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March 27, 2017

Last Thursday, Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian lawmaker who had fled to Ukraine and become a strident critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on a Kiev sidewalk in broad daylight. A few days earlier, Voronenkov had told The Washington Post that he and his wife knew they were in danger. "For our personal safety, we can't let them know where we are," he said. "The system has lost its mind. They say we are traitors in Russia."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the attack an "act of state terrorism by Russia," a charge Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed as a "fabrication."

Voronenkov is one of a handful of Putin critics and Russian diplomats who have died suddenly and sometimes mysteriously in the past few months. "I have an impression — I hope it's only an impression — that the practice of killing political opponents has started spreading in Russia," Gennady Gudkov, a former Russian lawmaker and security services officer, told The Moscow Times.

Two days before Voronenkov's murder, Nikolai Gorokhov, a lawyer for the family of Sergei Magnitsky — himself killed in police custody after uncovering $230 million in Russian government fraud — fell from his apartment window. Russian authorities say Gorokhov, who survived the fall, was trying to hoist a bathtub up to his apartment when he fell; Bill Browder, a financier who had hired Magnitsky, alleges that somebody pushed Gorokhov. In another apparent near-miss, Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza narrowly survived what appears to be a second poison attack.

On Dec. 26, Oleg Erovinkin, a former top Russian intelligence official and the chief-of-staff to Igor Sechin, the president of state-owned oil firm Rosneft, was found dead in his car on the streets of Moscow; no official cause of death has been given. There has been speculation that Erovinkin was the main source of the dossier on President Trump and Russia compiled by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele.

Stranger still, since November, at least six Russian diplomats have died, some from gunshot wounds and others of apparent natural causes. Among these is Andrey Karlov, 62, the Russian ambassador to Turkey who was shot in an Ankara art gallery, and Vitaly Churkin, 64, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations who died in New York City. The New York Chief Medical Examiner's office said in mid-March that it would "not publicly disclose the cause and manner of death of Ambassador Vitaly Churkin" due to diplomatic protocols.

The deaths and near-deaths may well be totally unconnected. But it's sure a lot of coincidences. Peter Weber

October 22, 2017

The first half of President Trump's two-part interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo aired Sunday and saw the president suggesting the difficulty he has had in repealing and replacing ObamaCare will somehow make major tax law revisions happen more smoothly.

"I do believe we have the votes for health care at the appropriate time," Trump said, "and I think we're going to have the votes for taxes, and I will say the fact that health care is so difficult, I think, makes the taxes easier." He did not explain why delays on health-care reform would make taxes easier other than to add that "Republicans want to get it done, and it's a tremendous tax cut." There is, at present, no completed tax reform bill.

Later in the conversation, in an exchange that came under scrutiny as soon as an advance transcript of the interview was available, Trump described himself as "representing rich people" in the tax reform process:

The second half of the interview will air Monday. In the meantime; you can read a full transcript here, check out The Week's selection of Trump's seven most noteworthy comments about his own social media habits; or watch today's segment below. Bonnie Kristian

October 22, 2017
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Actor Tom Hanks weighed in Saturday night on President Trump's allegedly insensitive condolence call to the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger earlier this month.

"I'm only knowing what I read in the newspapers and what have you, and it just seems like it's one of the biggest cock-ups on the planet Earth, if you ask me," Hanks said to CNN. "This is a tragedy of the utmost consequence, and it goes much longer beyond who's going to come out on top of the news story. I think it's very sad."

Hanks was in Washington, D.C., to be honored at the National Archives Foundation gala with the annual "Records of Achievement Award." In a speech at the event, he struck a more positive note. "As we continually move towards a more perfect union, [the U.S. Constitution] might be the only self-correcting, open-ended document anywhere on the planet Earth [that] keeps us going," Hanks said, "that keeps saying that we're going to learn how to do that one thing we've already sort of done. We're going to become better and better and better." Bonnie Kristian

October 22, 2017
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a resounding victory in Sunday's snap election. His Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition is set to retain its two-thirds supermajority in Japan's lower house of parliament, and Abe is likely to secure a record-setting third term next fall.

With a fresh mandate from voters, Abe is expected to push for changes to Japan's "pacifist" constitution, in which Article 9, drafted by the United States government in the wake of World War II, prohibits the maintenance of armed forces. In practice, the clause has served as a mandate for a strictly defensive military; Abe wants to move toward a more interventionist pose.

"First, I want to deepen debate and have as many people as possible agree," Abe said of his plans. "We should put priority on that." Bonnie Kristian

October 22, 2017
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Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty last week to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for his decision to leave his base in Afghanistan in 2009, said in an exclusive interview published in Britain's Sunday Times that coming home to the United States was as difficult as his years spent as a prisoner of war in Taliban hands.

"At least the Taliban were honest enough to say, 'I'm the guy who's gonna cut your throat,'" he said. "Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who's going to sign the paper that sends me away for life."

Bergdahl's goal in leaving his base was to alert other officers of perceived mismanagement; instead he was kidnapped and held captive for five years until the Obama administration negotiated his release. His homecoming has been marked by vicious political controversy, including attacks from President Trump, who has suggested Bergdahl should be thrown from a plane without a parachute. Bonnie Kristian

October 22, 2017
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on CNN Sunday he is prepared to call a vote on the bipartisan health-care proposal negotiated by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) if President Trump is prepared to sign it.

The proposal has the support of all 48 Senate Democrats plus 12 Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC Sunday. "This is a good compromise," Schumer argued. "It took months to work out. It has a majority."

The Murray-Alexander bill would appropriate funds for two years of the insurance subsidies Trump recently ended while loosening some ObamaCare rules, including allowing "insurance companies to sell less comprehensive plans to all customers, not just those under age 29 as is the case under current law."

Trump has sent mixed signals about the plan, calling it both "a good start" and "a short-term fix." Bonnie Kristian

October 22, 2017

President Trump returned to familiar stomping grounds on Twitter Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. He claimed Facebook supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election and painted himself as a triumphant underdog:

Later Saturday, Trump turned to the record of his presidency so far, promising tax reform and health-care progress while boasting of mostly unspecified accomplishments on a litany of issues:

On Sunday, Trump reiterated his belief that journalists habitually "FABRICATE STORIES" about him and promoted an interview with himself airing that day. Bonnie Kristian

October 22, 2017
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Fox News renewed host Bill O'Reilly's contract in January of 2016, promising him $25 million per year for four years, even after he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit for $32 million with the network's knowledge, The New York Times reported Saturday.

While Times reports from earlier this year revealed O'Reilly and Fox together paid around $13 million in the pundit's various harassment settlements, this larger agreement was previously unknown. The settlement was paid over a woman's allegations of "a nonconsensual sexual relationship" and other repeated harassment including the sending of unwanted pornography.

Fox fired O'Reilly in April of 2017. He denies all wrongdoing. Bonnie Kristian

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