Posts tagged with "Russian President Vladimir Putin"

Power play: Putin signs law enabling him to serve two more terms as Russia’s president

April 6, 2021

On April 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin—who already has served two decades as his nation’s leader—signed into law a change to the country’s constitution that will allow him to run for two more six-year terms; thereby granting himself the chance to remain in power until 2036, CBS News reports.

A copy of the new law was posted on the government’s legal information website on Monday, confirming that the legislation—the success of which was really never in doubt — had been finalized. Prior to the new law, Putin would have been required to step down after his fourth and current term in 2024. 

But in March last year, Valentina Tereshkova, a lawmaker from Putin’s ruling party, proposed the constitutional change during a discussion in the State Duma (congress). After Tereshkova, who is a Soviet cosmonaut and was the first woman to go to space, suggested the amendment, Putin himself showed up in the parliament building and offered his backing for the idea, undermining earlier speculation that he might seek to maintain power by taking another role.

In principle, CBS notes, this option would be possible, but on one condition,” Putin told lawmakers in a televised speech a year ago. “If the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution.”

Putin said then that the Russian president was “the guarantor of the country’s security and domestic stability” and that the country should avoid political upheavals. “Russia has fulfilled its plan when it comes to revolutions,” he said.

In July last year, Russians were given the opportunity to vote on a raft of constitutional reforms, including the change to the limit on presidential terms. Other measures included a proposed ban on same-sex marriages, new language mentioning for the first time the importance of “faith in God,” and measures meant to protect “traditional family values” and forbidding top officials from holding dual citizenship.

Russians could either vote for or against the whole package of changes, but there was little doubt even as ballots were cast about the outcome. The vote was seen widely as an effort to demonstrate Putin’s broad support in the country.

Political opposition leader and outspoken Putin critic Alexey Navalny—who is currently on hunger strike as he serves a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence on charges he insists are politically motivate— criticized the vote last summer as a populist spectacle designed to give the Russian leader the right to be “president for life.”

“I know that in two years, instead of working normally at all levels of the state, all eyes will be on the search for potential successors,” Putin said in an interview with state-run television last year. “We must work and not look for successors.”

He’s said at the time that he might consider running for a fifth term, but insisted that he hadn’t yet made a final decision.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Biden says Putin is a ‘killer,’ who will ‘pay a price’ for interfering in U.S. politics

March 19, 2021

Moscow responded angrily on March 18—a day after U.S. President Joe Biden labeled Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer” during a TV interview and warned that Russia would “pay a price” for 2020 election interference, NBC News reports.

Following Biden’s comments, which aired in America on Wednesday and also were seen on Russian state TV, Moscow immediately recalled its ambassador to the United States for “consultations,” the foreign ministry said.

Asked about Biden’s comments on Thursday, Putin said he wished his counterpart in Washington good health and was saying that “without irony—but charged that the comments reflected America’s own troubled past.

While praising the American people, Putin said the legacy of slavery and the country’s treatment of Native Americans weighed heavily on its dealings abroad.

“In the history of every people, every state, there are a lot of hard, dramatic and bloody events. But when we evaluate other people or even other governments, we always look as if into the mirror. We always see ourselves in it,” Putin said.

“I remember when I was young and I got into fights with my friends, we always used to say ‘whoever calls names is called that himself,'” he added.

“And that’s not just a children’s joke. The meaning is quite deep psychologically. We always see our own qualities in another person and think that he/she is like ourselves. And coming from that, evaluate his/her actions and evaluate him/her overall.”

Putin’s response was delivered during a call with residents of Crimea marking the anniversary of its 2014 annexation from Ukraine. He added that Russia would still cooperate with the U.S. where it serves Moscow’s interests.

The comments came shortly after the Kremlin said Biden’s remarks suggested that he “definitely does not want to improve relations” between the two countries, NBC News noted.

“I won’t be wordy in reaction to this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “I will only say that these are very bad statements by the U.S. president.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova did not cite specific reasons for recalling ambassador Anatoly Antonov on Wednesday, but Russia’s embassy in Washington, D.C. released its own comment early Thursday blaming “certain ill-considered statements of high-ranking U.S. officials” for putting the “already excessively confrontational relations under the threat of collapse.”

During Wednesday’s interview with ABC News Biden said that Russia would face consequences for meddling in last year’s presidential election after a declassified report from the U.S. national intelligence director’s office found earlier this week that Putin authorized influence operations to help former President Donald Trump in last November’s election.

“(Putin) will pay a price,” Biden said, when asked about the report. Biden did not disclose what price Putin could pay, only saying, “You will see shortly.”

The Kremlin had earlier dismissed the allegations in the report as baseless.

Asked if he thinks Putin is a killer, Biden said, “I do.”

Biden also confirmed that he once told Putin the Russian leader doesn’t “have a soul.” He said Putin responded to the comment, made during a visit to the Kremlin as vice president in 2011, by saying “We understand each other.”

The State Department said Wednesday that it was aware of Russia’s decision to recall its ambassador.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the Biden Administration will take a more straightforward and direct approach in its relationship with Russia than did former President Donald Trump.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Vladimir veers left: Putin rejects Trump’s criticism of Biden family business

October 27, 2020

Russia, are you listening? Russian President Vladimir Putin said on October 25 that he saw nothing criminal in Hunter Biden’s past business ties with Ukraine or Russia—openly breaking with Donald Trump on one of the POTUS’s key attack lines in the U.S. presidential election.

Putin was responding to comments made by Trump during televised debates with Democratic challenger Joe Biden ahead of the November 3 election.

According to Reuters, the Russian leader made his position clear, saying: “[Hunter Biden] had at least one company, which he practically headed up, and judging from everything he made good money. I don’t see anything criminal about this, at least we don’t know anything about this.”

The unexpected statement of support for the Bidens “could be interpreted as the Russian president trying to offer an olive branch to Joe Biden days out from the election,” said The Daily Beast.

Trump, who is trailing in opinion polls, has used the debates to make accusations that Biden and his son Hunter engaged in unethical practices in Ukraine. No evidence has been verified to support the allegations, and Joe Biden has called them false and discredited.

Putin, who has praised Trump in the past for saying he wanted better ties with Moscow, has said Russia will work with any U.S. leader, while noting what he called Joe Biden’s “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric”.

However, in a clear effort to distance himself from Trump’s claims, the Russian leader added, “Yes, in Ukraine he (Hunter Biden) had or maybe still has a business, I don’t know. It doesn’t concern us. It concerns the Americans and the Ukrainians,” said Putin.

Putin also reacted with visible irritation when asked about comments Trump has made concerning Putin’s ties to the former mayor of Moscow, and to an alleged payment made to Hunter Biden by the ex-mayor’s widow. Putin said he knew nothing about the existence of any commercial relationship between Hunter and the woman. Joe Biden says the accusation about his son is not true.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to tilt the contest in Trump’s favour, an allegation Moscow has denied. Russia has also dismissed accusations by U.S. intelligence agencies of trying to interfere with this year’s election too.

Research contact: @Reuters

Despite chilling warnings from Mueller, GOP blocks election security bills

July 26, 2019

America is under attack. That was the biggest takeaway from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill on July 24—not that President Donald Trump may have obstructed justice, although that’s what most people continue to argue about, CNN reported this week.

“In your investigation,” Representative Will Hurd (R-Texas) of the House Intelligence Committee asked Mueller, “did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election? Or did you find evidence to suggest that they will try to do this again?”

Mueller responded, with a chilling effect:  “No, it wasn’t a single attempt.” And he was quick to note that the Russians still are working to influence U.S. elections—predicting that their influence will be felt when Americans go to the polls in 2020.

“They’re doing it as we sit here,” Mueller testified. “And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

He then warned that America’s intelligence agencies must find a way to coordinate better in order to assure secure elections going forward.

In his report, the former special counsel disclosed that Russian hackers had compromised local election systems of two Florida counties in 2016—a development later confirmed by Florida’s Republican  Governor Ron DeSantis, although he said no votes were changed. And while Mueller did not bring conspiracy charges, it’s been well documented that Russians in 2016 were doing their best to help Trump, not Clinton, win.

“Did your investigation find that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning?” Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) of the Judiciary Committee entreated him.

“It did,” Mueller replied.

Lofgren then asked for specificity: “Which one?”

“Well,” Mueller said, “it would be Trump.”

Yet despite Mueller’s testimony, his report, and alarming statements from elsewhere in Washington, public urgency on addressing Russian interference for the 2020 election appears lacking.

Indeed, according to a report by The Hill, Senate Republicans blocked two election security bills and a cybersecurity measure on Wednesday, July 24,  in the wake of former special counsel Robert Mueller warning about meddling attempts during his public testimony before congressional lawmakers.  

Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that would require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance, as well as a bill to let the Senate Sergeant at Arms offer voluntary cyber assistance for personal devices and accounts of senators and staff.

But Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked each of the bills. She didn’t give reason for her objections, or say if she was objecting on behalf of herself or the Senate GOP caucus. A spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

Under Senate rules, any one senator can ask for consent to pass a bill, but any one senator is able to object.

What’s more,  election interference bills face an uphill climb in the Senate, where Republicans aren’t expected to move legislation through the Rules Committee, the panel with primary jurisdiction, and have warned about attempts to “federalize” elections. 

Democrats cited Mueller as they tried to get consent on Wednesday evening to pass their bills.

Mr. Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, literally in our next elections,” said Senator Mark Warner (D-Virgina), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

He added that “unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we uncovered Russia’s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a single vote on stand-alone legislation to protect our elections.” 

Research contact: @thehill

House puts spotlight on secret Trump-Putin summits

February 19, 2019

What happened—in Hamburg in July 2017 and in Helsinki in July 2018—will remain there, if it’s up to the two global leaders who participated in those meetings: Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Apparently there are secrets that the American president has gone to great lengths to suppress—confiscating his translator’s notes of the Hamburg meeting; and allowing no detailed records of his private Helsinki sit-down , according to a recent report by Politico.

But with that silence comes an opportunity for coercion by Putin, who holds Trump’s secrets close at a cost: Intelligence officials fear that Putin may have compromised the American president, who could be following the Russian’s dangerous agenda out of fear of exposure and reprisals.

Now, all that is about to change, as House Democrats prepare to take their first meaningful steps to force Trump to divulge information about those private conversations.

The chairmen of two powerful congressional oversight panel—Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) of the Intelligence Committee and Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York) of the Foreign Affairs Committeetold Politico late last week that “they are exploring options to legally compel the president to disclose his private conversations with the Russian president.

The two lawmakers told the political news outlet that they are “actively consulting” with House General Counsel Douglas Letter about the best way to legally compel the Trump administration to come clean.

“I had a meeting with the general counsel to discuss this and determine the best way to find out what took place in those private meetings — whether it’s by seeking the interpreter’s testimony, the interpreter’s notes, or other means,” Schiff, told Politico in an interview.

According to the February 16 story, the move underscores the seriousness with which Democrats view Trump’s conciliatory statements and actions toward Moscow; and its place as a top House priority as the party pursues wide-ranging investigations into the president and his administration.

Specifically, Politico reported, Democrats want a window into the Helskini meeting last summer, during which Trump put himself at odds with the U.S. intelligence community and declared—while standing next to the Russian president—that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 elections.

“I don’t see any reason why [Russia would interfere with the 2016 election],” he said at the extraordinary news conference following the private confabulation.

Trump’s remark prompted Democrats to call for Marina Gross, the State Department translator who was the only other American present for the Trump-Putin meeting, to share her notes with Congress and testify in public.

Getting Gross’s notes and testimony may be a challenging task, Schiff admitted—noting possible legal roadblocks, including executive privilege.

“That’s a privilege that, based on first impression, is designed to facilitate consultations between the president and members of his staff and Cabinet — not to shield communications with a foreign leader,” Schiff said. “But that’s just a preliminary take. And once we get the studied opinion of the general counsel, then we’ll decide how to go forward.”

For his part, Engel told Politico, “I’m not saying that I’m in favor of interpreters turning over all their notes, but I do think that it shouldn’t be up to the president to hide the notes.”

The White House is expected to fight divulging the details of the discussions every step of the way.

Research contact: @desiderioDC

Trump: ‘I don’t care’ if Putin conversation becomes public

January 16. 2019

Following media reports that he squelched access to transcripts of his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin—and welshed on any promises to share them with his top aides—President Donald Trump on January 12 said he would be willing to release the details of the leaders’ private conversation in Helsinki last summer, Politico has reported.

“I would. I don’t care,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro in a phone interview. “I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less.”

The president’s remarks came hours after a report by The Washington Post stating that Trump “has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details” of his talks with Putin. The Post also reported that there is no detailed record of Trump’s interactions with Putin at five locations over the past two years, according to U.S. officials.

The president referred to his roughly two-hour meeting with Putin in Helsinki — at which only the leaders and their translators were present — as “a great conversation” that included discussions about “securing Israel and lots of other things,” Politico said.

“I had a conversation like every president does,” Trump told Pirro. “You sit with the president of various countries. I do it with all countries.”

House Republicans in July blocked an attempt by Democratic lawmakers to subpoena Trump’s interpreter in Helsinki. Politico previously had reported that Putin raised the subjects of nuclear arms controls and weapons prohibitions in space during the one-on-one conference, according to a Russian document.

Asked by Pirro if he’d ever worked on behalf of Russia, Trump did not directly answer the question, calling a New York Times report of an FBI counterintelligence investigation on him “insulting.”

Trump also evaded a question on whether the administration was seeking to keep special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on the Russia probe from the public, saying only that the investigation was a “hoax.”

Research contact: @QuintForgey

McConnell: Putin will not be welcomed by Congress

July 26, 2018

Even as the White House continues to work on setting up another summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin—this one, tentatively scheduled for November—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on July 24 that the Kremlin’s strongman will not be invited to the U.S. Capitol, The Hill reported.

McConnell, who has been reticent about addressing or reacting to President Donald Trump’s “kinship” with the Kremlin, told reporters this week, “I can only speak for the Congress. The speaker and I have made it clear that Putin will not be welcome up here, at the Capitol.”

McConnell’s comments come after his spokesperson said last week that there were no plans to invite Putin to the Capitol if he comes to D.C.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said separately on July 24 that “we will certainly not be giving him an invitation to do a joint session.”

Congressional leadership has previously extended invitations to foreign leaders traveling to the Beltway to visit Capitol Hill. French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, delivered an address before Congress during his trip to the United States in April.

But the vocal opposition from GOP leadership to Putin visiting the Capitol marks another break between congressional Republicans and the White House when it comes to Russia.

Trump sparked widespread bipartisan backlash last week when he refused to condemn Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election during a press conference with Putin in Helsinki on July 16.

Americans don’t think President Trump has been tough enough on Russia, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted after Trump’s summit in Helsinki. Nearly two-thirds said so, and it wasn’t just Democrats. Almost half of Republicans surveyed (47%) also said Trump hasn’t been tough enough on Russia, with just 20% saying he has taken about the right approach.

Research contact: @maristpoll

Trump ‘considers’ Putin request to hand over McFaul for interrogation

July 20, 2018

As U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned at their July 16 press conference in Helsinki, Finland, Russia has offered to cooperate in the questioning of 12 of its citizens who have been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the run-up to the 2016 election.

In turn, Putin has requested that the United States turn over former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, as well as several other Americans, for questioning by its Federal Security Service (FSB) over what McFaul has said are “trumped up” charges.

According to White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that request from Putin is currently “under consideration” by the Trump administration—and the president will provide his answer after he meets with his team.

The Trump administration’s ambiguity over whether the former U.S. ambassador would be made available for questioning by the Russians has the U.S. diplomatic community up in arms and has left the seasoned diplomat in question “flabbergasted” over Trump’s seeming unwillingness to defend him against Putin, Mediaite reported on July 18.

Speaking to top MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow on her show on July 18, Mediaite reports that McFaul explained that Putin had been trying to get at him for years. “Vladimir Putin has been after me for a long time, even when I was ambassador, harassing me in ways no other U.S. Ambassador there has ever experienced,” he said to Maddow. “He’s done some outrageous things around the world but even to our diplomats and even to me personally.”

Then, referring to the fact Trump seemed willing to turn a U.S.citizen and diplomat over to Russia for questioning, he added: “What I was totally flabbergasted by was [that] the White House would not defend me. I’m an American citizen. I worked for the government for five years. It would have been so easy to bat it back.” 

Indeed, showing his diplomatic chops, McFaul said that he hoped the White House would come around to the correct answer—a resounding “no”—soon.

In further discussion with Maddow, McFaul made it clear that exposing him to the Russians would be an “outrageous act.”

“You just have to push back on crazy stuff like that. It’s in not just the interests of people like me …; it’s in the American national interests. You can’t in any way dignify such an outrageous claim of tit for tat, moral equivalency, which for some reason our president continues to do when it comes to Vladimir Putin.”

Research contact: @Mediaite