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Trump imposes major sanctions on Russian oligarchs, officials, companies

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A number of high-profile individuals are cited in Friday’s action, including Putin’s son-in-law, the chairman of state-owned natural-gas monopoly Gazprom, Russia’s largest company. Also on the list: the secretary of the Russian Security Council, and the director of the national guard troops.

The administration stressed on Friday that the sanctions would hold until those individuals wielded their influence to curb the Kremlin’s pervasive activities.

As a result of the sanctions, the Russian assets are blocked, and U.S. entities are barred from dealing with them.

“The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Mnuchin cited a number of Russian activities around the world as support for Friday’s U.S. action, including Moscow’s occupation of Crimea and violence in eastern Ukraine, support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s attacks against civilians, and Russia’s “ongoing cyberactivities” and efforts to “interfere in the democratic processes of the United States and its allies.”

“Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities,” Mnuchin said.

 Alexei Miller, left, chairman of the management board of Gazprom, talks with Alexei Kudrin, chairman of the board for the Center for Strategic Research, in 2017. Miller is one of those targeted in the Trump administration’s sanctions announced Friday. Alexei Danichev / Sputnik via AP file

To date, the Trump administration has issued Russia-related sanctions against 189 individuals and entities, including 136 sanctions related to Putin’s actions in Ukraine, as well as sanctions related to Moscow’s cyber campaigns, including its interference in the 2016 presidential contest.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on the sanctions said that they had been carefully coordinated with American allies, particularly in Europe.

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have soared in recent days after the United States and the European Union announced the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal on British soil, allegedly orchestrated by the Kremlin.

The U.S. tossed 60 Russian diplomats, identified by officials as intelligence officers, and closed Russia’s Seattle consulate. In response, Russia sent 60 American diplomats packing and shuttered the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.

The senior administration official, who requested anonymity, said Friday’s action is not a direct response to the expulsion of U.S. diplomats or the attack in the United Kingdom.

The administration used a number of legal mechanisms in Friday’s sanctions action, including the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA. After the measure was passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 2017, President Donald Trump begrudgingly signed it, but called the bill “seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.”

At a White House press conference on Tuesday, flanked by the leaders of three Baltic nations, Trump once again said that “no one has been tougher on Russia” than him. Still, he has not directly placed blame on Putin for the actions of his country and recently invited the Russian leader to meet in the “not-too-distant future.”

“I think I could have a very good relationship with President Putin. I think,” he said Tuesday. “Possibly, I won’t.”

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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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