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Natalia Veselnitskaya ‘pierced’ Trump’s inner circle by bringing Russian spy to Trump Towers meeting

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There were three major bombshells revealed Friday about the Trump Tower meeting between the top echelons of the Donald Trump campaign and alleged Kremlin intermediaries.

On June 9, 2016, Donald Trump Jr., the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort met with Kremlin-linked attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.

We’ve now learned what was exchanged in the meeting, more about the attendees, and who helped finance the lobbying effort.

“Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats,” the Associated Press reported.

The exchange of this opposition research dossier on the Democratic National Committee could play a key role in the investigation, according to one election law expert.

Professor Richard Hasen teaches law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law and was very focused on the exchange of the plastic folder of documents.

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“If this is true, it looks like now the RECEIPT of an in-kind contribution,” Professor Hasen wrote (emphasis in original).

Professor Hasen the linked to 52 U.S. Code § 30121, the federal statue that makes it illegal to solicit “anything of value” from a foreign citizen.

The second major revelation so far on Friday was the Associated Press confirming that Rinat Akhmetshin attended the June 9th meeting inside Trump Tower.

“The Russian-American lobbyist who attended a meeting at Trump Tower last year is a former military officer who has attracted congressional scrutiny over his political activities and has been shadowed by allegations of connections to Russian intelligence,” the AP reported. “Rinat Akhmetshin, who denies these allegations, confirmed his participation in the June 2016 meeting to The Associated Press on Friday.”

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“Akhmetshin denied suggestions made in media reports, congressional letters and litigation that he is a former officer in Russia’s military intelligence service known as the GRU, dismissing the allegations as a ‘smear campaign,'” the AP noted. “Akhmetshin said he has not been contacted by the special counsel’s office or the FBI about the meeting with Trump Jr. He said he’s willing to talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman has pressed the Justice Department about why Akhmetshin has not registered as a foreign agent.”

The third major revelation was by The Hill, which followed the money.

“The Russian lobbying effort that pierced President Donald Trump’s inner circle and touched Democratic and Republican lawmakers was directly connected to three Moscow businessmen, according to lobbying registration records and interviews,” Jonathan Easley and John Solomon reported for The Hill.

“Akhmetshin and [his lobbying partner Robert Arakelian] filed a series of lobbying disclosure reports in 2016 and 2017 detailing their work for a group called The Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation,” The Hill reported. “The reports indicated at least $50,000 was spent on the group’s lobbying effort and that three Russian businessmen — Denis Katsyv, Mikhail Ponomarev and Albert Nasibulin of Moscow — had a direct interest in the outcome of the lobbying results.”

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Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

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Ten Democrats clashed in the first debate of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing Thursday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including number two candidate Bernie Sanders.

But Wednesday's first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats like ex-congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as health care, economic inequality, climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

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Here are 4 winners and 9 losers from the first 2020 Democratic primary debate

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With ten candidates on stage Wednesday, the opening debate of the 2020 Democratic primary in Miami was a packed mess. And this was only the first course in a two-part event — 10 more candidates will debate on the following night.

A crowded field makes it difficult to stand out, and that means that even after a big night like a debate, the most likely result is that not much changes. But the debate was still significant, giving candidates the chance to exceed, meet, or fall below expectations for their performances.

Here's a list — necessarily subjective, of course — of the people who came out on the top when the dust was settled, and those who came out on the bottom.

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Here are 3 ways Julián Castro stood out in the first Democratic Debate

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There were many predictions going into the first Democratic debate on MSNBC, but no one predicted that Julián Castro would break out from the crowd.

Check out the top three ways Castro stood out from the crowd.

Immigration:

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was the outright winner of the immigration section of the debate

It should "piss us all off," Castro said about the father and his little girl who were found face-down in the shores of the Rio Grande River this week. “It’s heartbreaking."

Castro is a second generation American who got into specifics on immigration policy, calling for an outright "Marshall Plan" style of action for Guatemala and Honduras. He joined with other Democrats calling for an end to President Donald Trump's family separation policy, but he then suggested ending the "metering" of legitimate asylum seekers.

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