Russia

Rachel Maddow didn't set out to write a book. But a nagging question led her there: Why did Russia interfere in America's 2016 presidential election, and why attack the United States in such a cunning way?

Updated at 4:04 p.m. ET

The National Rifle Association acted as a "foreign asset" for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new investigation unveiled Friday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Drawing on contemporaneous emails and private interviews, an 18-month probe by the Senate Finance Committee's Democratic staff found that the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin.

With five months before primary season begins, election officials around the country are busy buying new voting equipment.

Their main focus is security, after Russians tried to hack into U.S. election systems in 2016. Intelligence officials have warned that similar attacks are likely in 2020, from either Russia or others intent on disrupting U.S. elections.

The growing popularity of FaceApp — a photo filter app that delights smartphone users with its ability to transform the features of any face, like tacking on years of wrinkles — has prompted Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to call for a federal investigation into the Russia-based company over what he says are potential national security and privacy risks to millions of Americans.

Ana Maria Otero / AP

Earlier this year the U.S. all but cut off oil imports from Venezuela to put more pressure on the country’s authoritarian regime. Now another major importer looks like it’s turning its back on Venezuela.

Jose A. Iglesias / Miami Herald

When we talk about security in the Americas these days, Venezuela dominates the conversation. That was the case Wednesday at Florida International University – where the top U.S. military official here addressed the debate over U.S. intervention in the Venezuela crisis.

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Here’s the most surprising – and most amusing – development after last week’s failed attempt to stoke a military uprising in Venezuela.

According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. and Cuba may actually sit down to negotiate a solution to the disastrous and dictatorial rule of socialist Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Most of the news from Venezuela in recent days is not encouraging for the restoration of democracy there. Late last week President Nicolás Maduro's regime arrested Roberto Marrero, the top aide to opposition leader Juan Guaidó - whom the U.S. and 50 other countries recognize as Venezuela's legitimate president. Then on Sunday, Russia flew a military advisor and 100 troops into Venezuela to support Maduro.

WLRN's Luis Hernandez spoke with Americas correspondent Tim Padgett on Sundial about the latest developments.

Russia's Ministry of Justice is proposing a change to make some corrupt acts exempt from punishment, if the corruption is found to be unavoidable. The proposed rule says officials and public figures could be exempt if "objective circumstances" made it impossible for them to comply with corruption laws.

Corruption that is "due to force majeure is not an offense," the proposal states. But it does not go into detail about the circumstances under which conflicts of interest, bribery, fraud and other offenses might be decriminalized.

Updated at 8:45 p.m. ET

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is "close to being completed," Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said on Monday.

Whitaker said he has been fully briefed about Mueller's work and that he is looking forward to reviewing a final report.

"I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible," he said.

The acting attorney general's comments were a rare official indication of any kind from within the Justice Department about Mueller's work.

Ariana Cubillos / AP via Miami Herald

On Thursday Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will be sworn in after his unconstitutional re-election. Much of the world considers his socialist regime a dictatorship – and a disastrous one: Venezuela is suffering the worst economic collapse in the world right now.

But is it also a dangerous one? Lately the U.S. and much of Latin America are calling Venezuela an erratic security threat. It's escalating tensions with its neighbors – and last month welcomed Russian bomber planes into the country.

To understand what's going on with Venezuela, WLRN’s Tim Padgett spoke with Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami international studies professor and an expert on South American security issues.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says a new hypersonic missile system that he says can evade U.S. ballistic missile defenses will be deployed in 2019 as part of Russia's focus on advancing its military weaponry.

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET

A federal judge delayed sentencing former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his talks with Russia's ambassador.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he has significant outstanding questions about the case, including how the government's Russia investigation was impeded and the material impact of Flynn's lies on the special counsel's inquiry.

Updated at 3:22 p.m. ET

A Russian woman who schemed to build back-channel ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to conspiring to act as a clandestine foreign agent.

Maria Butina also sought to connect Moscow unofficially with other parts of the conservative establishment, including the National Rifle Association and the National Prayer Breakfast.

There have been so many big developments this week in the Russia story that it's tough to keep them all straight.

Here's what you need to know.

Cohen admits lying to Congress

What happened? Donald Trump's former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen admitted on Thursday that he and others working for Trump negotiated with important Russians over a possible Trump Tower in Moscow well into the presidential campaign in 2016.

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