“The Kremlin said on Monday that it was ready to improve ties with the United States but that it was up to Washington to make the first move, after the conclusion of a U.S. investigation into collusion between Donald Trump and Russia in the 2016 election,” Reuters reports.
Politico: “Barr’s summary makes clear that there was no coordinated high-level conspiracy between Russia and Trump to tilt the 2016 presidential election in his favor…”
“But there are also many aspects of Trump’s behavior toward Russia, both as a candidate and as president, that remain baffling. His obsession with that Kremlin bogeyman, NATO. His failure to disclose his pursuit of a hotel project in Moscow even as he ran for the White House, and his subsequent lying about it. His real estate business’ many years of heavy reliance on Russian money.”
“Strangest of all is Trump’s relationship with Putin, whom he never criticizes directly. Flash back to that fawning July 2018 news conference in Helsinki, at which Trump stood next to his Russian counterpart and said, ‘I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.’ It remains one of the more bizarre performances by an American president abroad.”
“The White House on Thursday rejected congressional Democrats’ demands for documents relating to President Donald Trump’s private discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin — escalating tensions between the Trump administration and Congress over a crucial piece of Democrats’ oversight ambitions,” Politico reports.
The chairmen of three House committees wrote letters to the White House and the State Department requesting documents on President Trump’s communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing “profound national security, counterintelligence, and foreign policy concerns,” the Washington Post reports.
“The chief of Russia’s armed forces endorsed on Saturday the kind of tactics used by his country to intervene abroad, repeating a philosophy of so-called hybrid war that has earned him notoriety in the West, especially among American officials who have accused Russia of election meddling in 2016,” the New York Times reports.
“The speech outlined what some Western analysts consider the signature strategy of Russia under President Vladimir Putin — and what other experts call a simple recognition of modern war and politics.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the United States has asked Moscow’s advice in dealing with North Korea before a summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader, the AP reports.
“Lavrov, who is also visiting Vietnam this week, said in comments carried by Russian news agencies on Monday that Russia believes that the U.S. ought to offer Pyongyang ‘security guarantees’ for the disarmament deal to succeed. He also mentioned that ‘the U.S. is even asking our advice, our views on this or that scenario of’ how the summit in Hanoi could pan out.”
“Paul Erickson, the American political operative and boyfriend of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in South Dakota on charges of wire fraud and money laundering,” the Daily Beast reports.
“The United States is suspending one of the last major nuclear arms control treaties with Russia after heated conversations between the two powers recently failed to resolve a long-running accusation that Moscow is violating the Reagan-era treaty,” the New York Times reports.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision on Friday as the Trump administration maintained that the Russian government has been unwilling to admit that a missile it has deployed near European borders violates the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Mr. Pompeo and his deputies have insisted that Moscow destroy the missile.”
Washington Post: “The demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty raises fears of a new nuclear arms race, although U.S. officials discount the risk.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t push back when asked if she actually thinks the Kremlin has compromising information on President Trump.
Said Pelosi: “I’ve been asking that question for two years – almost as long as you’ve asked me, ‘Is there any money for the wall in the bill?’ I’ve always said that. What is this? What is this? Something is wrong with this picture.”
“Russian officials made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall aimed at resolving deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration over its nuclear weapons program,” the Washington Post reports.
“In exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Moscow offered the country a nuclear power plant.”
Axios: “This marks yet another example of an emboldened Russia intervening publicly and privately in key global hotspots, often times in direct conflict with U.S. interests.”
“When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted,” the New York Times reports.
“But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised.”
“The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows.”
Senate Republicans “narrowly staved off an effort by Democrats to deal the Trump administration’s Russia sanctions policy an embarrassing rebuke,” the New York Times reports.
“Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in a vote to enforce sanctions against the corporate empire of an influential ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, but the effort fell three votes short of the 60-vote threshold required to advance the measure. The vote was 57-42, with one Democratic senator not voting.”
The Kremlin ridiculed as “nonsense” claims that President Trump has been working on Russia’s behalf, Bloomberg reports.
Said Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov: “That’s stupid. How can the president of the United States be an agent of another country? Just think about that.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also dismissed “accusations that President Trump is effectively a Russian agent” by attacking Congress and the American media for undermining the U.S. leader.
First Read: “In the United States, President Trump’s push for a border wall has now partially shut down the federal government for 26 days and counting.”
“And in Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May ‘suffered the biggest parliamentary defeat of any British prime minister in history Tuesday as lawmakers of all stripes crushed her plan to leave the European Union,’ per NBC News.”
“These developments — plus the instability in France and Germany — show just how politically crippled the West is right now. And, oh by the way, guess which country meddled in the 2016 elections in Britain and the United States?”
James Hohmann: “We don’t know exactly how much Moscow spent supporting influence operations to impact the U.K. and U.S. elections in 2016, but it seems hard to overstate how good the Kremlin’s return has been on what Western intelligence agencies believe was a relatively modest investment.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) slammed President Trump for communicating with Russian President Vladimir Putin without keeping “careful records” of it, CNN reports.
Said Romney: “It’s inappropriate for the president of or country to communicate with the president of another global power without having people there keeping careful records to make sure what is said by both parties is followed up upon.”
“Only one American was a firsthand witness to President Trump’s summit last summer with Russian President Vladimir Putin: veteran State Department translator Marina Gross,” ABC News reports.
“Gross’ job is to blend into the background and seamlessly help two leaders communicate. But now there is mounting interest in seeing Gross step into the spotlight, as Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees seek an explanation for what exactly transpired behind closed doors in Helsinki.”
Said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ): “It may be unprecedented to subpoena a translator to reveal the details of a private meeting between the president and another world leader. But Trump’s actions are unprecedented in a way that harms our national security.”
“The Kremlin has long denied that it had anything to do with the infiltration of the NRA and the broader American conservative movement. A U.S. intelligence report reviewed by the Daily Beast tells a different story.”
“Alexander Torshin, the Russian central bank official who spent years aggressively courting NRA leaders, briefed the Kremlin on his efforts and recommended they participate, according to the report. Its existence and contents have not previously been reported.”