Tag Archives: Cyber War

Senate Judiciary Committee defies Mitch McConnell, votes to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller

On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Senate Judiciary Committee defied Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and voted for a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the chief suspect in his investigation, President Trump (this is a protection that existed under the old Independent Counsel law that Congress allowed to expire after Ken Starr). Senate panel approves bill to protect special counsel:

In a 14-7 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan proposal that deeply divided Republicans on the committee.

With every committee Democrat backing the legislation, only one Republican was needed to secure passage.

In the end, four Republicans voted for the bill: Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.).

Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ben Sasse (Neb.), John Kennedy (La.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) opposed it.

The vote marks the first time Congress has advanced legislation to formally protect Mueller from being fired by President Trump, who has railed against him in public and reportedly talked in private of dismissing him.

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DNC sues the Trump Campaign, Russia and Wikileaks

Donald Trump’s consigliere Michael Cohen proved to me that he is not a lawyer. If he was, he would have known that filing a civil lawsuit against Stormy Daniels and against Buzzfeed allowed them to conduct legal discovery. He learned a valuable lesson this week.

Now that he knows he is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, he cannot afford to have a parallel civil case where discovery is also being conducted. Cohen drops libel suits against BuzzFeed, Fusion GPS.

Trump’s friend David Pecker at the trash rag National Enquirer took notice as well this week in its case with Trump’s former girlfriend, Karen McDougal. The first domino just fell after the Michael Cohen raid:

The former Playboy playmate reached a settlement Wednesday with American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer, in a deal that allows her to spill about her alleged months-long affair with President Trump. And importantly, the terms of the deal appear quite favorable to McDougal. One possible reason, according to reports and experts: The Cohen raid bolstered her case.

Experts say the combination of that and the favorable terms of the settlement — McDougal basically has to share only a small portion of the profits she might make from selling her story — suggest AMI was worried about what lay ahead.

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Senator McCain rips Putin’s puppet for congratulatory call

Donald Trump routinely attacks U.S. intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement agencies, because they are investigating his ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin. But Trump has not once ever said anything negative about his pal Putin — even as Russia is engaged in cyber warfare against the U.S., Russian mercenaries have attacked U.S. troops in Syria, and Russian agents are using illegal chemical weapons to kill Putin critics in Britain.

One thing no American president does is to congratulate the murderous dictator of a criminal kleptocracy who barred political opposition and rigged his election to secure another term.

Especially after this man-child president was specifically instructed not to do so by the s0-called adults in the room. Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Putin. He did it anyway.

President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers Tuesday when he congratulated Russian President Vladi­mir Putin on his reelection — including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” according to officials familiar with the call.

Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.

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The social media leg of the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation comes into focus (Updated)

Cambridge Analytica is a company created by Robert Mercer, a billionaire patron of right-wing outlets like Breitbart News. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, is a board member. Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon, is a former vice president of Cambridge Analytica, and the former editor of Breitbart News. Trump confidant Gen. Michael Flynn also had “a brief advisory role” with Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica, the shady data firm that might be a key Trump-Russia link, explained:

Cambridge Analytica specializes in what’s called “psychographic” profiling, meaning they use data collected online to create personality profiles for voters. They then take that information and target individuals with specifically tailored content.

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In June 2016, the Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to take over its data operations.

We know from the reporting of Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim at the New York Times that Jared Kushner, who was charged with overseeing Trump’s digital operations, is the reason Cambridge Analytica joined the Trump campaign.

Kushner hired a man named Brad Parscale, a Texas-based digital expert who had worked previously for team Trump. According to Confessore and Hakim, Cambridge Analytica convinced Parscale (who has since agreed to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee) to “try out the firm.” The decision was reinforced by Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon, a former vice president of Cambridge Analytica.

It’s not clear to what extent Cambridge Analytica helped (Parscale denied that Cambridge was of any use in a recent 60 Minutes interview), but we do know that Trump’s digital operation was shockingly effective. Samuel Woolley, who heads the Computational Propaganda project at Oxford’s Internet Institute, found that a disproportionate amount of pro-Trump messaging was spread via automated bots and anti-Hillary propaganda. Trump’s bots, they reported at the time of the election, outnumbered Clinton’s five to one.

Pro-Trump programmers “carefully adjusted the timing of content production during the debates, strategically colonized pro-Clinton hashtags, and then disabled activities after Election Day.”

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Disgraceful House Intelligence Committee whitewash of Russia investigation ends (Updated)

Putin’s fifth column of fellow travelers on the House Intelligence Committee, led by “Midnight Run” Devin Nunes, has completed its whitewash investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. It’s cover-up and obstruction of justice is now complete. I truly hope that Rep. Nunes, at a minimum, will be charged as an accessory to obstruction of justice.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is nearly done with his investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice but may wait to publicize his findings until he has completed other parts of the Russia probe, Bloomberg News reported on Monday.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post reports, The Republican coverup for Trump just got much worse:

House Republicans may have the power to prevent important facts about President Trump and Russia from coming to public light. But here’s what they don’t have the power to do: prevent important facts about their own conduct on Trump’s behalf from coming to public light.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have announced that they are shutting down their investigation into Russian efforts to sabotage our democracy and into Trump campaign collusion with those efforts. Shockingly, they have reached conclusions that are entirely vindicating for Trump: There was no “collusion,” and while Russia did try to interfere, it didn’t do so in order to help Trump.

In an interview with me this morning, Rep. Adam B. Schiff — the ranking Democrat on the Intel Committee — confirmed that Democrats will issue a minority report that will seek to rebut the GOP conclusions.

But here’s the real point to understand about this minority report: It will detail all the investigative avenues that House Republicans declined to take — the interviews that they didn’t conduct, and the leads that they didn’t try to chase down and verify. And Schiff confirmed that the report will include new facts — ones that have not been made public yet — that Republicans didn’t permit to influence their conclusions.

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Jane Mayer’s in-depth report on Christopher Steele

Jane Mayer at the New Yorker has an in-depth lengthy narrative report on Christopher Steele, the former M.I.6 spy and Russia specialist. This is the most concise narrative report I have seen on this subject. Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier (ecerpts):

Christopher Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focussing on Russia. For three years, in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service’s Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian, and widely considered to be an expert on the country. He’d also advised on nation-building in Iraq.

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Steele worked out of the British Embassy for M.I.6, under diplomatic cover. His years in Moscow, 1990 to 1993, were among the most dramatic in Russian history, a period that included the collapse of the Communist Party; nationalist uprisings in Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the Baltic states; and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin gained ultimate power in Russia, and a moment of democratic promise faded as the K.G.B.—now called the F.S.B.—reasserted its influence, oligarchs snapped up state assets, and nationalist political forces began to emerge. Vladimir Putin, a K.G.B. operative returning from East Germany, reinvented himself in the shadowy world of St. Petersburg politics. By the time Steele left the country, optimism was souring, and a politics of resentment—against the oligarchs, against an increasing gap between rich and poor, and against the West—was taking hold.

After leaving Moscow, Steele was assigned an undercover posting with the British Embassy in Paris, but he and a hundred and sixteen other British spies had their cover blown by an anonymously published list. Steele came in from the cold and returned to London, and in 2006 he began running its Russia desk, growing increasingly pessimistic about the direction of the Russian Federation.

Steele’s already dim view of the Kremlin darkened in November, 2006, when Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian K.G.B. officer and a Putin critic who had been recruited by M.I.6, suffered an agonizing death in a London hospital, after drinking a cup of tea poisoned with radioactive polonium-210. Moscow had evidently sanctioned a brazen murder in his own country. Steele was put in charge of M.I.6’s investigation. Authorities initially planned to indict one suspect in the murder, but Steele’s investigative work persuaded them to indict a second suspect as well. Nine years later, the U.K.’s official inquiry report was finally released, and it confirmed Steele’s view: the murder was an operation by the F.S.B., and it was “probably approved” by Vladimir Putin.

Steele has never commented on the case, or on any other aspect of his intelligence work, but Richard Dearlove, who led M.I.6 from 1999 to 2004, has described his reputation as “superb.” A former senior officer recalls him as “a Russia-area expert whose knowledge I and others respected—he was very careful, and very savvy.” Another former M.I.6 officer described him as having a “Marmite” personality—a reference to the salty British spread, which people either love or hate. He suggested that Steele didn’t appear to be “going places in the service,” noting that, after the Cold War, Russia had become a backwater at M.I.6. But he acknowledged that Steele “knew Russia well,” and that running the Russia desk was “a proper job that you don’t give to an idiot.”

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