Posts tagged with "International relations"

Trump: ‘I didn’t know’ Manafort shared polling data with Russians during 2016 campaign

January 11, 2019

President Donald Trump this week insisted that he had been totally unaware during his 2016 presidential run that his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had shared polling data with a Russian associate linked to Kremlin intelligence.

“I didn’t know anything about that,” Trump told reporters about the news—which was unexpectedly revealed after a poorly redacted legal brief prepared by Manafort’s legal team was released on January 8.

The bungled court filing inadvertently exposed hidden details of the deeply shrouded Russia probe—pointing toward a connection between the Trump campaign staff and a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, The Hill and other media reported on January 10 that the document showed that Manafort had shared the polling data with not only Konstantin Kilimnik—a Russian national and former business associate of his who is suspected to have ties to the GRU, Moscow’s military intelligence agency—but had asked him to pass the information on to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

In the filing, Manafort’s defense attorneys challenged Mueller’s accusations that he lied to investigators on various topics, including his contacts and meetings with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign. They argued that Manafort did not intentionally tell lies and later corrected the record when he was reminded of information he had not offered up, noting his memory and physical health have been impacted by his months in federal prison.

His lawyers have since filed a new response to Mueller’s allegations of lying that is properly redacted.

Trump has derided the Manafort’s case as having nothing to do with him or his campaign, but the revelations have raised fresh questions about whether the campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential race. Trump has also denied that the campaign colluded with Russia and consistently attacked Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”

Manafort began working for the Trump campaign in March 2016 before he was forced to resign that August following revelations about his lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

Research contact: @mchalfant16

Putin praises Trump’s precipitous decision to extract U.S. troops from Syria

December 21, 2018

“Dah.” Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly is no “yes-man,” so President Trump had to be pleased when news emerged from the Kremlin this week that he approved of the U.S. leader’s decision to “immediately” withdraw troops from Syria.

Trump made the unanticipated announcement on Twitter on December 19: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Neither the U.S. Department of Defense nor the Senate’s Armed Services Committee knew of the decision—nor had the State Department, the National Security Council, the nation’s allies, or even the White House Press Office been informed of the move.

According to a report by The Washington Post, Putin told journalists at his annual year-end news conference that the Islamic State had suffered “serious blows” in Syria.

“On this, Donald is right. I agree with him,” Putin said. 

But Putin, along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei Iran, may be among the few who support the move.

The Post reports that analysts say the militant group remains a deadly force. Russia —which remains Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally—turned the tide of the civil war in Assad’s favor in 2015 and has maintained its military presence there.

The United States and many of its allies denounced Russia’s military intervention in Syria. But Trump’s withdrawal is viewed by many —including some Republican Trump backers — as an indirect boost for Moscow and its status as the main foreign power in Syria.

Putin said the U.S. troop deployment to Syria had been illegitimate because neither Assad’s government nor the United Nations had approved the U.S. mission.

“If the United States decided to withdraw its force, then this would be right,” Putin said.

Russia has been negotiating a political settlement to the civil war in Syria with Assad, neighboring Turkey, and Russia’s ally Iran. The presence of U.S. troops was not helpful for achieving such a settlement, Putin said.

Putin, however, said nothing about the future of Russia’s extensive military presence in Syria, which includes a Mediterranean port used by Russian warships, according to the Post.

Research contact: anton.troianovski@washpost.com

Trump aborts parley with Putin after news breaks on business dealings with Russia

November 30, 2018

Following an abrupt cancellation of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin—which had been scheduled to take place on December 1 at the G20 summit in Argentina, according to a leaked Kremlin document seen by Reuters—U.S. President Donald Trump now has an empty space on his “dance card” at 4:30 p.m. (GMT) that day.

CNN reported on Thursday that Trump attributed the cancellation to Russia’s refusal to release Ukrainian Navy ships and sailors seized during a maritime confrontation between the two nations on November 25.

But while Russia’s position on the incident has not changed since it attacked the Ukrainian ships, CNN pointed out that the president had begged off suddenly—less than one hour after his longtime former attorney and “personal fixer” Michael Cohen leveled fresh allegations in court about Trump’s business dealings with Russia.

Cohen pleaded guilty before a federal judge in New York City to lying Congress about pursuing a real estate deal on behalf of his ex-boss for another Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign.

“For his part, Trump tweeted en route to the summit,  Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting (…) in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”

Aboard the plane, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters the President made his decision in consultation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and National Security Adviser John Bolton. Sanders said she was not aware of any phone calls between Trump and Putin.

Earlier Thursday, Trump told reporters, “I probably will be meeting with President Putin. We haven’t terminated that meeting.

“I was thinking about it,” he said, “but we haven’t. They’d like to have it. I think it’s a very good time to have a meeting. I’m getting a full report on the plane as to what happened with respect to that,” he said at the White House as he prepared to board Marine One.

However, according to a report by the Russian news outlet Sputnik, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov insisted that the meeting was still on. “Preparation is continuing; the meeting has been agreed. We have no other information from American counterparts,” Peskov said.

Removing the meeting from his agenda at the G20 won’t necessarily preclude some type of encounter between the two leaders, who last met formally in Helsinki in July, CNN said. The summit, which officially begins on November 30, will provide several chances that will bring them into the same room for meetings and a dinner.

Research contact: @JDiamond1