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September 3, 2014
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On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office announced that Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had spoken by phone, and "the result of the conversation was agreement on a permanent cease-fire in the Donbass," the term used for Ukraine's eastern regions. "An agreement was reached about mutual vision of steps that will promote peace." Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in the conversation, Poroshenko and Putin had discovered that their views on how to stop the bloodshed in the region "coincide to a considerable degree."

Poroshenko's office didn't disclose any details of the peace plan, or explain how Putin could agree to end a battle he insists he isn't fighting. There was also no immediate reaction from the pro-Russia separatists fighting Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine. The separatists didn't abide by Poroshenko's last cease-fire.

The agreement was announced as President Obama landed in Estonia to demonstrate NATO's commitment to keep Moscow from attacking member states near Russia (Ukraine isn't a member of NATO), and a day before NATO meets to discuss how to handle Russia's aggression. Timothy Ash, an analysts at Standard Bank in London, is skeptical about the timing:

I guess for the Ukrainian military this gives them a chance to regroup after recent military setbacks, and bide time to see what NATO and the EU delivers over the next few days in terms of deterrents to Russia for further intervention. In the past we have seen Moscow looking to talk/sending peace signals just before important EU/G7/NATO meetings, and presumably to weaken momentum toward sanctions/countermeasures. Subsequently we then saw further intervention and escalation. [Ash, via the Kyiv Post]

Obama and other NATO nation leaders meet Thursday and Friday in Wales.

UPDATE: Poroshenko's office has retracted the statement about a "permanent cease-fire," saying the original language oversold the agreement between Putin and Poroshenko. Poroshenko's spokesman promised a revised statement later Wednesday. The updated stance from Kiev jibes better with Russia's version, delivered via RIA Novosti by Putin spokesman Peskov. "Putin and Poroshenko did indeed discuss steps which could facilitate a cease-fire between the militias and the Ukrainian military," he said. "Russia cannot physically agree on a cease-fire, as it is not a side in the conflict." Peter Weber

10:48 a.m. ET
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The Russian government denied buying $100,000 worth of Facebook ads during the 2016 presidential election on the grounds that they don't even know how, The Hill reports. "We do not know … how to place an advert on Facebook," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday. "We have never done this, and the Russian side has never been involved in it."

On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will give Congress copies of the more than 3,000 ads purchased through Russian accounts during the election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is already in possession of the ads. In a Friday morning tweet, Trump dismissed the Facebook ads as being a part of "the Russia hoax."

The Russian ads were reportedly "directed at people on Facebook who had expressed interest in subjects ... such as LGBT community, black social issues, the Second Amendment, and immigration," a Facebook official told The Washington Post. The ads specifically "spread inflammatory messages about immigration, guns, and other topics" and "derided [Hillary] Clinton and supported [Donald] Trump," The New York Times writes. Jeva Lange

10:32 a.m. ET
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Public Policy Polling released the first survey on the Graham-Cassidy bill on Thursday, and the results don't bode well for Republicans' last-ditch effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The poll revealed that a majority of voters — 54 percent — approve of the Affordable Care Act. A whopping 63 percent said they want to keep the parts of ObamaCare that work and fix the parts that don't.

Just 32 percent are interested in the prospect of totally starting over with a new health-care law, and a mere 24 percent approve of the Graham-Cassidy bill. Fifty percent disapprove of the bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), while 27 percent said they were unsure.

Meanwhile, Republicans are rallying to get 51 votes before Sept. 30, the deadline for passing an ObamaCare repeal with a simple majority vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced he's a definite 'no,' and other GOP senators are wavering. Three 'no' votes would kill the bill.

The Public Policy Polling survey was taken Sept. 20-21 among 638 registered voters. Becca Stanek

10:01 a.m. ET

Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski took a moment Friday to remind President Trump of his age. After the president's recent Twitter taunts deeming North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people," Brzezinski surmised he might need it.

"Donald, you know what? Seriously. You are not a child. You are 70-year-old man. Stop," Brzezinski said. "71," co-host Joe Scarborough corrected.

BBC's Katty Kay noted that this behavior is to be expected from North Korea, which she said sometimes reminds her of "my kind of young children when they're desperate for your attention and they'll do and say anything to try and get your attention." "It's just that you don't expect the leader of the United States to engage every time Kim Jong Un calls him a dotard," Kay said, referring to Kim recently calling Trump a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard," among other things.

Name-calling during the presidential campaign might be one thing, but co-anchor Willie Geist pointed out this isn't just "Liddle Marco or Low Energy Jeb anymore." "Here we are," Geist said. "We've got the insult comic on Twitter going back and forth with a man who has nuclear weapons."

Watch it below. Becca Stanek

9:03 a.m. ET
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Lobbyists and party operatives around D.C. are reporting a startling amount of interest from White House staffers looking to move on to other jobs in early 2018, Politico reports. "There will be an exodus from this administration in January," predicted one lobbyist. "Everyone says, 'I just need to stay for one year.' If you leave before a year, it looks like you are acknowledging that you made a mistake."

Reports of infighting and generally unhappy staffers have plagued the Trump White House, although all administrations have some turnover in their first year. Usually, though, staff will try to hang on through the first two years, when a midterm presents an opportunity for a more elegant exit.

Complicating matters in 2016 is the fact that the White House is already struggling to fill its seats as departures — including former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and chief strategist Stephen Bannon — mount. The administration has only nominated 345 appointees for Senate-confirmed positions, while at the same point in their administrations, President Barack Obama had nominated 459, President George W. Bush 588, and President Bill Clinton 407.

"There is no joy in Trumpworld right now," one adviser told Politico. "Working in the White House is supposed to be the peak of your career, but everyone is unhappy, and everyone is fighting everyone else." Read more at Politico. Jeva Lange

8:18 a.m. ET

Megyn Kelly, who rocketed to international fame as President Trump's least-favorite anchor at Fox News, is not actually not much of a political junkie, and when her new NBC morning show, Megyn Kelly Live, starts on Monday, "I don't want to talk about Trump at all," she told The Associated Press. She elaborated:

In fact, the bar is very high for Trump coverage (on Megyn Kelly Live). If you want Trump, you can watch virtually every channel in the country and get Trump nonstop. I think people are looking for a break from that. Not just Trump, it's inside the Beltway. I don't want to talk about Mitch McConnell either, or Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi. [Megyn Kelly to AP]

Kelly said she wants her new show to be somewhere between the fun earlier hours of NBC's popular Today show and something more substantive, covering things like bullying, mental health, job interview tips, how to protect yourself from cybersecurity breaches, and moving past divorce. Kelly will go up against Live! with Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, and NBC executives are reportedly concerned about her ratings — following the middling debut season of her Sunday night newsmagazine, her positive "Q" popularity score among women fell to 4 from 21 two years ago, according to Marketing Evaluations Inc., versus a 15 average for TV hosts. Kelly says she's not paying attention to the noise, and her viewers are "going to watch the show and either they're going to feel a connection to me or they won't. And that will be on me." You can read more of her interview at AP. Peter Weber

8:09 a.m. ET
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Stephen Bannon secretly met with "the second most powerful Chinese Communist Party official" last week, The Financial Times reports. The 90-minute huddle with Wang Qishan in Beijing followed Bannon's speech in Hong Kong calling for stricter U.S. policy on China at a conference hosted by a state-owned brokerage and investment group.

Wang, 69, serves as the head of the Communist Party's anti-corruption campaign but is "expected to step down during the Communist Party's five-yearly congress next month, in line with informal retirement rules," the South China Morning Post reports. Nevertheless, there is some speculation he might stay on anyway.

Wang reportedly had questions for Bannon involving topics like "economic nationalism" and "populist movement," the South China Morning Post adds. "[Wang] must have had a reason to meet Bannon, and the topic doesn't seem relevant to his current job," said Zhang Lifan, a Chinese political commentator. "It's possible his political career will be extended, though maybe in a different area."

Bannon has claimed that America is in an "economic war with China" and he is a subscriber to the "Thucydides Trap" theory, which suggests that historical indicators show the U.S. is on an unavoidable path to war with China. "A hundred years from now, this is what they'll remember — what we did to confront China on its rise to world domination," Bannon said in a recent interview with The New York Times. Jeva Lange

7:28 a.m. ET

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have spent the week volleying insults and threats ever since Trump suggested he might "totally destroy" Kim's country if it continues to menace the U.S. and its allies. Kim responded Thursday by claiming Trump is "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire" and vowing to "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."

Trump didn't walk back from his threats. On Friday he tweeted that Kim "will be tested like never before":

On Thursday, Trump also announced he was signing a new executive order imposing sanctions to further squeeze North Korea. Jeva Lange

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