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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

The European Parliament passed a rare motion Wednesday condemning Hungary for violating the European Union's founding values, which center on democracy and respect for the rule of law.

The backdrop: Since 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has sought to transform Hungary into what he calls an "illiberal state," melding crony capitalism with a crackdown on the independent judiciary and media, a restructuring of the electoral system, and a string of other assaults on civil institutions.

The big picture: The motion could trigger a vote to strip Hungary of its EU voting rights, but it would require unanimous approval and several of Orbán's allies have already said they would vote no. But even a symbolic move to censure Hungary is significant given that members of Orbán's own coalition in the European Parliament, the European People's Party, have finally a stand against his autocratic rule.

  • Political scientist Cas Mudde notes that leaders of the EPP, the largest voting bloc in the Parliament that includes center-right leaders from around the continent, have for years enabled Orbán's attacks on social democracy, believing they could control his worst tendencies. But with populist parties surging throughout Europe and moderates being pushed to the right on immigration, it's become clear that Orbán has changed the EPP far more than it has changed him.
"This is a battle for the soul of the EPP. Does it want to remain a party of values, of democracy, and human rights? It can’t do that and keep Orbán in — it’s one or another."
— Political scientist R. Daniel Kelemen to the New York Times

The bottom line: The European Parliament's elections are next year, and the EPP must decide whether to engage Orbán in dialogue or eject him from its ranks — and risk facing off against a potential far-right alliance he could form with other populists.

Go deeper: Border fences and refugee bans: Hungary did it — fast.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”