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McSally pumps Nat'l Guard on border with Ukrainian soldier photo

Rep's Senate campaign falsely implies armed troops on patrol

A stock tough-on-the-border message from Senate candidate Martha McSally comes with a depiction of a soldier that's a bit unfamiliar. Rather than the expected photo of a U.S. National Guard member, it shows a figure armed with a Russian-origin AK-74, sold by a Ukrainian photographer.

McSally's campaign posted a Facebook image last week proclaiming that we must "Defend our home. Secure our future." atop a blue-toned silhouette of a helmeted figure carrying a rifle.

The campaign falsely implied that armed National Guard troops are patrolling the border.

More than one eagle-eyed commenter noted that the weapon shown is not standard-issue for the U.S. military, but instead a Russian-designed gun: an AK-74 automatic rifle.

National guardsmen now deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border, including the about 300 sent by the Arizona National Guard, are not riding along with the Border Patrol with long guns. Instead, they're more often shoveling horse manure and turning wrenches, critics among the troops have said.

McSally's message with the campaign meme said, "We can't afford not to secure the border. And until we build the wall and get the agents that we need, we've got to keep our National Guard at the border and defend our home. It's the right thing to do."

A few clicks by TucsonSentinel.com showed that the source of the image is being marketed on several stock photo websites by a Ukrainian photographer, Oleg Zabielin, who runs getmilitaryphotos.com. The photographer's online portfolios include pictures — mostly seemingly carefully posed — labeled as "U.S. Army rangers" and "Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan."

The social media flub isn't the first for two-term Southern Arizona congresswoman.

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A live video posted on the Republican's congressional Facebook page in March was quickly commented on by her own official account: "Great video quality! Thank you for your service!"

Her staff attempted to blame the apparent sock-puppet praise by blaming a staffer, saying a young district employee had attempted to praise the video work of another member of her staff, but "neglected to switch accounts."

The explanation for the video comment didn't quite explain how "Thank you for your service!" was an appropriate intra-staff reaction.

McSally's campaign did not respond to questions about the image of the soldier.

While the congresswoman quickly moved to cozy up to President Donald Trump when she announced her Senate campaign in January, she has repeatedly over the years cautioned against "Russian aggression" in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

Last May, McSally visited Ukraine, Poland and Estonia, reiterating the United States commitment to those nations during a congressional tour, and calling Russian leader Vladimir Putin a "thug" in a video shot in Kiev.

Trump, on the other hand, successfully pushed to soften the 2016 Republican platform on the Russian-backed invasion of Eastern Ukraine, and dismissed concerns about Putin's military takeover and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Closer to home, Trump called for the Guard to be deployed to the border in April. While many state governors agreed to send troops, several recalled their units after the president's controversial decision to implement a "zero tolerance" policy and detain all suspected illegal immigrants, separating many children from their families.

Arizona's Gov. Doug Ducey has maintained the state's military contingent on the border.

The state's Guard units are tasked with "air support, reconnaissance support, operational support, construction of border infrastructure and logistical support," Ducey's office said in April.

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Under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, troops under federal authority are not permitted to carry out direct law enforcement functions inside the United States.

The federal government has said it will reimburse the states for the costs of this deployment, but, as with Operation Jump Start under President George W. Bush and Operations Phalanx and Copper Cactus under President Barack Obama, the Guard was not federalized. Rather than operating under the direct control of the Pentagon and president, the governors of each state remain in command of the units at the border.

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1 comment on this story

Jul 4, 2018, 7:58 pm
-1 +3

Would like to know what she thinks about her 7 GOP colleagues meeting with Kislyak at the Kremlin today.
And her Dear Leader’s upcoming one-on-one meeting with Putin.
Time for her to head to the retired aviators’ home.

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