Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently striking back at the U.S. with his own sanctions against American officials — and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin is not exactly quivering in fear.
Hours after the Obama administration unveiled sanctions to punish a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials, The Daily Beast reported that Putin is crafting his own financial hit list targeting Obama administration officials and U.S. senators. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, is said to be at the top of Putin’s sanctions list, which could be unveiled as early as Tuesday.
“My Lithuanian-born mother would be proud her son made Vladimir Putin’s American enemies list,” Durbin, who just returned from a trip to Ukraine, told National Journal.
The Obama administration levied sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials for their roles in a referendum on Sunday in which Crimea overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The U.S. and other Western countries denounced the Crimea referendum as a violation of international law and Ukraine’s constitution. Russian forces continue to occupy the region.
Durbin had his own choice words for Putin. “Vladimir Putin is certainly acting like the Soviets of the past. He believes every surrounding country is his to claim,” Durbin said in an interview. “What he’s done to the Republic of Georgia during the Bush administration, what he’s done to Ukraine during this administration, has indicated his appetite for other countries is undiminished.”
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."