Russian President Vladimir Putin is addressing the Russian parliament this morning about Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine. After opening up to a "standing ovation," Putin discussed the importance of the peninsula soon joining the Russian federation.
"Crimea is a unique melting pot of traditions and culture and that's why it looks like Russia," said Putin, adding that Crimea was always an "inseparable part of Russia."
He lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union and said Crimea is back where it belongs:
We all used to belong to the same country: The Soviet Union. ... The Soviet Union has collapsed. The events happened in such a fast way that many of the countries didn't realize ... When Crimea ended up in a different state, Russia realized that not only Russia was robbed, but Russia was robbed in broad daylight.
President Trump hailed Gen. John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing in a tweet on Thursday that promoted the myth that the Philippine-American War officer had used bullets dipped in pigs' blood to shoot Muslims as a method of discouraging terrorism:
Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
Trump has previously touted Pershing as a disturbing example of how to deal with terrorism, telling the unproven story at a South Carolina rally in 2016: "[Pershing] took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pig's blood," Trump claimed. "And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person he said, 'You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.' And for 25 years there wasn't a problem, okay?"
The fact that there is no evidence at all to support the myth of Pershing's appalling executions (MSNBC writes that "the story appears to be a hoax spread via e-mail forwards") is being highlighted by critics who note "the president said two days ago he waits for the facts before talking about attacks," as BuzzFeed News' David Mack points out. Jeva Lange
A van jumped the curb and plowed into a crowd in the center of Barcelona on Thursday. Thirteen people were killed and at least 50 were injured, Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn tweeted. Police have confirmed that the incident was a terrorist attack.
The driver of the van reportedly fled on foot after plowing into pedestrians in the city's historic Las Ramblas district, a popular tourist destination. One man has been arrested.
Police have dismissed earlier reports that two armed men were hiding out in a bar following the attack. Becca Stanek
BREAKING: Spanish Police say "massive" van crashes into tourist center in Barcelona injuring multiple people https://t.co/IdO5sJPr3p
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 17, 2017
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) August 17, 2017
This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.
Tennessee senator claims Trump 'has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation'
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) said President Trump "has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation" in grave comments delivered at the Rotary Club of Chattanooga on Thursday. "The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to ... in order to be successful. And we need for him to be successful," Corker said.
The senator pointedly added that Trump does not appear to understand "what has made this nation great and what it is today."
The remarks followed a number of tweets from Trump on Thursday, some of which bashed Republican senators and others that defended Confederate monuments. Many reporters and analysts consider Corker to be something of a bellwether on Trump:
I generally consider Corker the bellwether Senator on Trump. Eager to encourage president when possible, but if pushed too far he'll do this https://t.co/UxR2EnEQ0z
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) August 17, 2017
Important moment. Corker has been something of a bellwether on Trump. https://t.co/9kFOUxOmFe
— James Pindell (@JamesPindell) August 17, 2017
"We're at a point where there needs to be radical changes that take place at the White House itself," Corker said. "It has to happen." Watch his full comments below. Jeva Lange
Mitch McConnell's former chief of staff, Josh Holmes, ripped into President Trump on Thursday, warning that "when you're eight months in and Republicans are all you have left, chipping away at the remaining few is a helluva strategy," Politico Playbook reports.
Now the president of the management firm Cavalry, Holmes expressed concern that Trump has repeatedly made Republican members of Congress the target of his rants and tweets. "Trump is using the precious capital of the bully pulpit to talk about Confederate monuments in between savage attacks on fellow Republicans," Holmes said. "Just think about that. Not tax reform. Not repeal and replace. Not North Korean nuclear capabilities. No focused critiques on extremely vulnerable Democrats who have opposed him at every possible turn."
On Thursday, Trump once again attacked his longtime enemy, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R), tweeting support for Flake's primary opponent. "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against [Jeff Flake], who is WEAK on borders, crime, and a non-factor in Senate," Trump said. "He's toxic!" Politico called Trump's ramped up attacks on Flake "a free gift" for Democrats: "It distracts the GOP and could force McConnell and other outside groups to spend millions of dollars in a costly primary tying up money that could be used elsewhere."
President Trump might not be very popular nationwide, but most Republicans believe he is pulling the party in the right direction, a new Quinnipiac University poll has found. While just 39 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing in office right now, Quinnipiac found that 81 percent of Republicans approve of Trump and 82 percent believe he is steering the party in the "right direction."
— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) August 17, 2017
Maine's governor claims removing a statue of Robert E. Lee is 'just like' removing the 9/11 memorial
Maine's Republican governor said Thursday that removing Confederate monuments is "just like going to New York City right now and [taking] down the monument of those who perished in 9/11," the Portland Press Herald reports.
Gov. Paul LePage told the hosts of WGAN that while he condemns the KKK and white supremacist groups, people calling for the removal of statues of Robert E. Lee "don't even know the history of this country and they are trying to take monuments down."
"I think what they are standing for is equally as bad [as the KKK], they are trying to erase history," LePage told WGAN. "How can future generations learn if we are going to erase history? That's disgusting."
President Trump has also spoken out against removing Confederate monuments, tweeting Thursday: "You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!" Jeva Lange
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement urging the prompt removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. As the debate over the removal of Confederate monuments rages across the nation, Pelosi declared there is "no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy" in the Capitol, nor in "places of honor across the country."
"The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans," Pelosi said. She called on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to join Democrats in removing the "reprehensible" statues "if Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy." Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has already said he plans to introduce legislation proposing the removal of the monuments.
Politico reported there are 10 statues in the Capitol's National Statuary "honoring individuals who served in the Confederate army or government." There are also statues of individuals who were "supporters of slavery or the Confederacy."
Read Pelosi's full statement below. Becca Stanek
Pelosi calls for the removal of Confederate statues from the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/QaUd91K2Q5
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 17, 2017