Russia's primary response to the first round of Western sanctions against politicians and business leaders tied to Moscow's occupation of Crimea: laughter, mixed with razzing President Obama over Twitter.
When Obama and European leaders upped the ante on Thursday, freezing the assets and travel opportunities of more than a dozen billionaires and officials close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, plus one bank, Moscow banned nine members of U.S. Congress and Obama aides from entering Russia. It was America's turn to chuckle.
I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, Gazprom stock is lost & secret bank account in Moscow is frozen http://t.co/TgwZneD4HY
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2014
Russia isn't laughing. On Thursday, "Russia's most powerful businessmen waited for over an hour" in Moscow to meet with Putin, whose decision to annex Crimea "has cost their companies hundreds of millions of dollars in market value," says The Associated Press' Nataliya Vasilyeva. And "when Putin finally showed up, he spoke to them for five minutes — and gave them no reassurances that they or their companies will get any respite from the uncertainty created by the takeover of a piece of land of little value to them beyond national pride."
Russia's stock market has fallen 10 percent this month, its economy's modest growth forecast has been cut to zero, the ruble has weakened, and two of the big three credit rating agencies — Standard & Poor's and Fitch — just switched Russia's credit outlook from stable to negative, citing the slowing economy and threat of sanctions. Peter Weber
Police evacuated London's Old Vic theater, located near Waterloo Station, during a performance on Saturday in response to an unspecified security threat. The area has been isolated as "specialist officers" investigate the scene.
— Rachel Griffin (@Carryonsmiling) May 27, 2017
This incident comes less than a week after a suicide bombing in Manchester, England, during an Ariana Grande concert left 22 people dead and dozens more injured. The play that was interrupted is a showing of Woyzeck featuring Star Wars actor John Boyega.
This is a breaking news story that will be updated as more details become available. Bonnie Kristian
President Trump will return to Washington on Saturday after the second day of the G7 summit in Italy, completing his nine-day tour through Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe. Saturday morning, Trump claimed on Twitter that his speech in Brussels Thursday is already producing results:
Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in- NATO will be much stronger.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2017
Trump's description of "payments" into a fund is misleading; NATO countries actually pledged in 2014 to hit a 2 percent of GDP target for their own defense spending. Only five allies have met that goal.
The president also used Twitter Saturday morning to address his decision on the 2015 Paris climate accord:
I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2017
The other G7 member nations — Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and Canada — are all urging Trump not to exit the agreement made by former President Obama. They reaffirmed their "strong commitment" to the accord on Saturday, but Trump declined to join the declaration at that time. However, the White House on Friday said Trump's views on climate change are "evolving." Bonnie Kristian
Two people were killed and a third injured on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, by a man witnesses said was "yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs." Unverified reports suggest the suspect may have been targeting two Muslim girls riding the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab.
The victims were attempting to protect other passengers when they were stabbed. "Terrible tragedy on Portland's Max Train," Oregon's Sen. Jeff Merkley wrote on Twitter of the attack. "Champions of justice risked and lost their lives. Hate is evil."
The suspect has been detained by police, who have deemed his rant to be hate speech. Neither the attacker nor the victims have been publicly identified. Bonnie Kristian
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, died Friday in Virginia. He was 89.
The son of a Polish diplomat whose background was in academia, Brzezinski advised Carter throughout his presidency, guiding the White House during the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis as well as the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Though a hard-line Cold War hawk — he implicitly encouraged, for example, Chinese support of the totalitarian Pol Pot regime to limit Soviet influence in Vietnam — in his later years, Brzezinski opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
His death was announced by his daughter, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, on social media. "He was known to his friends as Zbig, to his grandchildren as Chief and to his wife as the enduring love of her life," she wrote. "I just knew him as the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have."
The Trump campaign has to hand over every Russia-related document to the Senate Intelligence Committee
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked President Trump's campaign to hand over all documents, including phone records and emails, with any reference to Russia dating from June of 2015 onward. The request, which The Washington Post reported Friday evening citing two unnamed sources, is part of the committee's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The committee's letter arrived last week, and campaign staffers are reportedly in the process of cooperating, though they have been instructed not to comment publicly. The letter was signed by committee chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) as well as Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat.
This is the first time the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation, which is distinct from the Justice Department probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has involved the official campaign organization. Bonnie Kristian
President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner reportedly held discussions with Russia's ambassador about setting up a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin shortly after the election, intelligence officials confirmed to The Washington Post.
The Post first learned of Kushner's inquiry in an anonymous letter sent in December; Kushner's meeting with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reportedly happened at Trump Tower on Dec. 1 or 2. Kushner apparently suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for the secret communications, alarming Kislyak, as that would have been a security risk for Russia, too.
... Kushner conveyed to the Russians that he was aware that it would be politically sensitive to meet publicly, but it was necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials.
In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, [Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael] Flynn, and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a "Russian contact" in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter. [The Washington Post]
Senior U.S. officials expressed shock at Kushner's bold proposition, especially as Russian communications are closely monitored by the U.S., with one calling his idea "extremely naive or absolutely crazy.” Read the full scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange
A Yale University dean has been put on leave over racially insensitive remarks she made in Yelp reviews. "If you are white trash, this is a perfect night out for you," June Chu wrote about a Japanese restaurant. In other posts, she noted "I am Asian" as proof of her culinary expertise, warned of "sketchy" crowds at a movie theater, and called the workers "morons" who serve "snack orders to the obese."