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Vox Sentences: The explosive, but unverified, new allegations about Trump and Russia

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President Obama's farewell address is tonight, but it's totally going to get overshadowed by the latest (unverified) Trump/Russia bombshell.


One last ti-ime

President Obama Vox / Kainaz Amaria
  • President Obama will deliver a nationally televised farewell address tonight in Chicago, at 9 pm Eastern time. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Obama has spent the final stretch of his presidency trying to make the case for his legacy in the mediums he's most comfortable with: formal, high-profile speeches, like tonight's, and academic journal articles. In the past week, Obama's byline has run in the Harvard Law Review, the New England Journal of Medicine, and Science. [Quartz / Echo Huang]
  • The push to leave a written and verbal record would be cute if it didn't seem so desperate. Obama is about to be succeeded by Donald Trump, who will lead a unified Republican government to dismantle (at least a substantial portion of) Obama's legacy. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • And he's left a party that's much weaker at the state and local levels than it was when he took office (though the reasons for that aren't exactly Obama's fault). [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • Once he's left office, Obama will face a terrible choice. He can sit back and watch while all of this happens. Or he can use the bully pulpit to fight for his legacy and the next generation of Democratic leadership — violating the norm against ex-presidents criticizing their successors. For Obama, who's always cared about upholding norms and "going high," it's not an easy decision. [Politico / Edward-Isaac Dovere]

"No puppet. You're the puppet."

Building in Russia Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images
  • Democrats (including, most recently, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)) have hinted that the public doesn't know the whole story about the extent of Donald Trump's relationship with the Russian government. [Mother Jones / David Corn]
  • Now we might know. On Tuesday, CNN reported that both Obama and Trump had been briefed by intelligence officials on an explosive allegation: Russia has some sort of compromising information ("kompromat") about Trump, and it's holding it over him. [CNN / Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, and Carl Bernstein]
  • This rumor has been swirling for a while (a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official is the source for the kompromat claim and talked to Mother Jones's David Corn before the election), but the fact that Obama and Trump were briefed on the claim indicates that the intelligence community thinks it might be legitimate. [Mother Jones / David Corn]
  • CNN didn't speculate about what the kompromat was, but the British officer's memo, posted by BuzzFeed, offers a jaw-dropping (and otherwise still unverified) allegation: The Russian government has explicit tapes of Trump engaging in perverse activities with prostitutes. [BuzzFeed News / Ken Basinger, Miriam Elder, and Mark Schoofs]
  • It is extremely difficult to overstate the security implications of one country having blackmail material on a top official of another country. If you haven't heard about Britain's Profumo scandal of the 1960s, you should read up. [The Telegraph / Patrick Sawer]
  • However. This is unverified information. And it's extremely important not to treat unverified information from the intelligence community as gospel — as we learned in the runup to the Iraq War. [New Yorker / Seymour M. Hersh]
  • It's worth noting that journalists around America have seen the claims about the Trump sex tape, and none of them have been able to verify those claims. [Yair Rosenberg via Twitter]
  • (It's also worth noting that Trump's professed desire for a closer US/Russia relationship is going to have an important effect on US foreign policy, no matter what the underlying motive is for the detente.) [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • Trump's first press conference since winning the election is scheduled for tomorrow. Under the circumstances, he might cancel. But if he doesn't, it seems likely that reporters will spend the presser trying to ask Trump if he's a victim of Russian blackmail.

Funeral in the streets

Mourners in Iran Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Iranian former president turned government critic Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died over the weekend at the age of 82. [The Economist]
  • Rafsanjani had been a central figure in Iranian politics since the 1979 revolution, and his funeral Tuesday drew a crowd of millions — as well as a rare show of dissent, as protesters took the occasion to shout anti-government slogans. [NYT / Thomas Erdbrink]
  • (In addition to the standard "Death to America!" chants from hard-liners, the protests featured "Death to Russia!" — a surprising turn against a solid ally, which might be due to the disenchantment Iranians feel with the country's involvement in the war in Syria.) [The Guardian / Saeed Kamali Dehghan]
  • The government appeared concerned about the possibility for unrest; former President Mohammed Khatami, a fellow reformer, was reportedly banned from attending. [Reuters / Bozorgmehr Sharafedin]
  • But Rafsanjani was an elder statesman of Iranian moderates, and his death is ultimately a concern for reformers... [LAT / Shashank Bengali and Ramin Mostaghim]
  • ...especially given the upcoming presidential elections in May, in which incumbent president, centrist Hassan Rouhani, was counting on Rafsanjani's support. [FT / Najmeh Bozorgmehr]

Miscellaneous

  • Dylann Roof, the now sentenced-to-death Charleston shooter, says Googling "black-on-white crime" helped radicalize him. What could Google do to minimize the chance that happens again? [NPR / Rebecca Hersher]
  • Massachusetts's war over whether it should be legal to grow (hardy) kiwi fruit is getting pretty intense. [Boston Globe / Michael Levenson]
  • In Denmark, when zoo animals are euthanized for population control reasons, they are then dissected in public so visitors can learn anatomy, and are subsequently fed to other animals. The zookeepers are baffled that this causes international outrage. [New Yorker / Ian Parker]
  • A professional porn cuckold on how the alt-right appropriation of the term "cuck" makes him feel. [Vice / Daniel Oberhaus]
  • We are not necessarily endorsing these recommendations for how to handle children's allowances, but they are certainly the most intense way to teach personal finance to your kids. [Slate / Ron Lieber]

Verbatim

  • "One of my proudest moments as a sister was when I was able to introduce you to your hero, Nas, and you cried and acted a fool." [Beyoncé to Interview / Solange]
  • "A truckload of muffins may have damaged an overpass on Montreal's South Shore." [CTV News Montreal]
  • "I'm worried my language arts students have noticed that the only book I've actually read is The Hunger Games." [McSweeney's / Ryan Scott Morris]
  • "What’s it like to date while blind? Forget photo-driven apps like Tinder or Bumble." [Washington Post / Alexandra E. Petri]
  • "Often dressed in a tailored safari suit and sometimes packing a pearl-handled revolver, Ms. Hollingworth marched with troops, witnessed firefights, traveled to rebel hideouts and rode along during aerial bombing runs. In Kashmir, motoring across a bridge that had come under shelling by Pakistani troops, she gushed to a colleague,'Now, this is what makes life worth living!'" [Washington Post / John Otis]

Watch this: The battle over for-profit colleges, explained

At for-profit colleges, all students are welcome — and so is your financial aid. [YouTube / Gina Barton]

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