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    Another loss, but Haley presses on for Republicans not ready to crown Trump

    Losing South Carolina is almost always a bad omen for presidential hopefuls and defeat in a candidate’s home state is viewed as irrevocable. But as the last Republican standing between Donald Trump and the Republican party nomination, Nikki Haley thrilled supporters on Saturday by deftly capitalizing on her small but consistent show of support from voters desperate for an alternative.Trump was declared the winner within one minute of polls closing in the Palmetto State, an unsurprising but nevertheless stinging rebuke for Haley at the hands of the voters who twice elected her governor.“That is really something,” Trump told supporters in Columbia, the state’s capital. “This was a little sooner than we anticipated.”It was Haley’s fourth consecutive loss this primary season. With the odds – and history – weighted heavily against her, she refused to bow out. Addressing supporters at a primary night party in Charleston, Haley conceded to Trump, but said it was clear from the vote that a significant share – perhaps as much as 40% – of Republicans were not looking to coronate the king.“I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I would continue to run,” Haley said. “I’m a woman of my word.”The chandeliered ballroom erupted in applause and chants of “Nikki!”These voters’ voices, and donations, are fuelling her long-shot bid, giving it life beyond South Carolina, a “winner-take-all” state. Her support will translate into little more than a handful of delegates at most, but it could achieve something else: reminding Trump that he has not fully captured the Republican party just yet.Haley, a former accountant, said she knew the math on Saturday did not add up to a victory. But, like the Republicans’ Cassandra, she warned: “I don’t believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden.”With most of the results tallied on Saturday night, Haley had captured just under 40% of the vote. “I know 40% is not 50%, but I also know that 40% is not some tiny group.”The risk for Republicans is that some of those voters, like Kathy Aven, say they will not support Trump in November.“Even if she drops out, I’m voting for Nikki,” said Aven, moments after Haley addressed her supporters on Saturday night. “If all I have is Biden or Trump, I’m voting for Nikki.”According to exit polls, 78% of Haley voters in South Carolina said they would be dissatisfied if Trump was the nominee; 82% said he would be unfit for the presidency if convicted of a felony; and just 4% believe he is physically and mentally fit to be president. She performed best among voters with independents, those with an advanced degree, and those who believed Biden was legitimately elected president in 2020.But as she continues to exasperate Trump and his allies, Haley’s own dilemma was laid bare in South Carolina. The “Tea Party governor”, who was once a rising star in Republican politics, is now an avatar of the anti-Trump resistance for her refusal to “kiss the ring”.And yet among those voters in the state who still like Haley, many love Trump more.“He is the best president in my lifetime,” said John, who declined to provide his last name, after casting his ballot for Trump at the main branch of the Charleston county public library.“I was a big Nikki fan. I still am, actually. I thought she was a wonderful governor of South Carolina,” he continued. “But I have the template for a guy that served four years as my president, and I know how I felt under Trump. I love Nikki as a governor. I love Trump as my president.”In her speech on Saturday, Haley vowed to continue telling “hard truths” until she is faced with her own hard truth about the path forward. Standing before voters in the state that raised her, Haley proved that she is not done fighting and is scheduled to visit the critical state of Michigan in the coming days.Amid her losing streak, that perseverance will remain memorable.Hours earlier, Haley accompanied her mother, a naturalized US citizen born in India, to the polls to cast a vote for her daughter who would be the first female president of the United States.“I am grateful that today is not the end of our story,” Haley said. More

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    ‘My ultimate and absolute revenge’: Trump gives chilling CPAC speech on presidential agenda

    Donald Trump styled himself as a “proud political dissident” and promised “judgment day” for political opponents in an address that offered a chilling vision of a democracy in imminent peril.In classic carnival barker form, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination accused Joe Biden of weaponising the government against him with “Stalinist show trials”. He pledged to crack down on border security and deliver the biggest deportation in US history if he wins the 5 November election.“For hard-working Americans, November 5th will be our new liberation day,” Trump told a packed ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Maryland. “But for the liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and imposters who have commandeered our government, it will be their judgment day!”He added: “Your victory will be our ultimate vindication, your liberty will be our ultimate reward and the unprecedented success of the United States of America will be my ultimate and absolute revenge.”The overwhelmingly white crowd, many wearing Make America Great Again regalia, rose to their feet and roared their approval.The former US president was speaking hours before an expected victory over Republican rival Nikki Haley in the South Carolina primary, making him all but certain to be the party nominee.Meanwhile, organizers held a straw poll at the convention for Trump’s running mate: South Dakota governor Kristi Noem tied with tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at 15%, followed by former Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, current New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik and South Carolina senator Tim Scott. In last place was Nikki Haley at 2%. About 1,500 people voted.Trump’s visit marked his 14th appearance at CPAC, breaking the record previously held by former president Ronald Reagan, according to his campaign. He appeared unbound and at times unhinged. The 77-year-old was bilious and bleak but also energetic and at times even humorous, less commander-in-chief than stand-up comedian. He told self-deprecating jokes about his wife Melania’s reviews of his speeches (“I ask our first lady, I say. So, baby, how good was that? She goes you were OK”).His puerile parody of the speaking style, finger pointing and gait of 81-year-old Biden earned roars of laughter. And in a nod to his days as host of the reality TV show the Apprentice, Trump delighted the audience by shouting: “Crooked Joe Biden, you are fired! Get out of here. You’re destroying our country. You’re fired. Get the hell out of here!”But, like demagogues of the past, the comedy and showmanship smuggled in a sinister undertow. Trump’s ability to play the crowd, turning its emotions from euphoria to fury as easily as flicking a switch, carry echoes that are hard to ignore.The tone was set before he appeared on stage. A series of popular hits – Abba’s Dancing Queen, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, Sinéad O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U, Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds – was followed by the tinny sound of Justice for All, a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner sung by defendants jailed over their alleged roles in the January 6, 2021, insurrection. The CPAC audience rose solemnly for the dirge that was recorded over a prison phone line.As usual, Trump entered to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, hugged an American flag and painted an impossibly grim picture of an America overrun by bloodshed, chaos and violent crime. “If Crooked Joe Biden and his thugs win in 2024, the worst is yet to come,” he said. “A country that will go and sink to levels that are unimaginable.“These are the stakes of this election. Our country is being destroyed, and the only thing standing between you and it’s obliteration is me.”View image in fullscreenFacing 91 criminal charges in four cases, Trump projected himself as both martyr and potential saviour of the nation. “A vote for Trump is your ticket back to freedom, it’s your passport out of tyranny and it’s your only escape from Joe Biden and his gang’s fast track to hell,” he continued.“And in many ways, we’re living in hell right now because the fact is, Joe Biden is a threat to democracy – really is a threat to democracy.”Speaking days after the death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Trump hinted at a self-comparison by adding: “I stand before you today not only as your past and hopefully future president but as a proud political dissident. I am a dissident.”The crowd whooped and applauded. Trump noted that he had been indicted more often than the gangster Al Capone on charges that he described as “bullshit”. The audience again leaped to their feet, some shaking their fists and chanting: “We love Trump! We love Trump!”Trump argued without evidence: “The Stalinist show trials being carried out at Joe Biden’s orders set fire not only to our system of government but to hundreds of years of western legal tradition.“They’ve replaced law, precedent and due process with a rabid mob of radical left Democrat partisans masquerading as judges and juries and prosecutors.”Trump also spent time on his signature issue: he said his “first and most urgent action” as president would be the “sealing of the border, stopping the invasion … send Joe Biden’s illegal aliens back home”.The ex-president, who has spent years demonising immigrants, said: “They’re coming from Asia, they’re coming from the Middle East, coming from all over the world, coming from Africa, and we’re not going to stand for it … They’re destroying our country.”He promised to carry out the biggest deportation in American history. “It’s not a nice thing to say and I hate to say it and those clowns in the media will say: ‘Oh, he’s so mean.’ No, they’re killing our people. They’re killing our country. We have no choice.”He added: “We have languages coming into our country … they have languages that nobody in this country has ever heard of. It’s a horrible thing.”But Trump broke from the teleprompter into a series of bizarre riffs. One was a convoluted story about flying into Iraq in darkness: “I sat with the pilots … the best-looking human beings I’ve ever seen. Not my thing … But they are handsome. Central casting. Better looking than Tom Cruise. And taller.”Once again he had the faithful eating out of the palm of his hand – a scene that may set off alarm bells for defenders of democracy. “By the way, isn’t this better than reading off a fricking teleprompter?” he asked. The crowd cheered.“Nobody can ramble like this,” he said, adding: “They’ll say: ‘He rambled, he’s cognitively impaired.’ Well, it’s really the opposite. It’s total genius – you know that.” The crowd cheered some more. More

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    Trump defeats Haley: South Carolina 2024 primary results in full

    South Carolina’s Republican voters went to the polls on Saturday to choose a candidate for president, with two significant choices left: the state’s former governor, Nikki Haley, and former president Donald Trump.Haley lost the New Hampshire primary last month by about 11 points, and polling suggested Trump would defeat his former ambassador to the United Nations by about 2-1 in her home state.The result was resounding in Trump’s favor.Here are the results of the primary election held on Saturday 24 February:Republicans runningDonald TrumpThe former US president’s campaign to retake the White House and once again grab his party’s nomination got off to a slow start that was widely mocked. But after decisive wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, his campaign has steadily moved into a position of dominance.Trump declined to attend any of the Republican debates, and has used his court appearances and many legal woes as a rallying cry to mobilize his base. His extremist rhetoric, especially around his plans for a second term and the targeting of his political enemies, has sparked widespread fears over the threat to American democracy that his candidacy represents.His political style during the campaign has not shifted from his previous runs in 2016 and 2020 and, if anything, has become more extreme. Many see this as a result of his political and legal fates becoming entwined, with a return to the Oval Office being seen as Trump’s best chance of nixing his legal problems.Nikki HaleyThe former South Carolina governor and ex-US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump has mostly hewed a fine line between being an alternative to Trump, while not outraging his base. But she has recently also positioned herself as the only viable younger candidate against both Trump and Joe Biden.That has paid off to some extent as Haley shone in debates and fundraising and rose past her competitors for the No 2 slot in the Republican race. But after losing by sizable margins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and most embarrassingly in Nevada, Haley’s chances have dwindled. Even so, she has vowed to stay in the race, even beyond South Carolina.Ryan BinkleyBinkley, a Texas businessman, is a long-shot candidate who is also a pastor at Create church. The self-proclaimed far-right fiscal conservative criticized both Democrats and Republicans for not being able to balance the federal budget, and said he would focus on health costs, immigration reform and a national volunteer movement. More

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    To Trump or not to Trump: Stefanik and Hutchinson offer contrasting Republican visions

    At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Elise Stefanik made her case for a glittering prize: the Republican nomination for vice-president to Donald Trump. At the Principles First summit on Saturday, Cassidy Hutchinson received a prize of her own: a Profiles in Courage award.Stefanik, who is 39 and the No 3 Republican in the US House, received standing ovations from an audience ultra-loyal to Trump. Hutchinson, 28, received standing ovations too, as she appeared with Alyssa Farah Griffin and Sarah Matthews, fellow Trump White House staffers turned Trump critics, before an audience of anti-Trump conservatives.Stefanik is a former moderate who has molded herself in Trump’s far-right image, to rise in a party locked in his grip. Hutchinson is a former Trump loyalist who became a star witness before the House January 6 committee.Hutchinson’s aim now, she said on Saturday, is to “bring people back to reality, to bring people back to not believing these conspiracy theories and the propagation of lies that Donald Trump has done”.Over two days of Washington talk, at two contrasting events, Stefanik and Hutchinson offered starkly differing visions of the present and future of the American right – as well as interesting studies in political star power.At CPAC, in the Maryland suburbs, Stefanik backed Trump’s lie about a stolen 2020 election, safe in the knowledge that most of her cheering audience would not remember what she said the day Trump’s supporters stormed Congress to try to overturn that result. For the record – which she allegedly sought to delete – Stefanik lamented “truly a tragic day for America” and demanded rioters be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.At Principles First, an event linked to the Bulwark website and staged in downtown DC, echoes of January 6 were also strong. Hutchinson received her award from its previous recipient, Harry Dunn, a former police officer who helped defend the Capitol.Gesturing to people onstage, Matthews said: “We’re all lifelong Republicans or lifelong conservatives. We probably all agree with about 70% of Donald Trump’s policies. But I think we’re all very open-eyed to his character.Hutchinson said: “What we need to do is practice compassion for people who did fall into [Trump’s] seduction, people who were artificially duped. We have to help educate people out of that belief system. We have to plug them back in.”Describing the costs of her decision to stand against Trump, she emphasised the experiences of others, such as the Georgia elections workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman and the Arizona official Rusty Bowers, who also experienced “horrible attacks that ruined our lives”.“We need to push towards normalcy,” Hutchinson said. “We start in this next election. We start by doing everything we possibly can to make sure that Donald Trump never gets near the Oval Office again, and to make sure that every … ”Interrupted by applause, she eventually continued: “ … that every member of Congress that has enabled Donald Trump’s agenda is also held accountable and voted out of office.”That would include Stefanik, named by Farah as someone “we were very close with” but also someone comfortable with the “mental gymnastics” it takes to stay with Trump.View image in fullscreenAnother name came up: Mike Gallagher of Ohio, until this month a Republican rising star, now on his way out of the House after voting against an impeachment of Joe Biden mounted to satisfy Trump’s thirst for revenge and based on the claims of a man indicted for lying and linked to Russian intelligence.Gallagher’s retirement “makes me sad”, Matthews said, “because we need more people like Mike Gallagher in Congress and less people like Marjorie Taylor Greene.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionThat jab at the far-right Trump ally from Georgia drew its own applause. But Matthews also rebuked Stefanik and her ilk.“Sadly, people are more concerned with their own positions of power than they are with doing what’s right for the country. These people were elected not to serve Donald Trump. They’re there to serve their constituents, and they seem to have forgotten that.“They’re doing his bidding and they’re so concerned with not painting a target on their own back. Donald Trump, when people speak out against him, what does he do? He tries to find a primary opponent, so he gets them out and gets someone he would approve in … and it’s really disappointing because I think … people would believe the threat of Donald Trump if these elected officials would come out and say what I know they privately say.”Dunn, the former Capitol officer, is running to become an elected official, seeking a seat in Congress as a Maryland Democrat. Outside the ballroom, he could be overheard discussing a “small-business tour” in his prospective district. Listening to Hutchinson – then seeing her signing copies of her memoir and patiently posing for selfies, a line snaking off down the hall – it wasn’t hard to imagine her following a similar path. After all, it was a scene similar, in its way, to the one at CPAC that saw Stefanik surrounded by admirers as she spoke to Steve Bannon.On stage, Hutchinson said: “As I’ve been traveling around the country, I’ve been very encouraged by the amount of young people who see the threat Donald Trump poses and see we need to do more.“We need to do more to mobilise voters. We need to do more to educate voters. The reality of this next election is it’s going to come down to a handful of states, similarly to how it happened in 2020. We need to focus on those states and make sure that those constituents are adequately educated on who they’re voting for.“And if the ticket is a binary choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, people need to understand on a very basic, very fundamental level that there’ll be one candidate on that ballot that will support our democracy so we can continue to thrive. And it’s not Donald Trump.”Her audience rose to its feet again. More

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    ‘I’m so proud of her’: Nikki Haley supporters vote in South Carolina primary

    Cindy Tripp, still recovering from a surgery she’d undergone earlier that week, convinced her husband to accompany her to Patriots Point on Friday night to watch Nikki Haley rally supporters one last time before the voters of South Carolina rendered their verdict in the Republican presidential primary.“I’m not supposed to be here,” Tripp said, laughing as the sun set over the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, the backdrop for Haley’s rally on the eve of the Republican primary. “But I couldn’t miss this because I’m so proud of her.”Tripp, who turns 60 next week, cast her ballot for Haley just after polls opened on the first day of early voting on 12 February. Ahead of Saturday’s primary, she has worked to get out the vote in South Carolina, where Haley is bracing for a loss to Donald Trump in the state that twice elected her governor.But some of her supporters are vowing to stick with their candidate until the end.Haley is Trump’s last remaining primary rival. Casting herself as David taking on Goliath, she has refused to drop out of the race, thrilling voters like Tripp who say they no longer feel welcome in Trump’s Republican party.“Nikki represents an opportunity for us to finally speak,” Tripp said.On a Beast of the South-East bus tour across her “sweet” South Carolina, Haley was often greeted by crowds of women and girls eager to see her make history. But also – and more importantly, they emphasize – she would restore a sense of normalcy to American politics.View image in fullscreenView image in fullscreen“She’s not the best woman for the job. She’s the best person for the job,” said Judith Smith, who carried a homemade Run Nikki Run sign at a Haley event in Moncks Corner on Friday.South Carolina primary: read more
    When to expect South Carolina results
    Key dates for the 2024 election
    Who’s running for president?
    Haley’s steep odds in South Carolina
    Those like Smith who recall Haley’s tenure as governor point to her stewardship of the state’s economy and her leadership in the wake of the racist massacre at the historically Black Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015. Others cite her foreign policy experience as United Nations ambassador under Trump.But a not insignificant source of her support is her opponent.“To be honest, I hate Trump,” said Barbara Bates, 76, of Goose Creek, when asked about her support for Haley.Bates – a Republican who voted for Haley as governor, and who was wearing a Haley campaign shirt that quipped “underestimate me, that will be fun” – said she was under no illusion that Trump could be stopped from winning the nomination. She nevertheless believed it was important for Haley to stand in his way as he attempts to stamp out any strain of resistance to his nomination.“I appreciate her hanging in and not dropping out,” Bates said. “In 2020 I didn’t get a vote in the presidential primary because South Carolina went ahead and anointed Trump. At least she gave me a vote.”View image in fullscreenWith most of the Republican base in Trump’s thrall, Haley’s coalition is a hodgepodge of conservatives who remember her as the “Tea Party governor”, and anti-Trump Republicans and independents disillusioned by the prospect of a November rematch between Trump, a 77-year-old former president facing 91 felony charges, and Joe Biden, the deeply unpopular incumbent.She also appeals to some Democrats fearful of a Trump second term and indifferent toward Biden. South Carolina is among the states that allow registered Democrats to vote in the Republican primary – as long as they didn’t participate in their party’s contest earlier this month.At an event in Georgetown this week, Morgan Derrick, a self-described “curious Democrat”, said she liked Haley’s foreign policy approach and her economic plans. But she has concerns with Haley’s conservative views on abortion.Derrick said abortion was “probably the highest policy on my mind” though she had disagreements with Biden on other issues, leaving her unsure of how she would vote.“It’s a very complicated field out there,” Derrick said.A Suffolk University/USA Today poll of South Carolina Republican primary voters found that 59% of respondents who identified themselves as liberals or moderates said they’d vote for the former South Carolina governor, compared with just 38% who said they would back Trump. Among those who said the most important issue of the future is democracy, 63% favored Haley.Not all of Haley’s supporters are anti-Trump. Some are enthusiastically pro-Haley. A group of Republican women cheered wildly and danced in the crowd as they waited for Haley’s bus to arrive in Moncks Corner. Some wore shirts that said “barred permanently” – a reference to Trump’s threat to ex-communicate any donor who continued giving to her campaign.View image in fullscreenSeveral of those same supporters arrived at Haley’s evening event wearing feather boas and “women for Nikki” pins. They praised her as a “role model” and a “leader” who was “smart as a whip” and could unify the country.When she finishes speaking, Haley is regularly mobbed by women and young girls, who often receive extra attention from the candidate. She autographs their posters with a heart and a personalized note and poses for selfies.“She seems like a voice for the future,” said Trish Mooney, 60, who attended a Haley event in Georgetown this week.Haley has also attracted a loyal group of out-of-state volunteers, some who have followed her campaign from Iowa. A Massachusetts man handing out yard signs in Moncks Corner said he felt compelled to do what he could to defeat Trump.Marti Leib, an independent who said she never votes a straight party-line ticket, came from Florida with her tiny dog, Kipper, to support Haley’s campaign in the state. In a view shared by several attendees at the candidate’s Friday campaign stops, Leib said the November election presents an existential choice for Americans – and that Haley is the only candidate left in the race who can save the country.“If we don’t do something right this election season, we’re gonna fall like the Roman empire,” said Leib, 73. “It’s downright scary.”View image in fullscreenDespite Haley’s dwindling odds, some of her most loyal supporters aren’t ready to confront the question of who they will vote for in November if – but if they’re honest, when – she drops out of the race.“That’s like choosing between a hedgehog and a porcupine,” said Smith. Neither, she clarified, were desirable choices. More

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    Trump ‘would’ve lost mind completely’ if Putin admitted interference, Fiona Hill says

    Donald Trump “would have lost his mind completely” at his summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in 2018, the former White House Russia specialist Fiona Hill said, if the Russian president had simply admitted he did in fact interfere on Trump’s behalf in the US election two years before.Trump, Hill said, refused “to believe that Russia tried to tip the scales to his benefit. And if Putin had actually said to him at some point, ‘No, Donald, I did try to interfere in the election,’ I think he would have lost his mind completely.“Because what would he have done about that? He’s trying to push back against this and the conclusion of course is that no, Russia didn’t do that at all.”Hill, a British-born academic and analyst now chancellor of Durham University, was a deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration. She was speaking on Saturday at the Principles First Summit in Washington DC.Counter-programming the pro-Trump Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, taking place outside the city, Principles First offered a slate of anti-Trump voices.Hill followed speakers including the philosopher Francis Fukuyama, the Bulwark editor Bill Kristol and Quin Hillyer, a columnist who called Joe Biden “a crooked brain-fogged old man who sold out to the radical left” – indicating the conservative roots of the conference.Hill was asked about her experiences at the summit in Helsinki, when Trump caused huge controversy by meeting Putin alone then appearing deferential in public, saying he took the Russian president at his word that he did not interfere in the US election in 2016 – a conclusion not supported by US intelligence and law enforcement.Hill has previously said she was so appalled that she considered faking a sudden illness to stop the press conference.“I also thought about pulling the fire alarm, but I didn’t know what Finnish was for ‘fire alarm’,” Hill said, to laughter.More seriously, Hill said, the Putin press conference “was one of the most humiliating episodes of all time.“The actual meeting between Trump and Putin was, probably don’t take my word for it, much more sensible behind the scenes.”Hill said Trump was “very focused on arms control issues”.But, she said, “Putin always looked to put one over Trump and, actually, every leader he ever meets. Even Xi Jinping of China. Putin thinks about what people’s vulnerabilities are, and how he can then try to manipulate the conversation to go in his direction.“The issue was really the press conference itself. We knew that it was going to be difficult. I’d actually recommended against a press conference. My word didn’t have much coinage in that environment but one of the reasons was because Trump admires Putin so much, he never wants to be humiliated. And it was all about a personal sense of humiliation.“The instance in which he was asked the question about whether he felt that the Russians interfered in the election, he wanted to push back very quickly against it. He wanted to diminish any kind of idea of that because if … he wanted to get the message across that nobody had interfered on his behalf.”Hill is a co-author of Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, an early study of the Russian leader and his roots in Soviet intelligence.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionPutin is set to stay in power until 2036. Trump is the probable Republican nominee for president this year, 91 criminal indictments and assorted civil judgments notwithstanding, and the driving force behind Republicans in Congress blocking further aid to Ukraine in its two-year fight against Russian invaders.Trump, Hill said, “idolises” Putin, oblivious to Putin’s attempt to “erode the idea of the United States” as a democratic power.Asked about the death last week of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s chief domestic opponent, and Trump reacting only by comparing himself to a man Putin is widely held to have killed, Hill said Trump might have been open to being critical had figures he admired done the same.“Elon Musk actually saying something positive about Alexei Navalny at the time, extolling him as a hero, that could have changed Trump’s perception because it’s as capricious as that,” she said. “It’s really about how this affects him.”In office, Hill said, Trump “talked about taking out Bashar al-Assad, because Assad dropped chemical weapons on his watch and that reflected on perceptions of Trump – rather than on the United States. He wanted to take out [Iranian general] Qassem Suleimani, which we did, because [Iranian-backed strikes on US targets] were an affront to him on his watch. It reflected on him in some negative way.”Saying she had just returned from the Munich security conference, Hill said European leaders she spoke to were considering how to deal Trump with again.“In many conversations around the edges of the conference,” Hill said, “the prime ministers and presidents and foreign ministers and others … all know how capricious Trump is. And that’s really what they’re worried about, because it doesn’t matter how many people that they know who become secretary of state or secretary of defense, it comes down to Trump himself and the unpredictability of his personality,” she said.“And the result is that they have started to lose faith in the United States. And it’s very distressing to hear.” More

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    CPAC: Noem and Stefanik lead charge of the wannabe Trump VPs

    On Saturday, the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, will end with a straw poll. But given Donald Trump’s lock on the Republican nomination, attendees will not be asked who they want for president. They will be asked to choose between 17 possible vice-presidential picks.On Friday, four such names were on the speakers’ roster.“There are two kinds of people in this country right now,” the South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, told an audience in general uninterested in non-binary choices.“There are people who love America, and there are those who hate America.”As an applause line, it worked well enough. Noem hit out at “agendas of socialism and control”, boasted of taxes cut and railroads built, and decried conditions at the southern border, claiming other countries were using it “to infiltrate us, and destroy us”.But she earned perhaps her loudest response with more simple red meat: “I’m just going to say it: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris suck.”Perhaps tellingly for her straw poll chances, Noem’s statement that “I’ve always supported the fact that our next president needs to be President Trump” also earned cheers. Bland at face value, the line was a dig at other possible vice-presidential picks such as Tim Scott, the South Carolina senator who challenged Trump then fawningly expressed his love.“I was one of the first people to endorse Donald Trump to be president,” Noem said. “Last year, when everyone was asking me if I was going to consider running, I said no. Why would you run for president when you know you can’t win?”That was a question for another VP contender, Vivek Ramaswamy. Having made a brief splash in the primary – clashing with Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and Trump’s last remaining rival – the biotech entrepreneur landed the speaker slot at Friday night’s Ronald Reagan dinner.Before that came two more contenders from outside the primary, Elise Stefanik of New York, the House Republican conference chair, and JD Vance of Ohio, the US Marine Corps reporter turned venture capitalist turned Hillbilly Elegy author and populist firebrand senator.The author Michael Wolff once reported that Trump preferred women to wear “high boots, short skirts and shoulder-length hair”. Stefanik, a Harvard graduate, once a moderate, strode out as if in mid-Maga metamorphosis, long hair feathered and highlighted.Her speech was full of Trump-esque lines. The media were the “loyal stenographers of the left”; she hectored the Ivy League college presidents she grilled in a hearing on campus antisemitism, earning Trump’s approval; the “Biden crime family” was to blame for “Bidenflation”.View image in fullscreenNo mention, obviously, that the chief source of unverified allegations about the “Biden crime family” was this week charged with lying to investigators and said, by prosecutors, to have ties to Russian intelligence.Stefanik attempted a Trumpian move: changing the historical record. Finessing her experience of the January 6 Capitol attack, she said she “stood up for the election and constitutional integrity” – which could only be true under Trump’s definiton of those terms. With 146 other Republicans, Stefanik objected to key results.It was a stark departure from her statement at the time, when Stefanik lamented a “truly a tragic day for America”, condemned “dangerous violence and destruction”, and called for Trump supporters who attacked Congress to be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.That statement disappeared from Stefanik’s website. But such scrubbing may be unnecessary. Trump has little interest in truth. Perhaps Stefanik’s zealous speech, if a little flat compared with the sharp rabble-rousing of the Florida congressman Matt Gaetz shortly before, will prove persuasive. She was enthusiastically received.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionVance came next, making light of appearing for an interview, by the Newsmax host Rob Schmitt, rather than a speech of his own.Relentlessly, the senator communicated anger, mostly at elites and politicians of both parties he said were dedicated to their own profit at the people’s expense.“It’s a disgrace that every person here should be pissed off about,” he thundered.Vance was angry about the need to stop funding Ukraine in its war with Russia, angry about the need to boost US manufacturing, angry about the lack of border and immigration reform.Presenting himself as a proud “conservative knuckle-dragger” but also a foreign policy voice – a sort of global isolationist, just back from the Munich security conference – Vance was unrepentant over Senate Republicans’ decision to sink a bipartisan border deal and accused Democrats of using undocumented migrants for electoral ends. He said Google should be broken up, to combat leftwing bias, but also uttered a couple of lines he might hope Trump does not search up.Singing Trump’s praises as a Washington outsider, Vance appeared to suggest he thought Trump was older than Biden, the Methuselah of the executive mansion, saying: “He was born I believe in 1940.” That would make Trump 83 or 84, not a supposedly sprightly 77.Vance also said Americans were “too strong or too woken up” to be fooled by Biden again. Woken, not woke. But given Vance’s play-in video, in which Schmitt bemoaned the spread of “woke” ideas on the left, it seemed a half-bum note.Finally, late on, came Ramaswamy. He posed his own binaries: “Either you believe in American exceptionalism or you believe in American apologism … Either you believe in free speech or you believe in censorship.” Then he reeled off positions – end affirmative action, frack and drill, crack down on illegal immigration – now in service of Trump.It sounded more like a pitch for a cabinet job, say health secretary, than for vice-president. Maybe not commerce, overseeing the patent office. Hymning the founders, Ramaswamy said Thomas Jefferson “invented the polygraph test”. The third president used a polygraph, a machine for copying letters. He did not invent a test to see if a person is lying.On Saturday, Kari Lake, an election-denying Senate candidate from Arizona, will speak before Trump, Ramaswamy after. Then the CPAC attendees, dedicated conservatives pausing in their perusal of Maga hammocks and Woke Tears water, for sale at the CPAC market, will say who they want for VP. More

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    ‘We’re going to lose our grasp on democracy’: divided GOP voters weigh in on US aid to Ukraine

    When Donald Trump declared he would allow Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to Nato members who fail to meet funding commitments, world leaders and Democratic lawmakers reacted with shock and alarm. But Douglas Benton, a 70-year-old Republican voter from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was quite pleased.“Yes. I’m glad that Trump said we wouldn’t back you up if [Russian president Vladimir] Putin decides to take your ass over. We don’t care because you didn’t pay up,” Benton said. “If everyone participated, why don’t they put some money into the game and give Ukraine some money? Why does it always have to be us?”As he spoke to the Guardian, Benton held a large pro-Trump flag to protest Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s event in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, two days before the South Carolina Republican primary. When she took the stage, Haley articulated a very different view on the former president’s comments about Nato, accusing him of enabling dictators and abandoning crucial US allies.“Trump is siding with a dictator who kills his political opponents,” Haley said, referring to the death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. “Trump is siding with Putin, who has made no bones about wanting to destroy America. And Trump is choosing to side with him over the allies that stood with us after 9/11?”The contrast underscored how foreign policy, and the specific question of providing additional aid to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia, has divided the Republican party in Washington and on the campaign trail.In Washington, a foreign aid package that includes $60bn in funding for Ukraine passed the Senate this month in a bipartisan vote of 70 to 29, with 22 Republicans supporting the proposal. But the House speaker, Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson, has already indicated that he will not allow a vote on the package amid entrenched opposition among hard-right members of his conference.The split is similarly reflected in the Republican party’s voting base. According to a Pew Research Center poll released in December, nearly half of Republicans and right-leaning independents believe the US is providing too much money to Ukraine. Only 9% of Republicans and right-leaning independents said the same in March 2022, right after the war began.The growing trend demonstrates how Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy, much at odds with the Republicans’ Reagan-era embrace of the country’s role as a leader on the global stage, has taken root in the party. Just this month, Trump helped kill a border and national security deal that included Ukraine funding, and he has suggested that any money sent to Kyiv should be treated as a loan.Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, was even more severe as he spoke at an event in Charleston on Friday, mocking claims that Ukraine aid was a top issue for members of his party. Trump Jr then conducted an informal survey of the roughly 50 voters in attendance, none of whom identified Ukraine as one of their top ten policy priorities.“And yet, they’re trying to get legislation this week for another $60bn,” Trump Jr said. “They will mortgage your children’s and grandchildren’s future to the hilt to defend a border in Ukraine.”Speaking to reporters after the event, Trump Jr brushed off widespread concerns among Nato leaders that Putin may invade other eastern European nations if he is successful in Ukraine. Trump Jr said he was “100%” confident that Putin would not attempt to expand beyond Ukraine if his father wins the White House in November.“It’s not logical,” he said. “He understands what he’d be up against if he were doing those things.”Trump’s most loyal supporters echo that opinion, insisting that the US should invest in domestic priorities like managing its border with Mexico instead of approving more funding for Ukraine.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“We need to start focusing on that and stop sending billions of dollars to Ukraine,” said Chris Pennington, a 51-year-old voter from Johns Island who attended the Charleston event. “And trust me when I say everybody I talk to agrees with me, and they say they’re sick of it too … When are they going to stop digging into our pockets and our tax dollars?”But many of Haley’s supporters in South Carolina share concerns expressed by the candidate – as well as Joe Biden, congressional Democrats and many world leaders – that global democracy could be jeopardized unless the US provides more aid to Ukraine.“It’s overdue, and I think that we’re going to lose our grasp on democracy if Russia takes over Ukraine,” said Trish Mooney, a 60-year-old voter from Georgetown who attended Haley’s event there on Thursday. “The writing’s on the wall.”So far, Trump appears to be winning the argument over the future of US foreign policy, as he is poised to easily defeat Haley on Saturday. According to the FiveThirtyEight average of South Carolina polls, Trump leads Haley by roughly 30 points in the state. Trump has already won the first three voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.Even if he wins the Republican presidential nomination, as is widely expected, the issue of Ukraine funding could become a liability for Trump in the general election. The same Pew poll that found about half of Republicans opposing more Ukraine funding showed that only 31% of all Americans believe the US is providing too much aid support to Kyiv.Morgan Derrick, a 30-year-old voter and self-described “curious Democrat” who attended Haley’s event in Georgetown, described the project of supporting Kyiv as an urgent priority.“I feel the need is immense. I can’t believe someone would think that it would be best if Russia won against Ukraine,” Derrick said. “If they take their democracy away, then what happens to the rest of the democratic countries in the world?” More