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RUSSIA IS THE ENEMY OF AMERICA

Putin’s ‘Long Game’ Is to ‘Destroy Western Democracies’ — and the GOP Is Helping Him: Former CIA Officer

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As articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump move forward in the U.S. House of Representatives, pro-Trump Republicans continue to insist that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election — a claim that foreign affairs expert Fiona Hill described as total nonsense during her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last month. Regardless, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina recently told an NBC News reporter that in 2016, “Every elected official in the Ukraine was for Hillary Clinton. Is that very different than the Russians being for Donald Trump?” And former CIA officer Alex Finley, in a December 10 article for Just Security, explains why Burr’s assertion is a “false equivalence” that “completely and dangerously mischaracterizes the threat we are facing” from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2016, Finley explains, some “Ukrainian officials publicly expressed a dislike for candidate Trump” and “looked to hold” some “corrupt” associates of former President Viktor Yanukovych “accountable” — and one of those associates “happened to be Trump’s campaign chairman” (Paul Manafort). But, Finley quickly adds, “Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is aiming to destroy western democracies.”

Those who think that statement about Putin sounds “overblown,” Finley asserts, should consider what Putin told the Financial Times: “The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

Putin, Finley stresses, is opposed to the very ideal of liberal democracy.

“Russia has been running, and continues to run, a covert intelligence operation aimed at duping westerners and inflaming internal divisions, in order to break down our democratic institutions,” Finley observes. “Putin aims to bring down the western liberal order, which — with the United States at the helm — has generally brought peace and stability to the west for 70 years.”

Republicans, Finley warns, “should ask themselves why Putin sees them as a good partner” in his anti-U.S. goals.

Finley goes on to list some things that the Russian government under Putin’s leadership did in 2016, from hacking Democratic e-mails to running an “influence campaign” through websites like WikiLeaks to infiltrating “the NRA and GOP circles with Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin.”

Moreover, Finley writes, Putin’s government is not only trying to undermine western liberal democracy in the United States, but also, in Italy, France, Germany and other countries that have long been U.S. allies.

“Congressional Republicans have become pansies of Putin in a much larger game,” Finley warns. “This is not about one election or even two elections. Putin is playing a long game aimed at changing the international system in his favor, and Republicans are aiding and abetting him. Does the party of Ronald Reagan really want to be an accomplice to the destruction of the U.S.-led liberal world order?”

 

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RUSSIA IS THE ENEMY OF AMERICA

‘Putin Told Me’: Former White House Officials Say Russian President Convinced Trump of Ukraine Conspiracy Theory

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Former top officials from the Trump White House say they “feared” Vladimir Putin convinced President Donald Trump of a widely-debunked conspiracy theory – that Ukraine, and not Russia, attacked the U.S. 2016 election.

“Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides,” The Washington Post reports, that “Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House.”

That conspiracy theory, debunked and decimated by a now-famous Intelligence Community unanimous consensus that Russia attacked the 2016 election,  apparently got into Trump’s head via President Putin.

“The strong belief in the White House was that Putin told him,” one former official said.

One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because “Putin told me.”

Apparently it was Trump’s first meetings with Putin, at the July, 2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg, that “were a turning point,” the Post reports.

Three former senior administration officials said Trump repeatedly insisted after the G-20 summit that he believed Putin’s assurances that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 campaign. The officials said Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all tried to caution Trump not to rely on Putin’s word, and to focus on evidence to the contrary that U.S. intelligence agencies had collected.

Over the next several months, Trump privately told aides on several occasions that he believed Ukraine had interfered and tried to help Clinton win the White House, former officials said.

Another former Trump White House official “said the President would say: ‘This is ridiculous. Everyone knows I won the election. The greatest election in the world. The Russians didn’t do anything. The Ukrainians tried to do something.’ ”

Read the entire Washington Post report here.

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RUSSIA IS THE ENEMY OF AMERICA

#PutinsGOP Exposes How Republicans Are Closely Tied to Russia and the Kremlin

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Remember when Trump revealed “code word” classified information to his Russian visitors, or last year when eight GOP lawmakers spent the 4th of July in Moscow?

Right now on Twitter #PutinsGOP is among the top trending topics. Its goal, apparently, is to expose and highlight the close ties some top Republicans have with the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Remember, Russia is an enemy of the United States. Most Americans agree on that. Russia attacked our election with the intent to sow discord and later, to install Donald Trump as president. That’s per the U.S. government’s intelligence community.

Many of the #PutinsGOP tweets cite proven news stories.

Like the eight Republicans who spent the 4th of July in Moscow last year, meeting with Russian officials.

In case you’re skeptical, here’s Dana Milbank, veteran Washington Post journalist, writing about the visit last year:

“What does July 4th mean to me? Freedom,” Sen. Ron Johnson chirruped on Twitter on Independence Day.

For the Wisconsin Republican, it meant, specifically, the freedom to spend July 4 in Moscow with seven other Republican lawmakers posing for propaganda photos with Russian officials. On the same day it was reported in Britain that two more people had been poisoned by a Russian nerve agent British officials say came from Vladimir Putin’s regime. On the day after the Senate Intelligence Committee affirmed the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election to help Donald Trump.

Johnson and his colleagues apparently exercised their freedom not to meet with opposition or civil society figures (those whom the Putin regime has not imprisoned or killed), avoiding the risk of offending their hosts. They also exercised their freedom to soft-pedal their criticism of the Russian government, leading Russian politicians and state media to mock them as supplicants.

Or Donald Trump, Jr., bragging about his and the Trump Organization’s business dealings with Russia.

Or, Donald Trump himself, talking about his business dealings with Russia:

There’s this tweet which refers to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) delivering a letter from President trump to President Putin. Here’s the story from Politico back in August of 2018. It also links to a CNN story about a sanctioned Russian corporate giant “investing $200 million in a Kentucky mill.”

And, of course, these photos. The unprecedented act by President Donald Trump of inviting Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov into the Oval Office, with no Secret Service present. It was then Trump told the Russians he had fired “nut job” FBI Director Jim Comey, saying it relieved “great pressure” for him.

During that Oval Office visit Trump revealed “code word” classified information to his Russian visitors.

And who can forget this disturbing story from 2016?

 

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RUSSIA IS THE ENEMY OF AMERICA

Russian Trolls Engaged in Massive Campaign Against ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ to Undermine US Society

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Goals included support of “extreme right-wing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality.”

Just like the 2016 presidential election, 2017’s release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was marred by a massive campaign designed to further undermine American society – a campaign that included Russian trolls, according to new research from the University of Southern California. The study shows that the majority of negative tweets sent to the film’s director were “politically motivated,” or “not even human” – in other words, Russian bots.

A research paper by Morten Bay, “Weaponizing the haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation,” reveals the goal: “further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society,” as The Hill reported.

Included in that goal was the support of “extreme right-wing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality.”

When the film was released in December of 2017, news outlets quickly seized on what seemed to be obvious friction and supposed outrage.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – the most divisive film ever?” asked BBC News.

How ‘The Last Jedi’ became the most divisive Star Wars movie yet,” The Washington Post reported.

Calling the film “unexpectedly polarizing,” Vox ran a story titled, “The ‘backlash’ against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, explained.”

“What the hell is going on here?” the article asked. It did not answer with “Russian bots.”

The abstract of Bay’s paper reveals “evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments,” and Russia’s disturbing intentions, including an alignment with the “alt-right.”

“The study finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments. The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society. Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation.”

“The results of the study show that among those who address The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson directly on Twitter to express their dissatisfaction, more than half are bots, trolls/sock puppets or political activists using the debate to propagate political messages supporting extreme right-wing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality. A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”

Image by Dick Thomas Johnson via Flickr and a CC license

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