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Tag: russia

On Secret Tape, GOP Candidate Says Russian 'Hit Squad' Will Murder Opponent

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a Politico bombshell report William Braddock, a Florida Republican congressional candidate can be heard saying he has access to Russian and Ukrainian hit squads, "billions of dollars" in offshore cash, and would "end" the life of one of his Republican political opponents, a Trump-endorsed candidate named Anna Paulina Luna, "if it needs to be done."

"I really don't want to have to end anybody's life for the good of the people of the United States of America," Republican William Braddock can be heard saying in the clip (below). "That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a f—ing speed bump in the road. She's a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood."

Braddock on Monday filed to run for the seat of U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), who is not seeking re-election next year so he can run for governor. Luna (photo, top) is also running for that seat, and lost to Crist in 2020 but managed to get 47 percent of the vote.

"During a 30-minute call with a conservative activist that was recorded before he became a candidate, William Braddock repeatedly warned the activist to not support GOP candidate Anna Paulina Luna in the Republican primary for a Tampa Bay-area congressional seat because he had access to assassins," Politico reports.

"In the recording, Braddock early in the call brought up the alleged assassins. He also made rambling statements about getting financial help from fellow Freemasons or by somehow importing millions of dollars from Malta and Gibraltar."

"I have access to a hit squad, too, Ukrainians and Russians," he said about three minutes into the call, adding "don't get caught out in public supporting Luna. … Luna's gonna go down and I hope it's by herself."

"She's gonna be gone. Period. That's the end of the discussion," Braddock can be heard saying.

Asked how that will happen, he replies: "I call up my Russian — Ukrainian hit squad, and within 24 hours, they're sending me pictures of her disappearing."

"No, I'm not joking," he adds. "Like, this is beyond my control this point."

"Russian mafia. Close-battle combat, TEC-9s, MAC-10s, silencers kind of thing. No snipers. Up close and personal. So they know the person – they know that the target has gone."

He goes on to say, "I know what I'm doing is noble, and I'm just trying to remain a humble servant of God."

The recording was made "just after midnight last Wednesday," Politico says, and the activist who made it "promptly turned it over to St. Petersburg, Florida, police and gave a heads-up to her friend Luna, who filed a petition for an injunction against Braddock."

Below is the audio published by Politico. The activist who recorded it says it was not altered. Braddock told Politico "there is no proof" it is his voice in the recording and called it "a dirty political tactic that has caused a lot of people a lot of stress and is completely unnecessary."

(The captions on the audio appear to be auto-generated and are a poor representation of what is clearly audible, including graphic, offensive, and vile language.)

Why Did Our Top Officials Lie About China — And Russia?

Before Merrick Garland took office last week, the new attorney general surely understood that he would face a difficult and almost-overwhelming set of problems — including reconstruction of the Justice Department after the ruinously partisan rule of his predecessor William Barr; overseeing hundreds of federal prosecutions of Jan. 6 insurrectionists; and dealing with the scandal detritus of the Trump regime, which may eventually involve indictments of the former president, his associates and even members of his family.

But this week, we learned of still more troubling issues that may require Garland's attention, when the department of homeland security and the director of national intelligence released declassified reports on foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election. The classified versions of those reports were on the attorney general's desk when he arrived for his first day of work, and what they indicate is the worst U.S. intelligence scandal since the fabricated reports that justified the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence summarized the views of the nation's intelligence and law enforcement agencies concerning foreign interference in the 2020 election. They found that yet again, Russia undertook strenuous measures to assist Donald Trump and his campaign, with the express purpose of keeping him in power. Law enforcement officials and counterintelligence analysts gathered substantial evidence showing that the Kremlin's spy apparatus, both military and civilian, used Trump's network of associates — including Republicans in both the House and Senate — to spread false stories about Ukraine, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. And as the report stated, the directive came from the top: "We assess that President Putin and the Russian state authorized and conducted influence operations against the 2020 US presidential election aimed at denigrating President Biden and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US."

As might be expected, the report dismissed the fantasy propaganda spread by Trump's attorneys in the election's aftermath about mysterious communist entities that somehow controlled voting machines — and padded Joe Biden's vote totals from abroad. "We are aware of multiple public claims that one or more foreign governments — including Venezuela, Cuba, or China — owned, directed, or controlled election infrastructure used in the 2020 federal elections; implemented a scheme to manipulate election infrastructure; or tallied, changed, or otherwise manipulated vote counts," it noted, adding that investigations by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security found no evidence whatsoever to bolster those claims. It doesn't name Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani or any of the other legal and media figures who trumpeted those lies, but it doesn't need to.

Debunking those ridiculous characters is amusing and may prove interesting to state bar authorities with ethical jurisdiction over them. But the report's most disturbing implication concerns the behavior of government officials who misled the public and Congress about the role of China — and Russia.

Last summer, as Election Day drew near, the Trump administration's top officials, including the president himself and then-Attorney General William Barr, then-director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe and then-national security adviser Robert O'Brien, publicly misled the nation with false claims about alleged Chinese interference.

On two occasions, O'Brien asserted that Beijing's intelligence agencies were seeking to influence voters, even more than the Russians. "(T)he Chinese have taken the most active role," he claimed. Barr said the same thing, citing "intelligence" sources that showed China was superseding Russian as an electoral threat. And so did Ratcliffe, who proved himself to be a partisan Trump crony when he insisted on national television that "China is using a massive and sophisticated influence campaign that dwarfs anything that any other country is doing."

Yet according to the declassified report, there was no Chinese effort that came close to the scale or intention of the Russian campaign for Trump. "We assess that China did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy intelligence efforts intended to change the outcome of the US presidential election," the report concluded. So those loud warnings from Barr, Ratcliffe and O'Brien — as well as Trump — were knowing falsehoods.

The lies about China were part of a much broader scheme by Trump administration officials and cronies to rig the election, which can be traced back to the Ukraine blackmail scheme that led to the president's first impeachment. But the attempt by the nation's highest law enforcement and intelligence officials to minimize an actual foreign-influence campaign by fabricating a false one steers perilously close to aiding a hostile power.

Was the falsification coordinated by those officials and others? Were they ordered to disseminate the lies by the president? What statutes, if any, are implicated by their misconduct? What sanctions, if any, should be brought against them?

Attorney General Garland needs to learn the answers to those questions if he means to restore integrity to America's law enforcement and counterintelligence agencies — which, in this era, remain vital to our democracy.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Biden: No Intelligence Briefings For ‘Erratic’ Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a new interview with CBS News, President Joe Biden said that he doesn't think former President Donald Trump should get briefings on intelligence matters anymore now that he's out of office.

As a courtesy, former presidents are typically permitted to continue receiving such briefings. But the decision is left up to the sitting president.Biden suggested that because of Trump's "erratic behavior," it would not be appropriate for him to continue getting briefed. This consideration, he said, was apart from concerns about Trump's role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

One reason former presidents are often given briefings is that the current president may choose to consult them on decisions that could impact national security. But Biden's comments indicate, unsurprisingly, that he doesn't foresee that happening.

In fact, he suggested there would be a risk Trump would reveal information that should be kept secret.

"What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than he might slip and say something?" he said.



Sue Gordon, who served as a leader in the intelligence community under Trump before she resigned, recently wrote an op-ed arguing the former president shouldn't receive these briefings anymore.

Biden To Putin: We’re Not ‘Rolling Over’ For You Anymore

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he has told President Vladimir Putin that the United States would no longer tolerate Russia's aggressive actions against the United States, including interference in American elections.

Biden's statement came during a speech at the State Department during which he noted his decision this week to formally extend for five years the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, originally signed in 2010 by the United States and Russia.

The treaty limits the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine launch ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers that can be deployed by both countries.

The Trump administration had declined to sign an extension to the treaty.

But Biden noted the agreement does not mean a continuation of Trump's acquiescence to Russian aggression.

"I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia's aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens are over," said Biden.

He added, "We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people."

Throughout Trump's single term in the White House, he repeatedly deferred to Russia's desires, even when they put American security at risk.

Trump took Putin's assertion that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election at face value and publicly praised him for it, in the process elevating the Russian leader's assurances over the findings of multiple U.S. intelligence agencies that the country had done exactly that.

Last year Putin, like Trump, took weeks to acknowledge Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election, long after the race had been called by major media outlets.

From Biden's Feb. 4 speech at the State Department:

JOE BIDEN: That's why yesterday the United States and Russia agreed to extend the New START treaty for five years: to preserve the only remaining treaty between our countries safeguarding nuclear stability.
At the same time, I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia's aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens are over.
We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

FBI Director Accuses Russia And Iran Of Meddling — And Subtweets Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray announced on Wednesday in a last-minute press briefing that both Iran and Russia have obtained voter registration information and have "taken specific actions to influence public opinion."

In particular, Ratcliffe said that Iran has been found to have sent "spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump." He seemed to be referring to an incident described in a Washington Post story published right before the conference, which said the U.S. has concluded that Iran had sent emails pretending to be from the right-wing group the Proud Boys to Democratic voters.

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Top Mueller Aide Suggests Trumps Owes Russia Hundreds Of Millions

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The name Andrew Weissmann might ring a bell.

He's a former top Mueller attorney who worked with the Special Counsel on the Russia report.

Today he is an MSNBC legal analyst.

He also just wrote a book, an insider's view of the Mueller Investigation.

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