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Updated: 6 hours 19 min ago

Trump is holding "both countries responsible" for Russian meddling in the US election

7 hours 24 min ago

As President Trump offered criticisms for the way the U.S. handled Russian hacking in the 2016 election, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to come to Russia to pursue their investigation — if Russian investigators can interview Americans, too.

“We can let them into the country and they’ll be present for this questioning,” Putin said at a joint press conference with President Trump in Helsinki on Monday. “But this should be mutual, and we should be able to question law enforcement officers and intelligence officials who we believe have been involved in illegal actions on the territory of the Russian federation.”

Trump responded positively, saying, “I think that’s an incredible offer.”

The comments came during a remarkable joint press conference between Trump and Putin in the Finnish capital of Helsinki on Monday immediately following their first official bilateral summit. Both men declared the event a big success, and the start of a longer process of warming up relations.

“Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed, as of about four hours ago. I really believe that,” Trump said. “We had direct, open, deeply-productive dialogue. It went very well.”

Putin, in fact, has an “interesting idea” about the subject of election meddling, Trump said, without immediately being more specific.

Trump and Putin’s much-scrutinized bromance became even more complicated on Friday, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted a dozen Russian military intelligence officers for allegedly hacking Democratic email accounts and distributing the contents online in an attempt to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

While standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin, Trump took a swipe at the Mueller investigation, and put some of the blame for poor relations between the U.S. and Russia on American shoulders.

“I think we’re all to blame,” Trump said. “It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.”

Trump said his campaign couldn’t have cooperated with Putin to undermind the 2016 election because he didn’t know Putin at that time.

“I didn’t know the president,” Trump said. “There was nobody collude with.”

Read More: The Russians hacked Hillary Clinton and the DNC on the very day Trump asked them to

Before the summit kicked off Monday, Trump blamed the downturn on U.S.-Russian relations on the “foolishness” and “stupidity” of American foreign policy — and took direct aim at the Mueller investigation once again.

Trump, who was briefed on Friday’s indictment days before it dropped, met with Putin privately for a little over two hours on Monday before the two leaders sat down for a working lunch with their top advisors, then hit the stage for a joint press conference.

Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Putin sparked criticism from Democrats and concern from political analysts — including from those who argued that the wily Russian president, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, would likely come well-prepared to get the most out of his encounter with Trump.

The meeting lasted longer than initially planned, having initially been scheduled to last 90 minutes.

“I’m worried that Trump met with Putin alone without his aides,” Anna Borshchevskaya, an analyst who tracks Russian foreign policy closely at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told VICE News. “Putin is a far more skilled interlocutor than Trump. There’s no telling what happened in that meeting.”

Speaking to the press earlier Monday before their meetings, Trump congratulated Putin on hosting the World Cup, which wrapped up Sunday, and didn’t say that he planned to discuss the allegations of election meddling with Putin. Last week in the UK, Trump had promised to “firmly ask the question” of election meddling when he met with Putin in Helsinki.

Cover image: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Trump fist-bumped Turkey’s strongman Erdogan for “doing things the right way”

7 hours 44 min ago

President Trump fist-bumped the President of Turkey for “doing things the right way” during the NATO summit, according to Eurasia Group president and CBS News senior global affairs contributor Ian Bremmer.

While Trump offered sharp criticism of America’s NATO allies, he praised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an autocrat whose guards beat protesters on American soil, for saying he would bypass Turkey's parliament to increase its military spending.

The President was frustrated that the leaders of other countries weren’t committing to spend more money on NATO — and suggested that countries should raise their contributions to 4 percent of GDP from 2 percent, which only a few meet. (The U.S. spends more money on NATO than any other country, a topic Trump has been focusing on for weeks).

Read: Erdogan is mad his guards face arrest for attacking protesters in D.C.

According to Bremmer, most of the leaders responding by saying they couldn’t just commit to spending more money: there’s a process, and they have to ask their parliaments.

“Trump turns around to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and says ‘except for Erdogan over here, he does things the right way,’ and then actually fist-bumps the Turkish president,” Bremmer said on CBS.

According to Bremmer, this kind of comradery between Trump and Erdogan makes the rest of the European countries uncomfortable.

“Turkey is hardly a liberal democracy at this point,” he said.

Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attend the opening ceremony at the 2018 NATO Summit at NATO headquarters on July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Sacha Baron Cohen just got a bunch of Republicans to endorse giving guns to toddlers

8 hours 2 min ago

Comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen told a bunch of Republicans about a fake program that would give “gunimals” — cute, fluffy stuffed animals and toys strapped to guns — to toddlers.

And they loved the idea.

(Examples include: the Puppy Pistol, Dino-Gun, Rocket Ship RPG, Gunny Rabbit, and a special one “for the girls,” an Uzicorn.)

In his new comedy series, “Who is America?” Cohen, known for his Borat and Ali G characters, adds another persona to his list: anti-terror expert, Erran Morad. Under that guise, Cohen created a fake “Kingerguardians” program that would arm children so they could better protect themselves and their classmates against school shooters. Cohen even enlisted the help of known gun rights advocate and president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Philip Van Cleave, to discuss the program (and sing a nursery rhyme about how to shoot).

“Aim at the head, shoulders, not the toes, not the toes,” Cleave sang.

Cohen, however, makes clear the program won’t include anyone younger than three. "They don't call them the terrible twos for nothing,” he said.

Once they had the details nailed down, Cohen met with several GOP lawmakers to explain the program and ask them if they’d support it. Several unabashedly did. Former Illinois congressman and conservative talk radio host Joe Walsh even read a little endorsement.

“The intensive three-week kinderguardian course introduces specially selected children from 12 to 4-years old to pistols, rifles, semi-automatics, and a rudimentary knowledge of mortars,” Walsh said. “In less than a month, less than a month, a first grader can become a first grenader.”

“Happy shooting, kids,” Walsh adds to the last line.

Later, Walsh told CNN he was fooled into commenting on the program — which is exactly the point of Cohen’s show.

“After they conducted an interview, they had me read off of a teleprompter talking about some of the innovative products that Israel invented,” Walsh told the news network. “Then they had me read about this 4-year-old child in Israel who, when a terrorist entered his classroom, somehow he grabbed the terrorist’s gun and held the terrorist at bay. And that was an example of how Israel trains and arms preschool kids on how to use firearms, and boy shouldn’t we do that in America?”

Walsh also told CNN that as he read the statement, he thought, “Well, this is kind of crazy, but it is Israel and Israel is strong on defense.” Then, “we found out this whole thing was made up.”

But Walsh wasn’t the only former or current member of Congress who was duped into believing the U.S. should arm toddlers.

Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of California and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, along with former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, all enthusiastically backed the fake idea.

“It’s something we should think about in America,” Trent Lott, a former Republican U.S. Senator from Missouri told Cohen. “About putting guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, good guys, whether they be teachers, or whether they actually be talented children or highly-trained preschoolers.”

“Maybe having many young people trained and understand how to defend themselves in school might actually make us safer,” Rohrabacher also told Cohen.

“A three-year-old cannot defend itself from an assault rifle by throwing a Hello Kitty pencil case at it,” Wilson told Cohen. “The founding fathers did not put an age limit on the second amendment.”

Not all lawmakers fell for Cohen’s stunt, though. Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida wasn’t having it — although he wouldn’t outright say he didn’t support toddlers with guns.

“You want me to say on television that I support three- and four-year-olds with firearms?” Gaetz asked Cohen. “Is that what you’re asking me to do?”

“Uhhh, yes,” Cohen said.

“Typically members of Congress don’t just hear a story about a program and then indicate whether they support it or not,” Gaetz said.

Cover image: Screenshot via "Who is America" (Showtime)

Trump said he'd bring up election meddling. He gave Putin a wink instead.

9 hours 57 min ago

U.S. President Donald Trump failed to mention Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election during his opening exchange with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki Monday, prefering to give the autocrat a wink and a line of flattery about hosting the World Cup.

The leaders finally shook hands shortly after 2 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) — the handshake lasting just three seconds, accompanied by stern expressions from across the table.

Speaking to the press before the pair held a one-on-one meeting, Trump said: “I’d like to congratulate you on a really great World Cup. One of the best ever from what everybody tells me and also for your team, itself, doing so well.”

Trump then listed what the agenda would be for the next 90 minutes, notably omitting any mention of election meddling — despite the U.S. president telling reporters last week that he would bring up the topic.

“We [will] have discussions on everything from trade to military, to missiles, to nuclear, to China, we’ll be talking a little bit about China — our mutual friend President Xi,” Trump said.

Earlier, Trump had lashed out at his own country for deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations, which he said had “never been worse.” He told Putin that he was planning on fixing that.

“I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship,” Trump said. “I’ve been saying, and I’m sure you’ve heard, over the years ... that getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

As reporters were ushered out of the room, Putin was seen smirking as one of the journalists asked Trump if he would bring up Russian meddling.

The handshake followed an hour of theater as the leaders — first Putin, then Trump — took turns delaying the meeting.

READ: Trump tweets his Helsinki surrender before Putin even lands

Keeping world leaders waiting has become something of a Trump diplomatic tactic, but it was the White House delegation that was left to stew, with Putin arriving 45 minutes late to the Presidential Palace.

In turn, Trump, who was ensconced in the Hilton Helsinki Kalastajatorppa, delayed his departure to arrive 20 minutes after Putin.

This macho posturing was also on show in the presidential vehicles. Putin rolled into the Finnish capital using a newly-designed Russian limousine called a Kortezh, while Trump arrived in his armor-plated car, known as the “Beast.”

Putin has a long history of employing tactics to unsettle fellow leaders before meetings, once making Angela Merkel wait more than four hours for a meeting.

He also once brought to pet Labrador to a sit-down with the reportedly cynophobic German chancellor.

Cover image: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland (Reuters)

Trump calls EU a "foe." Europe insists we're BFFs.

11 hours 26 min ago

It's hard to keep up with Donald Trump’s view of the U.S.-EU relationship, but his latest assessment of it drew swift reaction, when he told a U.S. interviewer he considered the European Union alongside Russia and China as a “foe.”

The extraordinary description of one of his country’s key partners sparked a spirited defense of the trans-Atlantic relationship from leading EU figures, who labeled Trump’s remarks “fake news” and vowed the relationship would endure. But the comments also highlighted the widening gulf between the U.S. and Europe in the Trump era, prompting Germany’s foreign minister to warn Europe could “no longer completely rely on the White House” and needed to readjust its relationship with Washington in the wake of Trump’s erratic diplomacy during last week’s NATO summit, which left doubts lingering over the strength of the alliance.

Trump made the incendiary comments to CBS News at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland Sunday. “I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade,” he said, before going on to list Russia as a “foe in certain respects” and China as a foe “economically.”

The interviewer, Jeff Glor, pushed back, saying, “A lot of people might be surprised to hear you list the EU as a foe before China and Russia.” But Trump stuck to his statement, saying the EU was “very difficult.”

“You know I love those countries. I respect the leaders of those countries,” he said. “But, in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren’t paying their bills.”

The comments drew a swift response from senior European Union figures, eager to emphasize that Trump’s coolness to the bloc did not reflect the overall health of the trans-Atlantic relationship.

In a pointed tweet, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said: “America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.”

And in a possible reference to Trump’s meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin Monday, Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission, tweeted: “Calling your best friends foes only makes your real foes happy. Europeans and Americans are bound by history and their shared values. Europeans will never give up on America because America never gave up on us. That’s what friends are for.”

But Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after the comments that Europe could no longer rely on the United States and needed to readjust its relationship with Washington.

“We can no longer completely rely on the White House,” he told the Funke newspaper group Monday. “To maintain our partnership with the USA we must readjust it. The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe.”

Trump’s comments were just the latest in a series of destabilizing attacks on the trans-Atlantic relationship in recent days during his chaotic trip to Europe. He has put question marks over U.S. commitment to NATO with his repeated attacks on European partners over their defense spending, and attempts to link disagreements over transatlantic trade to American commitment to NATO. In Britain, he fanned far-right sentiment with comments linking immigration to crime and terrorism, and undercut Prime Minister Theresa May’s fragile position on Brexit before decrying the comments attributed to him as “fake news.”

Trump’s unprecedented attacks on NATO have caused special alarm, coming as they have ahead of his bilateral meeting with Putin. Analysts have noted with alarm that weakening the relationship between the United State and Europe is one of the Kremlin’s primary objectives regarding NATO.

Paul Ivan, senior policy analyst at the European Policy Center, told VICE News that while the transatlantic alliance would likely endure, Trump’s comments augured stormy days ahead, with dwindling American influence in Europe and vice versa.

“It’s clear that the U.S.-EU relationship is going through a difficult period and there is likely more trouble ahead,” he said.

“We see that President Trump’s comments already have an effect on a section of the American public whose attitudes toward the trans-Atlantic alliance have become more negative. Through his rhetoric against the EU, President Trump reduces both Europe’s influence in the U.S. and certainly also the U.S.’s influence in Europe.”

Trump tweets his Helsinki surrender before Putin even lands

12 hours 8 min ago

Hours before his meeting with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump claimed relations between the U.S. and Russia had “never been worse” — and blamed the “foolishness and stupidity” of his own country for the breakdown.

Ignoring Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Putin’s support for President Bashar Assad in Syria, and the Russian chemical attack in the U.K. earlier this year, Trump tweeted: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

The official Twitter account of the Russian foreign ministry quickly “liked” the tweet and later responded by simply saying: “We agree.”

Trump’s claim comes days after FBI special counsel Robert Mueller issued indictments for 12 Russian military intelligence operatives for hacking the Democratic National Committee, releasing secret files, and targeting election administrators at the state level ahead of the 2016 vote.

Trump’s view that Washington is to blame for deteriorating relations with Moscow aligns with the message put out by the Kremlin.

Moscow has consistently denied any involvement in the 2016 election, and has instead blamed the Obama administration for increased tensions in recent years.

Trump has refused to directly criticize Putin, despite his Justice Department issuing charges against the Russian operatives. He has also said he admires Putin's autocratic style of leadership.

READ: 5 things to watch at the Trump-Putin meeting

In a thinly-veiled critique of the president, Hillary Clinton Monday questioned Trump’s close relationship with the Russian leader:

In a Piers Morgan interview onboard Air Force One broadcast Monday morning, Trump said that while Putin “probably is” a ruthless person, he felt they could still be friends.

“I don’t know him… I met him a couple of times… I think we could probably get along very well,” Trump is quoted as saying on “Good Morning Britain.”

Cover image: Donald Trump and Melania Trump arrive at Helsinki International Airport on July 15, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Trump meets Putin: 5 things to watch at the summit

July 15, 2018 - 12:39pm

President Trump’s first bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin was already cast under a cloud of controversy — thanks in no small part to Trump’s rocky week in Europe where he repeatedly attacked NATO allies and undermined UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

But Don and Vlad’s budding bond became even more fraught on Friday, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted a dozen Russian military intelligence officers for allegedly hacking Democratic email accounts and distributing the contents online in a broad attempt to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

With no particular top item on the agenda for the summit, but so much to discuss, Trump and Putin will hold a private closed-door meeting followed by a very public dual press conference.

When Don and Vlad get together, anything can happen.

Here’s what to watch for:

Election meddling and cyberwarfare

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein staged a surprise press conference on Friday morning to announce fresh charges against Russian military intelligence operatives for messing with the last election, in a move that prompted Democrats to call on Trump to ditch the summit with Putin altogether.

Read more: The Russians hacked Hillary Clinton and the DNC on the very day Trump asked them to

Trump, who was apparently briefed on the upcoming indictment days in advance, was asked earlier Friday whether he planned to confront Putin about the election meddling allegations.

“I will firmly ask the question,” Trump said. But, he predicted, Putin would probably just deny it.

“I don't think you'll have any ‘Gee, I did it. I did it. You got me,’” Trump said. “There won't be a Perry Mason here, I don't think.”

The summit may just be a replay of Trump and Putin’s earlier exchange on the subject. After a rendezvous on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany last year, Trump claimed he asked Putin about election meddling, then earnestly repeated Putin’s claims that Russia did nothing of the sort.

“President Trump will publicly scold Russia for election interference,” wrote Chris Weafer, a longtime business analyst based in Moscow and keen Russia-watcher, in an email to VICE News. “Putin may again deny any involvement or simply look disinterested. Either way it is well-rehearsed theater.”

Despite the theatrics, national security officials in the nation’s capital are hoping Trump holds a firm line. On Friday, Trump’s top intel officer, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, warned that Russia’s increasingly aggressive cyber attacks had put America’s digital infrastructure “literally under attack.”

“The warning lights are blinking red again,” Coats said.

Ukraine

America’s military allies in NATO, a group that’s served as the backbone of U.S.-European collective security since the dawn of the Cold War, have expressed anxiety that Trump might grant Putin concessions that leave them exposed.

Trump said Friday at a press conference in the UK that the two leaders would discuss Ukraine, which is still battling pro-Russian rebels in its eastern regions.

Read more: Trump's attacks on NATO are a matter of life and death for Baltic countries

Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in early 2014, prompting a series of punitive economic sanctions from Europe and the U.S.

On Friday, Trump blamed his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for letting Russia get away with Crimea — but he declined to give any specifics about how he might counter Russia’s aggression in the region.

“If I knew, I wouldn't tell you because that would put us at a disadvantage,” Trump said. “We'll see how it all mills out.”

Syria

Trump also said the two leaders will address Syria and The Middle East.

Russia and Iran have emerged as the two strongest backers of embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who because of them has clung to power through his country’s bloody civil war.

U.S. troops fighting ISIS in the country came into conflict with Russian mercenaries back in February in a clash that reportedly resulted in some 300 Russian casualties (though none for the Americans). Two months later, Russia threatened to shoot down missiles that Trump ordered launched at Assad’s forces as punishment for the dictator's alleged chemical weapons use.

Read more: Putin still has the upper hand in Syria, and Trump's team probably probably knows it

Still, both leaders will have more to talk about then just their own tensions in Syria. Despite making the war on ISIS a foreign policy priority in his first term, Trump's team has yet to offer a larger vision in Syria. Putin has — and it's largely based on keeping Assad in power, a position not too long ago held to be untenable by the U.S.

Now, the question is whether the two leaders might search for a way to end the Syrian conflict altogether — or strike some kind of grand bargain regarding the country's future.

That pipeline to Germany

Trump recently lashed out at Germany for its reliance on Russian energy imports, and took specific aim at a natural gas pipeline project called Nord Stream 2.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” he asserted.

Trump’s apparent stand against Russian energy exports will hardly sit well with Putin. Russia’s economy relies heavily on sales of oil and gas abroad, especially to European markets.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov immediately hit back at Trump over the matter.

“This is nothing more than an attempt to force European buyers to purchase more expensive liquefied gas that can be supplied from alternative places,” Peskov said.

Nukes

Both men haven’t been shy about their love for nuclear weaponry or the fact that they control the world’s two biggest arsenals. Trump pledged to expand and “modernize” America's nuclear arsenal. Putin, meanwhile, recently rolled out new “invincible” nuclear weapons alongside an animation of Russian warheads raining down on what looked a lot like Florida.

Read more: Trump and Putin are both very insecure about the size of their nuclear arsenals

But when both men meet in Helsinki, they’ll likely have to discuss what to do with 2011’s New Start Treaty — an arms control pact between both countries, which Trump has frequently derided.

The current agreement expires in 2021, but both leaders could opt to extend the pact until 2026.

Either way, both leaders are expected to pursue fresh discussions over how to reduce their nuclear weapons.

“The proliferation is a tremendous, I mean to me, it’s the biggest problem in the world, nuclear weapons, biggest problem in the world,” Trump said Friday, during his stop-off in the U.K., before adding he'd raise the issue with Putin. “If we can do something to substantially reduce them, I mean, ideally get rid of them, maybe that’s a dream, but certainly it’s a subject that I’ll be bringing up with him.”

Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

Miss America is cutting ties with swimsuits, but not everyone is happy about it

July 15, 2018 - 10:00am

The Miss America pageant was founded in 1921 as a beauty contest with a risqué twist: a swimsuit competition. But now, 97 years later, the swimsuit is being nixed from the competition.

The swimsuit component of the pageant has always been polarizing. But after a “me-too” scandal, the Miss America board voted not to judge women in their swimwear starting with this fall’s national competition. The decision meant this summer’s state competitions were the last to feature the long-standing tradition.

But many in the pageant world, including former and current contestants, have been reticent to embrace the new change. Aly Beaupre, a contestant in the 2018 Miss Texas pageant, has openly opposed it.

"I don't think it was necessary because I feel they could've just let people like myself, or people with similar stories, kind of talk about what it's done for them and what it's supposed to be about it," she said. "Now that I'm confident with myself, I walk into a room and I feel like I'm glowing."

VICE News spent time with Beaupre as she prepared for the pageant and shared her views about how the swimsuit competition changed her life and perspective about health and fitness.

This segment originally aired July 3, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

Russia is using the Cossacks as part of its World Cup security force

July 14, 2018 - 7:15am

Russia's historic ethnic militia — the Cossacks — have been a small but curious part of the highly visible World Cup security force during these past five weeks of matches, patrolling the streets of the host towns.

The morality vigilantes are playing an increasingly prominent role in Vladimir Putin's conservative Russia, encouraged by the Kremlin over the past two years. They've stirred public outrage using their orthodox stance to justify whipping protesters, and they're being linked to combat in Syria and Ukraine.

The massive World Cup security operation will cost about $15 billion, in an economy already strained by international sanctions, but with more than 2 million fans visiting, and an estimated 3 billion watching on TV, it’s been a once-in-a-generation chance at Russian self-promotion, giving the Cossacks a huge platform for exhibiting their culture and projecting Putin's strongman image.

VICE News joined the Cossacks on patrol before a World Cup game to see what their continued role in Russian public life says about Putin’s Russia.

For Cossack artist Maxim Ilinov, the World Cup has been a chance to show the world a softer side to his people and change the sterotypes. He was chosen to exhibit his latest work to the thousands of supporters visiting his hometown of Rostov-on-Don, a Cossack capital and the site of several World Cup matches.

“For some reason, everybody is interested in the same question — that somebody used a whip against the crowd [at an opposition rally in Moscow in May]. They don’t see anything else.

This story is so old-fashioned and so stale to us. I’m telling you — don’t be so hung up on this. It’s all very different now.”

Russians hacked Hillary Clinton and the DNC on the very day Trump asked them to, according to Mueller investigation

July 13, 2018 - 3:43pm

On July 27, 2016, at the height of a heated campaign season, then-candidate Donald Trump jokingly took a jab at his rival Hillary Clinton: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

Apparently, not everyone thought it was a laughing matter. Late that same day, Russian hackers working for Moscow’s elite military intelligence agency, the GRU, attempted “to spearphish, for the first time, email accounts” used by Clinton’s personal office.

This startling detail is just one of many fresh allegations put forward in special counsel Robert Mueller’s latest indictment, which accuses a dozen Russian military cyber-spies of hacking the Democratic National Committee, releasing secret files, and targeting election administrators at the state level.

The surprise announcement Friday goes to the heart of claims made in an American intelligence assessment in January 2017 that concluded Russia tried to mess with the U.S. election. But the new indictment provides remarkably specific details about the timing and staffing of the effort, which Mueller tied, for the first time, directly to actors inside the Russian government.

Read more: 12 Russian intelligence operatives indicted for hacking the US election

The indictment shows that Mueller’s investigators have enough insight into the operation against the 2016 election that they'd be able to prove, in court, that it happened, an even higher standard than intelligence assessments, said Mimi Rocah, a former prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York.

“The fact that people have been indicted now means that our Department of Justice feels they can prove this beyond a reasonable doubt,” Rocah wrote in an email to VICE News. “That’s a very high standard, and it means they have a lot of actual evidence.”

Here’s what you need to know.

Direct line to Putin’s cyber-spies

Mueller’s team charges 12 Russians with running a wide-ranging hacking operation for Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, during which they penetrated the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

The new indictment is Mueller’s second against actual Russian citizens, but this one draws a direct line to the heart of Russia’s intelligence complex.

A previous indictment, unveiled in February, targeted 13 Russian individuals for allegedly running a related online operation under the watch of a catering tycoon named Yevgeny Prigozhin. But while Prigozhin is widely believed to operate sensitive, secret missions on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he has no formal government status.

This time, Mueller went squarely after officials working for the Russian military.

The document details how Russian cyber-warriors posed under false online personas with bland-sounding American names. Russian military officer Ivan Yermakov allegedly masqueraded online as “Kate S. Milton” and “Karen W. Milton,” while pursuing a Russian government-backed spy mission to undermine the election, investigators charge.

Read more : Everything we know about the Russian operatives accused of meddling in the U.S. election

The Russian cyber-spies implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code, and stole emails. They allegedly installed multiple versions of a program called “X-Agent” on at least 10 computers used by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which allowed them to monitor keystrokes and steal passwords. They also allegedly attempted to siphon donations from DCCC site ActBlue by establishing a similar page — ActBlues.com.

The indictment says the effort was well underway by the time the U.S. primaries were in full swing in the spring of 2016, and lasted through the election. By April, the hackers had allegedly penetrated the computer networks of the DCCC, and were secretly monitoring the computers of dozens of Democratic staffers.

The internet and the Americans

The indictment also lays out the distribution process these cyber-spies used to push the stolen files out to their American audiences.

In April, the Russian spies reportedly attempted to register the domain “electionleaks.com,” before settling on another site: DCLeaks.com. They used a digital cryptocurrency to cover the cost. By the time it was shut down in the spring of 2017, the site had received over a million page-views.

Then, starting in about June 2016, they staged the release of tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents using both the DCLeaks site and a made-up hacker persona named “Guccifer 2.0,” the document says. To cover their trail, Guccifer 2.0 was presented as a lone Romanian hacker. On DCLeaks, the defendants posed as “American hacktivists,” according to Rosenstein.

Guccifer 2.0 famously communicated, before the election, with longtime Trump adviser and Republican operative Roger Stone.

In the wake of Mueller’s outing of Guccifer 2.0 as a Russian intelligence front on Friday, Stone downplayed that link.

Read more : The Mueller probe is hammering Trump's allies with insane legal bills

“As I testified before the House Intelligence Committee under oath, my 24-word exchange with someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 is benign based on its content, context, and timing,” Stone told The Daily Beast.

But Stone’s statements about these events appear to have evolved over time. In April, CNN reported that a review of Stone’s earlier interviews found that he said multiple times in July 2016 that Russia was the most likely source for hacked emails released by WikiLeaks during the Democratic National Convention.

Friday’s indictment didn’t mention WikiLeaks by name but said the accused operatives utilized a platform that sounds an awful lot like it, referred to as “Organization 1.”

The document also included a remarkable new accusation: In August 2016, an unnamed candidate for Congress reached out to Guccifer 2.0 to ask for stolen documents from another candidate. The spies responded by sending files that were stolen from the targeted opponent.

The document lists several cases in which Americans communicated with the Russian operatives through their fake online personas. But U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took pains in Friday’s press conference to stress that no Americans were being accused of wrongdoing in this round of indictments.

Still, the new charges are unlikely to be the last to drop in Mueller’s expanding probe, which has indicted some of Trump’s closest advisers, including his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

A suspect timeline

Trump and his team have consistently laughed off the American intelligence community’s assertions that Russia targeted his opponents in a bid to get him elected, but Mueller’s latest indictment makes that harder than ever to deny.

Beyond the timing of Trump's seemingly jokey request to uncover Clinton’s emails on July 27, Mueller's team highlights other instances where Russian interference appeared to coincide with supportive gestures from Trump's campaign.

For example, the document says the DCLeaks site was launched on June 8, 2016 — just one day before the top brass of the Trump campaign took a meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer billed as offering dirt on Clinton.

Less than a week later, on June 15, the cyber-spies created the online identify Guccifer 2.0 to take credit for the hacks into the Democratic National Committee, according to the indictment.

State-level hacking

While the U.S. intel community has already called out Russian hackers for targeting registration rolls and voter systems in as many as 21 states, Friday’s indictment colors in the lines.

The document marks the first time Mueller’s team has acknowledged publicly that Russia’s 2016 meddling targeted private companies that administer elections.

Specifically, Mueller alleges that Russian spies “hacked into the computers of a U.S. vendor ('Vendor 1') that supplied software used to verify voter registration information for the 2016 U.S. elections.”

Rosenstein said Friday that Russian GRU officers hacked into the website of a state election board and stole information on 500,000 voters, and sent spearphishing emails to people involved in administering elections — with malware attached.

Rosenstein added that he briefed Trump about the allegations earlier this week, and that Trump was fully aware that Friday’s announcement was coming.

For outside observers, however, the news dropped without warning — and adds a volatile new dynamic to Trump’s upcoming summit, and scheduled joint press conference, with Putin in the Finnish capital of Helsinki on Monday.

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Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during a joint news conference with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May in the grounds of Chequers near Aylesbury, Britain July 13, 2018. Jack Taylor/Pool via REUTERS

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says Trump is “amplifying messages of hate”

July 13, 2018 - 2:24pm

London Mayor Sadiq Khan hit back at President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on him and his city and said his remarks were “amplifying messages of hate” and boosting the far-right.

Khan spoke to VICE News Friday in response to Trump’s explosive interview with British tabloid The Sun, in which the visiting U.S. president said Europe was “losing its culture” because of immigration. He also blamed Khan for crime and terrorism in the British capital.

“You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London,” Trump said in the interview, published on the second day of his U.K. trip. “I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism. I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”

Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, questioned why Trump singled out him for criticism — and not for the first time — when terrorist attacks have also hit many other European cities.

“It’s not for me to say whether President Trump is a racist or Islamophobe — that’s for others to comment on,” Khan said. “But it’s for him to explain why [he] singled out the mayor of London when there have been terror attacks in Manchester, in Nice, in Brussels, in Berlin, in Paris.”

“All of us are trying to grapple with the evils of terrorism,” he added.

Trump had previously attacked Khan on Twitter in June last year — just hours after a deadly terror attack in central London. “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack, and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” Trump tweeted, which prompted Khan to respond that Trump was “ill-informed” and had taken his comment out of context.

Trump has also claimed the U.K. has a “massive Muslim problem,” and in November he retweeted three Islamophobic videos posted by a British extremist.

Trump’s comments on immigration, Khan said, were “amplifying messages of hate” and “giving credibility to far-right groups.”

“What troubles people, including me, is the normalisation of views that we find abhorrent,” he said.

Despite his frank comments, Khan said he wasn’t interested in continuing his long-running feud with Trump, which had been upsetting for his family.

“It takes two to tango,” he said. “You’ve got the leader of the free world, arguably the most powerful man in the world, apparently obsessed about the mayor of London. I’m not going to rise to some of the things that he’s said because I want to demonstrate that we’re bigger than that.”

Watch thousands of Londoners show their love for Trump

July 13, 2018 - 1:55pm

You can understand why Donald Trump wanted to avoid London on his U.K. trip this week. The thousands of protesters flooding the streets, armed with a massive "Trump baby" blimp and villainous robots, made the president feel rather "unwelcome."

The demonstration Friday was one of more than 100 planned protests during the U.S. president’s four-day stay in the U.K. Organizers claimed more than 250,000 people took to the streets of London against Trump’s visit, according to CNN.

“I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome. Why would I stay there?" Trump told The Sun on Thursday.

Trump’s visit to the U.K., his first since entering office, met with backlash for a variety of reasons, including his immigration policies and his Twitter attacks on Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor. Early last year, a U.K.-based petition to call off a scheduled visit from Trump received more than 1.8 million signatures.

Trump's European visit with NATO allies will continue with a weekend of golf in Scotland before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.

Cover image: Donald Trump visit to UK. Demonstrators in George Square, Glasgow, for the Scotland United Against Trump protest against the visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK on Friday July 13, 2018. (Lesley Martin/PA Wire URN:37545104) (Press Association via AP Images)

I used my best “white voice” to interview Boots Riley about “Sorry to Bother You”

July 13, 2018 - 1:32pm

If you’re not white, odds are you’ve used a "white voice" on the phone.

It’s pretty useful. The "white voice" can convince the person on the other end to treat you like an actual white person — which means that previously difficult-to-obtain things like bank loans, good customer service, and even prompt responses from 911 are at your fingertips. With a white voice, the world is your oyster.

The "white voice" is also the main premise behind Boots Riley’s debut film, “Sorry to Bother You,” in which a telemarketer played by Lakeith Stanfield discovers that he’s got a very convincing white voice. This voice helps to launch him from just being another black dude at a desk into the upper echelons of the company — and that’s when things get weird.

But in real life, Lakeith has a slightly different take on the white voice. For him, it’s not race-specific — even white people can use a white voice.

To see Boots and Lakeith dig deeper on the meaning of the white voice, check out the video above.

This segment originally aired June 12, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

Trump kept the 92-year-old Queen of England waiting onstage for 15 minutes

July 13, 2018 - 12:49pm

Queen Elizabeth stood onstage in the summer heat for 15 minutes Friday before she was joined by President Donald Trump, who was already fresh from a press conference where he publicly knocked Prime Minister Theresa May as she stood beside him.

The 92-year-old Elizabeth II, in coat, hat and gloves, stood under a white awning on the Windsor Castle grounds, waiting for Trump's motorcade. He and first lady Melania Trump eventually stood beside the queen as some uniformed Brits played "The Star Spangled Banner" before joining her inside for tea.

Moments before, Trump hadwrapped up a contentious press conference with Prime Minister May, where he publicly knocked her handling of Brexit, and criticized her for allowing immigrants into Europe who were “changing the culture."

In perhaps the most aggressive British action against Trump yet, the Queen was seen twice checking her watch, even as she continued to stand outside wearing a hat and coat in the middle of the summer.

Thousands of Brits were already gathered in protest in London to object to Trump’s presence in their country, demonstrations which featured an enormous inflatable orange baby Trump flying high above them.

Meanwhile, as the Queen was waiting for Trump to show up, reporters across the pond were also waiting in a room in Washington, where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the Department of Justice was indicting 12 Russian intelligence officers who tried to hack into Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Cover image: WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JULY 13: Queen Elizabeth II and President of the United States, Donald Trump inspect an honor guard at Windsor Castle on July 13, 2018 in Windsor, England. Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images.

12 Russian intelligence operatives indicted for hacking the U.S. election

July 13, 2018 - 11:18am

This is a developing story. Please refresh for updates.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence operatives by investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a surprise press conference Friday.

The charges center around allegations that Russian spies penetrated the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign accounts.

Speaking in a press conference, Rosenstein described a wide-ranging cyber campaign that involved stealing files and releasing them in an attempt to impact the election, using a network of computers around the world paid for through cryptocurrencies.

The hackers targeted state and local officials responsible for administering elections, Rosenstein said, in multi-pronged effort run directly by Russia’s primary military intelligence agency, the GRU.

The indictment contains no allegation that any American committed a crime, however, or that the activity changed the result of the election, Rosenstein said.

Cover image: US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein delivers the keynote speech during the Central High School annual alumni dinner, in Philadelphia, PA, on June 5th, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Democrats are trying to sink Trump's Supreme Court nominee over Obamacare

July 13, 2018 - 10:08am

Battles over Supreme Court seats usually revolve around issues like abortion, guns, free speech, and civil rights. But the ensuing fight over Trump’s pick to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy will prominently feature something new: Obamacare.

Many Senate Democrats are trying to sink the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh by arguing the 53-year-old conservative justice will strike down health insurance protections in the Affordable Care Act.

“If this judge is confirmed, then there is a dangerously high likelihood that he will strike down the Affordable Care Act,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a recent speech on the Senate floor explaining her opposition to Kavanaugh, who’s ruled in related cases during his years as a D.C. circuit court judge.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also made clear that healthcare would be central to the Democrats’ messaging strategies. The campaign is in full swing already, with senators’ doing an endless series of press conferences, and outside progressive groups rallying members to call and protest their lawmakers, as well as funneling millions into online and TV advertising, particularly in states with undecided senators.

“We Democrats believe the number-one issue in America is healthcare and the ability for people to get good healthcare at prices they can afford,” Schumer told reporters in a press conference Tuesday. “The nomination of Mr. Kavanaugh would put a dagger through the heart of that cherished belief that most Americans have.”

Democrats’ unapologetic embrace of the Obama-era healthcare law is a reversal from just a few years ago when liberal politicians considered it a political liability and were quicker to acknowledge the law’s flaws than try to tout what they considered its strengths. But the Trump administration’s early efforts to repeal the law has had the unintended effect of making the law more popular among voters, according to Gallup.

Democrats successfully defeated the Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare and hope healthcare can rally opposition to Trump’s Supreme Court pick since several challenges to Obamacare are still making their way through the lower courts and could end up on the highest court’s docket in the coming years.

Democrats cite Kavanaugh’s rulings in a 2016 case about Obamacare’s contraception mandate and another 2011 case on the law’s constitutionally. In both cases, Kavanaugh wrote dissenting opinions that criticized Obamacare provisions on technical but not constitutional grounds. As a result, neither opinion is a clear predictor for how he would rule on future health care cases.

In 2016, Kavanaugh sided with Priests for Life, a group challenging the contraception mandate, but added that Supreme Court precedent “strongly suggests that the government has a compelling interest in facilitating access to contraception.” Kavanaugh suggested, however, that the health care law could have been “less restrictive” in its efforts to ensure access to contraception.

And Kavanaugh’s 2011 dissent argued that the D.C. Circuit Court shouldn’t have taken up the case until the law had been fully implemented in 2014. “I do not take a position here on whether the statute as currently written is justifiable under the Taxing Clause or the Commerce Clause,” Kavanaugh wrote, sidestepping the larger issues.

Still, Democrats believe that healthcare is the most favorable battlefield in what is their unlikely attempt to vote down Kavanaugh. A Navigator Research survey conducted last week found that 91 percent of Americans said it was important to know the next Justice’s views about the Affordable Care Act, especially its protections on pre-existing conditions.

Such poll numbers may manage to unite Democrats behind a health care-first message, but Kavanaugh may be confirmed anyway. Democrats must also convince at least one Republican to vote against President Donald Trump’s pick since Republicans currently have a 51-49 majority and Vice President Mike Pence breaks any tie (Arizona Sen. John McCain is currently absent getting treatment for brain cancer, so it’s current a 50-49 Republican majority).

The last time Democrats swayed Republicans to vote against one of Trump’s biggest priorities was over Obamacare during last summer’s fight over repealing it. Sens. McCain, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine all voted no.

So far, however, Collins and Murkowski have praised Kavanaugh’s nomination and have voiced skepticism about the Democrats’ Obamacare arguments. “There is no parallel,” Collins told reporters this week. “This is the Supreme Court; it’s not a legislative body.”

Even if Democrats can’t sway a Republican to join them in opposition, the party still thinks a health care message will help it in the November elections when the Senate and House could both flip from Republican to Democratic control. Democratic candidates have already been bashing Republicans for over a year for trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and highlighting health care during the Supreme Court battle complements that messaging.

Or as Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii told Politico this week: “I think we should keep talking about healthcare every day from now until the election.”

Cover image: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Democratic senators conduct a news conference in the Capitol to oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court because the say he would be open to questions about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on July 11, 2018. (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

You can listen to Trump give the interview he just said was "fake news"

July 13, 2018 - 9:51am

As a giant Trump baby balloon flew over London and protesters gathered in the streets, President Trump held a press conference alongside U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, where he insisted that things he said in a recorded interview were “fake news” and briefly criticized the entire concept of immigration.

At one point during his rambling 50-minute conference, the president explained he believes immigration is bad because it has the effect of “changing the culture," and warned someone, though it was not clear who, to "watch themselves," prompting May to register her disagreement.

“I think they better watch themselves because you are changing culture you are changing a lot of things,” Trump said. “It’s a very sad situation. It’s very unfortunate but I do not think it’s good for Europe and I don’t think it’s good for our country.”

May interjected, saying, “Over the years, overall immigration has been good for the U.K."

Trump is now headed off for a weekend of golf in Scotland before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. These are the biggest takeaways he leaves behind:

Trump called The Sun, a paper he gave a recorded interview to, ‘fake news’

The Sun posted audio of an interview he gave to the paper, in which he said that “allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame,” and blasted May for her “soft” response to Brexit.

But standing next to May the next day, he called the interview, which was recorded and posted online, and which you can listen to right here, nothing but “fake news.”

(The Sun wasn't alone. When Jim Acosta from CNN tried to ask a question, Trump also shut him down, saying “CNN is fake news.” He instead took a question from John Roberts with Fox, which he said was a “real network.”)

Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister, according to Trump

“Boris Johnson I think would be a great prime minister,” Trump said, before gesturing toward May: “This fantastic woman right here is doing a great job.”

Johnson, the former foreign secretary who quit his post in the British government this week in protest over May’s Brexit strategy.

“The highest level of special"

Despite all of his other comments suggesting otherwise, Trump thinks that he and May have a really, really good relationship.

Asked how he would characterize his relationship with May, he said their relationship was "the highest level of special.”

And to be fair, the pair did enter the press conference holding hands.

Meeting with Putin

“I’m different from other people,” Trump said as a reassurance that his meeting with Putin would go smoothly.

“I’m not bad at doing things,” Trump said. “I think if I were President then, I don’t think he would’ve taken over Crimea.” He blamed Putin’s occupation of Crimea, as he often has, on Obama.

“My uncle John”

Trump said he really knows “nuclear,” because he and his uncle, an MIT professor, used to “talk nuclear.” The MIT part is totally true, but according to Bloomberg, Trump’s uncle had no experience developing nuclear weapons and definitely had no experience with international policy on nuclear weapons.

Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May shake hands during a joint press conference following their meeting at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

Man who berated woman for her Puerto Rico T-shirt gets slapped with 2 hate crime felonies

July 13, 2018 - 8:45am

A man who repeatedly berated a woman for wearing a Puerto Rico T-shirt in a Chicago-area park is among the first to come up against Illinois’ new hate crime statute.

Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed video of the June 14 incident, and on Friday approved two felony hate crime charges against Timothy Trybus, 62.

In response to an uptick in hate crimes nationally and statewide, Illinois state lawmakers introduced a bill last year to expand the list of offenses that could be charged and prosecuted as hate crimes, which included acts of intimidation, cyberstalking, and sending obscene messages. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan championed the bill, which was a component of the state’s bipartisan Holocaust and Genocide Commission, formed before the violence at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.

“Hate crimes have increased at an alarming rate over the past year,” Madigan said. “We must not tolerate crimes committed by individuals who are motivated by hatred or bias against others based on their race, religion, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

It passed both chambers unanimously and became law in January. Illinois is one of 45 states plus Washington D.C. that have hate crime statutes. The strength of those laws, and who they protect, vary dramatically between states. Illinois has one of the strongest hate crime statutes, because it protects people from discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability, and national origin. Indiana, just east of Illinois, has no hate crime statute whatsoever.

READ: Chicago cop stood by and watched as woman was harassed for her Puerto Rico T-shirt, video shows

For first offenders, a felony hate crime in Illinois can result in a prison term of one to three years and a fine of up to $25,000.

Illinois U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat and a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, applauded the decision by the state’s attorney to pursue hate crime charges. “There should be consequences. People have to learn there are consequences, especially in the era of Trump,” Gutierrez told the Chicago Tribune. “I really do believe there are people who say to themselves, ‘If Trump can do it, I can do it. Why can’t I go out there and say the things the president says?’”

The president’s critics have linked his rhetoric, especially on immigration, to a recent string of racially charged incidents.

READ: Honey, I'm calling ICE, says white guy at a Manhattan restaurant

Video of the Chicago-area incident, at Caldwell Woods Park, which went viral this week, shows Trybus verbally accosting a young woman in a T-shirt with the Puerto Rican flag on it. “Why are you wearing that?” he asks. “You’re not gonna change us, you know that! No, the world is not going to change the United States of America. Period!”

A police officer stood nearby and observed the exchange, as the woman, who was recording the whole thing on her phone, asks for his help.

“Can you please get away from me,” the woman says repeatedly as Trybus approaches her. “Officer, I feel highly uncomfortable. Can you please grab him?”

She also explains that she was setting up for her birthday party in Caldwell Woods, for which she had legally obtained a permit for.

Officer Patrick Conner, of Cook County Forest Reserve District, did not intervene and has since been placed on desk duty while his conduct is reviewed.

Cover image: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan outlines a federal lawsuit her office filed against Champaign, Ill.-based Suburban Express Inc., and owner Dennis Toeppen accusing it of discriminating and harassing customers and their families during a news conference in Chicago, April 23, 2018. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

The 10 craziest things Trump said in his U.K. interview about Theresa May and Brexit

July 13, 2018 - 6:05am

With the Brexit crisis threatening to topple Theresa May’s government, Donald Trump rolled into the U.K. Thursday seemingly bent on finishing it off.

Ahead of a one-on-one lunch Friday with the beleaguered British prime minister, Trump gave an extraordinary interview to the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Sun, eviscerating the Tory leader and her negotiating abilities, undercutting her Brexit plan and boosting Boris Johnson, one of her main rivals for the party leadership.

Incredibly, Trump said that May’s published plan for exiting Britain from the European Union would “kill” any hopes of a new trade deal with the U.S.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump said.

Hours after the interview, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted to repair some of the damage, releasing a statement that insisted Trump “likes and respects Mrs. May very much,” adding: “He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person.”

The Sun and Murdoch have long been cheerleaders for the U.K. to leave the EU. Trump’s opinion was also reportedly informed by Nigel Farage, the ex-UKIP leader who is currently a person of interest to Robert Mueller’s campaign into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Farage claims he was whispering in Trump’s ear during the interview:

Trump’s quotes dropped while he was posing for photos with May at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of Winston Churchill.

It appeared that May had not been briefed on the interview when she spoke at dinner about the “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K.

“The spirit of friendship and cooperation between our countries, our leaders and our people, that most special of relationships, has a long and proud history,” May told Trump. “Now, for the benefit of all our people, let us work together to build a more prosperous future.”

READ: Trump says the U.K. likes him a lot (aside from the thousands of protesters)

The newspaper’s political editor Tom Newton-Dunn revealed Friday that Sanders had attempted to stop the interview several times, but Trump “swatted her away” and “kept on talking” beyond the allotted 10 minutes.

“He is unchallenged in his own organization, it’s like being in the court of a medieval emperor,” he said.

Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to line the streets of London Friday to demonstrate against the president’s visit.

Here are the craziest things Trump said in the interview:
  • On Boris Johnson: Whether knowingly or not, Trump stabbed May in the back by proclaiming Boris Johnson — who resigned as foreign Secretary earlier this week — would “make a great Prime Minister.” He added: “I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.” The reason Trump likes Johnson so much? “He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me,” Trump said.
  • On the bossy school teacher: A Washington Post report recently claimed Trump had referred to May as a “bossy school teacher” but the president flatly denied the report: “No, no, no, no. I never said anything bad about her. That is fake news. I think she is a nice person. I get along with her very nicely.” And of course he couldn’t miss an opportunity to blast the media, referring to the Post as “totally fake” and “just a lobbyist for Amazon.”
  • On Negotiating: Trump says he gave May his top tips for negotiating Brexit — but she chose to ignore them. “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route. I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way. And that is fine.”
  • On the Brexit deal: Like many members of May’s own party, Trump doesn’t think very much of the plan she presented in parliament Thursday — the same plan that prompted Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis to quit. “It was not the deal that was in the referendum. I have just been hearing this over the last three days. I know they have had a lot of resignations. So a lot of people don’t like it.”
  • On England: Trump was presented with an England soccer shirt by the Sun, to which he replied: “Wow, I love gifts.” before adding: “You don’t hear the word England as much as you should. I think England is a beautiful name.”
  • On the protests: During his impromptu NATO press conference Thursday, Trump dismissed the protests for his visit, saying they “like me a lot in the U.K.” However, in his interview, Trump revealed that he “feels unwelcome” in London, and that he has heard about the Baby Trump blimp being flown in parliament square. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London.”
  • On Mayor of London: Sadiq Khan has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics since he took office and Trump said he blamed Khan and other politicians for the level of animosity towards him in the U.K. “You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London. He has done a terrible job,” Trump said.
  • On immigration: Preventing people from certain countries and religions from entering the U.S. has been central to Trump’s presidency, and unsurprisingly, he thinks what is happening in Europe is not good. “Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way. I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”
  • On hospitals: Trump once again took time to attack the condition of an unnamed London hospital. “What they say is, it is worse than any hospital they have ever seen in a war zone. It is right in the middle of London. I guess it used to be the ultimate and now there is, you know, there is blood all over the walls, all over the floors. It was a very major story and I have heard it from others, too, so I think it is very sad. Very sad.” Trump is believed to be referring to the Royal London Hospital, which dealt with a record 702 stabbings last year. The hospital said Friday it was “absolutely refuting this claim that there are blood on the walls and floor of the hospital.”
  • On himself: Having finished praising himself for the unconfirmed claim that he forced NATO allies to boost their defense spending, Trump moved to remind everyone of just how great he is, and how much everyone really loves him. “You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party — 92 percent,” Trump said. ”Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.”

Cover image: Demonstrators raise a six meter high effigy of Donald Trump, being dubbed the 'Trump Baby', in Parliament Square in protest against the U.S. President's current visit to the United Kingdom on July 13, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Far-right extremists are loving Trump's comments about Europe losing its "culture"

July 13, 2018 - 4:45am

Donald Trump pushed the talking points of the far-right Thursday in an explosive interview with British tabloid newspaper The Sun, claiming immigration is changing the “fabric of Europe” and the continent is losing its "culture.”

The inflammatory comments linking immigration with crime and terrorism were immediately seized on by British extremists, who claimed Trump as one of their own, and drew criticism from London Mayor Sadiq Khan — also targeted by Trump in the interview — for “amplifying messages of hate.”

Speaking on his visit to the U.K., Trump described immigration in Europe as “a shame.”

“I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago,” he said.

“I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

He singled out London — and specifically Khan, with whom he has had a long-running media feud — for special criticism.

“You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London,” he said.

“I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism… I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”

“Is Trump an Identitarian?”

Trump’s comments ­echoed and amplified British far-right talking points about Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, whom they repeatedly single out for blame over rising crime and last year’s string of terror attacks in the capital.

Generation Identity — a youth-focused pan-European “alt-right” group that is one of the most active organizations on the British far-right — seized on the comments, tweeting a mocked-up image of the “Trump Baby” protest balloon floating above a London cityscape marked by supposed crimes and terror attacks: “lorry attack,” “acid attack,” “Tube bombing.”

“Amazing how much crime you can see from up here, just another day in multicultural London,” read the tweet.

In another post, the group highlighted Trump’s comments about preserving Western civilization and asked: “Is Donald Trump an Identitarian?”

British anti-racist group Hope not Hate criticized Trump for amplifying white supremacist views with his comments.

“‘Losing our culture’ are the coded words of white supremacy,” said CEO Nick Lowles. “Far-right groups have a long history of hiding their racism behind talk of ‘culture’ but with Trump, it’s hardly subtle.”

Trump’s record of endorsing Britain’s far-right

It’s not the first time that Trump and those around him have shown support for the British far-right and its agenda. In November, Trump caused an outcry when he retweeted three Islamophobic videos posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, an extremist group that was banned from Facebook months later. His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has also retweeted posts in support of Tommy Robinson, a prominent British anti-Islam activist.

Speaking to VICE News Friday, Khan said he was concerned by Trump’s endorsement and amplification of British far-right groups and their politics of hate.

READ: The 10 craziest things Trump said in his U.K. interview about Theresa May

“What I reflect upon is when you see the retweets he’s done of Britain First, amplifying messages of hate, giving credibility to far-right groups… what troubles people, including me, is the normalization of views that we find abhorrent,” he said.

He said it was also curious that Trump singled him out for criticism over terror attacks in London, rather than the mayors of many other cities that had been affected by terrorism. Trump took shots at Khan in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack in London last year, criticizing the London mayor’s statement that there was no reason to be alarmed by an increased police presence in the wake of the attack.

“It’s not for me to say whether President Trump is a racist or Islamophobe — that’s for others to comment on,” he said. “But it’s for him to explain why [he] singled out the mayor of London when there have been terror attacks in Manchester, in Nice, in Brussels, in Berlin, in Paris… All of us are trying to grapple with the evils of terrorism.”

While Trump’s U.K. visit is mobilizing large numbers of people out on the streets to protest, supporters on the far-right are also planning their own demonstrations to welcome him.

A “Make Britain Great Again” rally is planned outside the U.S. Embassy in London Saturday, with scheduled speakers including Milo Yiannopoulos and Raheem Kassam, two British right-wing activists formerly linked to Breitbart. Organizers are planning to join forces with a rally of supporters of Tommy Robinson, including activists from Generation Identity, for a large right-wing march through central London.

Khan said the rival pro- and anti-Trump protests were a sign of London’s strength. “Tomorrow there will be protests in London from the extreme far-right, from pro Trump supporters,” he said. “We may not agree with their views but the key thing is in a democracy they should be allowed to express their views.”

Cover image: Donald Trump attends bi-lateral talks with Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers on July 13, 2018 in Aylesbury, England. (Jack Taylor - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

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