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Russian officials and state media mock ‘weak’ GOP senators after Moscow visit

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Russian broadcasters mocked the Republican lawmakers who visited Moscow over the Fourth of July holiday and gloated about the Kremlin’s role in electing President Donald Trump.

Seven U.S. senators and one congresswoman — Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Kennedy (R-LA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Richard Shelby (R-AL), John Thune (R-SD) and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) — traveled to Russia for closed-door meetings with high-ranking Kremlin officials.

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Shelby led the delegation on tours of St. Petersburg and Moscow, where they met with Russia’s foreign minister and parliamentarians, but did not meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin, as they’d hoped.

The trip was planned months ago, before Trump’s White House invitation to Putin was shifted instead to a private one-on-one meeting between the two presidents.

“We know that we need a new beginning, that we can go over recriminations on both sides for days in,” Shelby said at the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament. “But I believe Russia and the United States and the world will be a lot better off if we improve our relationship.”

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The Alabama Republican dismissed the widespread agreement among U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, but Russian TV hosts disagreed.

“What trouble did we cause?” one Russian TV analyst said last week, before the senators arrived. “We just elected Trump, that’s all.”

The GOP lawmakers started their trip last weekend in St. Petersburg, where they were welcomed by Gov. Georgy Poltavchenko, a former KGB officer and Putin ally, and then met Lavrov and former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, whose contacts with Trump campaign officials ahead of the election have been eyed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

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The all-Republican delegation also met with Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma house of parliament, and Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign relations committee — who each have been sanctioned by the U.S. for their ties to Putin.

Daines insisted the GOP lawmakers had been tough on Russia.

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“We sent a very strong message and a direct message to the Russian government,” Daines told Fox News.

The Montana Republican, who returned from the trip early to join Trump at a campaign rally in his home state, said the lawmakers asked Russia not to interfere in U.S. elections, respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, work alongside the U.S. for peace in Syria, and follow obligations under nuclear arms treaties.

Kislyak, who is now a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, wasn’t impressed.

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“We heard things we’d heard before, and I think our guests heard rather clearly and distinctly an answer that they already knew — we don’t interfere in American elections,” he said.

Trump last week sided with Putin on whether Russia interfered in the election he won, and he praised the Russian president to supporters in Montana.

“Putin is fine, he’s fine,” Trump said. “We are all fine, we’re all people.”

Russian broadcasters mocked the Republican lawmakers as “weak,” saying their tough talk changed after arriving in Moscow.

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“We need to look down at them and say: You came because you needed to, not because we did,” said Russian military expert Igor Korotchenko on state-run television.

Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov said the meeting with the Republican lawmakers was “one of the easiest ones in my life.”

Hat tip to Russian media analyst Julia Davis for her information.

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Fox News reporter and right-wing conspiracy theorists planned to wiretap family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich: report

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The Daily Beast on Monday evening broke a bombshell report on a secret 2017 meeting in Texas on a right-wing conspiracy theory where espionage was discussed.

"One of their topics was responding to online critics of wealthy Texas businessman Ed Butowsky, who had recently been outed as a driving force behind a retracted Fox News story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich," The Beast reported. "The group that gathered at Butowsky’s home included a conspiracy theorist, a Fox reporter fighting for her career, a former private intelligence contractor married to star journalist Lara Logan, and a Democratic PR operative who lost his business in the face of sexual assault allegations."

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Maddow breaks down potential ‘direct financial connection’ between the Russian government and Donald Trump

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow read bombshell excerpts from a new book set for release on Tuesday.

The host interviewed David Enrich, finance editor at The New York Times, about his forthcoming book Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction.

The host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" read excerpts from the book.

"There was no doubt that Deutsche Bank had extensive business dealings with Russia, and those dealings included acting as a conduit for dirty money to get out of Russia and into the western financial system," Enrich wrote.

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Trump said he ‘loved’ the fact that America is more divided than ever: ex-GOP congressman

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President Donald Trump bragged about increasing divisions in America during a White House meeting, a former Republican congressman explained on MSNBC on Monday.

Former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) told host Joy Reid that "Donald Trump has intentionally tried to create the anxiety" that Americans are explaining.

"Garry Kasparov, the Russian freedom activist, has said the point of disinformation isn't to manipulate the truth, it's to exhaust your critical thinking," Jolly explained. "To exhaust your critical thinking, that's what we're experiencing as voters."

"I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and he said he heard Trump say, 'Have you ever seen the nation so divided?' My colleagues and others said, 'No, we haven't.' Trump said, 'I love it that way.' This is the currency that he's peddling as political strategy, but it's not one we have to accept," Jolly explained.

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