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McFaul expected to meet with Trump’s top adviser on Russia at White House

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Michael A. McFaul, a former U.S. diplomat and fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, will visit the White House on Tuesday for a private meeting with President Trump’s top adviser on Russia, according to two people familiar with the planned meeting.

McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, will meet with Fiona Hill, a senior director on the National Security Council who joined the president for last week’s summit with Putin in Helsinki, said the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Hill is widely seen within the administration as one of Trump’s most hawkish advisers on Russia and has written extensively and critically of Putin, including a 2013 biography of the former KGB officer.

Hill’s influence on Trump has drawn new scrutiny in recent days as the president has made overtures to Putin. But her willingness to meet with McFaul could be a sign that she is, at the least, interested in connecting with the Stanford University professor as McFaul deals with the fallout from an offer from Putin to Trump.

Last week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was considering Putin’s proposal for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to visit Moscow to interrogate Russian hacking suspects in exchange for Russians’ interrogating U.S. officials, including McFaul. Trump initially described the offer as an “interesting idea.”

Sanders, however, later ruled out the suggestion in a statement Thursday, following intense criticism from both Republicans and Democrats about the possibility of sending Americans abroad to be questioned by Russian intelligence officials.

Former secretary of state John F. Kerry tweeted that the offer was “not something that should require a half second of consultation. Dangerous.” And the Republican-controlled Senate voted 98 to 0 Thursday to approve a resolution urging the United States not to make any current or former U.S. diplomats available to Putin.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Sanders said. “Hopefully, President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”

It is unclear whether Hill and McFaul have a specific agenda for the meeting or if the Trump administration is considering taking further steps to reassure McFaul that he is not at risk of being sent to Russia as part of any future agreement with Putin, the people said. The White House announced last week that the president had invited Putin to visit Washington this fall.

After The Washington Post posted this story on Monday, McFaul tweeted, “I am coming to DC today to try to meet with several US government officials to urge them to communicate with their Russian counterparts about the negative consequences of further harassing former US officials like me.”

McFaul added that he believes it is a “low probability event” that Russia would indict him or others, but he is seeking to ensure it is a “zero probability event.”

As the summit unfolded in Helsinki and the two leaders held a news conference, McFaul wondered on Twitter whether Hill agreed with the president’s political embrace of the Russian leader.

“I remember all the tough talk on Russia from [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s confirmation hearings, [national security adviser John] Bolton’s TV appearances, and Fiona Hill’s writings,” McFaul said. “I wonder what they were thinking today.”

Speaking last Wednesday on MSNBC, McFaul said he was stunned by the administration’s response to Putin’s offer.

“It’s been a weird couple of days,” McFaul said. “I was totally flabbergasted by why the White House would not defend me.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

A second White House official said McFaul requested a meeting with the National Security Council and added that the NSC accepted out of courtesy.

McFaul declined to comment.

McFaul served as U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, a tumultuous period in relations between the two countries. President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act into law in 2012, prompting retaliation from Russia that included banning U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans. McFaul was often the target of anti-American attacks in the Russian media and said he ended up being Putin’s “personal foe.”

robert.costa@washpost.com

Samantha Schmidt contributed to this report.

 

This article was written by Robert Costa from The Washington Post

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Trump Administration Plan To Reopen America Being Released Thursday.

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ABC News reports:

President Donald Trump’s plan to re-open the American economy after a near-total shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic consists of three graduated phases, according to a copy of the proposed actions obtained by ABC News.

Trump unveiled the plan in a video conference call with the nation’s governors on Thursday afternoon. The state leaders were instructed that they could move through the guidelines at their own pace and that the guidelines are not formal orders from the federal government, according to a person familiar with the call.

“Phase one” calls on employers to telework where possible, return to work in phases, minimize non-essential travel and make accommodations for the vulnerable populations within the workforce. It calls on all vulnerable individuals to “shelter in place,” and when in public, all individuals should continue social distancing.

However, a critical piece to this is the “gating criteria” that all states and regions should achieve before they can move on to phase one. This includes a “downward trajectory” of reported “influenza-like illnesses,” “covid-like syndromic cases” and “documented cases” or “positive tests as a percent of total tests” within a 14-day period, as well as the ability for hospitals to “treat all patients without crisis care” and have a “robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

In “phase two,” non-essential travel for employers can resume. Schools and organized youth activity can reopen. Bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with proper social distancing measures in places. Churches can open with social distancing. Elective surgeries can resume.

The third phase says bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with limited social distancing and proper sanitation.

The president described the guidelines “as a bit of a negotiation,” a source said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Preview the Trump Adminstration US reopening plan here or below.

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U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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LONDON (AP) — U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.

The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November. 

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.

Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last Octoberon the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.

The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.

Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small. 

Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him. 

But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.

In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.

Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.

Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus — and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten. 

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.

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