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DeSantis Clarifies Position on Ukraine War, Calls Putin ‘War Criminal’

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis this week called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and condemned his invasion of Ukraine, a week after coming under criticism for remarks that seemed to advocate a reduction in U.S. support for Ukrainian forces.

DeSantis, widely expected to announce his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination later this year, had previously described the war in Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” that did not represent a “vital national interest” of the United States.

The remarks earned him immediate condemnation from many, including multiple long-serving Republicans in Congress, even though support for continued U.S. aid to Ukraine is waning among a significant portion of the Republican electorate.

Claims he was mischaracterized

In an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan scheduled to stream Thursday evening on Fox Nation, DeSantis said his comments — particularly those that seemed to dismiss the war as a territorial dispute — were “mischaracterized.”

Morgan, who previewed the interview in a New York Post column on Wednesday, quoted the Florida governor’s explanation for his comment at length.

“When I asked him specifically if he regretted using the phrase ‘territorial dispute,’ DeSantis replied, ‘Well, I think it’s been mischaracterized. Obviously, Russia invaded [last year] — that was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — that was wrong.

“ ‘What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now, which is that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately, but they had. There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there.’”

According to Morgan, DeSantis went on to say why he thinks Russia is not the threat that the Biden administration has portrayed: “I think the larger point is, OK, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO. That’s a good thing.”

The Biden administration has characterized support for Ukraine as forestalling deeper U.S. involvement in a broader conflict.

DeSantis told Morgan he sees it differently: “I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified [in invading] — that’s nonsense.”

‘A gas station’ with nuclear weapons

Also in the interview, DeSantis ridiculed Russia’s high dependence on fossil fuel exports and said the country does not have the capacity to act on Putin’s seeming plan to reconstitute the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence.

“I think he’s got grand ambitions,” DeSantis said of Putin. “I think he’s hostile to the United States, but I think the thing that we’ve seen is he doesn’t have the conventional capability to realize his ambitions. And so, he’s basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons, and one of the things we could be doing better is utilizing our own energy resources in the U.S.”

DeSantis’ comments were reminiscent of those of the late John McCain, who was a Republican senator and presidential candidate. Famously hawkish on Russia, he once derided the nation as “a gas station masquerading as a country.”

Zelenskyy responds

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in an interview with the editors of The Atlantic magazine, replied to DeSantis last week with an argument that America’s investment in his country’s defense is preventing a broader conflict that could pull in the U.S. and its NATO allies.

“If we will not have enough weapons, that means we will be weak. If we will be weak, they will occupy us,” Zelenskyy said. “If they occupy us, they will be on the borders of Moldova and they will occupy Moldova. When they have occupied Moldova, they will [travel through] Belarus and they will occupy Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“That’s three Baltic countries which are members of NATO,” he added. “They will occupy them. Of course [the Balts] are brave people, and they will fight. But they are small. And they don’t have nuclear weapons. So they will be attacked by Russians because that is the policy of Russia, to take back all the countries which have been previously part of the Soviet Union.”

Zelenskyy’s assertions aside, many foreign policy experts are dubious about the likelihood of Russia choosing to invade any countries that are under the protection of NATO’s mutual defense agreement.

Difficult politics

DeSantis’ move to clarify his position on Ukraine highlights a difficulty that any Republican presidential candidate is likely to face on the issue because of a deepening divide within the party.

For Republicans, said William A. Galston, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, “finding a tenable path on Ukraine is very difficult, because the party is divided between a traditionalist wing and a populist wing on this issue.”

“The traditionalist view is that the United States, for reasons having to do with both its interests and values, is required to stand up to aggression, such as what Russia has unleashed on Ukraine, and to support indirectly, and in some cases directly, the military effort to oppose it,” Galston told VOA.

“The populist wing of the party is taking the position that this fight is none of our business, and more generally, that the interests of the United States are best served by staying out of foreign entanglements, particularly military entanglements, to the greatest extent possible,” he said.

At the moment, the divide is most visible when comparing the positions of the party’s two leading presidential candidates with those of its foreign policy veterans in Congress.

Both former President Donald Trump and DeSantis have expressed doubts about whether it is in U.S. interests to continue supporting Ukraine. In a recent Monmouth University poll, the two men received 80% of support — 44% for Trump and 36% for DeSantis — when prospective GOP voters were asked whom they support for the party’s presidential nomination.

In Congress, though, prominent Republican voices have offered unwavering support for Ukraine.

“I think the majority opinion among Senate Republicans is that the United States has a vital national security interest there in stopping Russian aggression,” John Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, told reporters last week.

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By Polityk | 24/03/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

House Republicans Demand Documents About US Exit From Afghanistan

Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul is demanding that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken provide documents on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. McCaul said the ‘catastrophic’ exit from Afghanistan emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. Cindy Saine reports.

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By Polityk | 24/03/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Prosecutor Rejects Republicans’ Demand He Hand Over Documents in Trump Investigation

The New York City prosecutor on Thursday rejected a demand by congressional Republican lawmakers that he hand over documents linked to his investigation of former President Donald Trump’s $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election to buy her silence about an affair she claims to have had with Trump.

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg assailed the request earlier this week by three committee chairmen in the House of Representatives as “an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty.” The three lawmakers — Jim Jordan, James Comer and Bryan Steil — had called Bragg’s investigation of Trump an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.”

Bragg’s general counsel, Leslie Dubeck, told the lawmakers that their letter “only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested [Tuesday] and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene. Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry.”

“If a grand jury brings charges against Donald Trump, the DA’s Office will have an obligation, as in every case, to provide a significant amount of discovery from its files to the defendant so that he may prepare a defense,” Dubeck wrote.

The Republican committee chairmen had told Bragg, “You are reportedly about to engage in an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority: the indictment of a former president of the United States. This indictment comes after years of your office searching for a basis — any basis — on which to bring charges.”

Lawmakers refer to case as ‘zombie’

On Thursday, Jordan, an Ohio congressman, demanded testimony and documents from Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, two former New York prosecutors who had been leading the Trump case before quitting last year when Bragg appeared to have abandoned the Trump investigation.

“Last year, you resigned from the office over Bragg’s initial reluctance to move forward with charges, shaming Bragg in your resignation letter — which was subsequently leaked — into bringing charges,” Jordan wrote in the letter to Pomerantz. “It now appears that your efforts to shame Bragg have worked as he is reportedly resurrecting a so-called ‘zombie’ case against President Trump using a tenuous and untested legal theory.”

Trump has not been charged in the case, although the grand jury investigation is continuing.

Bragg has been bringing witnesses before the 23-member grand jury to testify about the payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, hush money to silence her for what she alleges was a one-night affair with Trump in 2006 at a hotel where Trump was attending a golf tournament. Trump has long denied the affair.

Probe focuses on payment 

The investigation centers in part on details of the payment made to Daniels and whether the transaction amounts to a criminal offense. If charged, Trump would be the first-ever U.S. president indicted in a criminal case.

Trump’s one-time lawyer and political fixer Michael Cohen wrote her a check out of his personal funds and then was reimbursed by Trump, who recorded it as a business expense for legal fees to Cohen on the ledgers of the Trump Organization, his real estate business, rather than recorded as a campaign expense related to his successful 2016 run for the presidency.

Cohen served more than a year in prison for his role in the payment and other offenses. He since has turned into a sharp Trump critic and grand jury witness against him.

Trump announced his intention to seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination months ago and says he would keep campaigning even if he is charged with a criminal offense. Numerous national polls show him as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, although several other Republicans have either announced their own candidacies or said they are seriously considering a race against Trump.

Trump had regularly lambasted the New York investigation as a political witch-hunt and called Bragg, who is Black, a “racist.”

Trump was impeached twice during his presidency, once in 2019 over his conduct demanding Ukraine investigate then candidate Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and again in 2021 over the attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters. He was acquitted by the Senate both times.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press.

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By Polityk | 24/03/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Обстріли Херсонщини: один загиблий, двоє поранених і атакований обласний кардіоцентр

Одна людина загинула, ще двоє жителів Херсонської області поранені внаслідок обстрілу з боку російських війська за минулу добу, повідомляє Херсонська обласна військова адміністрація.

«Російські загарбники 54 рази атакували мирні населені пункти Херсонської області. Випустили 319 снарядів із мінометів, РСЗВ, артилерії, танків і безпілотників. Житлові квартали Херсона російські військові обстріляли п’ять разів. У місті пошкоджено приватні та багатоквартирні будинки», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Повідомляється, що влучання зафіксували в Херсоні (Корабельному та Дніпровському районах) Антонівці, Молодіжному, Зеленівці. Крім того, було обстріляно острівну та берегову частину Херсонської МТГ (дачні ділянки).

Оперативне командування «Південь» повідомляє, що війська РФ уночі обстріляли Херсонський обласний кардіологічний центр, пошкоджено фасад будівлі і внутрішні приміщення.

За даними Міністерства охорони здоров’я, за рік повномасштабної війни війська РФ пошкодили або зруйнували в Україні понад 1200 об’єктів сфери медицини.

Українські військові деокупували правобережну частину Херсонської області впродовж літа-осені 2022 року. Обласний центр був звільнений 11 листопада 2022 року.

Майже одразу після цього російські війська розпочали артилерійські обстріли Херсона та підконтрольних українському уряду районів області.

Москва від початку повномасштабного вторгнення заперечує цілеспрямовану атаку на цивільних, попри наявність свідчень і доказів цього.

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By Gromada | 23/03/2023 | Повідомлення, Суспільство

Court Orders Trump Lawyer to Provide Documents in Mar-a-Lago Case

A federal appeals court in a sealed order Wednesday directed a lawyer for Donald Trump to turn over to prosecutors documents in the investigation into the former president’s retention of classified records at his Florida estate.

The ruling is a significant win for the U.S. Justice Department, which has focused for months not only on the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago but also on why Trump and his representatives resisted demands to return them to the government. It suggests the court has sided with prosecutors who have argued behind closed doors that Trump was using his legal representation to further a crime.

The order was reflected in a brief online notice by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is sealed, and none of the parties in the dispute is mentioned by name.

But the details appear to correspond with a secret fight before a lower court judge over whether Trump lawyer M. Evan Corcoran could be forced to provide documents or give grand jury testimony in the Justice Department special counsel probe into whether Trump mishandled top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago.

Corcoran is regarded as relevant to the investigation in part because last year he drafted a statement to the Justice Department asserting that a “diligent search” for classified documents had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago in response to a subpoena. Weeks later, FBI agents searched the home with a warrant and found roughly 100 additional documents with classified markings.

Another Trump lawyer, Christina Bobb, told investigators last fall that Corcoran had drafted the letter and had asked her to sign it in her role as a designated custodian of Trump’s records.

A Justice Department investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith and his team of prosecutors is examining whether Trump or anyone in his orbit obstructed its efforts to recover all the classified documents — which included top-secret material — from his home. No charges have been filed.

Other legal threats

The inquiry is one of multiple legal threats Trump faces, including probes in Atlanta, Georgia, and Washington over his efforts to undo the election result and a grand jury investigation in New York over hush money payments. The New York case appears to be nearing completion and building toward an indictment.

Last week, Beryl Howell, the outgoing chief judge of the U.S. District Court, directed Corcoran to answer additional questions before the grand jury. He had appeared weeks earlier before the federal grand jury investigating the Mar-a-Lago matter but had invoked attorney-client privilege in declining to answer certain questions.

Though attorney-client privilege shields lawyers from being forced to share details of their conversations with clients before prosecutors, the Justice Department can get around that if it can convince a judge that a lawyer’s services were used in furtherance of a crime — a principle known in the law as the crime-fraud exception.

Howell ruled in the Justice Department’s favor shortly before stepping aside as chief judge Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to discuss a sealed proceeding and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. That ruling was subsequently appealed, and the court records show the dispute before the federal appeals panel concerned an order that was issued last Friday by Howell.

The three-judge panel that issued the decision included Cornelia Pillard, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, and J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, both appointees of President Joe Biden. The order came just hours after the court imposed tight deadlines on both sides to file written briefs making their case.

A lawyer for Corcoran did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday, and a lawyer for Trump declined to comment on the sealed order.

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By Polityk | 23/03/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика