The GOP nominee has repeatedly claimed he knows the Russian president.
Hannah LevintovaAug. 2, 2016 7:02 PM
After days of speculation about Donald Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin—generated by the GOP nominee's own wildly conflicting statements on the subject—the Russian President has finally weighed in: According to Putin's press secretary, the leader has never met nor spoken to the GOP nominee.
In the past, Trump has boasted of knowing and communicating with Putin. But last week, Trump sharply reversed himself, telling reporters, "I don't know anything about him." In an ABC News interview that aired on Sunday, George Stephanopoulos confronted Trump with instances in 2013, 2014, and 2015 when Trump contradicted himself.
WATCH: Trump claims 'no relationship' with Putin... Here's what Trump has actually said in the past. https://t.co/uBPWh2iDar
On Monday, in response to an inquiry from NBC News, Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, set the record straight on behalf of his boss. "President Putin has never had any contacts with Trump, never spoken to him, including by telephone," Peskov told the network. "The same goes for all of his staff. We don't have dealings with them."
Peskov also added a comment about Trump's statements that US intervention to help Ukraine take back control of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, could lead to a third world war: "We're trying not to comment on that, not to get involved in their internal affairs. Regretfully, Russia-bashing is becoming a habit in American elections," Peskov told NBC.
Tim Kaine said on Friday that he would oppose repealing the Hyde Amendment.
Hannah LevintovaJul. 29, 2016 5:29 PM
Earlier this week, the 2016 Democratic platform committed to securing public funding for abortion by calling for the repeal of the Hyde and Helms amendments. The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal Medicaid money to pay for the procedure for low-income women, and the Helms Amendment bans the use of US foreign aid to help women abroad obtain abortions.
But on Friday, Hillary Clinton's vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), broke from both Clinton and the party when he said in an interview on CNN that he still supports the Hyde Amendment. "I have been for the Hyde Amendment," said Kaine, a lifelong Catholic, repeating several times, "I haven't changed my position on that." Kaine is only repeating what he told the Weekly Standard earlier this month, when the Democratic Party first released its draft platform. "I haven't been informed of that change, but I'm going to check it out," Kaine said. "I've traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment, but I'll check it out."
Kaine has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and has long said he doesn't personally believe in abortion but supports it as a legal right. Still, he has had a mixed record on the issue during his political career. As governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, Kaine supported a partial-birth abortion ban, as well as a parental notification measure. NARAL refused to support his gubernatorial bid, and in 2009 Kaine signed a bill that created "Choose Life" license plates whose proceeds are funneled to anti-abortion groups.
But as Clinton's VP vetting process this year ramped up, Kaine appeared to be more outspoken in his support of abortion rights, presumably to further align himself with the direction of the party. He issued an approving statement on the Supreme Court's June decision to invalidate two Texas abortion restrictions. "I applaud the Supreme Court for seeing the Texas law for what it is—an attempt to effectively ban abortion and undermine a woman’s right to make her own health care choices," he wrote. And later in June, the Huffington Post pointed out that Kaine had suddenly signed on as a co-sponsor to the Women's Health Protection Act—a bill that would ban states from passing medically unneccesary restrictions on abortion that has been slowly moving through Congress for three years with dozens of sponsors.
Earlier this week, Kaine was reported to have changed his position on the Hyde Amendment: Bloomberg News reported that spokespeople for both Clinton's campaign and Kaine had told the outlet that Kaine had said privately that he would support the Hyde repeal. His interview on CNN Friday rolled back those statements, creating a rift between Kaine and the partythat pro-choice advocates thought had been resolved. "In this campaign, Hillary Clinton has broken new ground with her frank talk about the damaging effect of denying poor women basic reproductive healthcare," wrote NARAL President Ilyse Hogue in a statement released Friday afternoon. "This is why Senator Kaine's statement earlier today that he opposes repealing the discriminatory Hyde amendment was deeply disappointing."
The Hyde Amendment is popular amongmore conservative voters in both parties, so Kaine's support of it could be a selling point to those who are wary of Trump but feel Clinton has gone too far left on abortion. At a Democrats for Life event in Philadelphia this week, the group'sleader, Kristen Day, expressed frustration over the platform's anti-Hyde-amendment provision, saying that Clinton appears to no longer believe that abortions should be "safe, legal, and rare"—a phrase from the nominee's unsuccessful 2008 campaign. Anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List viewed the support of public financing for abortion as the Democratic Party's abandonment of compromise across the political divide. "There is no hiding the fact now that Hillary Clinton's Democratic Party is the party of abortion-on-demand, paid for by us—the taxpayers," wrote Susan B. Anthony President Marjorie Dannenfelser in an email to subscribers on Wednesday.
In a statement issued on Friday responding to Kaine's support for the Hyde Amendment, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards said her group "will redouble efforts to educate Senator Kaine on the dangerous impact Hyde has on women with public insurance coverage."
She added, "While we strongly disagree with Senator Kaine on this point, there are many places where we do agree. He has been an outspoken advocate for access to reproductive health care and stands in stark contrast to Mike Pence and Donald Trump, whose nightmarish commitments include ending access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers, punishing women for having abortions, and appointing Supreme Court judges to overturn the right to safe, legal abortion."
On the last night of the Democratic convention on Thursday that will culminate when Hillary Clinton accepts the nomination and addresses the audience, a representative from an unlikely group will be in the lineup of speakers preceding her: Jennifer Pierotti Lim, one of the leaders from Republican Women for Hillary, will address the audience.
"It's really important that Republican leaders, especially Republican women leaders, stand up right now and say we're not OK with Trump representing our party," Lim told CNN earlier this month.
The organization began last May when Lim, whose day job is as the director of health policy at the Chamber of Commerce, teamed up with a few other young Republican women who have rallied behind key conservative and Republican causes throughout their careers: One has volunteered for anti-abortion groups, another was an intern in the Bush White House, and another once campaigned for Mitt Romney and Trent Lott. They were all uncomfortable with the candidacy of Donald Trump and sought an alternative. The group began by setting up social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and it soon moved on to in-person meetings, sometimes over drinks, in Washington, DC.
On their Facebook page, Republican Women for Hillary lists a simple mission: "Vote to make sure women don't get Trumped." Lim acknowledges that there are many policy disagreements between this group's members and the Democratic nominee. But their goal is part get-out-the-vote and part an attempt to protect the Republican Party from being further fractured by Trump's candidacy.
Lim, along with Meghan Milloy, a member of the group's steering committee, told CNN that the decision to start this group and align with the Democrats was difficult. "It has been tough for me to come to this point where I can vote for a candidate who has been very against what I've been working for for most of my professional career," said Milloy, who currently works at the American Action Forum, a right-leaning think tank. "That being said, I can't vote for someone like Donald Trump because he's overtly racist and misogynist."*
The group has encountered its fair share of skepticism and pushback from fellow conservatives. When Milloy went on Fox News last week, correspondent Leland Vittert asked her how she could continue to call herself a Republican, given that Clinton has run "pretty far hard to the left." "None of the ideals that Donald Trump has been espousing are Republican ideals either," Milloy replied.
In the months ahead, RWFH plans to hold events for other anti-Trump Republicans and sponsor voting efforts for Clinton. Lim told CNN she will even donate to the Democratic campaign, something she has never done before.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the name of Milloy's employer.
His deals have all flopped—but he did star in a Russian music video.
Russ Choma and Hannah LevintovaJul. 28, 2016 11:14 AM
As he sought to dispel questions about his ties to Russia during a feisty press conference on Wednesday, Donald Trump was unequivocal: "I have nothing to do with Russia."
If so, it hasn't been for lack of trying. For more than two decades, Trump has repeatedly attempted to establish his brand in the country with little to show for it. His first attempt to enter the Russian market came in 1987, when he met with then-Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin in New York. Dubinin arranged for the real estate mogul to travel to the Soviet Union to survey potential hotel sites in Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). At the time, Trump expressed no qualms about going into business with the government of the Soviet Union, which would maintain an ownership stake in the properties; his main concern was that the ownership split would not give him total control.
The deal never happened. But Trump wasn't deterred. In 1996, five years after the Soviet Union had crumbled, he tried to partner with the US tobacco company Brooke Group to build a hotel in Moscow. On a visit to scout potential sites in early 1997, he met with Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli, and he gushed to The New Yorker about a plan to have Tsereteli build a Statue of Liberty-sized bronze statue of Christopher Columbus in Manhattan. Later that year, he also met with former Soviet general Alexander Lebed, who was running for president in Russia on a platform that included strong praise for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Trump was dazzled by the wannabe strongman, saying, "He invited me to Russia and I accepted…I thought he was terrific."
The Brooke Group partnership never worked out, but Trump was back nearly a decade later, in 2005, signing a one-year development deal with a small company called the BayRock Group to develop a hotel project in Moscow. Nothing came of that either, though Trump did team up with Bayrock to build the Trump Soho in New York. The latter project sparked several lawsuits, including one claiming Bayrock received infusions of funding from mysterious Russian and Kazakhstani sources. (One lawsuit against Trump was settled; the lawsuit regarding the Russian and Kazakhstani funding did not involve Trump.)
A few years later, in 2008, Trump announced he was partnering with Russian oligarch Pavel Fuks to license his name for luxury high-rises in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. But Fuks ultimately balked at Trump's price, which the Russian business newspaper Kommersant estimated could have been $200 million or more. Russian real estate developers told Kommersant that the Trump name simply didn't hold much cachet in Russia. "For Russian companies, the value of this name isn't evident," said one developer.
Not only did Trump's real estate deals flounder in Russia, but an effort to market his line of Trump Vodka in the country also went nowhere. Despite a splashy debut in 2007, Trump Vodka never caught on. The director of one Moscow market research firm told Kommersant, "I've never even heard of such a vodka." And the brand manager of a Russian-made vodka told the paper, "The name Donald Trump is in no way associated with vodka. This is just your typical 'image' product, based on the fame of a businessman in America. But in Russia, the heart of vodka consumption is not image or status, but an entire philosophy that an American manufacturer could never understand." By 2010, the company that Trump had licensed his name to had all but collapsed.
Just three years ago, Trump was still trying to make inroads in Russia. In 2013, he tried to partner with Aras Agalarov, an oligarch and real estate developer with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, to build a Trump Tower high-rise in Moscow. Trump grew close to Agalarov, who encouraged him to bring his Miss Universe pageant to Moscow, which he did in November 2013. Trump very much wanted Putin to attend the event, at one point tweeting:
Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow - if so, will he become my new best friend?
Putin was a no-show, but he did send Trump a nice note and a decorative box. Like Trump's other Russian ventures, his plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow also fizzled out. But all was not lost. Trump did land a role in a music video by Agalarov's son Emin, an aspiring pop singer.
The president blasted Donald Trump, praised Hillary Clinton, and returned to a familiar theme.
Hannah LevintovaJul. 28, 2016 12:39 AM
President Barack Obama gave his final Democratic convention speech as president on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. He brought the crowd to their feet with his evisceration of Donald Trump and a rousing defense of Hillary Clinton as the right person to carry on his legacy.
Obama began by reminiscing about his first time nervously addressing the Democratic National Convention—12 years ago in Boston, when he was running for Senate—with his young daughters and his wife in the audience. During his nearly eight years as president, Obama argued, the country had achieved enormous progress, from making health care "a right for everybody," to a historic global climate agreement, to full marriage equality.
"She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards and in heels."
But there's still work to do, Obama said, and "that work involves a big choice this November." He then launched into a passionate argument for Clinton's candidacy. He lauded her as a tenacious foe in the 2008 presidential race. "It was tough, because Hillary's tough," he said. "She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards and in heels."
"You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office," Obama continued. "You can read about it, you can study it, but until you've sat at that desk, you don't know what it's like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war." But, he added, "Hillary's been in the room; she's been part of those decisions. She knows what's at stake in the decisions our government makes for the working family, the senior citizen, the small-business owner, the soldier, and the veteran. Even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people and keeps her cool and treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits."
Obama contrasted Clinton's years of experience with Trump's business career, and he didn't hold back. "I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who've achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits and unpaid workers and people feeling like they got cheated," Obama said. "Does anyone really believe that a guy who's spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice?"
After a few more digs, he turned back to the optimistic rhetoric he has used so successfully in his own campaigns. "America has never been about what one person says he'll do for us," Obama said. "It's always been about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating but ultimately enduring work of self-government."
Obama invoked the values of his grandparents and other ancestors from Kansas. "They didn't like show-offs," he said. "They didn't admire braggarts or bullies. Instead, they valued traits like honesty and hard work." Those values still hold up today, Obama said, as he launched into another attack on Trump. "That's why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues will always fail in the end," he said.
In the end, Obama returned to the message that launched his national political career: hope. "Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me; I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me," he said. "It's been you who've fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds are great, even when the road is long. Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty .The audacity of hope!"