President Trump “strongly recommitted American support for NATO on Thursday, declaring, ‘I believe in NATO.’ At a news conference in Brussels, he insisted that despite his criticism of the alliance and some of its member countries, there was no animosity in private meetings with other leaders."
Trump: "There’s a great, very collegial spirit in that room. Very unified, very strong, no problem."
“If Mr. Trump’s public remarks were friendly, the tone behind closed doors was much harsher. According to a person briefed on Mr. Trump’s meeting with other NATO leaders, Mr. Trump said that if the other countries did not meet the 2 percent standard by January, the United States ‘would go it alone.’
“What that would mean was not clear to the officials who were present. White House officials did not immediately respond to requests to explain Mr. Trump’s comment, or to say whether he was suggesting that the United States could withdraw from NATO.” (New York Times)
MEANWHILE, WITH RUSSIA... Trump “pledged Thursday that he will ‘of course’ raise the issue of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election at his summit next week with the country’s leader, Vladimir Putin, but he insisted that there was little he could do if—as expected—Putin denies that Russia interfered.
“‘Look, he may. What am I going to do? He may deny it,’ Trump said at a news conference here on the second day of a NATO summit. ‘All I can do is say, ‘Did you?’ And, ‘Don’t do it again.’ But he may deny it. You’ll be the first to know.’
“During the hastily assembled news conference, Trump also continued to strike a friendly tone toward the Russian leader, calling him a ‘competitor’ rather than a U.S. enemy—while declining to label him directly as a security threat to the United States or other European nations. Throughout his presidency, Trump has steadfastly declined to admonish Putin, even as U.S. intelligence officials concluded that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election in an effort to sow discord and help Trump win.”
“Trump and Putin are set to meet face to face at a highly anticipated summit in Helsinki on Monday—a sharp contrast with the aims of the 29-member NATO alliance that works to deter threats from Moscow. Yet Trump has taken a warm tone toward Putin while declining to dispute the Russian president’s denial of Russian meddling in 2016.” (Washington Post)
BIG EXIT. “Trump’s legislative affairs director is heading for the exits just as the White House gears up for a major Supreme Court nomination battle and approaches a daunting midterm election landscape.
“Marc Short, one of the administration’s longest-serving senior aides and a frequent spokesperson for the president on television, is planning to depart by July 20. … Short … is taking a position at Guidepost Strategies consulting firm and will teach at the University of Virginia’s business school, where he received his MBA, and will also serve as a senior fellow at the university’s Miller Center.” (Politico)
THE REPLACEMENT. "Shahira Knight, a top economic adviser to ... Trump who played a central role in shepherding the Republicans’ tax bill through Congress, will be named the White House’s legislative affairs director, according to two people familiar with the decision." (Politico)
2020 RNC. The Charlotte City Council “will vote on Monday to become the host city for the Republican National Convention in 2020. … Two people familiar with the process said the vote will likely have to do with accepting federal money for security.” (WSOC-TV)
NEW HAMPSHIRE. “More than two dozen of the most influential state Republicans, under the leadership of returning chairman Wayne MacDonald, met behind closed doors to figure out what to do about the party’s" financial challenges.
“The short-term mantra” for July “was ‘15K by the 15th,’ and after that, another $15,000 will be have to be found. And then the party can begin to look at how to raise and spend money heading into the election. One way will be a major fundraiser set for Aug. 30.” (WMUR)
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"The mercurial veteran GOP political operative, Roger Stone, has acknowledged that he is the unnamed Trump campaign regular who corresponded with an alleged Russian hacker, as described in a new indictment against a dozen Russians returned Friday by a federal grand jury." He told ABC News that he previously admitted to the contact to House investigators. He called the correspondence "benign."
"A dozen Russian intelligence officers have been charged with conspiring" to hack into Democratic organizations, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and state election boards and private companies providing ballot verifying software for the 2016 presidential election, announced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The Russians corresponded "with several Americans," Rosenstein said, who clarified that there was "no allegation in this indictment" that the Americans knew they were speaking with Russian hackers.
"President Trump described the European Union as 'a foe' in an interview with CBS News on Sunday, ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland. "I think we have a lot of foes," Trump said. "I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they are a foe."