Trump Administration Draws Scrutiny After Revoking Putin Critic's Visa

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The Trump administration revoked travel privileges for one of the harshest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin causing an immediate response from Capitol Hill. British citizen Bill Browder, a crusader for the Magnitsky Act designed to punish Russian human rights abusers, found his travel to the United States blocked in recent days.

“The Department of Homeland Security should expedite an immediate review of the decision to revoke Mr. Browder’s visa,” Senators John McCain of Arizona and Ben Cardin of Maryland said in a statement on Monday.


The senators added it “would be unfortunate if the U.S. decided to bar [Bill Browder] based on a decision by those same Russian officials who have been targeted by this important legislation (the Magnitsky Act).”

The situation appears to be triggered by Russia’s decision to place Browder on the Interpol wanted list in pursuit of his arrest. The Department of Homeland Security notified Browder late last week that his status as a member of the Global Entry program was revoked. Administered by Customs and Border Protection, the status allows trusted travelers expedited entry into the country.

When Browder tried to book a flight to the United States, he discovered his privileges to enter the U.S. as a citizen of Great Britain were gone. Browder uses the Electronic System for Travel Authorization to gain entry into the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

“I discovered that my Global Entry status had been revoked,” Browder said. “We then checked into a flight to Newark and the airline wouldn’t let me check in, wouldn’t let me board because of the visa issue. At that point, I then contact my contacts in law enforcement and it was confirmed to me that Russia had added me using the Interpol diffusion system on the 17th of October.”

Browder is a British financier and a driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, The bipartisan law passed in 2012 to punish human rights abusers in Russia. Its name come from Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, jailed after discovering a tax fraud scheme who died under suspicious circumstances. Browder was one of Magnitsky’s clients.

Browder’s support for the law makes him an enemy of Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia has on four previous occasions petitioned to get Interpol to secure Browder’s arrest. The international police organization rejected all four prior requests, deeming them politically motivated. It is expected to do the same in this case as well.

Previously, Browder’s automatically revoked visa privileges, as a result of Russia’s actions, were resolved within hours by the United States government.

“I am hopeful that this is just a technical issue driven by Interpol and it will be resolved quickly,” Browder said Monday. He added he received little information from Homeland Security when he inquired about his Global Entry status.

“After waiting for an hour and a half, I got through to a representative who told me that they couldn’t disclose why my Global Entry had been revoked, and if I wanted to find out, I should file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request,” Browder said. “I only learned why when I went to my law enforcement contacts about Interpol.”

Browder discovered Russia's recent actions came just after Canada passed its own version of the Magnitsky Act last week. In a speech Thursday, Vladimir Putin accused Canada of playing “unconstructive political games” and derided Browder as a criminal.

Word that Browder’s visa had been revoked triggered immediate scrutiny among critics of the Trump administration and its ties to Russia.

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Weeks after a bungled testing kit rollout from President Donald Trump's CDC, governors in rural areas are still having trouble obtaining an adequate number of testing kits to properly determine just how quickly the virus is spreading throughout their communities.

According to a leaked phone call between Trump, National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and a group of rural state governors, the President once again expressed skepticism that governors were on the brink of a life-threatening shortage.

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Despite the strong possibility of spreading the virus that's caused a national health crisis in the United States, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. came under fire last week for ordering university faculty back to campus and for giving students the option to return as well.

Falwell is a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, and has previously echoed Trump's initial dismissals of the threat posed by the highly contagious virus. He even previously claimed that the virus was a biological weapon engineered by enemies of the United States.

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C-SPAN

If you think Fox News is the most loyal network to President Donald Trump, you likely haven't heard of One America News Network, or OAN.

The unabashedly pro-Trump network—largely considered a far-Right fringe outlet—has enjoyed expanded viewership over recent years thanks to glowing reviews from the President.

It's even been added to the prestigious White House press pool.

People were reminded of the network's bizarre Trump-era ascension during Monday's White House press briefing regarding the pandemic that—at the time of this writing—has resulted in over 3,000 deaths across the United States.

OAN's White House correspondent Chanel Rion compared the growing number of deaths from the pandemic to abortion procedures, asking Trump if abortions should be suspended all together.

The question flummoxed Trump himself.

Watch below.

Rion said:

"2,405 Americans have died from [the virus] in the last 60 days. Meanwhile, you have 2,369 children who are killed by their mothers through elective abortions each day. That's 16 and a half thousand children killed every week. Two states have suspended elective abortion to make more resources available...Should more states be doing the same?"

Even Trump seemed confused by the question, and notably didn't wade into the abortion aspect of the question:

"I think what we're doing, we're trying to, as a group ,governors—and that's Republicans and Democrats—we're just working together to solve this problem. What you're mentioning has been going on for a long time and it's a sad event, a lot of sad events in this country. But what we're doing now is working on the virus...and I think we're doing a great job—as good a job as you can possibly do."

People noticed that even Trump—either purposely or otherwise—didn't take the bait from one of his favorite networks.




Rion, who is Asian-American, previously made headlines when she asked Trump—who'd been criticized for describing the virus as "Chinese Virus"—if the phrase "Chinese food" was racist.

Her questions, while satiating viewers who prioritize "owning the libs" over potentially lifesaving information, have only confirmed the degradation of the press corps under the Trump era.




OAN's only redeemable quality? It doesn't claim to be "fair and balanced."


Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images // Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage

Even in the face of a global pandemic, President Donald Trump hasn't dispensed with his typical pettiness.

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JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images // Hernando County Sheriff

After weeks of dismissing the current pandemic as little more than a flu overblown by the media to undermine his presidency, President Donald Trump and his administration are finally beginning to acknowledge the severity of the threat posed by the virus that's upended daily life in the United States.

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne apparently hadn't gotten that memo.

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President Donald Trump held his pandemic press briefing in the Rose Garden on Sunday—but his mood was far from rosy.

One particularly heated exchange came when he took a question from PBS NewsHour's White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

Alcindor asked Trump about the the skepticism he expressed that New York—the epicenter of the health crisis facing the United States—was exaggerating the number of lifesaving ventilators it needs to help curb the virus.

Trump interrupted Alcindor, claiming he "didn't say" that, then proceeded to berate her for her so-called "threatening" question.

Watch below.

Alcindor asked:

"You've said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment governors are requesting, they don't actually need. You said New York might not need 30 thousand—"

Trump interrupted:

"I didn't say that. I didn't say that. Why don't you people...why don't you act in a little more positive? It's always trying to get me. Getcha, getcha. You know what, that's why nobody trusts the media anymore."

Though the President didn't reciprocate, Alcindor remained professional and repeated her question despite the President's attacks on her journalistic integrity in front of her colleagues.

What's more, Alcindor was right—and video proves it.

Alcindor referred to statements Trump made on far-right Fox News host Sean Hannity's show.

Watch below.

Trump said:

"I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they're going to be. I don't believe you need 40 thousand or 30 thousand ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, they'll have two ventilators and now all of a sudden they're saying, 'can we have 30 thousand ventilators?'"

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made clear that New York has yet to reach the height of the pandemic. The current number of ventilators is not enough to treat all of the infections to come, which could force doctors into rationing them and choosing not to treat patients with less optimistic prognoses.

Alcindor later pointed out that Trump did, in fact, express skepticism that New York was asking for ventilators they didn't need.

People called Trump out for responding to his own words with petty attacks.



They praised Alcindor for holding him accountable when so many others won't.




This was far from the first time Trump personally attacked Alcindor for doing her job.

Astonishingly, Trump denied his own words again in the same press conference when CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond asked Trump to elaborate on his Friday statements that governors aren't being "appreciative" enough of him and his administration.

If a President isn't beholden to congressional oversight, basic transparency, and even his own words, how can he be beholden to the American people?

For more stories of Trump's ineptitude from people who were there, check out A Very Stable Genius, available here.