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Monday, Mar 27th

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Jon Huntsman, Trump’s pick for Russia ambassador, is a baffling choice

Jon HuntsmanFormer Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has been tapped to be President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Russia. And that is very, very strange.

Huntsman isn’t a Russia expert, or anything close. President Barack Obama appointed Huntsman, a Republican, to serve as ambassador to China in his first term because Huntsman speaks Mandarin and had lived in Taiwan. But he doesn’t speak Russian and he’s never spent any time living in Russia. He’s never held a position where he had to deal with Russian officials regularly or really ever had much to say about the US-Russia relationship at all.

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Authorities looked into Manafort protégé

Manafort protege being investigatedU.S. and Ukrainian authorities have expressed interest in the activities of a Kiev-based operative with suspected ties to Russian intelligence who consulted regularly with Paul Manafort last year while Manafort was running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, came under scrutiny from officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department partly because of at least two trips he took to the U.S. during the presidential campaign, according to three international political operatives familiar with the agencies’ interest in Kilimnik.

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NSC staff allowed back into the Oval Office for Trump's foreign calls

McCallisterNational security adviser H.R. McMaster has invited top National Security Council staff back into the Oval Office for calls between President Donald Trump and foreign leaders, reversing a decision by his predecessor Michael Flynn to exile senior directors to the Situation Room during state calls.

For the first time since Trump took office, senior directors and country directors were present on Monday and Tuesday in the Oval alongside deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland for calls with leaders from Israel, Japan, South Korea and Kenya.

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Jeff Sessions Likely Met Russian Ambassador A Third Time

Jeff SessionsThe Center for the National Interest, the conservative foreign policy organization that hosted Trump’s speech at the Mayflower, invited Kislyak to the reception. An April 2016 story in Politico noted that Sessions also attended the event and was in the Senate Room of the Mayflower, along with “ambassadors.”

On Wednesday, the center issued a statement that acknowledged that Kislyak and Sessions both attended the reception but added that it was “not aware of any conversation” between the two.

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Top Trump Ally Met With Putin’s Deputy in Moscow

NRA met with Moscow before electionIn March 2014, the U.S. government sanctioned Dmitry Rogozin—a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia’s defense industry and longtime opponent of American power—in retaliation for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump’s most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him.

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White House official terrorizes network green rooms

Boris Epshteyn terrorizes green roomsWhite House official Boris Epshteyn, a combative Trump loyalist tasked with plugging the president’s message on television, threatened earlier this year to pull all West Wing officials from appearing on Fox News after a tense appearance on anchor Bill Hemmer’s show.

Epshteyn, according to multiple sources familiar with the exchange, got in a yelling match with a Fox News booker after Hemmer pressed him for details of President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order cracking down on immigration from Muslim-majority countries — a topic he was not expecting to be grilled on.

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Trump campaign approved adviser's trip to Moscow

Carter PageDonald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski approved foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s now-infamous trip to Moscow last summer on the condition that he would not be an official representative of the campaign, according to a former campaign adviser.

A few weeks before he traveled to Moscow to give a July 7 speech, Page asked J.D. Gordon, his supervisor on the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, for permission to make the trip, and Gordon strongly advised against it, Gordon, a retired naval officer, told POLITICO.

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