October 9, 2019

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its second volume on 2016 election interference Tuesday, and the Republican-led panel bluntly concluded that Russia "sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin." The Kremlin-directed Internet Research Agency's (IRA) "social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump to the detriment of Secretary Clinton's campaign," the report added.

That conclusion matches the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, but President Trump has downplayed Russia's role and embraced a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the election to help Clinton. "Russia's targeting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign," the committee added, and it was "a vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood."

Messages obtained by the Senate Intelligence Committee showed IRA operatives celebrating Trump's victory. After the elction, one operative wrote, "We uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne ... took one gulp each and looked into each other's eyes. .... We uttered almost in unison: 'We made America great.'"

The Kremlin's social media operation, which began in 2014 and also hit Trump's GOP primary rivals, targeted black voters more than any other group, before and after the election. "Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn't start and didn't end with the 2016 election," Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said. "Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government."

The report recommends that Congress require stricter disclosure of ad buyers, presses social media companies to share information about foreign disinformation among themselves, and asks the White House to publicly and forcefully warn about foreign interference in the 2020 election and develop a plan to deter future attacks. White House spokesman Judd Deere said the administration has made election security a priority. Peter Weber

4:56 a.m.

Between his seven-year stint as spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations and his confirmation as President Trump's ambassador to Germany in 2018, new acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell ran his own public relations firm, Capitol Media Partners. Now that he is temporarily in charge of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, his PR work for foreign interests — paid and, according to Grenell and his lawyer, voluntary — is under special scrutiny, The Washington Post reports.

"The law requires people who advocate in the United States on behalf of a foreign power to register and disclose their activities," the Post reports. "Grenell did not register, records show. Craig Engle, who said he has been Grenell's lawyer for several years, said he was not required to." Two lawyers who specialize in the relevant law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), told the Post that Grenell's work for a U.S. nonprofit funded almost entirely by Hungary's far-right nationalist government would, in other cases, have "drawn the attention of Justice Department investigators tasked with enforcing" FARA.

Engle told Responsible Statecraft that Grenell "knew that the Hungarian government was the sponsor" of the nonprofit, the Magyar Foundation, but didn't have to file under FARA. Outside experts disagree. Engle is also the Magyar Foundation's chief counsel.

Grenell also faces questions about his public advocacy for Moldova's former governing coalition and, in particular, Vladimir Plahotniuc, Moldova's richest man. In as series of 2016 op-eds, Grenell said Plahotniuc was being unfairly accused of corruption and bank fraud by a whistleblower. Plahotniuc fled Moldova in 2019 after his government fell, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last month that Plahotniuc is barred from entering the U.S. due to his "corrupt actions." Engle said Plahotniuc didn't pay Grenell, but one of Grenell's clients was the late GOP strategist Arthur Finkelstein, and Finkelstein hired Grenell to act as a media consultant for Plahotniuc, ProPublica reports.

"Undisclosed work for a foreign politician would ordinarily pose a problem for anyone applying for a security clearance or a job in a U.S. intelligence agency because it could make the person susceptible to foreign influence or blackmail, according to the official policy from the office that Trump tapped Grenell to lead," writes ProPublica's Isaac Arnsdorf. Engle told the Post that Finkelstein "had dozens of clients at a time and only he knew who they were." Peter Weber

2:14 a.m.

President Trump arrived in India on Monday for a state visit, and Monday's Late Show noticed he had a little trouble pronouncing Indian names.

Trump's actually really popular in India, Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. Some Indians "like him because of his anti-Muslim rhetoric, some like him because of his business savvy, and all of them like him because his skin looks like tikka masala."

"Clearly, India is trying to give Trump a memorable experience," Noah said. "There was, however, one tiny culture clash that Trump had to deal with" — Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vegetarianism. "I honestly don't know what's stranger: the fact that Trump might eat vegetables, or that people are actually worried about how it will go," he said. And "despite the beef issue," Trump "even made an effort to show the Indian people how much he respects them by trying to speak their language."

"After Trump butchered half the Hindi dictionary, Indian Twitter lost their minds," Noah said. "But to those Indians, I say: please don't be mad. Trump may not be able to pronounce Hindi words, but he can't pronounce English words, either."

Yes, "because he was in India, Trump had to prove that English isn't the only language he struggles with," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. But Trump also had to face the "challenge" of Modi's "plans to serve vegetarian food to the president. Oh my God, we're going to war with India!" Upon landing in India, Colbert said, "Trump's first stop was at the home of Mahatma Gandhi where he got the chance to spin a replica of the wheel that Gandhi used to make his own clothes. That's lovely — now he knows what it's like to work in one of Ivanka's factories."

Trump also visited the Taj Mahal on Monday — and described it "as too understated," James Corden joked at The Late Late Show. After the big rally, "local commentators said that Trump mispronounced the names of nearly every famous Indian official that he mentioned, as well as the name of the city was in," he added, laughing. "Basically, what you get from this is that every time Trump goes to an Indian restaurant, he just goes, 'Yeah, I'm gonna get that thing.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

2:01 a.m.

At least seven people were killed and 50 injured Monday in New Delhi after clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of a new citizenship law many consider anti-Muslim, police announced Tuesday.

In December, India's Parliament approved the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which provides citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, with the exception of Muslims. Activists say supporters of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) incited violence over the weekend, and video circulated showing a mob of people beating a Muslim man. Protests took place across several neighborhoods in New Delhi, and police fired tear gas at demonstrators.

President Trump is spending Tuesday in New Delhi with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP. During a rally in Ahmedabad on Monday, Trump commended India, saying it's a country where different faiths "worship side by side in harmony." Catherine Garcia

1:05 a.m.

With a few days to go before the South Carolina Democratic primary, a major newspaper in the state is endorsing Pete Buttigieg, saying the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has an "outsider's appeal" and a "message of unity."

In an endorsement published Monday night, The State said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former Vice President Joe Biden were both "impressive" in their interviews with the newspaper, but it is "vital" for Democrats to "nominate an energetic, disciplined candidate who can offer voters a powerful yet pragmatic vision of a better America. The Democrats need a nominee who seeks to bring Americans together based on broad common ground — and not divide them along narrow interests." That person, The State declared, is Buttigieg.

From a historical standpoint, the Democratic Party has only won the presidency over the last 50 years "when it has resisted the temptation to pick status-quo nominees and shown the courage to choose centrist outsiders with fresh optimistic messages." Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama "successfully connected with voters by tapping into the sensibilities of average Americans," The State said, and Buttigieg "gained that needed perspective" while serving as mayor of South Bend.

The State praised Buttigieg for his health care ideas, including enacting Medicare for all who want it. "That's preferable to demanding a radical overhaul of our health care system — an unrealistic idea that's been advanced by politicians who spent most of their time inside the insular Washington bubble," The State said. "And it exemplifies Buttigieg's ability to see a crucial issue through the eyes of Americans who simply want practical policies, not upheaval and unknowns." Read the entire endorsement, which acknowledges Buttigieg's struggle to woo black voters, at The State. Catherine Garcia

12:26 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) got some blowback Monday for comments he made on Sunday's 60 Minutes in favor of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro's literacy program. It's not clear many people outside of Florida or under age 70 have strong feelings about Castro anymore — he died in 2016, after all, and Cuba is now mostly known as a hot vacation spot. And as Sanders also said on 60 Minutes, it's not like he thinks current, nuclear-armed despot "Kim Jong Un is a good friend," and unlike President Trump. "I don't trade love letters with a murdering dictator."

Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton clearly did not pay attention to that last part of the interview when he jumped in to slam Sanders for "revealing the extent of his extremism" by suggesting "Castro's communist Cuba is not all bad." So Twitter reminded him.

In any case, Sanders doesn't seem rattled by the criticism. "You know what? I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing," he said at a CNN town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday night. "I have been extremely consistent and critical of all authoritarian regimes all over the world — including Cuba, including Nicaragua, including Saudi Arabia, including China, including Russia. I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism." He still doubled-down on the not-all-bad motif, saying that China, while "becoming more an more authoritarian," has also clearly "taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history." Peter Weber

February 24, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its South Korea travel advisory to its highest level as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country.

The CDC is warning Americans against nonessential travel to the country, saying, "There is a widespread, ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that can be spread from person to person. Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions may be at risk of severe disease." The advisory also states that there is "limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas."

There are now 893 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in South Korea. Most of the cases are in and around Daegu, South Korea's fourth-largest city. About half of the patients are members of Shincheonji, a controversial religious organization that believes its leader is the second coming of Jesus Christ. On Sunday, the South Korean government ordered a temporary shutdown of the church, in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading to more people. Catherine Garcia

February 24, 2020

A Republican running for Congress in Arizona announced on Monday he is suspending his campaign following a heroin overdose last week.

Chris Taylor is an Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and a member of the City Council in Safford. He has a history of opioid addiction dating back to his high school years. "I'm not going to hide from this," Taylor told The Arizona Republic. "I'm not ashamed of what happened. I wish to sincerely apologize to the amazing people who have supported me."

Taylor told NBC News he is seeking treatment for substance abuse, having relapsed "after having so many solid years in sobriety. I have to figure out where I went wrong. Thankfully I have every resource available to me through the Veterans Affairs Administration and I have the strongest support system one could dream of. The only thing I can do is face this head on in complete humility and put one foot in front of the other so that I can get the help needed to be the father and husband that my family deserves."

Taylor was running in Arizona's 1st Congressional District, hoping to unseat Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D). In his campaign ads, Taylor promised to support President Trump, cut taxes, and defend the Second Amendment. Catherine Garcia

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