Wednesday, April 19, 2017

4.19.17 - One reason President Donald Trump changed his rhetoric on China? He really likes the Chinese president - CNN Wednesday April 19th, 2017 at 8:36 AM

One reason President Donald Trump changed his rhetoric on China? He really likes the Chinese president - CNN

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CNN

One reason President Donald Trump changed his rhetoric on China? He really likes the Chinese president
CNN
Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump told Fox and Friends on Tuesday he didn't live up to a campaign promise to stare down China over manipulating its currency because, well, he got along better than he thought with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
How might Donald Trump do a deal with North Korea?BBC News
Trump weirdly says Korea was “part of China,” which is totally wrong and could enrage South KoreaQuartz
Wait, Does Donald Trump Know the Leader of North Korea's Name?Gizmodo
Western Journalism -The Independent
all 6,109 news articles »

Donald Trump approval rating up: 50 percent say they think president doing a good job - AL.com

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AL.com

Donald Trump approval rating up: 50 percent say they think president doing a good job
AL.com
A new poll shows President Donald Trump's approval rating reaching 50 percent, its highest-level since mid-March. The Rasmussen poll showed 50 percent of likely voters approve of the job the president doing, the same percentage of those who said they ...
Donald Trump has raised his approval ratings by embracing his inner bombQuartz
Is Donald Trump's approval rating really 50 percent?CNN
Poll Finds Donald Trump's Support Inching Up to 50 PercentNewsweek
TIME
all 86 news articles »

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Has Deep Ties To The Trump Administration After All - UPROXX

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UPROXX

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Has Deep Ties To The Trump Administration After All
UPROXX
As late as last week, the Trump administration has claimed that Erik Prince, most notable for founding the mercenary firm Blackwater that had employees convicted of murdering innocent Iraqi civilians in 2007, had no role in the White House transition ...

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Ukraine's back-channel diplomat still shopping peace plan to Trump ... - Chicago Tribune

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Ukraine's back-channel diplomat still shopping peace plan to Trump ...
Chicago Tribune
The last two months have not been easy for Andrey Artemenko.

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Blackwater founder Erik Prince held backdoor meetings with Trump transition team - Death and Taxes

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Death and Taxes

Blackwater founder Erik Prince held backdoor meetings with Trump transition team
Death and Taxes
Erik Prince, founder of private military company Blackwater, and sister to unsharpened pencil Betsy DeVos, met several times with top Donald Trump aides before and after the election, Bloomberg reports. Prince advised the transition team on anti ...

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Rudy Giuliani Says Trump is Doing Great Job with North Korea - TMZ.com

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TMZ.com

Rudy Giuliani Says Trump is Doing Great Job with North Korea
TMZ.com
Rudy landed at LAX Tuesday when our photog asked if we should strike North Korea first or wait until they engage in overt aggression against us or an ally. The former NYC Mayor clearly thinks if this were a poker game, Donald Trump knows when to hold ...

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Donald Trump Has a Conflict of Interest in Turkey. Just Ask Donald Trump. - Mother Jones

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Mother Jones

Donald Trump Has a Conflict of Interest in Turkey. Just Ask Donald Trump.
Mother Jones
Several media outlets have slammed President Donald Trump for congratulating Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on winning a referendum that will bolster his autocratic power and weaken that nation's democracy. International observers say the ...
Donald Trump is done pretending the US cares about democracy in other countriesQuartz
President Trump Congratulates Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Referendum VictoryTIME
Donald Trump criticised for congratulating Recep Tayyip Erdogan on winning Turkish referendumThe Independent

all 2,674 news articles »

FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation - CNN

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CNN

FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation
CNN
The dossier alleges that Page met senior Russian officials as an emissary of the Trumpcampaign, and discussed quid-pro-quo deals relating to sanctions, business opportunities and Russia's interference in the election. Page has denied meeting the ...

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Blackwater founder Erik Prince said to have advised Trump team - The Boston Globe

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The Boston Globe

Blackwater founder Erik Prince said to have advised Trump team
The Boston Globe
NEW YORK — In the very public, post-election parade of dignitaries, confidantes, and job-seekers filing in and out of Donald Trump's marquee Manhattan tower, Blackwater founder Erik Prince was largely out of sight. And yet Prince was very much a ...

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Trump Has Pivoted to Scoring Easy Wins - National Review

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National Review

Trump Has Pivoted to Scoring Easy Wins
National Review
But while Barack Obama was still in the White House, Donald Trump announced “deals” and appointments that made it seem as if he were already in office, hitting the ground running to Make America Great Again. On the entirely subjective calculus of wins, ...
Donald Trump's nuked credibility: How can a flagrantly dishonest president manage an international crisis?Salon
Melania Trump Nudges Donald Trump to Raise His Hand for the National AnthemE! Online
Melania Trump Reminds Donald Trump To Put His Hand Over His Heart For National AnthemHuffington Post
TIME -The Independent -Jezebel
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The Putin-Trump embrace - Rutland Herald

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The Mercury News

The Putin-Trump embrace
Rutland Herald
The media are bursting with reports on possible Russian influence — through collusion with theTrump campaign — on our recent presidential election. President Donald Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has been under heavy fire for meeting with ...
Rubin: Trump's untruths enable Putin's liesThe Mercury News
Putin's TV says Trump more dangerous than N. Korea's KimMyAJC
Putin's TV says Trump 'scarier' than North Korea's Kim Jong-UnPune Mirror
Bloomberg -Newsweek -RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty -Reuters
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Can a New Journal Make Sense of Trumpism? - The Nation.

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Can a New Journal Make Sense of Trumpism?
The Nation.
Last February, an anonymous cohort of conservative writers, their bylines purloined from antiquity, started a group blog they described as the “first scholarly journal of radical #Trumpism.” Its title—the Journal of American Greatness, diminutively ...

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The Investigation into Trump's Russia Ties or How Not to Select an Investigator - JD Supra (press release)

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The Investigation into Trump's Russia Ties or How Not to Select an Investigator
JD Supra (press release)
About a month ago, we posted that employers could take some lessons from the investigation into President Trump's claims that he was illegally wiretapped by the Obama Administration. This investigation still proves to be a cautionary tale for employers.

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Turkey's AKP Eyes Gradual Erdogan...

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Turkey's AKP Eyes Gradual Erdogan Return to Party After Referendum Win

U.S. News & World Report - ‎18 minutes ago‎
Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas Reuters. By Tuvan Gumrukcu, Ece Toksabay and ...

These 5 Facts Explain What Happens Next After Turkey's Referendum

TIME - ‎27 minutes ago‎
Turks have voted to give their president sweeping new executive powers. Supporters of the constitutional change—President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chief among them—argue that the country needs a presidential system (rather than a parliamentary one) to ...

Trump Has Embraced Autocratic Leaders Without Hesitation

Bloomberg - ‎3 hours ago‎
Washington (AP) -- President Donald Trump congratulated Turkey's president for sweeping up more power. He hailed Egypt's strongman leader as a "fantastic guy." When China's president visited, Trump touted a burgeoning friendship and made no public ...

Turkish FM: Trump and Erdogan to meet in May

The Seattle Times - ‎48 minutes ago‎
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally of supporters a day after the referendum, at his palace, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 17, 2017. Turkey's main opposition party urged the country's electoral ...

Turkey turns a page of history

China.org.cn - ‎5 hours ago‎
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan predictably won a referendum to expand presidential powers, which could probably keep him in office until 2029. The "Yes" campaign won 51.37 percent and "No" 48.63 percent in almost a mirror reflection of the ...
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The Putin-Trump embrace – Rutland Herald

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The media are bursting with reports on possible Russian influence — through collusion with the Trump campaign — on our recent presidential election. President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has been under heavy fire for meeting with Russian officials during the presidential run-up; National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was dismissed for allegedly conspiring with the Russians; and the FBI is investigating the whole intrigue.
What’s it all about — and why does Trump seem to be dancing with Vladimir Putin? One simple explanation is that Trump, the ultimate entrepreneur, is using his office to do even more personal business with Russia. Which is probably true. But the connection — and the Russian intrusion into our politics — could possibly be much more nefarious.
It’s eminently clear that the American ruling class, led by the Koch brothers and their fellow billionaires, has been working determinedly for years to turn our democracy into a corporate plutocracy — in short, to establish an authoritarian regime dictated by the wealthy.
Through its money, the elite is responsible for, among other things: the passage of Citizens United that gave a corporation human status; an obstructionist GOP that stonewalled any socially beneficial legislation during the Obama administration; an attempt to destroy public education through privatization; a plan to eliminate or privatize all public health care programs, such as the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor; a determination to destroy essential regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which was spearheaded by progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren; an attack on voting rights; and an effort to privatize, curtail or end Social Security, which is the sole income of millions of elderly people.
This disposal of government benefits is prelude to the disposal of democratic government itself. Of what use, after all, is a democratic government that offers no benefits to the people it allegedly represents? Once the vacuum is created, it will be instantly filled by a corporate plutocracy — in very much the same way that Russia’s kleptocrats filled the vacuum that was created by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
To refresh memories, it was that collapse that permitted the well-connected Russian managerial class to appropriate to itself all the wealth — productive facilities, land, natural resources and the government itself — that belonged collectively to the people under the Soviet constitution.
The American neo-fascist movement was well under way long before Trump’s election, and he is now helping to advance it. He has already attacked the free press as the “enemy of the people.” At the risk of being branded paranoid or a subscriber to conspiracy theory, there’s a good outside chance that the Putin-Trump embrace is that of teacherpupil in which Putin is imparting the principles of authoritarian governance. The two already have in common a rabid nationalism — short-lived and ill-advised in its futile attempt to buck the irrepressible tide of globalization. It is quite possible that the authoritarian Trump is attempting to transport Russia’s authoritarian plutocratic system to the U.S. Does not everything he says and does— including his incessant deceit — perfectly fit the authoritarian profile?
Sometimes paranoia is justified, because someone really is trying to do you in. The take here is that Trump is even more dangerous than his mental instability indicates.
Andrew Torre is a resident of Londonderry.
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The Felon And The Pop Star

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By Noah Kirsch and Chase Peterson-Withorn
Donald Trump insists he has no ties to Russia. That's not really true. He has two clear business links there. One involves a convicted criminal. The other? A Moscow property developer, who is also a wannabe global pop singer.
Splash News/Newscom
Splash News/Newscom
Donald Trump with Emin and Aras Agalarov.
First, there's Felix Sater. The Russian-born Sater worked at Bayrock, a New York-based firm that partnered with Trump on real estate deals in the early 2000s, including Trump SoHo. (Prior to that, Sater was a Wall Street broker until serving a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a margarita glass during a bar fight--and then an FBI informant; in 1998 he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering for allegedly conspiring with the Mafia in a pump-and-dump stock scheme and began working with the feds.)  Sater has said that at Bayrock he worked on an exclusive deal with Trump to develop a Trump-branded project in Russia, and in 2006, he spent time in Moscow with Donald Jr. and Ivanka. Sater has said Trump asked him to show his children around the city; a Trump lawyer maintains it was a coincidence the three were there at the same time.
Click to view full coverage of Trump's Global Web of Partners
Forbes Staff
Click to view full coverage of Trump's Global Web of Partners
A 2007 New York Times report revealed Sater's criminal past, but that didn't stop Trump from using him as a "senior advisor" three years later, a role that came complete with a Trump Organization business card, email address and Trump Tower office. Sater, 51, doesn't appear to be a Trump employee today, but it's not clear when his relationship with the Trump Organization ended. Trump, meanwhile, has recently tried to downplay his knowledge of Sater. "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I'm not that familiar with him," Trump told the AP in December 2015.
Felix Sater's Trump Organization business card.
Nevertheless, in late January, Sater and a Ukrainian lawmaker reportedly met with Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, at a New York hotel. According to the Times, they discussed a plan that involved the U.S. lifting sanctions against Russia, and Cohen said he hand-delivered the plan in a sealed envelope to then-national security advisor Michael Flynn. Cohen later denied delivering the envelope to anyone in the White House, according to the Washington Post.
Trump's second Russian connection: Emin Agalarov, 37, the aspiring pop star. He also works with his billionaire father, Aras, 61, developing real estate projects.
Their relationship with Trump began in 2013 when they paid the Trump Organization $7 million to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. (In addition to the contestants, Emin also performed.) The Moscow pageant went well enough for the Agalarovs to put together another plan with Trump--to build a Trump Tower in Russia. Before they could develop the plans very much, Trump announced his candidacy for president, and they put the project on hold. "If he hadn't run for president, we would probably be in the construction phase today," Emin says.
Aras and Trump may be closer in age, but it's Emin who has grown particularly close with Trump. In 2013, Emin coaxed Trump into appearing in one of his music videos. A year later, Trump sent Emin a video on Emin's 35th birthday with this message: "You're a winner. You're a champ. You're great at real estate." And Emin got together with Trump as recently as 2015. "I actually visited his office right before he announced he was going to run," Emin says. "If he likes you, he gives you extra attention."
Emin, who will tour the U.S. in May and play in Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, has traded text messages with Eric Trump in the past few months, and he's keen to resume their Trump partnership. "Anything Trump-related I would be interested to pursue," he says.
Editor’s Note: After this story published in print, Emin Agalarov clarified which Trump son he had recently communicated with. It was Donald, Jr., not Eric.
You can reach me via email (cpeterson-withorn@forbes.com) and Twitter.
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Trump stays mum on tax returns,...

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Trump stays mum on tax returns, despite mounting pressure

CBS News - ‎11 hours ago‎
WASHINGTON -- There is still a good deal of mystery over President Trump's finances. As millions of Americans filed their taxes Tuesday, Mr. Trump made no mention of his. Defying 40 years of protocol, Mr. Trump refuses to release his tax returns ...

What Trump's Taxes Would Not Show About His Finances

NPR - ‎13 hours ago‎
President Trump is preparing to overhaul the nation's tax code, and at least some of the coming changes could benefit his own bottom line. Critics say voters should be able to see just how much help the president might get from a revised tax code, so ...

20-Foot Trump Puppet Leads Hartford Tax Day Protest

Hartford Courant - ‎11 hours ago‎
A 20-foot puppet of President Donald Trump was featured in a Tax Day protest in Downtown Hartford on Tuesday. (Rebecca Lurye). Rebecca LuryeContact Reporter. A 20-foot effigy of President Donald Trump, complete with electric-orange skin and very ...

Two Very Different Tax Days

Townhall - ‎7 hours ago‎
Leftist protesters around the country used the tax deadline on April 18 as an occasion to hold rallies demanding the release of President Trump's tax returns. They could use large inflatable chickens and signs with hammers and sickles saying "Show us ...

Students demand Trump release his tax returns during Tax Day protest

The State Press - ‎7 hours ago‎
Many ASU students joined hundreds at the Arizona Capitol April 15 to protest President Donald Trump having not yet released his tax returns. The protest, which was one of several coordinated efforts across the U.S., lasted from approximately 10 a.m. to ...
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Ukraine's back-channel diplomat still shopping peace plan to Trump - Europe

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The last two months have not been easy for Andrey Artemenko.
On Feb. 19, the right-wing Ukrainian member of parliament was sucked into the scandal surrounding President Donald Trump and his alleged ties to Russia when the New York Times reported that Artemenko had served as a back channel between Moscow and Trump associates.
In the aftermath of the report, Artemenko was forced out of his political faction in Ukraine, the far-right Radical Party, and the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine has opened an investigation into whether his diplomatic outreach, which was done without Kiev's approval, constitutes treason.
Despite the political firestorm, Artemenko is still shopping his proposal in Washington and insists that now is the time to find a resolution to the nearly three-year war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. In an interview with Foreign Policy, Artemenko denied any connections between him and the Kremlin, praised the early stages of the Trump presidency, and rebuffed elements of the Times report, saying he was unfairly caught up in a fight between the U.S. president and the "liberal media." The lawmaker also accused Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of not being interested in ending the war in the Donbass and said he was using Russia as an excuse to scapegoat his critics.
"Anyone who has a personal opinion in Ukraine is automatically named a Russian spy," Artemenko said. "But I don't have any connections to Russia. That's why I'm trying to involve the Trump administration on this issue and not the Kremlin."
Artemenko's peace plan episode is just one small part of a rapidly mushrooming investigation in Washington over possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence to tilt the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump's favor. But it's also emblematic of another political fight unfolding against the backdrop of U.S. politics: the power struggle for the future of Ukraine.
Since the 2014 Maidan revolution that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, Washington has played an outsized role in Ukrainian domestic politics, where recognition and support from influential U.S. figures can make or break a politician's career back home. The importance of these ties has taken on a new but uncertain dimension since the election of Trump in November 2016; a lack of clarity about the administration's policies toward Kiev has been both a source of anxiety and opportunity for Ukraine's political class.
With key policy positions still unfilled at the State Department, many high-profile Ukrainians have sought back channels to the Trump administration to push for a solution to the war in Ukraine.
That's what Artemenko apparently did to pitch his loosely defined plan, which calls for Russian separatists to return eastern territory to Kiev, and the holding of a national referendum on leasing Crimea to Russia for an undetermined amount of time.
"Maybe it's dual management of Crimea, or maybe it's a lease like the Panama Canal and Hong Kong," said Artemenko, who prefers to call his proposal a "road map for peace" rather than a set plan. "It should be obvious that there is no military solution, only a diplomatic one."
Tall and brawny, Artemenko is a populist politician with ties to the far-right Ukrainian military-political group "Right Sector" and a member of the pro-Western opposition parliamentary coalition led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's party. In Kiev, he's known for being outspoken and politically ambitious.
The lawmaker also professes an affinity for Trump, saying he wants to "make Ukraine great again" and has been trying to make inroads with the real estate mogul since he was a presidential candidate. In July 2016, Artemenko traveled to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention and later attended Trump's inauguration in January.
Artemenko used these connections in late January to arrange a meeting with Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal lawyer who currently works at the Republican National Committee, to pass his peace plan to Mike Flynn, who served about three weeks as Trump's national security advisor. Flynn was forced to resign in early February over a separate Russia-related controversy, but the Times reported that Cohen said he had "hand-delivered" the plan in a sealed envelope to the now former national security advisor.
Artemenko confirmed to FP that Trump associate Felix Sater had arranged a meeting with Cohen and that he was told details of the plan were relayed to Flynn, although he says no physical documents were passed at the sit-down in Manhattan.
The Kremlin denied any knowledge of the plan, and Cohen walked back his initial comments, saying he hadn't delivered the plan to Flynn or discussed it with anyone in the White House. The Times has stood by its reporting.
The Times also reported that Artemenko said he "received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin" and that he "emerged from the opposition" nurtured in Ukraine by Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager who previously worked as political operative in Ukraine.
Artemenko told FP that he had no contacts with any Russian officials and has never met or dealt with Manafort. Trump's former campaign manager made millions of dollars in assisting the rise of Yanukovych and lobbied for several pro-Kremlin causes in Washington.
Artemenko insists that his intentions in pushing a peace plan for Ukraine are in the country's best interests. But political observers see his freelance diplomacy as part of a rising groundswell in Kiev against Poroshenko by opposition forces ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 2019.
"Alliances are shifting in Ukraine right now against Poroshenko," said Balazs Jarabik, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "All this diplomatic maneuvering in Washington needs to be viewed through this lens."
Artemenko has emerged as a vocal critic of Poroshenko and says he has evidence showing corruption by the Ukrainian president. Moreover, Artemenko claims to have offered to organize a meeting between Trump and Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine's ambassador to Washington, during the campaign. Chaly refused, Artemenko told FP, saying the Ukrainian government was backing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the time.
"They said they didn't want to meet Mr. Trump," Artemenko said.
The Ukrainian Embassy has denied the charges and said it did not support any candidate in the U.S. election.
Frustration at the slow pace of change in Ukraine has seen Poroshenko's approval ratings plummet, allowing rivals to try to fill the void. Artemenko, who is staunch ally of Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, a former head of Ukraine's security service with lofty political ambitions, has aligned himself with other West-leaning populists like Tymoshenko. While it's not saying much, she's currently Ukraine's most popular politician, with polls showing about 18 percent support for her party.
Tymoshenko carried out some freelance diplomacy of her own on Feb. 2 when the former prime minister met Trump in Washington, before ever meeting Poroshenko or speaking with him on the phone. The conversation, which took place at the National Prayer Breakfast, was reportedly short and consisted of her seeking assurances that the Trump administration would "not abandon" Ukraine or lift sanctions on Russia. But the meetings worked to send a message back home that Tymoshenko was ascendant.
Despite the backlash he has faced, Artemenko is still optimistic about his proposal, saying he has discussed it with the office of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has sponsored a resolution reaffirming support for Ukraine and outlining measures to stop the conflict. Artemenko says elements of his plan influenced the Portman measure. A spokesperson from Portman's office confirmed meeting Artemenko but told FP that his peace plan is not part of the resolution.
Back in Kiev, Artemenko has his sights on the upcoming elections, saying he will continue to push for a resolution to the war in the Donbass and that he plans to start his own political party.
"I am clear and sure that I am going the right way," Artemenko said.
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Erik Prince met with Trump transition team

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House Committee Holds Hearing On Private Security Contractors
Erik Prince, founder of private military company Blackwater, and sister to unsharpened pencil Betsy DeVos, met several times with top Donald Trump aides before and after the election, Bloomberg reports. Prince advised the transition team on anti-terrorism policy, intelligence agency restructuring, and staff appointments. In his own words, Prince’s advisory role was unofficial but “significant.”
Earlier in April, Prince made headlines for arranging a secret January meeting with a senior Kremlin official in the Seychelles islands, an alleged attempt to establish a private backchannel for U.S.-Russian diplomacy. Prince, who donated $250,000 post-national convention to Trump’s presidential campaign, the national party, and a pro-Trump super PAC, told Washington Post that the meeting, which is being investigated by the FBI as part of a probe into Russian election interference, “had nothing to do with President Trump.”
At the time of WaPo’s report, press secretary Sean Spicer claimed the White House was “not aware of any meetings” and said “Erik Prince had no role in the transition.”
Prince’s Blackwater legacy complicates his relationship with the Trump administration, not just because of the contractor’s history of war crimes in Iraq during the Bush era. Prince sold the firm in 2010 but still hawks paramilitary support in his current job as head of the Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group. In recent years, Prince provided hundreds of millions of dollars worth of security to the United Arab Emirates, which reportedly sought out the secret Trump-Putin back-channel in order to facilitate talks to reduce Russia’s loyalty to Iran, which the U.A.E. perceives as its greatest threat.
Sources said Prince’s main point of contact with the Trump camp was former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was dismissed for illegally discussing sanctions with Russia before inauguration. Prince also reportedly spent a train ride in November critiquing the intelligence community with Kellyanne Conway and current National Security Council member Kevin Harrington. Sure sounds like someone who played some role in the transition, if not directly served it as a shadow diplomat.
Hope he enjoyed the Seychelles.
[Photo: Getty]
Signed in as mikenova
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Rudy Giuliani Says Trump is Doing Great Job with North Korea

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Vladimir Putin’s Latest Little Jab at Donald Trump

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She was one of the Iraq War’s loudest pundit proponents during the Bush administration. But a decade later, those pro-war cheers have turned to protest chants against any escalation in the Middle East.
Anyone old enough to remember the height of the Iraq-War carnage of the early Bush years can recall images and audio of Ann Coulter—a right-wing columnist and longtime cable-news fixture—appointing herself one of the country’s loudest, most flamboyant war defenders and cheerleaders in national media. Coulter’s 2003 bestselling book was, after all, titled, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, and in November 2005 bashed “the Democrats” as “gutless traitors.”
But just two short administrations later, Coulter’s Iraq-occupation fandom has melted into an “America First” aversion to further military “meddling” in the Middle East. It’s a tone and posturing that would make her onetime neoconservative allies and fanboys wince and side-eye.
But only until fairly recently, she had yet to alter her tune on the war in Iraq.
“I think Iraq was a crucial part of the war on terrorism—if you had to choose between Iraq and Afghanistan, I’d take Iraq over Afghanistan,” Coulter said on a Fox Business panel, debating anti-war libertarians, in late 2011. “PATRIOT Act, fantastic, Gitmo, fantastic, waterboarding, not bad, though [even harsher] torture would’ve been better.”
Coulter went on to tell a bewildered John Stossel and Matt Welch that “[Iraq] is a fantastic country for regime change,” that “torture works beautifully,” and that position regarding potential blowback or unintended negative consequences to the war were merely a “crazy ACLU argument.”
Read a syndicated Coulter column from President George W. Bush’s first term, you will more than likely find her chiding “treasonous” Democratic politicians and liberals for being soft on terror and dictatorship—“Democrats weren’t interested in liberating Afghanistan and Iraq from woman-hating Islamicist fanatics,” she wrote, bashing John Kerry and boosting Bush, in July 2004 at the tail end of the Democratic National Convention.
As the war raged on into the closing years of the Bush presidency, Coulter was still calling for more bombing, bigger war, and much less regard for civilian life. “Maybe we could fight the [Iraq] war a little harder,” she said on MSNBC in June 2007. “[We should be] a little less worried about civilian casualties…I’d rather have their civilians die than our civilians die.”
“You stop [fanatics] by bombing their society,” Coulter emphasized—indiscriminately, even.
Flash-forward a little over a decade later, and she couldn’t be less enthused about overseas bombing. Coulter was one of the earliest and most vociferous supporters of Trump’s insurgent presidential campaign, campaigning for him and regularly trying to drum up support for him, even in Hollywood. She sharply broke with the president specifically on his decision to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian-military airfield earlier this month.
“Glad he’s not sending troops! [Trump] should fire Nikki Haley and Gen. McMaster,” Coulter told The Daily Beast in an email exchange on Tuesday. “Constant war was not the platform he ran on. To the contrary, he promised no more disastrous and expensive Middle East wars. Having those two loons ranting and raving about Assad and Putin would be like hiring Luis GutiĆ©rrez to run his immigration office.”
Asked about her past, big-league support for what she might now call “constant war” or “disastrous and expensive” incursions, and if she regrets past support for these wars, she hedged a bit and pointed to her track record of opposing other military interventions.
“I am well on the record as opposing most recent wars,” Coulter wrote back. “I was against Bush 1’s Gulf War (in law school so no one knew, other than my friends), against Clinton meddling in the Balkans, against Obama’s intervention in Libya and Egypt, FOR Afghanistan, but against [Obama] escalating in Afghanistan (what the fuck is the point of that?). So it was only the Iraq War I staunchly supported and my only regret about that was that this country then elected Barack Obama, who gave our victory away.”
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President Obama, while dropping support for Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 uprising, did not intervene militarily in Egypt.
“These positions are all over—I don’t have time to look them up for you,” Coulter said, before pointing to past columns and speeches. “I’m all over in 2002-2003 supporting the Iraq War, but NOT because of WMDs—that was just to taunt The New York Times.”
The Daily Beast asked Ann if this all means she now agrees that the war in Iraq—which not too long ago she was still touting as a “crucial part of the war on terrorism”—should never have been waged in the first place.
“YES! But not for the reason liberals say,” she emailed.
It’s true that no one should mistake Coulter’s selective anti-intervention positions or motivations as a defection to the anti-war leftism that she has spent years railing against as a fifth column in American society. On Tuesday, for instance, Coulter (who has been very active on social media this month opposing Trump’s anti-Assad missile strikes) retweeted a tweet from VDare asking Evan McMullin: “why are you so eager to send Americans to fight… in Syria?”
VDare is a white-nationalist, anti-immigration website—not exactly the stuff of lefty anti-war dreams.
Still, some of Coulter’s recent pieces can sound—if you isolated certain sentences—like the musings of an activist college kid who just picked up her first copy of Howard Zinn.
“War is like crack for presidents,” she wrote in her column, published at Breitbart and The Daily Caller, last week. “It confers instant gravitas, catapulting them to respectability, bypassing all station stops. They get to make macho pronouncements on a topic where every utterance is seen as august… Trump’s Syrian misadventure is immoral, violates every promise he ran on, and could sink his presidency.
“Our enemies—both foreign and domestic—would be delighted to see our broken country further weaken itself with pointless wars,” she continued, referring to at least one of the “pointless wars” to which she once devoted her praise and efforts. “Was America strengthened by the Iraq War? The apparently never-ending Afghanistan War? Vietnam? This is how great powers die, which is exactly what the left wants.”
Coulter isn’t done making the media rounds just yet, with regards to railing against more war in Syria. On Tuesday morning, Fox News host Sean Hannity emailed The Daily Beast that “I have her on [my radio show] tomorrow about this topic if you want to tune in.”
For Coulter, it’ll just be another day fighting the good fight against those she dubs the “generals straight out of Dr. Strangelove” trying to manipulate Donald Trump into starting “World War III” and toppling brutal dictators.
Someone get Ann Coulter 2004 on the line.
Read the whole story
 
· · · · ·

Trump's policy on Syria emerges after he ordered a military strike on the Assad regime

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Donald TrumpPresident Donald Trump, flanked by Atlanta Police Department Assistant Chief Rodney Bryant (L) and Atlanta Fire Chief Joel Baker, welcomes police and firefighters who responded to the recent Interstate 85 fire and roadway collapse in Atlanta at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 13, 2017.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON — Can threatening war crimes charges persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power? What about guaranteeing his safety in exile? These long-shot proposals are at the center of the Trump administration's new effort to resolve Syria's six-year civil war.
Though still evolving, President Donald Trump's plans for Syria have come into clearer view since he ordered cruise missiles fired on a Syrian air base to punish Assad for a chemical weapons attack. The strategy breaks down into three basic phases: defeating the Islamic State group, restoring stability in Syria region-by-region and securing a political transition in which Assad ultimately steps down.
The approach is little different than one that failed under the Obama administration, and arguably faces greater challenges.
Assad has violently resisted all attempts to end his rule, fueling a conflict that has killed as many as a half-million people. The opposition fighting Assad is far weaker after a series of battlefield defeats. And any U.S. plan for Assad will need the cooperation of key Syria ally Russia. Trump last week said U.S.-Russian relations "may be at an all-time low."
Still, several U.S. officials said Trump's national security team is using this month's instability in Syria to try to refocus conversations with Moscow.
Trump's cruise missile response to Syria's chemical weapons attack bolstered U.S. arguments that Russia is backing a potential war criminal in Assad, and restored America's ability to threaten military action if more atrocities occur. The officials said they hoped instead to rejuvenate cooperation with Russia on Syria, which could help begin repairing fractured ties between Washington and Moscow.
Trump's emerging plan includes these elements, according to several U.S. officials who weren't authorized to discuss internal policy considerations and demanded anonymity:
Islamic State FlagAn Islamic State flag hangs amid electric wires over a street in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, near the port-city of Sidon, southern Lebanon January 19, 2016. Reuters/Ali Hashisho

Phase one: Defeat ISIS

Trump's airstrikes marked the first U.S. attack against Assad's forces, but there's no appetite for using America's military to depose Assad. Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Sunday the U.S. wasn't planning to send in more ground troops.
"Our priority remains the defeat of ISIS," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week, using another acronym for the militant group.
The group has lost much of the territory it held in Iraq and Syria. The major exception is Raqqa, the group's self-declared capital in Syria, which the U.S. and allied rebel groups are preparing to attack in coming weeks.

Phase two: Stabilization

After IS is defeated or its threat neutralized, the administration will try to broker regional cease-fires between Assad's government and rebels. Such truces have rarely held.
The Trump administration has spoken about "interim zones of stability." These would be different than the "safe zones" the Obama administration considered but never opted for because they would have required a U.S. military presence to enforce, potentially putting American aircraft in conflict with Syria's air force.
Under Trump's plan, the Assad government would be party to the stability zones and U.S. or Arab aircraft could ostensibly patrol them without clashing with Syrian warplanes.
With security restored, the administration hopes local leaders who were forced to flee can return and lead local governments. They could help restore basic services and police Syria. The basic idea would be Sunni forces policing predominantly Sunni areas, Kurdish forces policing Kurdish areas and so on.
At the national level, the aim is to set up a transitional authority to govern Syria temporarily. U.N.-sponsored peace talks have striven and failed for years to establish such an authority.
bashar al-assadSyria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with NBC News in this handout picture provided by SANA on July 14, 2016. SANA via Reuters

Phase three: Transition

Though Trump officials have made conflicting public statements about Assad's future, the emerging plan envisions a peaceful transfer of power. Assad's departure could occur in various ways.
One possibility foresees elections held under a new constitution, with Assad barred from running.
A grimmer possibility involves Assad going the way of former dictators Moammar Gadhafi in Libya or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, who were killed after being deposed.
A third option aims to use the threat of war crimes charges as leverage. While the administration believes Syria's government is culpable, the key is connecting the war crimes to Assad himself.
Successfully prosecuting Assad would be difficult for legal and geopolitical reasons.
Beyond Russia, Assad is supported by Iran. And the Trump administration hasn't said anything yet about working with Tehran to promote peace in Syria.
Still, it believes the threat of a war crimes investigation and an offer of safe exile somewhere outside Syria, possibly Iran or Russia, could be potentially persuasive.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told President Vladimir Putin and Russia's foreign minister last week in Moscow that such an offer and Assad's voluntary departure is the administration's preferred path, officials said.
"The longer time goes by, it's possible that the case will be made," Tillerson said during a news conference. "And there are certain individuals who are working to make that case."
putin assadIn this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Syria President Bashar Assad arrive for their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. AP

Post-transition

Despite differences, Trump officials insist Russia's involvement is critical to resolving the war, given the influence it gained in Syria after helping Assad retake Syria's largest cities.
It seeks Russian support by guaranteeing Russian access to the Tartus naval base and Latakia air base in any post-Assad scenario. Yet it's unclear how the U.S. could make such an assurance given the uncertainty of who would be running Syria at that point.
Tillerson conveyed the outlines of this plan to Putin and Russian officials in Moscow, officials said, while requesting Russia to clarify its essential interests. He didn't seek an immediate response, telling Russia to think it through. It's unclear when Russia will respond, the officials said.
Read the whole story
 
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On Russia, Trump and his top national...

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On Russia, Trump and his top national security aides seem to be at odds

Washington Post - ‎11 hours ago‎
The message was defiantly optimistic, like a suitor determined to hold a relationship together despite mounting obstacles. “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia,” President Trump declared on his Twitter account last week. “At the ...

The real cost of Trump's 'fake news' accusations

Washington Post - ‎16 hours ago‎
New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg's recent dispatch from Moscow contains a litany of alarming observations about the Russian media. “As soon as I turned on a television here I wondered if I had arrived through an alt-right wormhole,” ...

No rush for US, Russia to mend ties

The Straits Times - ‎14 hours ago‎
During his election campaign, Mr Donald Trump frequently praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "very smart" leader and predicted that under a Trump leadership the United States and Russia would "work together" to tackle the world's "great and ...

Don't rush to judge in war crimes -- the truth will out

Bangkok Post - ‎13 hours ago‎
Members of the United Nations Security Council vote on April 12 on a draft resolution condemning the Syrian government for use of chemical weapons. (EPA photo). - +. Something is wrong with the standard of proof we're willing to accept for extremely ...

The New Trump Trope

The Nation. - ‎18 hours ago‎
In media coverage after the Syrian air strike, the conventional wisdom shifted to believing that the president's relations with Russia stink. By Leslie Savan. Today 12:32 pm. Facebook; Twitter; Email; Print. Savan_Trump-Syria-Putin_AP. Donal Trump ...
Read the whole story
 
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Roger Stone: Kushner, Priebus Want Trump to ‘Ass-Kiss’ for Establishment

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In an interview with Alex Jones this weekend, the longtime Trump confidant said the president’s advisers are pushing him in the wrong direction and that Bannon’s power is clearly waning.
Roger Stone, a longtime friend and former adviser to Donald Trump, once again spoke to conspiracy-theorist radio host Alex Jones on Saturday to rail against the White House staffers he perceives as pushing the president in the wrong direction.
“Inside the White House, they have essentially what is referred to as the ‘gang of three,’” Stone told the InfoWars host in a Facebook live video.
“That really is comprised of Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, Dina Powell—a former Bush operative who spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative conference a couple years ago,” Stone said referring to Powell who recently joined the administration as deputy national security adviser.
“They have gotten lofty positions in [Trump’s] government. Perhaps they thought that this was going to be like some of the Democratic presidents who operate on the basis of somebody else’s talking points,” Stone continued.
“And they have failed spectacularly when it comes to getting Trump off of his agenda. They would like him to be more mainstream, more establishment. They want him to be popular when he goes to Malibu or the Upper West Side. But I don’t think Donald Trump cares about how he’s perceived in those places. He has no interest in kowtowing or ass-kissing for the establishment. So I think that his advisers trying to push him in the wrong direction.”
Stone has been a vocal critic of Kushner’s rise in the White House, recently claiming on InfoWars that the president’s son-in-law was leaking damaging information about White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. In the weeks after those comments were made, Bannon’s reported influence in the White House has diminished as his faction has continually waged war with the “globalist”-minded wing comprised of Kushner and economic adviser Gary Cohn.
The most illustrative example of Bannon’s fall from grace may have been an interview with the New York Post, in which the president downplayed the importance of a man who served as CEO of his presidential campaign for several months.
“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
During the Saturday interview with Jones, Stone seemed to agree with the established wisdom that Bannon has been somewhat neutralized.
“Steve Bannon, who I continue to think is a good man, has been increasingly surrounded,” Stone lamented. “And there’s two possibilities: He could survive but be neutered, sitting in an office with a phone and a desk but have no authority. Or he could choose to leave.”
But Stone didn’t think that the former Breitbart chief would exit the White House any time soon.
“I don’t think he’ll be fired,” he said. “But when the president of the United States in an interview with the New York Post says that he barely knows who you are, that’s a pretty clear indication that your power is on the wane. It really is tragic Alex, that Steve made no effort to bring other trumpites into the circle, to have allies take on the neocons internally.”
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FBI documents show how Russians try to recruit spies

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In the real world, it is highly unlikely that your neighbor, coworker or mailman is actually a clandestine Russian operative working under a false identity. But that certainly does not mean the art of espionage has gone out of style in the world of international intelligence gathering, particularly between the United States and its former Cold War foe.
Amid all of the accusations and speculation pouring out of the investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, the notion that foreign spies are using old-school tactics and personally recruiting agents to divulge sensitive information is actually widely accepted among intelligence officials.
There is no doubt that the rise of information warfare and cyberespionage has changed the spy game in the years since the Cold War. But the playbook on how to target, recruit and manipulate sources has generally stayed the same.
These "Spy 101" type tactics are spelled out nearly step-by-step in the FBI court filings from a 
2015 case
 that names a person identified only as "Male 1." While the government has never revealed his identity, Carter Page has acknowledged to CNN that he is the individual the documents refer to as a target of recruitment by three Russian intelligence agents, news 
first reported
 by BuzzFeed on April 3.
The FBI has never accused Page, who would later become a Trump campaign adviser, of having been
successfully turned as a spy
. He has repeatedly denied any allegations of wrongdoing and said he wasn't aware he had been approached by Russian spies.
"Consistent with the politically motivated unmasking standards seen in the Obama Administration which have recently been exposed, my personal identity and earlier assistance of federal authorities in the 2015 case of U.S.A. v. BURYAKOV, SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY was framed in an easily identifiable way that amplified the reputational damage against me," Page said in a statement to CNN.
But what the FBI documents outline is the strategy behind how Russian agents marked him as a target. The techniques used in the attempt to recruit Page are similar to those employed by Cold War-era KGB operatives, a former counterintelligence official told CNN.
Report: FISA warrant obtained for Carter Page
Report: FISA warrant obtained for Carter Page

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Step 1: Building a relationship

The beginning stages of the recruitment process are built on the same principles as positive human interactions like friendship or dating.
The first step of the process involves determining whether an individual qualifies as a likely target based on his or her personality, occupation or connections and then initiating a relationship, according to the former counterintelligence official.
In the case of Page, Russian agents allegedly opened a line of communication over email after meeting him at an energy symposium in 2013, according to FBI documents.
The interactions that followed were textbook recruitment tactics, according to the former official, who said a foreign spy will attempt to develop a casual relationship with targets, learning about their background and probing to determine whether or not they would be willing to share any type of information, even if it can be accessed publicly. 
In the world of espionage, spies will look to identify any vulnerabilities that they can use to apply pressure or entice an individual into doing what they ask -- such as threatening to expose a secret or offering them payment.
In the 2015 case, the court filings outline a discussion about a Russian spy setting up a face-to-face meetings on occasion with Page and highlight his frequent travels to Moscow for business as an area of interest.
"He writes to me in Russian so he can practice the language. He flies to Moscow more than I do," the two Russian agents said about Page, according to the FBI documents citing phone surveillance. "It's obvious he wants to make a lot of money."

Step 2: Suitable target?

Ultimately, the Russian agents determined that the combination of Page's professional ambition, connections to Russia and general enthusiasm for communicating indicated he was a suitable target to pursue as an intelligence source, according to the FBI's assessment in the filings.
The discussion then shifted to methods of enticing Page into sharing information with them, according to the documents.
While the sharing of publicly accessible documents is legal, the willingness of a target to share signals a willingness to cooperate and an openness to proceeding with the relationship, the former official told CNN.
"You promise a favor for a favor," the transcript of a conversation obtained by FBI surveillance between the two Russian agents reads. "You get the documents from him, and tell him to go f*** himself."
According to FBI testimony, investigators concluded that this conversation reflected a "recruitment method, which includes cheating, promising favors, and then discarding the intelligence source once the relevant information is obtained by the SVR," the Russian Federation's foreign intelligence service.
Trump WH still under fire for Russia contacts
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Outcome

According to the former intelligence official, a successful recruitment of an intelligence source hinges on the final step of the process involving the spy's decision to co-opt the target by finally making the pitch for him or her to share sensitive information. 
At this point in the process, a foreign spy will use the information gathered about a target's background, either appealing to individual passions, offering favors or money, or resorting to blackmail to get cooperation, according to the former official. 
In the 2015 case involving Page, the FBI said that his interactions with the individuals under investigation did not progress to the point where the bureau felt he had 
successfully been recruited
 as a spy or intelligence source. 
The three defendants in the case were charged with participating in a conspiracy to act as a foreign agent in the US without informing the Attorney General.
Two of the men left the country before the court proceedings and both had diplomatic immunity because of their jobs for the Russian government. The third individual was arrested by US officials and
sent back to Moscow
 earlier this month after pleading guilty to his crimes in 2015.
Page, who has consistently said that he did not know the Russians were spies, maintained in statements to CNN that he only "shared basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents," providing "nothing more than a few samples from the far more detailed lectures" he was preparing for his students.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to note that BuzzFeed was first to confirm with Page that he is "Male 1" in the 2015 court filings.
Read the whole story
 
· · · · · · · · ·

Here's How Russia Cases Potential US...

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Here's How Russia Cases Potential US Spies

Daily Caller - ‎Apr 17, 2017‎
Russia's attempt to turn former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page into a spy is documented in FBI court documents, which give a detailed look into how intelligence officials recruit potential agents. Intelligence agents pick a target and then attempt ...

Trump Advisor Roger Stone Thinks the Deep State Is Trying to Kill Him

Flagpole Magazine - ‎Apr 17, 2017‎
Carter Page—the seemingly hapless, dead-eyed and bald-headed former-Trump advisor who is at the white-hot center of the controversy surrounding Trump campaign-collusion with Russia—looks like he tried to learn to smile like Putin but can't pull it off.

Carter Page rebuts Democrats on Russia dossier

Washington Times - ‎Apr 16, 2017‎
“The mistakes are so laughable and humorous they're beyond words,” Carter Page says of the dossier making the rounds around Washington. (Associated Press/File) more >. Print. By Rowan Scarborough - The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2017.

Conspiracy blogger: Carter Page went to Russia with secret recording of Trump asking Putin to hack election

Raw Story - ‎Apr 17, 2017‎
Conspiracy theorist and national security blogger Louise Mensch asserted that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page took a recording to Russia of Donald Trump personally authorizing Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime to hack the 2016 ...

FBI documents detail how the Russians try to recruit spies

CNN International - ‎Apr 16, 2017‎
Washington (CNN) It is a scene ripped from Hollywood spy thrillers: Russian agents living and working among everyday, American citizens as cover for their true mission of stealing state secrets. In the real world, it is highly unlikely that your ...

Former Trump Adviser Calls 'Russian Dossier' on US President 'Completely False'

Sputnik International - ‎Apr 16, 2017‎
Carter Page, former Trump's adviser, denied Sunday that US President Donald Trump had links to Russia that were reportedly outlined in a dossier prepared by a British intelligence agent. MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The unverified dossier on US President ...
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Jennifer Rubin: Pompeo issues...

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Jennifer Rubin: Pompeo issues reassuring defense of CIA

The Spokesman-Review - ‎Apr 16, 2017‎
On Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo delivered his first public speech. As a preliminary matter, Pompeo should provide some confidence that regardless of the temperament and views of the president, the CIA remains a professional, serious organization ...

Assange lashes out against CIA after Pompeo rips WikiLeaks

Fox News - ‎Apr 15, 2017‎
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused the CIA of trying to “subvert” his First Amendment rights after agency Director Mike Pompeo called the group a “non-state hostile intelligence service” that is often abetted by “state actors like Russia ...

WikiLeaks slams CIA director for trying to 'stifle speech'

KSAT San Antonio - ‎Apr 15, 2017‎
WASHINGTON (CNN) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange responded Friday to criticism from CIA Director Mike Pompeo, calling Pompeo's remarks "dangerous" and an attempt to "stifle speech." "Director Pompeo's statement sought not only to threaten Mr.

Roger Stone defends WikiLeaks, calls for CIA head to resign over attacks

The Hill (blog) - ‎Apr 15, 2017‎
Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone on Friday defended WikiLeaks calling for the CIA head to resign for attacking the anti-secrecy site's legitimacy. In an interview with Newsmax Stone blasted CIA Director Mike Pompeo for calling WikiLeaks a "a non-state ...

CIA director denounces WikiLeaks as 'hostile intelligence service'

Mohave Valley News - ‎Apr 16, 2017‎
WASHINGTON (AP) — CIA Director Mike Pompeo has denounced the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service” and a threat to U.S. national security, a condemnation that differed sharply from President Donald Trump's past praise of the ...
Read the whole story
 
· ·

Roger Stone: Steve Bannon is 'alone'...

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Roger Stone: Steve Bannon is 'alone' and 'surrounded'

Washington Examiner - ‎Apr 13, 2017‎
Roger Stone believes Steve Bannon is "alone and he's surrounded" following a recent staffing shuffle that saw President Trump's chief strategist removed from the National Security Council. Calling himself a friend of Bannon's, Stone said on MSNBC on ...

Roger Stone: Steve Bannon Is "Alone" In The West Wing "Surrounded" By "Globalists"

RealClearPolitics - ‎Apr 13, 2017‎
Longtime Donald Trump ally Roger Stone said Thursday that embattled White House aide Steve Bannon is alone in the West Wing. #MTPDaily pic.twitter.com/53cCKo7tVC. — Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) April 13, 2017. On Thursday's edition of 'MTP ...

Roger Stone: Steve Bannon Is Alone in West Wing

<a href="http://NBCNews.com" rel="nofollow">NBCNews.com</a> - ‎Apr 13, 2017‎
Longtime Donald Trump ally Roger Stone said Thursday that embattled White House aide Steve Bannon is alone and surrounded in the West Wing and that no one in the administration should feel like they have long-term job security. "He makes his own ...

Roger Stone: Bannon is 'alone' in the White House

Death and Taxes - ‎Apr 13, 2017‎
Steve Bannon, a guy who works for Donald Trump, is “alone” and “surrounded” in the White House, animatronic corpse Roger Stone, a former Trump adviser, said on “Meet the Press” on Thursday. “I think Steve made an error by not spending any of his ...

'Do You Understand Why You're a Suspect?': Chuck Todd and Roger Stone Face Off

Mediaite - ‎Apr 13, 2017‎
Chuck Todd faced off with Trump ally Roger Stone on MTP Daily today and spoke with him at length about the allegations of collusion between Russia and people in President Trump's orbit during the election. ADVERTISING. ADVERTISING. inRead invented ...
Read the whole story
 
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Now we know why Trump panicked about Russia probe

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A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place

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(The Washington Post)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked on April 18 about the lack of U.S. attorney nominations since President Trump took office. "It does take some months, and has traditionally," Sessions said, adding that he's working with the White House and Congress to put them in place. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said "it does take some months, and has traditionally," to fill U.S. attorney positions within the new administration. (The Washington Post)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making aggressive law enforcement a top priority, directing his federal prosecutors across the country to crack down on illegal immigrants and “use every tool” they have to go after violent criminals and drug traffickers.
But the attorney general does not have a single U.S. attorney in place to lead his tough-on-crime efforts across the country. Last month, Sessions abruptly told the dozens of remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations immediately — and none of them, or the 47 who had already left, have been replaced.
“We really need to work hard at that,” Sessions said when asked Tuesday about the vacancies as he opened a meeting with federal law enforcement officials. The 93 unfilled U.S. attorney positions are among the hundreds of critical Trump administration jobs that remain open.
Sessions is also without the heads of his top units, including the civil rights, criminal and national security divisions, as he tries to reshape the Justice Department.
U.S. attorneys, who prosecute federal crimes from state offices around the nation, are critical to implementing an attorney general’s law enforcement agenda. Both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations gradually eased out the previous administration’s U.S. attorneys while officials sought new ones.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions shakes hands with FBI Director James B. Comey before the meeting of federal law enforcement officials on April 18. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Sessions said that until he has his replacements, career acting U.S. attorneys “respond pretty well to presidential leadership.”
But former Justice Department officials say that acting U.S. attorneys do not operate with the same authority when interacting with police chiefs and other law enforcement executives.
“It’s like trying to win a baseball game without your first-string players on the field,” said former assistant attorney general Ronald Weich, who ran the Justice Department’s legislative affairs division during Obama’s first term.
“There are human beings occupying each of those seats,” Weich, now dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, said of the interim officials. “But that’s not the same as having appointed and confirmed officials who represent the priorities of the administration. And the administration is clearly way behind in achieving that goal.”
Filling the vacancies has also been complicated by Sessions not having his second-highest-ranking official in place. Rod J. Rosenstein, nominated for deputy attorney general — the person who runs the Justice Department day-to-day — is still not on board, although he is expected to be confirmed by the Senate this month. Traditionally, the deputy attorney general helps to select the U.S. attorneys.
Rosenstein, who served as U.S. attorney for Maryland, has also been designated, upon his confirmation, to take on the responsibility of overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any links between Russian officials and Trump associates after Sessions was forced to recuse himself.
Rachel Brand has been nominated for the department’s third-highest position as associate attorney general. She has also not been confirmed.
By March of Obama’s first year in office, the Senate had confirmed the deputy and associate attorneys general, along with the solicitor general. The Senate had also confirmed an assistant attorney general for the national security division.
When Obama’s first attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., launched an ambitious plan to reform the criminal-justice system, it was the U.S. attorneys on the ground who were in charge of carrying out his plan to stop charging low-level nonviolent drug offenders with offenses that imposed severe mandatory sentences. Now, Sessions is taking steps toward reversing that policy — without his top prosecutors nominated or confirmed.
Sessions has also created a task force on crime reduction, and one of his first actions was to send a memo last month to his acting U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys directing them to investigate and prosecute the most violent offenders in each district. On April 11, he traveled to Nogales, Ariz., where he directed his 5,904 federal prosecutors to make illegal immigration cases­­ a higher priority and work to bring felony charges against those who cross the border illegally.
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This week, the attorney general flies to Texas and California to meet with law enforcement officials about his priorities. But, until he gets his U.S. attorneys on board, Sessions will be hampered in moving forward with new policies, former Justice Department officials say.
“An acting U.S. attorney doesn’t speak with the same authority to a police chief or to a local prosecutor as a Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney does,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman in the Obama administration. “If you’re a Democrat, you’re probably happy to have these positions filled by career officials because they’re less likely to pursue some of the policies that Jeff Sessions supports. But if you’re a supporter of the president, you probably want them to move on those positions.”
The U.S. attorney process could be delayed many more months because of what is known as the “blue slip” process in Congress, which dates to the early 1900s. Traditionally, the administration consults with the senators of each state before choosing U.S. attorneys. Sessions said the Justice Department will ask for help from Congress and “a number of [names] are going over now.” The Senate Judiciary Committee sends a blue piece of paper to each senator to voice their approval or disapproval of a U.S. attorney nominee from their home state.
The attorney general said Tuesday that the U.S. attorney process “does take some months and has traditionally.” Sessions himself was asked to resign as the U.S. attorney for Alabama in March 1993 by President Bill Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, who, like Sessions, asked all her U.S. attorneys to resign and didn’t begin replacing them for a few months.
Julie Tate contributed to this report.
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Facebook murder suspect dies after three-day manhunt ends in Pennsylvania

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Steve Stephens, the man who posted a video of himself on Facebook shooting an elderly man in Cleveland, was found dead by Pennsylvania State Police on April 18. (Reuters)
Steve Stephens, the man who posted a video of himself on Facebook shooting an elderly man in Cleveland, was found dead by Pennsylvania State Police on April 18. Steve Stephens, the man who posted a video of himself on Facebook shooting an elderly man in Cleveland, was found dead by Pennsylvania State Police on April 18. (Reuters)
The man suspected of fatally shooting a 74-year-old, randomly selected target and posting a video of the killing on Facebook committed suicide as police were closing in on him Tuesday, authorities said.
Steve W. Stephens — the subject of a nationwide manhunt after Sunday’s horrific slaying in Cleveland reignited a debate about violence in the Internet age — was spotted late Tuesday morning at a McDonald’s in Erie County, Pa.
A restaurant manager told the New York Times that drive-through employees recognized Stephens, phoned police and tried to delay him by holding up his french fries.
“He just took his nuggets and said, ‘I have to go,’” the manager said.
Pennsylvania State Police said they chased him from the McDonald’s for about two miles, finally ramming his car.
“The vehicle spun around — came to a stop,” police Maj. William Teper Jr. said at a news conference. “He immediately pulled a weapon out and shot himself in the car.”
Thus ended a desperate, rapidly expanding search that began Sunday — when a video on Stephens’s Facebook page appeared to show him gunning down Robert Godwin Sr. for no apparent reason.
“We have our closure,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said at a news conference in Ohio.
But Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams probably spoke for many when he said moments later: “We have so many questions.”
Godwin was killed on Easter, as he walked alone down a residential road in east Cleveland, carrying a grocery bag.
He was reportedly collecting aluminum cans, though his family told CNN that he was walking home from a holiday meal when Stephens — 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, according to police — approached with a cellphone camera.
“I found somebody I’m about to kill,” Stephens said in the live video. “He’s an old dude.”
There was little in Stephens’s history, as told by those who knew him, to suggest the violence he was about to document.
He had no criminal history. He had worked for many years at a children’s behavioral center in Ohio, where he had no red flags in his personnel file, according to the Erie Times-News.
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The scene in Pennsylvania after Facebook murder suspect killed himself

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After a brief pursuit by state police in Erie County, Steve W. Stephens fatally shot himself, police say.
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After a brief pursuit by state police in Erie County, Steve W. Stephens fatally shot himself, police say.
April 18, 2017  Erie County Coroner Lyell P. Cook, right, walks near the car of Steve Stephens, who police said shot and killed himself after a brief police pursuit in Pennsylvania. Stephens had been sought after posting a video of himself on Facebook killing an elderly man in Cleveland, police said.Robert Frank/Reuters
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A neighbor told CNN that he often stayed with his girlfriend and her children in a house outside Cleveland and that he was there two days before the killing, fixing the garage.
But Stephens’s mother told CNN that he’d bid her a cryptic farewell that weekend. He’d said that he was “mad at his girlfriend” and — in a phone call shortly before the killing — that he was “shooting people.”
Authorities say Stephens had never met Godwin before he pulled his Ford Fusion up beside him about 2 p.m.
Stephens approached Godwin. “Can you do me a favor?” Stephens said, as seen in the video. He asked Godwin to say the name “Joy Lane.”
“Joy Lane?” Godwin responded.
“Yeah,” Stephens said. “She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you.”
Stephens then asked Godwin how old he was, raised a gun into the frame and pulled the trigger.
The camera spun around; when the picture came back into focus, Godwin was on the ground.
“I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason for what happened,” the police chief, Williams, told reporters Monday. “I don’t think there’s anything we can point to specifically to say that this is what sparked this. Only Steve knows that.”
Stephens posted a subsequent video — on his cellphone, telling someone to watch the footage.
“I can’t talk to you right now. I f‑‑‑‑‑ up, man,” he says.
“Dog, I just snapped, dog,” Stephens adds in a video posted by Cleveland.com. “I just killed 13 motherf‑‑‑‑‑‑, man. That’s what I did — I killed 13 people. And I’m about to keep killing until they catch me, f‑‑‑ it. … I’m working on 14 as we speak.”
“She put me at my pushing point, man,” Stephens says, laughing and calling it the “Easter Sunday Joy Lane massacre.”
Police haven’t confirmed any other deaths linked to Stephens, and said they don’t think he had any accomplices.
“We had been in a relationship for several years,” Lane wrote to CBS News, according to the network. “I am sorry that all of this has happened … Steve really is a nice guy … He was kind and loving to me and my children.”
Facebook suspended Stephens’s account minutes after learning of the gruesome video, executives said.
But by then it had circulated for hours, horrifying countless people.
“This is something that should not have been shared around the world. Period,” Cleveland’s police chief said.
The case prompted Facebook to review how quickly and easily its users can report material that violates standards.
“We have more to do here, and we’re reminded of this this week by the tragedy in Cleveland,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a developer conference Tuesday. “We will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.”
In January, four people in Chicago were accused of attacking an 18-year-old disabled man while broadcasting the assault on Facebook Live.
Three men were shot last year in Norfolk while one was broadcasting live on the website. In 2015, a shooter killed a TV journalist and her cameraman during a live television broadcast before posting his own video of the killing on Facebook.
Other live platforms have been used to broadcast similar videos.
In tears on CNN Monday, one of Godwin’s daughters offered empathy for her father’s accused killer.
“Our father … taught us about God,” Tonya Godwin-Baines said. “How to fear God, how to love God and how to forgive.”
And so, she said, “each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer. We want to wrap our arms around him.”
Police just wanted to find him.
“Whether somebody was harboring him or he was under a bridge somewhere, we don’t know,” Teper, the Pennsylvania police commander, said when it was over.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant on a charge of aggravated murder, put him on the FBI most-wanted listed, and offered up to $50,000 for information leading to his arrest — while warning that he was “armed and dangerous.”
Police said they were in contact with Stephens via cellphone early in the investigation, but his last known location before the encounter in Pennsylvania was the site where Godwin was killed.
Hundreds of reports of possible sightings started to pour in from across the country — at a hotel in Washington, for example — nearly all of them inaccurate.
As panic spread, the Cleveland police chief had to dispel false rumors that the city was on lockdown, Cleveland.com reported.
For nearly 48 hours, Stephens essentially vanished from sight — baffling authorities to the point that they began to speculate that he was dead.
“You’re going to see law enforcement activity who knows where,” FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson told The Washington Post on Tuesday morning.
That same morning, about 100 miles from the balloon-covered fence that marked Godwin’s death, the crew at a McDonald’s in Harborcreek Township outside Erie were setting up for lunch.
The store owner told the Erie Times-News how a drive-through worker called him back, suspecting she’d just rung up nuggets and fries for one of the most wanted men in America.
“He got to the second window of the drive-through,” Thomas DuCharme Jr. said. “We told him he was waiting on his fries for a minute just to kind of buy some time for the cops if it actually was him. He said he had no time to wait, he had to go.”
It’s not clear what brought Stephens to Erie County. Police described the area as remote, rural and full of potential hiding places.
Cleveland.com reported that he’d posted to Facebook about extensive gambling losses at a casino nearby, and police told CNN that he was a regular patron.
In any case, Pennsylvania state police were on the trail of his Ford Fusion by 11 a.m.
They scoured the area for the “Facebook Killer,” and soon spotted Stephens.
At least four troopers gave chase, police said — for about two miles, no faster than 50 mph, until they neared an abandoned school.
One of the patrol cars nudged Stephens’s back wheel, causing it to spin out.
As officers approached, police said, the suspect took his own life.
“We would like to have brought in Steven peacefully and really talk to him and find out why this happened,” said Williams, the Cleveland police chief.
Not everyone thought so.
“All I can say is that I wish he had gone down in a hail of 100 bullets,” Godwin’s daughter Brenda Haymon told CNN.
Drew Harwell, Travis M. Andrews and Fred Barbash contributed to this report, which has been updated numerous times. An earlier version incorrectly identified the suspect’s license plate as well as the year Facebook launched its live-streaming feature.
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It’s not just Trump: With Brexit and France votes, Russia is cultivating the global right

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“The Russian regime has made a very concerted effort at cultivating the global political right.”
This is one of the signs that undergird the thesis of James Kirchick’s new book, “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age.” And in the latest episode of “Cape Up,” the veteran foreign policy reporter argues that the rise of that global right (hello, Brexit? The French elections?) can be laid at Russia’s doorstep.
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For more conversations like this, subscribe to “Cape UP” on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.
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“What they’re doing is … they’re basically setting themselves up as the last defenders of sovereignty,” Kirchick said, “national sovereignty and traditional values in a world that is becoming increasingly globalized for super-national institutions.” Kind of ironic for a nation that annexed Crimea and threatens the sovereignty of neighbors such as Ukraine and the Baltic states.
As I learned from President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, having a strong faith in NATO is a job requirement for the leader of a Baltic nation. But Kirchick worries whether the North Atlantic alliance can survive a Russia that is destabilizing Europe “on every front” and a U.S. president that is to the liking of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. “We’ve never had an American president who, at least by his rhetoric, is anti-European,” Kirchick told me. “We have a president who seems, at best, apathetic, if not actively hostile, to the two most critical institutions that have kept Europe together and free since 1945, which is NATO and the E.U.”

James Kirchick, author of “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age,” talks with The Post’s Jonathan Capehart on the “Cape Up” podcast on April 17. (Carol Alderman/The Washington Post)
And that got us to a bigger discussion about Trump’s foreign policy. “It’s still a little unnerving that so much of our foreign policy is gonna be dependent on the whims of a man who has no core whatsoever,” Kirchick said bluntly.
Another harbinger of the coming dark age of Europe is the rise of anti-Semitism, which he calls “Europe’s deadliest tradition.” He notes that in Hungary, the “right-wing nationalist government is basically rewriting the history of the Holocaust and trying to write out Hungary’s complicity.” Is Kirchick concerned that the problems with anti-Semitism out the Trump White House mean anything more sinister? “I don’t think he has the intellectual patience or interest to be a fascist,” Kirchick told me. “It’s not that he’s an anti-Semite. He doesn’t care enough about other people to be an anti-Semite.”
So, can Europe and democracy in particular survive the aggressiveness of Putin and the Trump presidency? Kirchick seems to think so.
“I’m much less concerned about democracy dying in darkness in the United States,” he said. “If we’re gonna find sort of a rebirth of the European spirit, it’ll be in places like Ukraine or Estonia, in Central and Eastern Europe, where they cherish these things much more deeply than I think we do here.”
“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever else you listen to podcasts.
With just four weeks to go before voting gets underway in France, Ivor Bennett reports on the political divisions in Europe and how they threaten to shake up the E.U. (Reuters)
With just four weeks to go before voting gets underway in France, Ivor Bennett reports on the political divisions in Europe and how they threaten to shake up the E.U. Could French elections rock the European Union? (Reuters)
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John Brennan: Trump is right to improve relations with Russia

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John BrennanCIA Director John Brennan listens during a news conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014.AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Former CIA Director John Brennan says President Donald Trump is right to try and improve the United States' relationship with Russia. But, speaking from experience, he is skeptical Trump will be able to pull it off.
Business Insider's US Editor-in-Chief Alyson Shontell sat down with Brennan at an Intersport Leadership Summit at The Masters on April 6.
During the 45-minute discussion, Brennan said he "tried like heck" to improve the relationship between Russia and the United States, but after a number of meetings and phone calls, he "lost faith" in the country's "willingness and interest to do the right thing."
"The Russians feign sincerity better than anyone I know," he said.
Here are Brennan's comments on Trump and Russia from the interview, which you can watch in the clip above:
"Some of the things  he wants to do are right from a strategic standpoint in terms of improving relations with Russia. I tried like heck when I was in the CIA and White House, to have better relations with the Russians. And I traveled out there a number of times, and I had fairly regular phone interactions with my Russian counterparts. And I wanted to believe that they wanted a better relationship with us as well.
"I must say, the Russians fain sincerity better than anyone I know. And it was really quite frustrating, and I dealt with them a lot on Syria. And they would promise they would work with us, try to restrain the Syrian government and military from carrying out these atrocious attacks, and they wouldn’t. So I lost faith in their willingness and interest to do the right thing. 
"But it’s very important for global stability for the United States and Russia to have a much better relationship."

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