July 9, 2018

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) came back from his June 30-July 5 trip to Russia with some new perspectives on the sanctions the U.S. imposed on Moscow after its annexation of Crimea and interference in the 2016 presidential election. "We need to take a look at sanctions — are they actually changing Russia's behavior?" he told Sirius XM Washington correspondent Olivier Knox on Friday. "And right now, unfortunately, I don't think they're particularly working from that standpoint."

The eight-Republican delegation to St. Petersburg and Moscow — led by Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and including Johnson, Rep. Kay Granger (Texas) and Sens. Steve Daines (Mont.), John Hoeven (N.D.), John Kennedy (La.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), and John Thune (S.D.) — met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian lawmakers, though not President Vladimir Putin. "Members of the delegation set off on their trip late last week promising to be tough with Russian officials ahead of the president's visit, especially on matters of election interference," The Washington Post reported. "But they struck a conciliatory tone once there," which "played well in Moscow, but not on the home front."

Johnson told The Washington Examiner that the GOP delegation did hammer the Russians on Moscow's meddling in the 2016 election, but the Russians "would push back with all the ways we interfere in their politics in terms of funding NGOs, and Radio Free Europe and Voice of America," and "nobody yielded." At the same time, he added, "I've been pretty upfront that the election interference — as serious as that was, and unacceptable — is not the greatest threat to our democracy. ... We've blown it way out of proportion." Johnson also said some sanctions did have promise: "My sense is that the targeted sanctions to the oligarchs, to the members of government, are the ones that really sting and probably [offer] the best chance of affecting their behavior." Peter Weber

8:48 p.m.

In a clever new ad, Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock found a new way to drop the mic.

Warnock is running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in the January 5 runoff election. In a new ad he tweeted on Tuesday, Warnock is shown taking his dog on a walk. In an earlier campaign ad, Warnock predicted there would be lots of false claims leveled against him, and "that's exactly what happened," he said. "You would think that Kelly Loeffler might have something good to say about herself, if she really wants to represent Georgia."

Instead, Warnock continued, "she's trying to scare people by taking things I've said out of context from over 25 years of being a pastor." By this point, Warnock and his pup were at the end of their walk, and he was holding a waste bag. As he dropped the bag in a trash can, Warnock said, "I think Georgians will see her ads for what they are — don't you?" His dog barked in agreement — and then approved the message. Watch the ad below. Catherine Garcia

7:38 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden told NBC News' Lester Holt on Tuesday that since the General Services Administration notified him on Monday that the official transition can begin, the Trump administration has been in touch.

"And I must say the outreach has been sincere — it has not been begrudging so far and I don't expect it to be," Biden added.

Biden told Holt that national security officials "immediately" contacted members of his team, and they are "already working out my ability to get presidential daily briefs, we're already working out meeting with the COVID team in the White House and how to not only distribute but get from a vaccine being distributed to a person able to get vaccinated, so I think we're gonna not be so far behind the curve as we thought might be in the past."

When asked what his message is, Biden responded, "America's back. We're at the head of the table once again. I've spoken to over 20 world leaders, and they all are literally really pleased and somewhat excited America's going to reassert its role in the world and be a coalition builder." He also made it clear that Americans shouldn't expect "a third Obama term," because "we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama/Biden administration. President Trump has changed the landscape. It's become America first. It's been America alone." Catherine Garcia

6:52 p.m.

President Trump chose Corn over Cob on Tuesday, during the traditional presidential turkey pardoning.

On Twitter, the White House asked people to vote on which turkey should receive the annual pardon, and Corn won by more than seven points. For his part, Cob accepted the results and has not asked for a recount.

The National Turkey Federation first started presenting turkeys to the president during Thanksgiving in 1947, but they were meant for eating, NPR reports. Some presidents decided to pardon the turkeys, and the event was formalized by George H.W. Bush in 1989. Because these turkeys are not wild, they don't usually live long after their pardons, but do spend the time they have left in comfort at Virginia Tech's Gobblers Rest. For those worried about Cob's fate, fear not — the turkey who doesn't get a pardon also gets to settle in at the farm. Catherine Garcia

5:25 p.m.

While President Trump says he will continue to challenge election results, his administration is simultaneously moving full steam ahead with the presidential transition.

The latest development, first reported by CNN, involves the White House granting formal approval for President-elect Joe Biden to receive the President's Daily Brief, a key step in the process. It's not exactly clear when Biden will first be briefed, but it appears it will be in the near future.

Receiving the intelligence briefings, which are prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and contain information on matters of national security, is "typically one of the first rights of a presidential candidate after winning the election," CNN notes. Several lawmakers, including Republicans, have been calling for Biden to have access to the briefs in recent weeks to ensure that he's up to speed when he's sworn in on January 20. Read more at CNN. Tim O'Donnell

4:36 p.m.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday issued an ultimatum to the leaders of the country's northern Tigray region, telling them to surrender to federal forces within 72 hours. If the Tigray People's Liberation Front rejects the warning and holds out, as they say they intend to do, the government's troops will allegedly move to take Tigray's capital city Mekelle by force Wednesday.

But, Al Jazeera reports, even the capture of Tigray may not end the conflict that broke out earlier this month after long simmering tensions. Already, hundreds of people have died and tens of thousands have fled, but "the conflict could evolve," Ahmed Soliman, a research fellow at London think tank, Chatham House, told Al Jazeera. "There is the frightening possibility it could become entrenched," he said. "Both sides are heavily armed and this could lead to a prolonged insurgent warfare."

There is also the concern, Soliman added, that "the conflict could also spill over into neighboring countries."

The United Nations fears major hostilities may soon break out, as well, and U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting Tuesday to discuss the fighting. Read more at Al Jazeera and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

3:56 p.m.

One America News Network is getting a time out on YouTube after violating the platform's policy against COVID-19 misinformation.

The pro-Trump news network has been suspended from posting new videos for a week because it broke YouTube's rules with a video promoting a "phony cure for COVID-19," Axios reports. The video in question was taken down. YouTube doesn't allow videos that claim "there's a guaranteed cure" for the coronavirus.

Additionally, according Axios, One America News was suspended from YouTube's Partner Program and will need to reapply in order to continue monetizing videos. Should One America News earn two more strikes from YouTube, its account would be terminated.

Previously, YouTube faced criticism for not taking action against One America News, especially after it left up a video from the network falsely claiming President Trump won the 2020 election before a winner had been projected. That video remains online, though with a label stating that the race has been called for President-elect Joe Biden. Prior to Biden being projected as the winner, the label said that election "results may not be final." This same label was also added to accurate election videos. Brendan Morrow

2:05 p.m.

Purdue Pharma, which produces on OxyContin, on Tuesday admitted its role in the growth of the United States' opioid epidemic, pleading guilty to a set of criminal charges as part of a settlement with the federal government, The Associated Press reports.

The guilty plea included admissions that the pharmaceutical giant impeded the Drug Enforcement Administration's efforts to combat the opioid crisis. The company admitted it failed to maintain an effective program (despite assuring the DEA otherwise) focused on preventing prescription drugs from making it onto the black market. It provided the agency with misleading information so it could boost manufacturing quotas, and paid doctors through a speakers program as incentive for them to write more painkiller prescriptions.

The company will pay the federal government $225 million in the settlement, which is just a fraction of the $8.3 billion it owes in penalties and forfeitures. Paying the smaller amount is dependent on Purdue executing settlements while moving through bankruptcy court with state and local governments, and other groups that are also suing the company.

Many of the other plaintiffs are unsatisfied with the settlement, AP notes, especially because members of the Sackler family who own Purdue are not facing criminal charges and, despite owing the U.S. government millions and giving up control of the company, will not see their overall wealth affected significantly. Several state attorneys general also oppose Purdue's plans for future settlements, which include transforming into a public benefit corporation that would use its proceeds to address the opioid crisis. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

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