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Democrats blast Trump as soft on Putin with no Russia sanctions

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U.S. Democratic lawmakers criticized President Donald Trump on Tuesday for not immediately imposing sanctions on Russia, accusing him of being soft on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The Trump administration said on Monday it would not impose sanctions for now under a law Congress overwhelmingly passed last year to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Russia denies interfering in the campaign.

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As required by the law, the administration did publish a list of Russian oligarchs close to the Kremlin who could be sanctioned. Moscow dismissed it as little more than a “telephone directory” of the rich.. A U.S. Treasury Department spokesman said on Tuesday the list was drawn from public sources, including Forbes magazine.

Putin said the release of the oligarchs list was “an unfriendly act” that would harm Russian-American relations but that Moscow did not currently plan to retaliate.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday that “there will be sanctions that come out of this (oligarch) report.”

But two senior Democratic senators said the sanctions should have come immediately.

“Throughout his term in office, President Trump has failed time and time again to stand up to Vladimir Putin, despite the assault that he carried out on our democracy in the 2016 election,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.

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“Now he has decided not to implement those sanctions,” Schumer told reporters. “These are mandatory sanctions. They passed 97-2 in the Senate. He’s ignoring them.”

Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there was “real concern” about possible Russian meddling in the 2018 U.S. elections, adding: “The president of the United States is not taking action to defend this nation.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in an interview with the BBC that aired on Tuesday that he expected Russia would target U.S. congressional elections in November.

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Under the sanctions law, the administration faced a Monday deadline to impose sanctions on anyone who was determined to have conducted significant business with Russian defense and intelligence sectors. Those sectors have already been sanctioned for their alleged role in the U.S. presidential election.

Trump, who wanted warmer ties with Moscow, had opposed the legislation as it worked its way through Congress and signed it reluctantly in August.

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State Department officials said they had used the law to engage in a quiet, global effort to deter other countries from buying arms from Russian defense and intelligence entities.

“I assure you that the Russians know when a deal that they thought was moving forward is all of a sudden falling apart and not moving forward,” a senior State Department official said.

In a statement on Monday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “Since the enactment of the … legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions.”

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‘MISSED OPPORTUNITY’

Daniel Fried, formerly the State Department’s top sanctions policy official, said: “I think the administration missed an opportunity to extend the use of sanctions” to deter Russia.

Fried, now at the Atlantic Council think tank, expressed puzzlement at the list of Russian oligarchs, which he said “seemed to be close to a cut-and-paste job.”

He said he understood that experts within the U.S. government had done their own extensive research on the oligarchs closest to Putin. That information, he acknowledged, could be in a classified version of the list.

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Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was heartened by a classified briefing that the State Department gave on Monday to the committee’s staff.

“I am encouraged by the diplomatic steps Secretary (of State Rex) Tillerson has taken in recent months to compel other governments to comply with CAATSA,” Corker said, using an acronym for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. “On the whole, it is clear the administration is working in good faith.”

(Additional reporting by Pete Schroeder, Patricia Zengerle, Joel Schectman, Jonathan Landay, Mark Hosenball and Mohammad Zargham.; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Peter Cooney)


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John Oliver explains how the Ukraine scandal so stupid even Fox News ‘idiot’ Steve Doocy should understand it

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"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver closed out his season with a special report for Fox News hosts who seem to be struggling with the basic understanding of things like "bribery" or the concept that attempted crimes are still actually crimes.

At the top of Sunday's show, Oliver played a clip of Fox News host Laura Ingraham who made the argument that if Trump tried to commit a crime and didn't manage to pull it off, then he's clearly innocent.

"Attempted bribery isn't in the constitution," proclaimed Ingraham, forgetting about what "high crimes and misdemeanors" covers. "Remember, Ukraine got its aid, it was 14 days delayed, big deal. And Ukraine never made any public statement about the investigation."

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This is the energy executive who first exposed Trump’s Ukraine scandal: report

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CNN host Chris Cuomo did a special investigative report by Drew Griffin looking at the money trail from Russia to President Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal.

"You probably don’t know Dale Perry, but history may record this energy executive as one of the first who sounded the alarm about what would become President Trump’s impeachment inquiry," said Griffin. "In April, Perry’s former business partner Andrew Favorov, now a director at Ukraine's state-owned gas company Naftogaz, says two shady characters had approached him, with a secret management plan to take over the management from the inside. Those two shady characters Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are two low-level, Soviet-born businessmen from south Florida. And they were trying to clear the way for their own gas business."

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‘A slam-dunk-case’: MSNBC analysts predict GOP will defend Trump — and ‘the guy is going to get off’

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More evidence was outed Sunday as the Wall Street Journal revealed emails from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who promised to keep the White House abreast of President Donald Trump's demand for an investigation by Ukraine. The news prompted an MSNBC panelists to explain that it wouldn't matter how much evidence was presented, Republicans will never vote to remove Trump.

Host Geoff Bennett asked about the witness testimony and preponderance of evidence that "all points in one direction at this point, that President Trump orchestrated this entire" Ukraine investigations.

"It's a slam dunk case, and yet we know the guy is going to get off," said Los Angels Times White House reporter Eli Stokols. "That's effectively what you're saying. Because all the testimony has lined up so closely, the fact that [EU Ambassador Gordon] Sondland has come to come in, and because testimony from [Ambassador Bill] Taylor and others, has had to change testimony, Republicans have no choice -- the president has no choice but to try to dismiss the entire thing as partisan."

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