“I thought it was hilarious.”
— Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), quoted by CNN, on President Trump’s congratulatory call to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Former CIA Director John Brennan suggested that President Trump is withholding criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin because the Russians might have compromising personal information on Trump, CNN reports.
Said Brennan: “I think he is afraid of the President of Russia.”
Asked why, Brennan said, “The Russians could have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”
The report that President Trump “did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers” when he congratulated Russian president Vladimir Putin was breathtaking and “one of the most startling leaks” of this whole administration. It has left President Trump and his senior staff furious and rattled,” Jonathan Swan reports.
“The speed and sensitivity of the leak prompted immediate finger-pointing within the administration, as aides reeled from a leak that could only have come from a small group of people, each of whom is trusted with sensitive national secrets. Possible motives include concern about how Trump is handling Putin, frustration by the officials about Trump ignoring their advice, or internal power games.”
CNN: Trump furious over leak of warning to not congratulate Putin.
“President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers when he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday on his reelection, including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE,'” the Washington Post reports.
“Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.”
“Russian election observers denounced what they said were large-scale violations in the presidential vote that handed Vladimir Putin a crushing victory, including ballot-stuffing that was captured on state-controlled cameras,” Bloomberg reports.
“An exit poll and early returns suggest that Vladimir Putin has easily won a fourth term, keeping him as Russia’s president for six more years,” the AP reports.
“The nationwide exit poll conducted by the All-Russia Opinion Research Center showed that Putin won 73.9% of Sunday’s presidential vote.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the United Kingdom would expel 23 Russian diplomats after the Kremlin failed to take responsibility for the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the HuffPost reports.
“Weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, Russia-backed online ‘trolls’ flooded social media to try to block Mitt Romney from securing a top job in the incoming administration,” a Wall Street Journal analysis shows.
“The operatives called the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, then a contender for secretary of state, a ‘two headed snake’ and a ‘globalist puppet,’ promoted a rally outside Trump Tower and spread a petition to block Mr. Romney’s appointment to the top diplomatic job, according to a review of now-deleted social-media posts.”
“For days, Russia’s main national TV channels were practically silent on the attempt to kill former spy Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent, but this changed in Thursday’s main evening bulletins,” the BBC reports.
“The comment by Kirill Kleimenov — the presenter on government-controlled Channel One’s flagship Vremya news program — sounded like a veiled, mocking threat to anyone considering becoming a double agent for Britain.”
Said Kleimenov: “I don’t wish death on anyone, but for purely educational purposes, I have a warning for anyone who dreams of such a career. The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world.”
“Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, and he could be one of the last major witnesses to appear as part of the panel’s Russia investigation,” CNN reports.
“Rep. Mike Conaway and other Intelligence Committee Republicans are signaling they’re ready to end the investigative phase of their Russia probe and move on to writing the final report, while Democrats say there are still scores of witnesses the committee needs to speak with.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin lavished praise on President Trump, but added that he was sorely disappointed with the U.S. political system, saying that it has been “eating itself up,” the AP reports.
Of Trump, Putin said: “I have no disappointment at all. Moreover, on a personal level he made a very good impression on me.”
He added: “It’s possible to negotiate with him, to search for compromises.”
Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the controversial “dossier” about Donald Trump, also wrote a later memo in November 2016 alleging that Russia blocked Mitt Romney from being named secretary of state, the New Yorker reports.
“The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would cooperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy — and an incoming president.”
“As Russia’s virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy,” the New York Times reports.
“As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign — speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts.”
Axios: “Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan appears to be leaning toward extraditing Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to the United States rather than Russia, after telling parliament he will base his decision on where the most severe crimes were committed and which side requested his extradition first. Both criteria point to the U.S.”
“U.S. authorities believe he may also have information about Russian state-sponsored cyber activities — a view politicians and analysts say is supported by Russia’s desperate attempts to have him sent back home.”
John Harwood: “Whether Mueller ultimately alleges such a crime remains unknown. He now has help from Trump’s former national security advisor, deputy campaign chief and campaign foreign policy advisor — all of whom have admitted felonies.”
“But whatever the special counsel concludes legally about ‘collusion,’ evidence on public display already paints a jarring picture. It shows an American president who has embraced Russian money and illicit favors, while maintaining rhetoric and policies benefiting Russia and undercutting national security officials of his own country.”
“That in-plain-sight reality gets obscured by the Trump news avalanche.”