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Russia

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Vladimir Putin
One day, I would like to have an entourage like that... armed guards and everything.

On Tuesday, the White House officially confirmed that President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had an informal, second talk, in addition to their official meeting at the Group of 20 (G-20) conference in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Putin and Trump spoke at the G-20 heads of state dinner, only a few hours after their official meeting.

Reports have surfaced that in their second meeting, Trump and Putin spoke for about an hour, accompanied only by the Russian president’s translator. The second meeting between the two leaders had not been previously reported by the White House.

While the White House confirmed that President Trump and President Putin talked at the dinner for G-20 leaders, an official from the White House seemed to parry claims that the meeting lasted for an hour, instead claiming that the two leaders spoke “briefly” towards the end of the dinner.

“There was no ‘second meeting’ between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner,” the official said. “The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd.”

According to the White House, the two leaders used Putin’s Russian translator since Trump’s translator could only speak Japanese.

A pool report from the dinner venue shows that Trump arrived at the dinner a little after 7 PM local time, and left the venue just a few minutes before midnight; even though the official G-20 schedule suggests the dinner was scheduled for 8:30 PM to 10 PM.

With the ongoing investigations, by both federal authorities and congressional committees, into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Moscow, Trump’s interaction with the Russian president have become the subject of intense scrutiny at home in the US, with the media also making it the center of attention.

However, the official from the White House reinstated the fact that it is the president’s job to talk to world leaders.

“It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president’s duties, to interact with world leaders. Throughout the G-20 and in all his other foreign engagements, President Trump has demonstrated American leadership by representing our interests and values on the world stage,” the official said.

Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, believes Trump breached national security by not allowing his translator to join his second, informal meeting with the Russian president. However, it is more than likely that Trump did not have knowledge of the national security protocol.

The formal meeting between Trump and Putin at the G-20 summit was officially scheduled to last for 30 minutes, but went on for over two hours; another thing that is bothering the mainstream media and critics back home.

Talking to Bloomberg’s Charlie Rose, Bremmer said that the understanding Trump established with Putin at the summit is “clearly his best personal relationship” with any G-20 leader.

“Never in my life as a political scientist have I seen two countries — major countries — with a constellation of national interests that are as dissonant, while the two leaders seem to be doing everything possible to make nice and be close to each other,” he said.

Reports indicate that President Trump, during the formal meeting, brought up the topic of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential elections; however, Russian President Putin denied those claims.

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Trump Tower
How much longer will Trump tower over all this Russia controversy?

The controversial meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya remained in the news over the weekend. The story, it seems, will retain the spotlight as lawmakers from both parties continue to argue about the meeting’s implications and new details keep emerging from various news sources.

One of President Donald Trump’s lawyers appeared on all five major news channels to present his defense, claiming that the president had absolutely no idea about the meeting, he also rejected the notion that the meeting violated laws.

However, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vice chairman, Mark Warner, believes that the recent revelations regarding the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya will force the committee to take the Russian investigation to a whole new level.

The meeting, which took place back in June 2016, included Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr., the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then campaign manager Paul Manafort.

After The New York Times first reported about the meeting just last weekend, several new details have emerged. Donald Trump Jr. went as far as to publish his email correspondence with Rob Goldstone, a music publicist and the intermediary between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya.

While the White House maintains its stance that the Trump campaign did not coordinate with Moscow during the elections in any way, several lawmakers and investigation authorities have begun questioning the June 2016 meeting.

“Nothing in that meeting that would have taken place even if it was about the topic of an opposition research paper from the Russian lawyer is illegal or a violation of the law,” Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said on “Fox News Sunday.”

However, Senator Mark Warner (D – Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had some serious questions about Trump Jr.’s meeting, saying he wanted to hear everyone’s side of the story.

He claimed he found it very difficult to believe that Trump wasn’t told about the meeting during the elections.

“It’s a little unbelievable that neither the son nor the son-in-law ever shared that information with their dad, the candidate,” Warner said.

Trump’s attorney has also emphasized on the fact that the president had no knowledge of the meeting until recently.

“The level of credibility from the senior levels of this administration really is suspect, and I think suspect regardless of what political party you belong to,” Warner added.

“This is the first time that the public has seen in black and white on the email thread clear evidence that the Russians — and particularly there was a Russian government effort to try to undermine [Hillary] Clinton, help Trump,” Warner said on “Face The Nation,” on CBS.

“And what was remarkable was you saw not only willingness but actually glee from the president’s son as well as involvement of the campaign manager and the president’s son-in-law to say in effect, ‘Yes, bring it on.'”

According to Warner, Trump Jr. hasn’t been very honest about the meeting, saying that he’s changed his story numerous times in a week since the story broke out. The president’s eldest son took to twitter on Tuesday, to release a series of emails between him and the intermediary, before the meeting.

Warner further said he wanted to talk to more people who were involved in the meeting. “I think we may find out there may have been other meetings as well,” he said. “We don’t know that yet. But what we’ve seen is a constant effort to hide contacts with Russians.”

Trump’s lawyer, talking to CBS’ Face The Nation, denied claims that Trump knew anything about the meeting.

“He said he has had no meetings, was aware of no meetings with Russians, was not aware of this one until really right before it all broke,” he said.

But Warner says this meeting aligns perfectly with the allegations that the campaign has attempted to cover up its contacts with the Russians.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (Cali) while speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, said that he thinks people can’t rely on Trump Jr. word.

“We can’t accept anything Don Jr. says, and of course, and we can’t accept much the president says about this either, because he has a similar record of not being forthcoming when it comes to Russia,” Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Several investigations are looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

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What side is he playing today?

Several reports suggest James Comey, the former FBI Director, will publicly testify before a Senate committee that President Trump put him under immense pressure to discontinue the FBI investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s ties to Moscow.

As per CNN, Comey may appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee “as early as next week.” However, it is to be noted that no official date has yet been scheduled. The committee is currently investigating claims that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential elections in its favor.

“The bottom line is he’s going to testify,” an unnamed source told CNN about Comey. “He’s happy to testify, and he’s happy to cooperate.”

On May 09, Comey was suddenly fired by Trump, sparking controversy that the president was trying to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into claims that Russia meddled with the election. American intelligence authorities have claimed that Moscow did seek to impact the 2016 elections in way or another.

The New York Times, earlier in May, reported that Trump asked Comey, while he was still at the bureau, to somehow end the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.

According to a memo that Comey is claimed to have written after a meeting with Trump, the president reportedly told him “I hope you can let this go.”

This Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Comey is willing to testify that Trump asked him “to back off the investigation” into Flynn.

Following his confession that he misled Vice President Mike Pence regarding conversations with the Russian ambassador before Inauguration Day, Flynn resigned from his post as national security adviser to President Trump.

 

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The shave helped.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) discussed the earth shattering report from the New York Times concerning a memo that former FBI Director Comey drafted documenting the suggestion that President Trump made for him to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn.

Gowdy stated that a conviction against Trump is a long way from a headline by the New York Times.

“I read the story, obviously I wanna see the memo,” Gowdy said, “Obviously I want to talk to Director Comey to determine how contemporaneous his recording of the conversation was. But also importantly, not just what was said, but what did Director Comey hear. How did he take it? That can only be done, with all due respect to the New York Times that can only be done by looking at the memo and talking to Director Comey.”

“If you go back to criminal procedure,” he explained, “which is my background, there’s a doctrine called the ‘rule of completeness.’ Whenever part of a document is introduced you gotta be able to look at the entire document. Your viewers and my fellow citizens deserve to see the entire context of whatever conversation may or may not have taken place.”

“And quite frankly,” he continued, “Director Comey deserves the opportunity to come tell us how he heard it, what he heard, how pervasive it was, and how much of the conversation that segment consumed. So we have a story, there’s a reason newspaper articles are not admissible in a courtroom in the United States. I’m not knocking the reporter, the reporter does good work. But we’re a long ways from a conviction, the fact is we simply have a headline in the New York Times.”

Anchor Martha MacCallum asked Gowdy if the report would actually help promote the need of a special prosecutor to be appointed to the Russian investigation.

“I have been resistant in the past but I have been open-minded,” Gowdy answered. “Special counsel is only appropriate if there’s an allegation of a crime. And there are several crimes, potentially at play here. The hacking of the DNC is a crime, I don’t hear people talking about that much. The dissemination of classified information is a crime. General Flynn’s comments to the FBI may or may not constitute a false statement to a law enforcement official. And I’ve heard allegations that this rises to the level of obstruction of justice.”

“So you do have sufficient evidentiary basis for a crime,” he concluded, “but the other half, the other half of the equation is whether or not the Department of Justice or any of the 94 U.S. attorneys can do the job themselves, and I have not been persuaded that all 94 U.S. attorneys, in our country, many of whom are women and men who have nothing to do with politics are incapable of adjudicating this fact pattern.”

The report by the New York Times has put the White House under the spotlight, as Democrats and other critics demand investigations.

Senator Angus King (I-Maine) said that if the report was in fact true, it could lead to Trump’s impeachment. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), on the other hand, sent a letter to the FBI on Tuesday demanding that they hand over all communications between Comey and President Trump to the House Oversight Committee.

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That may not be a good thing.

Phillip Mudd, ex-CIA official, was full of praise for Robert Mueller, former FBI Director, who has just been named as special counsel in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with the Russian government and Russia’s possible interference in the 2016 US presidential elections. He made the comments on Wednesday on CNN.

“I understand you know Robert Mueller, you’ve worked with him,” Wolf Blitzer asked. “What do you think?”

“For four and a half years of sitting down the hall from him I saw one two three times a day threaten meetings, personnel meetings, meetings with three attorneys general,” Mudd answered.

“I can tell you, every American who thinks that this is a moment of turmoil, whether they like the president or not, should breathe easy tonight,” he continued. “Robert Mueller is solid ground. I saw presidents, kings, prime ministers, secretaries of state, CIA directors, the former U.S. Attorney in New York said he’s one of the best.”

“He is not one of the best, Robert Mueller,” Mudd emphasized. “He is, the best I ever saw. Leadership, judgement, decision-making, and I know him personally, he would hate me to say this, the man has a heart and a sense of humor.”

“There is nobody better at doggedly pursuing a target without being subjected to any pressures from Congress,” he added, “the president, the media, anybody in the FBI, the attorney general, the deputy attorney general.”

“There is nobody better, Wolf, I can’t say it any clearer,” Mudd concluded.

After several Democrats and opponents of President Trump demnaedd that the investigation be safe from the White House’s influence, Mueller was named as the special prosecutor in the case. The New York Times’ “Comey memo” revelation potentially helped expedite the decision, because of its allegations that Trump tried to close an FBI investigation into his former national security advisor, Mike Flynn.

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The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.

According to a new report published by the Washington Post, the Russian government has constructed a new intelligence base in Central America.

The base is allegedly located in Managua, Nicaragua, a city with a population of 2.2 million people. The report states that the Nicaraguan government believes the operation is “simply a tracking site of the Russian version of a GPS satellite system.” However, the article claims that sources in the US government believe the base is being used for more than just GPS.

“Current and former U.S. officials suspect the new Russian facilities could have ‘dual use’ capabilities, particularly for electronic espionage … showing Russia can also strut in the United States’ back yard,” Joshua Partlow wrote for the Post.

Back in June 2016, the Washington Free Beacon claimed sources inside the US Defense Department knew that Moscow had struck a deal with the Nicaraguan government which would allow the Russians to construct a base in Managua for spying activities, in exchange for 50 T-72 Russian tanks. According to the publication, the estimated cost of the tanks was $80 million, $9 million more than Nicaragua’s entire 2015 defense budget.

Later in 2016, it was reported that Russia was expanding its military operations in the American region by increasing its presence in Cuba.

“The talks are under way,” said Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu regarding the possibility of a deal with Cuba.

Then, in November 2016, it was reported that Russia was indeed constructing a new embassy, an anti-drug training facility and the same satellite station the Washington Post is now claiming to be a spy base.

In what the White House said at the time to be a crackdown on the Russians for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential elections, President Obama sent dozens of Russian officials out of the country in December 2016, and also closed two Russian facilities believed to be spy bases.

In February and March 2017, there were numerous reports of a Russian spy ship off the US Atlantic coast. A Pentagon spokesperson, however, said that “It’s lawful similar to operations we do around the world.”

Partlow reported in his article that despite the recent aggressive moves made by the Russians, US officials are not “alarmed by the growing Russia presence.”

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This reporter may be disappointed with his new employer.

A former Breitbart News reporter, Lee Stranahan, has announced that he is launching a new radio show for Sputnik, a news organization owned and operated by the Russian government.

“I’m on the Russian payroll now, when you work at Sputnik you’re being paid by the Russians,” former Breitbart investigative reporter Stranahan said. “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 string of Twitter posts on Wednesday, Stranahan promoted his new radio show called “Fault Lines with [Garland] Nixon and Stranahan.” Stranahan promises that the show, which launches Monday, will be “original, provocative and entertaining.”

Stranahan’s new position comes as the latest twist in the increasingly atomized world of niche alternative media, which has seen a sharp increase in influence and prominence since Trump took office.

Stranahan reportedly quit Breitbart last month, after, according to his claims, he was prevented from covering the White House. He said the advantage of working for Sputnik is the freedom that comes from working with a Russian propaganda network . . . that is until he tries to talk about the Ukraine.

He says that he is not too concerned about the idea of working with a Russian government outlet, and opposes stories that claim Trump is too close to the Russians.

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

While his new show starts airing next week, Stranahan says he is also considering offers from two other companies to cover the White House.

“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, Stranahan’s former employer, has begun to revamp its image, hiring reporters from the mainstream media, during the early days of the Trump administration. It is known to have been a major pro-Trump outlet during the campaign and Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was previously the company’s chairman.

Reportedly, numerous sites like Breitbart, Infowars, and several others like Sputnik are being examined by the FBI as part of the Democrat’s witch hunt into Russian influence on the election.

“Rather than be coy about it, ‘yeah I’m on the Russian payroll,'” Stranahan told followers on Periscope later on Wednesday. “That affects me in no way.”

Stranahan may be in for a surprise when he does attempt to “say anything.” Just this week, the Russian government banned “offensive” images of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The image is the 4,700th banned image.

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Oh, Spicey so Spicey.

On Tuesday, during his daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer chided supporters for continuously trying to make a connection between the Trump administration and Russia.

Longtime White House correspondent April Ryan pointed out that the Trump administration is the subject of several investigations related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections and alleged relations between the Trump team and Kremlin.

Sean Spicer was clearly frustrated when asked if the Trump administration feels like it now needs to ‘revamp its image.’ He argued that many in the press, including April Ryan, have an ‘agenda’ to keep asking about Russia.

“I’ve said it from the day that I got here, there is no connection,” Spicer declared out of frustration at the briefing.

“If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.”

Last week, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the agency is investigating allegations of coordination between Trumps campaign team and Kremlin, as well as any attempts from Russia to meddle with the presidential elections late last year.

While Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes denied any evidence of collusion between the two parties, the committee’s ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff stated that there may be some ‘circumstantial evidence’ of ties and it was too early to rule anything out at this stage of the investigation.

The White House however, continued to maintain a rather rigid stance that there were no ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign aides.

“At some point, report the facts. Every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion — Republican, Democrat,” Spicer responded to April Ryan’s questions. “I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head.

“At some point, April, you’re going to have to take no for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.”

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Ambassador dies

Suspicions are mounting in the death of a Russian Ambassadors death in New York City late Monday.

Vitaly Churkin fell ill in his New York City office and rushed to Columbia University Medical Center where doctors pronounced him dead. The cause of Churkin’s death has not been announced.

Churkin, 64, has been a member of Russia’s United Nations envoy since 2006 and was very highly respected among his countrymen and the United Nations.

The UN held a moment of silence for Churkin on Tuesday, the same day that he would have turned 65.

Churkin’s death comes at a complicated time for Russian and American relationships.

The U.S. media has implicated the Russians in everything from hacking the DNC to rigging the elections to help Trump win, so the death comes at a time when tensions and conspiracy theories are on the rise regarding Russia.

Just an hour after Churkin’s death was announced, conspiracy theories started popping up all over the place. Some suggested Putin killed Churkin.

Then there are the conspiracy theories that say Trump was involved in death the Russian ambassador and they point to a meeting the two had over 30 years ago.

Vitaly Churkin will be missed by his colleagues at the UN and by the citizens of the country he loved very much.

It is too early to tell if any of the suspicions are true regarding the conspiracy theories, but most rationale people would suggest waiting until most of the facts come out before jumping to conclusions.

Thoughts? Comment below.

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Norway has 300 new visitors.

Marines from the 2nd Marine Division in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina packed up and hastily deployed to the Stjordal, Norway over the weekend.

Stjordal is a 4-hour hop across Sweden and Finland to Moscow.

The troop build up comes on top of the 3,000 troops that were deployed to Poland last week.

While Russian officials questioned the move, Norway’s Defence Ministry downplayed the presence of United States Marines saying, “for the first four weeks they will have basic winter training, learn how to cope with skis and to survive the Arctic environment . . . it has nothing to do with Russia or the current situation.”

The Marines are scheduled to be stationed there for a year with replacements coming in after six months.

Comment below.

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