Russia

Sanctions on Russia were to be "ripped up" early in the Trump administration, then-national security adviser Mike Flynn said on Inauguration Day, according to new information released Wednesday.

The new details suggest that President Trump and his aides not only were amenable to new negotiations with Russia about its bilateral relationship with the U.S — despite its attack on the 2016 presidential election — but had concluded by the time they took office that they would definitely void existing sanctions.

Russia hosted the last Winter Olympics, in 2014. But the country is banned from being represented at the 2018 Games that start in February, after the International Olympic Committee said it found a widespread culture of Russian cheating through performance-enhancing drugs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term in office — which would keep him in the Kremlin through 2024, if he wins another six-year term as expected. Putin faces no serious threats in his re-election bid.

Updated 12/2, 11:47 a.m. ET

President Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition, and he is cooperating with the special counsel's investigation into Moscow's interference in last year's election.

Flynn told investigators that he was instructed to engage with the Russians by senior members of the Trump transition team.

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Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Finding proof of how Russia was involved in the US presidential election is the Holy Grail for many journalists today.

But for foreign correspondents based in Moscow, chasing the story is often an exercise in futility. 

The Federal Election Commission is moving to improve disclosure of the money behind Internet and digital ads, as the shadow of Russian-funded social media ads in last year's presidential race hangs over the agency.

"We can't, obviously, take over the role of the Justice Department or of Congress," Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub told other commissioners Thursday, "but I do think that we could do this little piece."

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has entered the West Wing.

Mueller's team is charged with looking into whether anyone on President Trump's campaign worked with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election, so it was inevitable that investigators would want to talk with aides now working in the White House.

Some, like top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, communications director Hope Hicks and policy adviser Stephen Miller, were key players in the campaign as well.

Updated at 6:25 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday that his "story has never changed" about his and other Trump campaign officials' connections to Russia.

"I will not accept, and reject accusations that I have ever lied," Sessions said. "That is a lie!"

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump Jr. was in direct contact with WikiLeaks at the same time the muckraking website was publishing hacked emails from Democratic officials that proved damaging to the Clinton campaign, according to several major publications.

Following the reports, Trump Jr. acknowledged the contact in a tweet detailing one exchange with the radical transparency organization.

Mixed statements from President Trump during his Asia trip drew criticisms at home Sunday, particularly over Russian President Vladimir Putin's claims that his country didn't meddle in the 2016 U.S. Elections.

Facebook, Twitter and Google testify Tuesday on Capitol Hill, and the companies are expected to tell senators that Russian interference efforts in the 2016 presidential election were broader than was originally thought.

Facebook, for example, plans to explain that as many as 126 million of its users may have seen content "that originated from the Russian operation."

When conservative commentator and host Rush Limbaugh opened his radio show Monday, indictments had just been made public in Washington, D.C., against President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Manafort and one of his top lieutenants had been taken into custody on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. Special counsel Robert Mueller had also secured a guilty plea from former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who admitted to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia.

Facebook says 126 million people may have seen Russian content aimed at influencing Americans. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to weed out Russian operatives and extremist propaganda from Facebook.

But savvy marketers — people who've used Facebook's advertising platform since its inception — say that social media giant will find it hard to banish nefarious actors because its technology is designed to be wide open and simple to use.

George Papadopoulos, who worked for President Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser, has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about meeting a professor with Russian ties who had promised to provide "dirt" on Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

Apparent Russian agents began reaching out to Donald Trump's presidential campaign as early as March 2016, the Justice Department established in documents released Monday, with appeals for partnership and offers of help including "dirt" on Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.

That case is made in charging documents in the case of then-Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

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