Tag Archives: Cyber Crime

Not just Russia – the Middle East leg of the Mueller investigation

From time to time there has been reporting on another leg of the Mueller investigation into Middle East countries attempting to influence the 2016 election — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel — and possible “collusion” with the Trump campaign. It does not receive nearly as much attention as the Russia leg of the Mueller investigation.

The Daily Beast reports that this may be about to change early next year. Get Ready for Mueller’s Phase Two: The Middle East Connection:

Over the past year, the indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas have largely been connected, in one way or another, to Russia. But now, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is preparing to reveal to the public a different side of his investigation. In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries’ attempts to influence American politics, three sources familiar with this side of the probe told The Daily Beast.

While one part of the Mueller team has indicted Russian spies and troll-masters, another cadre has been spending its time focusing on how Middle Eastern countries pushed cash to Washington politicos in an attempt to sway policy under President Trump’s administration. Various witnesses affiliated with the Trump campaign have been questioned about their conversations with deeply connected individuals from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, according to people familiar with the probe. Topics in those meetings ranged from the use of social-media manipulation to help install Trump in the White House to the overthrow of the regime in Iran.

Now, according to those same sources, the Special Counsel’s Office is ready to outline what cooperating witnesses have told them about foreigners’ plans to help Trump win the presidency. Two sources with knowledge of the probe said Mueller’s team has for months discussed the possibility of issuing new charges on this side of the investigation.

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The path forward is clear: impeachment is coming

The Department of Justice reaffirmed on Friday that the President of the United States is an unindicted co-conspirator who coordinated with and directed Michael Flynn to commit criminal felonies on his behalf as his proxy.  The Special Counsel also gave a glimpse, without disclosing all his cards, that he has evidence of “political synergy” (collusion) between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Americans elected a Russian asset and a criminal to the White House. It’s time to come to terms with this stark reality.

The path forward is clear: impeachment is coming.

The Washington Post reports, Court filings directly implicate Trump in efforts to buy women’s silence, reveal new contact between inner circle and Russian:

Federal prosecutors filed new court papers Friday directly implicating President Trump in plans to buy women’s silence as far back as 2014 and offering new evidence of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president — disclosures that show the deepening political and legal morass enveloping the administration.

The separate filings came from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III Mueller Cohen Sentencing Memo (.pdf), and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York  SDNY Cohen Sentencing Memo (.pdf) ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Taken together, the documents suggest that the president’s legal woes are far from over and reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. But the documents do not answer the central question at the heart of Mueller’s work — whether the president or those around him conspired with the Kremlin.

The documents offer a scathing portrait of his former lawyer as a criminal who deserves little sympathy or mercy because he held back from telling the FBI everything he knew. For that reason, prosecutors said, he should be sentenced to “substantial” prison time, suggesting possibly 3½ years.

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Obstruction of justice in plain sight: ‘all the president’s men’ are lying to the FBI and Special Counsel (Updated)

Back in September, George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in prison for lying to the F.B.I. about his contacts with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential race. George Papadopoulos, Ex-Trump Adviser, Is Sentenced to 14 Days in Jail:

Prosecutors argued that Mr. Papadopoulos’s repeated lies during a January 2017 interview with investigators hampered the Russia investigation at a critical moment. In part because Mr. Papadopoulos misled the authorities, prosecutors said in court papers, they failed to arrest a London-based professor — suspected of being a Russian operative — before he left the United States in February 2017, never to return.

Andrew D. Goldstein, a prosecutor on Mr. Mueller’s team, told the judge that because Mr. Papadopoulos lied, investigators were forced into a painstaking monthslong examination of 100,000 emails and other communications to establish how Russian intermediaries tried to use him as a channel to the Trump campaign. Even after he pleaded guilty, Mr. Goldstein said, Mr. Papadopoulos made only “begrudging efforts to cooperate.”

Judge Randolph D. Moss said that Mr. Papadopoulos deserved a stiffer sentence because he had impeded an investigation of “grave national importance.”

On Monday, Ex-Trump campaign adviser Papadopoulos reports to prison: Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos began serving his two-week prison sentence on Monday after a judge rejected his last-minute bid to remain free.

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Newsweek cover story: Here’s How Russia May Have Already Hacked the 2018 Midterm Elections

The cover story of Newsweek this week is a lengthy investigative report by David Freedman into Here’s How Russia May Have Already Hacked the 2018 Midterm Elections. Here are the opening graphs using Bucks County, Pennsylvania as an example:

It’s not easy to get in to see Diane Ellis-Marseglia, one of three commissioners who run Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Security is tight at the Government Administration Building on 55 East Court Street in Doylestown, a three-story brick structure with no windows, where she has an office. It also happens to be where officials retreat on election night to tally the votes recorded on the county’s 900 or so voting machines. Guards at the door X-ray bags and scan each visitor with a wand.

Unfortunately, Russian hackers won’t need to come calling on Election Day. Cyberexperts warn that they could use more sophisticated means of changing the outcomes of close races or sowing confusion in an effort to throw the U.S. elections into disrepute. The 2018 midterms offer a compelling target: a patchwork of 3,000 or so county governments that administer elections, often on a shoestring budget, many of them with outdated electronic voting machines vulnerable to manipulation. With Democrats on track to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate, the ­political stakes are high.

Russian hackers were notoriously active in the 2016 election. Although President Donald Trump disputes it, evidence suggests that they were responsible for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s computers, according to U.S. intelligence reports. They ran a disinformation campaign on Facebook and Twitter. They also attacked voter registration databases in 21 states, election management systems in 39 states and at least one election software vendor—and that’s only what the government’s intelligence services know about.

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The constitutional crisis coming after Election Day

This is really information voters should have available before Election Day in order to make an informed decision, but due to long-standing Justice Department custom, prosecutors are generally advised to avoid public disclosure of investigative steps involving a candidate for office or related to election matters within 60 days of an election.

The Justice Department’s Inspector General recently noted in a report about the 2016 election: “The 60-Day Rule is not written or described in any Department policy or regulation. Nevertheless, high-ranking Department and FBI officials acknowledged the existence of a general practice that informs Department decisions.” So here we are.

Bloomberg News reports today, Mueller Ready to Deliver Key Findings in His Trump Probe, Sources Say:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation, according to two U.S. officials.

Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be identified speaking about the investigation.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give a special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released.

The question of timing is critical. Mueller’s work won’t be concluded ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, when Democrats hope to take control of the House and end Trump’s one-party hold on Washington.

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