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March 4, 2014

Yesterday, I suggested that the best way to undermine Putin's regime and his ability to project power into Europe is for America to develop the infrastructure to sell natural gas cheaply to Europe.

Now, here is some data to show just how strong a stranglehold Gazprom, the state-owned Russian gas company, has on European energy markets:

This position — in which Putin can turn off the gas in the middle of winter, and plunge countries into an energy crisis — has given him the ability to strong-arm European countries into accepting Russian foreign policy. This position of strength has blunted the European response to Russian soldiers taking over Crimea.

By providing competition to Gazprom, America can give European countries more leverage in negotiations with Putin, and more ability to sanction Russian incursions into Eastern Europe. John Aziz

11:09 a.m. ET

Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who entered a not guilty plea on Friday to first- and third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sex act, was seen carrying a biography of director Elia Kazan when he surrendered himself to New York police, The Hollywood Reporter tweeted.

Kazan, the director of classic films like On the Waterfront and East of Eden, was famously an informant during the Red Scare, supplying the names of some 11 former colleagues to the blacklist. "Kazan's reputation as a formidable Hollywood artist weathered political and personal scandals," The Guardian writes, although journalist Yashar Ali tweeted that the more threatening symbolism did not go unnoticed:

Dozens of women have accused Weinstein of inappropriate or criminal behavior, ranging from rape to sexual harassment and coercion. Jeva Lange

10:52 a.m. ET

Women who have accused former movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment reacted strongly to his surrender to New York police on Friday. A few of the more than 50 women who have alleged misconduct took to social media to address his arrest.

Rose McGowan, who alleges that Weinstein raped her in 1997, appeared on Megyn Kelly Today and Good Morning America and described how his criminal charges made her feel. "We got you," she said in a message to Weinstein. "I have to admit I didn't think I would see the day that he would have handcuffs on him. I have a visceral need for him to have handcuffs on."

Asia Argento, an actress who also alleges that Weinstein raped her in 1997, tweeted that Weinstein was taking "his first step on his inevitable descent to hell," additionally asking what took so long. In response to a photo of Weinstein smiling as he walked out of the NYPD station in handcuffs, Argento wrote, "wipe that smile off your face you f--king monster."

Mira Sorvino, who alleges that Weinstein sexually harassed her and tried to pressure her into sex, had a simple message for the former mogul ahead of his criminal charges: "#Justice" Summer Meza

10:37 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Less than two weeks before the inauguration, President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with a Russian oligarch to discuss strengthening relations between Washington and Moscow, The New York Times reports. Viktor Vekselberg, who has ties to the Kremlin, met with Cohen three separate times, including on the day of the inauguration.

Just days afterwards, the private equity firm of Andrew Intrater, who is Vekselberg's cousin and client, awarded Cohen a $1 million contract. Intrater spoke to the Times, saying he did nothing wrong and made the decision independently.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Cohen was separately paid at least $400,000 to arrange a talk between Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Cohen also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from businesses like AT&T and Novartis to provide access and insight into the Trump administration.

The Times writes that the Vekselberg meeting "sheds additional light on the intersection between Mr. Trump's inner-circle and Russians with ties to the Kremlin." Read more about the meetings at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

10:02 a.m. ET

President Trump's allies are claiming that the administration's decision to pull out of a historic summit with Kim Jong Un is evidence of his deal-making skills, even as critics are citing the move as proof that Trump was unprepared and in over his head. Following Trump's letter notifying Kim that he was pulling out of talks, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan reemphasized that Pyongyang is willing to meet "at any time."

That was seemingly proof enough for Donald Trump Jr.:

But Junior might have jumped the gun. Notably, nothing has changed: No deal has been made, and Pyongyang has not said anything they haven't said before. Most significantly, North Korea has made no indication that it is now willing to denuclearize, the objection that led to the dissolution of the summit in the first place.

In fact, as Trump said Friday, the summit might even still be on. Jeva Lange

9:49 a.m. ET

President Trump apparently blindsided U.S. allies when he announced in an open letter Thursday that he would not be attending his scheduled June 12 summit in Singapore with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. "Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting," Trump wrote.

Less than 24 hours later, Trump is now saying the June 12 meeting might go forward after all. "We will see what happens," Trump said Friday. "We're talking to them now."

ABC's Jonathan Karl asked Trump if "the North Koreans are playing games with him — skipping planned meetings and then saying they will meet anytime," to which Trump replied, "Jon, everybody plays games." Kim had told Trump that pulling out of the summit wasn't "the world's desire." Jeva Lange

9:47 a.m. ET
Screenshot/YouTube/NBC Nightly News

Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, was not pleased to find out that President Trump's attorney in the Russia investigation attended classified intelligence briefings on Thursday.

"What the president's team did yesterday is something no other citizen in this country would be permitted to do," said Steele, during a Friday appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe. Attorney Emmet Flood sat in on meetings with Justice Department officials regarding an FBI informant who spoke with Trump campaign staffers about Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Lawmakers called the move "completely inappropriate."

Steele found it inappropriate as well, and called out Republicans for being "complicit in this crazy."

"They're sitting here now and dumbing down the system, they're disintegrating the very pillars of justice in this country. A., by going after those institutions like the FBI and the DOJ, but then permitting the president to behave in a way in which no other American citizen — and they know damn well that this is true — would be able to behave." Watch Steele's comments below, via MSNBC. Summer Meza

Summer Meza

9:16 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, he also set the tone for how he would speak about immigration. "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," he told the crowd, going on to describe immigrants as criminals and "rapists," although "some, I assume, are good people." Recently Trump has come under fire again for his language, calling MS-13 gang members "animals."

The Washington Post on Thursday published a new revealing anecdote about how Trump joked in private about immigrants to his staff last year:

The night before Trump delivered his first speech to Congress in February 2017, he huddled with Jared Kushner and [Stephen] Miller in the Oval Office to talk immigration. The president reluctantly agreed with suggestions he strike a gentler tone on immigration in the speech.

Trump reminded them the crowds loved his rhetoric on immigrants along the campaign trail. Acting as if he was at a rally, he then read aloud a few made up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, like rape or murder. Then, he said, the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country — as they did when he highlighted crimes by illegal immigrants at his rallies, according to a person present for the exchange and another briefed on it later. Miller and Kushner laughed. [The Washington Post]

A third official disputed the story, telling the Post that Trump never made up Hispanic names to make a point about "crowd enthusiasm for crackdowns on criminal aliens." Read more about Trump's approach to immigration at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

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