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Nuggets Podcast: Bones Hyland hype, Michael Porter Jr.’s breakout season and Bol Bol’s shot at redemption

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Nuggets Podcast: Bones Hyland hype, Michael Porter Jr.’s breakout season and Bol Bol’s shot at redemption

In the latest Nuggets Ink podcast, beat writer Mike Singer is joined by deputy sports editor Matt Schubert to talk about Singer’s time at the Nuggets’ training camp in San Diego and storylines that have emerged over the past two weeks. Among the topics discussed…

  • Is the Bones Hyland hype real? Could Nuggets head coach Michael Malone give real minutes to a rookie? What does the VCU product, a +8,000 underdog for rookie of the year, need to do to find a spot in Denver’s crowded backcourt?
  • Will Bol Bol finally appease the masses and make his long-awaited debut as a rotation staple? What’s the story behind his reported attitude change? What happened that produced a more focused player ahead of camp?
  • What is the Nuggets’ place in the Western Conference ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season? With Jamal Murray’s return date unknown, what are reasonable expectations for this team?
  • Is this conference still the Lakers’ to lose? Who should come out of the East? Does Kyrie Irving’s bizarre behavior put the Nets at risk of squandering their real chance for an NBA title?

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Producer: AAron Ontiveroz
Music: “Follow the Leader” The Trujillo Company

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Biden, Putin square off as tension grows on Ukraine border

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Biden, Putin square off as tension grows on Ukraine border

By AAMER MADHANI and DASHA LITVINOVA

WASHINGTON (AP) — Face to face for over two hours, President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin squared off in a secure video call Tuesday as the U.S. president put Moscow on notice that an invasion of Ukraine would bring sanctions and enormous harm to the Russian economy.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border, the highly anticipated call between the two leaders came amid growing worries by the U.S. and Western allies about Russia’s threat to its neighbor.

Putin, for his part, came into the meeting seeking guarantees from Biden that the NATO military alliance will never expand to include Ukraine, which has long sought membership. The Americans and their NATO allies said that request was a non-starter.

There appeared to be no immediate breakthroughs to ease tensions on the Ukraine question, as the U.S. emphasized a need for diplomacy and de-escalation, and issued stern threats to Russia on the consequences of an invasion.

Biden “told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures,” U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said after the call.

He added that Biden said the U.S. would also “provide additional defensive materiel to the Ukrainians … and we would fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation.”

That could include additional deployments of U.S. troops to eastern European NATO allies, the adviser said.

A top U.S. envoy, Victoria Nuland, said a Russian invasion of Ukraine also would jeopardize a controversial pipeline between Russia and Germany. She told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that if Russia invaded, “our expectation is that the pipeline will be suspended.”

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov dismissed the sanctions threat during a conference call with reporters.

“While the U.S. president talked about possible sanctions, our president emphasized what Russia needs,” Ushakov said. “Sanctions aren’t something new, they have been in place for a long time and will not have any effect.”

He described the presidents’ video conference as “candid and businesslike,” adding that they also exchanged occasional jokes.

In a brief snippet broadcast by Russia state television, the two leaders offered friendly greetings to each other.

“I welcome you, Mr. President,” Putin said, speaking with a Russian flag behind him and a video monitor showing Biden in front of him. “Good to see you again!” Biden replied with a chuckle. He noted Putin’s absence from the recent Group of 20 summit in Rome – Putin took park by video link because of concerns about COVID-19 – and said, “I hope next time we meet to do it in person.”

At the White House, Sullivan said, “It was a useful meeting,” allowing Biden to lay out in candid terms where the US stands.

As the U.S. and Russian presidents conferred, Ukraine grew only more anxious about the tens of thousands of Russia troops that have been deployed near its border. Ukrainian officials charged Russia had further escalated the smoldering crisis by sending tanks and snipers to war-torn eastern Ukraine to “provoke return fire” and lay a pretext for a potential invasion.

U.S. intelligence officials have not been able to independently verify that accusation, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter. But the official said that the White House has directly raised concerns with the Russians about “resorting to their old playbook” by trying to provoke the Ukrainians.

The Kremlin, in a post-call readout, said, “Putin emphasized that it’s wrong to put the responsibility on Russia, since it is NATO that has been making dangerous attempts to expand its presence on the Ukrainian territory and has been expanding its military potential near Russian borders.”

The Russian leader also proposed to lift all mutual restrictions on diplomatic missions and help normalize other aspects of bilateral relations, the Kremlin said. Sullivan said the leaders would direct their staffs to continue negotiations on that.

The leader-to-leader conversation — Biden speaking from the White House Situation Room, Putin from his residence in Sochi —was one of the most important of Biden’s presidency and came at a perilous time. U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russia has massed 70,000 troops near the Ukraine border and has made preparations for a possible invasion early next year.

Sullivan said the U.S. believes that Putin has not yet made a final decision to invade.

Biden was vice president in 2014 when Russian troops marched into the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and annexed the territory from Ukraine. Aides say the Crimea episode — one of the darker moments for President Barack Obama on the international stage — looms large as Biden looks at the smoldering current crisis.

Politically in Washington, Republicans are framing this moment as a key test of Biden’s leadership on the global stage. Biden vowed as a candidate to reassert American leadership after President Donald Trump’s emphasis on an “America first” foreign policy. But Republicans say he’s been ineffective in slowing Iran’s march toward becoming a nuclear power and has done too little to counter autocratic leaders including China’s Xi Jinping and Putin.

“Fellow authoritarians in Beijing and Tehran will be watching how the free world responds,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said from the Senate floor before the Biden-Putin meeting.

Sullivan said Biden and Putin had a “good discussion on the Iran issue” and called it an area where the two countries could cooperate.

“The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table,” the more there will be a sense of unity among the U.S. and the parties to the 2015 nuclear accord including Russia and the European Union, he said.

Trump, who showed unusual deference to Putin during his presidency, said in a statement that “Vladimir Putin looks at our pathetic surrender in Afghanistan, leaving behind dead Soldiers, American citizens, and $85 billion worth of Military equipment. He then looks at Biden. He is not worried!”

Ahead of the Putin call, Biden on Monday spoke with leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy to coordinate messaging and potential sanctions. He also to spoke with them again following his call to brief them out the outcome. Biden is also expected to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.

Putin apparently sees the current situation as a moment to readjust the power dynamic of the U.S.-Russia relationship, analysts agree.

Beyond Ukraine, there are plenty of other thorny issues on the table, including cyberattacks and human rights. Before the call, Kremlin spokesman Peskov said U.S.-Russian relations are overall in “a rather dire state.”

“Russia has never planned to attack anyone,” Peskov said. He characterized the Biden-Putin call as a “working conversation during a very difficult period,” when “escalation of tensions in Europe is off the scale, extraordinary.”

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Litvinova reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Robert Burns, Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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Jan. 6 panel threatens contempt vote after Meadows withdraws

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Attorney says Mark Meadows won’t cooperate with Jan. 6 panel

By ERIC TUCKER and MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASHINGTON (AP) — The leaders of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection are threatening to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after his lawyer said Tuesday that his client will cease cooperating with the panel.

In an abrupt reversal, Meadows attorney George Terwilliger said in a letter that a deposition would be “untenable” because the Jan. 6 panel “has no intention of respecting boundaries” concerning questions that former President Donald Trump has claimed are off-limits because of executive privilege. Terwilliger also said he learned over the weekend that the committee had issued a subpoena to a third-party communications provider that he said would include “intensely personal” information.

“As a result of careful and deliberate consideration of these factors, we now must decline the opportunity to appear voluntarily for a deposition,” Terwilliger wrote in the letter.

The committee’s Democratic chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, and Republican vice chairwoman, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, said in a statement that they will have “no choice” but to vote on recommending contempt charges against Meadows if he does not show up for a previously scheduled closed-door deposition Wednesday.

“Tomorrow’s deposition, which was scheduled at Mr. Meadows’s request, will go forward as planned,” Thompson and Cheney said in a statement.

Meadows’ decision not to cooperate is a blow to the committee, as lawmakers were hoping to interview Trump’s top White House aide about Trump’s actions during and ahead of the violent attack of his supporters. They had also hoped to use Meadows as an example to other witnesses who may be considering not cooperating as Trump has filed legal challenges to block the panel’s work.

Lawmakers on the committee have blasted Meadows’ reluctance to testify, citing privilege concerns, while he is also releasing a book this week that details his work inside the White House. Thompson and Cheney said they also have questions about documents Meadows has already turned over to the panel.

“Even as we litigate privilege issues, the Select Committee has numerous questions for Mr. Meadows about records he has turned over to the Committee with no claim of privilege, which include real-time communications with many individuals as the events of January 6th unfolded,” they said in the statement.

Thompson and Cheney said the panel also wants to speak to Meadows about “voluminous official records stored in his personal phone and email accounts” that could be turned over to the committee by the National Archives in the coming weeks. Trump has sued to stop the release of those records, and the case is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The two committee leaders did not comment on Terwilliger’s claim about subpoenas to third-party communications providers. The committee in August issued a sweeping demand that telecommunications and social media companies preserve the personal communications of hundreds of people who may have been connected to the attack, but did not ask the companies to turn over the records at that time.

Terwilliger said in a statement last week that he was continuing to work with the committee and its staff on a potential accommodation that would not require Meadows to waive the executive privileges claimed by Trump or “forfeit the long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify” before Congress.

“We appreciate the Select Committee’s openness to receiving voluntary responses on non-privileged topics,” he said then.

Thompson said then that the panel would “continue to assess his degree of compliance” and would take action against Meadows or any other witnesses who don’t comply, including by voting to recommend contempt charges. The House has already voted to hold longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt after he defied a subpoena, and the Justice Department indicted Bannon on two counts.

In halting cooperation, Terwilliger cited comments from Thompson that he said unfairly cast aspersions on witnesses who invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. A separate witness, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, has said he will invoke those Fifth Amendment rights, prompting questions from the committee about whether he would directly acknowledge that his answers could incriminate him.

Thompson said last week that Clark’s lawyer had offered “no specific basis” for Clark to assert the Fifth and that he viewed it as a “last-ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee’s proceedings,” but he said members would hear Clark out. The committee has already voted to recommend contempt charges for Clark, and Thompson has said it will proceed with a House vote if the panel is not satisfied with his compliance at a second deposition on Dec. 16.

In his new book, released Tuesday, Meadows reveals that Trump received a positive COVID-19 test before a presidential debate. He also reveals that when Trump was later hospitalized with COVID, he was far sicker than the White House revealed at the time.

Trump — who told his supporters to “fight like hell” before hundreds of his supporters broke into the Capitol and stopped the presidential electoral count — has attempted to hinder much of the committee’s work, including in the ongoing court case, by arguing that Congress cannot obtain information about his private White House conversations.

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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Ramsey County Sheriff Fletcher counters board chair statement over State Fair police talks

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Minnesota State Fair reestablishing own police department a year after disbanding one

Calling it “ridiculous,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher on Tuesday responded to a claim by Ramsey County Board Chair Toni Carter that he was not willing to work with the board over concerns it had on the sheriff’s office continuing to provide security during the Minnesota State Fair.

The State Fair on Monday announced that it is reestablishing its own police department, a year after disbanding one and then turning to the sheriff’s office for law enforcement during the 12-day event and until the end of the year under two agreements approved by the county board in late July.

A Nov. 2 board workshop had been planned to review an after-action report on security during the Fair in 2021 and beyond. However, Carter canceled the workshop the same day after Fletcher told her he was unable to make the meeting.

Carter wrote to Gov. Tim Walz two days later, saying “the unwillingness of Sheriff Fletcher to personally engage with the County Board in the important discussions needed to resolve questions and concerns about continuing these agreements.” Carter suggested that the Minnesota Agricultural Society Board, which governs the Fair and maintains the state-owned, 322-acre Fairgrounds, “will need to pursue alternative security arrangements for 2022.”

On Tuesday, Fletcher said Carter’s statement is not true. He told Carter in a letter, which included other county board members, Gov. Tim Walz and County Manager Ryan O’Connor, that he had “attended several meetings, answered every question asked, participated in a board workshop, and assigned staff work with county management.”

“Your assertion that the agreement was not approved because I was not able to attend a meeting is ridiculous,” he wrote. “It would have been more honest and transparent to admit a majority of the County Board did not want to continue the arrangement with the State Fair.”

Fletcher said that he and Carter had exchanged text messages the day before the scheduled workshop and that he told her that five members of the sheriff’s office were going to attend and answer questions after O’Connor presented the report. Fletcher said she never told him that she would cancel the meeting if he was not in attendance.

Asked in an interview Tuesday why he couldn’t make the meeting, Fletcher said it was going to an “informational meeting” led by O’Connor and reiterated that members of his staff were going to attend. “Why? he said. “Because I had a number of other duties that exceed the importance of attending a meeting that I had five members already planning to attend.”

Carter said in an interview Tuesday that Fletcher had personally advocated for the sheriff’s office to provide security during the Fair this year and that “the board was not willing to make that decision to continue in 2022 with a contract without that same advocacy and leadership.”

Security at the Fairgrounds became an issue when the Fair this past spring decided to disband its decades-long police department and instead turn to an outside agency to provide security. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety recommended that the sheriff’s office take the lead role during the Fair, prompting Fletcher and Fair officials to work on a plan.

But the Ramsey County Board had reservations, with liability being chief among them. In late July, the county board signed off two contracts, one that covered the event and another for non-Fair dates through 2021. The board’s decision came after reassurances from Fair officials that it had intended to purchase $10 million in police professional liability insurance and that the policy would include the county.

Fletcher said in his letter to Carter that her letter to Walz prompted him to work with Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer in re-establishing a Fair police department. The new department “is unlikely to be as robust as a security plan” as the one provided by the sheriff’s office, Fletcher said.

Meanwhile, the Fair said Monday its police department will continue its partnerships with the sheriff’s office and Minnesota State Patrol, along with officers from other law enforcement agencies and medical services providers, plus additional security contractors. Ramsey County sheriff Cmdr. Ron Knafla will serve as the Fair’s police chief.

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