Tag Archives: Intelligence Agencies

Time to question John McCain’s capacity and competency to serve (updated)

Arizona’s angry old man, Senator John McCain, is not a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but he is an “ex officio” of the committee, so he was allowed to participate in today’s testimony by former FBI Director James Comey.

The local media tried to build up John McCain as “playing a key role” in the questioning of James Comey, because the local media all kiss his wrinkled old butt. See this ABC 15 report. John McCain to question James Comey at Thursday’s congressional hearing.

Sen. McCain went last in questioning today as an “ex officio” of the committee, and hoo-boy! Was that ever a disturbing and deeply embarrassing performance, both for him and for this state.

It was as if someone woke up Grandpa Simpson from his nap and he started spouting off on a different topic from what everyone else had been talking about for the past two plus hours.

McCain appeared dazed and confused, frequently confusing “Mr. Comey” for “Mr. Trump,” and everyone – including James Comey – was staring at him with pained expressions on their face wondering to themselves “what the hell is he talking about?”

Here is how Foreign Policy describes McCain’s bizarre performance. What on Earth Was John McCain Asking James Comey?

During former FBI Director James Comey’s highly anticipated testimony Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) launched into a strange line of inquiry that puzzled Comey and everybody watching the hearing. While questioning Comey, the one-time Republican president candidate seemed to confuse the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the campaign with the closed probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

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A bizarre prequel to James Comey’s testimony on Thursday

The Senate Intelligence Committee held an open hearing to discuss Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) legislation with top intelligence officials this morning, with Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency,  Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

All four men refused to discuss their conversations with President Trump as described in the media, asserting that it was not appropriate to discuss “classified” matters in an open hearing.

All four men were asked and answered that Special Investigator Robert Mueller had not notified them of any limitations on their public testimony before the committee.

All four men were asked and answered that they had checked with White House counsel as to whether the president was going to assert executive privilege to prevent their testimony, and they testified that White House counsel had not gotten back to them prior to the hearing.

All four men said they would answer questions in the classified closed session hearing this afternoon — assuming White House counsel does not notify them of an assertion of executive privilege.

None offered any legal basis for their refusal to answer questions.

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Latest on the Trump-Putin campaign investigation

On Monday, the New York Times reported that Trump Grows Discontented With Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

Let’s be clear, Department of Justice rules required Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation. It is ordinary protocol and was to be expected. Trump is angry at Sessions because he abided by Justice department rules, rather than create a protracted legal dispute over recusal, and he removed himself from the ability to exert influence over the direction of the investigation, which indicates that Trump intended to exert undue influence over the Attorney General to affect the course of the Trump-Russia investigation (otherwise known as obstruction of justice).

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Leaked NSA report on Russian hacking of U.S. election

You will recall that last August it was reported that hackers based outside the United States had broken into the election databases of Arizona and Illinois, according to a report from Yahoo News, which revealed a “flash” alert sent earlier that month by the FBI’s Cyber Division.  Yahoo reported that the Illinois hacking was more serious, forcing officials to shut down the voter registration system for 10 days in July, while the Arizona intrusion did not appear to be as successful.

Last July I had posted that Election security is now a national security issue. Our anti-Hillary haters were dismissive of the Russian hacking of our election at the time, and demonstrated a complete lack of concern for U.S. national security in light of a cyber attack and for election security/integrity. We have some real patriots.

A recent intelligence report leaked to The Intercept suggests that the Russians may have hacked more deeply into U.S. election systems than originally believed. Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election:

RUSSIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

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Why was Jared Kushner meeting with Vnesheconombank (VEB), ‘Putin’s slush fund’ bank?

We finally have some follow-up reporting to an earlier New York Times report about Jared Kushner discussing some sweet Russian oligarch money to finance the Princeling’s troubled “Kushner Tower” during the transition back in December. Jared Kushner had a previously undisclosed meeting with the CEO of ‘the bank that financed Vladimir Putin’s grandest ambitions’:

Kushner’s meeting with Gorkov, the struggling bank’s CEO, came as Kushner was trying to find investors for a Fifth Avenue office building in Manhattan that is set to be heavily financed by Anbang Insurance Group, a firm with ties to the Chinese government.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Times on Monday that the “Kushner Tower” project wasn’t discussed during his meeting with Gorkov, and a White House official said in a statement that Kushner took the meetings as part of his role as “the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials.

“White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Times on Monday that the “The meeting did not appear to break any rules, and Hicks said it was “not much of a conversation” so didn’t warrant a disclosure to the rest of the Trump transition team.

So said Hope Hicks, who is no better than “Baghdad Sean” Spicer with the truth.

The Washington Post now reports, Explanations for Kushner’s meeting with head of Kremlin-linked bank don’t match up:

The White House and a Russian state-owned bank have very different explanations for why the bank’s chief executive and Jared Kushner held a secret meeting during the presidential transition in December.

The bank maintained this week that the session was held as part of a new business strategy and was conducted with Kushner in his role as the head of his family’s real estate business.

The White House says the meeting was unrelated to business and was one of many diplomatic encounters the soon-to-be presidential adviser was holding ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The contradiction is deepening confusion over Kushner’s interactions with the Russians as the president’s son-in-law emerges as a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump team.

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Early moves by the Trump administration to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia

It appears now that the Trump administration’s moves to return Russian compounds in Maryland and New York is a consolation prize.

Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News has evidence that there was a quid pro quo for Russian interference in the U.S. election — the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russia — but it got derailed by the Michael Flynn scandal. How the Trump administration’s secret efforts to ease Russia sanctions fell short:

In the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers fought an intense, behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming officials to normalize relations with Russia, according to multiple sources familiar with the events.

Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials, almost as soon as they took office, tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.

These efforts to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election alarmed some State Department officials, who immediately began lobbying congressional leaders to quickly pass legislation to block the move, the sources said.

There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions,” said Dan Fried, a veteran State Department official who served as chief U.S. coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February. He said in the first few weeks of the administration, he received several “panicky” calls from U.S. government officials who told him they had been directed to develop a sanctions-lifting package and imploring him, “Please, my God, can’t you stop this?”

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