Putin just demonstrated how a leader can constitutionally lock himself into power forever

Donald Trump loves to test the waters about abolishing Presidential term limits. As much as he might fantasize about becoming dictator-in-chief, it would take a lot to actually make it happen, so I wouldn't hold my breath worrying about it.

That being said, Vladimir Putin just found a sneaky way to lock himself into power until at least 2036: tacking a rider onto another, humongous bill, just hours before the Parliament votes on it.

In the past, Mr. Putin proceeded cautiously, seeking to preserve a veneer of legitimacy. Confronting term limits in 2008, Mr. Putin opted for a four-year hiatus as prime minister while his protégé, Dmitri A. Medvedev, became the caretaker president.

In January he proposed some nebulous constitutional changes that analysts said pointed to his intention to stay beyond the end of his current term.

But with his proposal on Tuesday, Mr. Putin seemed to prefer something bolder, saying he supported the legislation for the good of the country. The president is the guarantor “of the security of our state, of its internal stability — its internal, evolutionary stability,” Mr. Putin said. “And I mean evolutionary. We’ve had enough revolutions.”

[…]

“No one is saying” Mr. Putin will run again in 2024, one lawmaker, Aleksandr Khinshtein, said in a televised interview. “But the possibility of doing so must exist for the head of state in order to maintain stability in society.”

I guess bad faith arguments for implausible deniability are totally fine when your country is run for decades by a famously guileful spymaster. Read the rest

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Before he worked for the Donald Trump presidential campaign, Paul Manafort worked for a Russian billionaire to help promote Russian president Vladimir Putin's agenda in the United States. Read the rest

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FBI believes Russia hacks aimed at disrupting election, not electing Trump

None of the ongoing federal investigations into Russian cyber-hijinks this election season have found “any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government,” the New York Times reports, citing unnamed officials. Even the hacking of Democratic emails, say FBI and intel sources, is “aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.” Read the rest

Trump asks Russia to conduct espionage against Hillary Clinton

Trump at press conference yesterday: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.”

Response from Clinton camp: "This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent. That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue."

Read the rest