Jul 15, 2018

Scoop: The time Putin actually enraged Trump

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Earlier this year in the thick of his election campaign, Vladimir Putin released a propaganda video promoting Russia's "invincible" new generation of nuclear weapons.

Why it matters: One scene in particular caught President Trump's attention, according to sources with direct knowledge. The motion graphic in Putin's video appeared to show missiles raining down on Florida — the home of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club.

  • At the time, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said on CNNthat "one of the stunning aspects" of the demonstration video was that the Russians "would actually use an absolutely recognizable part of the United States to show where the targeting was."
  • "Clearly he [Putin] wanted us to see that," Hayden said.

Trump stayed publicly silent. But privately, he raged. He told aides he understood this was Putin playing up to the crowds for his election but even so it was "over the line," said a source familiar with Trump's private comments.

Trump lashed out at the Russian president in a phone call, according to sources with direct knowledge. A source with knowledge of the president's conversations with Putin told me this direct criticism from Trump was unprecedented in their recollection. "Usually it's a bit of a love fest," in their phone calls, the source said.

  • The White House has never acknowledged this incident. When I gave the press shop full visibility of this reporting 24 hours before deadline, a National Security Council spokesperson eventually replied: "No comment."

Between the lines: Here's what I've pieced together, according to sources with knowledge of the incident, including one source who has reviewed the transcript of the Trump-Putin call but recalled it to me from their memory rather than written notes...

  • The call happened on Tuesday, March 20. You might remember this call; it was the one in which the Washington Post revealed that Trump had ignored his aides' advice printed on note cards — "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" — and went ahead and congratulated Putin on his election victory.
  • In the source's recollection, Trump told Putin he thought it was "outrageous" that he'd put out the nuclear weapons video.
  • Trump said, "I called up Theresa [May] and Angela [Merkel] and they agree with me," the source recalled.
  • "And the other day, I saw you say you need a new arms deal," Trump told Putin, in the source's recollection. "So I guess that was just election talk. I'm glad to hear you weren't serious about it."
  • Then Trump added: "I’ve already increased defense spending, modernized our nuclear weapons...We can do more, so if you want to do an arms race you’ll lose."

Go deeper

Pentagon watchdog sidelined by Trump resigns

Fine testiying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Glenn Fine, the Pentagon's principal deputy inspector general, submitted his resignation on Tuesday.

Why it matters: President Trump removed Fine as the Pentagon's acting inspector general in April 7 after a group of independent federal watchdogs selected him to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which was set up to oversee the rollout of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 5,547,523 — Total deaths: 348,040 — Total recoveries — 2,269,422Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 1,671,728 — Total deaths: 98,493 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. Trump administration: Mike Pence's press secretary returns to work.
  4. States: New York reports lowest number of new coronavirus deaths since March.
  5. Public health: The final data for remdesivir is in, and its benefits are rather limited.
  6. Space: How to virtually watch SpaceX's historic crewed launch.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

FBI to investigate death of black man after video shows officer kneeling on neck

A man protesting near the area where a Minneapolis Police Department officer allegedly killed George Floyd. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI will investigate the death of a black man for possible civil rights violations after video emerged of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the man's neck for several minutes, ignoring protests that he couldn't breathe, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

The big picture: The man, identified as George Floyd, was being arrested for alleged forgery and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to a police press conference Monday night. Police say he resisted arrest before suffering from “medical distress."