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Russia may seize U.S. property if diplomatic compounds not returned: report

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Russia may seize U.S. diplomatic property in Moscow and complicate life for an Anglo-American school unless Washington hands back two diplomatic compounds in the United States before July, the daily Kommersant newspaper reported on Friday.

In December, then U.S. president Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russians over what he said was their involvement in hacking last year’s U.S. presidential election, allegations Moscow flatly denies.

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The U.S. authorities seized two Russian diplomatic compounds, one in Maryland and another on Long Island, at the same time. Moscow did not retaliate, saying it would wait to see if relations improved under the incoming U.S. president, Donald Trump.

Kommersant, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, said on Friday that Moscow wanted the compounds back before a possible meeting at the G20 in Germany in July between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.

If that did not happen, the newspaper cited the sources as saying Russia could retaliate by seizing a U.S. diplomatic dacha, or country house, in Serebryany Bor in north-west Moscow and a U.S. diplomatic warehouse in Moscow.

It said that Russian authorities could also complicate life for Moscow’s Anglo-American school by altering its legal status.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday that Moscow was still waiting for the return of its U.S. compounds and could retaliate in kind if that did not happen.

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(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe)


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CNN legal analyst flattens Rick Santorum for ridiculous impeachment defense of Trump

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Former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum was shut down on CNN for his latest defense of President Donald Trump.

Santorum was effectively arguing for people to ignore the words coming from Trump.

"Wait, this argument is insane," Carrie Cordero said. "You cannot argue that the president of the United States' words do not matter or that he's just sort of spouting off or he has his own views."

"The reality is we ignore 80 to 90% of what the president says," Santorum argued. "Look at the tweets, we ignore most of those things he tweets and say 'it's Trump being Trump.'"

Then CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin flattened Santorum.

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Rick Santorum starts shouting about Joe Biden after being unable to defend Trump’s Ukraine scheme

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After Tuesday's impeachment testimony, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) tried to defend President Donald Trump's Ukraine scheme to a CNN panel — and was reduced to shouting about former Vice President Joe Biden as his co-panelists tore down his arguments.

"Every one of the people there had the same thing, which is to change the Obama policy, which was leaving Ukrainians without any way to defend themselves ... we have [Trump] in there and fighting for Ukraine and now the Democrats are saying, well, this is wonderful, BUT..."

"Let me just ask you the question," said former Obama strategist David Axelrod. "Because this lethal aid has been important, it gives them quite a bit of leverage, the president, if he wants them."

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Sondland is in ‘tremendous trouble’ no matter how he tries to change his testimony tomorrow: NYT columnist

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On Tuesday, in the wake of testimony from several witnesses in the impeachment hearing that broadly implicated EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland in improper backchannel foreign policy, New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali suggested that Sondland is in "tremendous trouble" — and that no testimony he could give tomorrow will get him out of this mess:

No. He will be trying to save himself. The perjury plus multiple stellar witnesses paint a damning portrait. He's in tremendous trouble. https://t.co/CxN5w0EErb

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