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Putin’s ‘long game’ is to ‘destroy western democracies’ — and the GOP is helping him: Former CIA officer

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As articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump move forward in the U.S. House of Representatives, pro-Trump Republicans continue to insist that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election — a claim that foreign affairs expert Fiona Hill described as total nonsense during her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last month. Regardless, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina recently told an NBC News reporter that in 2016, “Every elected official in the Ukraine was for Hillary Clinton. Is that very different than the Russians being for Donald Trump?” And former CIA officer Alex Finley, in a December 10 article for Just Security, explains why Burr’s assertion is a “false equivalence” that “completely and dangerously mischaracterizes the threat we are facing” from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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In 2016, Finley explains, some “Ukrainian officials publicly expressed a dislike for candidate Trump” and “looked to hold” some “corrupt” associates of former President Viktor Yanukovych “accountable” — and one of those associates “happened to be Trump’s campaign chairman” (Paul Manafort). But, Finley quickly adds, “Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is aiming to destroy western democracies.”

Those who think that statement about Putin sounds “overblown,” Finley asserts, should consider what Putin told the Financial Times: “The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

Putin, Finley stresses, is opposed to the very ideal of liberal democracy.

“Russia has been running, and continues to run, a covert intelligence operation aimed at duping westerners and inflaming internal divisions, in order to break down our democratic institutions,” Finley observes. “Putin aims to bring down the western liberal order, which — with the United States at the helm — has generally brought peace and stability to the west for 70 years.”

Republicans, Finley warns, “should ask themselves why Putin sees them as a good partner” in his anti-U.S. goals.

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Finley goes on to list some things that the Russian government under Putin’s leadership did in 2016, from hacking Democratic e-mails to running an “influence campaign” through websites like WikiLeaks to infiltrating “the NRA and GOP circles with Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin.”

Moreover, Finley writes, Putin’s government is not only trying to undermine western liberal democracy in the United States, but also, in Italy, France, Germany and other countries that have long been U.S. allies.“Congressional Republicans have become pansies of Putin in a much larger game,” Finley warns. “This is not about one election or even two elections. Putin is playing a long game aimed at changing the international system in his favor, and Republicans are aiding and abetting him. Does the party of Ronald Reagan really want to be an accomplice to the destruction of the U.S.-led liberal world order?”

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President Xi Jinping warns China’s coronavirus situation is ‘grave’ due to ‘accelerating spread’ of the virus

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President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that China faced a "grave situation" as authorities raced to contain a virus that has killed 41 people and caused a drastic scale-back of Lunar New Year celebrations.

The world's most populous country, which is scrambling to contain the disease that has infected nearly 1,300 people and overwhelmed health facilities, is building a second field hospital and closing more travel routes.

After more countries reported cases, Xi said at a Communist Party leadership meeting on the disease that China was "faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus" but that the country will "definitely be able to win the battle," according to state media.

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‘NPR will not be intimidated’: Mike Pompeo blasted for attacks on reporter Mary Louise Kelly

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National Public Radio (NPR) is standing by "All Things Considered" host Mary Louise Kelly after she was attacked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"One day after a contentious interview followed by an expletive-filled verbal lashing of NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is publicly accusing her of lying to him — 'twice,'" NPR reported. "He does not explain how and offers no evidence, but in their recorded interview the nation's top diplomat declined to respond when Kelly asked if he owed an apology to Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was ousted from that post last year after allies of President Trump accused her of disloyalty."

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Trump lawyers argue ‘the president did absolutely nothing wrong’ as GOP presents impeachment trial defense

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White House lawyers began their defense of Donald Trump at his historic Senate impeachment trial on Saturday, saying the president did nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine and American voters -- not Congress -- should decide his fate.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone said it would be a "completely irresponsible abuse of power" if the Senate follows the lead of the House of Representatives and votes to remove the 45th US president from office.

"They're asking you to do something that no Senate has ever done," Cipollone told the 100 senators gathered on a rainy Saturday morning for a rare weekend session at just the third impeachment trial in US history.

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