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 on: July 18, 2018, 03:33:14 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Im2Sexy4MyPants

 on: July 17, 2018, 10:45:57 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

 on: July 17, 2018, 10:25:31 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times…

Trump Shows the World He's Putin's Lackey

Maybe the president is exactly as compromised as he looks.

By MICHELLE GOLDBERG | 11:05PM EDT — Tuesday, July 16, 2018

President Donald J. Trump with President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. — Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.
President Donald J. Trump with President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. — Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.

NO MATTER how low your expectations for the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on Monday, it was hard not to be staggered by the American president's slavish and toadying performance.

On Friday, the Justice Department indicted 12 members of Russia's military intelligence service for a criminal conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election and hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign. The same day, Trump's director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, gave a speech about America's vulnerability to cyberattacks, particularly from Russia. “I'm here to say, the warning lights are blinking red again,” he said, comparing the threat to the one that preceded September 11.

But standing beside Putin in Helsinki on Monday, Trump sided with the Russian president against American intelligence agencies while spewing lies and conspiracy theories. “He just said it's not Russia,” he said of Putin's denials. “I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.” Continuing in a free-associative fugue, he asked, “What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the D.N.C.?” referring to a debunked right-wing claim about a former Democratic I.T. staffer. “What happened to Hillary Clinton's emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn't be gone so easily.”

Perhaps the most sinister part of the news conference was Trump's seeming openness to a deal in which F.B.I. investigators could question people in Russia in exchange for letting Russians question Putin critics in America. Putin referred specifically to associates of his arch-nemesis Bill Browder, a businessman (and British citizen) who has succeeded in getting seven countries, including the United States, to pass laws punishing Russian oligarchs suspected of corruption. (The Russians who met with members of the Trump campaign at Trump Tower in June 2016 wanted to discuss this law, the Magnitsky Act.)

“I've known for a long time that Putin has been trying to use every trick in the book to get me arrested in a foreign country and extradited back to Russia,” Browder told me after the news conference. It's chilling that Trump appeared willing to help Putin with his vendetta.

The news conference left observers reeling. John O. Brennan, a former director of the C.I.A., tweeted that Trump's display was “nothing short of treasonous.” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, described it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.” Even some Trump partisans were aghast. Newt Gingrich decried it as the “most serious mistake” of Trump's presidency.

While I was as shocked as everyone else, I shouldn't have been. Trump's behavior on Monday recalled his outburst at Trump Tower after the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, when he insisted there were “very fine people” among the racist demonstrators. Both times, everything Trump said was in keeping with things he’d said before. The shocking part was his frankness. Then, as now, it forced, if just for a moment, a collective apprehension of just what a repulsive abomination this presidency is.

It's always been obvious that Trump does not hold Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election, which he publicly encouraged and gleefully benefited from, against Putin. None of us yet know the exact contours of Trump's relationship with Russia, whether Putin is his handler, his co-conspirator or just his hero. But it's clear that Trump is willing to sell out American democracy for personal gain. After all, on July 27, 2016, he publicly called for Russia to find Clinton's emails, and, thanks to Friday's indictments, we now know Russia started trying to hack the domain used by her personal office that very day. Trump's collusion with Russia has always been out in the open, daring us to recognize what's in front of our faces.

Some doubt that Trump is a Russian puppet precisely because his fealty to Putin is so blatant and undisguised. They should consider the case of Mariia Butina, which broke wide open just hours after the Trump-Putin meeting.

Butina, who worked for the Russian politician and alleged organized crime figure Alexander Torshin, presented herself as a Russian gun rights activist, and spent years cultivating links to the National Rifle Association. She became a fixture in some pro-Trump circles and was reportedly especially close to a conservative operative named Paul Erickson. Last year, in a Daily Beast profile, the journalist Tim Mak described Butina as hosting a birthday costume party that was attended by Trump aides. “She dressed as Russian Empress Alexandra while Erickson was dressed as Rasputin,” Mak wrote. At the party, Butina reportedly boasted that she'd helped the Trump campaign communicate with Russia. If there was a reason to doubt that she was a Russian spy, it was only that one would expect a Russian spy to be subtler.

This weekend, Butina was arrested in Washington, and on Monday her indictment for acting as a Russian agent was unsealed. She was accused of conspiracy to “exploit personal connections with U.S. persons having influence in American politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation.” There's a useful lesson here in evaluating Trump's behavior. Sometimes things are exactly as bad as they appear.


Michelle Goldberg became an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times in 2017. She is the author of three books: Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World and The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West. Her first book was a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and her second won the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize and the J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award. Previously she was a columnist at Slate. A frequent commentator on radio and television, Goldberg's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Newsweek, The Nation, The New Republic, The Guardian and many other publications, and she's reported from countries including India, Iraq, Egypt, Uganda, Nicaragua and Argentina. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, on Page A21 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Trump Shows The World He's Putin's Lackey”.


Related to this topic:

 • An Easy Win for Vladimir Putin

 • Trump and Putin versus America

 • Republicans Rebuke Trump for Siding With Putin as Democrats Demand Action


 on: July 17, 2018, 09:56:52 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times…

EDITORIAL: Why Won't Donald Trump Speak for America?

The president lays himself at Vladimir Putin's feet.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | 10:33PM EDT — Monday, July 16, 2018

Illustration: Lilli Carré.
Illustration: Lilli Carré.

THE last time President Trump claimed that “both sides” were responsible for bad behavior, it didn't go well.

That was nearly a year ago, after a march of neo-Nazis descended into violence and a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing a woman.

On Monday, Mr. Trump again engaged in immoral equivalence, this time during a gobsmacking news conference after his meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. A reporter referred to last week's indictments of 12 Russian military officials for a coordinated cyberattack on the 2016 election and asked Mr. Trump if he held Russia responsible. “I hold both countries responsible,” Mr. Trump said.

Even in a presidency replete with self-defeating moments for the United States, Mr. Trump's comments on Monday, which were broadcast live around the world, stand out.

The spectacle was hard to fathom: Mr. Trump, standing just inches from an autocratic thug who steals territory and has his adversaries murdered, undermined the unanimous conclusion of his own intelligence and law enforcement agencies that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 election with the goal of helping Mr. Trump win.

“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Mr. Trump said at one point, speaking of his director of national intelligence. “I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.” (In a statement on Monday afternoon, Mr. Coats reiterated that, in fact, it was.)

Mr. Trump called the special counsel's Russia investigation “a disaster for our country” and then performed a selection of his greatest solo hits: “Zero Collusion”, “Where Is the D.N.C.'s Server?” and finally the old chestnut, “I Won the Electoral College by a Lot”.

Even top Republicans felt moved to speak up.

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Paul Ryan, the House speaker, said. “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said, “The Russians are not our friends, and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community.”

Senator John McCain was more direct. “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” Mr. McCain said.

Not to worry, Mr. Trump assured us: Mr. Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” So he must have been telling the truth.

Mr. Putin, for his part, was happy to admit that he wanted Mr. Trump to win the election: “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.” He mocked the idea that he had compromising material on President Trump — though without denying it — perhaps because Mr. Trump's own words were compromising enough.

Mr. Putin offered to have Russian intelligence work with its American counterpart to get to the bottom of the meddling case, on the condition that Russian authorities were allowed to question American intelligence officials as well — which Mr. Trump called “an incredible offer.” Yes, incredible.

And still, the indictments related to Russian infiltration keep coming: On Monday, the Justice Department, acting independently of the special counsel's investigation, charged a Russian with acting as an agent for her country in the United States to cement ties between the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association. The 29-year-old woman, who allegedly has ties to a top Russian official, is being held without bond.

Mr. Trump has said he wants to revive a relationship with Russia that badly deteriorated under President Barack Obama. His opening statement to journalists proclaimed the goal of continuing “the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy” and emphasized that “diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility.”

In theory, such objectives make sense. But Mr. Trump seems to be singularly naïve, or deliberately ignorant, about why his own senior national security advisers have identified Russia as one of America's chief geostrategic adversaries, along with China.

Despite a weak economy, corruption and other domestic problems, Mr. Putin has crushed most political opposition at home and is aggressively asserting Russian power abroad. His agents — possibly those from the same military intelligence service that interfered in the American election — have used chemical weapons that poisoned four people in Britain, one of whom died.

He is working hard to sabotage America's ties to NATO and the European Union and to weaken American influence in the Middle East. Russia poses such a cyber-threat to the United States that Mr. Coats last week said “the warning lights are blinking red again.”

There used to be no doubt that American leaders could be counted on to defend the interests of the United States and the democratic alliance it led. President Ronald Reagan did so in 1987 when he exhorted the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. So did President George H.W. Bush when he told Mr. Gorbachev that Germany would remain in NATO after unification in 1990. And President Obama did so before the 2016 election when he told Mr. Putin to knock off the hacking.

Other than according Mr. Putin the honor of a meeting that begins to erase the ostracism he suffered for invading Ukraine, it is hard to see what Mr. Trump accomplished. The two men talked about forging a new treaty to replace the New Start Treaty, which constrains nuclear weapons and is to expire in 2021, and also discussed cooperating on Syria, though they seem to have passed up a chance for concrete action.

There has been no sign that the United States has derived any benefit from Mr. Trump's obsequiousness toward Mr. Putin, though Mr. Trump himself has now at least gotten a shiny new soccer ball.

It remains a mystery why the president, unlike any of his Republican or Democratic predecessors, is unwilling to call out Russian perfidy. He has no trouble throwing his weight around when he is in the company of America's European allies, attacking them as deadbeats and the European Union as a “foe,” or when he excoriates the news media as “enemies of the people.” Put him next to Mr. Putin and other dictators, and he turns to putty.

All that's clear is that a president who is way out of his depth is getting America into deep trouble.


The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

• A version of this editorial appears in The New York Times on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, on Page A20 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Mr. Trump Parrots Russia's Leader”.


 on: July 17, 2018, 08:10:21 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times…

Trump Sheds All Notions of How a President Should Conduct Himself Abroad

Rather than defend America against those who would threaten it, he attacked
his own citizens and institutions while hailing the leader of a hostile power.

By MARK LANDLER | 9:52PM EDT — Monday, July 16, 2018

President Trump, in a joint news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, dismissed his own intelligence agencies' conclusions that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. “I have President Putin,” he said. “He just said it's not Russia.” — Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.
President Trump, in a joint news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, dismissed his own intelligence agencies' conclusions
that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. “I have President Putin,” he said. “He just said it's not Russia.” — Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.

WASHINGTON D.C. — President Trump, who gleefully defies the norms of presidential behavior, went somewhere in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday where none of his predecessors have ever gone: He accepted the explanation of a hostile foreign leader over the findings of his own intelligence agencies.

Mr. Trump's declaration that he saw no reason not to believe President Vladimir V. Putin when he said the Russians did not try to fix the 2016 election was extraordinary enough. But it was only one of several statements the likes of which no other president has uttered while on foreign soil.

He condemned the Justice Department's investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia as a “disaster for our country.” He suggested that the F.B.I. deliberately mishandled its investigation of Russia's hacking of the Democratic National Committee. And he labeled an F.B.I. agent who testified about that investigation before Congress as a “disgrace to our country.”

In the fiery, disruptive, rules-breaking arc of Mr. Trump's statecraft, his assertions during a news conference with Mr. Putin marked a new milestone, the foreign policy equivalent of Charlottesville.

Just as Mr. Trump flouted the most deeply held traditions of the American presidency in equating the torch-wielding white nationalist marchers and the activists who fought them last summer in Virginia, he shredded all the accepted conventions in Finland of how a president should conduct himself abroad.

Rather than defend the United States against those who would threaten it, he attacked his own citizens and institutions. Rather than challenge Mr. Putin, an adversary with a well-documented record of wrongdoing against the United States, he praised him without reservation.

His statements were so divorced from American policy goals, so at odds with the rest of his administration, so inexplicable on so many levels that they brought to the surface a question that has long shadowed Mr. Trump: Does Russia have something on him?

The president's motive, it seemed, was to fight, tooth and claw, for the legitimacy of his victory in the 2016 election. In the process, he impugned the nation's law enforcement agencies and publicly undermined the consensus view of its intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the campaign.

When asked whether he would use his news conference with Mr. Putin to denounce Russia for its behavior, Mr. Trump acknowledged that his own director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and other senior officials had told him that Russia was culpable.

But, the president declared, “I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.” He added, “I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.”

Then he unleashed a fusillade of accusations about Hillary Clinton and her missing emails, the F.B.I., the D.N.C.'s unexamined computer server and the testimony of the F.B.I. agent, Peter Strzok. He also offered a defiant defense of his “brilliant” presidential campaign, reminding reporters of the Electoral College tally, 306 to 232.

To a domestic audience, these assertions were familiar — the grist for countless early-morning Twitter posts or stream-of-consciousness outbursts during “Make America Great Again” rallies. But to hear Mr. Trump utter them while standing next to the leader of the very country accused of carrying out those attacks was a spectacle of an entirely different order.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said in a statement. “Today's press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

John O. Brennan, who served as C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter: “Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’. It was nothing short of treasonous.”

Even Mr. Coats pushed back, issuing a statement saying that the intelligence agencies would stick to their assessment of “Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”

A question being asked of Mr. Trump during the joint news conference with Mr. Putin. — Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.
A question being asked of Mr. Trump during the joint news conference with Mr. Putin.
 — Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump's national security adviser, John R. Bolton, had defended the president’s decision to meet with Mr. Putin by noting that President Franklin D. Roosevelt met Stalin, the Soviet tyrant, at the end of World War II — presumably a reference to the Yalta conference in February 1945. “Let's try and have historical perspective here,” Mr. Bolton said.

Historians, however, said Yalta only dramatized the depth of Mr. Trump's failure in Helsinki. Robert Dallek, who wrote a recent biography of Roosevelt, noted that Republicans faulted the 32nd president for appeasing Stalin in 1945. But Roosevelt, he said, had a far weaker hand — with the Red Army already occupying Eastern Europe — than Mr. Trump had.

“Roosevelt was dealing with the harsh realities that were coming out of World War II,” Mr. Dallek said. “We have no clear idea, but lots of guesswork, about why Trump seems to be so much in the pocket of Vladimir Putin.”

As he did after white supremacists beat their opponents in Charlottesville, Mr. Trump reached in Helsinki for a kind of moral equivalence.

“I hold both countries responsible,” he said, when asked whether he blamed Russia for anything. “I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should've had this dialogue a long time ago — a long time, frankly, before I got to office.”

While the president lashed out at all manner of domestic enemies, he said nothing about Russia's annexation of Crimea, its predatory behavior toward Ukraine, its bloody intervention in Syria or the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.

So disorienting was Mr. Trump's performance that at times, it fell to Mr. Putin to try to cushion the blow — as if he recognized the damage that the president's remarks would cause in the United States.

When a reporter asked whether Mr. Trump had objected to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, Mr. Putin answered that of course the American president had objected. Mr. Trump stood by in silence.

When another reporter asked why Mr. Trump should believe Mr. Putin's denials of Russian interference, the Russian president replied, “Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America, and I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation.”

Mr. Putin made clear that he had rooted for Mr. Trump to win the election. “Yes, I did,” he said. “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

Yet on perhaps the most unsettling question of all — whether Russia possessed compromising material on the president — Mr. Putin offered Mr. Trump no comfort. Instead of simply saying it did not, Mr. Putin said he was well aware of the rumors, but that he had not been told that Mr. Trump had visited Moscow as a private businessman. And anyway, he added, hundreds of American business people visit Russia every year.

“Do you think we try to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them?” Mr. Putin asked.


Mark Landler is a White House correspondent at The New York Times. In 24 years at The N.Y. Times, he has been diplomatic correspondent, bureau chief in Hong Kong and Frankfurt, European economic correspondent, and a business reporter in New York. He is the author of Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Twilight Struggle over American Power (Random House).

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on July 17, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Attacking U.S. Institutions And Praising an Adversary”.


Related to this topic:

 • Trump, at Putin's Side, Questions U.S. Intelligence on 2016 Election

 • Trump Trusts Putin's Denial, but Seven U.S Intelligence Groups Blame Russia for Election Meddling

 • Republicans Rebuke Trump for Siding With Putin as Democrats Demand Action


 on: July 17, 2018, 07:44:01 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The Washington Post…

Maria Butina, Russian gun-rights advocate who sought to build
ties with NRA, charged with acting as a covert Russian agent

Butina, 29, is accused of trying to establish “back channel” communications
and was arrested Sunday in Washington, D.C.


Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina, who has been charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia, at a Las Vegas conservative political event in July 2015. — Photograph: FreedomFest.
Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina, who has been charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia, at a Las Vegas conservative
political event in July 2015. — Photograph: FreedomFest.

A RUSSIAN WOMAN with ties to a senior Russian government official was charged in Washington on Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, including by building ties to the leadership of the National Rifle Association and other conservative political organizations.

Maria Butina, 29, who recently received a graduate degree from American University, was arrested on Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, where she was ordered held without bond.

Butina is accused of trying to cultivate relationships with American politicians to establish “back channel” lines of communication and seeking to infiltrate U.S. political groups, including an unnamed “gun rights organization,” to advance Russia's agenda. Descriptions in court papers match published reports about Butina's interactions with the NRA.

The case, which is not part of the special counsel investigation into Russian interference, lays out the strongest allegations to date of American involvement in Russia's influence operations.

Butina was allegedly assisted in her efforts by a U.S. political operative who helped introduce her to influential political figures. That person was not charged and is not named in court papers, but the description matches that of Paul Erickson, a GOP consultant who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina's Russian colleague and a former Russian senator, at a May 2016 NRA convention.

NRA officials and Erickson did not respond to requests for comment.

Butina's attorney, Robert Neil Driscoll, denied that she is a Russian agent and said she was merely networking to develop relationships with Americans.

He told the judge that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session several months ago and had offered before her arrest to cooperate with the government.

Butina did not speak during the brief hearing, other than to state her name. A detention hearing and preliminary hearing were set for Wednesday.

The Russian Embassy said in a statement to the Interfax News Agency that it is “seeking consular access” to Butina “with the aim of defending her legal rights.”

A former furniture store owner from Siberia and gun-rights activist, Butina was the first to publicly quiz President Trump about his views on Russia when she asked him a question at a town hall in July 2015.

She also briefly met Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, at the NRA convention in May 2016, according to a person familiar with the encounter.

Court filings do not mention her interactions with Trump and his son, but do recount Butina's other contacts regarding the NRA convention and the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event attended by government and political leaders in Washington. Erickson sought to arrange a meeting for Torshin with Trump at the February 2017 breakfast, according to a person familiar with the event.

After attending the event with a large Russian delegation, Butina wrote to an organizer to offer “important information for you to further this new relationship” with Russia, according to court filings. The nature of the information is not described.

The charges against Butina were announced days after the Justice Department unveiled an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack Democrats in 2016 and just hours after Trump cast doubt on Russia's involvement in an extraordinary joint news conference with President Vladimir Putin.

Over the weekend, law enforcement officials became increasingly concerned that Butina appeared to be planning to leave the Washington area, according to people familiar with the matter. Investigators were concerned such a trip could pose operational challenges for their work and decided to make an arrest, these people said.

Although special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is aware of the details of the Butina case, the investigative work began before he was appointed to that job, and it has continued to be handled by federal agents and prosecutors outside of his office, these people said.

In an affidavit filed with the court, FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson outlined a two-year alleged effort by Butina to penetrate and influence the U.S. political system for Russia's benefit by building ties to the American conservative movement.

Butina's efforts in the United States came as a number of Republicans began rethinking the party's traditional hostility to Russia, forming new bonds with Putin's government around conservative social views on religion and same-sex marriage. That shift culminated with the November 2016 election of Trump, who had argued throughout his campaign that the United States should seek warmer relations with Russia.

As early as March 2015, Butina emailed the American political operative about her belief that the Republican Party would likely win the White House in 2016, according to court papers. She proposed a special project to use the NRA to build relations with the GOP.

She wrote that “the resulting status needs to be strengthened” before the 2016 election and asked for a $125,000 budget to help her attend “all upcoming major conferences” of the Republican Party.

According to the affidavit, the FBI found evidence on Butina's computer that she kept an unnamed Russian official closely apprised of her activities. Descriptions of the official in the complaint match Torshin, a Russian central banker who has also built ties with the NRA.

In one March 2016 email to an unnamed American, Butina described Torshin's “desire in our Russian-American project” and indicated that a Putin representative had expressed support “for building this communication channel.”

Butina began reaching out to NRA members and other American gun enthusiasts in 2013 and hosted delegations of NRA executives and gun activists in Moscow. She and Torshin also attended a series of NRA events in the United States starting in 2014.

In June 2015, as Trump announced his candidacy, Butina wrote a column in the National Interest, a conservative U.S. magazine, suggesting that only by electing a Republican could the United States and Russia hope to improve relations.

The next month at FreedomFest, a libertarian political event in Las Vegas, she asked Trump at a public event: “What will be your foreign politics, especially in the relations with my country?”

“I know Putin and I'll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump responded, in the first of his many campaign statements about his desire to build better ties with Russia.

Butina told The Washington Post in April 2017 that her question to Trump was “happenstance” and that she has never been an employee of the Russian government.

Butina also attended an NRA convention in May 2016, where Erickson worked to get Torshin a meeting with Trump. In an email to the campaign, Erickson referred to Torshin as “Putin's emissary” in an effort to improve relations with the United States, The Washington Post and other media organizations previously reported.

The meeting did not happen, but Torshin had an interaction at the event with Trump Jr., who has said it was brief and not memorable. Trump Jr. also interacted with a woman described as Torshin's assistant who he later came to believe was Butina, according to a person with knowledge of the episode.

Butina also accompanied Erickson to Trump's inauguration, one of a number of Russians who attended the festivities and toasted to better relations between Russia and the United States.


Tom Hamburger, Shane Harris and Carol D. Leonnig in Washington D.C. and Anton Troianovski in Helsinki contributed to this report.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for The Washington Post. She joined the newspaper in 2001. In 2014 she was honored with the George Polk Award for political reporting and for investigation of relationships between the Virginia governor and wealthy supporters.

Tom Jackman has been covering crime and courts for The Washington Post since 1998, after handling similar beats at the Kansas City Star. Jackman helped lead the coverage of the D.C. sniper trials in 2003 and was the lead writer on The Post's breaking news coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, which won the Pulitzer Prize. More recently he focused on the police killing of an unarmed man in Fairfax County, Virginia, which ended with the officer convicted of manslaughter and serving jail time. In 2016, Jackman launched the True Crime blog, which looks at criminal justice issues and important cases locally and nationally.

Devlin Barrett writes about national security and law enforcement for The Washington Post. He started as a copy boy at the New York Post, and since then has covered the NYPD, federal courts, and the Justice Department and its component agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 2017 he was a Pulitzer Prize co-finalist in both the Feature Writing and the International Reporting categories.


Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: Who is Maria Butina?

 • Read the affidavit about Maria Butina

 • Guns and religion: How American conservatives grew closer to Putin’s Russia

 • VIDEO: How Maria Butina forged ties with gun rights advocates and other U.S. conservatives


 on: July 17, 2018, 07:43:49 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

Yep....it isn't just Trump who is a traitor to America.

America's domestic terrorist organisation, the NRA, has also been colluding with Russian spies.

As has Trump's latest national security advisor, John Bolton.

Strap the lot of them into the electric chair (Trump included) and fry them for treason.

 on: July 17, 2018, 07:41:42 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The Washington Post…

America: We are a deeply stupid country

The ‘stable genius’ continues to win for the rest of us losers.

By DANA MILBANK | 7:13PM EDT — Monday, July 16, 2018

President Donald J. Trump at a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. — Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.
President Donald J. Trump at a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. — Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

MY FELLOW AMERICANS, we are a deeply stupid nation.

I know this must be the case because President Trump has repeatedly informed us that we are a “stupid country” — he offered this opinion on at least nine occasions since he launched his campaign for the presidency — and he should know. As he reminded us after his NATO meeting last week, he is a “very stable genius”.

It is furthermore the president's highly intelligent opinion we have been led by “stupid people” and “our laws are so corrupt and stupid.” We have been stupid about trade. We have been stupid in dealing with Iraq, Iran, China, Mexico, Canada, Europe and Muslims. We have the “dumbest” immigration laws. Among the many stupid things Trump has identified: White House staffers, the FBI, the National Football League, Democrats, the filibuster and journalists.

“We're so stupid!” Trump said to a group of donors recently. They laughed.

“You feel like sort of stupid, don't you?” Trump asked a rally of supporters recently. “Don't you feel stupid?”

Stoo-pid! Stoo-pid!

But we are at our most imbecilic when dealing with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity,” he tweeted before meeting on Monday in Helsinki with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs retweeted Trump's assessment of his own country's stupidity, tacking on the words “We agree.”

Both President Donald J. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about Russian interference in U.S. elections at a news conference on Monday, July 16, 2018 in Helsinki. — Photograph: Anatoly Maltsev/European Pressphoto Agency/Agencia-EFE/REX/Shutterstock.
Both President Donald J. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about Russian interference in U.S. elections at a news conference
on Monday, July 16, 2018 in Helsinki. — Photograph: Anatoly Maltsev/European Pressphoto Agency/Agencia-EFE/REX/Shutterstock.

In his news conference a few hours later with Putin, Trump again raised the flag of American feeblemindedness. “The United States has been foolish,” he said.

How foolish are we?

We brainlessly criticized Russia when it invaded Georgia and Ukraine. We idiotically protested when Russia poisoned people in Britain. Like dunces, we punished Russians for killing human rights activists. Morons that we are, we complained when Russia shot down a passenger jet. And then, revealing ourselves to be truly daft and inane, we blamed Russia for interfering in our election.

Standing at Putin's side on Monday, Trump let the world know just how doltish the people are who made this judgment, including the cretins at the CIA and the nitwits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia,” Trump announced. “I don't see any reason why it would be” Russia.

Trump, an aficionado of intelligence, likely sides with Putin because Putin is “very smart” in Trump's estimation (though not a “smart cookie” like Kim Jong Un), while he regards American intelligence as unintelligent. Trump long ago dismissed the CIA as the numskulls “who said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.”

And the CIA's ignorance is as nothing compared with the ignoramus Robert S. Mueller III and his special counsel investigation (“we have this stupidity going on — pure stupidity,” Trump said in Britain), which on Friday indicted 12 Russians in the hack of the Democratic National Committee. The dunces of the DNC “should be ashamed of themselves” for being hacked, Trump said.

Trump sometimes has trouble convincing people of the truth of his position. This is because he is surrounded by idiots.

NATO allies fumed about Trump's threats to abandon the alliance and go his “own way,” and his later claim that the European Union is America's “foe”. Fools! If they were smarter, they would realize NATO “is much stronger” for Trump's efforts.

President Donald J. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a one-on-one-meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, July 16, 2018. — Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press.
President Donald J. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a one-on-one-meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland,
on Monday, July 16, 2018. — Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press.

Many looking at the video of Trump saying Germany is “totally controlled by Russia” thought White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly was uncomfortable. Imbeciles! Kelly was upset because he “was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese.”

The British thought Trump had savaged Prime Minister Theresa May when, in a recorded interview, he said she “wrecked Brexit” and “didn't listen” to his advice. Rubes! “I didn't criticize the prime minister,” Trump said.

It appeared, to the dim, there were tens, if not hundreds of thousands, in the streets of Britain, even mocking him with a blimp showing an angry, orange Trump baby. But Trump's genius could discern that “they like me here.”

Likewise, many a low-IQ individual cringed at Trump's performance in Helsinki: deferential to the Russian dictator, believing Putin over the U.S. government and boasting (with an incorrect figure) about his electoral college victory. But they are stupid if they can't see Russia did not help Trump win. “We ran a brilliant campaign, and that’s why I'm president,” Trump said.

If Trump is right — and he is so smart that he must be — then this could mean Americans wanted exactly what they are getting right now: a president who burns alliances, insults allies, sides with Putin over the American government, ignores Russia's abuses and bashes the free press across Europe.

If so, if we Americans really did want this, Trump has proved his point about our intelligence.

As a wise man once said: Stupid is as stupid does.


Dana Milbank is a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist. He also provides political commentary for various TV outlets, and he is the author of three books on politics: Smashmouth: Two Years in the Gutter with Al Gore and George W. Bush (Basic Books, 2001), the national bestseller Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government (Doubleday, 2008) and Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America (Doubleday, 2010). Milbank joined The Washington Post in 2000 as a Style political writer, then covered the presidency of George W. Bush as a White House correspondent before starting his column in 2005. Before joining The Post, Milbank spent two years as a senior editor at The New Republic, where he covered the Clinton White House, and eight years as a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered Congress and was a London-based correspondent. He has been honoured with the White House Correspodent Association's Beckman Award and the National Press Club's Gingras Prize.


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 on: July 17, 2018, 07:40:35 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The Washington Post…

Timeline: The odd overlap of Maria Butina, the
gun-rights movement and the 2016 election

The NRA, the GOP and Russia.

By PHILIP BUMP | 7:06PM EDT — Monday, July 16, 2018

An attendee holds a Smith & Wesson revolver at the company's booth during the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas on May 5, 2018. — Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.
An attendee holds a Smith & Wesson revolver at the company's booth during the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas on May 5, 2018.
 — Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.

ANOTHER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION against another Russian national who was involved in the 2016 election was announced on Monday by the Justice Department — but the circumstances are far different from what we've seen in the past.

To date, the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election has resulted in indictments against 25 Russian nationals and three Russian businesses. The criminal complaint filed against Maria Butina, the founder of a pro-gun group in Russia, comes not from Mueller but from the Justice Department directly. Butina is accused not of trying to influence the 2016 election or having colluded with the campaign of President Trump but, instead, of having conspired to act as an agent of the Russian government.

This doesn't mean, though, that Butina had no connection to the campaign. In fact, she worked closely with a former Russian politician named Alexander Torshin, who was sanctioned by the U.S. government earlier this year. Torshin actively sought to build a connection with the Trump campaign in 2016, according to various reports that have emerged over the past year, including leveraging his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association to build a relationship with Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son.

Maria Butina attends a rally at Krasnopresnenskaya Zastava Square in support of legalising the possession of handguns. — Photograph: ITAR-TASS.
Maria Butina attends a rally at Krasnopresnenskaya Zastava Square in support of legalising the possession of handguns. — Photograph: ITAR-TASS.

It's not clear how significant the criminal complaint against Butina might be. But it's worth fleshing out the timeline presented in that case in order to show where Butina, Torshin and 2016 politics overlapped. This timeline includes several points first presented in a very good report by Mother Jones.

2011: Maria Butina forms Right to Bear Arms in Russia. The aim of the organization mirrors that of the NRA: Broadening Russians' access to firearms.

April 15, 2012: Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator and lifetime member of the NRA, tweets about Butina's group, comparing it to the NRA.

His longstanding relationship with Butina and biographical descriptions included in the complaint make it clear that the “RUSSIAN OFFICIAL” identified in the document is Torshin.

2013: Per the complaint, Butina allegedly makes contact with an American political operative (“U.S. Person 1” in the complaint), who agrees to introduce her to influential figures in American politics. That includes a “gun rights organization,” identified contextually within the complaint as the NRA.

November 2013: John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and, since April 2018, White House national security adviser, records a video promoting an expansion of gun rights in Russia that's later used by Right to Bear Arms for promotion.


April 2014: Butina and Torshin attend the national NRA convention.

March 24, 2015: Butina allegedly emails Person 1 to propose a project titled “Diplomacy”. (The email subject line apparently makes reference to a former KGB propagandist.) She writes that the Republican Party (identified only as POLITICAL PARTY 1 in the complaint) will likely gain power in 2016 but is “traditionally associated with negative and aggressive foreign policy, particularly with regards to Russia.” The time was right, she wrote, to build a relationship with the party, using the “central place and influence” in the Republican Party of the NRA.

She noted her relationship with the NRA and past interactions with Republican officials in the email, anticipating a $125,000 budget to be spent on major political conferences. Person 1 responded with suggestions about people with whom she should meet and some strategic recommendations.

April 24, 2015: Butina attends the NRA convention in Nashville. There she and Torshin meet Governor Scott Walker (Republican-Wisconsin), who reportedly greets her in Russian.

June 12, 2015: Writing for National Interest, Butina argues that a Republican president might be the only way to improve relations with Russia. After the article was published, she sent it to Torshin, who approved.

July 11, 2015: Butina asks Trump a question at FreedomFest, a libertarian event held that year in Las Vegas. As president, she asked, would Trump continue the sanctions imposed against Russia in 2014?

“I know Putin, and I'll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump replied. “Putin has no respect for President Obama. Big problem. Big problem. And Russia has been driven — you know I've always heard, for years I've heard, one of the worst things that can happen is if Russia ever gets driven to China. We have driven them together, with the big oil deals that are being made. We've driven them together. That's a horrible thing for this country. We have made them friends because of incompetent leadership. I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, okay? And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think you’d need the sanctions.”


July 13, 2015: Butina attends the launch of Walker's presidential campaign.

August 2015: Butina allegedly assists Torshin in preparing for a congressional delegation to Moscow. It's not clear who participated in this trip.

December 8, 2015: An NRA delegation arrives in Moscow to meet with Butina's group. Right to Bear Arms covers some of the trip's costs. Included in the group is former Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke.

2015 and 2016: Butina allegedly exchanges emails with another American (“U.S. Person 2”) in an effort to arrange a series of dinners in New York and Washington to introduce Russians to people influential in American politics.

January 19, 2016: Butina allegedly contacts Torshin about logistics for the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast.

February 4, 2016: The National Prayer Breakfast is held with Torshin in attendance. He regularly attended the event.

February 14, 2016: Torshin tweets that Butina is in the United States, where she reports that Trump is “for cooperation with Russia,” according to Mother Jones.

March 14, 2016: Butina allegedly emails Person 2 and indicates that Torshin had informed her that “Putin's side” had approved of her outreach plan to high-profile political figures.

March 30, 2016: Butina allegedly emails an organizer of the prayer breakfast to suggest that Putin might attend in 2017, given certain conditions. He did not, but the organizer offered 10 spots at the 2017 event for Putin.

May 2016: Through two different individuals close to the Trump campaign, Torshin tries to set up a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. when the two are at the NRA convention in Kentucky later that month. In one of the emails, adviser Rick Dearborn explained that Russia was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.”

May 10 and 11, 2016: Butina allegedly contacts Persons 1 and 2 to set up a series of dinners with influential political figures later that month.

At some point in May, Butina is allegedly part of a group seeking a meeting with the Trump campaign to discuss persecutions against Christians, according to Washington Post reporting.

May 20, 2016: At a dinner on the sideline of the NRA convention, Torshin and Trump Jr. are seated near each other and meet briefly.

August 2016: Butina allegedly arrives in the United States on an F-1 student visa.

September 16, 2016: Butina allegedly emails Persons 1 and 2 to express an urgent need for another dinner with prominent figures in Washington out of concern that those looking for Russia expertise would turn to the “currently popular radically oppositional to Russia crowd of experts.”

October 4, 2016: Person 1 allegedly emails an acquaintance.

“Unrelated to specific presidential campaigns,” he writes, “I've been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key POLITICAL PARTY I leaders through, of all conduits, the [NRA].”

October 5, 2016: Over Twitter, Butina allegedly messages Torshin, who is being treated in a hospital: “We made our bet. I am following our game. I will be connecting the people from the prayer breakfast to this group…. Yesterday's dinner showed that American society is broken in relation to Russia. This is now the dividing line of opinions, the crucial one in the election race. [The Republicans] are for us, [Democrats] — against- 50/50. Our move here is very important.” (The complaint obscures the identity of the parties.)

They also allegedly discussed whether or not Butina should serve as an election observer, but decide against it. “Right now everything has to be quiet and careful,” Butina writes. Torshin had served in that capacity in 2012, according to Mother Jones.

October 17, 2016: Butina allegedly asks Torshin if he has recommendations for the prayer breakfast seats.

November 8, 2016: Trump wins the presidency. The NRA spends more than $30 million supporting his campaign.

November 8 and 9, 2016: Butina and Torshin allegedly discuss the election results.

“Think about in which areas of life we could go towards bringing us closer. ISIS understandably, what else we need to look at the American agenda,” Torshin allegedly writes. Butina suggests a phone call, but he worries that their phones are tapped. In May, Yahoo reported that Torshin's phones were tapped — by Spanish authorities.

November 11, 2016: Butina allegedly sends Torshin a proposal for a conference, featuring a number of members of Congress, focused on Russia.

November 12, 2016: Torshin allegedly rejects the plan, saying that “they” won't go for it — a message that prosecutors allege signal instruction from the Russian government to Butina.

November 30, 2016: Butina allegedly emails Person 1 about the prayer breakfast, assuring Person 1 that the people included in the Russian delegation, handpicked by Torshin and herself, were “coming to establish a back channel of communication.”

December 1, 2016: Person 1 allegedly explains to Butina how to book the hotel for the Russian delegation to the prayer breakfast and suggests that Torshin cover the cost.

December 26, 2016: Torshin allegedly explains who will and won't be attending, as per the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

January 20, 2017: President Trump is inaugurated.

Butina attends one of the inaugural balls, according to Washington Post reporting.

February 2, 2017: Butina and Torshin attend the prayer breakfast.

February 6, 2017: Butina allegedly thanks a prayer breakfast organizer for meeting with her and suggests she has “important information” for the organizer. She asks for a follow-up meeting.

February 8, 2017: Butina allegedly emails Person 2 to thank him.

“My dearest President has received ‘the message’ about your group initiatives and your constructive and kind attention to the Russians,” she writes.

January 18, 2018: McClatchy reports that Mueller's team is investigating the NRA's role in the 2016 election. In a letter released several months later, the group indicates having received only about $2,500 from “people associated with Russian addresses.”

April 6, 2018: Torshin is one of more than 20 Russians sanctioned by the American government in response to Russian interference in 2016, among other incidents.


Philip Bump is a national correspondent for The Washington Post based in New York. Before joining The Post in 2014, he led politics coverage for The Wire at The Atlantic.


 on: July 17, 2018, 07:29:56 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The Washington Post…

EDITORIAL: Trump just colluded with Russia. Openly.

The president refused to acknowledge the facts about the Kremlin's behavior,
while trashing his own country's justice system.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | 2:59PM EDT — Monday, July 16, 2018

President Donald J. Trump's news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin was a disastrous capitulation, says The Washington Post. — Photograph: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post.
President Donald J. Trump's news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin was a disastrous capitulation, says The Washington Post.
 — Photograph: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post.

THE ENDURING IMAGE of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki on Monday will be that of President Trump standing next to Vladimir Putin and suggesting he found Mr. Putin's “powerful” denial at least as persuasive as the U.S. intelligence community's unanimous finding that Russia intervened in the 2016 election. Coupled with another groundless attack on the FBI and an apparent endorsement of a patently disingenuous offer by Mr. Putin to collaborate with the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Mr. Trump appeared to align himself with the Kremlin against American law enforcement before the Russian ruler and a global audience.

Mr. Trump had said he would raise the issue of Russia's interference in the election with Mr. Putin, but the result was a series of statements that could have been scripted by Moscow. Mr. Trump said that, while Daniel Coats, the United States' director of national intelligence, had told him Russia was responsible for hacking into the server of the Democratic National Committee, “I don't see any reason why it would be.” He referred to various discredited conspiracy theories about the hack while lambasting the FBI. When offered an open-ended opportunity to cite any behavior by Russia that had contributed to poor relations, the president sidestepped, saying, “I hold both countries responsible.” As Mr. Trump apparently sees it, Russia's invasions of Ukraine and Georgia, war crimes in Syria, poison attack in Britain and the shooting down of a Malaysian civilian airliner over Ukraine are morally equivalent to the policies pursued by previous U.S. administrations.

It's not yet known what Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin discussed in their private meeting, or whether they reached any tangible agreements. Both leaders suggested there had been accord on securing Israel's border with Syria and on providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, though they offered no details. Even if he obtained nothing concrete from Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin scored a symbolic triumph by appearing to stand as an equal with the U.S. president in a relationship with “special responsibility for maintaining international security,” as he put it.

While Mr. Trump's insistence on granting Mr. Putin that status was misguided, it paled beside his betrayal of the FBI and his own senior intelligence officials. Incredibly, Mr. Trump appeared to endorse a cynical suggestion by Mr. Putin that Mr. Mueller's investigators be granted interviews with a dozen Russian intelligence officers indicted in the DNC hack in exchange for Russian access to associates of William Browder, a financier whose exposure of high-level corruption and human rights crimes in Moscow led to the adoption by Congress of the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on those responsible. Mr. Putin's citation of bogus Russian charges against Mr. Browder was matched by Mr. Trump's garbled reference to “the Pakistani gentleman” who was falsely alleged by right-wing conspiracy theorists to be behind the leak of DNC emails.

In Helsinki, Mr. Trump again insisted “there was no collusion” with Russia. Yet in refusing to acknowledge the plain facts about Russia's behavior, while trashing his own country's justice system, Mr. Trump in fact was openly colluding with the criminal leader of a hostile power.



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 • Trump repudiates U.S. intelligence community by according equal weight to Putin

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 • The transcript of the Trump-Putin news conference, annotated

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 • Fact Checker: The facts missing from Trump and Putin's news conference


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