Part of a Series

Max Bergmann joins the show to discuss the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, the need to pass defense aid for Ukraine and other allies, and NATO’s critical role in countering Russian aggression. Daniella and Colin also talk about former President Donald Trump’s efforts to pause his 2020 election case and special counsel Robert Hur’s report on President Joe Biden.


Daniella Gibbs Léger: Hey everyone, welcome back to “The Tent,” your place for politics, policy, and progress. I’m Daniella Gibbs Léger.

Colin Seeberger: And I’m Colin Seeberger. So, Daniella, it’s been a pretty brutal week for MAGA Republicans.

Gibbs Léger: Sure has.

Seeberger: They lost the Super Bowl, thanks to Taylor Swift and the Democrats rigging the game, according to MAGA. And then they lost the special election in New York to replace former Congressman George Santos.

Gibbs Léger: You know, it’s so funny how I get so excited about these special elections—because we’re all political nerds, of course. But I was glued to the TV—between watching “The Bachelor”—to get the results, and it was very interesting.

Seeberger: It was, it was. Watching the election night parties, I felt like I was at a wedding in Long Island or a bar mitzvah or quinceañera or something like that. It was definitely giving me good Long Island vibes.

Gibbs Léger: Yes, it was very much giving Queens. And experts are already starting to discuss what this could mean for the rest of 2024, so we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I heard you had a great conversation with a friend of the podcast this week.

Seeberger: I sure did. I welcomed our former CAP Action colleague Max Bergmann back to the pod to talk about the need to pass much-needed national security legislation, NATO’s critical role in countering Russian aggression, and what Max is looking for out of the upcoming Munich Security Conference.

Gibbs Léger: It’s a timely conversation as we approach the two-year mark since the war in Ukraine began. And while the circumstances are unfortunate, we always love talking to Max.

Seeberger: We certainly do. But first, we’ve got to get to some news. And let’s start with something that shouldn’t even really be news. The special counsel looking into President Biden’s handling of classified documents injected some wildly inappropriate MAGA talking points about the president into his final report, which was released last week.

So let’s lay it out. Robert Hur issued this document to announce that he’s not charging President Biden for criminally mishandling classified documents. Listeners, you may remember that standard DOJ [Department of Justice] protocol says the department should not weigh in on investigations if they’re not charging someone with a crime. It’s giving major Jim Comey in 2016 vibes, Daniella.

Gibbs Léger: Yes, a déjà vu that nobody asked for.

Seeberger: They certainly did not. Because lest we forget, former FBI Director Jim Comey was widely criticized in 2016 for breaking protocol when he weighed in on Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified material during the 2016 election, despite the fact that he was closing his investigation into the matter without issuing any charges. Even the Justice Department’s inspector general lambasted him for his behavior. So fast forward a few years, and I’m struggling to understand why special counsel Hur thought this was appropriate whatsoever.

But it doesn’t end there. Despite admitting the clear differences between how President Biden and former President Trump have handled and relinquished classified documents, Robert Hur—a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, might I add—fixated on President Biden’s age and mental acuity in his report. In one section, he even had the audacity to suggest President Biden couldn’t even remember when his beloved son Beau had died. Like, are you kidding me? Vice President Kamala Harris—a former prosecutor and state attorney general, might I add—called these sections gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate, and she’s absolutely right.

She’s also, though, not the only one to express that. Former Attorney General Eric Holder also called Hur’s report gratuitous. He said if this report was subject to the normal DOJ review process that I mentioned earlier, the sections on Biden’s age and memory would have likely been struck from the report altogether. We heard similar criticisms from all kinds of legal experts, like former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, or even Mark Lytle, who served in the White House Counsel’s Office during the Trump administration. The bottom line is that this was just a partisan attempt to distract from the report’s real finding, which is that there are big differences between how President Biden and former President Trump have handled classified documents.

Gibbs Léger: Exactly. For example, President Biden was found to be in possession of around 20 classified documents, compared to the 300 classified documents found in former President Trump’s possession. But perhaps even more importantly, former President Trump repeatedly instructed his staff to move documents around to hide them from the authorities, even after he received a grand jury subpoena demanding their return—which makes it sound a lot like obstructing justice.

Seeberger: Sure does.

Gibbs Léger: He even instructed staff to destroy evidence and lie about what they’d seen. Special counsel Jack Smith decided to indict former President Trump and move forward with criminal charges in large part because of these actions. Meanwhile, President Biden cooperated with investigators and voluntarily sat down for multiple interviews with special counsel Hur’s team during the course of his investigation. President Biden and his team worked transparently with authorities to return the documents in question when they were discovered. It’s one of the main reasons special counsel Hur says he decided not to move forward with charges.

And yet, MAGA Republicans are already clamoring for Hur to testify about the report, because they’d love to manufacture another political issue for Donald Trump to run on against Joe Biden this fall. And look, everyone knows how old President Biden is. But at 77, Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, is not far behind—three and a half years, to be exact. As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out in an interview on CNN this week, Donald Trump and Joe Biden could have gone to high school together. It’s not like there’s a big gap in age or acuity, yet somehow this doesn’t seem to warrant the same level of news coverage. And that has got to change.

We’ve been over it on this podcast before, but let’s go through it again. Trump has repeatedly mixed up the leaders of foreign countries. He genuinely doesn’t seem to know where the country of Turkey is on a map. And he said Joe Biden could start World War II, a war that was fought roughly 80 years ago. I don’t think he even knows Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi are different people. He even couldn’t remember the name of his own wife during a deposition he gave in his sexual assault trial. Where’s the press hysteria over this?

Seeberger: I’m waiting.

Gibbs Léger: Ultimately, this whole gambit is a part of a MAGA ploy to hurt President Biden politically, because these extremists know their platform of ripping away our freedoms, dismantling our democracy, plunging us into authoritarianism, and giving tax breaks to the rich and large corporations—all these things are going to hurt them during this election cycle. And if the media won’t shine a light on these tactics for what they are, it’s incumbent on us to do so.

Seeberger: Amen. And speaking of Trump’s dangerous attempts to undermine our democracy, I want to turn to some recent legal drama of his own. As we all know by now, special counsel Jack Smith is prosecuting former President Trump for his efforts to undermine the 2020 election results. And Trump’s lawyers recently argued before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that Smith can’t do that because, according to their reasoning, former presidents are immune from prosecution for actions they took while in office.

This, of course, is a ridiculous and dangerous legal argument. No one in this country should be above the law, especially the most powerful person in the nation who can easily abuse that power. Trump’s lawyers even went so far as to argue that a president who orders SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political opponent should be immune from criminal prosecution, which is why the Department of Justice’s lawyers rightfully called their interpretation extraordinarily frightening. Further, as the judges noted in their opinion, it was Republican leader Mitch McConnell and 29 of his Senate Republican colleagues who explicitly argued that they would not vote to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial because the articles brought by the House should be adjudicated in a criminal trial, not by the Senate.

So it’s Republicans, not Democrats. It’s Republicans who have long argued that Trump has no immunity from prosecution. It’s for these reasons why all three judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel, including conservative Judge Karen Henderson, ruled against Trump’s argument. The founders of our country wanted presidents and their power to be bound by checks and balances. The presidential immunity defense is ludicrous and completely contradicts the principles on which our nation was founded.

And yet this week, Trump and his legal team appealed this presidential immunity ruling by the D.C. Circuit to the Supreme Court in an attempt to delay or halt the trial he faces in D.C. over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Basically, they want the justices to pause Jack Smith’s case before Judge [Tanya] Chutkan so they can take their presidential immunity case before the high court and once again argue that Trump is above the law.

Gibbs Léger: And let’s be clear here. Trump’s team knows the political calculus of delaying this trial, which was originally scheduled for March 4. They’re hoping the Supreme Court will side with them. But even if they don’t, they’re trying to delay the trial over Trump’s efforts to overturn the last election until after the next one this November in the hopes of once again avoiding accountability.

The American people cannot afford this delay. They need to know the full extent of Donald Trump’s actions during the January 6 insurrection in order to make an informed decision at the ballot box in November, which means the Supreme Court needs to act quickly here. They should let the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling stand and avoid any further delay in prosecuting Trump for his actions. They’ve given special counsel Jack Smith one week to reply to Trump’s petition. It’s a fairly slow timeline for them, which I’m concerned is not a good sign.

And I just want to reiterate how important this issue is. The three-judge panel in D.C. that rejected Trump’s presidential immunity claims wrote that excusing him on those grounds would “collapse our system of separated powers by placing the president beyond the reach of all three branches.” So it’s not just a partisan issue; it’s about maintaining our democracy so presidents don’t become kings or dictators.

Seeberger: And on that note, hopefully, we’ll hear from the Supreme Court very, very soon.

Gibbs Léger: I certainly hope so. But in the meantime, that’s all we’ve got for today. If there’s anything else you’d like us to cover on the pod, hit us up on Twitter @TheTentPod. That’s @TheTentPod.

Seeberger: And stick around for my interview with Max Bergmann in just a beat.

[Musical transition]

Seeberger: Max Bergmann is the director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Prior to joining CSIS, he was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, his second stint at CAP Action. From 2011 to 2017, he served in a number of State Department positions, including as a speechwriter to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, and as a senior adviser to the assistant secretary of state for political military affairs. Max Bergmann, thanks so much for joining us on “The Tent.”

Max Bergmann: It’s great to be back.

Seeberger: So we’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So I wanted to ask you to break down three things for us, to start. What’s the state of play in the war right now, particularly with countries like China watching from afar? Why is it so important that Ukraine win this war? And to that end, why is foreign aid to our allies so necessary?

Bergmann: Great questions. So the first question, the state of play—the state of play, I would say, is we’re at a bit of a pivot point in the conflict. I think if you were to go through the conflict, it sort of evolved in different stages. Obviously, Russia’s initial invasion was expecting an immediate collapse of the Ukrainian military. Russia was on the outskirts of Kyiv. They were taking lots of territory. Things seemed really bad 23 months ago in March of 2022—and Ukraine fought back. And this was before they were actually really equipped with massive Western weaponry. Russia then pulled those forces back, but then sort of regrouped and went on a series of offenses in the summer of 2022. But then we were arming Ukraine, quite effectively.

And Ukraine in the fall of 2022 went on a big offensive, took back the northern city of Kharkiv. They gained a lot more of their territory back. They took back Kherson, pushed the Russians back across the river. And then as we entered 2023—so a year ago—the big question was, Ukraine needs to keep going on the offensive. And it took a while for us to really continue to provide arms to Ukraine. I think there’s some good reasons for that. It takes a long time sometimes to provide military equipment. I think we were also slower than we probably should have been. And Ukraine went on a counteroffensive last summer. It culminated in the fall, and they didn’t make much gains, and that was because the Russians had really dug in. Russia now has regained the initiative and is seeking to go on the offensive. And the problem now for Ukraine—and this hits your last question—is that they’re running out of Western support.

And so the way that Ukraine has been fighting this war has been Ukrainian lives and Ukrainian ingenuity, oftentimes in building really advanced drones and other things that we’re not really helping them with. And they’ve been using that to great effect in the Black Sea, sinking Russian ships and opening up a grain corridor so they can export their grain once again, which is really useful for the overall global economy and global health. But what’s been critical are U.S. weapons. So there’s basically been what I like to think of as sort of an IV from U.S. military warehouses direct to the Ukrainian front line. And what’s flowing through that IV, or what had been flowing through that IV, are basic things like ammunition, 155 mortar rounds.

And that has been essentially yanked out. The U.S. has run out of funding to provide Ukraine. There has been no assistance for Ukraine that’s passed Congress since December of 2022 when Nancy Pelosi was speaker of the House. So we’ve been dripping out the funding by dripping out the aid, but now that money is all gone. And so what you see is Ukraine holding on by a thread. They’re running out of ammunition, and the Russians are going on an offensive.

Now, there have been huge casualties on the Russian side. They’ve lost a lot of equipment. The question is, can they actually punch through and take a lot of territory? There’s a lot of doubt. But wars of attrition tend to break rather abruptly, and you don’t really know when one side just simply runs out of something or runs out of people. And I think there’s real danger of that now on the Ukrainian side—not for anything that the Ukrainians have done, but because we’ve simply pulled the rug out from under them.

Seeberger: And even within that backdrop, we have seen, as you mentioned, Congress fail again and again to pass this essential and critically needed aid in the form of a supplemental funding bill. We just saw the latest attempt package passed by the Senate earlier this week hit a major roadblock in the form of Speaker Mike Johnson announcing that he would refuse to bring up that Senate-passed bill for debate in the House.

How did this become such a politicized issue? And can you talk about the evolution of the GOP on foreign policy? Is there a path forward for this funding? I mean, I remember when everybody was hanging Ukrainian flags outside their windows or buildings had blue and yellow lights projected onto them. And it seems like something has really changed in the last couple of years. Can you talk about that evolution?

Bergmann: Yeah, I mean, if you go back and look at the votes on the supplemental in 2022 when Nancy Pelosi was speaker of the House, there was strong bipartisan support—overwhelming bipartisan support. And I think part of that created the false illusion, I think, for many, that Ukraine funding was going to be done, was a sure thing, and there’s such bipartisan support for this that this is going to happen.

Now, I’ve been pretty skeptical for more than a year—as soon as Kevin McCarthy struggled to become speaker of the House, if we remember, back in early January of 2023. He has a very narrow majority, and it took more than 10 votes—I can’t remember exactly …

Seeberger: Fifteen.

Bergmann: Fifteen.

Seeberger: Fifteen, Max.

Bergmann: Fifteen to become speaker of the House. And what that meant is that any Republican could essentially bring him down or challenge his speakership. And I think the Biden administration saw this and thought, “Kevin McCarthy supports Ukraine funding, and we’re going to try to do this quietly. So we’re not going to make a big deal about Ukraine funding.” And the hope was that when it came to the end of the fiscal year—so October 1 of last year—that there would be a government funding bill and Ukraine funding would just sort of be part of it, and no one would make a big deal of it. And I think that was off base, and it turned out to be off base.

But what I will have to say is that that is how we have done things in foreign policy forever, basically since World War II. Usually, an administration priority or a U.S. national security priority—Congress funds it. And even when there’s real concerns about the policy, if you think back to Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress never cut off funding. At one point, we were spending $10 billion a month or $120 billion a year to support those wars, and there was real concern about it. But there was also a sense that you weren’t just going to stop the funding. And the one time it really happened that I can think of that comes to mind is Vietnam, toward the end of the Vietnam War when Congress finally had enough.

And so what we’re seeing here is the fracturing of a broader consensus around American foreign policy, and especially—most surprisingly—within the Republican Party. Now, I think Democrats oftentimes have disputes about foreign policy. But the Republican Party is now divided between—I would describe it like a John McCain wing that’s still there to some degree, but then increasingly a Trump wing. And I think as we got closer to the 2024 election and the Republican primaries started in the summer and you had people in the Republican primary criticizing Ukraine funding, the Republicans started to turn. People started to think about—they may have really supported Ukraine, but they didn’t want to face a primary challenger in their reelection campaigns. And that has been fracturing.

And so what the White House has been trying to do is, instead of it just being Ukraine funding, it became Israel funding, because everyone supports Israel. And then it became Taiwan and Indo-Pacific, and then it became border funding, and then border policy. And so it was all about trying to put together enough votes to get this over the line. And then it was only last month where the Senate basically torpedoed their own border bill—Republicans in the Senate. And Mike Johnson has said in the past that he supports Ukraine funding but then keeps dangling the carrot out there but keeps moving along. You could also use the Lucy football analogy.

So it’s very unclear now how this gets through the House. And I think it’s become harder ever since Donald Trump has become clear that he’s the nominee and has spoken out against not only the border bill but Ukraine funding. And that means that if Republicans are going to vote on this, they’re voting against the will of their likely Republican nominee. And that’s really, really tough for them.

Seeberger: It really is crystallizing for folks the consequences of the threat of Trump’s presence, one, but two, also just the MAGA dysfunction that we’re seeing in the House. The rules changes, the threats to speakership, Republican leadership in the House—all of that is really contributing to this. I do have to add that this comes on the heels of some breaking news that we got this week that there’s an alleged Russian national security threat over plans they reportedly have to put nuclear weapons in space, and some want the administration to declassify that intelligence.

And a couple of days ago, there was also new reporting that Estonia, one of the NATO members that borders Russia, has intelligence that Russians are actually gearing up for a decadelong war with NATO countries in the West. This is downright scary, scary stuff—really would turn the world up on its head. So it’s all the more alarming that earlier this week, Donald Trump signaled that he would actually encourage Russians to attack any NATO member that he thinks hasn’t paid sufficient dues to the alliance if he’s elected president.

Can you set the record straight for our listeners about why those comments are so dangerous? And what would happen if Russia did indeed attack a NATO ally?

Bergmann: So I think the way you outlined that is exactly right and demonstrates why Trump’s comments are so dangerous. Vladimir Putin has the ability in 30 minutes to kill me and to kill you, because I know you’re at CAP and I’m at CSIS down the street—but to destroy Washington, D.C., in 30 minutes. We forget that we’re still on the brink with nuclear weapons—that nuclear weapons have not gone away. And in some ways, the evolution of technology has made their use, I wouldn’t say more likely—I don’t think that’s necessarily the case—but has led to innovations that maybe reduce the time it would take Russia from 30 minutes to five minutes. And if that is what this new piece of intelligence is about—about Russia moving weaponry into space—part of that, I think, would be to diversify its ability to retaliate or to conduct a first strike against the United States.

And so that’s why it’s very important to have very clear signaling to the Russians. And while we have been providing Ukraine with military aid, we have also been very clear about setting certain boundaries for what Ukrainians can do with that military assistance and why the U.S. has been reticent about providing aid to Ukraine to build up its missiles so that it could attack Russian territory—and why we’re in a very tense, precarious situation.

When it comes to the other point you brought up about the potential for Russia to challenge NATO and Eastern European countries being very concerned about what Russia’s intentions are, let’s be clear: Russia set up a war economy. Their defense industries are now humming. And once you set up a war economy, it’s hard to turn that off. In fact, there’s incentives to keep going and keep producing. And so the fear is that a U.S. pullback from supporting Ukraine could lead the way for a Russian breakthrough and Russian victory in Ukraine.

And then what does Russia do? Well, it probably takes a little bit of a timeout to reconstitute its forces, to rebuild. But then, if you have a Trump administration that has no commitment to our European partners, European allies, then what is to deter Russia from taking action against NATO? This might be seen as their window to move against the Baltic states that used to be part of the Soviet Union—to reclaim them, to take action against Poland, a country that Vladimir Putin mentioned numerous times in his interview with Tucker Carlson. And there’s been constant wars between Russia and Poland.

What we have to remember is that Europe has for thousands of years been a complete mess—has been destroyed again and again by war and by conflict. And it is somewhat of a miracle that really, over our lifetimes, Europe has almost been whole, free, and at peace. And we have something called the European Union that has united Europe—450 million people that are all in one political system together. It’s really nuts. And a lot of that is because of NATO providing the protection to ensure that—and that’s us. NATO is the United States’ commitment to defend Europe. And if we just pull back suddenly and abruptly, as Trump seems to be suggesting, especially without giving the Europeans time to get their ducks in a row—and it’s not just about funding. That’s the one thing.

It’s not just about Europeans spending more. Right now, the entire structure of European defense comes through us. It is an American general that, as supreme allied commander, is going to call the shots if there’s a war in Europe. And it is Europeans providing capabilities to support U.S.-led operations. That’s how we’ve wanted it. That’s how we told the Europeans to structure their militaries—around us, around NATO. And if we just abruptly pull out, I think Vladimir Putin will see that. It creates real opportunities for him, and it is incredibly dangerous. And when there’s strife on the European continent, you know what that means? Oftentimes it pulls us in—the idea that we are just some country protected by two oceans. I mean, we haven’t thought that way really in 80 years since American isolationism was very deep in our body politic. And it was proven to be totally incorrect, because Europe exploded onto us. And I think that’s the real danger here of us pulling back.

Seeberger: I have to ask—you mentioned it briefly—but Tucker Carlson. In the midst of all of this, the MAGA extremist journalist—or I should say, pundit—decided to interview Vladimir Putin and give him a platform here in the West. What implications do you think could come from that?

Bergmann: Well, I think the good news is that I think Vladimir Putin kind of botched it, to be honest. I was really nervous that this was going to be a real opportunity for someone who has been trained by the KGB and likes to consider himself a master manipulator to really lay out talking points that would have resonance to the far right—and not just in America, but really in Europe, which is also having European-wide elections—and would articulate that the war is our fault, that it was NATO expansion.

But the interesting thing is Putin really even undermined that argument. He didn’t even try, and he basically laid out what this war was about. This war was about Russia seeing Ukraine as part of Russia and using a contorted look at ancient history to say that, no, this is all part of ancient tsardom, and ergo, this war is a war of re-imperial conquest. So I actually think the interview turned out, in some ways, to not be helpful, but it gave us a window into Putin’s thinking. And I thought it also made Tucker Carlson look like a patsy. He sat there and just let Putin run with it. And he was trying to tee up Putin to make some of the points that would help Tucker Carlson make his arguments.

But I think what we have to understand here is that if we look back at the 2016 election, the Russians are very keen to try to influence our politics. They see our open systems, our democracy, as a potential vulnerability not just for the United States but for European countries. And they seek to try to influence that and influence our party politics, to do that on social media or hack the emails of the former CEO of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta, who was the chair of the Clinton campaign, and then leak those strategically over the final month of a campaign and drive media coverage. And I think Europe is right now very much on guard for that.

There was a meeting this week with the French President Emmanuel Macron, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and the new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk—French, Poles, and German. And one of the main takeaways was that they’re going to really focus on potential Russian interference in European elections. Everyone votes across Europe—all these different political parties, all these different languages. It’s a prime target for Russian influence efforts. And we know they were trying to do that in the past, in previous European elections.

So this is, I think, a real problem. And then you have journalists—or “journalists”—and political figures giving Putin a platform to try to convey those narratives. So that is something that we have to be on guard for. I’m just sort of glad that Putin seemed to miss the mark on this one. But it remains, I think, an ongoing concern.

Seeberger: Maybe a “journalist” trying to give a platform for reimagining or reorienting American foreign policy to the whims of a murderous authoritarian is not a great idea.

Bergmann: It’s not a good look.

Seeberger: No, not a good look. Max, I do have to ask you—we are just about to kick off the Munich Security Conference this week, where a bunch of world leaders are going to gather. What are you anticipating to come out of the conference? Are you expecting to see some real movement around some of these issues?

Bergmann: So the Munich Security Conference—every year, it’s sort of the national security Davos equivalent of the World Economic Forum that’s held in Switzerland.

Seeberger: I’m not sure that’s a value asset versus a liability.

Bergmann: Yeah, no, I think that’s debatable. Look, I think what this conference is very useful for is it brings a lot of world leaders together, the defense and security establishments across Europe and in much of the world. And you can really sort of put your finger on what is the thing that animates that conference. My parents were both European historians. This is what historians love. Because if you’re trying to identify how people are thinking about things in a given moment, you can go and look at these past Munich security conferences, and really say, “Oh, they were consumed with this issue.” And there’s been famous speeches—one by Vladimir Putin in 2007 at the Munich Security Conference where he kind of came out and declared his hostility to the West.

What I think we’re going to hear at this one is incredible concern and uncertainty about the commitment of the United States and about the direction of the United States—almost bordering on panic levels, especially given Trump’s comments earlier in this week—and the now-growing realization in Europe that the U.S. might not provide aid to Ukraine. And the problem for Europe is that they can’t backfill Ukraine. They don’t have the weaponry in their warehouses. They just physically don’t have it. They’ve given away almost everything that they had—and it wasn’t much, and that’s a problem. And they’ve underinvested for decades. But there’s just the basic problem, math problem, because they can‘t backfill us. So that creates a huge gap in the near term. It may be possible for Europe in 2025 or 2026 to fill more of that military burden as their defense industries ramp up, but they don’t have it right now.

So I think the Munich Security Conference is going to be about, is America pulling back from the world? And is the specter of Trump going to come back? I think that that’s going to be the animating conversation. And let me put it this way—it’s not just a question for Europe. If you’re in Japan, or Taiwan, or Korea, part of your security—more than part of your security—your security is in some ways premised on this sense that you got this guy willing to throw a punch behind you, not to use a gendered term. But I think that’s kind of how it’s perceived, that the United States would come in, and maybe we’re a little reckless, but like, we’ll be there for you. As soon as countries are like, “I don’t know if they’re going to be there for us,” does it mean, does Japan have to start hedging, make deals with China? And maybe you say, “Oh, that’s not that big of a deal.”

But this is how democratic erosion can snowball and the broader kind of system that we built up begins to lose some of its credibility around the world. So I think Munich is going to be—there’s going to be a lot of concern. I think there’ll be efforts by the United States and by the Biden administration, in particular. Vice President Harris will go and give a speech. We’ll try to reassure. She’ll do the best she can. But the problem is that this is about Congress right now, and the specter of Trump. So I think that makes it a really hard job for the U.S. to reassure that it’s really about us passing the funds and then ensuring going forward that we remain committed to our allies and partners.

Seeberger: And to that end, it is also a question for the American people. So it is a conversation we will be keeping close tabs on here at “The Tent.” Thank you so much for your time, Max.

Bergmann: Yeah, it’s great to be with you, Colin. Best of luck.

Seeberger: Thanks for tuning in, everyone. Daniella and I were going to bring you some fun takes on the Super Bowl to close out this episode, but by now, I’m sure many of you have heard about the horrific shooting at the parade in Kansas City that occurred. As of this recording, at least one person has reportedly died. And this mass shooting comes on the sixth anniversary of the Parkland massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people needlessly lost their lives to gun violence.

It’s absolutely unacceptable that Americans can’t celebrate events like this in peace and safety—that we continue to see shooting after shooting across this country at places of worship, grocery stores, malls, music festivals, schools. The list goes on. Time and time again, we’ve talked on this podcast about how lax gun laws are to blame. And while we don’t know all the details of this most recent shooting yet, we do know that Missouri was ranked 48th out of 50 states on the Giffords annual gun law scorecard—one of the worst in the nation.

Our hearts go out to the victims of these tragic events and their families. For their sakes and for the sakes of so many other victims of past mass shootings, we will continue to advocate for gun violence prevention strategies and commonsense gun reforms like expanded background checks and an assault weapons ban. Please check out the Gun Violence Prevention page on americanprogressaction.org for more on the policy changes we need to keep us safer.

This is a uniquely American problem, but we are not hopeless. And there is a solution: passing policy reforms that would help keep us safe. In light of the tragic events, that’s going to be all from us today. Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones during this difficult time. We’ll talk to you next week.

Gibbs Léger: “The Tent” is a podcast from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s hosted by me, Daniella Gibbs Léger, and co-hosted by Colin Seeberger. Erin Phillips is our lead producer, Kelly McCoy is our supervising producer, Em Espey is our booking producer, and Muggs Leone is our digital producer. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Daniella Gibbs Léger

Executive Vice President, Communications and Strategy


Colin Seeberger

Senior Adviser, Communications

Erin Phillips

Broadcast Media Manager

Kelly McCoy

Senior Director of Broadcast Communications

Mishka Espey

Senior Manager, Media Relations

Muggs Leone

Executive Assistant



Explore The Series

Politics. Policy. Progress. All under one big tent. Produced by CAP Action, “The Tent” is a news and politics podcast hosted by Daniella Gibbs Léger and co-hosted by Colin Seeberger. Listen each Thursday for episodes exploring topics that progressives are focused on.


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