, Trump complained that some Nato members were not contributing enough money to the alliance and suggested he would allow Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to those nations.

The comments shocked and alarmed leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Trump’s outburst “undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk”. A White House spokesperson attacked the comments as “appalling and unhinged”.

But perhaps the most surprising reaction came from fellow Republicans, a number of whom echoed the criticism of Trump’s comments. Speaking to CBS News, Nikki Haley, Trump’s rival in the Republican presidential primary, accused the former president of embracing “a thug who kills his opponents”, referring to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie told NBC News that the comments proved Trump is “unfit to be president of the United States”.

Even some of Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill refused to defend him. According to Politico, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican of Kentucky, said Trump’s comments were a “stupid thing to say”. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican of Alaska, argued the criticism of Nato members was “uncalled for”.

But even as some Republicans sharply criticized Trump’s comments, other members of the party tried to downplay the remarks. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, told the New York Times, “Give me a break — I mean, it’s Trump … All I can say is while Trump was president nobody invaded anybody.” Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican of Florida, similarly told CNN that he had “zero concern” about Trump’s comments.

With the Senate continuing work on its foreign aid package and the House returning to session tomorrow, more Republicans will likely soon be asked to Trump’s comments, forcing them to choose between criticizing the leader of their party and defending US allies abroad.

Here’s what else is happening today:

  • The Senate is expected to hold another procedural vote on its $95bn foreign aid package. The bill, which includes billions of dollars for Ukraine and Israel, cleared another procedural hurdle yesterday in a vote of 67 to 27, and a final vote is currently expected on Wednesday.

  • Defense secretary Lloyd Austin is back in the hospital. The Pentagon said yesterday that Austin was brought to Walter Reed medical center in connection to “symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue”.

  • Joe Biden will welcome the king and queen of Jordan to the White House. Biden and King Abdullah II will deliver remarks to the press following a meeting this afternoon.

There’s much more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 

Key events

Trump attends court hearing in documents case

Donald Trump is in Florida today for a court hearing in the criminal case that accuses the former president of mishandling classified information, the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports:

Trump is attending a court hearing on Monday where his lawyers will present their defense theories to the judge presiding in the criminal case over his retention of classified documents and obstruction of justice, according to two people familiar with his plans.

The presence of the former president in the courtroom could raise the stakes for the US district judge, Aileen Cannon, as she decides whether prosecutors in the office of special counsel Jack Smith should be permitted to withhold or redact certain classified documents that will be turned over in discovery.

The hearing taking place behind closed doors at federal district court in Fort Pierce, Florida, started at 9.30am and is being conducted “ex parte”, meaning prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers will have separate sessions to make their arguments to the judge.

Read the Guardian’s full report:

The House majority leader, Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana, will return to Capitol Hill tomorrow after undergoing cancer treatment in recent weeks.

The House speaker, Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana, welcomed Scalise back with a tweet noting that the majority leader was now in remission.

“We’re grateful the House will be welcoming back this week my good brother and fellow Louisianan @SteveScalise, who is now in complete remission from cancer,” Johnson said on X. “Looking forward to having him back in the trenches this week!”

We’re grateful the House will be welcoming back this week my good brother and fellow Louisianan @SteveScalise, who is now in complete remission from cancer.

Steve is a fighter and God has answered our prayers. Looking forward to having him back in the trenches this week! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/ciMzrgLAxI

— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) February 12, 2024

Scalise’s return will probably allow Republicans to impeach the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, after the first House vote failed last week in a vote of 216 to 215. The vote was initially tied, and one Republican, Blake Moore of Utah, switched his vote to allow the matter to be taken up again later. Scalise is expected to provide the tie-breaking vote to impeach Mayorkas.

Speaking to NBC News’ Kristen Walker yesterday, Mayorkas dismissed Republicans’ allegations that he failed to enforce the law and violated the public’s trust.

“They’re baseless allegations, Kristen, and that’s why I’m really not distracted by them. I’m focused on the work of the Department of Homeland Security,” Mayorkas said.

Even if the House does impeach Mayorkas, Senate Democrats will certainly be able to prevent him from being removed from office, so the cabinet secretary will not be out of a job anytime soon.

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Finnish president says to ‘remain calm’ after Trump criticizes Nato

Finland’s newly elected president, Alexander Stubb, has said Nato’s newest member should “remain calm” in the face of Donald Trump’s criticism of the alliance, the Guardian’s Jon Henley reports:

Stubb, a conservative former prime minister who on Sunday narrowly won the presidential election with 51.5% of the vote, said US election campaigns were “very different from Finnish elections, and the rhetoric used is quite a lot stronger”.

He told a press conference on Monday: “I think at this stage it is best to remain calm and focus on building our Nato membership.” Finland won admission to Nato in April after a historic policy U-turn following decades of military non-alignment.

But Stubb said Trump was right to say Nato’s members had pledged to spend 2% of GDP on defence. “We have to make sure we in Europe do our part in Nato,” he said, noting that Finland – which shares an 832-mile border with Russia – had exceeded that target last year.

He said he wanted Finland to have a decisive role in Nato, “in the core of decision-making, sitting around the tables where decisions are made”, adding that Helsinki “can’t have a relationship [withMoscow] until Russia ends its war and aggression” in Ukraine.

“We don’t have a political relationship with Russia right now. I don’t see it improving anytime soon,” Stubb – who officially take up his new offic on 1 March – said. He said he aimed to continue with his predecessor Sauli Niinistö’s the line in continuing to offer “decisive support” to Ukraine.

Biden attacks Netanyahu in private conversations with donors – report

Joe Biden has reportedly been venting his frustration with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in private conversations with campaign donors.

According to NBC News, Biden has privately said that Netanyahu is “giving him hell”, criticizing the Israeli leader for refusing to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza. Three people familiar with Biden’s comments said the US president has described Netanyahu as an “asshole”.

“He just feels like this is enough,” one anonymous source told NBC News. “It has to stop.”

The report comes as Biden has started voicing more public criticism of Netanyahu’s actions in Gaza, where more than 28,000 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Biden said he considered Netanyahu’s response to the Hamas attacks on 7 October to be “over the top”.

Biden and Netanyahu spoke over the phone yesterday, and the White House said in its readout of the call, “[The president] called for urgent and specific steps to increase the throughput and consistency of humanitarian assistance to innocent Palestinian civilians. And he reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there.”

Even as Biden speaks out against Netanyahu’s leadership, his administration continues to support financial aid for Israel. Biden had encouraged Congress to pass a border and national security bill that included $14bn in security assistance for Israel. That proposal failed in the Senate, but a separate bill with the same level of aid for Israel is now making its way through the upper chamber. Biden is expected to sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.

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Robert F Kennedy Jr apologized for a presidential campaign commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl that alluded to his uncle John F Kennedy’s successful 1960 White House run, the Guardian’s Ramon Antonio Vargas reports:

“I’m so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain,” Kennedy wrote on social media late on Sunday. He said the ad was created by American Values 2024, a pro-Kennedy political action committee (Pac), “without any involvement or approval” from his presidential campaign.

Nonetheless, the commercial remained pinned to the top of his X page, directly above his apology.

The commercial – which cost $7m – was criticized by many observers. It featured the same lyrics of “Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy for me” that JFK’s campaign used in a commercial ahead of his victory over Richard Nixon.

A speechwriter for another of Kennedy’s late uncles – former US senator Ted Kennedy – said the ad constituted intellectual theft.

Read the Guardian’s full report:

New York special election to replace George Santos being held on Tuesday

New York’s third congressional district will hold a special election tomorrow to determine who will serve out the remainder of George Santos’ term, after the Republican congressman was indicted on fraud charges and expelled from the House.

Former Democratic congressman Tom Suozzi is running against local politician Mazi Pilip, and much of the race has focused on the issue of immigration, as the Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt reported earlier this month.

Suozzi told MSNBC this morning, “If you want to fix things in Washington, DC, I’m offering you an antidote to try and come together and say, ‘Let’s stop all the BS and let’s actually talk about what the people care about.’”

If Suozzi can pull off a victory, his election will further cut into Republicans’ narrow House majority. As of now, Republicans hold 219 House seats, while Democrats hold 212.

The House speaker, Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has already struggled to govern with his narrow majority, and that task could become even more difficult with a Suozzi victory.

Although a Republican won the seat in 2022, Suozzi told MSNBC that he was confident he could defeat the “Republican machine,” saying, “It’s a powerful machine, but I’ve beat them before, and we’re going to beat them again tomorrow.”

Updated at 

A county in northern California has lurched to the far right in recent years, and voters there hope a recall election can force more change, the Guardian’s Dani Anguiano reports:

In 2022, 5,000 voters, angry about Covid-era health restrictions, ousted a moderate Republican official in Shasta county, California. The vote helped put the rural region, in the state’s north, on the map for extremist far-right politics.

In the two years since, the ultra-conservative majority that controls the county’s governing board has attempted to upend the voting system and spread conspiracy theories that elections were being rigged. They moved to allow people to carry firearms in public buildings in violation of state law and offered the county’s top job to the leader of a California secessionist group.

Now, residents frustrated by the county’s recent governance hope another recall will force a change. They’re aiming to oust Kevin Crye, a far-right county supervisor who has been in office for just a year.

Read Dani’s full report:

Nikki Haley has released a new digital ad criticizing Donald Trump over his record of disparaging military veterans and their families.

The ad reminds viewers that Trump reportedly referred to fallen military soldiers as “losers” and “suckers” while he was president. Trump also mocked the late Senator John McCain, who was a prisoner of war for five years in Vietnam, by saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Over the weekend, Trump also questioned why Haley’s husband, Michael Haley, was absent from the campaign trail. Michael Haley, an officer in the South Carolina army national guard, is currently deployed in Africa, which Haley frequently tells voters at campaign events.

Haley’s national spokesperson, Olivia Perez-Cubas, said of the ad, “Donald Trump has a long track record of insulting our veterans. He has no business being commander in chief.”

Watch the full ad:

Updated at 

As millions of Americans gathered with family and friends to watch the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl last night, Joe Biden had a complaint to voice about “shrinkflation”, the Guardian’s Jasper Jolly reports:

Biden has criticised food companies for alleged “shrinkflation”, making products smaller while keeping prices the same, in a video to mark the Super Bowl.

The US president criticised big consumer brands for a shrinkflation “rip-off” on Sunday night and said the “American public is tired of being played for suckers”.

He added: “Some companies are trying to pull a fast one by shrinking the products little by little and hoping you won’t notice.”

American football’s blue riband event attracts a huge audience in the world’s wealthiest country, and advertisers flock to market their products. Sunday’s game was won by the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the San Francisco 49ers in a dramatic last-play comeback.

Read Jasper’s full report:

Updated at 

Austin admitted to the critical care unit for bladder issue

Defense secretary Lloyd Austin has been admitted to the critical care unit at Walter Reed medical center, according to a statement released by the Pentagon last night.

Austin’s doctors said the cabinet secretary was being treated for “symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue”, but they noted that his overall prognosis remains encouraging.

“At this time, it is not clear how long Secretary Austin will remain hospitalized,” said Dr John Maddo and Dr Gregory Chesnut of Walter Reed medical center.

“The current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery. His cancer prognosis remains excellent. Updates on the Secretary’s condition will be provided as soon as possible.”

While Austin remains hospitalized, his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, has assumed his duties, as my colleague Ed Helmore reports:

Updated at 

Nikki Haley among Republicans to criticize Trump’s attack on Nato

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Donald Trump continues to attract widespread outrage in response to his disparaging comments about Nato over the weekend. Speaking at a rally in South Carolina, Trump complained that some Nato members were not contributing enough money to the alliance and suggested he would allow Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to those nations.

The comments shocked and alarmed leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Trump’s outburst “undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk”. A White House spokesperson attacked the comments as “appalling and unhinged”.

But perhaps the most surprising reaction came from fellow Republicans, a number of whom echoed the criticism of Trump’s comments. Speaking to CBS News, Nikki Haley, Trump’s rival in the Republican presidential primary, accused the former president of embracing “a thug who kills his opponents”, referring to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie told NBC News that the comments proved Trump is “unfit to be president of the United States”.

Even some of Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill refused to defend him. According to Politico, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican of Kentucky, said Trump’s comments were a “stupid thing to say”. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican of Alaska, argued the criticism of Nato members was “uncalled for”.

But even as some Republicans sharply criticized Trump’s comments, other members of the party tried to downplay the remarks. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, told the New York Times, “Give me a break — I mean, it’s Trump … All I can say is while Trump was president nobody invaded anybody.” Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican of Florida, similarly told CNN that he had “zero concern” about Trump’s comments.

With the Senate continuing work on its foreign aid package and the House returning to session tomorrow, more Republicans will likely soon be asked to Trump’s comments, forcing them to choose between criticizing the leader of their party and defending US allies abroad.

Here’s what else is happening today:

  • The Senate is expected to hold another procedural vote on its $95bn foreign aid package. The bill, which includes billions of dollars for Ukraine and Israel, cleared another procedural hurdle yesterday in a vote of 67 to 27, and a final vote is currently expected on Wednesday.

  • Defense secretary Lloyd Austin is back in the hospital. The Pentagon said yesterday that Austin was brought to Walter Reed medical center in connection to “symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue”.

  • Joe Biden will welcome the king and queen of Jordan to the White House. Biden and King Abdullah II will deliver remarks to the press following a meeting this afternoon.

There’s much more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 





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