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Notorious GOP operative and informal Trump adviser Roger Stone, who previously urged embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to go on "offense" and make cable news appearances, has gone silent on the matter following a series of news reports detailing the widening scandal around the firebrand lawmaker. Stone's apparent pullback comes as former President Trump reportedly rejected an invite to meet with the congressman, and while denizens of TrumpWorld are not precisely flocking to Gaetz's defense.
"He needs to go on offense, this is right upfront in Stone's Rules," Stone said on Alex Jones' program on April 2. "The left-wing, non-journalist, fake-news media are the most vicious, malicious, dishonest people that I have ever come across. All of these stories that are maligning Matt Gaetz today are based on leaks. Where is the beef? Where are the facts? I don't think there are any facts. I think this is a good old-fashioned smear." Stone went on to encourage Gaetz to stay in the public eye, not hide in a "hole" and make additional TV appearances.
Roger Stone offers Matt Gaetz potentially disastrous advice (SALON) www.youtube.com
"He [Matt Gaetz] should not go hide in a hole, he should be out there, like he was on Tucker [Carlson] last night," Stone declared.
Since Stone's initial remarks, an expositive April 9 report from The Daily Beast outlined that Gaetz allegedly sent a $900 Venmo payment to several young women through Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg in May 2018. Greenberg, a flamboyant figure in Florida politics, has reportedly been under investigation for some time and now faces multiple charges of sex trafficking.
Stone, who at one time posted virtually nonstop on Parler about Gaetz's innocence, has since gone silent on the matter online and in media appearances and hasn't mentioned the Gaetz saga on his newly minted TikTok account. "The 'leaked' smear on Congressman Matt Gaetz is an extortion play and an effort to destroy the up and coming conservative leader who has the balls to call the left out," Stone wrote on Parler at the beginning of the month.
Roger Stone, one of Matt Gaetz's most prominent supporters who a week ago was telling the congressman to go on the… https://t.co/X75PB9bfIp— Zachary Petrizzo (@Zachary Petrizzo)1618154949.0
Salon checked in with Stone last Thursday and Friday, seeking to inquire whether he still believes the Florida congressman is innocent. A few days passed, and Salon heard nothing back anything until the above tweet sent out by this reporter, which noted that Stone has gone silent on Gaetz. Shortly after that tweet was sent, Stone responded to Salon early on Monday morning, never directly mentioning the Gaetz scandal but taking swings at the media, a classic Stone tactic.
"Much like Salon, nothing reported in the Daily Beast can be considered either true or accurate," Stone told Salon in an email on Monday. When asked a series of additional questions regarding GaetzGate, Stone simply responded, "Stay tuned."
US President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to ease mounting tensions with neighboring Ukraine Tuesday, joining a pushback against a build-up of troops along their border which has raised alarm among NATO allies.
As a new report from American intelligence said Russia was not seeking direct conflict with the United States, the White House revealed Biden had spoken by phone with Putin to propose a summit between the two leaders at a neutral venue.
The Kremlin said the two men had agreed to "continue dialogue" without saying whether Putin had agreed to what would be their first meeting since Biden came to power.
The Russian buildup at the Ukrainian border has caused mounting alarm in the West in recent days, with the United States saying that troop levels are at their highest since 2014, when war first broke out with Moscow-backed separatists.
Biden "voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine's borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions," the White House said after the phone call.
"President Biden reaffirmed his goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with US interests, and proposed a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months", it added in a statement.
In its readout of the call, the Kremlin said "both sides expressed their readiness to continue dialogue on the most important areas of ensuring global security."
The Kremlin confirmed that the US president had proposed what would be the leaders' first summit since Biden came to office vowing a tougher line on Russia, including over its alleged interference in US elections and harsh treatment of ailing opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Putin similarly held a summit in Finland in 2018 with then US president Donald Trump, who caused a furor at home by appearing to accept the Russian leader's denials of election meddling.
The Biden-Putin call came as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met in Brussels with top officials of NATO nations including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the transatlantic alliance's chief, Jens Stoltenberg.
"Russia's considerable military build-up is unjustified, unexplained and deeply concerning -- Russia must end this military build-up in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately," Stoltenberg said at his meeting with Kuleba.
'We remain vigilant'
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu hit back that Moscow has deployed troops to its western borders for "combat training exercises" in answer to NATO military moves.
"In response to the alliance's military activities that threaten Russia, we took appropriate measures," Shoigu said in televised remarks, adding the exercises would be completed within two weeks.
Ukraine -- which applied to join NATO in 2008 -- is pressing Western powers for "practical" support as it seeks to deter any new aggression from Moscow.
"Russia will not be able to catch anyone by surprise anymore. Ukraine and our friends remain vigilant," Kuleba said as he met Stoltenberg and Blinken.
Blinken insisted "the US stands firmly behind the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine" and said the country's "Euro-Atlantic aspirations" would be discussed in the alliance.
Some NATO members remain deeply reluctant to heed Ukraine's appeal to speed up its push for admission as they seek to avoid ratcheting up the tension.
In a new report released Tuesday, the director of US national intelligence said that Russia would "continue destabilization efforts against Ukraine" while concluding that "does not want a direct conflict" with the United States.
The Kremlin has warned NATO off getting further involved in Ukraine and on Tuesday accused the alliance members of turning the country into a "powder keg."
"If there is any aggravation, we of course will do everything to ensure our security and the safety of our citizens, wherever they are," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
"But Kiev and its allies in the West will be entirely responsible for the consequences of a hypothetical exacerbation."
The troop build-up comes amid a spike in violence along the front line between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in the east of the country.
Ukraine's military said that one of its soldiers was killed on Tuesday when a drone dropped grenades on his position, taking to 29 the number of fatalities for Kiev this year.
Fighting subsided in 2020 as a ceasefire agreement took hold last July, but clashes have picked up again since the start of the year, with each side blaming the other.
Analysts say NATO allies are not willing to commit their own forces to a conflict against Moscow over Ukraine, but could bolster other forms of assistance.
"NATO members will not send any boots on-the-ground in Ukraine," said Bruno Lete, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States think tank.
"Their support will be limited to political messaging, military advice, and technical aid."
But in a clear sign that Washington is looking to bolster its military backing for European allies, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced it was sending some 500 new personnel to Germany.
In the wake of Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.V.) recent op-ed in defense of maintaining the filibuster, an attorney, activist and lobbyist in pushing back against the Democratic lawmaker's defense of the legislative rule.
Fred Wertheimer, founder, and president of Democracy 21, dismantled Manchin's arguments in an NBC News op-ed of his own. He began by highlighting how Manchin's views conflict with the views of his predecessor, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.V.) As the longest-serving senator in United States history, Byrd was a pivotal figure who helped shape the Senate's legacy.
Although Manchin claims his beliefs are part of an effort to protect the Senate legacy, his defense appears to contradict what it stands for. Wertheimer noted that while Byrd's record suggests while he did recognize the Senate's filibuster rule, he also understood that it "was not sacrosanct."
"He supported changing the rule when it had been abused or when the times demanded it," Wertheimer wrote, later adding, "Byrd obviously believed revising the filibuster rule when abuses or circumstances called for it was good for the country and for West Virginia, the state he represented and loved."
He went on to highlight another area where their differences lie: exemptions to the filibuster. "Byrd also supported a number of exemptions to the filibuster rule," Wertheimer explained. "He played the crucial role in the 1974 creation of the budget reconciliation process — which Manchin criticized in his opinion piece — and which the Senate just used to pass the Covid-19 relief bill and could use again for the coming infrastructure package."
Byrd also expressed concern about campaign finance. In fact, Wertheimer noted that the late lawmaker "decried the 'money chase' of senators."
"We spend countless hours," Byrd previously said, "chasing campaign funds all around the country — to the detriment of our duties and our constituents."
Lastly, Wertheimer noted Manchin's contradictory stance regarding S.1 (the For the People Act). He noted that both Manchin and Byrd expressed deep concern about "the disturbing role money plays in our democracy."
Manchin even expressed sentiments similar to Byrd's saying "More and more lawmakers spend their time dialing for dollars, instead of legislating for their constituents. That is why I have and will continually support changing our campaign finance rules."
However, Wertheimer argues that Manchin "a classic Catch-22 situation" with his arguments. He wrote, "He says he wants a bipartisan solution to voting rights and campaign finance legislation. Yet there is no basis to believe that any Republican senator, let alone the 10 needed to break a filibuster, will support a bipartisan solution to real campaign finance and voting rights reforms. Led by McConnell, the GOP wants to kill the reform bill — just as it killed Byrd's reform bill in 1988."
Wertheimer's op-ed comes just days after Manchin laid out his arguments in a piece published to The Washington Post. In his op-ed, he explained why he opposes the idea of weakening the filibuster.
"The filibuster is a critical tool to protecting that input and our democratic form of government. That is why I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt: There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation."
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