First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Trump makes his strongest threat to date that he could mount an independent bid
Donald Trump today heads to the border, while Hillary Clinton (in South Carolina), Jeb Bush (in New Hampshire) and other White House hopefuls are on the campaign trail. But maybe today’s biggest story is Trump’s strongest threat to date that he could mount an independent presidential bid if the Republican Party is unfair to him. The Hill: “Donald Trump says the chances that he will launch a third-party White House run will ‘absolutely’ increase if the Republican National Committee is unfair to him during the 2016 primary season. ‘The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,’ the business mogul told The Hill in a 40-minute interview from his Manhattan office at Trump Tower on Wednesday. ‘The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.’” (We assume Trump was referring to the RNC statement over the weekend rebuking him for criticizing John McCain, but it wasn’t 100% clear from the piece.) How badly would a Trump indie bid hurt the GOP? According to this week’s Washington Post/ABC poll, a three-way race would result in Hillary Clinton getting 46%, Jeb Bush getting 30%, and Trump 20% among registered voters.
Does the RNC let him go? Can it?
So the RNC has a choice to make: Does it bite its tongue and hold back on future criticism? Or does it let him go? It isn’t an easy decision. On the one hand, the threat is credible -- Trump has enough money (to get on the ballot) and enough name ID to affect a D-vs.-R presidential contest. On the other hand, he’s held the GOP and its candidates hostage. And when you’re dealing with a hostage-taker, sometimes the best approach is taking him out. But here’s another question: Even if the RNC did want him to go, how does it go about doing that? After all, the RNC’s job isn’t to take people off the ballot. Voters -- not the RNC -- will decide who the GOP nominee will be.
Trump heads to the border
Today’s other Trump-related story is that heads to Laredo, TX (with a 96% Latino population) to inspect the U.S.-Mexico border. Breitbart, which helped arrange Trump’s border tour, previews the trip. “‘We look forward to giving Mr. Trump a boots on the ground perspective on the Laredo Sector of the Texas-Mexico Border,’ said National Border Patrol Council, Local 2455 President Hector Garza. ‘Mr. Trump is expected to be in Laredo later in the week.’ Garza told Breitbart Texas that following the border tour, Trump will have a town hall style meeting where law enforcement officers will be invited to provide feedback on their perspective of the border situation.”
Obama heads to Africa
President Obama tonight embarks on his overseas trip to Africa, where he begins in Kenya -- the land of his father. “Through more than six years in office for Mr. Obama, Kenya has been a complicated part of his political persona,” the New York Times says. “Known for a youthful memoir exploring his Kenyan roots, Mr. Obama has been celebrated as a son of Africa who reached the pinnacle of power. But he also found himself besieged by a conspiracy theory that he had actually been born in Kenya and was therefore ineligible to be president — a theory he felt compelled to dispel by marching into the White House briefing room in 2011 with his a birth certificate from Hawaii.” More: “Mr. Obama considered the ‘birther’ movement, now largely defunct, a distraction and a cynical ploy by opponents like Donald J. Trump, but he stayed away from Kenya until now, unwilling to provoke the obvious political circus that would have ensued.”
Black activists vs. white progressives
Don’t miss the piece by MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald on the aftermath of the “Black Lives Matter” protest at the progressive Netroots Nation last weekend. “[Martin] O’Malley tried to work with the activists, but caught boos when he verbally misstepped by saying ‘white lives matter.’ [Bernie] Sanders seemed annoyed from the outset, talking over the protesters and saying, ‘If you don’t want me to be here, that’s OK.’” More from the article: “‘There is a schism. White progressives assume that black folks are a part of them, but they don’t give priority to the issues that black folks are facing. And yet we’re expected to all fall in line,’ said Elon James White, a black activist and media figure who did not plan the protests, but works with Netroots. ‘This is an American problem, but the progressive space is supposed to care.’”
On the trail
Jeb Bush holds a “Taking on Mt. Washington” town hall in New Hampshire (which just happens to have an actual Mt. Washington!!!)… Hillary Clinton campaigns in South Carolina… Ted Cruz, in DC, participates in a protest against the Iran deal… Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker attend ALEC’s annual meeting in San Diego, CA… John Kasich is in New Hampshire… Carly Fiorina is in Iowa… And Martin O’Malley, in DC, holds a discussion on Wall Street reform.