Category Archives: Scandals

Russia’s cyber war on America

I posted about this topic earlier this year. McClatchy News: Russia uses ‘bots’ and trolls for information war against U.S..

Now Time magazine’s cover story this week takes a deep-dive look Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America:

On March 2, a disturbing report hit the desks of U.S. counterintelligence officials in Washington. For months, American spy hunters had scrambled to uncover details of Russia’s influence operation against the 2016 presidential election. In offices in both D.C. and suburban Virginia, they had created massive wall charts to track the different players in Russia’s multipronged scheme. But the report in early March was something new.

It described how Russia had already moved on from the rudimentary email hacks against politicians it had used in 2016. Now the Russians were running a more sophisticated hack on Twitter. The report said the Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department. Depending on the interests of the targets, the messages offered links to stories on recent sporting events or the Oscars, which had taken place the previous weekend. When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow’s hackers to take control of the victim’s phone or computer–and Twitter account.

As they scrambled to contain the damage from the hack and regain control of any compromised devices, the spy hunters realized they faced a new kind of threat. In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States? At any given moment, perhaps during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, Pentagon Twitter accounts might send out false information. As each tweet corroborated another, and covert Russian agents amplified the messages even further afield, the result could be panic and confusion.

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Trump trash talked James Comey with his Russian handlers

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin trolled Donald Trump, Offering to Provide a ‘Record’ of Trump’s Disclosures to Russian Envoys:

President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday jumped into the furor over President Trump’s disclosure of classified information to Russian diplomats, declaring that nothing secret had been revealed and that he could prove it.

Mr. Putin [said] that he has a “record” of the American president’s meeting at the White House with two senior Russian officials and was ready to give it to Congress — so long as Mr. Trump does not object.

It turns out that the White House has its own “record” of the meeting, which has not been made public. Trump’s disclosure of highly classified intelligence from Israel to the Russians is not the only reason, we now learn.

The New York Times reports, Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation:

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Well there is an admission against interest that is probative of the element of intent in an obstruction of justice charge.

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Wapo: Russia probe identifies a person of interest inside the White House

It is a classic urban legend horror scenario: A young woman who is home alone. Often she is a baby sitter. She gets a creepy phone call asking, “Have you checked the kids?” She calls the police. They trace the call and they tell her, “The calls are coming from inside the house.”

The Washington Post reports that the law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current official working inside the White House as a significant person of interest. Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say:

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

C’mon, cut to the chase.  There are only a small number of suspects close advisors who have admitted publicly to having had contacts with the Russians: Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Technically, only one of them actually works inside the White House, the only one who can be said to be “close to” Donald Trump, that is “The Kush.” Trump entrusts him with everything. On January 9, 2017, Kushner was named Senior Advisor to the President.

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The GOP sabotage of ‘Obamacare’ may come to a climax next week

There are a two events scheduled to occur next week on the “Obamacare” front that could affect the status of both “Obamacare” and the awful American Health Care Act passed in a rush by the Tea-Publican House a couple of weeks ago.

I previously gave you a backgrounder on the House GOP lawsuit House v. Price (née House v. Burwell) for which the next status report to the Court is due on Monday, May 22.  The Trump administration could opt to sabotage “Obamacare” by not funding the cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) and blowing up health insurance markets across the country.

The second scheduled event is the release of the nonpartisan Congresssional Budget Office (CBO) score for the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is scheduled to be released on Wednesday, May 24. The CBO score for the Zombie Trumpcare bill is widely expected to be far worse than for the Trumpcare 2.0 bill.

And there is another complication that that “the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin” and Ayn Rand fanboy, House Speaker Paul Ryan, did not seriously consider when he forced a House vote on the AHCA without the benefit of the CBO score.

NBC News reports, Uh-Oh: The House May Need to Vote on Health Care (Again!):

Speaker Paul Ryan confirmed on Friday that that the House may need to vote on the American Health Care Act a second time before the Senate can take up the bill, even as he stressed it was unlikely.

Republicans are using the budget “reconciliation” process to pass their health care bill, which allows them to push legislation through the Senate with a simple majority. But that depends on the bill meeting certain requirements — and one of them is that it reduces the deficit by at least $2 billion over the next decade.

The trouble is that Republicans voted on their House bill without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office, the federal agency that evaluates legislation, to finish its projections, which will be released on Wednesday.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday and NBC News confirmed that House leaders have not formally sent their bill to the Senate on the chance that it fails to meet the deficit requirements.

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Mike Pence’s ‘Sergeant Schultz defense’ does not hold up to scrutiny

After the “bombshell” reporting this week about what the Trump administration knew about Gen. Michael Flynn and when they knew it, Trump transition chairman Vice President Pence has his aids anonymously leaking to the press the Sergeant Schultz defense — “I know nothing!” — in an effort to separate himself from the Trump scandals (and to preserve his status as next in line of presidential succession).

We are now all supposed to believe that Trump transition chairman Vice President Pence, who was named to that post because he was supposedly the adult in the room who could herd the crazy cats  Trump brought with him to Washington, was entirely kept out of the information loop about Gen. Michael Flynn. We are all supposed to believe that Trump transition team lawyers never notified their client, transition chairman Vice President Pence, of information they received about Flynn. Riiight.

We are aslo supposed to believe that Mike Pence never read a newspaper article or watched a television news report about Michael Flynn, which was widely reported in the news at the time.

NBC News reports, VP Mike Pence Was Never Informed About Flynn: Source:

Vice President Mike Pence has been kept in the dark about former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s alleged wrongdoing, according to a source close to the administration, who cited a potential “pattern” of not informing the vice president and calling it “malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable.”

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Robert Mueller III appointed special counsel in Russia probe

When he was confirmed as deputy attorney general and became the acting attorney general for purposes of the Trump-Putin campaign investigation, Rod Rosenstein said he sees no need for a special prosecutor in Russia probe: “One source says Rosenstein isn’t inclined to make a change unless the FBI investigation appears to be imperiled.”

That was before Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and threw Rod Rosenstein under the bus by initially (falsely) asserting that he was acting on the recommendations of a memo prepared by Rosenstein. Trump blames everyone but himself for his problems. The Justice Department just blamed him. The Justice Department tacity admitted that:

[Trump] had badly damaged the credibility of the FBI’s Russia investigation by announcing the probe would now be handled by a special counsel, former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III.

The bombshell revelation represents a startling admission of fault for the administration — if not the White House directly. This was a Justice Department decision about which the White House reportedly learned shortly before it was announced.

“What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

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