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Fox News sheriff’s NRA trip to Moscow is raising eyebrows on the House intel committee

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The National Rifle Association — one of Donald Trump’s strongest campaign backers — sent a delegation to Moscow in late 2015 to meet with a Vladimir Putin deputy who believes Alaska rightfully belongs to Russia.

Meeting with Dmitry Rogozin — head of Russia’s defense industry and a target of U.S. sanctions since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 — would not have been illegal, as long as no business was conducted, but does raise new questions about Team Trump’s ties to the Kremlin, reported The Daily Beast.

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The meeting, which had not been previously reported in American media, has raised eyebrows among House Intelligence Committee members investigating the alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

“Russia is not America’s friend, and it’s stunning to hear that while they were attacking our democracy, one of the largest organizations supporting Trump was cozying up with a sanctioned Russian in Moscow,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who serves on the House panel that oversees the CIA.

The NRA had previously objected to U.S. sanctions that blocked the import of Russian-made guns, but David Keene — the former NRA president and current board member — insisted those sanctions never came up during the trip to Moscow.

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“Rogozin is chairman of the Russian Shooting Federation and his Board hosted a tour of Federation HQ for us while we were there,” Keene told The Daily Beast. “It was non-political. There were at least 30 in attendance and our interaction consisted of thanking him and his Board for the tour.”

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed doubts about Keene’s claims.

“It is disconcerting that they would be meeting [with a Russian official] about anything given their vocal support of the president,” Quigley said. “Due to the NRA’s opposition to sanctions, it defies credulity that they wouldn’t have discussed sanctions and their extraordinary support for Donald Trump’s campaign.”

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The delegates mostly refused to tell The Daily Beast who paid for their trip, but one of them — Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a Fox News favorite and Trump supporter — was required to file public disclosure forms for his visit to Russia.

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Clarke’s disclosure forms reported the December 2015 trip — which coincided with an anniversary event for RT attended by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein — was partially paid for by a Russian group called The Right To Bear Arms.

The Daily Beast has previously reported on that group, which is led by Maria Butina — a former central Russian bank staffer and furniture store owner in Siberia who came to the U.S. last year as a graduate student.

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Butian started a business in the U.S. with Republican activist Paul Erickson and once worked as a special assistant to Alexander Torshin, a Putin associate and former Russia legislator accused by Spanish investigators of helping mobsters launder money.

She and Erickson attended the invitation-only Freedom Ball after Trump’s inauguration, The Daily Beast reported, and classmates at American University and other acquaintances say she boasts that she was part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia.

Butina had been to the U.S. once before, the website reported, when she turned up in July 2015 at an early Trump rally in Las Vegas, where she asked the Republican candidate to comment on Russian sanctions.

“I’m from Russia. My question will be about foreign politics,” Butina said. “If you will be elected as president, what will be your foreign politics, especially in the relationships with my country? Do you want to continue the policy of sanctions that are damaging [to] both economies? Or [do you] have any other ideas?”

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Trump, who has variously boasted of his relationship with the Russian president or denied knowing him, assured Butina he would enjoy a good relationship with her country if he were elected.

“I know Putin, and I’ll tell you what — we’ll get along with Putin,” Trump said. “I would get along very nicely with Putin, I mean, where we have the strength. I don’t think you’d need the sanctions. I think we would get along very, very well.”


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How Democrats clean up the messes left by Republicans

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For decades, Democratic administrations have been cleaning up economic messes left to them by Republican administrations. Thanks to Donald Trump, they'll have to do so again.

Before diving in, we need to understand this one concept: the debt-to-GDP ratio.

The national debt is a meaningless number on its own. It's meaningful only as a percentage of the total economy, the GDP. Even if the debt grows, that's okay so long as the economy grows even faster. But if the reverse is true — if the economy is growing more slowly than the debt — we're in trouble.

With this in mind, let's go back to the 1980s. When Ronald Reagan took office, the national debt equaled just a little over 30 percent of the total economy. Then Reagan began cutting taxes and spending a huge amount on the military. By the time he left the White House, the debt-to-GDP ratio was nearly 50 percent. He viewed it as a way of "starving the beast" so future Democratic administrations would find it harder to fund programs for the poor and average working people.

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2020 Election

Sanders campaign manager accuses MSNBC of ‘constantly undermining’ Bernie: Fox News is ‘more fair’

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Faiz Shakir, the campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., claimed that right-leaning Fox News has treated the self-described democratic socialist "more fair" than left-leaning MSNBC.

"Fox is often yelling about Bernie Sanders' socialism, but they're still giving our campaign the opportunity to make our case in a fair manner, unlike MSNBC, which has credibility with the left and is constantly undermining the Bernie Sanders campaign," Shakir told Vanity Fair in an interview published Tuesday.

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2020 Election

Here are 3 winners and 3 losers from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate

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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the other leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Wednesday night in the fieriest evening of the race so far.

His presence on the stage drew fire from the other candidates, but it also seemed to change the overall tone of the debate, with more attacks, counter-attacks, and passion than was generally seen earlier in the campaign.

Here’s a (necessarily subjective!) list of the winners and losers from the fray:

Winners

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — Warren hit her stride right as the debate started by attacking Bloomberg for his record on the mistreatment of women, racist policies, and his tax returns. She repeatedly came back to skewer the former mayor, making herself the biggest and most notable presence in the debate. But importantly, she also continuously brought the discussion back to the issues she cares about — like expanding health care, environmental justice,  and consumer protection — while getting in digs at the other candidates on the stage.

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