Russia

For more than nine months, Twitter and Facebook have tried to dodge the intense public scrutiny involved with the investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election.

Now they're in the spotlight.

Congressional investigators are digging in on Russia's use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to try to influence the 2016 campaign.

Facebook's concession that it sold $100,000 in ads to Russian-linked accounts last year may be "just the tip of the iceberg" of how social networks were used to interfere in the election, warned the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who is leading the Senate's investigation into Russia's election attack, said Thursday he has long believed that Moscow used overt social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to intervene in the 2016 election, as well as other covert tools such as cyberattacks.

Updated at 5:55 p.m. ET

Donald Trump Jr. told congressional investigators on Thursday that his June 2016 meeting with a Russian contingent after an offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton provided no useful information and was ultimately a waste of time.

In fact after it was over, Trump Jr. said, "I gave it no further thought."

The meeting, which took place at Trump Tower in New York City, has emerged as an important point of the investigations into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia's interference in last year's election.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has differed with President Trump over a number of significant foreign policy issues — North Korea, Iran and Qatar, to name a few. But when Tillerson distanced himself from the president on the question of American values — telling Fox News Sunday that the president "speaks for himself" by blaming "both sides" for violence that took place during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. — questions grew over whether he would soon be out of office.

Senate investigators met this week with the co-founder of the political research firm behind the explosive dossier of unsubstantiated and salacious material about President Trump's alleged ties with Russia.

Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who later helped found the private investigation firm Fusion GPS, sat down with Senate Judiciary Committee staff behind closed doors on Tuesday, congressional aides told NPR.

The U.S. State Department says it will temporarily stop issuing nonimmigrant visas to Russians in response to Moscow's decision to force the U.S. to slash its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia.

The American Embassy in Moscow and consulates elsewhere in Russia are cancelling interviews for visa requests and suspending all nonimmigrant visa operations until Sept. 1, NPR's Michele Kelemen reports. After that date, the issuance of nonimmigrant visas will resume at the embassy in Moscow, but not at the other consulates, Michele says.

A lot of people are counting on special counsel Robert Mueller.

Most U.S. presidents pursue a two-track policy with Russia: confrontation on some fronts, cooperation on others.

President John F. Kennedy waged a showdown with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 — and signed a nuclear test ban treaty with Moscow the following year.

Ronald Reagan famously called the Soviets "the evil empire" — and reached a major arms control deal with them.

Barack Obama got Russia to join a sanctions campaign against Iran — and also imposed sanctions against Moscow.

On a steamy August afternoon in McLean, Va., not far from CIA headquarters, Daniel Hoffman sits on a coffee shop terrace and reminisces about summer afternoons spent in a different place.

"There's a tennis court, and a little dacha with a sauna," says Hoffman. "And then a big dacha where families could go and get out of the city in the summer and relax."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has penned a scathing Facebook post in response to new U.S. sanctions, decrying what he described as the Trump administration's "total weakness" and saying that the package "ends hopes for improving our relations with the new administration."

Whatever Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped to accomplish with his attack on the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump, he did not get a honeymoon.

Vice President Mike Pence is set to return Wednesday from a trip to the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, where he traveled from north to south reassuring leaders that they can look over their frontiers knowing that Washington is at their back.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia is expelling 755 U.S. diplomats and technical personnel in retaliation against new U.S. sanctions proposed against Moscow.

On Friday, Russia's Foreign Ministry had signaled that the U.S. would need to downsize its staff to 455, to exactly match the number of Russian diplomatic and technical staff in the U.S. Now, Putin has announced the exact number of staff he's ordered the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to cut.

Updated 9:40 p.m. ET

Stung by new American sanctions, Russia's Foreign Ministry says the U.S. must downsize its diplomatic and technical staff in Moscow and other cities. The ministry is also suspending the U.S. Embassy's use of two sites — a storage facility and a dacha on an island in the Moscow River.

President Trump said Friday night he would sign the sanctions legislation because Congress was responsive to his input on the bill.

In most conservative media, the Russia story is still fake news even as daily revelations continue to pile up about contacts between Russians and Donald Trump's inner circle.

The tone taken by conservative outlets has had an impact on voters such as the Bauchles from Watkins Glen, N.Y. They believe the whole Russia story is a sham, a political head-fake crafted by Democrats and by the crooked media.

"I don't think there's any basis to it," said Dennis Bauchle, a farmer, during an interview this week.

President Trump is now faced with a decision on whether to sign into law new sanctions meant to punish Russia for interfering in last year's presidential election, after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure Thursday.

The bill, the first major foreign policy legislation to emerge from Congress since the president took office, also includes sanctions on North Korea and Iran. It easily passed the Senate in a 98-2 vote after sailing through the House by a similarly veto-proof 419-3 margin.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

Today on “Political Rewind,” the Senate fumbles on health care, but President Trump tries to recover. Will a lunchtime meeting put a bill back in play? Our panel looks at the latest iteration of the attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare and what it means for those of us who rely on medical insurance. Our panel voted to draft Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, already lauded for his bipartisanship by the New York Times, to lead the way forward.

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

President Trump said he would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House "at the right time" when asked by a reporter on Air Force One Wednesday night.

"I don't think this is the right time, but the answer is yes I would," he said, according to a pool report released on Thursday. "Look, it's very easy for me to say absolutely, I won't. That's the easy thing for me to do, but that's the stupid thing to do."

Updated at 12:36 p.m. ET, July 11

Donald Trump Jr. was informed ahead of a June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer that material damaging to Hillary Clinton that he was offered was "part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's candidacy," the New York Times reported Monday evening.

Spare a thought for the poor U.S.-Russia Joint Impenetrable Cybersecurity Unit, which didn't even survive an entire news cycle this weekend.

President Trump pitched the joint cyber-team with Russia in a tweet on Sunday.

He went on to rule out the idea in a second tweet on Sunday evening.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To hear President Trump tell it, there's still a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Police used water cannons and pepper spray to try to push back protesters who threw bottles, bricks and stones on Thursday ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, according to The Associated Press.

Some demonstrators wearing black hoods broke a police vehicle's window.

When Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin on Friday, the whole world will be looking for clues as to where the fraught U.S.-Russian relationship goes next.

After months of speculation on the location and format of their first meeting, the two presidents will finally sit down together during a yearly gathering of Group of 20 leaders in Hamburg, Germany.

President Trump reaffirmed America's commitment to a core NATO defense policy and discussed Russia's meddling in the U.S. election Thursday, in remarks to reporters and in an address delivered during a brief visit to Poland.

Appearing next to Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump accused Russia of "destabilizing behavior," delivering a rare criticism of the country. Trump has repeatedly said he wanted to improve relations between Russia and the U.S.

A majority of Americans believe President Trump has done something either illegal or unethical when it comes to Russia, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

President Trump arrives in Poland on Wednesday afternoon. Over the next few days, he'll be attending a Group of 20 summit and meeting with a wide array of world leaders.

It's likely none of those meetings will be more closely scrutinized than Trump's first face-to-face sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has often said he would like to see closer ties between the U.S. and Russia. But that has been complicated by Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The Breakrooms returns to discuss the new Transformers movie, covfefe, and Russian jets. Our guests are Soumaya Khalifa, Kalena Boller, Amber Scott, and Steve Brown. 

A firm headed by Paul Manafort, who served as President Trump's campaign manager last year, made more than $17 million in two years working for the pro-Russia political party that controlled Ukraine's government, according to documents filed late Tuesday.

Manafort, who resigned from Trump's campaign last August after his work for Ukrainian interests came under scrutiny, has registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department, as did his deputy, Rick Gates.

The White House announced Monday night that it sees signs that the Syrian government is preparing to launch another chemical weapons attack in its war against insurgents. The White House press office released this statement:

"The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.

The Russian Defense Ministry says it may have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a late May airstrike on an ISIS meeting in Raqqa, Syria. But the development has not been confirmed, Russian officials said Friday. In recent years, previous reports of Baghdadi's death have proved inaccurate.

"So far, I have no 100 percent confirmation of this information," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, according to state-run Tass media, hours after defense officials posted a notice about the May 28 attack.

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