Best of RNS 2018 News Politics

Mariia Butina and the National Prayer Breakfast

Mariia Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, on April 21, 2013. Butina, a 29-year-old gun-rights activist, served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged July 16, 2018. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (RNS) — The unsealing of an affidavit this week charging 29-year-old Mariia Butina with “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation” was yet another bombshell in the investigation into what U.S. intelligence agencies describe as Russian attempts to influence American elections and politics throughout 2016.

But buried within the Justice Department’s affidavit was a peculiar detail: Butina, a Russian citizen living in the U.S., allegedly sought to influence U.S. officials not only through organizations such as the National Rifle Association, but also by exploiting the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington, D.C., that typically includes a speech by the president of the United States.

According to the affidavit, Butina intended to use the 2017 prayer breakfast as a way to gather a group of influential Russians in the U.S. to “establish a back channel of communication” with Americans. She allegedly described the list of Russian attendees to the prayer breakfast as “populated by important political advisors to Russian President (Vladimir) Putin, university presidents, mayors, and substantial private businessmen.”

She also reportedly discussed with a colleague the possibility of bringing Putin to meet President Trump at the event, although that meeting did not ultimately occur.

Using a religious event to broker unsanctioned political communication may seem like an unorthodox ploy. But evidence suggests sustained links between Russian officials and the National Prayer Breakfast that potentially opened the gathering up to exploitation.

President Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Glenn Simpson, co-founder of the investigative firm Fusion GPS, noted the possibility of Russian efforts to infiltrate American religious groups during his appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 14, 2017. (Fusion GPS has become a controversial organization in its own right because of a dossier it produced that included salacious claims about Trump and his alleged connections to Russia.)

These interactions alone do not inherently imply nefarious intent, but they do provide context as to why Russia would target faith groups to influence American politics.

The National Prayer Breakfast is notable, even in Washington, for its political spectacle and for the suspicion surrounding the group that organizes it — namely, the entity often referred to as the International Foundation, sometimes called “the Family” or “the Fellowship.”

Broadly devoted to Jesus but not tied to any Christian denomination, the foundation — which is often described as a network instead of an organization — holds almost mythical status among D.C.’s power brokers. Its organizers often refuse to divulge guest lists, preferring to offer sanctuary to meetings between American politicians and global leaders, without government or media scrutiny.

What’s more, participants appear to see ultimate value in meetings and relationships seemingly irrespective of the motives of those present.

“We don’t really care why they come because God’s a big guy, he can take care of himself,” one organizer, Tony Hall, told academic Michael Lindsay when Lindsay studied the prayer breakfast in 2006.

But if the charges against Butina are true, it shows how the fusion of the foundation’s influence and dedication to anonymity may have allowed it to become a target for political exploitation and potential international espionage.

Alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina, left, and Russian politician Alexander Torshin at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. President Trump spoke from the podium in the background. Photo via Facebook

The affidavit released this week cites a 2017 email from Butina to a prayer breakfast organizer in which she thanks the person for allowing her group to attend “and the very private meeting that followed.” The organizer in the affidavit is unnamed, but the de facto director of the prayer breakfast is Doug Burleigh, who effectively took over after the death of its previous leader (and Burleigh’s father-in-law) Doug Coe, in February 2017.

In April 2018, Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician who reportedly worked with Butina and closely matches the description of an unnamed “Russian official” in the affidavit, was sanctioned by the U.S. government, but only after he spent years forging alliances with American leaders — including religious ones.

According to Yahoo News, Torshin initially set up a meeting with Trump before the 2017 prayer breakfast on Feb. 2. But White House officials canceled after learning that Torshin, who is also a close ally of Putin, has suspected ties to organized crime and a money-laundering ring.

One year later, Russian interest in the National Prayer Breakfast only strengthened. Some outlets reported that an atypically large delegation of Russians — as many as 60 — planned to attend the 2018 event.

Jim Slattery, a former Democratic congressman from Kansas who maintains ties to the National Prayer Breakfast and attended in 2018, acknowledged Russia “probably had the largest group” of any country that year.

Slattery, who said he has seen prayer breakfast guest lists, did not respond to requests to confirm whether Torshin had attended. The former congressman did, however, say that Torshin was formally invited.

It was unclear why the delegation had descended on the gathering, but as one unnamed Russian evangelical bishop told CNN’s Dan Burke: “I suppose the majority of members of the (Russian) delegation don’t want to pray; they want to mingle” and “try to solve their own problems, that is — their name possibly appearing in future sanctions lists.”

Torshin was sanctioned two months after the prayer breakfast.

As for Butina, Slattery said in an email, “I do not believe Maria Butina attended the 2018 breakfast,” adding, “I do not know for sure but I am 95% sure.”

Torshin’s connection to the foundation spans two continents. The network operates globally, as other nations hold prayer breakfasts modeled after the American version — including Russia.

But Russians created what appears to be an entirely new “business” prayer breakfast in May 2017. The glitzy event featured Torshin and Burleigh as speakers.

Burleigh, who also once headed up the American Christian youth organization Young Life, has spoken in the past about his extensive work in Russia. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, he delivered a speech at a 2016 event in Kansas alongside then-Gov. Sam Brownback — now U.S. ambassador for religious freedom — where he mentioned his 50 years leading evangelical efforts in Russia.

Burleigh appeared to repeat these remarks at the business prayer breakfast in Russia.  A YouTube video of the event shows Burleigh noting that he has visited the country “for 52 years.”

The same video also shows an interview with Burleigh after the event, where he praised dialogue between Trump and Putin and said the “press hates Trump” in the United States.

Burleigh declined requests for a full on-the-record interview with Religion News Service but did confirm that he keynoted the event where Torshin also spoke, adding that he did not personally organize the event. Neither Burleigh nor the FBI would officially confirm whether he has been contacted by the bureau.

Franklin Graham tweeted a photo of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in April 2017.

Prayer breakfast diplomacy was hardly Torshin’s or other Russian officials’ only attempt to use American religious leaders to connect with Trump and his family.

It has been widely reported that Torshin and Butina allegedly attempted to broker a 2016 meeting between Trump and Putin in Moscow at a “Persecuted Christians Summit” organized by American religious leader Franklin Graham, whose father, Billy Graham, played a crucial role in organizing the first National Prayer Breakfast in 1953.

According to Yahoo News, conservative activist Rick Clay conveyed Torshin’s offer to Jared Kushner, who ultimately declined, saying “Be careful.”

The Kremlin reportedly teamed up with leaders from the Russian Orthodox Church — such as church head  Patriarch Kirill, who has been accused of being a former KGB agent — to use religious power to exert influence across Europe, according to The New York Times.

Meanwhile, U.S.-based groups such as the American Family Association, American Center for Law and Justice and National Organization for Marriage all endorsed various anti-gay legislation in Russia.

It remains to be seen what action, if any, the foundation and its leaders will take in response to Butina’s arrest. But a line from one of the Russian national’s alleged emails with a National Prayer Breakfast organizer — penned as she, according to the Justice Department, was actively conspiring against the United States — may prove haunting.

“A new relationship between two countries always begins better when it begins in faith,” she wrote.

About the author

Jack Jenkins

Jack Jenkins is a national reporter for RNS based in Washington, covering U.S. Catholics and the intersection of religion and politics.

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  • Putin is very skillful in finding and exploiting weaknesses in the American electorate. From Katherine Stewart’s article in today’s NY Times:

    Anti-L.G.B.T. politics are in this respect no different from the “gun rights” advocacy that Ms. Butina is accused of using to build a bridge between Russian and American leaders via the National Rifle Association. No serious observer believes that Mr. Putin cares a fig about our Second Amendment (or the rest of the Constitution). For him, America’s fabled gun culture is just a weakness to be exploited for the sake of Russia’s national interest. The religious right thinks that it’s using Mr. Putin to advance its aims. But a far more plausible interpretation is that he is using the religious right — to infiltrate, divide and weaken our country.

    And all because the Religious Right hate gay people and love guns so much that they’d be willing to be in cahoots with a Russian dictator who silences his detractors, kills his enemies, invades other countries, and steals all the loot for himself and his web of oligarchs. I’m sure people like Franklin Graham, Matt Schlapp, Brian Brown, et al. have convinced themselves that Jesus would somehow approve. Frankly, I have my doubts.

  • Anyone wanting to understand the Russian connection to U.S. right-wing white evangelicals — who are absolutely on board with treason to achieve their goals — would be well advised to read the work of Christopher Stroop and Jeff Sharlet. No one knows more about this subject than these two scholars.

  • Matthew 7:15-20.

    “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you what you are” (old expression).

  • Perhaps the State Dept. can trade Ms. Butina for one of our spies? This way, she can return home to a country that she apparently thinks is such a great place to live. Why use our taxes to house, clothe, and feed her in one of our federal prisons if we can do an exchange? Surely this young lady will be most happy back home where she can encourage her fellow Russians to acquire weapons to use against government goons?

  • Russian agents really hang together with Republicans, don’t they? That’s because they have so much in common.

    America’s Russian enemies want to weaken and/or destroy our federal government. And many Republicans SAY they want the same thing. All the Tea Party rants about our too-strong-and-oppressive federal authority were not lost on the Russians.

    America’s Russian enemies recognize the fact that the GOP is fertile ground for recruiting traitors willing to join Putin’s anti-American cause.

    After the destruction of the Fairness Doctrine during the Reagan administration and the consequent 30 years of hate and anti-American lies broadcast by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, American “conservatives” are ripe for the picking. And the Russians are now busily harvesting that crop.

    Putin is now reaping what Reagan and his Republicans sewed, and it looks like a bumper crop,

    You know don’t you? . . . We don’t have to allow it. The majority of Americans are still decent and patriotic Americans. We don’t have to allow the Party of Lies and Treason to dominate this nation.

    Just say no to treason. Never vote Republican.

  • So the Russians used a Prayer Breakfast as a means to possibly influence/improve relations between their country and the US? Mega-yawn!

  • Well, if you’re a spy seeking out gullible people who will believe everything they’re told… the NPB is ideal hunting grounds.

  • If by “influence,” you mean ‘undermine and tamper with our elections to suit their own purposes,’ then yes. And many dupes have indeed greeted news of their own foolishness with a yawn.

  • Seriously? “…undermine and tamper with our elections to suit their own purposes…”

    You mean like we do as well in Russia and other countries? And when we fail at that, try to covertly overthrow their governments and, should that fail, “send in the Marines!”? Puuleez!

    And like a number of other countries do, using their money, spies, and influence to tamper with our lawmakers and elections “to suit their own purposes”. (AIPAC, anyone?)

    Pardon me if I don’t share in the hypocritical ginned-up faux outrage!

    We need to put on our big-boy pants, recognize that this is how the game is played by everyone who can do so (including ourselves), and get more on the ball detecting and preventing such things.

  • Despite Trump’s steadfast refusal to even admit the problem? What’s your suggestion?

  • Actually, as the NY Times reported late last night, Trump did know that Russia turned the election and even admitted as much to his intelligence officials who presented him with the information shortly before his inauguration. You can read all about it here:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/world/europe/trump-intelligence-russian-election-meddling-.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    Trump began covering it all up immediately, even before he officially became president and has lied about it ever since, being the treasonous traitor that he is.

  • 1 – Treason is defined in the Constitution. Trump is neither treasonous nor did he commit treason.

    2 – Unlike the boobery that the previous did with the Russians, including:

    https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/07/brazile_rice_obama_gave_russian_hackers_free_rein.html

    and mocking Romney for saying they were a problem, the President is trying a reset.

    3 – You should stop reading the New York Times unless and until you can put their opinions into the perspective of reality.

  • Where is Mitt Romney today on Russia? We’ve heard precious little from him on the record when it comes to Russia lately. Gee, why might that be? Hmmm. Could it be that he’s simply like all the rest of the gutless wonders who constitute the Republican party who are too fearful to oppose Glorious Leader and his lies? I repeat: where is Mitt Romney now on Russia?

  • You should stop reading the bible unless and until you can put their opinions into the perspective of reality.

  • Sex, or the enticement of it, works with the National Prayer Breakfast people, along with the NRA poobahs. What a surprise.

    Ms. Butina is a classic “honey trap” one reads about in Ludlum or le Carre.

  • As might be expected, he has had plenty to say.

    Of course if you keep relying on the New York Times, you’ll never know it.

    And if you think I’m going to do the work to fill in your huge blanks, unless and until I decide to rebut one of your positions, think again.

  • I have no intention whatsoever of doing the reading you should be doing for you.

    When you make a comment on which my reading bears, I’ll comment.

  • Sadly Russia has looked for the soft underbelly of the USA power structure and has seen the Evangelical Right as most vulnerable to manipulation. Things like a prayer breakfast where people’s guards are down is a good point of entry and manipulation. They use God for their power purposes. We as Christians have to be always aware of Jesus warning of “Wolves in Sheep’s clothing”. We need to be more like St. Thomas and employ our God-given skills of critical thinking and not just following the exhortations of leaders who have very hidden agendas.

    As a conservative Christian Priest, I worry that we focus not on the Gospel teachings of Jesus and the model of the early church community as seen in the book of Acts. Today, we seem to seek earthly power instead of building the spiritual community. We are seeing a goal-displacement among the Christian church which historically has always led to the undoing of the church. This goal-displacement makes us easy pray for the Russian bear to eat the US eagle for breakfast. The bear might even say a meaningless prayer for it eats us.

    My final concern is that the US president appears to be setting the table for the Russian meal!

  • I knew you couldn’t produce the evidence for the obvious reason that it doesn’t exist.

  • As long as you read and believe the New York Times, you post with red concentric circles at your waterline.

    That works me if not for you.

  • First off, the National Prayer Breakfast is not a “religious event” and never has been, any more than a high school football game is a “religious event” because the coaches make the team pray before they take to the field. Religion became entwined with politics in the 1950s at the beginning of the Cold War–with Communist Russia, now Mobbed-up Russia–and it has been the handmaiden of the Far Right ever since. Naturally the Russians find these types of politico-religious events a happy hunting ground to recruit like-minded American citizens.

  • Whether Trump does or does not admit the problem (that varies from day to day) does not change my contempt for the hypocritical ginned-up faux outrage over Russian (OMG, Russians! RUSSIANS!! Did I mention it was the epitome-of-all-evil RUSSIANS?) meddling in our internal affairs. BAH! This all in sharp contrast to our lawmakers turning a blind eye to Israeli meddling and influencing our lawmakers. (The explanation for which, of course, is ===> $$$$$$$$$.)

    Such outrage and posturing by our lawmakers over something that’s been going on for ages, that they knew perfectly well was going on, and which they themselves are totally fine with when we do it to the Russians and others! (Goose, meet Gander! Pot, meet Kettle!)

  • Maybe President Trump will pardon her and then rehabilitate her in his own very special way. For many of his evangelical followers, “saved by Trump” probably ranks right up there with “saved by Jesus”.

  • What about the communist party of America? Socialists of America? Any Russian influence or connections there? Or maybe Chinese?
    The fact is that the US and Russia have been trying to subvert one another for years.
    For anyone here to imply that this is an infiltration of just right leaning groups is pure idiotic. The infiltration runs in left leaning anarchist groups as well; you just don’t hear about it because they are anti-trump-which is the flavor of the year.
    If you want to discuss foreign infiltration; head to Washington DC to the halls of Congress as our representatives meet with foreign lobbyists.
    And for your own benefit; remember that the founding fathers balanced the federal government against states rights. Be very careful what you wish for when you espouse the federal government and their central planning tendencies.

  • lies. In the article doesn’t say that chrome or any of the intelligence officials know that the election turn based on Russian meddling.

  • The last administration didn’t seem at all concerned about Russian meddling, until Hillary lost.

    Then Uh Oh!

  • The Russians already have their hands full.

    They moved into the vacuum that the previous administration left in Eastern Ukraine and Syria, and that seems to take all their attention currently.

  • “Like-minded American citizens” – you mean there are American citizens who want to fight for Bashar al-Assad and occupy the Crimea?

  • Yep.
    It’s all excuses and diversions so that they don’t have to accept reality; that their candidate was was liked LESS than the other unlikeable candidate.
    Just accept it and get ready for 2020.

  • That describes your own posts in general pretty well, Bob Jose Jack Arnzen Carioca or whatever your name is today.

  • You should know there are. The members of the “Family” are Postmillennials. They are looking for autocratic leaders that they
    consider ”strong wolves”. Both Assad, Putin, Duarte, and maybe someday Trump will qualify to become the 200 that will rule the world for Christ.

  • About what? Refuting the typical misleading commentary that occurs here?
    How about offering some discussion points of substance instead of posting useless one-liners. If I want that, I’ll call my crazy girlfriend Charlotte.

  • It’s the organizers of the NPB that is seeks out powerful political leaders, foreign or domestic. Its likely they arranged for her attendance

  • The Russians helped Trump to get your parties nomination. This didn’t happen because of collusion between Trump and Putin. Collusion must happen with relatively equal persons. Trump doesn’t qualify.
    Putin saw that the American people were hurting and didn’t know why. They didn’t know to whom to address their complaints. Having had a success with this method in England with Brexit, they did the same here. The method was cyber warfare which would pit American groups against each other.

    The collusion that occurred was between the Religious Right and the corporate right. The pastors on the right indoctrinated their congregations. The wealthy financed campaigns. Most corporate leaders were neutral on abortion for instance. But they agreed to support the evangelical agenda. If you voted against legal abortion, you were also voting against social services and relieving the rich from high taxes.

    The other reason for Trumps win was that Hillary was a greedy supporter of globalization and a militarist. Many of us could not vote for either one.

    The worst thing the Russians have done to us is create a social environment where reasonable dialog is not possible.
    It is amazing that they were able to accomplish this. These posts are an example of the anger and hatred between us.

  • That sounds like Putin’s opinion. He fixed it by removing the free press. I agree that we should read the press skeptically with knowledge of their perspective.

  • Bob, I generally disagree with your overall assessment of collusion beteeen the religious right and Christian Right led to trump being nominated which I would like to discuss with you further.
    I do agree 1,000% with your final paragraph which mentions the divide in America.

  • Butina is charged with being an unregistered foreign agent. AIPAC is a bipartisan lobbying organization, fully registered with the IRS. There is no equivalence between the two.

  • They wanted to make a bipartisan announcement about it but McConnell refused. So yes, they were concerned prior to the election.

  • Sorry, *you* may want to accept a foreign government’s infiltration — not just meddling, not just interference — of our democracy. The rest of us don’t. Trump’s still not sure. “Yes. I mean no. I mean….what was the question?”

  • As defined by the Constitution, Brazile could not have committed treason by anything involving Russia because Russia is not an “enemy” as defined by law.

  • “Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and current Senate candidate from Utah, called [Trump’s press conference] “disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles.” — NYT, 7.16.2018

  • This began in the 40’s with agreements between Evangelical leaders and the corporate leaders. This aliance became more powerful with Eisenhower and Billy Graham. Evangelicals incorporated the political ideologies of Nationalism and uncontrolled capitalism into their religious dogma. The corporate groups supported Evangelical goals of school segregation, Prayer in schools, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti LGBT marriage. The corporate groups used their influence and donations to support speakers, think tanks and candidates. It took a long time but was successful in 2016. This cooperation continues to the present.

  • The Rosenbergs weren’t legally traitors either. They were found guilty of “Conspiracy to commit espionage” and received the death penalty. There guilt is still controversial.

  • I’d like a cite on that one.

    Try this one:

    https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621338178/journalist-warns-cyber-attacks-present-a-perfect-weapon-against-global-order

    “…. DAVIES: I mean, the story that you write about the DNC is remarkable. I mean, first of all, Richard Clarke, who was the, you know, national security official in, I guess, the Clinton and Bush administrations, had a private firm. He looked at the DNC stuff. He said, you’re very vulnerable. You’re wide open. Do this to correct it. They said, that’s too expensive. We’ve got an election to run. They said, we’ll do it after the election, right?

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVIES: But then the FBI gets word in the summer of 2015 something is going on, and they call the DNC and says, well, I need to talk to your computer security people. What happens?

    SANGER: They call into the DNC and somebody connects them to the help desk.

    DAVIES: (Laughter).

    SANGER: I’m not kidding (laughter). So the help desk is staffed by somebody who is of no help, who was a young IT operator who really did not have any background in computer security and cybersecurity. But worse yet, he didn’t believe that the guy on the other end of the phone was a special agent from the FBI. He basically thought he was pulling his leg, so he hung up, OK?

    And about a month later, the FBI guy calls back. It takes months for them even to meet. And it takes until the next spring before they actually begin to persuade the DNC that they really had a problem and it was getting bigger. It was nine months between the time that the FBI first tried to contact the DNC and that the president of the United States learned that the Democratic National Committee, the place where the Watergate break-in had happened, not physically the place but the same organization – they have moved since – that they had been attacked by the Russians.

    Nine months – there are babies in America who were conceived and born in the time it took for the United States to figure out that the Russians were inside one of the main parties in the election.

    DAVIES: And, of course, the story of the election has been well reported. I mean, those thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee came out. John Podesta’s emails were hacked from – the Clinton campaign manager. It created a lot of havoc. And then, of course, the U.S. government began to learn that there were efforts to penetrate voter rolls in a number of states.

    And one of the questions that it raised and that is still there for the government dealing with this whole issue is how do you respond to a cyberattack? Let’s just explore some of the options and what their risks are. I mean, one thing is to publicly out the person that you are convinced is doing it. I mean, Obama did this in the case of the North Koreans hacking Sony Pictures after the movie.

    He chose not to out the Russians in the case of the hacks of the State Department and White House computer systems. What were the considerations there?

    SANGER: Well, the first consideration was they thought at the time this is just pure espionage. We do it to them. They do it to us. Shame on us for having our systems out there and be vulnerable and so forth. It didn’t dawn on anybody because it really hadn’t happened before that the objective here might not simply be information collection.

    It might be taking that stuff and making it public, sort of the way North Korea did in the Sony case. But in this case, it was done writ large by the GRU, which is the military intelligence unit for the Russians. And they were the second of two intelligence agencies that got into the DNC and quite aggressively spread this stuff around, first through a site they set up called DCLeaks and then through WikiLeaks.

    So there were two big decision points and, I think, Dave, you could say two big errors here. The first was the United States was very slow on the detection of what was going on with the Russians coming into the DNC. As one person said to me, it’s not simply that we had our radar off like at Pearl Harbor. He said, we hadn’t even built the right radar system to see this.

    The second problem was the one that you just identified. Once the White House was aware of it, then the question came, what do you do? And I went out and interviewed everybody I could find who had gotten involved in that debate. And there are many people, including Victoria Nuland, who was the head of Russian affairs over at the State Department, who wanted to hit Putin very hard, expose his own connections to the oligarchs, where he’s put his money.

    Sort of basically say, you want to play this game? Two can play this game. That got overruled. There were people who came in and said, let’s disconnect the Russians from the world financial system. Well, that seemed like a really good idea until someone put up their hand and said, well, you know, the moment you do that, there’s no way to pay them for the gas that’s going into Europe and the Europeans are going to freeze.

    So they couldn’t go do that one. …”

    The DNC stood there with its pants around its ankles, as did Hillary and her Server Deluxe, and when the White House head of security tried to respond, he was told to stand down.

    Then Hillary lost, and suddenly it was a big deal.

    This is one is totally on the last administration.

  • 1) Obama new about this and did nothing. This occurred on his watch.
    2) trumps ego continues to get in the way. He’s been beaten up since 2016 on how his election is illegitimate that he is ignoring ( or not publicly acknowledging) that there was tampering.
    3) no disrespect intended – But if you think this is the first time that there has been an issue with the Russians and the United States causing discontent with each other’s population’s; you are very young or very uninformed. This is what the KGB and CIA do for a living.
    My question for you liberals is: is there anyway that Trump can win? If he meets Putin and threatens Holy hell; it will be all over the mainstream media on how Trump has no tact or diplomatic acumen and that we are on the verge of World War III. On the other hand, if he puts on a show like you did earlier this week, he’s a bumbling fool and borderline traitor. The fact of the matter is, in this day and age Neither a Republican nor Democratic president can win in the eyes of the opposition party. This is an unfortunate turn of events in the American political landscape.

  • If Trump endorsed the idea, you bet your sweet heiney there would be some American volunteers. There may be some already, for all I know. But much as I would like to see Trump try to explain THAT little development, that wasn’t my meaning–which I’m sure you grasped. The political Far Right and the religious Far Right of all stripes–Americans included–are seeking the same thing: someone to tell them what to do and absolve them of any responsibility for doing it.

  • The Communist Party of America is actually a Leninist party. It claims to support the people but would actually create a totalitarian dictator favoring a few core leaders. It is so small that its influence is negligible.

    The Democratic Socialists of America has 45,000 members. It is the largest socialist party in the country.
    It is not really a “true socialist party”. It is similar to welfare state as you see in Scandinavia. It would create a mixed economy with government regulation of business and strong humanistic social programs. Taxation would be progressive to begin to create less wealth inequality in our society

    A true socialist party would do away with private control of land, resources, and means of production. There would be no capital or capitalists as everyone would have a stake in the countries capital.

    The few Anarchists are much more likely to be infiltrated than to infiltrate.

  • Bob, I’m not an evangelical, so I don’t know the History that you cite. I have been involved in politics since my early 20s. As a conservative, I will tell you my personal experience regarding the 2016 election. When I first heard Trump was going to get into the Republican primary, I discounted it because he had done this two or three times before. I thought it was another publicity stunt; he’ll be in for a little bit, and then drop out. I never liked Trump and thought that the apprentice was a stupid show. I was originally drawn to Cruz and Walker, because I felt that they were the most conservative of all of the candidates. As the primary season wore on, it came down to trump and Cruz. At this point, I figured the election was over; and Hillary was going to win, because by the time my state voted, Trump was the nominee.
    However, once The general election campaign started so my: Trump pivoted and became much more conservative than I thought possible. Whether liberals want to believe it or not, Trump has tapped in to a number of feelings harbored by conservative Americans. I live in a major metropolitan area, where not all conservatives are Christian or white. Trump talked about a lot of things that went on addressed going back to the days of Bill Clinton. He talked tax reform. Obama care reform. Conservative judges. Getting America back in business. Immigration reform and controlling the border. Keystone pipeline. Rebuilding the military. These are all conservative ideals; and have nothing to do with some sort of agreement or conspiracy between the Christian right at the corporate right. In addition, again; immigration reform and controlling the border. Keystone pipeline. Rebuilding the military. These are all conservative ideals; and have nothing to do with some sort of agreement or conspiracy between the Christian right at the corporate right. In addition, Weather liberals want to agree with this or not; Hillary Clinton was an extremely flawed candidate and was despised by the right. Combine that intense dislike with the disgust for the eight years of the Obama presidency, and she never had a chance. Anybody that would have been put up against Hillary Clinton would’ve had a better than 50-50 chance of winning.

  • So AIPAC is a whole organization dedicated to influencing, meddling, and tampering with our lawmakers on behalf of the interests of a foreign government, while Miss Butina’s “crime” was not being registered with the IRS while she fellowshipped with like minded people at a Prayer Breakfast. Ah yes, the crime of fellowshipping while Russian.

    But I agree that there is no equivalence between the two. AIPAC’s malignant influence on our government has been deep and long lasting. Miss Butina’s influence was, at most, completely negligible.

  • “If Trump endorsed the idea, you bet your sweet heiney there would be some American volunteers.” is rather insufficient for a reply.

    Dislike of the President and people who disagree with entitles to … nothing.

  • “Insufficent” for whom? “Insufficient” for a reply to what? And what did you mean by your last sentence? It seems rather…incomplete.

  • I am sorry. I thought you realized you were involved in a discussion, some of the participants of which disagree with you.

    The “insufficient” refers to the whom to whom you were responding, and the what to the question to which you were responding, neither of which was …. incomplete.

  • You might have mentioned the white Evangelicals and some conservative Catholics themselves were already enthralled before Trump to Putin because of his homophobia and attacks on Russian LGBT people’s basic civil rights.

  • As I said above this started a long time ago. Many of the people that have accepted the conservative values you speak of were convinced by decades of propaganda. Not only by the right but also the left media. The other source of those values are Libertarian think tanks that push Austrian School economics and Aynn Rand’s philosophy. I disagree with these values and I consider the fact that the Evangelicals made them part of their religious dogma had a large effect on the number of people who support them and Trump.

    In spite of our strong disagreement I want to thank you for a well thought out reply. This is a refreshing and unusual
    event on these discussions.

  • Jane Fonda was an activist with Veterans Against the War. They, and she understood that the war, was of no purpose except politically and there had been enough death on each side. She visited North Vietnam and spoke against the war.

  • Oh goodie, and thank You, God & Jesus – for the self-destructive, self-entrapment of my fellow born-again Christian brothers in high places:

    (1) “Mariia Butina … thanks the person for allowing her group to attend ‘and the very private meeting that followed’ … [most likely] the de facto director of the prayer breakfast … Doug Burleigh … [who] at the business prayer breakfast in Russia [boasted] that he has visited the country ‘for 52 years'”!

    Oh but wait, there’s plenty more where that came from (just not from RNS, is all):

    (2) “Rick Clay, an advocate for conservative Christian causes … said in the email entitled ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ that he … suggested a meeting between President Donald Trump and [the deputy head of Russia’s central bank, Alexander] Torshin, who both planned to attend the NRA event.”

    (3) “Johnny Yenason … who is also active in Christian causes, first met [Maria] Butina and [the deputy head of Russia’s central bank, Alexander] Torshin at the Russian National Prayer Breakfast in Moscow … He contacted Butina … with an offer for the pair to attend a fundraiser for veterans [knowing] Trump planned to attend the NRA event and [seizing the] opportunity to … discuss … Christian values and gun rights.”

    Source: Chuck Ross, “Activist Who Offered Russian ‘Backdoor Overture’ to Trump Team Says He Was ‘Used’ by Alleged Russian Spy”, The Daily Caller, July 17, 2018.

  • You too. I appreciate it.
    One question; Why do you think that the only reason why people have conservative values is because of propaganda? Haven’t these values existed for hundreds if not thousands of years?

  • I don’t think propaganda is the only way people acquire conservative values. The value of Free Trade Capitalism goes back to Adam Smith “The Wealth of Nations ” (1776). There have been many more convincing conservative books written since then. There have been many discussions and movements trying to present differing economic theories. Economic theory is difficult and the goals of economic theories differ. Most people accept almost blindly the theory of their friends or communities. The number of people following a conservative or liberal belief system has been changing up and down over time. What is needed is open minded dialog and discussion so that at least people understand what they support and why others have a different viewpoint.

    Conservative protestant religious values began with the Reformation and Martin Luther and John Calvin. Those values were brought to this country by the Pilgrims. Catholic values are much older.

    What happened at the beginning of the collusion was that support of religious values became a project of business and the economics of free capitalist enterprise was incorporated into the Evangelical religious dogma. This was instilled in their congregations by their Clergy. In recent times the Evangelical movement has grown tremendously. These people vote unknowingly for economic values that are detrimental to there own good and the advantage of poor and working class people.

  • So give me an example of capitalism being incorporated into evangelical dogma.
    I’m a Roman Catholic. I believe in free will, liberty and a free market. I would argue that a free market and capitalism improve the lives of many people.

  • What collusion exists on the left side of the aisle? Collusion between government and unions? Collusion between the school system and unions? Collusion between socialism and local government’s?

  • Sorry, but the photo of “Hanoi Jane” posing with a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun used to shoot down and kill American pilots says it all: TRAITOR!

  • We in America ALSO have a mixed economy. Why? Because THAT is what works , and it will continue to work. . . Unless we let the Republicans kill off free enterprise.

  • You avoided the issues presented altogether in an act of deflection. I guess the association with the infiltration of a foreign power to undermine national interests is a bit much to own up to. So you need to direct a conversation elsewhere. I find that is the case with allTrump supporters these days. They are too spineless to address the policies and people they support on their merits. BTW the last time you brought up the acts of “anarchists” was to cover up violence instigated by white supremacists.

  • Yeah, why should you care about our national interests bring undermined by a dictatorship? After all it means our government becomes more autocratic and discriminatory. Just they way you like it.

    Conservatives are really leaning into the entire treasonous betrayal of our nation for their own ends here.

  • Desiring harmonious and peaceful relations with Russia is an “entire treasonous betrayal of our nation”? You’re funny.

    The 1950s are calling. Senator McCarthy will see you now.

  • One wonders who the CIA has influencing Russian elections. Whoever they are they are failing miserably.

  • Read the news and get back to me. Read the article above. If you are not conversant with the basic facts here, you are incapable of an intelligent conversation on the subject. Confirmation trolling duly noted and ignored.

  • Yup. Especially given the cost of attacking our allies, signing off on aggressive war, autocracy and persecution and undermining our national interests and democratic system.

    I guess you shut your eyes and turned off the sound as our president practically declared himself a Russian agent in Helsinki.

    Your excuses are pathetic.

  • Its ubiquitious in the news. It is mentioned in the article You’re question was in bad faith and will continue to be so. You are asking for the obvious as a way to derail the discussion.

    Robert Mueller of the FBI is currently investigating various members of the Trump White House and associates on the issue. 5 convictions on such issues and counting. If you want specifics, start there. Its not my job to feed such obvious trollery.

  • “..attacking our allies..” Are you referring to the war-mongering NATO, which should have been disbanded years ago? Or the attempt to get its other members to get off their butts and start paying their fair share?

    “,,,aggressive war…” Yes, I am sick and tired of all our endless wars around the globe, decade after decade.

    “…autocracy..” Don’t see where we have signed off on that.

    “…persecution…” Ditto above.

    “… undermining our national interests and democratic system…our president practically declared himself a Russian agent in Helsinki”. Bwahaha! So when is your next House Un-American Activities Committee meeting? You’re becoming unhinged.

  • 1) Will you ever be able to defend Trump without the words “Obama,” “Hillary,” or “DNC”? In any event, it’s inaccurate to say they did nothing. Of course they should have done more. Bob’s article shows that the FBI was trying for months to warn an oblivious DNC.
    3) I am a child of the 1980s, so I’m well aware of the machinations of the KGB and CIA. The fact that it’s nothing new doesn’t make it okay.
    I’m not as liberal as you seem to think, but: We should have good relations with Russia. There is no reason to maintain a hostile posture. As a child of the 80s, I don’t want my children to have to worry about nuclear war the way I did. But our relations should be on a bilateral and open basis, not one where we have no idea on a day-to-day basis what our “leader”‘s position even is. And it should not involve the dismantling of the Western alliance, as that will only allow Russia to re-establish its hegemony over Eastern Europe, which in turn would cause only more strife.

  • I respond to the points accordingly. I find it interesting the selective recall of the liberals and the MSM who accuse trump of this or that; but ignored similar items with Obama. All I ask for is intellectual honesty.
    I like trump. I think he’s doing a decent job and has addressed piles of crap left to him by previous presidents.
    He is obviously not the standard politician- so he is going to step in it from time to time. At least the guy is doing something.
    Regarding Russia – Obama rolled when Putin invaded Ukraine and Crimea. Hillary mentioned a diplomatic reset. Obama did nothing when the Russians blew a passenger jet out of the sky or when their fighters harass our ships.
    Tell me what our Russia policy has been over the past 10 years.
    Two last items – the US is building up forces in Eastern Europe. We are building airbases and staging supplies. We are deploying and staging troops to Poland and the Scandinavian countries. We are preparing for a war with Russia right in front of the world eyes. What trump is saying to NATO is – the US military is decimated from 15 years of war in the Middle East and 10 years of obama military spending cuts – get off your asses and help defend yourselves.

  • Are you referring to the war-mongering NATO which should have been disbanded years ago?”

    I have yet to hear of a war which NATO started.

    “,,,aggressive war…” Yes, I am sick and tired of all our endless wars around the globe, decade after decade.

    And yet you are looking the other way when it is going on in front of world attention and referenced here.

    “…autocracy..” Don’t see where we have signed off on that.
    …persecution…” Ditto above.

    Because you are in denial. I mean you see no signs of it other than the repeated attacks on the free press, civil liberties, and children’s Gitmo on the border.
    https://warisboring.com/a-childrens-gitmo-on-the-border/

    “… undermining our national interests and democratic system…our president practically declared himself a Russian agent in Helsinki”. Bwahaha! So when is your next House Un-American Activities Committee meeting? You’re becoming unhinged.”

    You are not denying my statements or the impact of what was happening. Just making derisive nervous laughter and seeking strawman arguments/misdirection.

    At this point Trump supporters are so divorced from propriety, sanity and any connection to what “makes America Great”, that he could molest and murder a child in front of every news outlet and you would still respond with excuses and “But Obama…”

  • Biden is demonstrably not very bright, unless you went out and bought a shotgun on his advice, in which case your assessment of him is much higher than my own.

    “McConnell’s office disputed Biden’s account, as reported by Politico, ‘pointing to a letter signed by all four congressional leaders in September 2016 and sent to the president of the National Association of State Election Directors, urging cybersecurity precautions in light of reports of attempted hacking.’”

    McConnell’s version is correct.

    The then current administration attempted to put a fig leaf over its gross incompetence in cyber security and McConnell and the other Congressional Republicans refused to play along.

    However, they did pass along recommendations to the NASE in light of FBI and CIA/NSA evidence that the then current administration had failed to act on.

  • Not all Catholics accept the 1917 Fatima apparitions and messages ( one is “Russia will spread her errors throughout the world”) but it is likely that any Protestants/Evangelicals accept the Fatima apparitions and messages. Nor are Kruschev’s words in reference to the United States “we will bury you” seared into the national consciousness of all Americans or a world that thinks it can survive easily and comfortably without the United States. were there no longer a United States of America.

  • Our mixed economy is being rapidly privatized. The goal of the Republican Party is to remove entitlements to the lower classes. They also want to reduce the taxes to the rich. The want to remove most of the controls on business. They will destroy the remaining unions. They are replacing what’s left of the mix to create “free enterprise”. What is called “free enterprise” is no government control of the economy. It is the opposite of socialism but calls any government control socialism. The terms “free enterprise”and “mixed economy” are oxymorons. We had a mixed economy, which tended to work in the sense that it produced much less inequality, until the 1980’s.

  • McConnell’s version can be as correct as you’d like it to be, but it did not directly address Biden’s claims. In other words, he tacitly admitted them.

  • What’s our Russia policy *today*? Your Dear Leader appears to have changed his mind again. Maybe it’s senility, maybe it’s dangerous mental illness as exemplified by his off-the-handle response to Iran this weekend.
    No, Trump is not saying that to NATO. He is saying, as he said to Tucker Carlson, that he has no interest in our Article V obligations. That is basically an invite to Russia for mischief or worse upon its nearest NATO neighbors. Money does seem to be all that matters for Golden Showers though. No Trump Hotels in Podgorica or Vilnius, are there?

  • Biden’s claim was that the Republicans refused to provide a fig leaf for the Democrats for f-cking up on cybersecurity big time.

    Neither McConnell, nor I, dispute that.

  • I like that he keeps everyone guessing. That’s better than Obama apologizing to everyone.
    Europe needs to get off its butt and rebuild its military instead of funding its pension system.

  • The Russian dictator has also banned religious freedom in his country so that only Putin’s church is recognized!

    God doesn’t approve of any human rulers, their governments, and their rule…which is why God’s kingdom, or heavenly government (Matthew 4:17), will soon put an end to and replace all human governents (Daniel 2:44)!

    All the world’s rulers will actually do battle against Almighty God, or Armageddon (Revelation 16:14, 16), and God will prove victorious!

    The religious leaders you mentioned are definitely wrong in their assertion that God and Jesus would approve of Mr. Putin’s rule and/or actions! They are also not aware that all of man’s govrrnments, which they support, are doomed for destruction! They are definitely in for a surprise!! ???

  • She was protesting an illegal war and understood the legal risk to herself. There were more heroes against this war
    She was trying to stop the propaganda indoctrinated pilots from continuing to slaughter Vietnamese civilians and save there own fool lives fighting a useless war. There are times when opposing what this government is doing is a better choice than following. If not following blindly is not patriotic o.k.

  • So just to be clear, you want a coherent Russia policy but like that Trump keeps everyone guessing about it?

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