Category Archives: Law Enforcement

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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Breaking: Senate rejects all DACA bills – Epic Fail

Just as I predicted, the U.S. Senate has rejected all the proposed DACA bills in an epic fail. The New York Times reports, Senate Rejects Trump’s Immigration Plan (with additional reporting from The Hill):

In a stern rebuke to President Trump, the Senate on Thursday decisively rejected a White House rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws that would have bolstered border security, placed strict new limits on legal migration and resolved the fate of the so-called Dreamers.

The measure by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, was patterned after one that the White House proposed, but the 39-60 vote was 21 votes short of the 60 votes required for the Senate to consider it. Mr. Trump had threatened to veto any other approach.

But the rejection of the president’s plan was bipartisan: Democrats refused its get-tough approach to legal immigration, while many conservative Republicans opposed its pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

What happens now in the Senate immigration debate is unclear. Before the vote on the White House plan, senators turned away two more modest measures to protect young immigrants known as Dreamers. Neither the plan drafted by a broad group of centrists nor one written by Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, secured 60 votes.

The “Common Sense” bipartisan centrist measure, backed by Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC) and other Republicans, won 54 votes.

Two other amendments were rejected before the vote. The first, a bipartisan proposal from Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) , fell in a 52-47 vote. The second measure [from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)], which would have cracked down on sanctuary cities that don’t comply with federal immigration laws, also fell in a 55-44 vote.

The Senate’s failure leaves Congress with an uncertain path on immigration ahead of a March 5 deadline set by the president.

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Congress is broken: Debate over DACA fix devolves into Kabuki theater

I’m not surprised, but disappointed, that the Senate debate on immigration and a DACA fix has devolved into Kabuki theater. They are simply going through the motions of “stylized movements, dances, and songs in order to enact” a tragedy — a Senate bill that is DOA in Paul Ryan’s House, and under a veto threat from the white nationalist in the White House. It is a futile effort.

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos sums it up succinctly. Democrats need to make Republicans walk their talk and vote on a clean DREAM Act:

The so-called “Common Sense” bipartisan group of senators finally, decided on their plan late Wednesday, ignoring veto threats from both the White House and the House Freedom Caucus, intent on making a deal for the sake of a deal regardless of lasting harm it could do to immigrant families. See, the New York Times Senators Strike Bipartisan Deal on Immigration Despite Veto Threat, and this from the Washington Post, Bipartisan group reaches deal on immigration, fulfilling some Trump demands:

The self-dubbed “Common Sense Caucus” of senators late Wednesday circulated legislation that would fulfill Trump’s calls to grant legal status to 1.8 million young immigrants and would appropriate $25 billion for southern border security construction projects over the next decade—not immediately, as Trump wants. The bill also would curb family-based immigration programs, but not to the extent Trump is seeking, and would not end a diversity visa lottery program that he wants eliminated.Word of an agreement came as formal debate on immigration policy is set to intensify Thursday. The new bipartisan plan is slated for a vote, as is the GOP proposal sought by Trump, another Republican bill that would punish “sanctuary” cities and a bipartisan idea that would significantly water down Trump’s demands. […]

In an interview late Wednesday, a senior administration official denounced the bipartisan bill, calling it a “giant amnesty” that did nothing to secure the border, and vowed the White House would strongly lobby against it Thursday.

They’re conceding family reunification, a concession that Dreamers themselves have rejected. Meanwhile, Trump is not really denouncing the effort in a tweet, saying “Republicans and Democrats in Congress are working hard to come up with a solution to DACA,” but mostly bragging about his economy[.]

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