Trump’s threat to NATO allies draws little condemnation from GOP, reflecting his grip on the party

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump‘s claim that he once told a NATO ally that he would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to “delinquent” members of the group sent shockwaves through Europe over the weekend.

But in Washington, most Republicans downplayed or defended remarks that seemed to invite Russian aggression.

“I was here when he was president. He didn’t undermine or destroy NATO,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a longtime defense hawk.

“I think I’ll look at what his actions are rather than what his words are,” said Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who has been a strong supporter of NATO and of sending additional aid to Ukraine as the country enters its third year of war after Russia’s invasion.

As he moves closer to winning the Republican presidential nomination a third straight time, Trump’s tightening grip on the GOP is reshaping the party’s traditional defense of longstanding military alliances and rejection of Moscow, positions that date back to the days of the Soviet Union. Many who once would have responded with alarm to the NATO remarks have largely fallen in line with Trump’s priorities or have chosen to retire as it has become clear his influence has

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