U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: January 11, 2017

Darren Hauck/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. Report claims Russia may have ‘compromising’ information on Trump
U.S. intelligence chiefs last week presented President-elect Donald Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had compromising information about him, officials with knowledge of the briefing said Tuesday. The summary, delivered as an appendix to a joint intelligence report on Russian hacking during the election season, was based on memos by political operatives who were trying to derail Trump’s campaign. The information came from a former British intelligence operative considered credible by U.S. intelligence officials, although it has not been verified. Trump, who is expected to face questions on Russian hacking and his business ties in a Wednesdaynews conference, tweeted that the report was “a total political witch hunt.” The Kremlin said it had no compromising dossier on Trump.

Source: CNN, The New York Times

2. Obama thanks Americans, expresses optimism and concerns in farewell speech
President Obama delivered an emotional farewell address to the nation from his adopted hometown of Chicago on Tuesday night, thanking Americans for keeping him honest, and making him a “better president” and a “better man.” Obama expressed optimism for the nation despite deep political divisions in the wake of a divisive election. He vowed to continue his civic activism after leaving office in just over a week, but warned economic inequality, racism, and hardline anti-immigrant sentiment threatened to weaken U.S. democracy. “We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others,” he said, “when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.”

Source: Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post

3. Sessions counters over his civil rights record in confirmation hearing
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, said in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that Democrats’ criticism of his civil rights record was a “false caricature.” Sessions acknowledged “the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters,” and he vowed that the Justice Department under his direction would “never falter in its obligation to protect the rights of every American.” Civil rights advocates called for delaying Sessions’ confirmation, repeating longstanding concerns over his record on race issues. At least five protesters were dragged out of the hearing room, some shouting, “No Trump, no KKK, no racist U.S.A.” Under pressure, Republicans delayed hearings on four other Trump nominees to allow ethics officials to thoroughly vet them.

Source: USA Today, The New York Times

4. Trump calls on Congress to quickly repeal, then replace ObamaCare
President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Congress to swiftly repeal President Obama’s signature health care reform law, then replace it. “We have to get to business,” Trump said. “ObamaCare has been a catastrophic event.” Trump said Congress should vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act “probably some time next week,” and that “the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.” The Senate plans a Thursday vote on a budget resolution to begin paving the way for a repeal bill, but Republicans are far from agreeing on the form of a system to replace ObamaCare.

Source: The New York Times

5. Bombs kill dozens in Afghanistan
Two bombs blew up near heavily guarded sites in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on Tuesday, killing more than 30 people near the parliament building and security agencies. The first bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber, and the second was planted in a car, exploding after security forces arrived in response to the first blast. Dozens of people were wounded in the attacks in what became the bloodiest day of Taliban attacks Kabul had seen in months, undermining government claims that U.S.-aided forces were gaining momentum in their fight to control the Taliban. In southern Afghanistan, a blast at a guesthouse belonging to the provincial governor killed another five people in Kandahar.

Source: The Associated Press

6. Jury sentences Dylann Roof to death for Charleston church massacre
A jury on Tuesday convicted Dylann Roof to death for hate crimes in the murder of nine black worshippers at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof, a 22-year-old self-proclaimed white supremacist, did not cross-examine prosecution witnesses, or call witnesses of his own during the penalty phase of the trial, and said in his closing remarks, “I still feel like I had to do it.” He has said he wanted the killings to start a race war. The sentence won’t be formal until a Wednesday hearing, but U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel is bound by law to follow the jury’s decision.

Source: The Post and Courier

7. Supreme Court temporarily blocks order to redraw N.C. districts
The Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked a lower-court ruling ordering North Carolina legislators to redraw state legislative districts, to give the justices time to consider whether to hear the appeal. Under the ruling, North Carolina had until March 15 to redraw the districts, and it was to hold special elections in the new districts this fall. State Republican legislative leaders and other officials had requested the delay. The lower court ordered the changes after a summer decision to throw out 28 state House and Senate districts, calling them illegal racial gerrymanders.

Source: The Associated Press

8. Taiwan scrambles jets as Chinese aircraft carrier passes
Taiwan scrambled military jets on Wednesday as China’s only aircraft carrier entered the Taiwan Strait after months of mounting tensions in the region. China’s Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier is returning from exercises in the South China Sea. Beijing said it was perfectly normal for it to pass through international waters on the way home. Taiwan said it had dispatched jets and navy ships to “surveil and control” the Chinese ships as they passed. Chang Hsiao-yueh, minister for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said Taiwan’s government “has sufficient capability to protect our national security,” but there was no reason to “overly panic” over the incident.

Source: Reuters

9. Trump asks vaccine skeptic RFK Jr. to investigate vaccine safety
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a noted vaccine skeptic, said Tuesday that he had accepted an offer from President-elect Donald Trump to head a commission to investigate “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” “President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it,” said Kennedy, son of the late attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of late President John F. Kennedy. “His opinion doesn’t matter, but the science does matter.” In 2015, Kennedy said drug companies can “put anything they want” into vaccines with no accountability, and suggested a connection between vaccines and autism.

Source: The Hill

10. Fox News paid to prevent sexual harassment suit against Bill O’Reilly
21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, paid long-time on-air personality Juliet Huddy a sum in the high six figures in exchange for an agreement not to sue over her allegation that the network’s top host, Bill O’Reilly, made unwanted sexual advances in 2011 and derailed her career when she rebuffed them, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The company and O’Reilly’s lawyer said Huddy’s claims were false. Huddy’s lawyers said in a draft of a letter to Fox News that was obtained by The New York Times that longtime Fox executive Jack Abernethy also had retaliated against Huddy after she indicated she did not want a personal relationship. The letter was sent weeks after former Fox News chief Roger Ailes was ousted over another sexual harassment scandal.

Source: The New York Times

U.S. Politics

Irony Alert: Comey Refuses To Comment Publicly On Possible Trump-Russia Investigation

Irony Alert: Comey Refuses To Comment Publicly On Possible Trump-Russia Investigation

Screenshot

POLITICUS USA

“I would never comment on investigations  …  in an open forum,” the FBI director said, straight face intact.

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey refused to comment on whether his agency is investigating any connection between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.

“I would never comment on investigations  …  in an open forum,” Comey responded, straight face intact.

The remark comes amid reports that Russia has damaging financial and personal information on Trump.

The irony of the FBI director’s refusal to answer the question posed by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden did not go unnoticed by Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine.

Video:

When King pressed Comey on why he wouldn’t answer Wyden’s initial question on whether the FBI was investigation a possible Trump campaign-Russia connection, Comey repeated himself.

“I don’t, especially in a public forum, we never confirm or deny a pending investigation,” Comey said.

King shot back, with a chuckle: “The irony of your making that statement here, I cannot avoid, but I’ll move on.”

The irony, of course, is that Comey weighed in publicly about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails twice in two weeks just before last year’s presidential election.

Luckily, Comey was called out for his clear change of heart when it comes to publicly discussing his agency’s investigations. But the American people still deserve to know whether Trump – who will formally become president in 10 days – was coordinating with a foreign state in order to win a presidential election.

U.S. Politics

Pay Women More If You Want a Stronger Economy

Donald Trump Opens Trump International Hotel in Washington

Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

TIME

It’s an essential, just act of stimulus

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka promised to improve the lives of working women. The campaign vowed to align federal policies with the needs of women and families—from pledging to fight for equal pay for equal work, to guaranteeing six weeks of paid maternity leave and tax credits for child care expenses. President-elect Donald Trump would be smart to take action on these and other issues—they are not only for the good of women and their families, but for our economy.

The most recent economic indicators make it clear that President-elect Trump will be inheriting an economy far stronger than the one facing President Obama when he took office nearly eight years ago. We went from losing 800,000 jobs a month to creating nearly 200,000 jobs a month and turned a sharp economic contraction into steady economic growth. Yet, there is more work to be done to boost incomes and expand the middle class.

As Congress and the new President search for a real fiscal stimulus with long-term payoffs, they should look no further than fighting for equal pay for women and investing in paid family leave and quality, affordable child care. American families stand to benefit substantially from closing the pay gap. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has calculated that if working women were paid the same as comparable men—men who were of the same age, had the same level of education, worked the same number of hours and lived in similar geographic areas—women’s average annual earnings would have been $482 billion higher in 2014. Closing the pay gap would yield an average benefit of $6,551 per working woman—real money that could have helped families make ends meet and jumpstarted the economy.

What has been little discussed is the fact that closing the pay gap would have a dramatic effect on women who live in poverty. IWPR calculations show that if women’s labor were valued the same as men’s, the poverty rate among working women would be cut in half—from 8.2 percent to 4.0 percent.

A 2016 report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee Minority Staff explores this issue further, highlighting the fact that the pay gap subjects women to a lifetime of earnings losses which hits them especially hard in retirement through lower Social Security benefits, pension income and private savings. It is no wonder that women over 75 are twice as likely to live in poverty as men.

The fact that women earn just 80 percent of what men earn is a complex problem, but one worth solving. Many factors contribute to pay inequality between men and women, including occupational segregation, segregation by industry, time spent out of the labor force raising children or caring for elderly parents, and outright discrimination. This is exacerbated by the absence of basic supports such as paid family leave and affordable child caremaking it that much harder for families to make the best choices for their families and maintain financial stability. Working families can’t afford to have policymakers wait any longer to take action to raise families’ pay by closing the gender wage gap.

If President-elect Trump is serious about helping working families thrive, he should start by following through on promises he made during the campaign to strengthen equal-pay laws so that they carry real penalties for companies that break the law. He should guarantee paid sick days and paid family and medical leave—not just for mothers, but for all workers. He should improve access to quality, affordable child care, so that working families are not paying more for child care than they are for rent. And he should raise the minimum wage and eliminate the tipped minimum wage so that low-wage workers—the majority of whom are women—can start bringing home a living wage.

So let’s stimulate the economy, and let’s do it by investing in women and their families.

 

U.S. Politics

5 presidential quotes from prior presidents’ farewell addresses

5 presidential quotes from prior presidents' farewell addresses

Image Credit: AP

POLICY.MIC

On Jan. 10, President Barack Obama traveled to Chicago to deliver his farewell address, and he already gave us a sneak preview of what his speech may be like. Through his Facebook page, President Barack Obama said that “Chicago is all where it started, it’s the city that showed us the power and fundamental goodness of the American people.” He added that “We’ve made America a better, stronger place for the generations that will follow.”

The White House’s official Twitter account is preparing ahead of Obama’s speech.

On Jan. 10, President Barack Obama traveled to Chicago to deliver his farewell address, and he already gave us a sneak preview of what his speech may be like. Through his Facebook page, President Barack Obama said that “Chicago is all where it started, it’s the city that showed us the power and fundamental goodness of the American people.” He added that “We’ve made America a better, stronger place for the generations that will follow.”

The White House’s official Twitter account is preparing ahead of Obama’s speech.

U.S. Politics

Seth Meyers Hilariously Tells The News Media How They Should Do Their Jobs, And He’s Right (VIDEO)

Seth Meyers Hilariously Tells The News Media How They Should Do Their Jobs, And He’s Right (VIDEO)

Featured image via video screen capture

ADDICTING INFO

2016 may go down as the year that news died, at least in their souls. Sure, it’s been happening for a long time, but now, writing about Donald Trump’s Twitter wars has become more important than actual news and unfortunately, it takes a comedian to tell the truth.

Seth Meyers, in one of this best rants ever, criticized the media’s constant coverage of Trump’s tweets, and in particular, the Twitter war against Meryl Streep, calling them distractions from the real scandal: the Russian hacking scandal.

“Whether these tweets are calculated distractions or just the ramblings of an unhinged narcissist,” Meyers explained, “it’s clear Trump would much rather talk about his feud with Meryl Streep than, say, the fact that intelligence officials believe Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to help Trump win the election.”

Source: Slate

Here’s the entire video, definitely worth a listen:

 

While we can’t know whether Trump’s childish Twitter feed is a distraction or just the real, unfiltered Donald Trump, it doesn’t matter. The fact is, it’s serving as a distraction. Trump and his handlers are pushing the news cycles into overdrive, leaving the media chasing the latest headline, which is way too often Trump’s latest tweets, rather than examining things of national importance.

If it weren’t for the downfall of the mainstream media, you know, the same mainstream media that treated unfounded allegations against Hillary Clinton as if they held the same weight (or more) as the fact that Donald Trump has been accused of rape or that he didn’t provide his tax returns or that he very clearly seems to be a puppet of Russia, we likely wouldn’t have a President-Elect Donald Trump. Meyers is right. It’s time the media does its job. Too bad it will be left to the comedians.

Wendy Gittleson

U.S. Politics

The bombshell report that Russia can blackmail Trump, explained

Image result for Vladimir Putin

Photo by Ma Ping – Pool/Getty Images

VOX

There’s an enormous amount we don’t yet know about CNN’s bombshell report that US intelligence agencies believe Russia has “compromising personal and financial information” on President-elect Donald Trump and that his campaign was in direct contact with Russian intermediaries before the election.

We don’t know who CNN’s sources are or if those people’s information is accurate. We don’t know which Trump aides were allegedly dealing with the Russians or whether those Russians worked for Vladimir Putin’s government. And we don’t know the answer to the biggest question of them all: Just what does Russia have on Trump?

“So while people are being delicate about discussing wholly unproven allegations, the document is at the front of everyone’s minds as they ponder the question: Why is Trump so insistent about vindicating Russia from the hacking charges that everyone else seems to accept?” Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic wrote in a post for the Lawfare blog.

There is one thing, though, that we can say with absolute certainty. If the allegations are true, they will spark criminal investigations and the types of congressional probes that could end Trump’s presidency before it fully begins. If the allegations are false, Trump will accurately be able to say that he’d been slandered by a politicized intelligence community looking for ways to undermine his legitimacy.

Trump’s weeks-long war with the CIA means this kind of moment may have been inevitable: After weeks of quiet sniping, sources inside the agency or familiar with its work have responded by leaking something truly and genuinely explosive.

A lot of people have joked about whether Russia had something on Trump. Turns out it might.

Here’s what we know. Late on Tuesday afternoon, CNN reported that the heads of America’s top intelligence agencies had showed Trump evidence that the Russians had compromising information on him. The allegations came from unsubstantiated memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative that had been in circulation since last summer but that US spy agencies had only recently deemed “credible.”

According to CNN, Sen. John McCain passed a full set of the memos to FBI Director James Comey last month. The New York Times reported that top intelligence officials have also briefed President Obama, the top leaders of the House and Senate, and the chair and ranking member of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the information from the memos even though none of it has been proven true:

The decision of top intelligence officials to give the president, the president-elect and the so-called Gang of Eight — Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress and the intelligence committees — what they know to be unverified, defamatory material was extremely unusual.

After the CNN report, BuzzFeed published the actual dossier, which includes the allegation that Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB, believed it had “compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him.” More specifically, the dossier alleges that Russia had information that Trump engaged in “perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB” and had been recorded having sex with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.

My colleague Zack Beauchamp notes that there are three other less salacious but potentially more damaging explanations of what Russia may have on Trump, and of why the president-elect would have been so worried about its release. First, proof that Trump isn’t as rich as he claims. Second, evidence that Trump’s campaign directly coordinated with a Russian government hell-bent on ensuring his election. And third, that Trump’s business dealings with Russia — and the amount he may owe Russian investors in his company — are far, far greater than we think.

Trump took to Twitter Tuesday night to flatly deny the CNN report (and later take a shot at BuzzFeed): “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT.”

It may be a while until we know if Trump is right or if the CNN report is accurate. In the meantime, the president-elect has a different problem entirely: He’s taken so many jarringly pro-Kremlin positions that something that would seem too ludicrous for Hollywood — Russian spies preparing to potentially blackmail an American president — seems like a semi-plausible explanation.

Trump’s embrace of Vladimir Putin — and war on the CIA — starts to make sense if you believe he was worried about being blackmailed by Russia

One of the enduring mysteries of the 2016 election is how Republican voters who have for decades venerated Ronald Reagan for defeating the Soviet Union got so strongly behind a pro-Russian candidate like Trump.

During the campaign, Trump praised Putin’s strength as a leader, brushed aside concerns about Putin’s abysmal human rights record, hinted that he might recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and talked about leaving NATO entirely or opting to ignore America’s legal obligation to defend any NATO member that comes under Russian attack.

Trump’s pro-Russian positioning goes all the way back to the Republican convention, when his campaign softened the party platform’s language on Ukraine to remove all reference about providing weapons to Kiev so it could protect itself from Russia. A short time later, Trump hinted to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was fine with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

“The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” Trump said.

One of Trump’s former campaign managers, meanwhile, had been a paid consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine like its former president, Viktor Yanukovych. The campaign manager, Paul Manafort, later resigned as part of an internal campaign shake-up.

Trump himself has spent months praising Putin. “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an ‘A’ and our president is not doing so well,” Trump said during an NBC forum in September.

He has also effusively praised Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria: “What’s wrong with Russia bombing the hell out of ISIS and these other crazies so we don’t have to spend a million dollars a bomb?” Never mind that Russian bombs have targeted the relatively moderate opposition more than ISIS, and that the point has been to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. With Russian help, Assad’s forces just finished reconquering the rebel stronghold of Aleppo.

Trump’s rhetoric about Russia has been even more startling since November 8. He has spent weeks mocking the CIA’s conclusion that Putin tried to interfere in the election to help him win the White House by pointing to the spy agency’s faulty intelligence in the runup to the Iraq War. When US spies personally briefed Trump on their findings about Russia, he issued a remarkable statement that barely mentioned Russia. Instead, he lumped it in with China and other unnamed countries and outside groups as potential perpetrators.

Trump’s complete refusal to admit that Russia interfered in the election has baffled and infuriated many Republican lawmakers, who have called for congressional investigations into Moscow’s activities during the campaign and condemned Putin as a quasi-dictator. Just this week, five Republican senators said they’d back a Democratic bill that would make it harder for Trump to lift the punishing US sanctions on Russia.

It would make a bit more sense if Russia did in fact have something on Trump that was so big and so embarrassing that he would do Putin’s bidding to ensure it never became public. Given that Trump has survived the release of an audio recording of him bragging about sexual assault, it would presumably have to be something huge.

It’s hard to predict exactly what will come next. Congressional Republicans say they want to probe Russia’s interference in the election, but it’s not clear if this will be enough to make them stop consistently rejecting Democratic calls to create bipartisan investigative panels modeled on the 9/11 commission. Regardless of whether the CNN story holds up, the leak is sure to further fuel Trump’s war with the nation’s intelligence agencies. Given the array of threats facing the US, that may be one of the most dangerous outcomes of all.

Yochi Dreazen

U.S. Politics

Trump confronts firestorm over Russia allegations

06_Donald_Trump_13_gty_1160.jpg

Over the last week, President-elect Donald Trump has criticized leaks about assessments from U.S. intelligence agencies. | Getty

POLITICO

Ten days before he’s sworn in as president, Donald Trump is facing a potential crisis amid reports that U.S. intelligence officials delivered a report to the president-elect last week outlining allegations that Russia could have compromising information about him.

Although the details of these revelations remain murky and unverified, their publication Tuesday night, on the eve of Trump’s first news conference since July, is upsetting any post-election honeymoon and forcing him to confront what is, at best, an uncomfortable public relations fiasco and potentially a new geopolitical pressure point that could cast a shadow on his incoming administration.

Over the past week, Trump has criticized leaks about assessments from U.S. intelligence agencies. He had previously dismissed the FBI’s, Director of National Intelligence’s and CIA’s focus on Russia’s election meddling as a “witch hunt” and had been publicly skeptical of the report’s conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed an influence campaign in order to benefit the Republican nominee last year, unwilling to give credence to anything that might cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory.

On Tuesday evening, multiple reports attributed to anonymous sources contended that the nation’s four top intelligence chiefs informed President Barack Obama and Trump of allegations that Russia had collected compromising and tawdry personal information about the president-elect. A two-page synopsis also included allegations of a running exchange of information during the campaign between Trump allies and Russian government intermediaries.

After the first report surfaced, BuzzFeed published the longer, unverified document that formed the basis of the two-page synopsis to the official report, which had been classified, that details the kompromat — a Russian term for compromising material — in graphic terms.

Sean Spicer, who will serve as Trump’s White House press secretary, called BuzzFeed “pathetic” in a tweet Tuesday night, part of a coordinated pushback from allies inside and outside Trump Tower.

Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was taping an interview on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” on Tuesday as the news broke and dismissed it as “unconfirmed” reports based on “unnamed sources.” And she pushed back when Meyers asserted that Trump himself had been presented the classified information as part of his intelligence briefing last Friday. “He has said he is not aware of that,” she said.

Michael Cohen, the Trump Organization attorney who the unverified report alleges met with Russian government representatives in Prague, tweeted a photo of his passport Tuesday night with the caption: “I have never been to Prague in my life.”

“The entire report is inaccurate,” he told POLITICO. “I have never met with any Russian, Kremlin officials. I have never been to Russia.

“It’s just another attempt to malign Mr. Trump, and I find it interesting how they released this information one day prior to Mr. Trump’s press conference,” he continued.

“No substantiation, no confirmation, rife with misspellings,” longtime informal Trump adviser Roger Stone told POLITICO about the memo detailing the allegations. “This is a bad joke.”

“This is just a continuing meme. How long can we beat this horse before it becomes clear that there is a clear lack of any proof of any of these allegations?” Stone said. “And now they get more personal?”

Stone himself has been in the middle of the Russia controversy after predicting over the summer that John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, would face hard times in the fall.

“Trust me, it will soon the [sic] Podesta’s time in the barrel,” Stone tweeted in August. Stone had also said he had been in touch, through mutual acquaintances, with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In October, WikiLeaks released Podesta’s hacked emails, in a breach that American intelligence agencies believe was orchestrated by the Russian government.

“I was told, as I’ve said 100 times, from a mutual friend that Assange had politically damaging material. Unspecified political dynamite. I was not told that he had hacked John Podesta’s emails,” Stone said on Tuesday.

Trump, who survived a devastating scandal a month before the election after a tape surfaced of him bragging about his celebrity enabling him to get away with grabbing women’s genitals, has had remarkable success pushing past controversies that would have sunk more conventional politicians and in counter punching his adversaries.

But this situation is different — he’s battling the nation’s intelligence officers, not rival politicians. Now, it’s not his campaign in turmoil but a nascent administration less than two weeks from inheriting the White House. And the stakes go beyond politics. With a matter of national security and geopolitical importance, Trump’s uncanny ability to will his own, preferred alternative reality into being may meet its limits.

“I have no idea with Trump. You used to be able to say, ‘I think I know how this ends.’ But there’s no way to know now,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist.

Neera Tanden, a longtime Clinton ally and the president of the Center for American Progress, said Tuesday evening the new allegations should be fully investigated.

“The intelligence dossier presents profoundly disturbing allegations; ones that should shake every American to the core,” she said in a statement.

The new charges risk inflaming bipartisan concerns about Trump’s talk of a new U.S.-Russian partnership.

Shrugging off the worst tensions between the two countries since the Cold War, Trump has long asserted that the U.S. and Russia can “get along great.” Trump says the two countries can cooperate against Islamic terrorism, questions the value of the NATO alliance, and has said he would consider lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia.

Trump has also praised Putin as a strong and savvy leader, saying he would bond with an authoritarian president widely seen as a villain in Western capitals.

Those views buck both Democratic and Republican consensus — “somewhat out of the mainstream,” as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker described them on CNN earlier Tuesday.

That has led some members of Congress and foreign policy experts to wonder whether Trump has an undisclosed motive for seeking Putin’s approval.

The new allegations will provide fodder for critics hoping to block Trump’s planned realignment with Russia. The critics fear Trump could grant Moscow a freer hand in Syria, recognize Putin’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea, lift U.S. sanctions, and even call for a reduced NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

At a minimum, they are likely to make for uncomfortable moments at Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Several Russia hawks from both parties on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were already primed to grill Tillerson on his own relationship with Putin — with whom he struck massive energy deals as CEO of ExxonMobil — as well as Trump’s plans for U.S.-Russia policy.

While the allegations were being characterized as a bombshell, former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid telegraphed knowledge of the memo before the election in a letter dated Oct. 30 to FBI Director James Comey. Reid wrote, “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States.”

Adam Jentleson, who served as a top Reid aide, tweeted on Tuesday night, in all-capital letters, “THIS IS WHAT HARRY REID WAS REFERRING TO.” Jentleson later said in a statement, “Senator Reid’s letters and statements speak for themselves.”

While Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, was grinding through the first day of a long confirmation hearing, lawmakers in another hearing room were questioning Comey. Asked by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) if his agency was currently investigating any possible contact between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, Comey demurred, saying he couldn’t comment on the nature of any current investigations.

Hours later, the reports detailing the addendum to the official report revealed allegations of an ongoing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.

01/10/17 09:59 PM EST

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