White House Says Haley Was ‘Confused’ About Sanctions

The White House put further daylight between President Trump and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley as chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said she had gotten “ahead of the curve” in announcing new sanctions against Russia, the New York Times reports.

Said Kudlow: “She got ahead of the curve. She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador, but there might have been some momentary confusion about that.”

Bloomberg reports that Haley fired back at the criticism: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

Trump Halts New Russian Sanctions, Reversing Haley

President Trump “put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as ‘international economic raiding,'” the Washington Post reports.

“The Trump team decided to publicly characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement.”

Trump Keeps Battling His Aides on Russia

The Washington Post has an incredible anecdote that captures President Trump’s reluctance to punish Russian president Vladimir Putin, noting that the president “erupted” after learning the United States had ousted 60 Russians in response to the poisoning of a former spy, while France and Germany each expelled only five diplomats.

“The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia. His briefers tried to reassure him that the sum total of European expulsions was roughly the same as the U.S. number.”

Screamed Trump: “I don’t care about the total!”

How Russia Could Steal Our Next Election

Clare Malone: “While Americans are well-acquainted with Russian online trolls’ 2016 disinformation campaign, there’s a more insidious threat of Russian interference in the coming midterms. The Russians could hack our very election infrastructure, disenfranchising Americans and even altering the vote outcome in key states or districts. Election security experts have warned of it, but state election officials have largely played it down for fear of spooking the public. We still might not know the extent to which state election infrastructure was compromised in 2016, nor how compromised it will be in 2018.”

Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Putin Cronies

“The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on seven of Russia’s richest men and 17 top government officials on Friday in the latest effort to punish President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle for interference in the 2016 election and other Russian aggressions,” the New York Times reports.

“The sanctions are designed to penalize some of Russia’s richest industrialists, who are seen in the West as enriching themselves from Mr. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian administration.”

Washington Post: “The move is likely to provoke a strong response from Moscow, which has expressed increasing exasperation with Washington.”

Mueller Questions Russian Oligarchs

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the US, stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport,” CNN reports.

“The situations have one thing in common: Investigators are asking whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and inauguration.”

“One area under scrutiny… is investments Russians made in companies or think tanks that have political action committees that donated to the campaign.”

“Another theory Mueller’s office is pursuing… is whether wealthy Russians used straw donors — Americans with citizenship — as a vessel through which they could pump money into the campaign and inauguration fund.”

Justice Department Thinks Collusion Is a Crime

Jeffrey Toobin: “Is collusion a crime? That is one of the central questions of the investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections. Even if it could be proved that Donald Trump and his supporters worked with the Russian government, or with Russian citizens, to win the Presidential race, would that activity have violated United States law? It’s long been an article of faith for Trump supporters, and for Trump himself, that collusion is not illegal. As the President told the Times in an interview last December, ‘There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime.'”

“Now, it appears, Trump’s own Justice Department may have a different view. That conclusion appears in a document released earlier this week, in the course of pre-trial litigation in the case of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, on charges including money laundering.”

McMaster Says Russia’s Confidence Is Growing

“In his last public remarks as national security adviser, Lt. Gen. HR McMaster offered harsh words for Russia during a speech,” CNN reports.

Said McMaster: “We have failed to impose sufficient costs’ on Russia.”

He added that the failure to impose adequate costs on Russia’s activities meant that “the Kremlin’s confidence is growing.”

Christopher Steele’s Other Report

“The FBI possesses a secret report asserting that Vladimir Putin’s former media czar was beaten to death by hired thugs in Washington, DC — directly contradicting the US government’s official finding that Mikhail Lesin died by accident,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“The report, according to four sources who have read all or parts of it, was written by the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who also wrote the famous dossier alleging that Russia had been ‘cultivating, supporting and assisting’ Donald Trump. The bureau received his report while it was helping the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department investigate the Russian media baron’s death.”

Trump’s Russia Paradox

Jonathan Swan: “Trump’s red line on Russia is Vladimir Putin. The president is loathe to criticize him by name or call him out in one-on-one conversations. But he has taken some tough steps against Russia that his predecessor didn’t. An example: sending lethal arms to Ukraine.”

“It’s part of the Trump paradox. He still believes the U.S. and Russia have plenty of shared interests and wants to mend the relationship. He also thinks the only way to do this is by building a warm personal relationship with Putin. But this dual-track strategy — be nice personally and tough administratively — becomes more fantastical every time Trump authorizes a harsh action against the Kremlin.”

“Today’s actions — expelling the Russian diplomats – make sense when you bear this in mind.”

Trump Expels 60 Russians for Poisoning of Ex-Spy

“President Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States on Monday, including 12 people identified as Russian intelligence officers who have been stationed at the United Nations in New York, in response to Russia’s alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain,” the New York Times reports.

“The expulsion order, announced by administration officials, also closes the Russian consulate in Seattle. The Russians and their families have seven days to leave the United States.”

“The expulsions are the toughest action taken against the Kremlin by President Trump, who has been criticized for not being firm enough with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.”