Trump is being seriously worked by Russian President Vladimir Putin; “no, you’re the puppet”

Two top former U.S. intelligence officials said Sunday that President Trump is being “played” by President Vladimir Putin on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and accused him of being susceptible to foreign leaders who stroke his ego.

“By not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin that we know you’re responsible for this, I think he’s giving Putin a pass,” former CIA director John Brennan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”

Appearing on the same program, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said he agrees with that assessment.

“He seems very susceptible to rolling out the red carpet and honor guards and all the trappings and pomp and circumstance that come with the office, and I think that appeals to him, and I think it plays to his insecurities,” Clapper said.

Trump told reporters traveling with him in Asia that Putin had assured him at a conference in Danang, Vietnam, on Saturday that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and he indicated that he believed Putin was sincere.

Later, in a news conference Sunday in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Trump appeared to be trying to parse his earlier remarks, saying, “What I said is that I believe [Putin] believes that.”

In his earlier remarks to reporters, Trump also referred to Brennan and Clapper as “political hacks.” Brennan said Sunday that he considers Trump’s characterization “a badge of honor.”

Both men were highly critical of Trump for not saying more definitively that Putin was behind the Russian interference in the U.S. election, a conclusion strongly endorsed by the U.S. intelligence community.

“I don’t know why the ambiguity about this,” Brennan said. “Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding, and, in fact, poses a peril to this country.”

Clapper said, “It’s very clear that the Russians interfered in the election, and it’s still puzzling as to why Mr. Trump does not acknowledge that and embrace it and also push hard against Mr. Putin.”

Appearing later on CNN, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came to Trump’s defense, brushing aside the comments of Brennan and Clapper.

“Those were the most ridiculous statements,” Mnuchin said. “President Trump is not getting played by anybody.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/11/12/former-u-s-intelligence-officials-trump-being-played-by-putin/

From CNN:

In polling, Americans increasingly see the Russian meddling as a grave issue. In a CNN survey conducted this month, about two-thirds (64%) now say the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the US presidential election in 2016 is a serious matter that should be fully investigated, while just 32% see it as an effort to discredit Trump’s presidency.

The percentage who say it’s a “crisis” for the United States if the Russian government did attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election now stands at 22%.

Trump’s willingness to confront Putin will be tested in the coming months. Trump is required to impose new sanctions on Russian entities by January 29 under a law passed by Congress over the summer. The same law required the administration to identify targets for the sanctions by the beginning of last month; the roster of targets arrived three weeks late.

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That unregulated reservoir of money we call Russia almost certainly elected Trump

Russia almost certainly made Donald Trump president — and here’s how we know

Many Americans are unhappy about President Donald Trump’s decisions, but defenders of his administration dismiss these criticisms as irrelevant. Elections have consequences, they argue. Trump promised to change Washington when he was on the campaign trail. Voters liked what he said, and now the President is delivering on those promises. Get over it, critics. Trump won. Clinton lost.

This argument in defense of Trump’s leadership sounded more compelling immediately after the election than it does now. New evidence has surfaced in recent months that suggests Trump may not have won the 2016 race primarily because he offered voters a more appealing message than the Democratic candidate. The Kremlin backed numerous communications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube that boosted Donald Trump’s campaign with words and images that damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Russian agents appreciated a condition of modern-day electioneering that many politicians, journalists, and citizens in the United States fail to recognize adequately when assessing the results of presidential elections. Russia’s meddlers understood that voters are not simply influenced by the good works a candidate promises to perform. Voters’ decisions are influenced to a considerable degree by strongly negative impressions they have about an opposing candidate’s personality, behavior, and ideas.

In the light of newly released details about Russia’s manipulation of the Internet, pundits who seek “lessons” from the 2016 presidential election should question some of their favored interpretations. When trying to explain why Trump won a very close election, they typically cite the Republican candidate’s promises to “Make America Great Again” and create “good jobs,” his nostalgic references to America’s past, his image as a successful businessman and Washington outsider, and his appeals to ordinary Americans, including white men. They point out, as well, that Hillary Clinton was not an ideal candidate. She lacked the political charisma of her husband. Mrs. Clinton also failed to heed the message that James Carville emphasized during her husband’s successful 1992 campaign – Americans care about “the economy, stupid.”

Trump’s messaging and Clinton’s shortcomings were factors in the outcome, of course. Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton attracted almost three million more votes than Trump, and her loss can be traced largely to Trump’s victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin by a combined total of less than 80,000 votes. Absent Russia’s abundant messages spreading across the Internet, Hillary Clinton would likely be handling the nation’s affairs now in the Oval Office.

The reach of that foreign-based propaganda was impressive. The Internet Research Agency, an organization linked to the Kremlin, reached 126 million users of Facebook. Many of its communications aimed to undermine confidence in Hillary Clinton. Russian agents published more than 1.4 million election-related tweets. Those messages received 288 million views. Russia’s intervention resulted in the publication of more than 120,000 images on Instagram, the photo-sharing platform, and it produced more than 1000 ads on YouTube. Americans who liked these messages passed them on to friends. Agents associated with the Kremlin exploited Internet freedom brilliantly during America’s 2016 election campaign. The Internet remained a free-wheeling, largely unregulated communications network. It did not require sponsors of political messages to identify themselves, as television advertising required.

We should not be surprised that Russians sought to boost Trump’s chances principally by circulating negative impressions of Hillary Clinton rather than positive judgments about Donald Trump. In recent decades, American campaign advertising has accentuated the negative rather than the positive. Strategists recognized that efforts to demonize the opposition can pay off handsomely. The negative approach has been especially evident since the 1988 presidential race. This was not a new trend, of course. The 1800 presidential campaigns involving Thomas Jefferson and John Adams featured plenty of nasty personal attacks, and similar practices affected later presidential contests. Since 1988, though, both major parties put this strategy on steroids.

Republican leaders were nervous in late May of 1988. Democrat Michael Dukakis was far ahead of the President George H. W. Bush in the polls. GOP strategists decided to respond with hard-hitting attack ads against the Democratic candidate. They branded Dukakis as a Massachusetts “liberal” and portrayed him as weak on national defense. “Willie Horton” ads also wrecked Dukakis’s image. They drew attention to a Massachusetts furlough program that allowed the temporary release of state prisoners. Horton, an African American and convicted murderer, committed assault, armed robbery and rape at the time of his furlough. Michael Dukakis made numerous mistakes, but the GOP’s powerful assault on his character and leadership hurt even more. George H. W. Bush overcame Dukakis’s initial advantages, winning the electoral college by a whopping count of 426 to 111. President Bush’s turnaround in the 1988 contest delivered a poignant message. Efforts to promote frightening characterizations of the opposing candidate can make an impact on voters’ opinions.

Negative advertising helped Republicans in the close presidential contest of 2004. Democrats seemed to have a good chance for victory when they nominated John Kerry, an articulate, rugged-looking, war veteran who received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V and Three Purple Hearts for military service in Vietnam. But Kerry went down to defeat, in large part because of the way Republican strategists portrayed him – as a tax-raising, flip-flopping wimp. An attack group finished off the wounded Kerry by claiming that he lied about his achievements in Vietnam.

Democrats gained leverage in 1992 and 2012 by employing attack strategies. In 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign suggested President George H. W. Bush was out of touch with ordinary people. Democrats blamed President Bush for the hard times Americans experienced during a recession. In 2012 Barack Obama’s team quickly defined the character of Mitt Romney for voters before Romney had a chance to make his case. Democrats portrayed Romney as an aloof millionaire who did not truly care about average people. Romney viewed corporations as “people,” Democrats stressed, and they drew attention to Romney’s video-recorded claim that 47% of American voters “are dependent on the government” and “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”

It is difficult for political analysts and citizens to revise their familiar narrative about lessons drawn from political campaigns, including their conclusions about the 2016 election. When discussing the reasons for victory or defeat, they give primary weight to the appeal of individual personalities and the candidates’ promises to improve voters’ lives. Commentators stress the importance of a candidate’s likeability and communication skills. But the latest evidence of extensive meddling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube suggests that analysts need to think differently when assessing election results in the years to come. The winning candidate’s personality and message do not always establish the winning margin. Quite often, negative characterizations serve as keys to victory.

Debates about the reasons for Trump’s win and Clinton’s loss will continue to animate conversations for a long time, but new evidence supports an astonishing judgment. Hillary Clinton probably would have won – in fact, she might have won handily and benefited the candidacy of Democrats for the House and Senate – if Russian interference had not created strong doubts about her character and competence.

Russia almost certainly made Donald Trump president — and here’s how we know

Robert Brent Toplin is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Toplin was also professor at Denison University and recently has taught occasional courses at the University of Virginia. He is the author of several books about film, history, and politics and has commented on history in several nationally broadcast radio and television programs. Contact: Rt2b@virginia.edu.
This article was originally published at History News Network

Screw our allies, kiss up to our enemy’s and call it our “foreign policy”?


After just a few months in office, President Trump has already upended America’s relationship with much of the world.

Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, the Philippines and Israel appear to be in the administration’s good graces.

Meanwhile, nearly all of Western Europe, Canada, Qatar, Iran, Cuba, Australia and Ukraine appear to be on the outs.

Some countries now clashing with the United States have been foes in the past, while others are longtime allies unaccustomed to tensions with Washington.

It’s the fraying of relations with allies that has lawmakers worried the most.

“Obviously, he’s weakened them,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said of U.S. alliances. “Duh.”

Last week’s row over Qatar was illustrative of the way Trump has upended international diplomacy.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed all land, sea and air borders.

The United States is allies with all countries involved and in past disputes between the five had mostly stayed out of the fray.

But Trump took sides Tuesday, supporting the Saudi-led bloc over Qatar and taking credit for causing the rift with his visit to the region last month.

Later in the week, Trump tried to move into the role of mediator but was back to bashing Qatar during a Friday press conference.

Experts say the incident is indicative of a larger trend.

“There’s a global reshuffling going on in terms of how international relations work,” Andrew Bishop, deputy director of research for the Eurasia Group, said in an email.

“The Qatari spat falls squarely into this framework. Interestingly enough, the Saudis are replicating at a Gulf level the U.S. approach to global politics. Riyadh wants all [Gulf Cooperation Council] members to make a choice: You’re either with or against us on Iran. But Qatar likes the Russian and Chinese approach better: It wants to be able to work with everyone — Iran, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., China.”

Qatar is just the latest example of Trump’s shuffling of allies. Before the Qatar crisis, Trump criticized the mayor of London after a terrorist attack, prompting British Prime Minister Theresa May to say that Trump was “wrong.”

Allies were also visibly uncomfortable during Trump’s NATO speech last month in which he lectured them on defense spending and did not explicitly endorse the mutual defense clause of the alliance’s treaty. Trump finally endorsed Article 5 on Friday, in response to a question from a reporter. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement also upset U.S. allies. New French President Emmanuel Macron has been particularly vocal, taking the unusual step of releasing an English-language video statement criticizing the announcement.

The president’s willingness to shake up the old was apparent shortly after the inauguration, when he had a testy phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. During that call, he slammed an Obama-era agreement between the two countries on refugees.

At the same time, Trump has improved relations with traditional U.S. allies who were often at odds with the Obama administration over human rights and other issues. Trump received a greeting fit for a king in Saudi Arabia, and he praised the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is carrying out a war on drugs with extrajudicial killings, for being tough on drugs.

Trump was the first and only Western leader to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Ergodan on winning a referendum vote that gives the Turkish leader sweeping new powers. And he’s had chummy visits with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had a rocky relationship with former President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, Trump has reversed the Obama administration’s warming with countries such as Iran, which he has repeatedly blasted for supporting terrorism, and Cuba, where the Trump administration is considering completely rolling back Obama’s “opening” to the island.

But Trump has also extended a hand to adversaries such as Russia, saying repeatedly he’d like to improve relations, and China, which he has zeroed in on as needing to deal with North Korea.

“There’s no doubt President Trump has upended U.S. relationships across the world, but his has not been a one-size-fits-all approach,” Bishop said. “The president likes for his friends to be the clear enemy of his enemies.”

But Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and no fan of Trump, said he “really wouldn’t” agree that Trump is upending relationships.

Trump may be “unnecessarily endangering” alliances with “unproductive” tension, O’Hanlon said, but the essence of the alliances, such as the welcomed U.S. military presence in various countries, remains the same.

“He could still screw it up tomorrow,” O’Hanlon added.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who on Tuesday was stunned by Trump’s handling of the Qatar situation, defended Trump on Thursday, saying his largely successful overseas trip shows he is learning the art of statecraft.

“They’re new at this,” Corker said. “But they are moving along. I thought the first part of the trip overseas — because I had been briefed as to what they were attempting to do — I thought the trip to Saudi Arabia was very successful. I thought the Israeli visit was very successful. I thought the Vatican visit was very successful.”

Still, Corker acknowledged the rest of the trip, including the NATO meeting, could have gone better, particularly if Trump had endorsed Article 5.

But Trump’s critics say incidents such as the Qatar spat are emblematic of a larger problem.

“We need to know how to deal with countries that don’t share our values, that don’t always agree with us,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “And you can’t just have a haphazard comment as part of our foreign policy.”

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/337205-trump-upends-the-global-order

“No. No. Next question,”……….. somebody’s lyin’ and lyin’ and……….

Donald Trump just staked his presidency on 4 words

Washington (CNN)At a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos Thursday, President Donald Trump was asked a very simple question: Had he urged then-FBI Director James Comey to slow or stop an FBI investigation into deposed national security adviser Michael Flynn?

“No. No. Next question,” Trump responded.

It was over in a flash. But in those four words, Trump staked the viability of his presidency.

Why? Because he directly contradicted the reporting around a memo that Comey had written in the wake of a February 14 meeting in which Trump told him to see if he could find a way to end the Flynn investigation, The New York Times first reported and CNN confirmed.

Both of those things can’t be true.

Comey, who was fired by Trump 10 days ago, is expected at some point in the not-too-distant future to come to Congress and testify about his meetings with Trump. And the relevant congressional committees have already requested the February 14 memo as well as any other memos — and CNN has reported there are more of them — that Comey wrote about his interactions with Trump.

Between his testimony and the memo(s), Comey’s side of the story is going to get out there. And, presuming that what we know of the February 14 memo is true, then Trump’s former FBI director will be on record directly disagreeing with the President’s version of events.

By issuing such a blanket denial, Trump leaves himself very little wiggle room. In order for Trump to emerge unscathed, there can be no evidence that emerges that props up Comey’s side of the story. Anything that shows Trump was not being entirely truthful with his “no, no, next question” response calls into question his credibility on a whole range of issues and could well lead to open revolt from within his own party.

Trump’s situation here is not dissimilar to that of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the early Trump converts. After the news broke that two of Christie’s top gubernatorial aides had been involved in a political payback ploy that involved closing lanes of traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Christie went on record to say he was totally unaware of any of this plotting.

Had anything come out that proved Christie even slightly wrong in that total denial, it would have been curtains for his political career. It never did — and Christie survived. (As it was, the Bridgegate scandal badly hamstrung Christie and he never was a real factor in the 2016 race.)

In short: The story of the February 14 meeting is currently a “he said, he said” one. If it never progresses beyond that, Trump will almost certainly survive, politically speaking. There will be plenty of grumbles from Republicans — many of whom are on the record praising Comey as a trustworthy guy and able public servant — but short of evidence that tilts the scales in Comey’s favor, it will be very hard to abandon Trump.

If, on the other hand, tapes — like the sort Trump floated he might have of his conversations with Comey — or any other sort of documented evidence emerges that poke holes in Trump’s four-word denial, he and his presidency will be in deep trouble.

Donald Trump is a gambler by nature. Repeatedly during his presidential campaign, and now in the White House, he has rolled the dice and reacted once they settled. But, whether he realized it at the time or not, Trump placed the biggest bet of his political career on Thursday.
From CNN

Boston Globe Fact Checks:

Donald Trump’s latest assertions about the Russia investigation are questionable on a number of fronts.

For one, he’s claiming his political adversaries agree with him that there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russians. His critics are not at all convinced of that.

He’s also appearing to shift some responsibility for the firing of FBI chief James Comey to a Justice Department official. Earlier, he’d claimed sole ownership of that decision.

Joining Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos in a news conference Thursday, the president also misstated the record on jobs and a violent national gang as well as on the matter that prompted the Justice Department a day earlier to appoint a special counsel with wide-ranging powers to investigate the Trump campaign and Russia.

THE FACTS: Democrats have not absolved Trump on whether his campaign and Russian officials coordinated efforts last year to disadvantage his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Several have said they have not seen evidence of collusion, but that’s not to say they are satisfied it did not happen.

Trump has cited James Clapper, the director of national intelligence until Trump took office Jan. 20, among others, as being ‘‘convinced’’ there was no collusion.

Clapper said this week that while a report he issued in January did not uncover collusion, he did not know at the time that the FBI was digging deeply into ‘‘potential political collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians’’ and he was unaware of what the bureau might have found. The FBI inquiry continues, as do congressional investigations and, now, one by the special counsel.

—On his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey: ‘‘I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.’’

THE FACTS: The recommendation Trump cites behind his decision was written after he’d already made up his mind, according to Rosenstein and to Trump’s own previous statement.

In an interview with NBC two days after the May 9 Comey dismissal, Trump said he had been planning to fire Comey for months, and linked it with the FBI’s Russia probe, saying, ‘‘In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’’

On Thursday, Rosenstein told senators in a closed-door briefing that he had been informed of Trump’s decision to fire Comey before he wrote his memo providing a rationale for that act, said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

—Speaking of the MS-13 gang presence in the U.S.: ‘‘A horrible, horrible large group of gangs that have been let into our country over a fairly short period of time. … They’ve literally taken over towns and cities of the United States.’’

 

THE FACTS: His depiction of the gang as a foreign one ‘‘let into’’ the U.S. is not accurate.

The gang actually began in Los Angeles, according to a fact sheet from Trump’s own Justice Department, and ‘‘spread quickly across the country.’’ And it started not recently, but in the 1980s according to that same fact sheet.

The department indirectly credits the Obama administration, in its early years, with helping to rein in the group, largely made up of first-generation Salvadoran-Americans and Salvadoran nationals. It said: ‘‘Through the combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, great progress was made diminishing or severely (disrupting) the gang within certain targeted areas of the U.S. by 2009 and 2010.’’

The U.S. carried out record deportations during the Obama administration and, on MS-13 specifically, took the unprecedented action of labeling the street gang a transnational criminal organization and announcing a freeze on its U.S. assets. Such actions were not enough to bring down the group and the Trump administration says it will do more.

—”You look at the tremendous number of jobs that are being announced.’’ — Thursday news conference

— ‘‘Jobs are pouring back into our country.’’ — speech Wednesday to the Coast Guard Academy

— ‘‘I inherited a mess. … Jobs are pouring out of the country.’’ — February news conference

— ‘‘Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!’’ — on Twitter, after Ford took steps to add about 800 jobs in the U.S. in January and March

THE FACTS: Trump’s rhetoric about jobs has changed, but the actual data about hiring haven’t. Job gains have been solid since Trump was inaugurated, averaging 185,000 a month from January through April, according to government figures. But that is the same pace of hiring as occurred in 2016, when Barack Obama was president, and slower than in 2014 and 2015, when more than 225,000 jobs a month were added, on average.

As for Ford, context is everything. After hailing the addition of some 800 jobs, Trump was silent after Ford announced Wednesday it plans to cut 1,400 non-factory jobs in North America and Asia. That will most likely outweigh the jobs added earlier.

Overall, presidents typically get far more credit or blame for the state of the economy than they deserve, economists say. And it is particularly unlikely that any president would have an impact after just four months on the job. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from taking credit.

‘‘Great jobs report today — it is all beginning to work!’’ he tweeted May 5, after the government reported that solid hiring in April had pushed the unemployment rate to a 10-year low. A spokesman said on the same day that ‘‘the president’s economic agenda of serious tax reform, slashing burdensome regulations, rebuilding our infrastructure and negotiating fairer trade deals is adding jobs.’’

While Trump, with the help of the GOP Congress, has taken some minor steps on deregulation, little progress has been made on taxes, infrastructure or trade.

 

“Blood and Soil” & “Russia is our friend”

“What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced,” intoned Richard Spencer, the man who coined the term “alt-right,” at rallies Saturday near a contentious statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va. As the Daily Progress reports, the second rally was attended by several dozen protesters carrying torches and chanting, “Russia is our friend,” “you will not replace us,” and “blood and soil.” Police broke up that protest within about 10 minutes after an altercation broke out; Spencer tweeted a photo of himself from the scene, captioned simply “#torchlight.” At issue: The city of Charlottesville’s decision to sell the statue of Lee, though a judge has since ordered an injunction preventing any sale for six months.

The town is familiar ground for Spencer, who the Washington Post notes attended the University of Virginia. The protests were attacked by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello, who started a back-and-forth when he tweeted, “Get your white supremacist hate out of my hometown.” “We won, you lost, little Tommy,” retorted Spencer. “Actually, you lost,” responded Perriello. “In 1865. 150 years later, you’re still not over it.”

Mayor Mike Signer has issued a statement likening the event to a KKK demonstration.

The group congregated in Lee Park by a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which is slated to be removed from the premises later this year following a February city council vote. Earlier in the day, protestors had also gathered at nearby Jackson Park, voicing their commitment to protecting what they called their “white heritage.”

Chants of “blood and soil” broke out just after 9 PM. The German-originated expression, popularized in the Nazi era, refers to an ideology of “ethnic purity” based on blood descent and territory.

After about ten minutes of activity, Charlottesville police intervened, and the crowd extinguished their torches and dispersed. Law enforcement had also broken up the Jackson Park protest hours earlier with relative ease, although intervention there followed rowdier arguments and scuffles.

“This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK,” Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said in a statement.

At Jackson Park, some demonstrators spoke to press. “We’re not white supremacists,” said protestor Orry Von Dize. “We are simply just white people that love our heritage, our culture, our European identity.”

In attendance was infamous white supremacist Richard Spencer, who shared a photo of himself holding a torch. On Sunday, he mocked a reporter who called out the event: “Glad you enjoyed it,” he tweeted. Spencer, a Nazi sympathizer who claims he created the “alt-right” movement, made headlines in January 2017 when he was punched in the face on live TV.

 

3 stories from the Country of The Donald’s BFF

 

Mother Russia

 

Russia’s Supreme Court is reviewing a government request to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses and designate the religious group as an extremist organization.

The Justice Ministry in Moscow has been investigating the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian headquarters near St. Petersburg over the last year and claimed it discovered violations of a Russian law banning extremism. The ministry accused the organization of disseminating “extremist” pamphlets and said the center, and nearly 400 other local branches of the group, should be “liquidated.”

One pamphlet the ministry reportedly took issue with quoted the novelist Leo Tolstoy and described the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox Church as superstition and sorcery, according to the BBC.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses filed a counter lawsuit against the Justice Ministry, calling its actions unlawful and asking the court to recognize the organization’s members as victims of political repression. The Supreme Court dismissed the counter lawsuit on Wednesday, reportedly saying it wasn’t eligible to rule on issues of political repression, according the Russian Legal Information Agency. The court adjourned the hearing until Thursday.

The ministry filed its claim on March 15, urging the court to shut down all worship activities by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country. David A. Semonian, a spokesman at the Witnesses’ world headquarters, responded in a statement, saying: “Prosecuting non-violent, law-abiding citizens as if they were terrorists is clearly a misapplication of anti-extremist laws. Such prosecution is based on completely false grounds.”

There are more than 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, according to the U.S.-based religion’s website. Like Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists and other religious minorities in the country, they have recently been subject to Russian anti-extremism laws that ban proselytizing and curtail the dissemination of religious literature.

The government has cracked down on the group in recent years, imposing fines on congregations and occasionally arresting leaders perceived to be stoking anti-government sentiment.

Andrei Sivak, a Russian elder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, was arrested in 2010 after undercover security officers infiltrated services and secretly filmed him leading worship. The government accused Sivak and another elder, Vyacheslav Stepanov, of “inciting hatred and disparaging the human dignity of citizens.”

“Their disregard for the state erodes any sense of civic affiliation and promotes the destruction of national and state security,” claimed a report prepared for the prosecution, according to The New York Times.

The current crackdown echoes previous eras of antagonism toward the religious group. Vasily Kalin, chairman of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian arm, was deported with his family to Siberia when he was a child ― during a time when the Soviet Union outlawed the religion and deported thousands of members.

“It is sad and reprehensible that my children and grandchildren should be facing a similar fate,” Kalin told The New York Times. “Never did I expect that we would again face the threat of religious

persecution in modern Russia.”

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a statement: “The Russian government’s latest actions appear designed to eliminate the legal existence of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia…. USCIRF calls on the Russian government to stop its harassment of this peaceful religious group.”

 

Russian spy deported

A New Yorker long-suspected of being part of a spy ring that had been in contact with a former adviser of President Donald Trump has been shipped back to Moscow, reports The Hill.

According to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Evgeny Buryakov, 42, was dispatched to Moscow on Wednesday.

“Removing individuals like Mr. Buryakov represents ICE’s highest enforcement priority, which is protecting the national security of the United States,” said spokesperson Rebecca Adducci, before adding, “ICE will continue to move aggressively against those who engage in actions that could potentially compromise the security of our nation.”

Buryakov pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiring to work as a Russian agent in the U.S., following a probe of a suspected spy ring involving Victor Podobnyy and Igor Sporyshev.

On Monday, a government report stated that Podobnyy had met with former Trump adviser Page back in 2013 at which time Page handed over documents as Podobnyy attempted to recruit him.

According to a transcript of Podobnyy speaking with government officials, he claimed, ““I think he [Page] is an idiot and forgot who I a He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. I also promised him a lot … this is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go f*ck himself.”

Buryakov’s deportation comes at a time when both congressional intelligence committees are investigating ties between Russian agents and President Donald Trump’s campaign aides — including Page.

According to interview with CNN, Page insisted he hid his Russian involvement from the Trump campaign.

 

 

Former Breitbart News reporter joins Russian propaganda news agency Sputnik

Former Breitbart News investigative reporter Lee Stranahan is launching a radio show for Sputnik, a news organization owned and operated by the Russian government, the Atlantic reports.

“I’m on the Russian payroll now, when you work at Sputnik you’re being paid by the Russians,” Stranahan told the Atlantic’s Rosie Gray. “That’s what it is. I don’t have any qualms about it. Nothing about it really affects my position on stuff that I’ve had for years now.”

In a series of Twitter posts Wednesday, Stranahan promoted his new Sputnik radio show, a Crossfire-style debate show called “Fault Lines with [Garland] Nixon and Stranahan.” Stranahan promises the show, which launches Monday, will be “original, provocative and entertaining.”

As Gray reports, Stranahan quit Breitbart last month after he claimed he was prevented from covering the White House. He said the upside of working with Sputnik is the freedom that comes from working with a Russian propaganda network.

“There’s no restrictions on what I can say, what I can do, anything like that,” Stranahan said. “I’m not easily controllable.”

Breitbart News’s, formerly chaired by Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, is reportedly being examined by the FBI as part of its ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russian operative trying to influence the 2016 election. Breitbart was decidedly pro-Trump throughout the campaign.

Stranahan tried to downplay any relation between the Trump campaign and Russia, calling the story “bogus.”

“I think the whole narrative trying to tie Trump to Russia is a huge problem,” Stranahan said.

The credibility gap comes full circle

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1968 Credibility Gap:  ”I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”with the majority of the American public still approving of the Vietnam War it was the people’s distrust of Lyndon Johnson that cause him not to run.

 

i-dont-lie

The credibility gap now – maybe chasm is a better word at this point – keeps widening for Donald Trump and his White House.

Two days after Trump’s victory, Russia’s deputy foreign minister told a reporter in Moscow that “there were contacts” between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. “Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” he said. That prompted a vigorous denial from Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, who insisted there had been “no contact with Russian officials.”

On Jan. 11, an NBC reporter asked Trump whether members of his staff were in contact with Russian officials during the campaign. “No,” he replied.

On Jan. 15, Mike Pence was asked basically the same question on two Sunday shows. “Of course not,” he replied on Fox and CBS.

Yesterday afternoon, Sean Spicer stood by Trump’s earlier denials during the daily briefing when questioned by ABC.

Trump says he hasn’t heard of reports on Flynn talks with Russian diplomat

TRUMP’S LARGER CREDIBILITY PROBLEM:

— This weekend brought yet another reminder that Trump’s claims can never be taken at face value. While flying to Palm Beach on Air Force One, the president told reporters he was “not familiar” with The Post’s report that Flynn had talked about sanctions with the ambassador. “I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it. What report is that? I haven’t seen that. I’ll look into that,” he said.

We learned yesterday that, in fact, Trump had been told two weeks earlier that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, despite his denials. But he sat on the information. “Spicer said that Trump was responding only to a question about the Post report and was not speaking about the overall issue of Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador and his discussion of sanctions,”

from Washington Post