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March 23, 2014

Failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a victory lap Sunday on Face the Nation, telling host Bob Schieffer that President Obama's "naiveté" and "faulty judgment" on Russia precipitated the situation in Ukraine. And Romney — whom Obama mocked in a presidential debate for suggesting that Russia is America's top "geopolitical foe" — explained how, had he been elected, he would have threatened Moscow so much it wouldn't have dared to mess with another country.

"Unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia's intentions, the president wasn't able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you're seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you're seeing in Syria," he said.

"This is not Fantasyland, this is reality where they are a geopolitical adversary," he added.

So what would Romney have done differently? More and earlier sanctions, accompanied by threats of other unspecified "things."

Had we, from the very beginning of the demonstrations in Ukraine, had we worked with our allies and said, "Look, let's talk about the kinds of severe sanctions we would put in place if Russia were to decide to move," and had we then communicated that to Russia beforehand, not put in place the sanctions but communicate, "Look, Russia, stand down here. Don't you think about grabbing territory or these are the things that will have to happen. These are the actions we will take." [Face the Nation]

Jon Terbush

6:07 a.m. ET
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

America has no intention of seizing Iraqi oil, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday before making a surprise visit to Iraq. His comments directly contradict those made by President Trump.

"We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil," Mattis told reporters. Trump has said repeatedly that his preferred strategy for taking on ISIS would be to "take the oil." "You wouldn't have ISIS if we took the oil," Trump told ABC's David Muir in January. As CNN explains, that would have been a war crime and a violation of international law.

Mattis is visiting Iraq as the push by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces to remove ISIS militants from Western Mosul enters its second day. "I need to get current on the situation there, political situation, the enemy situation, and the friendly situation," Mattis said.

The Islamic State was thought to have 6,000 fighters in Mosul in mid-October, when the government's offensive began, Reuters reports. More than 1,000 of those are estimated to have been killed.

This isn't the first time Mattis has broken with Trump's policy plans. In January, he said he does not support scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has dubbed "one of the dumbest deals ever." Over the weekend, Mattis said he disagreed with Trump's claim that the press is "the enemy of the American people." Jessica Hullinger

5:25 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

At a Florida rally on Saturday, President Trump told the crowd that Sweden was facing problems with immigrants. "You look at what's happening last night in Sweden," Trump said. "Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible."

But what, exactly, happened in Sweden "last night" was unclear. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson told The Associated Press that the government didn't know of any "terror-linked major incidents." The country's government asked the State Department for clarifications on the meaning of Trump's comments.

On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to explain that his statement was relating to a segment he'd watched on Fox News. "My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden," Trump tweeted.

Sarah Sanders, the principal deputy press secretary for the White House, said Trump was "talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, and not referring to a specific incident."

Sweden's crime rate has been falling for the last 12 years, Reuters reports, "even as it has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq."

The Swedish Embassy in Washington kindly offered to inform the president about the country's immigration policies. Jessica Hullinger

4:47 a.m. ET
Johannes Simon/Getty Images

When Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Munich and Brussels over the weekend, many foreign leaders were hoping he would provide them with some clarity on President Donald Trump's stance on various international issues. Instead, they got "boilerplate reassurances about United States commitments" and "bland mollifications."

"Today, on behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance: The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this transatlantic alliance," Pence said at the Munich Security Conference.

Meanwhile, Trump was at a rally in Florida, criticizing NATO, which he has called "obsolete," and seemingly suggesting Sweden had been the victim of a non-existent terror attack.

"People were not reassured," Daniela Schwarzer, the director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times. "They think that Trump is erratic and incalculable. We all want to hear what we want to hear. But everyone knows that any Trump official could be gone tomorrow, or undercut in another tweet."

The conference came after a tumultuous week in Washington: Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned, and Trump's pick for Flynn's replacement turned down the job. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis threatened NATO allies, saying they must increase defense spending, or America would "moderate its commitment" to the alliance.

European diplomats were also hoping Pence would provide some hints as to how, exactly, the balance of power works in the White House, The Washington Post reports. Does his adviser Stephen Bannon hold the reins? What about Jared Kushner? How much sway does Pence have? The vice president stuck to prepared statements at the conference, and did not take questions.

Pence heads to Brussels on Monday, where he will meet with EU leaders before heading home to Washington. Jessica Hullinger

February 19, 2017
Farah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press

An estimated 14 people were killed and another 30 wounded by a car bomb in the Somali capital city of Mogadishu on Sunday. The explosion happened in a crowded intersection, with shrapnel hitting nearby food stalls and shops.

"I was staying in my shop when a car came into the market and exploded. I saw more than 20 people lying on the ground," said an eyewitness named Abdulle Omar. "Most of them were dead and the market was totally destroyed." Most of those killed are believed to be civilians, though Somali security forces were also in the area.

No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far, though it was likely perpetrated by al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremist group that seeks to overthrow the Somali government. On Sunday, al Shabaab in a radio message denounced Somalia's new president, who holds dual U.S. and Somali citizenship, as an "evil-minded" "apostate" whom Somalis should not support. Bonnie Kristian

February 19, 2017
Rep. Earl Blumenauer/Screenshot

A bipartisan group of lawmakers — Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and Don Young (R-Alaska) — this week announced the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. The group is the first of its kind, devoted to prodding the federal government to catch up with the move toward legalization and decriminalization of marijuana at the state and local level. Notably, all four representatives hail from states that have already made pot legal for recreational use.

"The federal government's decades-long approach to marijuana is a colossal, cruel joke, and most Americans know it," Rohrabacher said in a press release introducing the caucus. "Not only have incalculable amounts of taxpayers' dollars been wasted, but countless lives have been unnecessarily disrupted and even ruined by misguided law enforcement."

Though the caucus did not spell out particular policy goals, its members indicated a willingness to fight any Trump team moves toward a more aggressive drug war. "I'm very happy with the idea that if we have to we'll bump heads with the attorney general," Young said of new Attorney General Jess Sessions, a die-hard drug warrior. Rohrabacher was more blunt: "The Trump administration should and will get the word that things have changed in the countryside, and they better not just be stuck in the '50s and '60s," he said. Bonnie Kristian

February 19, 2017

In an interview on ABC's This Week Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) strongly opposed former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton as a potential replacement for Michael Flynn, who recently resigned from his post as national security adviser.

"I think the problem with John Bolton is he disagrees with President Trump's foreign policy," Paul said. "He would be closer to John McCain's foreign policy. John Bolton still believes the Iraq War was a good idea. He still believes regime change was a good idea. He still believes that nation building is a good idea," the senator continued. "My fear is that secret wars would be developing around the globe, and so I think he'd be a bad choice." McCain, Paul said in the same interview, was likewise wrong on Iraq and would lead the U.S. into "perpetual war" were he in charge.

Bolton's name was previously floated for secretary of state or deputy secretary of state, possibilities Paul rejected in equally vehement terms, casting a Bolton hire as a regressive betrayal of Trump voters. One of Trump's best attributes is "his opposition to the Iraq war and regime change," Paul wrote in a November op-ed, while "Bolton was one of the loudest advocates of overthrowing Saddam Hussein and still stupefyingly insists it was the right call 13 years later." Watch his comments on ABC below. Bonnie Kristian

February 19, 2017

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus clashed Sunday over President Trump's tweet labeling the media an "enemy of the American people."

"I don't have any problem with you complaining about an individual story" or bias, Wallace said. "But you went a lot further than that — or the president went a lot further than that. He said that the 'fake media' — not certain stories — the 'fake media' are an 'enemy to the country.'"

Priebus pushed back, arguing that the issue is "not just two stories" that may be marred by bias or error but "24 hours a day, seven days a week" of cable news programming that focuses not on the Trump administration's policy accomplishments but "total garbage, unsourced stuff" about personal dynamics between White House staff and alleged unsavory ties between the Trump campaign and Russian spies (a charge Priebus categorically denied in the same conversation).

Wallace disagreed with Priebus' assessment, noting that every Trump action Priebus mentioned had received widespread cable news coverage. "You're right, some of these things were covered," Priebus conceded, "but you get about 10 percent coverage [of Trump's accomplishments] but then as soon as it was over the next 20 hours is all about Russian spies…"

Wallace cut him off: "But you don't get to tell us what to do, Reince, any more than that Barack Obama did. Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I gotta say, he never said that we were an enemy of the people." Watch an excerpt of their exchange below. Bonnie Kristian

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