Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the United Nations, dies suddenly, age 64

The Russian Foreign Ministry reports today that Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly today in New York. He died on Monday age 64, just one day before his 65th birthday.

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U.S. spies are withholding intelligence from Donald Trump, who has none

Capping off Donald J. Trump's No Good Very Bad Horrible Day today, the Wall Street Journal reports that senior U.S. intelligence officials are deliberately withholding sensitive information from the President because they don't trust him. Today's report cites sources inside the White House, and underscores the deep mistrust between career spies and the imploding kakistocracy.

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'Flynn Doesn't Matter,' says TPM's Josh Marshall, 'This Is About Trump'

A scorching analysis of the unprecedented last few days in America from Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo, following the Russia-clouded resignation of Trump national security Michael Flynn, who follows the Russia-scandal resignation of Paul Manafort, and other advisors who've stepped aside under various clouds of suspicion.

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Trump aides were in constant contact with top Russian officials during campaign

This is so much bigger than Watergate. America has not seen a political crisis of this magnitude for generations. The other shoe drops on #Flynngate tonight. Trump, Manafort, and Flynn's activities “raise a red flag.” The U.S. government is in "unbelievable turmoil." Who is in charge of America?

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Russia may turn Snowden over to U.S. as 'gift' to 'curry favor' with Trump (who wants to kill the NSA leaker)

U.S. intelligence officials say Russia 'is considering' sending Edward Snowden back to the United States as a "gift" to President Donald Trump, who has consistently referred to the NSA leaker as a "spy" and a "traitor" for whom the death penalty would be appropriate punishment.

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US investigators corroborate elements of Russia dossier on Trump, CNN reports

Reporters with CNN interviewed federal investigators who confirm for the first time that some elements in that mysterious British spy's dossier on Donald Trump's Russia hijinks are legit.

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Russian doctors "puzzled" over symptoms of Putin critic in a life-threatening coma

Vladimir Kara-Murza works for the pro-democracy group Open Russia and is openly critical of Putin's policy of assassinating people he isn't fond of. Last week Kara-Murza hospitalized with organ failure on the day he was to travel to the United States. He has been diagnosed with "acute intoxication by unidentified substance" and is in a life-threatening coma.

From the NYTimes:

On the Fox program, Mr. Trump said he respected Mr. Putin and hoped Russia and the United States could join forces to defeat Islamic terrorism. The host, Mr. O’Reilly, responded: “He’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer.” It was unclear whether the characterization referred to the unsolved assassination of dissidents, muckraking journalists and opposition politicians or allegations of war crimes in Syria, Ukraine or Chechnya.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters Monday that the description was “unacceptable, insulting.”

The Soviet Union operated a secret laboratory to research untraceable poisons that were tested on condemned gulag prisoners, security service defectors have said.

Image by Leonidalekseev (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 2015 Kara-Murza was hospitalized for two weeks for similar symptoms. Read the rest

Putin and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly trade diss tracks as Trump pushes Kremlin line on Ukraine

The Kremlin demanded an apology on Monday from Fox News over what it said were "unacceptable" comments by Bill O'Reilly about Russian President Vladimir Putin in last Friday's interview with Donald Trump. Read the rest

Trump to sign yet another trash executive order, this time on 'the cyber'

'President' Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order addressing cybersecurity today, Reuters reports in an item that cites "two sources familiar with the situation.” The EO is expected to be Trump's first action to address what he called a top priority of his administration during the Presidential campaign.

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Obama team expected to announce measures to punish Russia for election hacking

If you're concerned about what, if anything, the outgoing presidential administration can do to fight back against Russia hacking the U.S. elections for Trump——stay close to your phones as this lame duck end of the year week rounds up.

Tomorrow, team Obama is rumored to be “announcing a series of measures to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, including economic sanctions and diplomatic censure.”

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'Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC,' says Obama in final 2016 press conference

U.S. President Barack Obama met with reporters today for the final press conference of 2016, before the new administration is due to take over. Live tweets below.

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FBI and ODNI now back CIA's assessment that Russia hacked U.S. election for Trump win

Federal Bureau of Investigations chief James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper today indicated the FBI and ODNI support a recent CIA assessment that Russia committed internet attacks targeted at America's elections, with the intent in part being to help Donald Trump win.

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U.S. intelligence officials say Putin was personally involved in U.S. election hack

Putin had at least two reasons to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. First, he had a grudge against Hillary Clinton (she called him a "tough guy with a thin skin" in 2014). Second, he wanted to reveal corruption in US politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," according to a high-level intelligence source.

From NBC News

"It is most certainly consistent with the Putin that I have watched and used to work with when I was an ambassador and in the government," said Michael McFaul, who was ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014.

"He has had a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, that has been known for a long time because of what she said about his elections back in the parliamentary elections of 2011. He wants to discredit American democracy and make us weaker in terms of leading the liberal democratic order. And most certainly he likes President-elect Trump's views on Russia," McFaul added. Clinton cast doubt on the integrity of Russia's elections.

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How Russia pulled off a cyberwar invasion of America, according to the New York Times

Huge New York Times investigation on Russia's role in the elections, and Trump's upset victory: "The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the US.” It's a riveting tic-tock narrative, and no doubt those in the intel/security biz will debate the contents.

An examination by The Times of the Russian operation — based on interviews with dozens of players targeted in the attack, intelligence officials who investigated it and Obama administration officials who deliberated over the best response — reveals a series of missed signals, slow responses and a continuing underestimation of the seriousness of the cyberattack.

The D.N.C.’s fumbling encounter with the F.B.I. meant the best chance to halt the Russian intrusion was lost. The failure to grasp the scope of the attacks undercut efforts to minimize their impact. And the White House’s reluctance to respond forcefully meant the Russians have not paid a heavy price for their actions, a decision that could prove critical in deterring future cyberattacks.

The low-key approach of the F.B.I. meant that Russian hackers could roam freely through the committee’s network for nearly seven months before top D.N.C. officials were alerted to the attack and hired cyberexperts to protect their systems. In the meantime, the hackers moved on to targets outside the D.N.C., including Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, whose private email account was hacked months later.

Even Mr. Podesta, a savvy Washington insider who had written a 2014 report on cyberprivacy for President Obama, did not truly understand the gravity of the hacking.

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"Russia's Trump" says America must elect Donald Trump or prepare for nuclear war

An ultra-right Russian politician aligned with Vladimir Putin says American voters should elect Donald Trump for president, or prepare for nuclear war. Vladimir Zhirinovsky likes to compare himself to Trump, and is a similarly unrestrained blowhard.

"Americans voting for a president on Nov. 8 must realize that they are voting for peace on Planet Earth if they vote for Trump,” he said. “But if they vote for Hillary it's war. It will be a short movie. There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasakis everywhere."

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U.S. accuses Russia of trying to “interfere with the U.S. election” through internet attacks

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” said a statement today from the Obama administration about a series of cyberattacks on U.S. political figures and organizations.

Them's fightin' words.

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Russia abruptly halts nuclear and energy-related research pact with U.S.

Welp, this does not sound good.

Cooperation between the United States and Russia hit a serious new snag today when the government of Donald Trump's personal hero Vladimir Putin put the brakes on an agreement with the United States in nuclear energy.

On Wednesday, Russian officials announced suspension of a nuclear research agreement, and the termination of a another agreement on uranium conversion.

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