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Tillerson rejects $80 million to fight Russian and ISIS propaganda — and his reasons are alarming

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the highly unusual decision to turn down money for his department — $80 million to fight terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation — because he’s afraid of angering Vladimir Putin.

The money is earmarked for the State Department, but Tillerson hasn’t submitted a request for the funds, reported Politico.

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The funds are intended for the Global Engagement Center, which is responsible for coordinating government efforts to counter online terrorist activity and, since December, state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.

President Barack Obama expanded the unit’s mission at the end of his term after intelligence agencies concluded Russia had flooded social media with fake news and phony Twitter accounts to influence the 2016 elections, and lawmakers from both parties want a stronger U.S. response.

President Donald Trump wants to cut State Department funding, so Tillerson is trying to spend less of it — not more.

“They use the reorganization as an excuse to not act on anything,” one former State official told Politico. “That’s why people doubt the motivations of the reorganization. They think it’s all about starving the beast.”

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But a former senior State Department official told Politico that Tillerson aide R.C. Hammond suggested the secretary of state doesn’t want to fully fund the unit for fear of angering Putin.

Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, was awarded the Russian Order of Friendship from Putin after signing deals with the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft.

Hammond, who serves as Tillerson’s spokesman and on the department’s policy planning staff, has said the unit hadn’t explained how $60 million, which will expire next month, of the earmarked funds would be spent, but the former State Department official denied that was the case.

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“Hammond said the secretary is in the process of working through disagreements with Russia, and this is not consistent with what we’re trying to do,” the former senior State official told Politico.

The Kremlin-backed news site Sputnik compares the Global Engagement Center to the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s 1984, and Hammond told Politico the secretary of state did not want to upset Russia while trying to find common ground on Syria and other matters.

“Regarding Russia, we have not sought to reduce efforts to spotlight and combat Moscow’s ‘active measures’ or information activities,” Hammond told the website.

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John Bolton lawyer tells judge his interests do not align with WH chief of staff Mick Mulvaney

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Former National Security Advisor John Bolton told a federal judge on Monday that his interests do not align with those of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

"A long-simmering feud within the White House broke into the open on Monday as a lawyer for John R. Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, filed a motion trying to keep Mick Mulvaney, the president’s acting chief of staff, from joining a lawsuit over impeachment testimony," New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker reported Monday.

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Trump’s lie about ‘doctored’ impeachment transcripts debunked by impeachment witnesses’ lawyers

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President Donald Trump on Monday falsely accused Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) of releasing "doctored" transcripts of impeachment inquiry witnesses and then bizarrely suggested that Republicans release their own versions of the transcripts.

"Shifty Adam Schiff will only release doctored transcripts," the president wrote on Twitter. "We haven’t even seen the documents and are restricted from (get this) having a lawyer."

Trump presented no evidence to back up his claim that Schiff had done something to alter the transcripts, which show that multiple administration officials testified that the Trump administration was withholding aid to Ukraine until its government agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

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Trump-appointed judge delivers major blow to president’s efforts to keep his taxes secret

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President Donald Trump on Monday suffered yet another legal defeat in his quest to keep his tax returns a secret -- and it came at the hands of one of the president's own appointees.

CNN reports that Trump-appointed Judge Carl Nichols the of United States District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the president cannot sue the state of New York in his court to prevent the release of his taxes.

In his ruling, Nichols found that Trump's attorneys failed to establish a so-called "conspiracy jurisdiction" based on his accusations that New York Attorney General Letitia James is a co-conspirator with House Democrats in a plot to improperly reveal the president's personal financial information.

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