But Bloomberg and Politico have obtained flight records for Trump’s jet that indicate he actually spent two nights in the Russian capital when he traveled there for the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013.
A dossier of information about Trump collected by former British agent Christopher Steele claims that Russian agents secretly filmed Trump at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton that weekend as he instructed prostitutes to urinate on a bed that then-President Barack Obama had slept in.
The New York Times reported last year that Trump traveled to Moscow on a plane owned by casino mogul Phil Ruffin. Bloomberg and Politico obtained flight records for a Bombardier Global Express jet owned by Ruffin Development Expositions that left the U.S. on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 and landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport the following day. The jet left the city early Sunday at 3:58 a.m. after Trump attended the pageant.
Ruffin’s spokeswoman Michelle Knoll confirmed to Politico that Trump used the aircraft for his trip.
It’s not known which night the tape was allegedly recorded, but Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller testified last year that he turned down an offer from an unknown Russian to send five sex workers to Trump’s Moscow hotel room at some point that weekend, sources told NBC. Schiller said he kept an eye on Trump’s hotel room for a while, then went to bed himself.
Trump’s own social media accounts seem to support the argument that he was in Russia at least overnight. In one Facebook post, Trump poses in a photo outside Nobu Moscow on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. The pageant was held on Saturday. On Sunday evening, Trump tweeted that he’d “just got back from Russia.”
Donald J. Trump
I just got back from Russia-learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place! U.S. MUST BE VERY SMART AND VERY STRATEGIC.
After Trump became president, Comey said he warned him about Steele’s dossier, which had been turned over to the FBI. Trump denied spending a single night in Moscow. Comey told ABC this month that Trump responded by asking, “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” (Comey added: “I assumed he was asking that rhetorically.”)
Trump also said he’d “spoken to people who had been on … the trip … and they had reminded him that he didn’t stay over night in Russia,” Comey recalled in a memo. Trump insisted again later in the Oval Office that he “hadn’t stayed overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip,” Comey wrote.
In addition, Trump told his FBI director that he could never go for the “golden showers thing” because “I’m … a germaphobe,” Comey wrote in his memoir A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.
If Trump deliberately lied to Comey, it could indicate “consciousness of guilt” and could bolster a case against him by special counsel Robert Mueller, former federal prosecutor Pete Zeidenberg told Politico.
Trump’s Miss Universe pageant has posed multiple problems for the president. The New Yorker reported earlier this year that Trump has used the pageant to cultivate potential business partners, including in Russia, where he hoped to build a Trump tower. In 2013, he cemented an alliance with father and singer son Aras and Emin Agalarov, who hosted the pageant in Moscow.
In the summer of 2016, a publicist for Emin Agalarov emailed Donald Trump Jr. offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Donald Jr. replied: “I love it” — and later attended a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, among others.
(CNN)The Russians are coming! Except they aren’t. Though they already have a bit. And they might well be coming a bit more soon.
This is how very bad things happen.
The threat posed by Russia to Western interests is unlike anything seen since the 1990s. It has forces or proxies deployed in Syria, Ukraine and, don’t forget, parts of what’s still called Georgia. There is smoke, but there is also fire and daily there is a lot of fuel being added.
Dutch state media revealed this week that Dutch cyber spies — the Joint Sigint Cyber Unit (JSCU) — were able to hack into the closed-circuit television of the building where a Russian hacking organization known as Cozy Bear worked, and observe them coming and going from offices where they hacked the Democratic National Committee in the US. The Dutch told the Americans, touching off the US investigations. According to the Dutch, the Americans then helpfully told the media they were tipped off by a Western intelligence agency, prompting the Russians to turn off the Cozy Bear CCTV hack.
A Ukrainian serviceman shoots with a grenade launcher during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, Ukraine.
There was also a shrill warning from new UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, who, amid a budget row and internal leadership posturing, chose Friday to unleash a barrage of concerns about “thousands and thousands and thousands” — yes, that many — deaths that Russia could cause in Britain, if it successfully hacked the electricity grid.
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Williamson told the Daily Telegraph: “Why would they [the Russians] keep photographing and looking at power stations, why are they looking at the interconnectors that bring so much electricity and so much energy into our country? They are looking at these things because they are saying, ‘These are the ways we can hurt Britain.'” His officials have also alleged Russia may target the transatlantic cables that ferry the internet to the UK.
These new claims were met with the now-predictable Russian derision. Russian defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Williamson had “lost understanding of what is reasonable in his fierce fight for the banknotes in the military budget,” and that his “phobia” belonged in “children’s comic books” or an episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov dubbed the Dutch report “anti-Russian hysteria,” saying “if the Dutch newspapers want to supply the coal to the furnace of anti-Russian hysteria which is currently takes place in America, well… let’s say it’s not the most noble thing to do.”
‘All decorum has been cast aside’
Russophobia is a familiar and disturbing theme. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently called it “unprecedented.”
“We never saw this during the Cold War. Back then, there were some rules, some decorum… Now, all decorum has been cast aside,” Lavrov told Russian daily Kommersant in an interview published on January 21.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives his annual press conference in Moscow on January 15, 2018.
Some Russian state rhetoric is designed to paint a picture of an outside world that hysterically harnesses fear of a resurgent Russia, when really the country means no harm. It is designed to try and distance Russians from an outside world they can increasingly see, even if only through the slanted prism of Russian state media.
The xenophobia, homophobia and sometimes outright racism that has grown in Russian society also stem from the idea of a people — a narod — under threat. Russophobia, that argument goes, happens because “they want us gone, but also because they fear us, as we refuse to lie down.” I saw it in the eyes and anger of many ethnic Russians embattled in eastern Ukraine. They felt abandoned, scorned, left outside the rest of Ukraine, and had to turn to Russia to protect their Russianness.
Some of Russia’s urban elite has seen too much of the outside world to buy this reductive message. But its nationalists and beholden state employees embrace it, and much of rural Russia hasn’t seen the glittering globe beyond. Life remains tough there, with even state figures accepting that just under 14% of Russians live below “the minimum cost of living,” according to Tass.
Into this narrative of “them and us” come these increasingly vociferous Western claims of the Russian threat. In the partisan fury of US or UK politics, it is hard to know at times whether Russia did ingeniously undermine the entire US electoral process and infiltrate Team Trump, or just ended up having clumsy hackers steal some emails, and allow some of its sympathizers to get too close to some of Trump’s less savvy or wholesome staff.
It is hard to know, with Russian-backed tanks still in Donetsk and jets in Syria, whether we are seeing an expansionist Moscow intent on soon probing the Baltic states or switching off the lights in London, or a nervous Russia that is just checking threats it sees in its near abroad.
Red Square in Moscow. Russians see the West through the prism of state-run media.
The most troubling point is that the distinction doesn’t really matter. This perception of Russophobia (or a real Russian threat) is either what the Kremlin wants, to justify its more aggressive schemes, or it is what the Kremlin feels it has to respond to, as to not appear weak.
Vladimir Putin has long surrounded himself not with tech-age visionaries, but with men who stem from the same age as him, a period he called the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” — the fall of the Soviet empire. He still feels it personally, wishes to see the shift in power partially redressed and must surely be bemused at how the US public has elected a president so capable of diminishing US influence the world over.
The Kremlin takes things personally. It may seem disproportionate to the slight, but not when compared with the extraordinary suffering of the Soviet era and the brutal collapse of the 1990s. But by recognizing Russia as the threat it increasingly shows itself to be, Western figures are also ensuring Moscow has little choice but to fulfill the prophecy.
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News outlet RT has registered as an agent of a foreign government in America, after years of accusations that it was a propaganda arm of the Russian government. So what is RT and why has it become the subject of fierce debate in the US?
It was a late February afternoon when millions of Americans’ phones and laptops started buzzing with breaking news from the White House.
“Gen Flynn was fired amid the scrutiny…”
“The White House national security adviser fired…”
President Trump had asked National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to leave the White House, said the reports. Flynn had misled Vice-President Pence about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
It was the first resignation in the new presidential administration. But one media outlet, RT, reported it differently: “General Flynn retires as National Security Adviser”
Misleading headlines are only one part of RT’s approach to news, which makes the American government and analysts believe it is just an arm of the Kremlin.
What is RT?
RT, originally Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), began broadcasting internationally in 2005 in English, Arabic, and Spanish as a subsidiary of RIA Novosti, one of three Russian state-owned news broadcasters.
The broadcaster focused on Russia-related news reports and said its goal was to improve the image of the country in the US. At its launch, it promised a “more balanced picture” of what Russia is.
Several years later, it shortened its name to RT and began focusing on US news, positioning itself as an alternative to US mainstream media on both online and US cable television.
In late December 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin dissolved RIA Novosti and transferred all its subsidiaries to a new organization International News Agency Russia Today.
On the same day, Putin appointed a well-known but controversial media figure, Dmitry Kiselev, as the general director of the new organisation.
Mr. Kiselev was placed on the EU’s individual sanctions list in 2014 for being a “central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine”, including false claims of US State Department involvement.
He is also known for his homophobic views, including saying gay people should be banned from being blood or organ donors.
“In case of car accidents, their hearts must be buried or burnt and never used to save someone’s life,” he told Russian TV show in 2012.
A few American media personalities, the most prominent being Larry King, have presented programmes on RT America’s television network.
What’s the evidence of their Russian government connections?
“The edge between journalism and propaganda is very thin, especially, if we are talking about the media which is founded by the government,” says Lata Nott, the Newseum Institute’s executive director.
“Not all materials of RT are propaganda, but it is very clear that they have only one angle and they have never criticised their own government.”
RT’s major problem, Nott says, “is lack of transparency regarding sources of their budgeting”.
It is all very unclear.
RT uses production companies to produce content for an American audience. The company operates the same way in the UK.
The production company registered with the US government, T & R Productions LLC, is owned by Mikhail Solodovnikov. But a recent report by the Atlantic Council named two different production firms in the US, both owned by Russian-born businessman Alex Yazlovsky.
In the registration, Solodovnikov notes his firm’s funding comes from TV Novosti, and admits the Russian government finances the organization. But Solodovnikov also says he is not “sufficiently aware of who supervises, owns, directs, controls or subsidizes” TV Novosti.
RT doesn’t make its supervisory board public, according to the Atlantic Council report, and while it reports annually to the Russian Ministry of Press on its expenditures, their financial statements are not made public.
American intelligence agencies have a low opinion of the network. Ex-CIA director James Clapper has called RT “a mouthpiece of Russian governmental propaganda,” whose assets and executives are closely tied to Vladimir Putin.
An unclassified version of a January US intelligence report points to RT and Russian-backed website Sputnik as a key part of Russian interference with the US election, arguing the outlet served “as a platform for Kremlin messaging”.
“The Kremlin staffs RT and closely supervises RT’s coverage, recruiting people who can convey Russian strategic messaging because of their ideological beliefs,” the report states.
It also details close links between editorial management and the Russian government and cites RT and Sputnik’s ramping up of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton stories around March 2016, including Russian talking points that Clinton’s election would lead to a war between US and Russia.
What happened between RT and Twitter?
Twitter recently banned RT from advertising on the platform, citing the CIA report, said they will invest $1.9m they received from the outlet from advertising to support research into limiting misinformation on the platform.
However, RT Twitter accounts are not banned from Twitter.
RT has accused Twitter of “forgetting to tell the US Senate it pushed RT to spend big bucks on election ad campaign”, sharing an advertising pitch Twitter had made to RT, and accused the platform of being part of a “coordinated attack on Russian media and freedom of speech”.
What’s FARA and why is the US government forcing RT to register?
The US government requires all agencies, individuals and organizations controlled or funded by international governments and undertake a political activity, to be registered with the justice department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (Fara).
Fara began as a reaction to attempts by Nazi Germany to spread propaganda inside the US. In the 1940s, the Soviet news agency TASS and later newspapers Izvestia and Pravda were registered as agents of the Soviet government.
Since the law was enacted, 221 Russian companies have registered as foreign government agents, including a travel agency, a postal service, and numerous financial institutions.
RT claims that it is a “publicly funded” media outlet, similar to the BBC or Germany’s Deutsche Welle and would qualify for an exemption.
But to prove the exemption, the Atlantic Council writes, RT would need to disclose its finances, board members and show evidence of editorial independence from the Russian government.
Since Ksenia Sobchak announced her candidacy for president on Wednesday, deciphering her motivations has become a national obsession.
Is she just the latest Kremlin stooge? Is she a spoiler candidate — someone co-opted by the Kremlin to split the opposition vote — or will she actually further the opposition’s cause?
Sobchak, 35, has a wide-reaching public persona. She is a socialite and former reality TV presenter, turned opposition activist, then opposition journalist and — now — presidential candidate.
Her candidacy has come as a shock to many — often referred to as the Russian Paris Hilton, her more than 5 million followers on Instagram are served daily photos of fashion shows, expensive restaurants and far-flung beach holidays.
But politics is in her roots. She is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the first elected mayor of St. Petersburg and the former mentor of President Vladimir Putin.
Many believe Sobchak has been handpicked by the Kremlin to inject vitality in Russia’s presidential elections and bolster turnout on March 18, 2018.
“She will be a bright, new face,” says political analyst Abbas Gallyamov. “She was chosen to show that it is a real election.”
With Alexei Navalny sidelined after energizing thousands of Russians in towns and cities across the country to protest in recent months, Sobchak could be an alternative opposition voice.
“She will criticize the political system, she will criticize Putin,” says Gallyamov. But, he added, there is an important difference: “while Navalny is dangerous, Sobchak is not.”
With her announcement, many analysts and journalists experienced a sense of deja vu. In 2012, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, ran for president. He came nowhere close to victory — finishing third with nearly 8 percent of the vote — but many believed that had never been the point. Prokhorov, they argued, was a spoiler candidate: a tool for Putin to channel anger at the Kremlin into a non-threatening vote.
As an independent candidate, she would have to gather 300,000 votes in a matter of weeks — a practically insurmountable challenge. Many see that as evidence that Sobchak has been given the Kremlin’s assurance she will be allowed to run — a claim she denies.
In an announcement on her weekly show on the opposition-leaning Dozhd TV news channel, Sobchak tried to distance herself from the Kremlin. During a meeting with Vladimir Putin several weeks ago to discuss a documentary about her father, she said, she had told Putin personally about her decision to run.
“He said that every person can make their own decisions and take responsibility for them too,” she said. “I didn’t feel that he liked my decision.”
Political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky disputes Sobchak is a spoiler “in the regular sense.”
“She has come forward like an information spoiler,” he says. “She is distracting from the seriousness of the elections, creating a carnival-like atmosphere.”
He cites Sobchak’s election platform — or rather, the lack thereof.
In a letter published by Vedomosti, Sobchak presented herself as a pro-business, pro-rights candidate, proposing to reform courts and education; develop private business; and privatize large state corporations.
She also criticized gender and sexual discrimination.
But above all, she cast herself as the ‘Against all’ candidate — a personified stand-in for the against all option on ballots, which no longer exists.
“You don’t have your own candidate?” she wrote. “Check Sobchak. You’re not electing her to be president. You’re simply getting a legal and peaceful opportunity to say ‘That’s enough! We’re sick of it!’”
“If Sobchak has any political motivations, we can’t see them,” says Pavlovsky. “In her manifesto, she talks as if there are no elections, but only political movements and groups, and that’s it.”
Instead, many suspect Sobchak of looking to further her career in show business or mass media. According to the New Times magazine, Sobchak is hoping to return to state television after quitting the NTV television channel in 2011.
“It’s a personal ambition — to gain fame,” says Andrei Kolesnikov, of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “She can’t spoil Navalny or other candidates because she can’t get the votes.”
Tit-for-tat May See U.S. Media Outlets Banned in Russia
Oct 6, 2017 — 19:03
— Update: 19:20
stevepb / Pixabay
Russian prosecutors are considering a retaliatory response following Washington’s request that the RT America news channel register as a foreign agent.
The Prosecutor General’s Office is studying the possibility of labeling U.S. media outlets “undesirable,” the Interfax news agency reported Friday, citing an unidentified source knowledgeable of the situation.
Amid concerns over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, the U.S. Justice Department has requested that the Kremlin-backed RT adhere to a 1930s foreign agent registration law.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said that “every step toward the Russian media will have a corresponding response.”
The Russian authorities are considering blacklisting U.S. media at the Federation Council committee on state sovereignty’s task force session, according to Interfax.
“This could affect all American media operating in Russia,” Interfax reported, citing an unidentified source. The outlets being considered for the “undesirable” label were not disclosed.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that reciprocal actions cannot be ruled out, but noted that he had no information regarding U.S. outlets being labeled “undesirable,” state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported.
The Interfax report comes a week after Russia’s state media censor Roskomnadzor warned CNN International over alleged media law violations.
The Russian President gives an “open lesson” to more than a million schoolchildren
“Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” he says
(CNN)On the first day of the new school year in Russia, students learned an important lesson directly from their president — who he thinks will rule the world.
Speaking to students during a national “open lesson” from the city of Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country that takes the lead in the sphere of computer-based artificial intelligence (AI) will rule.
“Artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia but of all of mankind,” said Putin. “There are huge opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to foresee today.”
“Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” he said, adding that it would be better to prevent any particular “pair of hands” from achieving a monopoly in the field.
If Russia becomes the leader in the development of artificial intelligence, “we will share our technology with the rest of the world, like we are doing now with atomic and nuclear technology,” said Putin.
More than a million schoolchildren around Russia were expected to watch the televised open lesson online, titled “Russia Focused on the Future,” according to the Kremlin.
Putin visits new hockey school in Yaroslavl.
Participants in the lesson also watched videos about the large-scale innovative projects, including the development of a new generation of nuclear-powered icebreakers and a heavy-class space launch center.
The words of the Russian President echo what scientists in Russia and around the world have been mulling over for quite some time.
Work on developing drones and vehicles for military and civilian usage is well under way in Russia, according to state media.
The Russian military is also developing robots, anti-drone systems, and cruise missiles that would be able to analyze radars and make decisions on the altitude, speed and direction of their flight, according to state media.
While in Yaroslavl, Putin didn’t miss the opportunity to show off his hockey skills during a visit to a new school. Putin attended a training session of the children’s hockey team, talked to the young players and played some hockey himself.
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I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton is crooked and an habitual liar but damn, she ain’t got nothing on this pathetic egomaniac idiot that we Americans unfortunately have to call our President. I am not a fan of anyone who could break both their arms patting themselves on the back for the things that they have done but this blabbering idiot setting in the Oval Office to me is far worse than even those pathetic egomaniacs. The reason I say this is that this piece of trash setting in the Oval Office lies about and brags about things that never even happened like him bragging to the Wall Street Journal about his speech last week at the Boy Scout Jamboree. He was supposed to not discuss politics in this speech to these kids but of course he lied, the whole speech was pretty much just bragging himself up and tearing down, and slandering Hillary Clinton and former President Obama. He was bragging to the WSJ that he had gotten a call after the speech telling him that it was “the greatest speech they had ever had” at one of their events. The truth is that after Mr. FAKE NEWS Trump got done making an ass out of himself in that speech, the Leaders of the Boy Scouts were calling their members apologizing for the horrible speech that was given to their kids. The director of the Scouts said that they did not call and tell Mr. FAKE NEWS Trump anything at all.
Okay, we have a scumbag who makes a totally out of line speech to a bunch of kids then totally and completely fabricates praise for himself which never happened. Do you remember how Donald FAKE NEWS Trump had fake covers of Time Magazine made up with his name and face on the cover and displayed them in prime locations in his Golf Clubs? Do you remember the story that has been in the news lately about Donald FAKE NEWS Junior meeting with all of those Russian folks at Trump Tower in New York City last June? It seems that the latest story that has been confirmed even from the White House staffers is that Poppa FAKE NEWS Trump dictated a line of BS for his son to give to the news papers as a way to get ahead of the story they were getting ready to print about that meeting. But of course the habitual liar Poppa FAKE NEWS Trump did nothing but lie about what really happened in that meeting. This does make this idiot complicit in ‘obstructing justice’ being he directly got involved in this sham. Think about it for a moment folks, what did Poppa FAKE NEWS Trump use as his first story/lie about this meeting? He sank so low as to use the cover of saying that his son, Donald FAKE NEWS Junior, his son-in-law Jarred FAKE NEWS Kushner and his now former heavily Russian connected Campaign Manager who met with all of these Russian folks who are directly connected to the Kremlin, met with them to discuss the freeze on the adoption of Russian children by Americans. This man (and I am using that term very lightly) has no problem at all using children to hide behind in his lies. So, do you see why I believe that we the American people are stuck with a total scumbag for a President and without a doubt in my mind he should forever more be known as DONALD ‘FAKE NEWS’ TRUMP.
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Donald Trump Jr.’s contradictory statements about the Russia meeting
A timeline of Donald Trump Jr.’s comments and contradictions about his meeting with a Russian lawyer in June of 2016. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)
The Washington Post’s report that President Trump dictated his son’s misleading statement about meeting with a Russian lawyer contradicts previous denials by Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer. But one person without egg on her face is White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who pleaded ignorance when asked repeatedly about the president’s involvement.
In hindsight, Sanders’s shrugs look like signals that Trump was hiding something — perhaps even from his own spokeswoman — and provide clues about how to detect secrets in the future.
Pay attention to things that White House spokesmen say they “don’t know” or “haven’t asked” about. These types of answers aregivenfrequently.
Watch for times when the White House declines to repeat the claims of Trump’s personal legal team.
The statement at the root of The Post’s report was issued to the New York Times when it reported July 8 that Donald Trump Jr. met last summer with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer. Here’s the key passage: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no followup.”
That version of events was, at best, a partial truth. The Times reported a day later that the premise of the meeting was that the Russian lawyer would share damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Naturally, the genesis of the original statement — with its glaring omission — interested journalists. Was the president involved?
At an off-camera news briefing on July 11, Sanders was asked when Trump and Trump Jr. had spoken last. She said she did not know.
Huckabee Sanders plays down Trump son’s meeting with Russian lawyer
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there was nothing inappropriate about a meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with a Russian attorney during the campaign last year. (Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Reuters)
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That night, the Times reported that the president had signed off on his son’s statement.
On “Good Morning America” the next day, Sekulow disputed the Times’s report. “The president didn’t sign off on anything,” Sekulow said. “He was coming back from the G-20 [summit], the statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr. and, I’m sure, in consultation with his lawyers. The president wasn’t involved in that.”
At an off-camera briefing hours later, however, Sanders wouldn’t repeat Sekulow’s denial. This was her exchange with The Post’s Philip Rucker, one of the reporters behind Monday’s scoop:
RUCKER: Has President Trump had any communication with his son, Donald Trump Jr., over the last several days? And was he involved in helping Donald Trump Jr. craft his statement to the press over the weekend on Air Force One, as was reported in the New York Times?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not sure about specific communications and the nature of those conversations. I know that they’ve spoken at least at some point over the last few days, but beyond that I don’t have any other further details.
RUCKER: Has he helped him with his response?
MS. SANDERS: Not that I’m aware of, but I just don’t know the answer to that, Phil.
RUCKER: So is that not true?
MS. SANDERS: I’ve been telling you, I’m just not sure. I don’t know the answer. I’ll have to check and let you know.
RUCKER: Okay. Can you find out?
MS. SANDERS: Yeah.
Sanders never followed up with reporters. It is certainly possible that she truly did not know whether the president was involved in crafting the statement; if that is the case, then she was remarkably incurious. Perhaps it was best not to know.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
Montenegro joins NATO as Russia turns furious
Source: AP | 00:01 UTC+8 June 6, 2017 | PRINT EDITION
ONCE the Balkan stronghold of pro-Russian sentiments, tiny Montenegro was yesterday silently celebrating its entry into NATO in a historic turn that has made the Kremlin furious.
Despite the Russian anger and a deep split within the nation of some 620,000 people over the issue, Montenegro is formally becoming the 29th member of the Western military alliance at a ceremony in Washington yesterday.
To get there, Montenegro has stood up against its former ally Russia, which has sought to maintain strong historic, political and cultural influence in the Slavic country it considers a special zone of interest.
The US State Department said Montenegro’s membership “will support greater integration, democratic reform, trade, security, and stability with all of its neighbors.”
Russia has threatened economic and political retaliation, including a campaign to undermine the Montenegrin tourism industry, which relies heavily on Russian visitors. An estimated 200,000 Russians visit Montenegro a year and 80,000 Russians own property in the country.
Russia has also banned imports of Montenegrin wine and recently deported a ranking official from a Moscow airport.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recently warned potential Russian tourists that “there is an anti-Russian hysteria in Montenegro.”
“We do not rule out the possibility of provocations, arrests for suspicious reasons or extradition to third countries” of Russians, Zakharova said.
Montenegro says Moscow was behind a foiled coup attempt in October that allegedly targeted former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who was the driving force behind the country’s NATO bid. Russia denies involvement.
“One of the reasons we are joining NATO is to create greater stability, not only for Montenegrin citizens, but also for foreign investors and tourists,” Djukanovic said. “Therefore, our goal is to bring even more Russian tourists.”
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A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.
They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [en.riss.ru/], after the election.
The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.
The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.
It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.
A second institute document, drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the seven officials said.
The current and former U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the Russian documents’ classified status. They declined to discuss how the United States obtained them. U.S. intelligence agencies also declined to comment on them.
Putin has denied interfering in the U.S. election. Putin’s spokesman and the Russian institute did not respond to requests for comment.
The documents were central to the Obama administration’s conclusion that Russia mounted a “fake news” campaign and launched cyber attacks against Democratic Party groups and Clinton’s campaign, the current and former officials said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (not pictured) in Moscow’s Kremlin, Russia April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Pavel Golovkin/Pool
“Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map,” said one of the sources, a former senior U.S. intelligence official.
Trump has said Russia’s activities had no impact on the outcome of the race. Ongoing congressional and FBI investigations into Russian interference have so far produced no public evidence that Trump associates colluded with the Russian effort to change the outcome of the election.
Four of the officials said the approach outlined in the June strategy paper was a broadening of an effort the Putin administration launched in March 2016. That month the Kremlin instructed state-backed media outlets, including international platforms Russia Today and Sputnik news agency, to start producing positive reports on Trump’s quest for the U.S. presidency, the officials said.
Russia Today did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Sputnik dismissed the assertions by the U.S. officials that it participated in a Kremlin campaign as an “absolute pack of lies.” “And by the way, it’s not the first pack of lies we’re hearing from ‘sources in U.S. official circles’,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Russia Today and Sputnik published anti-Clinton stories while pro-Kremlin bloggers prepared a Twitter campaign calling into question the fairness of an anticipated Clinton victory, according to a report by U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian interference in the election made public in January. [bit.ly/2kMiKSA]
Russia Today’s most popular Clinton video – “How 100% of the 2015 Clintons’ ‘charity’ went to … themselves” – accumulated 9 millions views on social media, according to the January report. [bit.ly/2os8wIt]
The report said Russia Today and Sputnik “consistently cast president elect-Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional media outlets.”
The report said the agencies did not assess whether Moscow’s effort had swung the outcome of the race in Trump’s favor, because American intelligence agencies do not “analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion.” [bit.ly/2kMiKSA]
Neither of the Russian institute documents mentioned the release of hacked Democratic Party emails to interfere with the U.S. election, according to four of the officials. The officials said the hacking was a covert intelligence operation run separately out of the Kremlin.
The overt propaganda and covert hacking efforts reinforced each other, according to the officials. Both Russia Today and Sputnik heavily promoted the release of the hacked Democratic Party emails, which often contained embarrassing details.
Five of the U.S. officials described the institute as the Kremlin’s in-house foreign policy think tank.
The institute’s director when the documents were written, Leonid Reshetnikov, rose to the rank of lieutenant general during a 33-year-career in Russia’s foreign intelligence service, according to the institute’s website [bit.ly/2oVhiCF]. After Reshetnikov retired from the institute in January, Putin named as his replacement Mikhail Fradkov. The institute says he served as the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service from 2007 to 2016. [bit.ly/2os4tvz]
Reuters was unable to determine if either man was directly involved in the drafting of the documents. Reshetnikov’s office referred questions to the Russian institute.
On its website, the Russian institute describes itself as providing “expert appraisals,” “recommendations,” and “analytical materials” to the Russian president’s office, cabinet, National Security Council, ministries and parliament. [bit.ly/2pCBGpR]
On Jan. 31, the websites of Putin’s office [bit.ly/2os9wMr] and the institute [bit.ly/2oLn9Kd] posted a picture and transcript of Reshetnikov and his successor Fradkov meeting with Putin in the Kremlin. Putin thanked Reshetnikov for his service and told Fradkov he wanted the institute to provide objective information and analysis.
“We did our best for nearly eight years to implement your foreign policy concept,” Reshetnikov told Putin. “The policy of Russia and the policy of the President of Russia have been the cornerstone of our operation.”
(Reporting by Ned Parker and Jonathan Landay, additional reporting by Warren Strobel and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by David Rohde and Ross Colvin)
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