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October 18, 2017

Two new reports suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top associates were directly involved with attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election, including an interview with exiled former oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Putin jailed on iffy charges for a decade. "I am almost convinced that Putin's people have tried to influence the U.S. election in some way," Khodorkovsky told MSNBC's Ari Melber, and the likelihood that Putin "personally" tried to cooperate with President Trump's campaign is a "9 out of 10," he said, adding: "Whether or not that proposal was accepted, I would let the people responsible for investigating the matter answer that question."

When he ran Russian oil giant Yukos, Khodorkovsky's human resources chief was Sergey Gorkov, now the head of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), who met with Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner in December — the White House says it was a diplomatic nicety, VEB says it was Kushner family business. Khodorkovsky described Gorkov as a "fine employee" who "carries out orders," saying of the Kushner meeting, "I have no doubt that he wouldn't do anything on his own behalf." He said Gorkov was likely ordered to meet with Kushner by either Andrey Kostin or Herman Gref, Kremlin-backed bank chiefs with close ties to Putin.

Separately, CNN reported Tuesday night that Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian catering magnate dubbed Putin's "chef" in the Russia press, is believed by U.S. intelligence to have financed a Russian "troll factory," the Internet Research Agency (IRA), that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Prigozhin appears to be the unidentified "close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence" an unclassified U.S. intelligence assessment called the "likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg," CNN says. Peter Weber

10:24 a.m.

Negotiators representing nearly 200 nations in Katowice, Poland, on Saturday agreed to universal greenhouse gas emissions limits intended to mitigate global climate change.

"It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical," said Polish economist Michal Kurtyka, who is leading the United Nations negotiations. "Through this package you have made a thousand little steps forward together," he told the assembled delegates. "You can feel proud."

U.S. negotiators sought to label coal a possible source of clean energy but also pushed for transparency and rules which apply equally to all participant nations. "Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules," Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions told The Associated Press. "[T]he U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it's largely succeeded." Bonnie Kristian

8:46 a.m.

Saturday Night Live's President Trump (Alec Baldwin) was in a pensive mood on the White House balcony when an angel named Clarence (Kenan Thompson) showed up, straight from helping George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, to help Trump see the world as it would have been had he never been president.

Where a world without George Bailey was grim indeed, a world where Trump lost in 2016 is pretty great — for everyone. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon) is on good terms with her husband; Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (Matt Damon) is a regular guy having a great time with his beers and calendars; Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller), is his current personal attorney who is not headed to prison; and Special Counsel Robert Mueller (Robert De Niro) is enjoying a pleasant old age with his grandchildren.

Alas, Trump doesn't learn the lesson Clarence hopes. Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

8:31 a.m.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's past criticisms of President Trump have received new attention over the weekend following Friday's news of Mulvaney's acceptance of his third role in the Trump administration.

After the 2016 discovery of Trump's lewd Access Hollywood remarks, Mulvaney wrote on his congressional Facebook page that Trump is "not a very good person," and his words were "disgusting and indefensible." In a debate with his Democratic rival for that year's election, Mulvaney similarly said he was supporting Trump despite thinking "he's a terrible human being" because "the choice on the other side is just as bad."

Despite this past antipathy, a Politico report late Saturday describes Mulvaney as an eager recipient of his new role. "He would have given up a very valuable appendage to get that job," an unnamed Republican close to the Trump White House claimed.

Politico's sources said Washingtonian assessment of Mulvaney's aims in rising through the ranks of the Trump administration varies. While "some conservatives on the Hill see him as a sellout, a ladder-climber who puts career advancement over principle," others "argue that he's done the best he can given the president he serves and advanced conservative priorities where he can." Read the full report here. Bonnie Kristian

8:11 a.m.

The family of Jakelin Caal Maquin, the 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) custody this month, have challenged the agency's account of her death.

"She had not suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border," said a statement from lawyers representing Jakelin's father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz. "Jakelin's father took care of Jakelin — made sure she was fed and had sufficient water." CPB has reported Jakelin had not been given food or water for several days before she was taken into custody, attributing her illness and subsequent death to circumstances outside CPB's control.

The statement also says CPB had her father sign a form about Jakelin's health in English, a language he does not speak, and noted that autopsy results determining a cause of death have yet to be released. The statement calls for a "transparent and neutral investigation of Jakelin's death." Bonnie Kristian

December 15, 2018

President Trump on Twitter Saturday gleefully greeted Friday's news that The Weekly Standard, a neoconservative news magazine which has been critical of his presidency, is closing its doors:

A brief reply from Weekly Standard co-founder Bill Kristol told Trump to share future insults directly instead of subtweeting them, which is the Twitter equivalent of talking behind someone's back:

A CNN report on The Weekly Standard's closure suggested the magazine's failing fortunes were linked to its opposition to the president. Conservative outlets "critical of Trump have lost influence or changed their tone," the story says, "while media organizations on the right supportive of the president have flourished."

The magazine's editor-in-chief, Stephen Hayes, seemed to hint at this dynamic in a note to staff Friday. "This is a volatile time in American journalism and politics," he wrote. "Many media outlets have responded to the challenges of the moment by prioritizing affirmation over information, giving into the pull of polarization and the lure of clickbait." Bonnie Kristian

December 15, 2018

"Brexit is in danger of getting stuck — and that is something that should worry us all," U.K. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd warned Saturday. "If [lawmakers] dig in against the prime minister's deal and then hunker down in their different corners, none with a majority, the country will face serious trouble."

Her comments and similar remarks from other leaders come after Prime Minister Theresa May was unable to exact more concessions for the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union this week.

"The Union stands by this agreement and intends to proceed with its ratification. It is not open for renegotiation," the EU said Thursday of the previously negotiated deal, which is not expected to pass the British parliament as-is. May postponed a Tuesday House of Commons vote on the proposal. Bonnie Kristian

December 15, 2018

Thousands of "yellow vest" protesters assembled in Paris Saturday for a fifth consecutive weekend of demonstrations, though the crowd was smaller and more peaceful than it has been in weekends prior.

Additional assemblies were anticipated around France, and some 69,000 police officers — 8,000 of them in Paris alone — were deployed to respond. Paris police again used tear gas and water cannons to make protesters disperse.

The demonstrators are protesting high taxes and cost of living in France, the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron, and more. "We're here to represent all our friends and members of our family who can't come to protest, or because they're scared," a demonstrator named Pierre Lamy, 27, told The Associated Press. "Everything's coming up now. We're being bled dry."

The yellow vests are calling for a citizens' referendum. "We are protesting peacefully," said yellow vest representative Maxime Nicolle, "but, Mr. President, give us back our freedom and our sovereignty!" Bonnie Kristian

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