Category Archives: International

Russian cyber war, Trump appeasement

TIME magazine continues its excellent reporting on the Russian hacking of the U.S. election in 2016. Election Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say:

The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers, current and former officials tell TIME.

In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents.

The fact that private data was stolen from states is separately providing investigators a previously unreported line of inquiry in the probes into Russian attempts to influence the election. In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, according to Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the State Board of Elections.

Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign, two sources familiar with the investigations tell TIME.

“If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are, How did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge?” the former top Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, Michael Bahar, tells TIME. “That is a crux of the investigation.”

Spokesmen for the House and Senate Intelligence committees declined to comment on the search for stolen data.

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Latest on the Trump-Putin campaign investigation

You’re shocked, I’m sure. America’s liar-in-chief Donald Trump: “I did not make recordings of Comey,” after teasing the possibility he did for weeks. What a drama queen. So Trump’s good with a charge of witness intimidation then. Good to know.

There’s also more evidence for the obstruction of justice charge. Intel chiefs tell investigators Trump suggested they refute collusion with Russians:

Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings last week, that President Donald Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.

Their “beliefs” or “feelings” are irrelevant. They confirmed the attempt to obstruct was made.

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One miscalculation or mistake away from war

Wars often begin with a miscalculation or mistake after prolonged periods of posturing and saber rattling. We will be told that we have to save face or appear weak, especially by people like Sen. John McCain. So we will stumble into war.

Two events in recent days — the shooting down by a US F-18 of a Syrian Su-22 and the use of ballistic missiles by Iran against ISIS targets — are evidence of a scramble in eastern Syria that’s been gathering pace since the beginning of the year.

CNN reports, Syrian conflict moves into new and dangerous territory:

It’s the first time the United States has shot down a Syrian military aircraft, and at least the fifth occasion it has targeted regime and pro-regime forces since the Trump administration took office.

On Tuesday, a US fighter jet shot down a pro-Syrian regime drone in the country’s southeast, US officials told CNN.

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A lot of forces with competing aims are at close quarters in eastern Syria. The United States is aggressively backing a Syrian rebel alliance — the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — as they fight their way into Raqqa, ISIS’ administrative capital for the past three years. Hundreds of US military advisors are close to the front-lines, supported by intense coalition airstrikes.

The Syrian army and its allies (largely Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese Shia militia), however, are also closing in on Raqqa. Last week the Syrian military reached areas controlled by the SDF. It was almost inevitable that at some point these opposing alliances would butt heads. So when the Syrian air force bombed SDF positions Sunday, the US came to the aid of its partners on the ground — and the Syrians have one fewer Su-22.

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Trump declares war on the Department of Justice

I’m not quite sure what to make of this report in the New York Times because I have never seen the Justice Department issue a statement such as this before. Don’t Believe Anonymously Sourced Reports, Justice Official Says (this woud put political publications like POLITICO out of business):

Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, encouraged Americans in a statement issued late Thursday to be “skeptical about anonymous allegations” after a string of recent news reports about the evolving focus of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible collusion with President Trump’s associates.

“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated,” Mr. Rosenstein said in the statement.

He added: “Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”

He did not cite specific reports. The Justice Department released Mr. Rosenstein’s statement after 9 p.m., a few hours after The Washington Post reported that the special counsel was investigating the business dealings of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. That report was attributed to unnamed American officials.

Asked about the impetus for the statement, a Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. Mr. Rosenstein did not respond to an email seeking comment on Thursday night.

This statement appears directed at reporters covering this scandal. The Times and the Post are not going to disclose their confidential sources, but if reporters are talking to FBI agents or Treasury Department officials in FinCEN about money laundering investigations overseas, or to intelligence officers or their foreign intelligence counterparts in Europe, I would take this as a veiled threat that the FBI may be monitoring reporters communications with their sources overseas. If that is what Rosenstein meant to imply, that is a big effin’ deal.

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(Update) Robert Mueller is assembling a ‘dream team’ of prosecutors

I posted about this earlier, Robert Mueller is assembling a ‘dream team’ of prosecutors, now Wired has an update on some additional hires. Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream Team:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP had almost certainly never heard the name Aaron Zebley before the announcement that the former FBI agent was joining the special counsel investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But to those who have followed the arc of the bureau during the past twenty years, Zebley’s is a name that underscores just how far-reaching and dogged—and potentially long—the probe will likely be.

* * *

The details of … the capture of one of America’s most wanted terrorists by Zebley and Gaudin—help illuminate the makeup of the special counsel team that former FBI director Robert Mueller is assembling. It’s a team that contains some of the nation’s top investigators and leading experts on seemingly every aspect of the potential investigation—from specific crimes like money laundering and campaign finance violations to understanding how to navigate both sprawling globe-spanning cases and the complex local dynamics of Washington power politics.

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Donald Trump under investigation for obstruction of justice

ICYMI, Wednesday was Donald J. Trump’s birthday. Late in the day the Washington Post delivered a birthday card to the president, verifying that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating him for obstruction of justice. Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say:

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. [The third leg of this investigation.]

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on [1] Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for [2] any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.

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