Posts Tagged ‘Adam Schiff’

Alleged Obama administration spying on Trump team — Is there a potential ‘smoking gun’?

March 24, 2017

By

Nunes: Surveillance reports I’ve seen are ‘concerning’

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Republican congressional investigators expect a potential “smoking gun” establishing that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House Intelligence Committee this week, a source told Fox News.

Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretappedhim in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a 'wild goose chase' in a competing interview on NBC's Meet the Press

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower (top). Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC’s Meet the Press (bottom)

The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.

The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.

The FBI hasn’t been responsive to the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents, but the National Security Agency is expected to produce documents to the committee by Friday. The NSA document production is expected to produce more intelligence than Nunes has so far seen or described – including what one source described as a potential “smoking gun” establishing the spying.

Some time will be needed to properly assess the materials, with the likely result being that congressional investigators and attorneys won’t have a solid handle on the contents of the documents – and their implications – until next week.

Because Nunes’s intelligence came from multiple sources during a span of several weeks, and he has not shared the actual materials with his committee colleagues, he will be the only member of the panel in a position to know whether the NSA has turned over some or all of the intelligence he is citing. However, Fox News was told Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had been briefed on the basic contents of the intelligence described by Nunes.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is also sympathetic to the effort to determine, with documentary evidence, the extent of any alleged Obama administration spying on the Trump team, sources said.

At a dramatic Wednesday news conference, Nunes claimed to have seen evidence that members of the Trump transition team, possibly including the president-elect, were subjected to “incidental surveillance” collection that Nunes characterized as legal but troubling.

“What I’ve read bothers me,” he told reporters, “and I think it should bother the president himself, and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.”

Schiff blasted Nunes for not coming first to the Intelligence Committee with the information.

“If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,” Schiff said in a Wednesday statement.

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show “The Foxhole.” His latest book is “A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century” (Crown Forum, October 4, 2016).

Includes video:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/23/potential-smoking-gun-showing-obama-administration-spied-on-trump-team-source-says.html

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FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

(AP)

Related:

FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

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The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
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FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
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Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” `’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

Comey expected to rebut Trump’s wiretap claims before House Intelligence Committee — What to Watch For

March 20, 2017

By Janet Hook and Shane Harris
The Wall Street Journal
Updated March 19, 2017 5:32 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey will be called before lawmakers Monday as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated accusation that he had been wiretapped by his predecessor during the campaign.

In advance of Comey’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, a number of lawmakers of both parties have said they have seen no evidence to support Trump’s allegation about then-president Barack Obama

Trump in early March tweeted that Obama had tapped the phones at Trump Tower, the New York building where Trump lived and worked during the campaign, an extraordinary claim of illegal activity by a president.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel who received a classified briefing on the issue Friday, said on NBC that he expected Comey to rebut the president’s claim at Monday’s hearing. “I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase because what the president said was just patently false,” Schiff said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/james-comey-could-shed-light-on-russia-trumps-wiretap-charge-1489954181

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Comey to Testify About Wiretaps and Russia: What to Watch For

By Chris Strohm, Alan Bjerga, and Billy House

Bloomberg News

March 19, 2017, 7:03 PM EDT
  • FBI chief said to see no evidence Obama wiretapped Trump
  • Republican Chairman Nunes asks about ‘unmasking’ of names

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

FBI Director James Comey is about to testify on the continuing U.S. investigation into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election, but much of the attention will be on President Donald Trump’s unsupported claim that his predecessor had Trump Tower “wiretapped.”

The House Intelligence Committee will try to untangle a web of conspiracies — and conspiracy theories — Monday morning when it hears from Comey and Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, in a rare open session.

Here’s what to watch for:

Was Trump wiretapped?

After Trump’s Twitter posting March 4 claiming that former President Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” Comey unsuccessfully urged the Justice Department to publicly deny the allegation, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity in order to discuss sensitive issues.

Now, the hearing may give Comey and Rogers an opportunity to deny there was any such bugging. They’re not likely to hear dissent from committee members on that score.

Representative Devin Nunes of California, the committee’s Republican chairman, said on “Fox News Sunday” that “the president doesn’t go and physically” wiretap someone. So if you take Trump literally, he said, “it didn’t happen.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Representative Adam Schiff of California, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a classified dossier from the Justice Department delivered on Friday showed “no evidence to support the president’s claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor” so “I hope we can put an end to this wild goose chase, because what the president said was patently false.”

Was Trump’s campaign under surveillance?

After the uproar that followed Trump’s tweets on Obama and wiretapping, the president and his spokesmen recast the claim, saying he was referring to surveillance more broadly.

While many lawmakers from both parties have said there’s no sign that Obama ordered spying on Trump, Nunes said Sunday he’s pursuing whether there “were any other surveillance activities that were used” that led to the “unmasking of names and the leaking of names.”

Nunes cited the case of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. Flynn was forced to resign in February after it was revealed he’d spoken to Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., during the presidential transition — and, crucially, misled Vice President Mike Pence about their discussions.

This month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from probes related to Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign and potential contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign team, after acknowledging that he met twice last year with Kislyak.

Intelligence agencies are known to listen in on communications by foreign leaders and diplomats, including ambassadors like Kislyak, but the contents of those calls aren’t supposed to be disclosed.

Whatever happened to Russian hacking?

The ostensible topic of Monday’s hearing is the Intelligence Committee’s “Russian Active Measures Investigation” — in other words, the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies in January that Russia hacked into Democratic emails and leaked them to sow confusion in the U.S. electoral process, damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and help Trump’s candidacy.

There was no finding, though, that hackers affected the actual vote-counting process. Russia has denied it engaged in hacking.

As intelligence agencies and congressional committees continue to investigate Russia’s actions, lawmakers and intelligence experts have expressed concern that Moscow’s model of interference — including selective leaking of information and attempts to control media narratives — could be replicated in other countries such as France, which holds its first round of presidential voting April 23.

Read how cyber-attackers may try to affect Europe’s elections

Did Trump’s aides collude with Russia?

Tying all of this together is the question of whether anyone close to Trump worked with the Russians during the campaign, whether in the hacking of Democrats or potential deal-making after the election.

Trump supporters including Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and energy consultant Carter Page have denied any improprieties in their contacts with Russian officials or intermediaries. Documents released last week by congressional Democrats show Flynn received more than $45,000 from RT, the Russian government-backed television network, for his participation at a December 2015 gala where he sat at President Vladimir Putin’s table.

“Were there U.S. persons who were helping the Russians in any way?” Schiff asked Sunday. “Was there any form of collusion?”

Asked if there was evidence of collusion, Nunes responded, “I’ll give you a very simple answer: No.”

Can Comey satisfy lawmakers?

Comey, 56, angered Republicans in 2016 when he announced there weren’t sufficient grounds to prosecute former Secretary of State Clinton or her aides for improper handling of classified information on her private email system.

Then, many Democrats were infuriated when Comey announced in late October that he was looking at some new evidence, believing he cost Clinton the election.

Comey is in his fourth year of a 10-year term heading the Federal Bureau of Investigation and can be removed only if he resigns or is fired by the president.

In an aside during a March 8 speech, the director indicated he has no intention of stepping down voluntarily. “You’re stuck with me for about another six and a half years,” he said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-19/comey-to-testify-about-wiretaps-and-russia-what-to-watch-for?cmpid=socialflow-twitter-business&utm_content=business&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

FBI Director James Comey To Testify Before The House Intelligence Committee — Expected To Shed Light on Hacking, Spying and Wire Tapping Allegations from Trump Tower to Russia

March 20, 2017

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Image may contain: outdoor

By EILEEN SULLIVAN and ERIC TUCKER

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election that has so far unfolded behind closed doors moves into the open with a public hearing featuring FBI Director James Comey.

A hearing Monday before the House Intelligence Committee, one of several congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

Comey, whose agents have been investigating, has been invited to testify along with Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who chairs the committee, told The Associated Press that there would be plenty of time for questions and answers.

The committee is investigating, among other things, Russian hacking that intelligence officials have said was meant to influence the election. Also of interest to the committee are any connections between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump and whether any surveillance was conducted for political reasons.

The top two lawmakers on the House intelligence committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters, but the panel’s ranking Democrat says the material offers circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a 'wild goose chase' in a competing interview on NBC's Meet the Press

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower (top). Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC’s Meet the Press (bottom)

 

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

But Comey may feel compelled to respond to Trump’s unproven Twitter assertions that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretapping of Trump Tower during the campaign. Congressional leaders briefed on the matter have said they’ve seen no indication that that’s true, and Obama’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, has publicly called the claims false.

The Justice Department’s disclosure Friday that it had complied with congressional demands for information regarding Trump’s tweets could allow Comey to avoid questioning by simply saying that the lawmakers already have the information they requested.

Yet any lack of detail from Comey will likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

UNLIKELY ALLY: Trump's sole defender in the legislature on Sunday was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas lawmaker said on Face the Nation, 'I will point out this is not necessarily as outlandish as everyone in the press suggest'

UNLIKELY ALLY: Trump’s sole defender in the legislature on Sunday was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas lawmaker said on Face the Nation, ‘I will point out this is not necessarily as outlandish as everyone in the press suggest’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4329060/House-intel-chief-says-no-evidence-wiretap-warrant.html#ixzz4bqrLGHG8
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Trump Rebuked — U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee finds no evidence to Trump claim of Obama wiretap

March 16, 2017

Reuters

Thu Mar 16, 2017 | 2:53pm EDT

By Doina Chiacu | WASHINGTON

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on Thursday they saw no evidence to support President Donald Trump’s claim that the Obama administration tapped his phones during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” Republican Chairman Richard Burr and Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s Democratic vice chairman, said in a statement.

Trump, a Republican, made the accusation in a series of early morning posts on Twitter on March 4, six weeks after he took over the presidency from Democrat Barack Obama and amid rising scrutiny of his campaign’s ties to Russia.

The top Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, on Thursday added his voice to those rejecting Trump’s contention.

“The point is, the intelligence committees in their continuing, widening, ongoing investigation of all things Russia, got to the bottom – at least so far – with respect to our intelligence community that – that no such wiretap existed,” Ryan told reporters.

Trump accused Obama of wiretapping him during the late stages of the campaign, but provided no evidence. Obama said through a spokesman that it was “simply false.”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!,” Trump wrote.

At least four congressional committees added the startling accusation in their investigations of possible Russian meddling in the election campaign and Russian ties to Trump and his associates.

On Wednesday, House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, and top Democrat Adam Schiff told reporters they had seen no evidence that Trump Tower was tapped and said they would ask Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey about the issue during a public hearing on Monday.

Ryan told reporters he received the same intelligence briefing as Nunes and Schiff.

Trump appeared to back away from his accusation of wiretapping in a Fox News interview on Wednesday night.

“But wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” Trump said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Alexander and Grant McCool)

Mike Flynn Was Probed by FBI Over Calls With Russian Official

February 15, 2017

Interview raises legal stakes for former national security adviser, adds to political pressure on the White House.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and suit

Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Updated Feb. 14, 2017 10:42 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Federal agents questioned then-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn in January, shortly after the White House denied he had talked about sanctions with a Russian official, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation interview, which raises the legal stakes for Mr. Flynn and adds to the political pressure on the White House, came after the president’s spokesman Sean Spicer , at a Jan. 23 news briefing, said Mr. Flynn didn’t discuss U.S. sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

At that point, U.S. intelligence officials had already intercepted conversations between the two men in which they discussed the sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Flynn’s departure generated more questions Tuesday about what Mr. Trump knew about Mr. Flynn’s activities and why it took weeks for Mr. Trump to push him out.

Mr. Spicer said the president was informed about the contents of Mr. Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador in late January, and White House officials spent a “few weeks” looking into the matter.

Vice President Mike Pence , who had vouched publicly for Mr. Flynn, didn’t learn until Feb. 9 about the discussion of sanctions, said his spokesman, Marc Lotter. Mr. Lotter didn’t explain the lag in the vice president’s knowledge.

It is unclear what Mr. Flynn told the FBI agents, or whether his account during the interview was contradicted by intelligence intercepts. But the very act of undergoing an interview is potentially significant for Mr. Flynn because it is a crime to lie to the FBI; charges have been filed against senior officials in previous administrations for lying to investigators.

Mr. Flynn couldn’t be reached for comment.

The FBI interview underscores that one the most senior officials in the White House had fallen under investigative scrutiny less than a week into Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Mr. Flynn’s contacts with the Russian envoy is one of a number of U.S. counterintelligence investigations into Russian government contacts with people close to Mr. Trump.

Democrats called for congressional hearings to take sworn statements from Mr. Flynn to get to the bottom of what the president knew and when. Republicans began to back some of those calls on Tuesday.

“The [Senate] Intelligence Committee is already looking at Russian involvement in our election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Tuesday. “It’s highly likely they’d want to take a look at this episode as well. They have the broad jurisdiction.”

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Tuesday his chief concern was that “the White House evidently knew for some weeks that the country had been misled and they were OK with that. They were willing to labor under this

Mr. Spicer said the president’s eroding level of trust in Mr. Flynn was a result of his contact with the Russian ambassador and a “series of other questionable instances.” Asked Tuesday night to describe the other instances, Mr. Spicer declined to do so.

The sequence of events leading up to Mr. Flynn’s ouster Monday night began on Dec. 29, when the then-President Barack Obama ’s administration made public punitive measures against Russia for alleged hacking aimed at meddling with the U.S. presidential election to favor Mr. Trump. The U.S. said it was ejecting 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the country and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services.

That same day, Mr. Flynn repeatedly reached out to the Russian ambassador, according to people familiar with Russian intercepts. In a call, Mr. Flynn sought to persuade the ambassador not to “overreact’’ to the measures, suggesting Mr. Trump administration’s would soon be able to be more friendly to Russia, these people said.

Word of the contact between the two men first surfaced in mid-January. On Jan. 15, Mr. Pence told CBS that Mr. Flynn never discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

That statement alarmed U.S. intelligence officials, who knew of intercepts showing the two had, in fact, discussed the sanctions, according to people familiar with the discussions. At that point, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a holdover from Mr. Obama’s administration, discussed the issue with other officials, including FBI Director James Comey, who convinced her to wait a bit longer before alerting the White House, so that their investigation could develop more information, these people said.

A week after Mr. Pence’s statement, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating communications between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak. In comments on Jan. 23, Mr. Spicer said the two had discussed four other topics, including a planned phone call between the presidents of the two countries, but not the issue of sanctions.

Some U.S. intelligence officials grew uneasy at the possibility that Russian authorities could, in theory, blackmail Mr. Flynn at some future time by threatening to reveal the true nature of the discussions, these people said. After Mr. Spicer’s public comments about Mr. Flynn on Jan. 23, FBI agents interviewed Mr. Flynn directly about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, these people said.

The FBI interview cleared the way for Ms. Yates to then raise the issue with the White House, officials said. On Jan. 26, she approached Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, about the issue. She warned Mr. McGahn that intercepted communications contradicted Mr. Flynn’s account of the discussions, and that White House officials had conveyed those misstatements to the public.

According to Mr. Spicer, Mr. McGahn quickly took the new information to the president.

After Ms. Yates relayed the concerns, some intelligence officials waited for White House officials to issue a new statement—to correct the public record in some way about Mr. Flynn’s contacts with the ambassador, according to people familiar with the matter. As time went on, it seemed to Justice Department officials that the White House didn’t plan to do so, these people said.

Mr. Trump fired Ms. Yates the Monday after she contacted the White House because she had declined to defend an executive order on refugees and visitors to the U.S.

In a briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Spicer said the president asked for the resignation of Mr. Flynn late Monday because he had lost his trust and confidence after conflicting statements about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Trump had been evaluating Mr. Flynn’s status ever since the Justice Department informed White House officials that the adviser was misleading them about the content and duration of his contacts, Mr. Spicer said.

Mr. Spicer said that Mr. Trump grew increasingly concerned that Mr. Flynn had misled top administration officials.

“This was an act of trust, whether or not he misled the vice president was the issue,” Mr. Spicer said. He said White House counsel determined during that time frame that Mr. Flynn didn’t violate the law.

Mr. Flynn, a confidant of Mr. Trump’s since his presidential campaign, resigned Monday night, writing that he had “inadvertently briefed” Mr. Pence and other officials “with incomplete information.”

Shortly before his resignation, Mr. Flynn was quoted in the conservative news website The Daily Caller saying his conversation with Mr. Kislyak “wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out… It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.’’

With Mr. Flynn’s resignation, the White House named Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff at the National Security Council who advised Mr. Trump during the campaign, as acting national security adviser.

Shane Harris, Byron Tau, Siobhan Hughes contributed to this article.

Write to Devlin Barrett at devlin.barrett@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mike-flynn-was-probed-by-fbi-over-calls-with-russian-official-1487123221

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From Fox News

Federal officials questioned former national security adviser Michael Flynn last month about whether he talked about sanctions with a Russian official, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the issue.

The interview with FBI agents came after a Jan. 23 press conference where White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Flynn did not discuss the matter with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. The paper, citing unnamed sources, said intelligence officials had already intercepted conversations in which they discussed the sanctions.

TRUMP REPORTEDLY KNEW ABOUT FLYNN’S CALLS, BUT KEPT VP IN THE DARK

Flynn sought to persuade the Russian ambassador not to “overreact” to then-President Obama’s punitive measures against Moscow for the alleged meddling in the U.S. election, the sources said. Flynn reportedly suggested that the Trump administration would be friendlier to Moscow.

The Wall Street Journal reported that it is unclear what was discussed in the meeting with the FBI agents, but said that it is a crime to lie to the FBI.

“The [Senate] Intelligence Committee is already looking at Russian involvement in our election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. “It’s highly likely they’d want to take a look at this episode as well. They have the broad jurisdiction.”

Shortly before his resignation, Flynn told The Daily Caller his conversation with the ambassador “wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out… It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.’’

Seperately, intercepted phone calls show that members of Trump’s presidential campaign had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials, The New York Times reported.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said intelligence officials intercepted these contacts around the same time they were looking into the Democratic National Committee.  The officials said that they have yet to find any sort of cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russians into the hacking effort.

The Times report said that it was unclear what was discussed in the conversations. The intercepted calls are reportedly separate from Flynn’s phone calls.

Paul Manafort,  who was Trump’s campaign manager for a few months, was reportedly one of those who  made a call  that was intercepted.  Manafort denied the allegation, saying “I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers.”

The White House has denied the claims that any individuals from his campaign were in touch with Russian officials prior to the election.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/15/flynn-was-reportedly-probed-by-fbi-over-calls-with-russian-official.html

Intelligence Agencies Say Russia Ordered ‘Influence Campaign’ to Aid Donald Trump in Election

January 6, 2017

Report says CIA, FBI have ‘high confidence’ in Putin findings; NSA has ‘moderate confidence’

President-elect Donald Trump leaving One World Trade Center Friday in New York.
President-elect Donald Trump leaving One World Trade Center Friday in New York. PHOTO: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Updated Jan. 6, 2017 4:30 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The U.S. intelligence community said in a report Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” and that Mr. Putin “aspired” to help Donald Trump win the election.

The declassified version of the report said the Russian government sought “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate [Democratic Party candidate Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

It also said the Russian government “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and that the intelligence agencies “have high confidence in these judgments.”

The report said that the Russian government’s strategy “evolved” during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency,” the report said.

The intelligence community said in an earlier statement in October that it believed the Russian government was working on a cyberattack campaign aimed at interfering at the election, but didn’t say at the time whether this operation was trying to help Mr. Trump win the election.

Intelligence officials said in the report released Friday that “further information has come to light since Election Day” that has increased their confidence of “Russian motivations and goals.”

The report said the intelligence community didn’t make an assessment about whether the hacking operation impacted the outcome of the election.

That appears to contradict a statement Mr. Trump issued shortly after meeting with intelligence officials Friday, in which he said the cyber operation didn’t influence the election’s outcome.

The report, explaining why it didn’t determine the effect of the hacking on the election, said U.S. intelligence agencies don’t analyze the U.S. “political processes or public opinion,” just the actions and intentions of foreign actors.

Tens of thousands of emails, many of which were from the Democratic National Committee or top Clinton aide John Podesta, were stolen and then leaked through outlets like WikiLeaks last year. Mr. Trump often cited those emails as evidence that his opponent was “crooked,” for example.

The Russian government has denied involvement in the operation, and WikiLeaks has said its “source” of the hacked emails wasn’t Russia or a “state party.”

The report was ordered by President Barack Obama after the November elections.

The report also confirms allegations from Mrs. Clinton’s team that Mr. Putin directed the effort in retaliation for what he perceived as her efforts as secretary of state to incite “mass protests against his regime” in 2011 and early 2012. The report says Mr. Putin did so “because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.”

The report says Mr. Putin also was motivated by potential policy victories he believed he was more likely to win under a Trump presidency than a Clinton presidency, specifically forming a coalition fighting Islamic State that includes Russia and the U.S. approach to the conflict in Ukraine.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said the report shows that Russia “clearly tried to meddle in our political system,” while stressing that it should not be used to undermine Mr. Trump’s election.

“We cannot allow partisans to exploit this report in an attempt to delegitimize the president-elect’s victory,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. “Donald Trump won this election fair and square because he heard the voices of Americans who felt forgotten.”

Mr. Trump was briefed on a longer, classified version of the report on Friday. Although he has expressed skepticism about U.S. intelligence findings concerning the Russian hacking in the past, he didn’t directly question the details of the briefing he received Friday. In a statement, he said he would appoint a team to come up with a plan to “combat and stop cyberattacks.”

“The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm,” Mr. Trump said. “Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.”

He didn’t say in the statement that he accepted their conclusion that Russia hacked into emails from the Democratic National Committee and others and then leaked them to outlets like WikiLeaks.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, criticized Mr. Trump’s assertion that the Russian campaign didn’t influence the election.

“It is one thing to say that there was no tampering with vote tallying—which is true—it is another thing to say that the daily dumping of documents disparaging to Secretary Clinton that was made possible by Russian cyber operations had no effect on the campaigns,” Mr. Schiff said.

Write to Damian Paletta at damian.paletta@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-continues-attacks-on-intelligence-agencies-ahead-of-classified-briefing-on-russia-1483728966

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Putin Ordered ‘Influence Campaign’ Aimed at U.S. Election, Report Says

WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials have concluded that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” and turned from seeking to “denigrate” Hillary Clinton to developing “a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The conclusions were part of a declassified intelligence report, ordered by President Obama, that was released Friday afternoon. Its main conclusions were described to Donald J. Trump by intelligence officials earlier in the day, and he responded by acknowledging that Russia sought to hack into the Democratic National Committee, but said nothing about the conclusion that Mr. Putin had sought to aid his candidacy, other than that it had no effect on the outcome.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/us/politics/russia-hack-report.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

The CIA Keeps Putin’s Secrets

January 4, 2017

Western governments stayed silent on the U.K. polonium murder of a Putin critic.

The Russian president in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 26.

 The Russian president in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 26. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
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Jan. 3, 2017 7:05 p.m. ET

Here’s one more way U.S. intelligence on Russia may not be up to snuff. Many would like President Obama to repay Russian hacking by releasing secret details of Vladimir Putin’s stolen wealth, estimated at up to $160 billion. They may be disappointed to learn the data don’t exist.

The idea of weakening Mr. Putin by laying out his secrets is a good one. We proposed it here three years ago. But even then, when the U.S. Treasury announced sanctions on Mr. Putin’s “personal bank” after his Crimea grab, it was quoting the 10-year-old allegation of one of Mr. Putin’s domestic opponents. Treasury revealed nothing you couldn’t find from Google.

A second problem may be that Mr. Putin actually owns title to nothing. At least in the latter stages of Russia’s kleptocracy, he merely points to things and people give them to him. Recall Patriots owner Robert Kraft at first acquiescing in the politely diplomatic storyline that he gave his 2005 Super Bowl ring to Mr. Putin as a gift. Later, Mr. Kraft came clean: Mr. Putin asked to try the ring on, then “put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out.”

The extreme murkiness of who owns what, and for how long, under Putin sufferance is illustrated by the financial coup with which he ended 2016.

To relieve a strained Russian budget and show the country’s appeal to Western investors, his underlings arranged a partial privatization of state-owned oil giant Rosneft. Yet the Italian bank supposedly financing the purchase admitted it was still mulling whether to participate. The key Western participant, Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore, was revealed in the Russian press to be off the hook for most of the cash for its $5 billion stake: “Russian banks provided it an exemption from this obligation.”

So where the money came from and who might end up owning many of the shares is about as clear as mud.

Still, critics are not wrong to suspect Mr. Putin is sensitive to corruption allegations. Nobody predicted the Arab Spring, the Ukrainian revolution, the fall of Gadhafi, etc. Mr. Putin cannot be certain when a public eruption might sweep him from his throne.

Igor Sechin, the Rosneft chief and Mr. Putin’s No. 1 ally, has been flinging lawsuits in all directions to suppress Russian media reports about his mansions and yachts. A billion-dollar palace on the Black Sea, allegedly built for Mr. Putin with diverted hospital funds, has been shrouded in murky transactions. Reportedly the property is now owned by a friendly businessman who paid many times its market value.

At least the CIA ought to have complete files on Mr. Putin’s early days when Russia’s media culture was wide open and free-wheeling. His alleged involvement in the disappearance of $93 million in food money as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg was documented by a special committee of the city’s elected legislature.

Ditto the 1999 apartment block bombings that killed 293 Russians and helped cinch his election as president. Even before the attacks, reputable European and Russian newspapers in Moscow reported that such outrages were being planned by Russia’s secret police. Several subsequent scholarly and journalistic studies have endorsed the view that these “terrorist” acts were actually engineered by Mr. Putin’s supporters.

U.S. intelligence agencies surely have definitive estimates on both of these episodes. The CIA may also be able to tell us more than we already know about many convenient murders and suspicious deaths that greased Mr. Putin’s rise and protected him from inopportune disclosures.

OK, let us stop kidding ourselves. Let Rep. Adam Schiff, a top Democrat calling for exposure of Putin secrets, stop kidding himself. Western governments have kept silent even on the polonium murder in London of dissident Alexander Litvinenko, an act of international nuclear terrorism. Why? Because they are unwilling to press hard on the Putin regime, fearing either blowback or his replacement by the devil they don’t know.

Mr. Obama’s sanctions have been precisely calibrated with these fears in mind, and Donald Trump brings only so much room for change. Rest your mind: Nothing in “The Art of the Deal” suggests Mr. Trump would voluntarily surrender the leverage Mr. Obama’s existing sanctions give him in future dealings with Mr. Putin. At the same time, he will stop accommodating Mr. Putin by supplying loud but weak rhetoric that Mr. Putin can play back to the Russian people as evidence the U.S. represents a geostrategic threat that Mr. Putin is manfully and victoriously outwitting.

The best and likeliest outcome if Mr. Trump is successful is that Mr. Putin will stop being an international problem in the run-up to his own re-election in 2018 and a year or so thereafter. Mr. Trump will be freer to concentrate on domestic reform and reacting to whatever emergencies the European Union inevitably throws up in the new year.

This holiday will be temporary. Mr. Putin, who has no realistic hope for a peaceful retirement, and whose society and economy are rotting out from under him, is almost certain to be a bane for the world and Russia in the coming decade.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-cia-keeps-putins-secrets-1483488301

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Trump aide says U.S. sanctions on Russia may be disproportionate — Trump expected to seek to roll back Obama’s actions — Will Germany be Putin’s next target?

January 2, 2017

The Russian embassy on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington DC on December 29, 2016. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
By David Shepardson and Lisa Lambert | WASHINGTON

A top aide to President-elect Donald Trump said in an interview aired on Sunday that the White House may have disproportionately punished Russia by ordering the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies.

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump will be asking questions of U.S. intelligence agencies after President Barack Obama imposed sanctions last week on two Russian intelligence agencies over what he said was their involvement in hacking political groups in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Obama also ordered Russia to vacate two U.S. facilities as part of the tough sanctions on Russia.

“One of the questions that we have is why the magnitude of this? I mean you look at 35 people being expelled, two sites being closed down, the question is, is that response in proportion to the actions taken? Maybe it was; maybe it wasn’t but you have to think about that,” Spicer said.

Trump is to have briefings with intelligence agencies this week after he returns to New York on Sunday.

On Saturday, Trump expressed continued skepticism over whether Russia was responsible for computer hacks of Democratic Party officials.

“I think it’s unfair if we don’t know. It could be somebody else. I also know things that other people don’t know so we cannot be sure,” Trump said.

He said he would disclose some information on the issue on Tuesday or Wednesday, without elaborating. It is unclear if, upon taking office on Jan. 20, he would seek to roll back Obama’s actions, which mark a post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.

Spicer said that after China in 2015 seized records of U.S. government employees “no action publicly was taken. Nothing, nothing was taken when millions of people had their private information, including information on security clearances that was shared. Not one thing happened.”

“So there is a question about whether there’s a political retribution here versus a diplomatic response,” he added.

PRESSURE IN CONGRESS

U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election. Moscow denies this. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has scheduled a hearing for Thursday on foreign cyber threats and has said that Russia must be made to pay the price for attacks “on our very fundamentals of democracy.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said on the same ABC program that Congress would push for an even harsher reprisal against Russia and warned Trump against undoing Obama’s sanctions.

“We think that more has to be done. We don’t think that frankly the steps that have been taken are enough of a deterrent,” said Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat. “And you’re going to see bipartisan support in Congress for stronger sanctions against Russia.”

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Obama’s sanctions were not enough.

Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to expel anyone in retaliation, saying he would consider the actions of Trump when deciding on further steps. Trump, who has repeatedly praised Putin, said the Russian leader was “very smart” for holding back.

Russian diplomats who were expelled by Obama left Washington on Sunday, Russian news agencies reported, citing Russia’s embassy.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in Palm Beach, Fla.; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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Russia’s Next Target

The Opinion Pages | CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER

 

HAMBURG, Germany — It’s no surprise that Russia met President Obama’s expulsion of its diplomats, which he announced Thursday in response to the Kremlin’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 election, with a collective shrug. Moscow seems content to let the clock run out, knowing that on Jan. 20 Mr. Obama will be replaced by an admirer in the White House and an old friend in the State Department.

But the changeover is bittersweet; President Vladimir V. Putin has also lost a beloved boogeyman. For the foreseeable future, the United States can hardly serve as Russia’s preferred enemy of the state. So guess who qualifies best as a new, well, boogeywoman? Angela Merkel.

The German chancellor is a perfect target. Germany is holding general elections next autumn, and with politicians sympathetic to Moscow on the rise, she may well be running for her fourth term as the sole European leader willing to stand up to a newly assertive Russia.

Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ms. Merkel has been the most consequential voice for punishing Russia. The next year, she welcomed a million refugees into Germany, and pushed the rest of Europe to do the same — thus, in the view of Russian ethno-nationalists, diluting European culture. And she still believes in a united, integrated European Union, a bastion of liberal values and, at least implicitly, a political and economic bulwark against Russia.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/01/opinion/angela-merkel-russias-next-target.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0