Category Archives: Justice

Spy v. Spy: James Risen explains how the U.S. knows so much about the Russian cyber attack on the U.S. election

James Risen is a former New York Times national security reporter who won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. He also was a member of The New York Times reporting team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for coverage of the September 11th attacks and terrorism. Risen also authored two books about the CIA, The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB (Random House) (2003), and State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (The Free Press) (2006).

You may recall that Risen was subject to being held in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify about the sources of his information in United States v. Sterling. In the end, Risen was not called to testify at a trial, which ended a seven-year legal fight over whether he could/would be forced to identify his confidential sources.

James Risen is now working as an investigative reporter for The Intercept. In his first column for The Intercept, his latest investigative reporting is the provocatively titled IS DONALD TRUMP A TRAITOR?:Trump and Russia Part 1 (excerpts):

The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.

Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?

Did he gain the presidency through collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.

His 2016 campaign is the subject of an ongoing federal inquiry that could determine whether Trump or people around him worked with Moscow to take control of the U.S. government. Americans must now live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the president has the best interests of the United States or those of the Russian Federation at heart.

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First shoe to drop: Robert Mueller indicts 13 Russians and corporate entities associated with Putin’s troll farm

Remember all the times that Donald Trump dismissed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as a “Democratic hoax,” Every Russia story Trump said was a hoax by Democrats: A timeline (June 1, 2017), a claim frequently repeated by our Trump trolls and Putin’s troll farm in comments at this blog? This premise has been repudiated today.

On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team announced a “speaking” indictment of 13 Russians and corporate entities associated with Putin’s troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia for “Information warfare against the United States of America” in social media,
part of a larger interference operation known as “Project Lakhta” which began in 2013. Read the Internet Research Agency, LLC Indictment (.pdf).

This specific indictment does not address the Russian hacking of the DNC or John Podesta. This specific indictment also does not address any coordination or cooperation by the Trump Campaign with the Russian interference in the U.S. election, beyond unnamed local grassroots Trump campaign activists referenced in this indictment as “unwitting Americans.”

This specific indictment also does not call into question the role that America’s social media platforms, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, etc., may have played in the Russian attack.

Today’s indictment was just the first shoe of several more shoes to drop in the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation.

The Washington Post reports, Russian troll farm, 13 suspects indicted for interference in U.S. election:

The Justice Department’s special counsel announced the indictment Friday of a notorious Russian troll farm — charging 13 individuals with an audacious scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, was named in the indictment as the hub of an ambitious effort to trick Americans into following Russian-fed propaganda that pushed U.S. voters toward then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and away from Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The indictment charges that some of the Russian suspects interacted with Americans associated with the Trump campaign, but those associates did not realize they were being manipulated.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein called the charges “a reminder that people are not always who they appear on the Internet. The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote social discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.”

[T]he 37-page indictment provides the most detailed description from the U.S. government of Russian interference in the election.

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The most incompetent and unethical administraton in recent memory

While much of the media’s attention on the Rob Porter scandal has focused on his alleged wife-beating and how Donald Trump was slow to condemn abuse of women, the “big picture” scandal here is Rob Porter’s security clearance.

Rob Porter handled highly sensitive, classified materials as part of his day-to-day duties, despite the fact that he did not — and could not get — a permanent security clearance after an FBI review on his background. The White House has repeatedly lied about Rob Porter. Here’s a timeline: “The White House timeline for how the Rob Porter scandal unfolded — including what they knew and when they knew — has been thoroughly debunked by testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray and extensive CNN reporting.” Despite being a national security risk, Porter was up for promotion despite abuse allegations.

One of Donald Trump’s central arguments against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election was that Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified information not only disqualified her for the presidency but was grounds for her imprisonment. “Lock her up!”

It turns out that Rob Porter is just the tip of the iceberg in this incompetent White House which permits the mishandling of classified information and jeopardizes our national security every day.  NBC News reports, Scores of top White House officials lack permanent security clearances:

More than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president’s daughter, son-in-law and his top legal counsel, according to internal White House documents obtained by NBC News.

Of those appointees working with interim clearances, 47 of them are in positions that report directly to President Donald Trump. About a quarter of all political appointees in the executive office are working with some form of interim security clearance.

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Special Counsel interviews Stephen Bannon, working on a plea deal with Rick Gates

After being fired by the White House and losing his “wingnut welfare” from his enablers Robert and Rebekah Mercer, as well as his white nationalist propaganda platform at Breitbart News, it appears that Stephen Bannon may have decided to take his revenge on his boy Donald Trump.

Bannon reportedly is cooperating by fully answering all of the Special Counsel’s questions in more than 20 hours of interviews this past week, while he is stonewalling Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee so that Nunes cannot provide his testimony to the Trump White House.

Well played, sir. “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” likely in a tell-all book.

NBC News reports that Steve Bannon met with Mueller multiple times over the past week:

Steve Bannon, who served as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller over multiple days this week, NBC News has learned from two sources familiar with the proceedings.

Bannon spent a total of some 20 hours in conversations with the team led by Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as other issues that have arisen around the probe.

Bannon left his job as a senior White House adviser in August and returned to a leadership role at Breitbart, the right-wing news site based out of Washington. But he fell out of favor with the site’s financial backers, the Mercer family, after criticizing the president and his family in “Fire and Fury,” a book about the Trump administration published earlier this year by author Michael Wolff.

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Intelligence agencies are at odds with President Trump on Russian interference in 2018 midterms

The nation’s five intelligence heads, all Trump appointees, were on the Hill yesterday testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. All five testified that Russia interfered in our presidential election in 2016, and is already interfering in our 2018 midterm elections, and that President Trump has not issued them any express directives to stop the Russian interference. The nation’s top spies said Russia is continuing to target the U.S. political system:

The nation’s top intelligence chiefs were united Tuesday in declaring that Russia is continuing efforts to disrupt the U.S. political system and is targeting the 2018 midterm elections, following its successful operation to sow discord in the most recent presidential campaign.

Their assessment stands in contrast to President Trump, who has repeatedly voiced skepticism of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In fact, CNN reports, Trump still unconvinced Russia meddled in 2016 election: President Donald Trump still isn’t buying that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, even as his intelligence chiefs unanimously told a Senate panel Tuesday that Russia meddled in 2016 and is planning to do so again in 2018, three sources familiar with the President’s thinking say he remains unconvinced that Russia interfered in the presidential election.

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats, Democrats demanded to know what the intelligence community is doing to counter Russia’s actions and whether Trump has given explicit directions to do so.

“We cannot confront this threat, which is a serious one, without a whole-of-government response when the leader of the government continues to deny that it exists,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

The disconnect between Trump and his senior-most intelligence advisers has raised concerns that the U.S. government will not be able to mount an effective plan to beat back Russian influence operations in the upcoming midterm elections. And Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said there is “no single agency in charge” of blocking Russian meddling, an admission that drew the ire of Democrats.

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President Trump withholds Democratic rebuttal memo to Nunes memo

I told you not to hold your breath on President Trump authorizing the release of the Democratic rebuttal memo to the Nunes memo. Trump will not release Democrats’ memo on FBI surveillance:

President Trump will not immediately agree to release a Democratic memo rebutting GOP claims that the FBI abused its surveillance authority as it probed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he has directed the Justice Department to work with lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee, White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote that the Justice Department had identified portions of the Democrats’ memo that it believed “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” if disclosed. McGahn included in his note a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray supporting that claim.

McGahn wrote in his letter that Trump was “inclined to declassify” the Democrats’ memo, but given its sensitive passages, he was “unable to do so.” McGahn wrote that the president had instructed the Justice Department to work with Congress to mitigate those risks.

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Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement: “The President’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling. The rationale for releasing the Nunes memo, transparency, vanishes when it could show information that’s harmful to him. Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?” He was referring to the GOP memo, which was produced by the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

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