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Trump vows Putin is ‘not going into Ukraine’ — two years after Russia annexed Crimea

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In an interview with ABC News, which aired in full length Sunday morning, This Week host George Stephanopoulos grilled GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump over his relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Stephanopoulos pressed Trump over previous claims he had a relationship with Putin, which he now denies.

“Well, I don’t know what it means by having a relationship,” Trump said, according a transcript of the interview. “I mean, he was saying very good things about me. But I don’t have a relationship with him. I didn’t meet him. I haven’t spent time with him. I didn’t have dinner with him. I didn’t– go hiking with him. I don’t know– I– I wouldn’t know him from Adam except I see his picture, and I would know what he looks like.”

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MSNBC unearthed footage of an interview with Trump three years ago saying the opposite.

“I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today,” he had told host Thomas Roberts.

Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on his foreign policy positions that, if elected, would serve in Putin’s interest, including softening the GOP’s platform toward Putin’s annexation of Crimea, which Ukraine still claims rights to.

The Trump campaign removed language promising to provide Ukraine with weapons necessary to defend itself against Russian advances.

“Yeah. I was not involved in that. I’d like to– I’d have to take a look at it. But I was not involved in it,” Trump responded. “They softened it, I heard. But I was not involved.”

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Stephanopoulos pointed out “they took away the part of the platform calling for provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine to defend themselves. Why is that a good idea?”

Trump then responded he “has his own ideas.”

“He’s not going into Ukraine, okay, just so you understand,” Trump responded. “He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.”

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Stephanopoulos then pointed out that Putin is “already there” and noted Trump had said he’d consider recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea if he were elected president.

Trump said he’d “take a look at” the Russian take-over of Crimea but then made a pro-Kremlin talking point.

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“But you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” Trump said. “And you have to look at that, also. Now, that was under– just so you understand, that was done under Obama’s administration.”

Watch the exchange, as posted to Twitter by ABC News, here:

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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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