First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
WASHINGTON — Exactly one year ago, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was arguing that a Donald Trump presidency would endanger America’s national security — and possibly lead to war.
“I spent many years as a nuclear missile launch officer. If the president gave the order, we had to launch the missiles. That would be it,” went one Clinton TV ad. “I prayed that call would never come. Self-control may be all that keeps these missiles from firing… The thought of Donald Trump with nuclear weapons scares me to death. It should scare everyone.”
Raise your hand if you predicted, on the 262nd day of Trump's time in office, that a fellow Republican — who just happens to be chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — would be making a similar argument.
“Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like ‘a reality show,’ with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation ‘on the path to World War III,’” the New York Times reported Sunday night.
More Corker: “‘Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,’ he said, adding that ‘of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.’”
And: “‘I don’t know why the president tweets out things that are not true,’ [Corker] said. ‘You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.’”
So in the past week, we’ve learned that fellow Republicans and members of Trump’s cabinet have 1) referred to the president as a “moron” (Secretary of State Rex Tillerson); 2) called the White House “an adult day care center” (Corker); and 3) stated that Trump’s threats could set the nation “on the path to World War III” (Corker again).
These back-to-back-to-back rebukes aren’t coming from Never-Trumpers inside the party; they’re coming from the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the sitting secretary of state. Add them up, and what these stunning criticisms do is diminish ANY credibility the Trump White House has on topics like North Korea, backing out of the Iran nuclear deal or simply saying things like “It’s the calm before the storm,” as Trump did last week.
Just this morning, Trump tweeted, “Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn't work!”
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Now reflect on that tweet after Corker’s interview with the New York Times.
Will any Republicans act on Corker’s criticism?
So now that Corker has sounded the “World War III” alarm, will any other Republicans act on the criticism? This could be the week’s most important political story.
But as NBC’s Frank Thorp reminds us, the Senate is out all week, so getting GOP reaction to Corker’s comments in DC will be harder. And NBC’s Alex Moe says that the U.S. House of Representatives doesn’t return to DC until late Tuesday.
Yet the question couldn’t be more important for Republicans: Whose side are you on here — the president’s or the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s? And if Corker’s criticisms are legitimate, what are you going to do about it?
Still expecting a deal on DACA later this year? Don’t bet on it
“The Trump administration Sunday sent Congress a list of tough immigration reforms it would require to be included in any legislation that would allow immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to remain. The proposals include funding for a southern border wall and are likely to be rebuked by Democrats,” NBC’s Julia Ainsley and Hallie Jackson write.
“The status of nearly 800,000 Dreamers was called into question in September when President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama-era program that had protected them, known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), giving Congress six months to enact the program into law. Trump has said he has a heart for DACA recipients and has told Democratic leaders that he would work with Congress to find a fix for the program.”
“But the policies outlined by the White House on Sunday night are likely to push Democrats away from the negotiating table.”
Indeed, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi released this statement yesterday: “We told the President at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable. This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise. The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”
Pence walks out of NFL game
NBC’s Alex Johnson: Vice President Mike Pence “flew to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis so he could watch a ceremony honoring Indianapolis Colts legend Peyton Manning. But he left the arena after about 12 members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt on one knee as the anthem played.”
But as NBC’s Peter Alexander adds, “A senior Pence official said the vice president's decision to walk out of an NFL game on when some players knelt during the National Anthem was planned ahead of time. The same official also told reporters that Pence was ‘hopeful’ that all of the players would stand. But now, following his exit from Lucas Oil Stadium, the Vice President has poured more fuel on the fire.”
49ers safety Eric Reid, who began kneeling with Colin Kaepernick a year ago, said that Pence’s walkout was a “PR stunt” and what “systemic oppression looks like.”
“My honest reaction … Does anybody know the last time he’s been to a football game?” Reid said. “With that being said, he tweeted out a three-year old photo of him at a Colts game, so with the information I have, the last time he was at a Colts game was three years ago. So this looks like a PR stunt to me. He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. Based on the information I have, that’s the assumption I’ve made.”
Northam leads Gillespie by seven points, per new poll
In the race for Virginia governor, Democrat Ralph Northam leads Republican Ed Gillespie, 49 percent to 42 percent, according to a new Wason Center tracking poll.
Northam and Gillespie participate in their third and final debate tonight in Wise, Va.