U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 12, 2017

Jung Yeon-Je/Getty Images


1. North Korea test-fires ballistic missile into Sea of Japan
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan between Japan and North Korea on Sunday, a provocation likely timed to coincide with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s weekend meeting with President Trump. “North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable. North Korea must fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” Abe said in in Palm Beach, Florida, where he was staying with the president. “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent,” Trump remarked at the joint news conference. South Korea has also condemned the test, which is believed to have used a midrange missile, not an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.

Source: CNN, Politico

2. Protesters demonstrate nationwide over federal Planned Parenthood funding
Hot on the heels of January’s annual March for Life demonstration in Washington, more than 200 protests in 45 states were held Saturday to oppose federal funding for Planned Parenthood. About 150 counter-demonstrations were scheduled as well, with the size of the combined protests ranging from dozens to thousands of people. Government funding is Planned Parenthood’s single largest source of revenue, mostly via Medicaid, though it also receives corporate and individual donations, as well as clinic revenue. Planned Parenthood supporters note that federal money can fund abortions only in a few circumstances, while critics argue those limits are meaningless because money is fungible.

Source: ABC News, Reuters

3. Advocacy groups clash with feds over immigration enforcement surge
The nature of a surge in arrests of undocumented immigrants this week has become a point of contention between immigration advocacy groups and the federal government. Washington maintains Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which conducted the raids that led to several hundred arrests, is simply pursuing business as usual. “This operation was in the planning stages before the current administration issued its [immigration] executive order,” said David Marin, an ICE official in California. With the support of some congressional Democrats, activists aren’t so sure. “These activities have caused fear and uncertainty for many constituents,” Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) said in a letter to ICE with a list of questions about the arrests.

Source: CNN, The Associated Press

4. Trump products dropped by Sears, Kmart
Retailers Sears and Kmart, which share a parent company, announced Saturday they will no longer carry items from President Trump’s brand of home products. The decision was described as part of a broader “initiative to optimize…online product assortment,” but it has inevitably been linked to Nordstrom’s recent announcement that it would no longer sell Ivanka Trump products. The Nordstrom decision was likewise cast as a matter of business, not politics, but the president took personal umbrage. “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom,” he tweeted after that news. On Saturday, Trump again tweeted in Ivanka’s defense, saying she has been “abused” by the media.

Source: ABC News, Politico

5. Trump bashes Mark Cuban’s intelligence after his warning to CEOs
Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban warned American CEOs to be careful in their dealings with President Trump in comments published Friday by The Star-Telegram, a newspaper in Fort Worth, Texas. “Do what you think is right,” Cuban said. “Be an American citizen first. In the bigger scheme of things, our country benefits from peaceful activism a lot more than it benefits from one more shoe being sold, or one more basketball ticket being sold, for that matter.” Sundaymorning, Trump responded on Twitter. “I know Mark Cuban well,” he wrote. “He backed me big-time but I wasn’t interested in taking all of his calls. He’s not smart enough to run for president!” Though Cuban did initially praise Trump’s campaign, he ultimately endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Source: The Star-Telegram, Sporting News

6. Beyoncé, Adele expected to dominate 2017 Grammys
The 2017 Grammy Awards will be held Sunday evening, hosted by late night’s James Corden and featuring special tributes to Prince and George Michael. Performances are scheduled for Adele (who has five nominations), Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Chance The Rapper, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, and Metallica, among others. There is speculation that Beyoncé, who has nine nominations, the most of any artist, may perform as well. The show will also mark Beyoncé’s first public appearance since her announcement that she is pregnant with twins. The Grammys will air on CBS beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern, with a red carpet preview starting at 7:30 p.m.

Source: Entertainment Weekly, E News

7. WWII-era bomb discovery in Greece forces evacuation, museum trip for refugees
An unexploded bomb from World War II was removed from under a gas station in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Sunday. Authorities ordered evacuation of more than 70,000 people so the 500-pound weapon could be transported and safely defused at a firing range. Among the evacuees was a group of about 450 Syrian refugees living in a refugee camp housed in a former toilet paper factory nearby. They were taken on a trip to the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki while the bomb was deactivated, an outing organized at the refugees’ request as a respite from what are described as “prison-like” living conditions in the factory.

Source: Reuters, The Associated Press

8. Yale University to rename Calhoun College after years of controversy
Yale University announced Saturday it will change the name of Calhoun College, one of the school’s 12 undergraduate residences, so it no longer honors John C. Calhoun, a 19th century Yale alumnus who served in multiple Cabinet roles and as vice president of the United States. “Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately promoted slavery as a ‘positive good’ fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. The college will be renamed to honor Grace Murray Hopper, a Yale mathematics alumna and Navy rear admiral who was a pioneer in the field of computer science.

Source: CNN, The Associated Press

9. Volunteers help rescue 300 beached whales in New Zealand
Volunteers in New Zealand struggled this weekend to keep pace with hundreds of pilot whales that accidentally beached themselves and needed assistance returning to the sea. A group of more than 400 whales were first found on the beach Friday. About 300 of them died before they could be rescued, but roughly 100 members of the pod were refloated. Saturday morning, some 240 additional whales were beached in the same three-mile stretch, almost all of them different from the rescued 100. On Sunday, rescue efforts were completed after a high tide allowed around 200 of the new whales to refloat themselves.

Source: The Associated Press, The Week

10. Melissa McCarthy returns to SNL as Sean Spicer
Melissa McCarthy reprised her role as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in Saturday Night Live‘s cold open this week. As “Spicey,” an increasingly agitated McCarthy explains President Trump’s plan for “extreme vetting” of would-be immigrants and refugees using Barbie dolls. Of one, Spicey declares, “We know she is okay, because she is blonde, and so she gets in. Easy. We understand that.” Next, a Moana doll applies for a visa. “Uh oh,” Spicey says. “We are going to pat her down, and then we are going to read her emails and if we don’t like the answers — which we won’t — boom, Guantanamo Bay.” The first time McCarthy played Spicer, he responded with amusement, while President Trump was reportedly irritated by the sketch.

Source: Saturday Night Live, The Washington Post

U.S. Politics

Officials hate each other: 5 disturbing revelations about what’s happening inside Trump’s White House

Officials hate each other: 5 disturbing revelations about what's happening inside Trump's White House

Donald Trump at the presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016. (Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria)


This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Three weeks into his administration, Donald Trump is already considering overhauling the White House. And somehow, that may not even be at the top of his (growing) list of concerns.

A galling new investigation from Politico, based on interviews with two dozen people who have spent time with Trump since the inauguration, suggests the president is completely cowed by the complexities and responsibilities of managing a federal bureaucracy, his staffers bordering on mutinous: “[It’s] a powder-keg of a workplace where job duties are unclear, morale among some is low, factionalism is rampant and exhaustion is running high.”

Here are five of the more explosive findings from its bombshell report:

1. Trump possesses a tenuous grasp of how government actually works.

“Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject — to “seem in control at all times,” one senior government official said — or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies.”

2. Leaks from the White House are driving him up the wall.

“The administration is considering limiting the universe of aides with access to the calls or their transcripts, said one administration official, adding that the leaks — and Trump’s anger over them — had created a climate where people are “very careful who they talk to.

[. . .]

Last week, Trump told an associate he had become weary of in-fighting among — and leaks from — his White House staff ‘because it reflects on me,’ and that he intended to sit down staffers to tell them ‘to cut this shit out.’”

3. Jared Kushner’s feud with Chris Christie is alive and well.

“Kushner, who is among Trump’s most trusted advisers, has been incensed by reports that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has ripped the White House over its implementation of Trump’s executive order restricting travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, is telling people that he expects to enter the White House as part of a ‘second wave’ of staffers that will replace initial hires. Kushner has long had tensions with Christie — who as Attorney General of New Jersey prosecuted Kushner’s father — and played a key role in blocking him from getting a senior job in the administration.”

4. Trump can’t quit his “SNL” habit, and it’s threatening Sean Spicer’s job security.

“Trump, a voracious consumer of cable news, has been known to critique aides and surrogates for their appearances. After Spicer’s press briefings, the president has told his spokesman that he’s unhappy about specific answers or his demeanor.

The president, who is obsessive about looks and appearance, even was unhappy with a ‘Saturday Night Live’ parody of a Spicer briefing, partly because the combative press secretary was depicted by a female comedian, Melissa McCarthy. After it aired, Spicer had proposed cracking a joke about the send-up during his next briefing, or even firing a squirt gun, as McCarthy had done in the sketch. Trump vetoed the idea, according to one person briefed on the matter.”

5. Administration officials can’t stand each other, and they’re all miserable.

“Two visitors to the White House last week said they were struck by how tired the staff looks.

[. . .]

For all of Trump’s frustrations about staff drama however, it isn’t clear they’re going away any time soon. Tensions remain between the staffs of chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon. Priebus’ advisers blamed Bannon’s team for the botched rollout of the travel ban executive order, saying that they hadn’t done the needed legwork ahead of time.”

Jacob Sugarman

Read more at Politico.

U.S. Politics

Republicans dismiss growing protests at home

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As Republican lawmakers face rising anger from constituents at town-hall events across the country, they’re dismissing the protests as coming from a “small but vocal minority” backed by big-money liberal interests.

This week, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) became the latest Republican to see video of angry protesters shouting him down at an event in his hometown go viral.

Chaffetz struggled to control the crowd, which frequently booed him and erupted in chants of “do your job!” after Chaffetz was asked why his panel spent months investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails but so far hasn’t launched any probes into the Trump administration.

At meetings from California to Maine, GOP legislators have been greeted by hundreds and even thousands of angry progressives carrying signs, chanting and uploading videos of the lawmakers escaping into idling cars or facing hostile questions.

Liberals have been emboldened by the protests, believing their own version of the Tea Party movement has sprung up organically in response to President Trump and GOP majorities in Congress.

Republicans are not convinced.

House GOP conference vice chairman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) wrote in a letter to Republicans this week that they should not fear the “vocal minority” he says is “grasping for relevance in communities across the nation.”

Some, like Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), are blaming the protests on a group called “Indivisible,” which was started in December by a handful of former Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill.

“What I’m worried about is that the mainstream press can’t Google ‘Indivisible’ and the Soros-funded movement that is pushing all of this,” Brat told The Hill. “Indivisible’s game plan is to create chaos and humiliate public officials. The mainstream press can’t seem to do investigative journalism at all.”

Brat was referring to billionaire George Soros, whose significant financial contributions to liberal groups have made him into the nemesis of many on the right. But one of Indivisible’s founders says the group doesn’t have any connections to Soros, and Brat’s recommended Google search turned up no credible information on Indivisible’s supposed ties to the wealthy investor.

Thousands of local chapters of Indivisible have sprung up across the nation since the group launched in December. Founder Sarah Dohl told The Hill the group has no ties to Soros or any other major liberal donors.

The group started when she and Ezra Levin, both former staffers for Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), posted an online guide for how progressives can oppose the Trump agenda and successfully influence lawmakers.

The guide went viral after it was tweeted by liberal activist George Takei and former Labor secretary Robert Reich.

Dohl and Levin set up a website in December, which they say has drawn 12.4 million page views and spawned more than 6,500 local groups in the two months since. The guide has been downloaded 1.5 million times, they say.

“We’re hearing from a lot of people on the ground that this is their first time ever getting politically involved,” Dohl said. “Before this movement sprung up, a lot of them had never even called their congressman.”

“We’re looking to adopt the Tea Party’s tactics of local activism and defensive politics,” Dohl continued. “They were able to slow a popular president and grind policymaking for a Democratic super-majority to a halt. We think we can do the same thing now because Trump and this GOP Congress don’t have nearly the mandate we had.”

Conservative talkers like Sean Hannity and former Speaker Newt Gingrich have fanned the notion on the right that the protests are “Astroturf,” rather than grassroots.

The White House has taken up that line too, with press secretary Sean Spicer claiming that the protesters are being paid to harass GOP lawmakers.

Republicans say their claims that the protests don’t represent their district’s voters have merit because many of the lawmakers targeted by protesters represent Trump-friendly districts.

Trump won 47 percent of the vote in Chaffetz’s district compared to Clinton’s 23 percent.

But Chaffetz wasn’t the only GOP lawmaker to face a hostile town hall in a red district on Thursday. Angry crowds also showed up at district events with Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.). Video from Black’s town hall of a teacher defending ObamaCare’s individual insurance mandate went viral, attracting attention on social media and CNN.

Seventy-two percent of voters went for Trump in Black’s central Tennessee district. And Trump beat Clinton by nine points in Amash’s Grand Rapids-area district in Michigan.

“Where are these people coming from? They’re not coming from areas where they’ll vote,” one GOP campaign operative told The Hill. “All you’re seeing is an organized effort from these local groups under the umbrella of Indivisible and they’re casting wide nets to generate this support. When they show up at Chaffetz’s town-hall, they’re inviting people from all over Utah and even from Colorado to turn it into a show.”

An Indivisible leader from the 6th Congressional District in Illinois, where some 400 turned out to protest Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.) this week, disputed that characterization.

“Wholly untrue,” said the leader, who is new to the political scene and requested anonymity. “None of us are savvy enough to organize nationally or bring friends in from out of state to stand in 30 degree weather and hold signs. That’s ridiculous. They’re using that narrative to dismiss us. Everyone I talked to at our rally was from this district.”

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who had to be whisked away from an event in Roseville by the police, said he believes the protests are a mix of national coordination and local activism.

However, he warned that Republicans shouldn’t underestimate the movement.

“Democrats made a big mistake by not taking the Tea Party seriously,” he said in an email. “Both movements are a reminder that in the end, we will be judged on whether the vast majority of Americans believe we have improved the health care system for them and their families.”

Tim Phillips, the president of the conservative grassroots group Americans for Prosperity, which was at the forefront of the Tea Party movement, said he doesn’t think the protests are “Astroturf.”

But he said Republicans have triumphed under these conditions before, pointing to the massive protests that shut down the Wisconsin statehouse amid Gov. Scott Walker’s actions to undermine the labor movement in the state.

“They can mobilize hundreds of millions of dollars, the left has a massive operation,” Phillips said. “Anyone who expects it to be easy hasn’t been paying attention. So of course they’ll put thousands of people out there, if they don’t it’s malpractice on their part. In no way are we underestimating that… but we’ve pushed through this before.”

— Scott Wong contributed

U.S. Politics

Trump’s Approval Rating Tumbles To All-Time Low In Latest Gallup Poll

Trump’s Approval Rating Tumbles To All-Time Low In Latest Gallup Poll


The new data comes days after Trump took aim at the polls, calling them “fake news” if they find that he or his policies are unpopular.


According to the poll, just 41 percent of Americans think the new president is doing a good job. A majority – 53 percent – say he’s doing a pretty terrible job as the nation’s 45th president.

His approval marks are worse than George W. Bush’s right after Hurricane Katrina and well below the 48 percent approval rating Barack Obama averaged throughout his successful two-term presidency.

The new data comes days after Trump took aim at polls, calling them “fake news” if they find that he or his policies are unpopular.

While Trump – and many of his supporters – like to dismiss any bad poll number or news story about him as “fake,” there is no doubting that the new president is already deeply unpopular. This isn’t a new phenomenon either; he’s never been seen very positively by the American people.

The fact that his brief time in the White House has been nothing short of a trainwreck – from threatening our allies with military action and wreaking havoc on America’s airports to nominating unqualified cabinet members and throwing a stunning number of Twitter tirades – makes it no surprise that Trump’s approval ratings are continuing to fall to levels never seen by a new president.

In his first three weeks, he has discredited his supporters who told us to give him a chance (“He may surprise us!”) and validated those who said he wasn’t temperamentally fit to be commander-in-chief. Trump just isn’t very good at being president – and the American people know that.

There is nothing fake about it.

U.S. Politics

Kate McKinnon Plays Jeff Sessions On ‘SNL’ Because She Can Be Literally Anyone


No one in the White House is safe from McKinnon.

Then, Sessions ― who, in real life, was once deemed too racist to be a federal judge ― starts speaking from the heart: “We all know there are two kinds of crimes,” Sessions says. “Regular and black.”

Spicer, sensing the impending controversy, whisks the AG off stage almost immediately.

McKinnon’s impression may have been cut short, but it left fans wondering who else in the White House the actress can play.


But fans who wanted more McKinnon action quickly got their fix when the “SNL” regular came back on screen as Conway with Jake Tapper in the style of “Fatal Attraction,” then again as Sen. Warren in the Weekend Update ― all in one episode.

Seriously, is there anyone in D.C. this woman can’t be?

U.S. Politics

Sunday Talk: The Best Deals




This week, the socalled president, @realDonaldTrump, continued to win on behalf of America—anyone claiming otherwise is dishonoring the sacrifice of the victims of the Bowling Green massacre, and owes their families an apology.

Contrary to what FAKE NEWS outlets such as CNN would have you believe, PresidentTrump remains extremely popular—which is to say that he remains popular with his extremist base.

And they’re not aloneformer President Obama likes him, too (according to Trump).

Another lie that’s been gaining currency with the liberal media is that Trump doesn’t call his own shots, and merely does whatever Steve Bannon tells him to do; however, nothing could be further from the truth (no puppet, no puppet).

If you’re buying any of this bullshit, perhaps I can interest you in some of Ivanka’s stuff.


Morning lineup:

Meet the Press: White House Adviser Stephen Miller; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA); Roundtable: Greta Van Susteren (MSNBC), Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R).

Face The Nation: White House Adviser Stephen Miller; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ); Roundtable: Susan Page (USA Today), Peter Baker (New York Times), Reihan Salam (National Review) & Ron Brownstein (The Atlantic).

This Week: White House Adviser Stephen Miller; Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson; Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD); Roundtable: Rich Lowry (National Review), Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform), Cokie Roberts (ABC News), Democratic Strategist Jamal Simmons & Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation).

Fox News Sunday: White House Adviser Stephen Miller; Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); Roundtable: Michael Needham (Heritage Action for America), Julie Pace (Associated Press), Radio Host Laura Ingraham & Juan Williams (Fox News).

State of the Union: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN); New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R); Roundtable: Rep. André Carson (D-IN), Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), Neera Tanden (Center for American Progress) & Republican Strategist Alice Stewart.

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: interviews with Beyonce, Adele, and Bruno Mars (preview).

Late night shows:

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Monday: Actress Shailene Woodley; Actress Laverne Cox; Reality TV Stars Rick & Marty Lagina.

Tuesday: Actress Christine Baranski,; Composer Hans Zimmer.

Wednesday: Actor Bob Odenkirk; Actress Tatiana Maslany; Writer George Saunders.

Thursday: Actress Sally Field; Actress Maggie Siff; Musical Group Lady Antebellum.

Friday: Actress Julie Andrews; Actress Christina Hendricks.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Monday: Elaine Welteroth & Phillip Picardi (Teen Vogue);  Tuesday: Actress Laverne CoxWednesday: Actor Charlie DayThursday: Documentarian Ezra Edelman.


Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach used some colorful language to challenge President Trump.

In a Facebook post, state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, linked to a Politico story about Trump’s meeting with several county sheriffs, including Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh. According to the website, Harold Eavenson, sheriff of Rockwall County, Texas, brought up the issue of civil asset forfeiture.

Eavenson brought up to Trump an unnamed senator who was discussing introducing legislation that would require a conviction before law enforcement could seize forfeiture money, joking that “the cartel would build a monument” to the senator in Mexico for passing said legislation.

“Who is the state senator? Do you want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career,” Trump replied, according to Politico.

Leach, who has pushed for civil asset forfeiture reform in Pennsylvania, invited Trump to come after him as well.

“Hey! I oppose civil asset forfeiture too,” Leach wrote on Facebook and Twitter. “Why don’t you come after me you fascist, loofa-faced s***-gibbon!!”



FLOTUS Melania Trump refiled her defamation suit against the Daily Mail for calling her a hooker, and causing her to miss out on the opportunity to cash in on her position.

An attorney for first lady Melania Trump argued in a lawsuit filed Monday that an article falsely alleging that she once worked for an escort service hurt her chance to establish “multimillion dollar business relationships” during the years in which she would be “one of the most photographed women in the world.”

The suit — filed Monday in New York Supreme Court, a state trial court, in Manhattan — against Mail Media, the owner of the Daily Mail, said the article published by the Daily Mail and its online division last August caused Trump’s brand, Melania, to lose “significant value”  as well as “major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her.” The suit said the article had damaged her “unique, once in a lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial brand.”

The suit filed Monday did not spell out a plan by Trump to market her products during her tenure as first lady, but mentioned that her reputation had suffered just as she was experiencing a “multi-year term” of elevated publicity. The suit says the Daily Mail article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”

Buy the rumor, sell the news.

– Trix

U.S. Politics

Gen. Flynn led standing ovation for Putin in Moscow

This is our “National Security Adviser folks! (ks)


Donald Trump’s embattled National Security Adviser led a standing ovation for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin last winter during a gala celebrating the ten-year anniversary of Russia’s propaganda organ, RT (aka Russia Today).

Flynn didn’t just join the standing ovation for Putin. He started it.

In a video posted by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, not only did Flynn joined in the standing ovation following Putin’s speech, but on closer examination, it’s clear that Flynn and the woman next to him led the standing ovation for Putin.

Flynn had the honor, along with Jill Stein (who also joined in the ovation), of sitting at Putin’s table.

The full video is below, but take a look at these photos from the beginning of the ovation. First, the larger photo showing only Flynn and the woman next to him standing as Putin finishes. Then a close-up.

And there’s no doubt once you watch the entire video, that’s Flynn.

After Flynn and the woman started the ovation, the entire crowd eventually rose. You can see it all much better in the video, below.

Troubles grew yesterday when it was revealed that multiple current and former US investigators alleged that Flynn did in fact discuss US sanctions against Russia during his calls with the Russian ambassador. Flynn, and VP Mike Pence, have both claimed that Flynn never discussed the sanctions with the Russians. It now seems that was not entirely honest of either of them.

As the Washington Post notes, we now have a situation in which Flynn and Pence misled the American people in order to hide Flynn’s contacts with the Russian government. Why did they do this? Why did they feel the need to lie about what was actually taking place behind the scenes with Putin’s top advisers?