Many analysts — including me — have suggested that Vladimir Putin's Russian regime should pay an economic cost for the ongoing invasion of Crimea, not least to discourage further Russian expansionism into Eastern Europe. Yesterday's "referendum," in which 97 percent of those who took part voted to join Russia, does nothing to change that. After all, having Russian soldiers on the streets and pro-Russian mobs intimidating non-Russians hardly makes for a free and fair vote.
Yet already, the economic consequences of Russia's invasion of Crimea may be coming back to haunt Putin. Reuters reports that Russia's deputy economy minister Sergei Belyakov warned on Monday that the country's economy is in crisis. The Russian economy was already in a perilous state, having shrunk for two consecutive quarters. And now Russia's currency, the ruble, is weakening, causing expectations of growth in inflation. Russia's stock market has fallen significantly during the Ukraine crisis, down over 20 percent already this year.
Will continued economic weakness stop Russian expansionism? Perhaps. The threat to Russian business interests may motivate Russia's oligarchy to rein in Putin. But maybe the opposite happens. Viewed through an economic lens, Putin's takeover of Crimea seems like a diversionary tactic to bolster Putin's support with nationalist fervor while the previously strong Russian economy weakens. If the Russian economy continues to weaken, it's possible that Putin may become more desperate and reckless to maintain his regime's grasp on power. John Aziz
Hillary Clinton played up the theory of "you are who your friends are" in reference to Donald Trump during a speech in Reno, Nevada, on Thursday. Clinton mentioned Trump's past retweeting of racist Twitter accounts and his hesitancy to disavow former KKK leader David Duke's endorsement as evidence of Trump's improper temperament before pulling out the big guns: zeroing in on Stephen Bannon, Trump's newly minted campaign CEO and the chairman of Breitbart News.
She offered the audience a "flavor" of what Trump's friend Bannon is like, in the form of some of the headlines Breitbart News has published under Bannon's leadership:
Bannon-era Breitbart headlines HRC ran through just now: pic.twitter.com/HHQor51Er7
— laura olin (@lauraolin) August 25, 2016
"I'm not making this up," Clinton said. Sometimes "show, don't tell" really is the best strategy after all. Becca Stanek
Hey, remember Jeb(!) Bush? The former Florida governor and gone-too-soon 2016 Republican presidential candidate — who, by the way, was the original guy to look at American politics and say "hey, I can fix this"? Well, he appeared on New York's 77 WABC Radio to discuss GOP nominee Donald Trump's ever-shifting views on immigration — and he sounded pretty energetic about shooting down Trump's policy flip-flop.
"I can tell you what I'm for, which is meaningful reform across the board so that we secure the border, first and foremost," Bush told host Rita Cosby. He then said he'd support a policy "including an E-Verify system, and including visa reform, because 40 percent of illegal immigrants don't cross the southern border. They come with a legal visa, and they just stay." When Cosby pointed out that Trump's newest stance is strikingly similar to what Bush laid out, the former governor just chuckled:
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) August 25, 2016
Bush also said people looking for a comprehensive immigration plan could purchase his 2013 book Immigration Wars, which "probably is a buck-ninety-nine on Amazon these days." Chin up, Jeb: The paperback version of Immigration Wars is currently pulling a whole $16 on the e-retailer. Pick up a copy, or listen to the whole interview here. Kimberly Alters
Hillary Clinton highlighted just how extreme Donald Trump is in a speech in Reno, Nevada, on Thursday, pointing to the Republican presidential nominee's embrace of "discredited conspiracy theories," his "steady stream of bigotry," and his campaign's use of "prejudice and paranoia." Although Trump may be attempting to reposition himself as a more moderate candidate via "some new people putting new words in his mouth," Clinton insisted that we already "know who Trump is."
She then pulled out an old Mexican proverb as evidence: "'Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.'" Trump, Clinton said, is essentially walking with "hate groups," whose support he hesitates to disavow, and with a campaign CEO who has published headlines praising the Confederate flag.
In her appeal to the center-right, Clinton urged voters — no matter what political party they may belong to — to realize this election is about "who we are as a nation." "If he doesn't respect all Americans," Clinton said of Trump, "how can he serve all Americans?" Becca Stanek
When her husband assumed the presidency in 1993, first lady Hillary Clinton faced a lot of criticism for taking on a public, policy-based role when she headed up the push to make health care universal. Nine days before Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd president, in fact, the first lady-elect was already sitting in on meetings regarding health-care reform. But according to one former Clinton adviser cited in a comprehensive Washington Post article on Hillary's failed health-care push, "health-care task force leader" was not initially the front-facing title Hillary wanted in her husband's administration:
Dick Morris, a former Clinton adviser who is now a critic, said the idea [to lead a health-care task force] emerged from "a whole series of phone calls and a meeting at the governor's mansion" with [Hillary]. He said she first proposed becoming White House chief of staff — an idea Morris said he discouraged. She pondered attorney general or secretary of education, he said. Morris suggested she consider leading an important task force that would boost "her own credentials and her own accomplishments," he said. [The Washington Post]
The Post notes that Clinton recounted events differently in her 2003 autobiography Living History, where she says "Bill first broached the idea" of her leading the health-care task force. The story delves deep into how Hillary's first major government project crumbled beneath her — including how it led to the first time she ever had to wear a bulletproof vest. Read the whole extensive report at The Washington Post. Kimberly Alters
In a speech delivered less than an hour ahead of Hillary Clinton's Thursday appearance in Reno, Nevada — during which she is expected to attack Donald Trump as an "alt-right candidate" — Trump served up some criticism of his own for his election rival. During a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump tore into the allegedly close ties between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department while Clinton was secretary of state, dubbing the relationship between the two organizations "one of the most shocking political scandals." "It's Watergate all over again," Trump said. "And she's being totally protected by our government."
Trump accused Clinton of giving "favorable treatment" to people who had donated to the Clinton Foundation, or who had given money to her husband, former President Bill Clinton. "Hillary Clinton ran the State Department like a personal hedge fund," Trump said, describing the lines between the two organizations as so blurred that it's "hard to tell where the Clinton Foundation ends and where the State Department begins."
Watch Trump's takedown, below. Becca Stanek
— CNN (@CNN) August 25, 2016
The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial Thursday, having spent its first 100 years dedicated to preserving "unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values" of America's national parks. The first National Park was actually designated in 1871, and President Ulysses S. Grant signed the corresponding legislation in 1872 to preserve Yellowstone National Park. But the current iteration of the NPS was established by President Woodrow Wilson "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and ... wildlife therein" on Aug. 25, 1916:
— National Mall NPS (@NationalMallNPS) August 25, 2016
Last year, more than 300 million people visited National Parks, and in honor of its 100th anniversary the NPS is offering free admission to all 412 parks from Aug. 25-28. Can't make it to a park this weekend? Read up on why National Parks are known as "America's best idea" here, or check out this animated tour of some of the sights and sounds from the nation's best parks, courtesy of Google, below. Kimberly Alters
For a second there, long-shot independent candidate Evan McMullin seemed to have a better chance of winning Minnesota than Republican nominee Donald Trump. That's because while McMullin, a former CIA agent positioning himself as a Trump alternative for conservatives this fall, only launched his independent presidential run earlier this month, he had at least secured a spot on the ballot in Minnesota. As of Thursday morning, however, Trump had not:
Evan McMullin is currently on the ballot in Minnesota. Trump is not. pic.twitter.com/TX0Hp7IXEr
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) August 25, 2016
A Minnesota state official has already said the issue is being sorted out, and Trump's name will in fact appear on the ballot. "We just received the last item [of Trump's paperwork]," said Ryan Furlong, communications director for the Minnesota Secretary of State. "We were waiting for a pledge from one of the alternate electors. The filing is complete and the Republican ticket should be listed on our site shortly."
Minnesota's filing deadline is Monday, Aug. 29. Election Day is Nov. 8. Becca Stanek