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Turkey and Hungary Continue to Block Sweden’s NATO Bid
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Turkey and Hungary Continue to Block Sweden’s NATO Bid

Plus: House Republicans target Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Happy Friday! In preparation for the summer travel season, Heinz is releasing special limited-edition condiment packets unique to each of the 50 states.

We can’t confirm this is accurate, but we assume the Wisconsin sauce is just that yellow goop that comes with the nachos you order at a high school basketball game.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday Ukrainian pilots have begun training to operate F-16 fighter jets after the United States—which controls F-16 exports—signaled approval last month for transferring the planes to Ukraine. At a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group—a coalition of countries aiding Ukraine—U.S. military leaders acknowledged publicly for the first time that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is underway.
  • North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Thursday in response to military drills conducted by South Korea and the U.S. over the last three weeks that a North Korean spokesperson called “provocative and irresponsible.” The launches are the first since North Korea’s failed spy satellite launch last month.
  • An overcrowded fishing boat carrying hundreds of migrants—estimates range from 500 to 750—sank 50 miles off the coast of Greece on Wednesday, leaving 78 confirmed dead and hundreds more missing. The vessel capsized and quickly sank to the bottom of the ocean after an engine reportedly malfunctioned—and survivors say as many as 100 children were traveling in the ship’s hold. Approximately 100 people have been rescued so far, but no new survivors have been found since Wednesday.
  • The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 yesterday—with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting—to uphold provisions in the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 that require preferencing tribal families in adoptions of Native American children. The court affirmed Congress’ authority to set the terms of adoption—a power typically exercised by the states—but did not rule on the question of whether tribal preference violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
  • Jack Teixeira, the Air National Guard member accused of leaking classified material on Discord, was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on six counts of illegally retaining and transmitting national defense information—up from the two charges he faced when he was first arrested in April. If convicted of all the allegations, Teixeira could face decades in prison.
  • Several State Department cables obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by U.S. Right to Know, a public health transparency group, suggested that U.S. officials concluded the spread of COVID-19 could have been contained had China not acted to cover up the early outbreak. The cables—which are still heavily redacted—also suggest the People’s Liberation Army was involved with labs at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and that the Chinese Communist Party, rather than local officials, censored early information about the outbreak.
  • Days after alleging in a Senate floor speech that an FBI FD-1023 form included an assertion that a Ukrainian business executive had 15 recordings of phone calls with Hunter Biden and two with then-Vice President Joe Biden, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa told CNN he cannot confirm such tape recordings actually exist. “I don’t even know where they are,” Grassley said yesterday. “I just know they exist, because of what the report says. Now, maybe they don’t exist. But how will I know until the FBI tells us. Are they showing us their work?”
  • The Department of Justice has reportedly informed the PGA Tour of its intent to review the golf league’s proposed merger with Saudi-backed LIV Golf—potentially delaying the completion deal for more than a year or blocking it entirely. The news comes as reports have surfaced that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is planning to compensate PGA Tour players who turned down large payouts to join LIV.
  • The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—held constant week-over-week at a seasonally-adjusted 262,000 claims last week. The past two weeks of claims numbers are the highest since October 2021, a continued indicator that the labor market may be cooling.

Is Swed-In or Out? 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) meets with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (L)  in March. (Photo by Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) meets with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (L) in March. (Photo by Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

If the TMD team can claim to be experts on anything, it’s working on a tight deadline. That’s why we feel for the diplomats frantically trying to get Sweden’s accession to NATO greenlit before the alliance’s annual conference in Lithuania on July 11.

In just a few weeks, NATO leaders will arrive in Vilnius for what they’d surely like to be a show of Western unity as Ukraine tries to beat back invading Russian forces. At the moment, though, the alliance is looking a little fractious, with recent developments suggesting its rogue members will not fall in line to admit Sweden to the group before the summit—despite mounting pressure from allies.

Sweden and Finland announced they would seek NATO membership in May 2022, reversing more than a half-century of neutrality and thumbing their noses at Russian President Vladimir Putin. The news was generally met with applause from alliance members—with the notable exceptions of Hungary and Turkey.

As we reported a few months ago, aspiring members need the unanimous consent of all NATO countries to join the club. The Nordic countries were originally intent on joining together, but Turkey—with Hungary’s backing—sought to keep Sweden (and therefore Finland) out. The standoff over Finland finally ended in April when it agreed to decouple its application from Sweden’s, clearing the way for the Turkish and Hungarian parliaments to approve the Finnish flag going up at NATO headquarters. 

Sweden is still out in the cold, as the recently re-elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remains staunchly opposed to its membership and Hungary is following suit. Central to Erdoğan’s objection is what he sees as Sweden’s support for the country’s significant Kurdish population—which includes militants from the PKK, a group Turkey, the United States, and European Union all consider a terrorist organization. Many observers hoped that Erdoğan’s victory last month would soften his stance—once his strenuous objection could no longer be used as a campaign tactic to attract nationalist voters.

Sweden, for its part, has tried to meet Turkey’s demands—which were laid out last May in a trilateral agreement between the two countries and Finland. It recently passed a new anti-terrorism law, which entered into force June 1, making it illegal to be a member of or support a terrorist organization even if you’re not actively participating in terrorist acts. The legislation closes a loophole in the country’s existing laws, “thereby delivering on the last part of our agreement,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson wrote in an op-ed for the Financial Times in May. “Sweden fully supports Turkey against all threats to its national security and condemns all terrorist organizations, including the PKK, that carry out attacks against it.”

In one more gesture designed to appease Erdoğan, the Swedish government agreed to extradite a Turkish man living legally in Sweden. The 35-year-old is a self-proclaimed PKK supporter who was convicted of a drug trafficking charge in Turkey and was under investigation there for manipulating photos of Erdoğan. Turkey wants the man to serve the remainder of his sentence for the drug charges after he was originally released on parole. “The fact that they’re willing to sort of cross that line” and submit to extraditions, which Sweden had previously resisted, “suggests an air of desperation on their part,” says Sinan Ciddi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

It might not be enough. “Sweden’s expectations don’t mean we’ll meet them,” Erdoğan told Turkish media Wednesday. Talks were ongoing between Swedish, Turkish, Finnish and NATO negotiators in Ankara, and Erdoğan said his representatives “will give this message: ‘This is our president’s opinion, don’t expect anything different at Vilnius.’”

Because of NATO’s consensus-based decision-making, Erdoğan has a strong hand to play however he wants to when it comes to Sweden.“He’s literally the agenda-setter—everyone is going to him,” Ciddi tells TMD. “I think we may still see the case whereby—by the Vilnius or at the Vilnius summit of NATO—Erdoğan, with this sort of high-stakes drama, is going to finally approve Sweden’s membership, but it’s going to be this drawn out process.”

Though Turkey is certainly the loudest voice against accession, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán also stands between Sweden and the mutual defense pact. Hungary might fall in line if and when Turkey relents on Swedish accession—as it did when Turkey dropped its objections to Finland—but Orbán also has complaints of his own when it comes to Sweden, arguing Stockholm’s been too outspoken in its criticism of Hungarian democracy as Orbán and his Fidesz party have consolidated power. “The political relations between Hungary and Sweden are awfully wrong,” he said at the Qatar Economic Forum in May. “We don’t want to import conflicts into NATO.”

Orbán’s often been out of step with NATO allies since Russia’s invasion. While in Qatar, for example, he suggested Ukraine couldn’t win the war. “It is obvious that there is no victory for the poor Ukrainians on the battlefield,” he said. During his state of the nation address in February, he suggested the EU—of which Hungary is also a member—was prolonging the war by sanctioning Russia and providing military aid to Ukraine. He’s weaponized the EU’s unanimous consent doctrine to slow both actions. 

In response to Orbán’s obstinance on Sweden and NATO, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho—the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—did some blocking of his own. Earlier this week, he placed a unilateral hold on a planned arms sale to Hungary, which would have included 24 HIMARS rocket launcher batteries plus more than 100 additional rockets. “Given promises that were made to me and others last year that this vote would be done, and the fact that it is now June and still not done, I decided that the sale of new U.S. military equipment to Hungary will be on hold,” Risch said Wednesday. “Hungary should take the actions necessary to allow Sweden into the alliance, and soon.”

In a response that reads a bit like “You can’t fire me, I quit,” the Hungarian Ministry of Defense said they never had any intention of buying the weapons. 

The U.S. has similar leverage over Turkey, as the Biden administration plans to sell Ankara brand new F-16s to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has taken pains to keep the sale from sounding contingent on Sweden’s accession, but President Biden and Congress seem to have no such compunction. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has made getting out of Sweden’s way part of a laundry list of demands for Turkey before he’ll okay the deal. Risch has been less definitive on whether F-16s were—like HIMARS for Hungary—a pressure point he’s willing to push. At the time of publication, his office had not responded to a request for comment.

If the deal does end up falling through, Turkey has found other suppliers for weapons before. In 2019, for example, the country purchased an S-400 missile system from Russia, which resulted in sanctions and Turkey being booted from the U.S. F-35 program. Early in the Nordic NATO negotiations, Turkey floated accession for Finland and Sweden in exchange for reentry into the F-35 program, but the proposal went nowhere. 

The S-400 purchase, however, could serve as a cautionary tale for NATO allies—and proof that the United States’ leverage only goes so far. If Washington pushes Erdoğan too much, “he’s like, ‘Well, okay, how many times are you going to tell me that before I start looking elsewhere?’” Ciddi said. “And that worries the Biden administration, because they’d rather Turkey acquire weapons and defensive capabilities from the West, rather than going off somewhere else.”

Going after Mayorkas

The last—and only—time the House of Representatives impeached a cabinet secretary was in 1876, when House members accused William Belknap of “criminally disregarding his duty as Secretary of War and basely prostituting his high office to his lust for private gain.” (At least one other cabinet secretary resigned before the process could play out.) Today, some House Republicans want to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas for what they call his “dereliction of duty” at the southern border—but we don’t see how they could top that purple 1876 prose.

On Wednesday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green—a Freedom Caucus member from Tennessee—announced his committee is conducting a long-expected investigation of Mayorkas. Republicans on the committee released a 55-page preliminary report ahead of yesterday’s hearing, the first of the investigation. “This is about right and wrong, and whether a cabinet secretary has followed the law, upheld his oath, and been faithful to the public trust,” the report declares. “These are questions we have a duty and responsibility to answer.”

Republicans never liked Mayorkas. Just six GOP Senators voted to confirm him in February 2021—only Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland earned less Republican support. GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida spoke for many of his colleagues at the time when he expressed concern about what he labeled Mayorkas’ “radical immigration agenda.”

In the years since, Mayorkas has presided over historically high illegal immigration flows. Customs and Border Protection reported more than 1.6 million “encounters” between CBP and illegal immigrants in the 2021 fiscal year—including expulsions under Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that incentivized repeat crossing attempts which inflated the count. That total jumped to more than 2.3 million in the 2022 fiscal year. For comparison, total apprehensions were around 851,000 in 2019.

Mayorkas had been in office only six months when GOP House Freedom Caucus Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona introduced the first set of articles of impeachment against him, alleging he had “willfully refused to maintain operational control of the border.” A bevy of other Republican representatives have also called for Mayorkas’ ouster—including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Reps. Chip Roy and Pat Fallon of Texas. The zest for impeachment isn’t Mayorkas-specific—Greene said last month that impeaching Biden administration officials would be the “dessert” after approving the “sh*t sandwich” debt ceiling bill.

Chairman Green, however, claimed Wednesday that Republicans on the Homeland Security committee aren’t ready to recommend impeachment without a full investigation. GOP Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana, chairman of the border security subcommittee, said lawmakers would “judiciously, calmly, patiently lay out the case and details of Mayorkas’ dereliction of duty” during the probe. Seems the investigation has a foregone conclusion, though, as Higgins filed impeachment articles against Mayorkas last week.

Cabinet secretaries are impeachable on the same grounds as presidents: “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But “impeachment is a political remedy” rather than a legal one, Philip Wallach, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, tells TMD. That means it’s largely up to Congress how to interpret what’s considered an impeachable offense. Republicans aren’t accusing Mayorkas of corruption as Belknap was in 1876—they just think he’s being willfully bad at his job.

The Department of Homeland Security is legally required to maintain “operational control” of the United States’ borders, defined as preventing unlawful entries—particularly of dangerous people and contraband, but including all illegal immigration.

No DHS head has achieved perfection on this standard. “We saw unlawful entries spike under President Trump, and President Obama, and President Bush,” Kristie De Peña, vice president for policy and director of immigration policy at the Niskanen Center, says in an interview. “It’s just sort of a matter of magnitude.” The former acting DHS secretary during the Trump administration, Chad Wolf, testified Wednesday that DHS “worked every day” to prevent all unlawful entries into the U.S., but missed that mark.

But Mayorkas’ Republican opponents claim he’s both failed to meet this standard and lied about it to Congress. Testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee last year, Mayorkas said DHS had operational control, adding he believed many DHS heads before him would have said the same despite their also imperfect records.

Republicans also allege Mayorkas has abused his parole authority under Title 8, which allows the DHS chief to release migrants on parole into the U.S. “only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, provided the aliens present neither a security risk nor a risk of absconding.” 

Parole debates aren’t new: “Catch and release,” as opponents call it, entered the lexicon during the George W. Bush administration. But Republicans don’t like the Biden administration’s use of parole, including the 2021 move to relieve overcrowding in migrant detention facilities during COVID-19 through “parole plus alternatives to detention”—such as release with electronic tracking or under a case management program. In March of this year, a federal judge in Florida ruled that policy unlawful.

Many of the complaints boil down to disliking how Mayorkas has used his department’s broad discretion to interpret immigration statutes. “If they think the Department of Homeland Security and its secretary have too much discretion right now and are misusing that discretion, then by all means—pass a law that tightens the leash,” Wallach argues. “That ought to be the first line of defense.” House Republicans have passed an immigration reform bill which would limit parole, but it died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. And the bipartisan Dignity Act has gained momentum in the House but could founder on House Freedom Caucus opposition, as our Harvest Prude reported last month.

Although the potential Mayorkas impeachment has riled up many GOP immigration restrictionists, more moderate Republicans are skeptical. GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida, for example—a Dignity Act sponsor—considers the process a waste of time. “What does impeaching Mayorkas do to stop the flow?” she said. “It doesn’t do anything.” Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska told CNN the effort amounted to “a lot of tires in the mud” and that voters could hold the Biden administration responsible for the border in November 2024.

Even if the “Impeach Mayorkas” crowd convinces the Judiciary Committee to start impeachment proceedings—and finds the 218 votes needed to pass those articles on the House floor—the Democratic-controlled Senate is … highly unlikely to continue the effort. But even if Senate Democrats played ball, a successful impeachment may not produce the policy changes Mayorkas’ opponents claim to want. “Impeachment is a very blunt tool for trying to alter executive branch policy,” Wallach says. “Some current official will just become the acting head of DHS—and in all likelihood would just continue the same policy.”

Mayorkas is reportedly scheduled to testify for the Homeland Security Committee’s investigation in late July. He’s been taking precautions: CNN reported in February DHS had hired an outside law firm to fight any impeachment charges.

Worth Your Time

  • From Toni Morrison, to Joseph Heller, to Bill Clinton, Robert Gottlieb left an indelible mark on the literary world through a seven-decade career as an editor at Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf, and The New Yorker. “Gottlieb, who died on Wednesday, at the age of ninety-two, may have been the most important book editor of his time,” writes David Remnick for The New Yorker. This 1994 Paris Review interview by Larissa MacFarquhar perhaps best captures Gottlieb’s legacy by bringing him into conversation with some of the many figures he edited. “What makes Bob a great editor, probably the best of his time, is that he has read everything, is soaked in the best that has been said and thought and brings this weight of experience into use when he judges the work of his authors,” said Doris Lessing. “My life is reading,” Gottlieb explained. “In fact, I was about forty years old when I had an amazing revelation—this is going to sound dumb—it suddenly came to me that not every person in the world assumed, without thinking about it, that reading was the most important thing in life. I hadn’t known that. I hadn’t even known that I had thought it, it was so basic to me.”

Presented Without Comment

National Review: ‘Dumb Question’: Biden Slams Reporter for Asking about Ukrainian Corruption Allegations

Also Presented Without Comment

New York Daily News: Trump Tells Restaurant Patrons ‘Food for Everyone!’ Then Leaves Without Paying 

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Washington Post: Cash-Strapped Taliban Selling Tickets to Ruins of Buddhas It Blew Up

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: Nick examines No Labels’ doomed third-party candidate push.
  • On the podcasts: Sarah, Steve, and Jonah return to the Dispatch Podcast to talk through all aspects of Trump’s indictment.
  • On the site: Kevin dives into a rapid-fire weapons thought experiment, Peter explains why the SEC is going after major cryptocurrency exchanges, and Harvest walks through state-level efforts to circumvent the Electoral College without amending the Constitution.

Let Us Know

Do you consider it a positive that only one cabinet secretary has been impeached in U.S. history? Or should Congress be stepping up its impeachment game?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.