Trump: ‘Obama lost Crimea’ to Russia

President Trump on Friday once again blamed his predecessor, former President Obama, for ceding Crimea to Russia in 2014.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump insisted that Obama was ultimately responsible for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, because Russian President Vladimir Putin did not “respect” Obama or the United States.

“President Obama lost Crimea just so you understand, this was before I got there,” Trump said. “President Obama lost Crimea.”

Asked by a reporter to explain his accusation, Trump said: “Because Putin didn’t respect President Obama. President Obama lost Crimea because president Putin didn’t respect President Obama, didn’t respect our country and didn’t respect Ukraine.”

His accusation marked the second time in less than a week that Trump blamed his predecessor for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea four years ago.

He told reporters at the Group of Seven Summit on Saturday that Obama was responsible for the annexation, and called for the G-7 to readmit Moscow to the group.

Russia was suspended from the G-7 in 2014 after it annexed Crimea, in a move that was widely condemned as a violation of international norms.

[The Hill]

Trump: ‘We save a fortune by not doing war games’

President Trump on Wednesday touted his decision to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea, insisting that the move is well worth it to preserve what he called “good faith” negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.

“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith – which both sides are!” Trump wrote in a tweet.

The tweet came shortly after the president returned to Washington from Singapore, where he had held summit talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and signed a short document reaffirming Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization in exchange for unspecified security guarantees by the U.S.

Trump also announced on Tuesday that the U.S. would cease its joint military drills with South Korea — an apparent concession to Pyongyang, which has repeatedly claimed that the drills are merely a pretext for a strike on the North.

The South Koreans said early Tuesday that they would seek clarification on the president’s remarks, suggesting that they were not aware that Trump planned to offer to give up the drills in his summit with Kim. U.S. military forces in Korea also said they had not received new directions on the exercises.

Questions have been raised about the agreement signed by Trump and Kim on Tuesday, which offers virtually nothing in the way of specifics on how the North plans to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

Instead, it commits Pyongyang to denuclearization, a promise the North has made — and broken — many times in the past.

[The Hill]

Reality

Several problems. First, Trump greatly increased military spending.
Second, “war games” is Putin’s language.
Third, Trump got this idea directly from Putin himself.

Trump blames Obama for Crimean annexation yet again

Amidst the furor of new trade tensions with the U.S.’s G7 partners, President Donald Trump let slip the latest in a series of criticisms leveled at former President Barack Obama for allegedly allowing Russia to invade Ukraine.

Obama, according to Trump, was “the one that let Crimea get away,” adding that his predecessor in the White House “allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude.”

While the criticism was pointed, it fits a prior pattern of Trump accusing Obama of emboldening Russia to invade Ukraine. Indeed, the criticism mirrors prior comments Trump has made vis-a-vis Obama and Crimea.

Now, added to those criticisms are Trump’s most recent comment on Crimea this weekend.

As the president said about Crimea, “it’s been done a long time.” It was unclear if the president was speaking specifically about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or simply its claims in Crimea. However, in the context of calling to readmit Russia to the G7 — it had been the G8 until Moscow was expelled due to its actions in Ukraine — Trump’s comments appeared to hint that the White House was creeping closer to de jure recognition of Russia’s control of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Trump has insinuated in the past that he’d be open to recognizing Russia’s annexation outright, the first forced annexation in Europe since the outset of World War II. In 2015, Trump distanced the U.S. from the issue, saying the Russian invasion remains “Europe’s problem.”

A year later, Trump leaned even closer to outright recognition — even managing to lend credence to Russian propaganda points on the annexation, which was illegal according to Ukrainian law and which didn’t feature any legitimate election observers. (The peninsula’s indigenous Crimean Tatar population, which had been deported en masse from Crimea under Joseph Stalin, largely boycotted the vote.)

As Trump said in 2016, “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also.” Around the same time, Trump added that as president he would be “looking at” recognition.

If Trump does eventually follow through on recognition, he will join a small club of despotic governments and client-states that have supported Russia in Crimea, from North Korea and Kazakhstan to Cuba and Venezuela.

[ThinkProgress]

Media

Trump calls for Russia to be reinstated to G-7, threatens allies on trade

President Trump on Friday said Russia should be readmitted to the Group of Seven leading economies, breaking with other world leaders who have insisted that Moscow remain ostracized after its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare . . . . But with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting,” Trump said Friday as he left the White House. “Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run . . . . They should let Russia come back in.”

Trump’s comments, made just hours before he arrived in Canada for the annual G-7 summit, have further scrambled talks with other leaders, most of whom were already fuming about the U.S. leader’s protectionist trade policies. But in a sign that European unity against Trump is cracking, new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he agreed with Trump and wanted Russia back in the fold.

U.S. intelligence officials believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and part of this year’s G-7 summit was supposed to focus on protecting democracies from foreign meddling. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating Russian interference efforts, including whether Trump’s campaign colluded in any way with Russian officials, a probe that has become an obsession for the president.

Trump’s suggestion that Russia be readmitted to the G-7 was heavily criticized by political opponents back home, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said Trump was “turning our foreign policy into an international joke.”

“We need the president to be able to distinguish between our allies and adversaries, and to treat each accordingly,” Schumer said. “On issue after issue, he’s failed to do that.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also spoke out against Trump’s suggestion, saying in a statement that “Vladimir Putin chose to make Russia unworthy of membership in the G-8 by invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea. Nothing he has done since then has changed that most obvious fact.”

McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was among the first lawmakers to call for Russia’s ejection from the G-8.

In the past several months, Trump has pushed to completely overturn many of the post-World War II institutions put in place to strengthen global ties. These tensions have created immense strain ahead of the summit in Canada, with top leaders questioning if they are in the midst of a transformational disruption brought on by the United States.

“The rules-based international order is being challenged,” European Commission President Donald Tusk told reporters here. “Quite surprisingly, not by the usual suspects but by its main architect and guarantor, the U.S. … We will not stop trying to convince our American friends and President Trump that undermining this order makes no sense at all.”

In response to Trump’s proposal for Russia, Tusk said it would only make the group more divisive.

“For today, I think it’s much more important to convince our American partners to strengthen our format as guarantor of world order, than to look for something new, more challenging, more difficult,” he said.

Moscow didn’t rush to publicly embrace Trump’s pronouncement. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia preferred to emphasize “other formats” of international talks. Lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said the country should only rejoin the group on its own terms — “with sanctions removed and interests respected.”

“The G-8 needs Russia much more than Russia needs the G-8,” Kosachev said in a statement.

Some other members of the G-7, including the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany and France, are unlikely to agree to Trump’s call for readmitting Russia, meaning the suggestion could further divide the group and make it even more ineffectual.

In an interview with Sky News on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was important to “engage with Russia.”

But, she added, “Let’s remember why the G-8 became the G-7. And before discussions could begin on any of this, we would have to ensure Russia is amending its ways and taking a different route.”

A version of the G-7 or G-8 has existed since the 1970s, designed to try to build a consensus among world leaders to tackle global challenges.

Trump has sought to improve relations between the United States and Russia since taking office, though he has faced steep criticism from lawmakers in both parties for doing so. The U.S. government and other nations have imposed strict sanctions on Russia related to its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Trump on Friday also reiterated his plans to take a tough stance on trade with U.S. allies at the summit, threatening again to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We’re going to deal with the unfair trade practices . . . . We have to change it, and they understand it’s going to happen,” Trump said. “If we’re unable to make a deal, we’ll terminate NAFTA. We’ll make a better deal.”

The comments marked the latest in a string of declarations in recent days that have completely redirected the focus the G-7, an organization Trump has shown little regard for since taking office last year.

In an earlier Twitter post, Trump said the United States would emerge victorious if other nations refused to accede to his trade demands, suggesting that he plans to employ a take-it-or-leave-it bargaining position with other world leaders at the summit here.

“Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G-7 countries,” Trump wrote. “If it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!”

Thursday evening, when tensions between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to be boiling over, the U.S. leader vowed to impose new tariffs and other economic penalties against Canada and the European Union if they did not allow more U.S. imports into their countries.

“Take down your tariffs & barriers or we will more than match you!” he wrote on Twitter. He did not specify what products he could target.

Trump effectively upended the two-day G-7 summit even before it began by raising the prospect of refusing to sign on to a joint statement with other leaders asserting commonly shared principles and values.

On Friday morning, a planned bilateral meeting between Trump and Macron was postponed, the White House said, because Trump was running behind. Aides said they were working to reschedule what is expected to be a tense meeting later in the day.

Macron, Trudeau and other world leaders spent much of 2017 tiptoeing around the new U.S. president, aware of his “America First” agenda but hoping to draw him closer to multinational organizations that they believe can best address global issues. But in recent weeks, there have been signs that world leaders have scrapped that approach and now plan to deal with Trump in a more adversarial way, particularly after the White House announced it would begin imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from U.S. allies beginning in June.

Macron on Thursday said Trump was isolating the United States and suggested that foreign leaders might simply wait until Trump’s time in the White House has concluded before reengaging with the United States. Trump, meanwhile, said Trudeau was acting “indignant” and attacked the United States’ northern neighbor in a series of Twitter posts, focusing in part on Canadian dairy policy.

Trump is now engaged in a series of trade wars with numerous countries in Europe, North America and Asia, which could affect the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars in goods, including automobiles, agricultural products and technology. He wants Europe and Japan to lower tariffs on imports of automobiles. He wants China to buy more agriculture and energy products from the United States. He is pushing Mexican leaders for a range of changes to NAFTA, and he wants that entire pact to expire after five years.

His view is that other countries have imposed unfair tariffs limiting U.S. imports for decades but that the United States has unwittingly allowed those countries to bring low-cost goods into the country, hurting American companies and workers.

Foreign leaders are aware of the shaky ground Trump is on when he levels these trade threats, as a growing number of congressional Republicans have expressed outrage, and some are trying to intervene to strip away his powers. So far, Trump has held these lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), at bay, but U.S. business groups — worried about the prospect of higher costs driven by Trump’s trade threats — are pushing Congress to act.

Trump is also scheduled to meet with Trudeau on Friday, and then he will leave the summit early Saturday, an unexpected schedule revision that will pull him out of discussions on climate change.

The United States is the world’s largest economy, giving Trump outsized influence with any decisions he makes to restructure trade relationships. Foreign leaders face difficult decisions over whether to agree to some of Trump’s trade demands to preserve relationships or refuse and risk Trump’s ire. The U.S. president, in his first 16 months in office, has made clear that few allies will be spared from his demands.

The G-7 and the newer, larger G-20 have had limited success in recent decades forming coalitions and resolving world issues, but they do strive to provide a forum for discussions. Trump has rejected many international forums, and during the G-7 summit in Italy last year he rode a golf cart behind the other six leaders as they walked down the street.

Still, the attacks Trump leveled at his allies this week have raised the notion for many that Trump is completely rejecting this model.

“Trump’s willingness to walk away from the key elements of the postwar international governance system suggest a major disruption is coming,” said Eswar Prasad, a trade expert and professor at Cornell University.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, appears to be enjoying an “I told you so” moment as it watches Trump’s escalating conflict with America’s closest allies. Putin has long spoken about the dangers of a world dominated by the United States, and on Thursday he said that with Trump’s metals tariffs, Europeans were getting their comeuppance for showing excessive deference to Washington — and getting a taste of the way the United States has long treated Russia.

“Our partners probably thought that these counterproductive policies would never affect them,” Putin said in his annual televised call-in show. “No one wanted to listen, and no one wanted to do anything to stop these tendencies. Here we are.”

[Washington Post]

Ivanka Trump Was In Contact With A Russian Who Offered A Trump-Putin Meeting

Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump’s inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump’s name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter.

There is no evidence that Ivanka Trump’s contact with the athlete — the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov — was illegal or that it had anything to do with the election. Nor is it clear that Klokov could even have introduced Trump to the Russian president. But congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction, according to two of the sources, and so has special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to the other two.

The contacts reveal that even as her father was campaigning to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to arrange a meeting with one of the US’s adversaries — in order to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions.

These interactions also shed new light on Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, who is under criminal investigation and who played a key role in many of Donald Trump’s biggest deals — including the audacious effort to build Europe’s tallest tower in the Russian capital.

In the fall of 2015, that effort was well underway. Cohen negotiated with Felix Sater, one of the president’s longtime business associates, and agreed upon a Russian developer to build the tower. Donald Trump personally signed a nonbinding letter of intent on Oct. 28, 2015, the day of the third Republican debate, to allow a Russian developer to brand the tower with Trump’s name. The agreement stated that the Trump Organization would have the option to brand the hotel’s spa and fitness facilities as “The Spa by Ivanka Trump” and that Ivanka Trump would be granted “sole and absolute discretion” to have the final say on “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities.”

Ivanka Trump was then an executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization. Publicly, she was a sophisticated ambassador for the company, attending ribbon cuttings, posting pictures of deals on her Instagram page, and gracing advertisements for the company’s new properties. But inside the Trump Organization, she had a reputation as a shrewd and tough executive known to get her way.

Ivanka Trump, who now works in her father’s administration, did not respond to questions sent to her personal email, chief of staff, and the White House. A spokesperson for her attorney wrote that Ivanka Trump did not know about the Trump Moscow project “until after a nonbinding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, and, even internally, was only minimally involved. Her only role was limited to reminding Mr. Cohen that, should an actual deal come to fruition (which it did not) the project, like any other with the Trump name, conform with the highest design and architectural standards.”

More than five hours after BuzzFeed News published this story, the spokesperson, Peter Mirijanian, wrote that he “inadvertently” left off part of the statement: “Ms. Trump did not know and never spoke to Dmitry Klokov. She received an unsolicited email from his wife (who she also did not know) and passed it on to Michael Cohen who she understood was working on any possible projects in Russia. She did no more than that.”

But interviews suggest that her involvement ran deeper.

In November 2015, Ivanka Trump told Cohen to speak with Klokov, according to the four sources. Cohen had at least one phone conversation with the weightlifter, they said. It is not known what the men discussed over the phone, but they exchanged a string of emails that are now being examined by congressional investigators and federal agents probing Russia’s election meddling.

In one of those emails, Klokov told Cohen that he could arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin to help pave the way for the tower. Later, Cohen sent an email refusing that offer and saying that the Trump Organization already had an agreement in place. He said he was cutting off future communication with Klokov. Copying Ivanka Trump, the Russian responded in a final brusque message, in which he questioned Cohen’s authority to make decisions for the Trump Organization. Frustrated by the exchange, Ivanka Trump questioned Cohen’s refusal to continue communicating with Klokov, according to one of the sources.

BuzzFeed News was shown the emails on the condition we do not quote them.

It’s unclear how Ivanka Trump came into contact with Klokov. The chiseled giant, who is 35 and lives in Moscow, has 340,000 followers on Instagram, where he frequently posts pictures and videos of weightlifting and associated products bearing his name.

He won the silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games and took gold at the 2005 World Championships, but he has no apparent background in real estate development. Nor is he known to be a close associate of Putin or anyone in the Russian president’s inner circle, and he does not appear to publicly participate in his country’s politics. It’s not even clear he could have made good on his offer to arrange a meeting between Putin and Donald Trump.

Klokov initially told BuzzFeed News that he did not “send any emails” to Cohen. “I don’t understand why you ask me about this,” Klokov said in text messages. “I’m weightlifter, not a political.” When told that he had sent at least two emails to Cohen and had had a phone conversation with him at Ivanka Trump’s request, Klokov stopped responding.

Cohen referred BuzzFeed News to his attorney, Stephen Ryan, who declined to comment.

FBI and congressional investigators, two of the sources said, are still trying to determine the relationship between Ivanka Trump and the Olympian.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and emails between Cohen and Klokov were among the documents that the Trump Organization turned over to the committee, according to two sources. When he was interviewed by the panel in October, Cohen released a statementdisputing allegations of a conspiracy to rig the election in Trump’s favor.

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chair of the Intelligence Committee, declined to comment on Klokov, Ivanka Trump, or any specifics. But he said he could see how Russian athletes, like the country’s oligarchs, might be drawn into Russian politics.

“I can’t speak specifically to athletes, but you see the oligarchs, and there is a model for them, and they do things on behalf of the country and on behalf of Putin at their own expense — they’re not asked, they just assume the responsibility to do it, whether that’s a mercenary army in Syria or it’s screwing with elections; whether it’s the hacking out of the St. Petersburg facility,” Burr told BuzzFeed News. “So it’s not a stretch to say if Putin allows oligarchs to make money as long as they don’t get involved in politics and they do things that are beneficial to Putin — I could see athletes falling into the same category.”

A spokesperson for Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the committee vice chair, declined to comment. The special counsel’s office declined to comment as well.

Ivanka Trump wields unusually strong influence over a president known for his unpredictability and impulsiveness. Though her efforts to moderate her father’s right-wing tendencies have not always succeeded, such as when he withdrew from the Paris climate accord despite her opposition, she remains uniquely close to him. She has been by his side for years in business and was one of his most trusted and popular surrogates during the presidential campaign. She has an office in the West Wing and a small staff of advisers.

She was with her brother Donald Trump Jr. and Sater when they visited Moscow in 2006 to scout locations for a possible tower there, famously sitting in Putin’s office chair during a visit. She was also instrumental in the development of Trump SoHo, a troubled hotel and condominium tower in Manhattan. New York City prosecutors considered criminal fraud charges against Ivanka Trump and her brother Donald Jr. for allegedly misleading prospective buyers at Trump SoHo, ProPublica reported last October.

[Buzzfeed]

 

Trump Reportedly Growing Suspicious of UN Amb Nikki Haley’s Ambitions, Possibly For His Job

President Trump may have a bone to pick with yet another member of his administration: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

A new report from The New York Times alleges that the president “grew angry” at Haley’s Sunday show appearances, specifically when she stated that the U.S. would be placing fresh new sanctions against Russia. However, he supposedly is questioning her “political ambition, jealousy, resentment and loyalty.”

Since the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Haley has become the face of foreign policy, especially since the chemical attack that took place in Syria. However, the White House has been keeping her out of the loop, which led to the public dustup between her and WH economic advisor Larry Kudlow.

But according to administration officials and insiders, he has “grown exasperated by her outspokenness” about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Who wrote that for her?” Mr. Trump reported yelled at his television during a Sunday show appearance. “Who wrote that for her?”

Per the NYT:

Mr. Trump has grown suspicious of her ambition, convinced that she had been angling for Mr. Tillerson’s position and increasingly wondering whether she wants his own job.

Republicans close to the White House whisper about the prospect of an alliance between Ms. Haley and Vice President Mike Pence, possibly to run as a ticket in 2020.

Aides to both scoff at such suggestions, but the slightest hint of such a pairing would be likely to enrage Mr. Trump, who has made it clear that he plans to run for re-election. The talk was exacerbated in recent days when Mr. Pence named Jon Lerner, Ms. Haley’s deputy, as his new national security adviser, while allowing him to keep his job at the United Nations.

[Mediaite]

Trump: We’ll put sanctions on Russia ‘as soon as they very much deserve it’

President Trump on Wednesday said his administration would levy additional sanctions on Russia “as soon as they very much deserve it.”

The comments, made at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, capped a four-day stretch of confusion over whether the Trump administration would punish Moscow for its alleged role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

Trump began to walk away from the microphone, but returned to answer a shouted question about the sanctions. He then went on to tout his record on confronting Russia.

“There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” the president said, restating one of his common talking points.

He noted that he has helped raise money for NATO, as well as touted a recent military strike in Syria that was carried out in coordination with France and the United Kingdom.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haleysaid on Sunday that additional sanctions against Russia would be announced as soon as Monday in response to its alleged role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

However, the White House said Monday that Trump had decided not to impose sanctions, contradicting Haley’s comments.

Haley quickly fired back, saying “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

Kudlow later apologized, but the incident sparked speculation that all of the Trump administration was not on the same page regarding its policy toward Russia.

Trump has faced criticism from lawmakers for being hesitant at times to speak out forcefully against Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

[The Hill]

Trump just blocked his own administration’s Russia sanctions

It appears that President Trump just blocked his own administration’s plan to sanction Russia.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, announced Sunday that the Trump administration was going to hit Russia with new sanctions on Monday over its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program in the wake of the April 7 chemical attack in Douma, Syria, that killed dozens of people. The sanctions were explicitly focused on Russian companies that deal in equipment linked to Assad’s chemical weapons program.

But just a day later, the White House backtracked, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that the administration was merely “considering additional sanctions on Russia” and that “a decision will be made in the near future.”

So why the awkward reversal? Apparently President Trump wasn’t on board with sanctioning Russia.

According to the Washington Post, after Haley announced the sanctions on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning, Trump told national security advisers he was “upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them.”

It unclear whether Haley just mistakenly announced the sanctions prematurely before the president had officially signed off on them, or if something else entirely went wrong.

But two things are obvious: The administration is once again botching the rollout of a fairly straightforward policy, and Trump is personally taking steps to ensure that he doesn’t anger Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A Russian foreign ministry official said on Monday that the Trump administration contacted the Russian embassy on Sunday and told them that the sanctions that Haley had mentioned were not actually coming.

[VOX]

Two top Trump officials were registered lobbyists for Russian-born businessman linked to Putin

A new investigation from Vice News reveals that two senior Trump administration officials were once registered lobbyists for a Russian-born businessman who has deep ties to Putin-connected Russian oligarchs.

According to Vice, Makan Delrahim — the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division in the Department of Justice — and David Bernhardt — who is currently the No. 2 official at the Department of the Interior — were registered lobbyists for Access Industries, a holding company under the control of Soviet-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik.

Blavatnik, who is a naturalized dual U.S.-U.K. citizen, is connected to Russian oligarchs via Access Industries’ large stake in Russian aluminum company UC Rusal. Two other men who have large stakes in UC Rusal are Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg — Russian businessmen who were recently hit with sanctions by the United States Treasury Department.

What is particularly notable about Blavatnik, notes Vice, is that he once spread out campaign donations fairly evenly between Republicans and Democrats — before shifting heavily in favor of the GOP during the 2016 election cycle, when President Donald Trump was the party’s nominee.

What’s more, he’s continued to give to Republicans since Trump’s election.

“Although he didn’t donate directly to Trump’s campaign, after Trump won, Access Industries gave a further $1 million to the Presidential Inaugural Committee,” Vice News reports. “And according to The Wall Street Journal, Blavatnik gave $12,700 in April 2017 to a Republican National Committee fund that was used to help pay for the team of private attorneys representing Trump in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

Read the whole report here.

[Raw Story]

Trump Goes After the ‘Crazed’ Media Over Russia Call, Defends His ‘Congratulations’ to Putin

President Trump this afternoon tweeted an attack on the media (again) over its “crazed” coverage of his call with Vladimir Putin.

“I called President Putin of Russia,” POTUS tweeted, “to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Some Republicans were critical of Trump congratulating Putin as well––particularly John McCain––but the President is standing by his message and dinging the media for getting worked up about it.

Oh, and he wasn’t done:

“They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race,” he continued. “Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the “smarts.” Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET). PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!”

[Mediaite]

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