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Vox Sentences: Putin on the fritz

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Emmanuel Macron wins big in France; Jeff Sessions faces the US Senate; Russia sees mass protests against corruption.

En Marche marches on

Emmanuel Macron Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images
  • In contrast to last week’s chaotic election in the UK where there was no clear winner, new French President Emmanuel Macron just pulled off a decisive victory.
  • Macron’s brand new party, La République en Marche, swept the first round of parliamentary elections in France on Sunday, making it poised to take control of the French National Assembly, the country’s lower house of Parliament. [NYT / Alissa Rubin]
  • There is still a second ballot that will happen this Sunday, but estimates show En Marche could pick up between 390 and 430 seats in the 577-member Parliament. Macron and his supporters need 289 to win a majority.
  • Winning the first round is no small feat, given that the centrist, pro-business party has only been around for a little more than a year. In that short amount of time, it has scored decisive wins against the center-left Socialists and center-right Republicans, the two parties that have governed France for nearly six decades. [Slate / Henry Grabar]
  • If you’re struggling to think about what that might look like in the United States, picture this: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and former NYC mayor/businessman/media magnate Michael Bloomberg form their own political party, win the presidency, and take a majority in Congress. [Ross Douthat via Twitter]
  • Macron’s parliamentary win is a particularly devastating blow to the Socialists. The left-leaning party controlled Parliament for the past five years, with around 300 seats. Now it will have about 30, according to estimates. A lot of that has to do with former President François Hollande (who left office with just a 4 percent approval rating). [NPR / Eleanor Beardsley]
  • Also losing: Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party, which could wind up with as little as four seats in Parliament. Le Pen was Macron’s main challenger during the French presidential election, and ran on a populist, anti-European Union platform (which included a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric). [Vice News / David Gilbert]
  • It’s a pretty staggering fall for the National Front and Le Pen, who won more than 7.7 million votes in the first round of the presidential elections and, for a time, looked as though they had a real shot to take power in France. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • The one downside for Macron was low turnout; fewer than half of French voters went to the polls, and the president and his supporters are urging more people to vote on the second ballot this weekend. [The Guardian / Jon Henley]
  • If En Marche wins as many seats as they’re projected to this Sunday, Macron will be in a good position to pass his pro-business agenda, which includes corporate tax cuts, axing 120,000 jobs from the civil service, and giving companies the ability to negotiate hours and pay. However, there’s a good chance this won’t be popular. France has strict labor laws, and previous attempts to change them have been met with protests from unions and workers. Small protests are already starting in reaction to Macron’s proposals. [Financial Times / Jennifer Thompson and Madison Marriage​]

Sessions and the Senate

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Receives Award From The Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York City Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in the hot seat on Tuesday, testifying publicly in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Russian involvement in the 2016 election. [Washington Post / Sari Horwitz]
  • Sessions is testifying less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey’s explosive testimony in front of the same committee. So expect lots of grilling, especially since Sessions is a main player in so many parts of the Trump/Russia/Comey web.
  • First up on the list of questions may be potential unreported meetings between Sessions and Russian officials. Last week, Comey hinted that the attorney general may have had a third meeting with the Russians during the 2016 campaign. [Vox / Dara Lind and Tara Golshan]
  • Sessions and Justice Department officials have denied this, saying that while Sessions was at the same hotel as Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the two did not meet. [ABC News / Mike Levine and Riley Beggin]
  • Senators will also probably want to know more about Comey’s sudden firing; the attorney general was Comey’s boss before the former FBI chief was fired, and Sessions wanted him gone. [NYT / Michael Shear and Matt Apuzzo]
  • And then there’s the matter of Sessions’s own recusal from the Russia investigation.
  • The attorney general recused himself in February after the Washington Post reported he had met with the Russian officials during the 2016 campaign (remember, before he was AG, he was a Trump campaign adviser and frequent surrogate at Trump rallies). [Washington Post / Amber Phillips]
  • A lot of questions could come up on exactly when — and why — that recusal happened. [Just Security / Ryan Goodman]
  • The pressure may be getting to Sessions; he reportedly offered to resign in recent weeks, telling Trump he needed the freedom to do his job independently. [NYT / Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker]
  • So far, the Senate hearings have played out with senators on both sides of the aisle asking tough, direct questions. Most Republican senators certainly were not rushing to Trump’s defense during the Comey hearing, which could spell trouble for the president. [National Review / Jonathan Tobin​]

Trouble in the Motherland

Igor Russak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Hundreds of protesters were arrested across Russia on Monday, a national holiday for the country, as anti-corruption riots flared up in more than 200 cities.
  • The protests were on a scale not seen since 2012, when the Russian government quashed the last wave with arrests and tough sentences for demonstrators. [NYT / Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew Higgins]
  • Among those arrested was opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, who is planning a run for president in 2018. Navalny was slapped with a 30-day jail sentence for his role in organizing the protests in Moscow. [Matt Lee via Twitter]
  • There was plenty of civil disobedience on Navalny’s part; he encouraged protesters to rally on the main road leading toward the Kremlin, rather than the spot permitted by the government. [NYT / Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew Higgins]
  • The main theme of the demonstrations was protesting against government corruption; Navalny has accused Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of accepting bribes to the tune of $1 billion, and organized protests earlier this year to speak out about the same issue. [Washington Post / David Filipov]
  • Navalny has also been slapped with embezzlement charges from the Russian government, which could make him unable to run for president. But that’s not the worst thing that has ever happened to those who speak out about corruption in Russia; US and British officials are investigating the death of Russian financier Alexander Perepilichnyy, and believe he was assassinated on Vladimir Putin’s direct orders. [BuzzFeed / Heidi Blake, Jason Leopold, Jane Bradley, Richard Holmes, Tom Warren, and Alex Campbell]
  • Gay rights activists also joined Monday’s protests, amid reports of gay men being tortured in the southern region of Chechnya. (Responding to the allegations, the regional government there denied there were any gay men living in the area.) [BBC News]
  • Even with the demonstrations, Putin’s approval rating in Russia is extraordinarily high, at 84 percent. There’s a lot of speculation over why this number is as high as it is, with some people postulating that Russians are too afraid to speak their minds, or that the polls numbers are tampered with (although many Western polls have reached the same conclusion). [Washington Post / Michael Birnbaum]
  • Although there is a large opposition movement, there are many Russians who credit Putin with the country’s economic recovery — a huge part of why supporters see him favorably. [This American Life / Ira Glass​]


  • Vivitrol is a drug that’s supposed to shut off cravings for heroin and other opioids. It’s been touted by drug courts and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, but there’s no evidence that it works any better than competitors Suboxone and methadone. [NYT / Abby Goodnough and Kate Zernike]
  • Last year, two NPR journalists were killed in a roadside ambush in Afghanistan. NPR has been investigating the attack, and now believes it was something deliberate. [NPR / Robert Little]
  • Uber is one of the most successful start-ups in the world. But years of sexual harassment complaints and a cutthroat corporate culture are catching up to it. [BuzzFeed / Ben Smith]
  • A year after the horrific massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, one photographer turned her lens on the victims — documenting pain and healing. [Washington Post / May-Ying Lam and Cassi Alexandra]
  • Before he was igniting firestorms in Washington, former FBI Director James Comey was doing so in college; as a student journalist, he authored a controversial series on his college’s lack of diverse hiring and student recruitment. [Chronicle of Higher Education / Adam Harris]


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