Trumpcare Is Coming to a House Vote. It Could Even Pass.
There has been one end game strategy with Trumpcare for a month: Eventually just put the bill on the floor, and dare members to side either with it or with Obamacare. This will be put to its test Friday, after a Thursday of collapsing negotiations and ongoing recriminations surrounding the American Health Care Act. Trump has said negotiations are over, and now he just wants a vote. Members will either be with the American Health Care Act, polling at about 17 percent popularity, or they will be with Obamacare.
It may… work?
House Republicans met for a 7 p.m. meeting Thursday night that lasted about 90 minutes. I was expecting an abject horror show of sullen faces and terse no-comment responses from members as they came out, but they were surprisingly optimistic about the votes falling in place on the floor.
“You don’t get everything you’d like,” Texas Rep. Joe Barton said afterwards. A member of the Freedom Caucus, Barton had been leaning no. Tonight he said that he’ll vote yes, because it’s the only choice.
The meeting served as a clearing of the air and a rallying call for unity. Members of both the moderate Tuesday Group and the conservative Freedom Caucus spoke up about the process and where they were coming from. Several members spoke about the effect of a speech by Rep. Brian Mast, a double amputee veteran, urging everyone to come together.
Speeches are fine. But there were also policy changes afoot, along with “assurances” being made in private.
Some final amendments were finalized before negotiations wrapped. Rep. Kevin Brady, a lead author of the bill as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said that another $15 billion would be added to the bill’s patient and state stability fund—on top of the $100 billion already there—so that states could address “mental health issues, maternity care, infant care, and substance abuse issues.”
Why more money for those specific benefits? Because the final bill will eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s ten essential health benefit requirements, including in these areas, beginning in 2018. (Republicans like to describe eliminating federal benefit guarantees as allowing “each state to determine its list of essential benefits,” in case you happen to see that particular gloss floating around.) The benefits that Brady listed are the ones most endangered by that repeal as insurers find them no longer worth offering.
Brady also said that the ACA’s Medicare surcharge on high earners (a TAX!) would be extended another six years to cover for the cost of the essential benefit repeal and allow the bill to be revenue neutral so that it can pass through reconciliation in the Senate. “We expect the CBO to score that more people will choose health care plans,” Brady said, “because they’ll be more affordable for them, so that will cost money.” You can read more about this dynamic on Slate. We will not see a CBO score on this latest batch of amendments, including the significant policy change regarding essential health benefits, before the Friday vote, though.
“The Freedom Caucus has improved the bill significantly,” Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, a Freedom Caucus member and holdout, said after the meeting.
The change in tune from Franks and Barton suggests that the Freedom Caucus may have just been holding out for this precise moment, when Trump called negotiations over, to declare victory. Not all of them will vote yes, but the most torn ones will. Nor will another $15 billion thrown at states turn around all moderate defectors. But can leaders eke out 216 votes, perhaps after a lengthy floor vote involving some indiscreet arm-twisting? Maybe!
“Each member is really going to have to search their conscience tonight and come back tomorrow afternoon and realize, it’s a vote to maintain Obamacare or it’s a vote to get rid of Obamacare,” New York Rep. Chris Collins, one of Trump’s most loyal Hill allies said. “Those who say they want to get rid of more of it, or that it’s Obamcare Lite? This is it. It becomes a binary choice tomorrow.”
And if it prevails, it will head to the Senate, where it may well be found in violation of multiple planks of the Byrd Rule, and where not many Senators like it.
Largest Canadian School System Will End Class Trips to U.S. Because of Travel Ban Uncertainty
This is what happens when you have laws that target people arbitrarily, rules that are administered unevenly and often treat people unfairly—people stop coming. Not terrorists, not criminals, normal people stop coming. School children. On Thursday, the Toronto District School Board announced it would no longer be scheduling school trips across its southern border into the U.S. because of the uncertainty around the rules for entry and the risk that a young school child might be turned away or detained. And, to be honest, that seems fair; it's hard to blame them.
The school district, Canada’s largest, which covers 584 schools and more than 284,000 children, sits just miles from the U.S. border and actively sent dozens of school groups to the U.S. each year, but no longer. "We just can't have trips going across the border and a student for no legitimate reason being denied entry to the U.S. We're obviously not going to leave that student and continue on," Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the board, told the Associated Press.
The 25 trips already on the books will proceed as planned, but if any of the students are refused entry at the border, the entire group will return home, according to the Toronto Star.
Trump Reportedly Wants an AHCA Vote Friday. Or Else.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he will hold a vote Thursday on the American Health Care Act, the Republican Party's Obamacare replacement plan. But whether the bill will pass is still an open question. Below: Running updates on the vote counting, negotiation, and desperate spinning currently going down in D.C.
Watch a Gorsuch Defender Say a Dead Victim of Gun Violence Would Support Gorsuch
At Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, experts and witnesses testified about Gorsuch, his past decisions, and his potential to shape the law. The most moving testimony came from Sandy Phillips, a self-described Republican gun owner whose 24-year-old daughter, Jessi, was killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. “My daughter went to a movie and was slaughtered,” Phillips said of the massacre, which took 12 lives and injured 70. She continued:
I use the word ‘slaughtered’ because the killer chose to use a weapon designed for the battlefield by the military as part of his arsenal and ambushed people that could not escape. He was able to purchase 4,000 rounds of green-tip .223 high velocity bullets over the internet without even showing his drivers’ license.
The night Jessi was murdered, I was texting with her. … The last thing she wrote to me was, “I can’t wait to see you. I need my mama.” I wrote back, “I need my baby girl.” Minutes after that text, my phone rang. What I heard on the other end of the phone changed our lives forever. …
Our little girl had been hit six times with the .223s that sprayed the theater in mere seconds. One bullet tore through her leg and entered into the other leg making it impossible to escape. Three more ripped through her abdomen. One hit her clavicle and shattered it. And one exploded through her left eye leaving a five-inch hole that blew her brains onto the theater seats, floor, and people. I live with that image every day of my life.
GSA Gives Trump the A-OK to Benefit But Not Benefit From His D.C. Hotel
The federal agency that oversees Donald Trump’s lease for his luxury hotel in Washington, D.C., decided Thursday that his serving as president doesn’t violate the terms of the agreement that bars government officials from making money off the property.
In a letter sent Thursday, a General Service Administration official informed the Trump Organization that everything is a-OK as far as the agency is concerned. “I have determined that Tenant is in full compliance with Section 37.19 and, accordingly, the Lease is valid and in full force and effect,” wrote the GSA contracting officer.
The aforementioned section of the lease reads:
No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.
Given Trump has refused to divest himself of his financial interest in the hotel—as well as the rest of his business empire—many experts read that clause as a deal-breaker. Trump clearly became an elected federal official when he was sworn in as president. Others, meanwhile, argued that the future-looking phrase “shall be admitted” might give Trump the wiggle room he was looking for, since he had already been admitted prior to becoming president. But ultimately the GSA—whose director, by the way, was recently appointed by Trump himself—focused its reasoning on the “any benefit” portion of the clause.
The GSA’s rationale is a bit complicated, in no small part because of the Russian nesting doll of LLCs, holding companies, and financial trusts used by the Trump family to do business. But the short version is that Trump appears to have put the agency’s mind at ease by restructuring things in a way so his share of any hotel profits won’t be paid out to him while he’s in office, and will instead remain with the Delaware-based LLC the Trump Organization created for the property. “In other words,” the letter from the GSA explains, “during his term in office, the President will not receive any distributions from the Trust that would have been generated from the hotel.”
That conclusion requires both a narrow reading of the clause in question and a strict reading of the organizational structure of the Trump Organization. Donald J. Trump, after all, clearly still benefits—financially and otherwise—from the success of his D.C. hotel regardless of whether he actually cashes checks from the company while in office. Still, the GSA decision removes the most obvious challenge to the president’s continued ownership of the D.C. hotel. Democrats very well continue to make some noise about the lease in Congress, but there isn’t much they can do as long as they remain in the minority.
Trump and his hotel, however, aren’t in the clear yet. The hotel is still the subject of a pair of legal challenges, the first from an ethics watchdog that claims Trump is violating the U.S Constitution by accepting money from foreign government officials who stay at the hotel, and a second from a D.C. restaurant that is arguing that Trump’s ongoing ownership of the hotel—along with its in-house dining options—puts them at an unfair business disadvantage in D.C. Unless a court acts, though, Donald J. Trump will remain both landlord and tenant at the federally owned Old Post Office building a few blocks from the White House.
Today in Conservative Media: Maybe Obama Spied on Trump After All
A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.
On Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes publicly declared that he had seen evidence of incidental intelligence gathering that included members of the Trump transition team. While National Review proposed that these revelations left us with the same unanswered questions we’d had before, other conservative media outlets suggested there might be something to the story.
Bill O’Reilly—who had previously described president Donald Trump’s wiretapping accusations as “insanity”—said on his show, “For weeks, the Trump haters have been killing …the president for saying, Hey, President Obama tapped me. And it seems like now maybe it’s not that cut-and-dry, but there was certainly bad stuff going on.” In conversation with Rep. Peter King, O’Reilly went on to ask whether it was accurate to say that the “Obama administration surveilled the Trump transition team,” a possibility that King characterized as “at least 99 and a half percent accurate, and perhaps 100 percent.”
Other outlets took an even more definitive approach. Gateway Pundit, for example, promoted the Nunes story under the headline, “BOOM=> House Intel Chair: We Cannot Rule Out That Sr. Obama Officials Were Involved in Trump Surveillance.” Fox News pointed to a more specific allegation—the idea that the intelligence had been improperly disseminated:
While the intelligence appeared to have been legally collected and, Nunes said, based on a FISA warrant, Trump appeared particularly upset that members of his team had been identified in the intelligence reports—something which is rarely supposed to happen.
The Federalist expanded on this approach in “Democrats Shouldn’t Dismiss Nunes’s Spying Claims So Quickly.” Arguing that similar issues had long troubled civil libertarians on the left, the publication wrote, “Intelligence agencies cannot share details about American citizens with no foreign intelligence value. If Nunes is right, how were these procedures not broken?”
Though Nunes himself called the material “legally collected foreign intelligence,” Breitbart proposed that it actually “raises important concerns about the possible abuse of government surveillance powers,” and suggested that the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, should have said as much. “Schiff is abusing his position in an attempt to bring down the president,” Breitbart wrote. In a separate article, the publication attempted to identify, “Four Major Holes in Rep. Adam Schiff’s Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theory.”
In other news:
Conservative commentators continued to fulminate over an alleged rape in a Rockville, Maryland high school. Drawing on coverage from the Washington Post, the Daily Caller explained how the suspects had come to the United States, writing that they were “part of a deluge of unaccompanied minors who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border” in 2016. LifeZette, meanwhile, expressed outrage at the mainstream media’s lack of coverage, writing:
Even though a local Fox News reporter raised the story during Tuesday’s White House press briefing, three major news networks ignored the rape of a 14-year-old teenager in Maryland by at least one illegal immigrant, according to a Wednesday report from the Media Research Center.
Though Rockville, Maryland, where the alleged rape took place, is not an official sanctuary jurisdiction, some outlets also continued to use the opportunity to attack the idea of sanctuary cities. On Fox News, for example, commentator Todd Starnes declared, “I believe the elected leaders of sanctuary communities should also pay a price. You harbor an illegal alien and he commits a crime then you go to jail too.”
On Facebook, an Islamophobic post was shared widely. There is no evidence that the individuals shown in the linked video are Muslims:
News of AHCA Vote Delay Breaks as Trump Pretends to Drive Semitruck in White House Driveway
The House will not vote on the American Health Care Act on Thursday as planned, Republican leaders have decided. The Republicans' Obamacare replacement bill, depending on whose tally you're using, is still somewhere between four and 15 votes short of being able to pass. (It's not expected to get any Democratic votes.)
Donald Trump met Thursday with the hard-line Freedom Caucus but was apparently not able to persuade enough of its members to get on board—or offer them enough concessions on issues like "essential benefits" and spending—to salvage the bill in anything like its current state.
At the time that the vote was being scuttled—I am not making this up—Trump was playing around and pretending to drive a semitruck in the White House driveway.
As health care vote gets scrapped for tonight, here's Trump in a big rig on the White House driveway honking the horn & pretending to drive pic.twitter.com/vTkNnJkrrc— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) March 23, 2017
He also appears to have told the trucking executives he was meeting with, even after news of the vote delay had been reported, that it was still taking place:
.@POTUS minutes! ago:— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) March 23, 2017
"Today, the House is voting to repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare."
"The president's engagement [in the legislative process] is unparalleled in the history of our country," Freedom Caucus leader and North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said at the Capitol moments ago. And given a certain definition of "unparalleled," he's not wrong.
Are the Democrats Smart to Filibuster Neil Gorsuch? A Slate Debate.
News that the Democrats will filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination prompted a lively debate among Slate staffers on our office chat system, Slack. Here is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation:
Ben Mathis-Lilley: Attaboy Chucko. [two splashpunch emoji from supportive colleagues]
Jim Newell: Filibustering Gorsuch is Bad. McConnell will pay no price for killing the filibuster on Gorsuch. Then there will be no filibuster for when RBG, who should have stepped down in 2013, dies. Making a deal is smart, whether or not McConnell keeps to his word. The consequences for him breaking it over an RBG replacement are much bigger than the consequences for him breaking it over Gorsuch.
Mathis-Lilley: Wow, the rare occasion that I disagree with Jim and am actually not secretly sure that I'm wrong.
Newell: Why do you disagree?
Mathis-Lilley: I just don't find it plausible that he'll ever pay a price for killing the filibuster no matter what. [plus one emoji] And I think it makes sense now to obstruct because of Garland.
Newell: What end goal do you hope to attain by having him break it over Gorsuch?
Mathis-Lilley: Nothing clever, just the proverbial statement that killing Garland was bullshit. [plus-one emoji]
Newell: Also, it's not "him" breaking it. It's Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins and all the other senators. They have no problem doing it over Gorsuch. They might later.
Mathis-Lilley: I guess I'm surprised that you think the Repubs would not get in line to jam through someone to give them a guaranteed 20 year SCOTUS majority.
Newell: That is 100 percent what's going to happen if they do this now. It is maybe 80 percent what will happen if they try it later.
Dahlia Lithwick: 30 year SCOTUS majority.
Mathis-Lilley: Hmm. I'm surprised at 80 percent. I would say 105-130 percent.
Jeremy Stahl: Agree with Jim.
Newell: I think it's short-sighted to let Mitch McConnell take away your only shield against a 6-3 majority. Over Scalia's replacement.
Osita Nwanevu: I don't think voters care about Senate norms at all. This is less about consequences for the GOP for breaking the filibuster, imo, than about an opportunity for the Dems to rally the base and convince voters substantively right now that more conservatives/Republicans on the Court is bad. Also, there are potential long term, game-theoretical benefits to Dems being rabidly oppositional here and elsewhere that are best explained here.
Mathis-Lilley: I am really surprised you think there is even a shred of possibility that the GOP would not kill the filibuster in .00001 seconds to replace RBG with some Federalist stooge. [two point_up emoji from supportive colleagues] And yeah, I was going to say I also don't find it implausible that Democrats gain some future negotiating strength by showing that they are actually willing to do stuff like this and the gun filibuster that forces the GOP's hand.
Michelle Goldberg: If Dems had made a deal premised on Mitch McConnell’s good faith, the base would have gone ballistic.
Newell: Then throw a fit then! There will be a much bigger public outcry if RBG is replaced with Ted Cruz.
Mathis-Lilley: I dunno, I think it's pretty much worth an outcry that the Republicans held Obama's entirely legitimate nominee for a whole year. Don't normalize that, Jim.
Newell: I don't think you should make bad decisions to play to the base. Also, I GUARANTEE you, not one Democrat will lose votes because they let Neil Gorsuch be on the court. People will have forgotten all about it by Nov. 2018.
Mathis-Lilley: Hmm, entering agree to disagree territory. I think after the last election the idea of utterly letting down your currently very activated voters is actually Bad. [plus-one emoji]
Newell: If there was a play where you could stop Gorsuch, then letting him through would be letting your voters down. But there's not. Gorsuch gets on the court either way, but this satisfies some itch at the expense of the next pick.
Stahl: Also: Is the base going to punish Democrats at the expense of fighting Trump in 2018 just because?
Mathis-Lilley: Yeah I guess I just see "legitimate protest against appalling violation of decency" where you see "Chapo Trap House fan service." It's not about punishing it's about motivation.
Stahl: So, the base is going to be demotivated over Gorsuch with a good chance Trump may have committed some light treason going uninvestigated? And him doing every other bad thing under the sun. But…. Gorsuch? Remember Gorsuch? Who?
Mathis-Lilley: "Go ahead and shoot yourself in the little toe, you don't really need it" —Jeremy. I think we will remember the conservative justice on the Supreme Court in 2018 and 2020!
Stahl: Fine. That was hyperbolic.
Newell: I think people are going to vote based on Trump being awful and the awful bills they pass.
Stahl: But I think the war with North Korea might distract the base from being upset about Democrats allowing themselves to get rolled on Gorsuch when there was no outcome where they were not going to get rolled on Gorsuch.
Newell: I had so many dumb down-ballot Democratic campaign aides tell me this time last year that they were going to get SO much turnout because of how Garland was being held up. That didn't work out so well. [two point_up emoji]
Josh Keating: Basing the Gorsuch pushback on the premise that he's an unacceptable extremist, which is what Schumer's statement suggests, seems much less logical to me than on the principle that they stole the seat from Garland. But I've also heard that the former approach polls much better. So I dunno.
Mathis-Lilley: Ha, I mean I'm not under the impression that there will be 3 million person MERRICK GARLAND NEVER FORGET rallies in October 2020. But I think it's part of a gestalt of opposition. Classic gestalt move. Also the president is under FBI investigation
Lithwick: One thought on this: If Dems were gonna filibuster they should have stayed away from three day hearing on the merits. Epic error to make this about Garland in retrospect.
Amanda Katz: How does the filibuster survive the current situation anyway? I'm assuming filibuster is probably toast and so you might as well do it now when you have this rank indignity of Dems having to vote for a GOP nom when GOP rejects any need to even hold hearings for a Dem nom. *Plus* dude under FBI investigation.
Stahl: If Dems acquiesce then the filibuster is still around the next time.
Keating: But everyone seems to concede that while conservative, he's the kind of judge any GOP prez would pick. So why isn't the Garland argument more valid than trying to Bork him? Unless I'm wrong about that, which is very possible. I only read about Ukraine.
Lithwick: "I am filibustering now because I couldn't do it last time when I was REALLY MAD about Garland but it was only Scalia's seat." #winning.
Katz: Yeah. I just think if you let them have this one you're saying "we love being run over with trucks, please do it some more," and voters don't find that sexy. And again, I assume the filibuster doesn't survive this level of standoff.
Mathis-Lilley: Yeah I definitely am anti-Borking.
Keating: Is there also an argument that Obama should have picked someone who excited the base more and COULD become more of a Dem rallying cry? Rather than just assuming we'd be appalled that the GOP wants this bland white guy instead of the other bland white guy?
Mathis-Lilley: Yeah I remember that argument. It's part of the classic "Obama negotiated against himself too much" genre.
Newell: I really wouldn't assume the filibuster dead, especially given how valuable it is. I don't think there's the thirst in the Senate for getting rid of it just for shits and giggles.
Stahl: On SCOTUS, filibuster dies now with a whimper or it is killed in a really uglier way next time.
Newell: (I bet Gorsuch gets like 62 votes anyway so none of this will matter.)
Chuck Schumer Says He Will Filibuster Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his intention to use every weapon at his disposal to oppose the appointment of Neil Gorsuch. “After careful deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “His nomination will have a cloture vote. He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation.” From the Washington Post:
Republicans have vowed to change Senate procedures if Democrats do so to quickly confirm Gorsuch—but Schumer suggested they should focus instead on Trump’s nominee.
“If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes—a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees, and George Bush’s last two nominees—the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee,” he said. Schumer’s vow to help block Gorsuch with a filibuster did not include calls for the rest of his chamber to join him in opposition—a sign that he is leaving political space for more moderate Democrats, especially those facing reelection next year, to potentially side with Republicans under political pressure sparked by a multimillion-dollar ad campaign bankrolled by conservative groups in hopes of securing Gorsuch a filibuster-proof vote tally.
The Post adds that “[s]enior Republicans have vowed that Gorsuch will be confirmed no matter what—a veiled threat to Democrats that they will upend Senate tradition and change the chamber’s rules so that a Supreme Court nominee can be confirmed on a simple majority vote.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indeed signaled a willingness to invoke the nuclear option and kill the filibuster to get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. “Gorsuch will be confirmed,” he said on Wednesday. “I just can't tell you exactly how that will happen, yet." However, the Post reported Thursday that McConnell is said to privately oppose a change to Senate rules.
Ukrainian President Calls Murder of Putin Critic “State Terrorism”
A former member of the Russian parliament who had fled the county and become a sharp critic of both Vladimir Putin’s government and Putin’s allies in Ukraine was shot dead in Kiev on Thursday. Denis Voronenkov had been testifying in a treason case against Ukraine’s deposed Russian-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych.* The current Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, responded to Voronenkov’s murder by accusing Russia of “state terrorism.”
Voronenkov, who was elected to Russia’s state Duma as a member of the Communist Party, wasn’t considered much of an opposition figure until recently. His wife, opera singer Maria Maksakova, was an MP for Putin’s United Russia Party.
Voronenkov and Maksakov fled Russia last year and renounced his Russian citizenship amid reports that authorities were preparing corruption charges against him. Voronenkov was getting attacked from all sides: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had also accused him of embezzlement. Voronenkov settled in Ukraine, where he was granted citizenship by a government that the Kremlin calls a Western-backed junta. In his new home, he became an outspoken critic of Putin’s government, comparing the Russian political system to the Nazis in an interview last month with Anna Nemtsova of the Daily Beast.
As Nemtsova reported, many Ukrainians were suspicious of Voronenkov’s motives, viewing him as an opportunist or even a potential double agent. He had, for instance, voted in favor of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 before condemning it as illegal after he fled. But Ukrainian authorities welcomed his help and what they described as his “very important” testimony in an ongoing treason case against Yanukovych, the president who fled to Russia in 2014 following mass protests. Those protests were provoked by his decision to cancel an association agreement with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.
There is, of course, heightened interest in Yanukovych in the United States right now, prompted by the ongoing investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. The former Ukrainian head of state was a client of Paul Manafort’s, Trump’s former campaign manager. Ukrainian investigators say Manafort received millions of dollars in off-the-books payments from Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party. Voronenkov had told the Daily Beast that he didn’t know anything about Manafort.
Becoming a whistleblower is never a safe proposition for former Russian officials. Voronenkov’s murder was preceded by the killings of, among others, ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned in Britain in 2006, and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, shot dead in Moscow in in 2015.
This week, a lawyer for the family of Sergei Magnitsky—the attorney who died in prison in 2009 after alleging corruption by Russian officials, prompting U.S. sanctions—was injured after falling from a fourth-floor window near Moscow. Local media said he fell when a rope snapped while he was trying to lift a bathtub into the apartment, but an associate said he was “thrown.”
In interviews during his campaign and since his election, Trump has on several occasions brushed aside allegations that the Russian government kills its critics, saying that Putin is a “strong leader” and asking, “You think our country is so innocent?”
Voronenkov had been well aware of threats to his safety. In an excerpt from an interview with the Washington Post’s Andrew Roth earlier this week, posted by Roth on Twitter on Thursday, he said, “for our personal safety, we can’t let them know where we are. It’s a totally amoral system and in its anger, it may go to extreme measures.”
*Correction, March 23, 2017: This post originally misidentified Viktor Yanukovych as Vladimir Yanukovych.