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U.S. needs the ‘resolve’ to take on Russia

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Johnson specifically cited Russia’s involvement in Iran and Syria, the invasion of Crimea in Ukraine, threats to eastern Europe, and the need to enforce sanctions on North Korea as points of tension between the two countries.

“We need to work with Russia,” he added. “They have 7,000 nuclear weapons. So I understand the president’s desire to try and improve relations with Russia. But you have to look at the reality of the situation and react accordingly, as well.”

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said Friday on “Today” that he can’t remember a period of worse relations between the two countries.

The United States announced a decision last week to expel 60 diplomats from Russia and close the Russian consulate in Seattle following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K. Russia responded by announcing a move to expel 60 U.S. diplomats and close the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.

Johnson added that he has “no idea” whether the way President Donald Trump talks about Putin is influenced by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 election.

But he did say that he “absolutely” believes Mueller’s investigation has hampered the ability of concurrent investigations in Congress to get information.

“I would’ve much rather had the Senate and House Intelligence Committees complete their report,” he said. “Because I know what happens. When you have a criminal investigation, it’s that much more difficult for Congress to get the information, to allow the American public to understand what’s happening.”

Johnson said he felt the Justice Department appointed a special counsel “too soon.”

“I would’ve rather had the process play out,” he said. “Because I think public disclosure, the public’s right to know, trumps everything else.”

But not all Republicans speaking out this weekend made the point that the congressional investigations should have come first.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the current chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who is not running for re-election, said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that he was glad to have Mueller appointed because “Congress has proven itself incapable of conducting a serious investigation.”

“Congressional investigations leak like the gossip girls,” he said. “They’re terrible. I mean, they’re terrible, and I would be telling you that if I were staying in Congress. They are just not serious.”

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CEOs discuss pulling donations, additional public statements to fight voting bills

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More than 120 CEOs, business leaders, attorneys and experts came together on Saturday afternoon to discuss further action against voting legislation nationwide, call attendees told NBC News.

The group discussed numerous options for pushing back on the GOP-led efforts to restrict access to the ballot box including pulling donations, refusing to relocate business or jobs to states that pass restrictive measures, and moving events, said one of the call’s organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

“It was incredibly concrete,” he told NBC News.

The meeting was first reported Sunday by The Wall Street Journal.

A wide variety of industries were represented on the call: financial, pharmaceutical, travel, technology, retail, and transportation. Notable attendees included Brad Karp of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments, Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss and Arthur Blank, Home Depot co-founder and owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Representatives of AMC Theaters and three major airlines were also in attendance.

Major corporations’ recent foray into the election policy debate comes as Republicans across the country work to advance hundreds of restrictions, changes that voting rights advocates and civil rights groups argue would disproportionately affect voters of color. Earlier this month, several major corporations spoke out against a restrictive new law in Georgia and pending legislation in Texas, while Major League Baseball announced it would move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of the state’s law.

Republicans immediately pushed back.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that it is “stupid” for corporations to take stances on divisive political issues, before warning corporate America to “stay out of politics.” (He softened his stance a day later, saying, “I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are. My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill,” referring to Georgia’s recently enacted law.)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, called the corporate response “nonsense,” and said American Airlines’ CEO should “go away” after the airline denounced a GOP-sponsored bill under consideration in the state where it is headquartered. Republican lawmakers in Texas advanced another restrictive voting bill out of the state House Thursday.

Sonnenfeld said he and other organizers invited more than 120 CEOs and hoped a dozen would join. Ninety turned out with just 48 hours’ notice — with a few calling in from Augusta, Georgia, where the Masters Tournament was underway — for the 2 p.m. ET call Saturday. Organizers left the Zoom room open after they wrapped up at 3:10 p.m., because attendees were still active in the chat.

“The overriding spirit is they don’t want politicians using wedge issues to try and solidify their hold on office, because that leads to angry communities and finger-pointing workforces and divided shareholders. It makes their job as CEOs harder to manage these constituents. They want social harmony,” Sonnenfeld told NBC News.

The Black Economic Alliance is coordinating a public statement that’s likely to be released this week, said Mike Ward, co-founder of the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group that encourages civic participation from businesses.

Ward said he’s helping organizers to follow up with companies on their responses and expects that a number of companies will come out in favor of federal voting legislation in the coming weeks.

House Democrats recently passed a sweeping voting rights bill, the For the People Act, which would create a federal floor of election access and regulations. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised it would get a vote in the full Senate, but its chances of passage are slim because of the 60-vote threshold in chamber currently split 50-50.

Democrats are also expected to reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update and strengthen the Voting Rights Act, this year.

Sonnenfeld said the call’s strong attendance as a “statement of defiance” against Republican pushback to corporate criticism.

“We had the top brass of American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta. If they’re going to boycott airlines, they better have their own jet,” he said.



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Boris told to rip up Brexit deal as Britain waits for EU ratification – 'Pull plug NOW!'

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BORIS JOHNSON has been told to “pull the plug” on the post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union as Brussels continues to drag its feet over ratifying the agreement.

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Furious Nicola Sturgeon lashes out at Boris over Indyref2 – 'Can't stand in the way!'

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NICOLA Sturgeon has furiously lashed out at Boris Johnson over a second Scottish independence referendum, as she argued the Prime Minister “cannot stand in the way”.

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