Posts Tagged ‘Clinton campaign’

Dianne Feinstein was an easy mark for China’s spy

August 9, 2018

It’s clear Feinstein has an alarming blind spot when it comes to China and national security.

As vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been investigating allegations of President Trump’s “collusion” with Russia.

But now we learn Feinstein may be the one compromised by a foreign power.

Turns out that Communist China had a spy in her office. A 20-year employee of Feinstein’s, the agent had been reporting back to China’s Ministry of State Security for well over a decade before he was caught in 2013, according to the FBI.

By Paul Sperry
Opinion

A Chinese-American who doubled as both an office staffer and Feinstein’s personal driver, the agent reportedly was handled by officials based out of the People’s Republic of China’s consulate in San Francisco, which Feinstein helped set up when she was mayor of that city. He even attended consulate functions for the senator.

Feinstein says she took the staffer off her payroll “immediately” after the FBI informed her five years ago that her office had been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence, and agents had identified the mole in a briefing. In a statement, the Democratic senator insisted he had “no access to sensitive information” and that he was never charged with espionage.

In June 1996 — after the staffer had begun working for Feinstein — the FBI detected that the Chinese government was attempting to seek favor with the senator, who at the time sat on the East Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees US-China relations. Investigators warned her in a classified briefing that Beijing might try to influence her through illegal campaign contributions laundered through front corporations and other cutouts.

The warning proved prescient.

One Chinese bagman, Nanping-born John Huang, showed up at Feinstein’s San Francisco home for a fundraising dinner with a Beijing official tied to the People’s Bank of China and the Communist Party Committee. As a foreign national, the official wasn’t legally qualified to make the $50,000-a-plate donation to dine at the banquet.

After a Justice Department task force investigated widespread illegal fundraising during the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign, Feinstein returned more than $12,000 in contributions from donors associated with Huang, who was later convicted of campaign-finance fraud along with other Beijing bagmen. The DNC and the Clinton campaign had to return millions in ill-gotten cash.

Still, Beijing got its favored trade status extended — thanks in part to Feinstein. In speeches on the Senate floor and newspaper op-eds, she shamelessly spun China’s human-rights violations, as when in 1997 she compared Beijing’s 1989 massacre of hundreds of young demonstrators to the 1970 Kent State shootings, calling for the presidents of China and America to appoint a human-rights commission “charting the evolution of human rights in both countries over the last 20 to 30 years,” that “would point out the successes and failures — both Tiananmen Square and Kent State — and make recommendations for goals for the future.”

Feinstein also led efforts to bring China into the World Trade Organization in 1999, which gave Beijing permanent normal trade relations status and removed the annual congressional review of its human-rights and weapons-proliferation records.

Feinstein, still among the Senate’s most influential China doves, travels to China each year. Joining her on those trips is her mega-millionaire investor husband, Richard C. Blum, who has seemingly benefited greatly from the relationship.

Starting in 1996, as China was aggressively currying favor with his wife, Blum was able to take large stakes in Chinese state-run steel and food companies, and has brokered over $100 million in deals in China since then — with the help of partners who sit on the boards of Chinese military front companies like COSCO and CITIC.

China investments have helped make Feinstein, who lives in a $17 million mansion in San Francisco and keeps a $5 million vacation home in Hawaii, one of the richest members in Congress.

Feinstein has insinuated that Trump is compromised by a foreign power. But it’s clear Feinstein has an alarming blind spot when it comes to China and national security.

Paul Sperry is a former Hoover Institution media fellow.

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Dianne Feinstein, the Chinese Spy, Donald Trump and the FBI

August 7, 2018

The point Trump should have made about Sen. Feinstein and the FBI.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif asks questions during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif asks questions during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16.PHOTO: JOSE LUIS MAGANA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Donald Trump couldn’t resist commenting on the news that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was the target of Chinese spying, but he missed the main point.

“I like Dianne Feinstein, I have to tell you, but I don’t like the fact she had a Chinese spy driving her, and she didn’t know it,” Mr. Trump averred at a Saturday rally in Ohio, adding: “Then she says to me: ‘Well, what did you know about this and that [Russia collusion]?’ I mean, give me a break, c’mon folks.”

But the issue here isn’t what Mrs. Feinstein says about Mr. Trump; it’s what the FBI told Mrs. Feinstein but didn’t tell Mr. Trump.

Foreign countries are always trying to steal U.S. secrets, and they sometimes succeed. In this case Mrs. Feinstein tweeted over the weekend that the FBI approached her five years ago with concerns about an “administrative” staffer in her San Francisco office with “no access to sensitive information.” She said she “learned the facts and made sure the employee left my office immediately.”

This is what the FBI should do, and the question Mr. Trump should ask is why the bureau didn’t treat him as a potential President with the same customary courtesy. The FBI claims it had concerns beginning in spring 2016 that low-level Trump campaign staffers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were colluding with Russians. Yet rather than give the Trump campaign the usual defensive briefing, the FBI launched an unprecedented counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign, running informants against it and obtaining surveillance warrants. The country is still enduring the polarizing fallout from that decision through special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

This disparate treatment is evidence that the FBI abused its authority in 2016, whether or not it acted with political bias. The bureau routinely warns politicians, campaigns and others about espionage threats. In Mrs. Feinstein’s case, the bureau had located an actual spy—and then went directly and discreetly to the Senator.

In Mr. Trump’s case, the FBI by its own admission was operating on nothing more than suspicions (many from the Clinton campaign-financed Steele dossier), and to this day the bureau has never presented definitive evidence of the campaign’s collusion with Russia. Yet it launched a full investigation that it didn’t disclose to Congress.

Mrs. Feinstein is also doing nobody a favor by downplaying this breach. She claims the driver never had access to “sensitive” information, but the infiltration of the staff of a Senator who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee is no small matter. Who knows what the spying staffer was able to hear and report to China over the years?

The Russia probe has become such a partisan Beltway fixation that it obscures larger issues of governance that will outlast Donald Trump and Dianne Feinstein.

Appeared in the August 7, 2018, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-and-the-di-spy-1533598269

Putin Claims U.S. Intelligence Agents Funneled $400 Million To Clinton Campaign

July 17, 2018

Vladimir Putin made a bombshell claim during Monday’s joint press conference with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, when the Russian President said some $400 million in illegally earned profits was funneled to the Clinton campaign by associates of American-born British financier Bill Browder – at one time the largest foreign portfolio investors in Russia. The scheme involved members of the U.S. intelligence community, said Putin, who he said “accompanied and guided these transactions.”

Browder made billions in Russia during the 90’s. In December, a Moscow court sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in prison for tax fraud, while he was also found guilty of tax evasion in a separate 2013 case. Putin accused Browder’s associates of illegally earning over than $1.5 billion without paying Russian taxes, before sending $400 million to Clinton.

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After offering to allow special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to come to Russia for their investigation – as long as there was a reciprocal arrangement for Russian intelligence to investigate in the U.S., Putin said this:

For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder, in this particular case.  Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia and never paid any taxes neither in Russia or the United States and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent [a] huge amount of money, $400,000,000, as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.  Well that’s their personal case.

It might have been legal, the contribution itself but the way the money was earned was illegal.  So we have solid reason to believe that some [US] intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions.  So we have an interest in questioning them.

The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸@ColumbiaBugle

President Putin accuses Hillary Clinton of accepting $400 million in illegal Russian campaign contributions.

We would expect Putin to show some receipts for such bombshell allegations, while President Trump did not challenge the claims.

Who is Bill Browder?

Max Blumenthal

@MaxBlumenthal

Clueless American media in Helsinki might want to watch Andrey Nekrasov’s “Magnitsky Act: Behind The Scenes” on how fraudster and US defector Bill Browder played Congress with his personal fortune and helped ignite a new Cold War. Browder got screening cancelled in EU parliament.

Torstein Grude@TorsteinGrude
Replying to @Kasparov63

A personalised screener of the film that Kasparov and Bill Browder do not want you to see can be gotten from me. I’m the film’s producer. Please send an email to torstein@piraya.no

From a report we noted in February by Philip Giraldi of The Strategic Culture Foundation:

Israel Shamir, a keen observer of the American-Russian relationship, and celebrated American journalist Robert Parry both think that one man deserves much of the credit for the new Cold War and that man is William Browder, a hedge fund operator who made his fortune in the corrupt 1990s world of Russian commodities trading.

Browder is also symptomatic of why the United States government is so poorly informed about international developments as he is the source of much of the Congressional “expert testimony” contributing to the current impasse. He has somehow emerged as a trusted source in spite of the fact that he has self-interest in cultivating a certain outcome. Also ignored is his renunciation of American citizenship in 1998, reportedly to avoid taxes. He is now a British citizen.

Browder is notoriously the man behind the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which exploited Congressional willingness to demonize Russia and has done so much to poison relations between Washington and Moscow. The Act sanctioned individual Russian officials, which Moscow has rightly seen as unwarranted interference in the operation of its judicial system.

Browder, a media favorite who self-promotes as “Putin’s enemy #1,” portrays himself as a selfless human rights advocate, but is he? He has used his fortune to threaten lawsuits for anyone who challenges his version of events, effectively silencing many critics. He claims that his accountant Sergei Magnitsky was a crusading “lawyer” who discovered a $230 million tax-fraud scheme that involved the Browder business interest Hermitage Capital but was, in fact, engineered by corrupt Russian police officers who arrested Magnitsky and enabled his death in a Russian jail.

Many have been skeptical of the Browder narrative, suspecting that the fraud was in fact concocted by Browder and his accountant Magnitsky. A Russian court recently supported that alternative narrative, ruling in late December that Browder had deliberately bankrupted his company and engaged in tax evasion. He was sentenced to nine years prison in absentia.

William Browder is again in the news recently in connection with testimony related to Russiagate. On December 16th Senator Diane Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee released the transcript of the testimony provided by Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS. According to James Carden, Browder was mentioned 50 times, but the repeated citations apparently did not merit inclusion in media coverage of the story by the New York Times, Washington Post and Politico.

Fusion GPS, which was involved in the research producing the Steele Dossier used to discredit Donald Trump, was also retained to provide investigative services relating to a lawsuit in New York City involving a Russian company called Prevezon. As information provided by Browder was the basis of the lawsuit, his company and business practices while in Russia became part of the investigation. Simmons maintained that Browder proved to be somewhat evasive and his accounts of his activities were inconsistent. He claimed never to visit the United States and not own property or do business there, all of which were untrue, to include his ownership through a shell company of a $10 million house in Aspen Colorado. He repeatedly ran away, literally, from attempts to subpoena him so he would have to testify under oath.

Per Simmons, in Russia, Browder used shell companies locally and also worldwide to avoid taxes and conceal ownership, suggesting that he was likely one of many corrupt businessmen operating in what was a wild west business environment.

My question is, “Why was such a man granted credibility and allowed a free run to poison the vitally important US-Russia relationship?” The answer might be follow the money. Israel Shamir reports that Browder was a major contributor to Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, who was the major force behind the Magnitsky Act.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-07-16/putin-claims-us-intelligence-agents-funneled-400-million-clinton-campaign

FBI Official Overseeing Election-Meddling Task Force Has Left

July 14, 2018

Departure of Jeffrey Tricoli for private-sector job comes just months before Nov. 6 midterm elections

Jeffrey Tricoli, who was coleading a government task force against foreign meddling in U.S. elections, has left for the private sector just months before the midterm elections,
Jeffrey Tricoli, who was coleading a government task force against foreign meddling in U.S. elections, has left for the private sector just months before the midterm elections, PHOTO: MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

A senior FBI official overseeing a government task force that addresses Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. elections has left the government for a job in the private sector, a departure that comes just months ahead of the 2018 midterm contests.

Jeffrey Tricoli had been coleading the FBI foreign influence task force until June, when he left government work for a senior vice president job at Charles Schwab Corp. , the company confirmed.

Mr. Tricoli, an 18-year veteran of the FBI who became a section chief of the bureau’s cyber division in December 2016, didn’t respond to requests for comment sent to his personal email and LinkedIn account. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr. Tricoli’s status, saying the Bureau doesn’t discuss personnel matters.

The reason for Mr. Tricoli’s departure wasn’t clear. But it adds to questions among some tech companies and lawmakers about how much the administration, and the task force in particular, are doing to protect future elections from Russian meddling.

This comes as the potential threat from foreign interference was underscored by a new indictment Friday from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, charging 12 Russians with a widespread conspiracy to steal thousands of emails from Democratic Party organizations and then ensure they became public in ways that would embarrass the Clinton campaign.

Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and author of a book about information wars on social media, said the Trump administration has shown little interest in addressing Russian meddling, leaving the FBI’s efforts to tackle foreign influence “reactive” instead of anticipatory.

The FBI, in a statement, said the task force has been forging ahead since it was created last year by Director Christopher Wray, though the Bureau declined to provide details.

“The FBI takes any effort to interfere with our democratic institutions extremely seriously,” it said. “For that reason, last year, Director Wray announced the Foreign Influence Task Force. Since its creation, the FITF has been an active, forward-looking task force.”

By bringing in representatives of FBI units and coordinating with state, federal and private organizations, the task force allows the Bureau “to share information and protect our democratic institutions from foreign influence,” the FBI said.

It wasn’t clear if a replacement for Mr. Tricoli has been selected. In January, Mr. Tricoli said publicly he was leading the task force alongside an unnamed counterpart in the FBI’s counterintelligence division.

Some technology companies and congressional investigators say privately that the task force has produced little in the way of concrete recommendations or initiatives since being formed last year, and that it lacks a clear agenda.

“So far there has not been a lot of substance yet from the task force,” said a congressional intelligence panel staffer who has been briefed on its activities. The official said it wasn’t unusual for new government task forces to progress slowly, however, comparing the foreign influence unit to the initially sluggish efforts by the Obama administration to address online terrorist propaganda.

Mr. Wray set up the task force last year to work in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to tackle the threat posed by Russia and other hostile foreign nations seeking to use social media or other means to influence U.S. domestic politics or amplify societal divisions.

The task force is designed to involve relevant FBI personnel from a variety of departments, including counterintelligence, cybercrime and public corruption. It is separate from the investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with President Donald Trump’s campaign being run by Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Tricoli’s departure comes months ahead of Nov. 6, when voters will cast ballots in the heated midterm elections as Republicans fight to hold their majorities in the House and Senate.

Government efforts to fend off election-related cyberattacks have been bifurcated into two categories: Preventing cyberattacks on election systems, such as voting machines and voter registration files, and limiting the amount of disinformation peddled by trolls on social media.

Safeguarding physical and digital election equipment, such as voting machines and voter registration files, has fallen under the purview of the cyber wing of DHS, which has worked closely with state election officials to make those systems more resilient and open to audits.

The FBI has been the de facto lead on dealing with the less-tangible problem of foreign influence operations that target U.S. elections. Russian trolls, often posing as Americans, leveraged thousands of accounts on Facebook and Twitter to expose hundreds of millions of users to disinformation in the run-up to the 2016 election, the companies have said.

The foreign-influence task force’s work has been largely secret since its inception, and Mr. Tricoli seldom spoke publicly about it. At an FBI conference in New York in January, he described it as an attempt to share more information with the technology companies and other stakeholders, while being wary that such outreach could clash with concerns about monitoring political speech.

“We’re not here to be the thought police,” Mr. Tricoli said at the conference.

Along with representatives from DHS, the FBI unit met in late May with several major internet companies at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., to discuss protecting the midterm elections from foreign propaganda, according to people familiar with the summit. That meeting, previously reported by the New York Times, left some tech companies in attendance believing that the government wasn’t seriously committed to collaborating to deter foreign-sponsored election-interference campaigns.

Government agencies and some lawmakers on the congressional intelligence panels have countered that Silicon Valley needs to accept primary responsibility for detecting and purging propaganda campaigns on their networks.

Write to Dustin Volz at dustin.volz@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fbi-official-overseeing-election-meddling-task-force-has-left-1531576801?mod=hp_listc_pos4

12 Russians accused of hacking Democrats in 2016 US election

July 13, 2018

Twelve Russian intelligence officers were indicted on charges they hacked into Democratic email accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and released stolen information in the months before Americans headed to the polls, the Justice Department said Friday.

The indictment — which comes days before President Donald Trump holds a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin — was the clearest allegation yet of Russian efforts to meddle in American politics. U.S. intelligence agencies have said the interference was aimed at helping the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump and harming the election bid of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller

The indictment lays out a sweeping and coordinated effort to break into key Democratic email accounts, including those belonging to the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The charges come as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the presidential election. The indictment does not allege that Trump campaign associates were involved in the hacking efforts or that any American was knowingly in contact with Russian intelligence officers.

The indictment also does not allege that any vote tallies were altered by hacking.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Still, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the internet “allows foreign adversaries to attack Americans in new and unexpected ways. Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide and conquer us.”

Before Friday, 20 people and three companies had been charged in the Mueller investigation. That includes four former Trump campaign and White House aides, three of whom have pleaded guilty to different crimes and agreed to cooperate, as well as 13 Russians accused of participating in a hidden but powerful social media campaign to sway American public opinion in the 2016 election.

Hours before the Justice Department announcement, Trump complained anew that the special counsel’s investigation is complicating his efforts to forge a better working relationship with Russia. Trump and Putin are to hold talks Monday in Finland, a meeting largely sought by Trump.

Trump said at a news conference Friday near London with British Prime Minister Theresa May that he wasn’t going into the meeting with Putin with “high expectations.”

“We do have a — a political problem where — you know in the United States we have this stupidity going on. Pure stupidity,” he said, referring to Mueller’s probe. “But it makes it very hard to do something with Russia. Anything you do, it’s always going to be, ‘Oh, Russia, he loves Russia.'”

“I love the United States,” Trump continued. “But I love getting along with Russia and China and other countries.”

The Associated Press

Related:

Mueller Probe Indicts 12 Russians in Hacking of DNC and Clinton Campaign

July 13, 2018

Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking, including by spear-phishing employees

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaking before a House panel on in Washington on Dec. 13, 2017.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaking before a House panel on in Washington on Dec. 13, 2017. PHOTO: ANDREW HARNIK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A dozen Russian intelligence officials were charged Friday with hacking into the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, and distributing stolen emails, according to an indictment obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

The officers spear-phished volunteers and employees of the Clinton campaign, obtained log-in credentials, and used them to secretly monitor the computer activity of “dozens of employees,” the Justice Department said. Spear-phishing means sending emails purporting to be from a known or trusted sender.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the charges at a press conference Friday, saying “the internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways.”

Mr. Mueller’s office has filed cases against 20 people and three companies to date and obtained five guilty pleas, including from President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

MORE TO COME

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com and Sadie Gurman at sadie.gurman@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mueller-probe-indicts-12-russians-in-hacking-of-democratic-national-committee-1531498286

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Bloomberg News

Mueller Wins Indictment of 12 Russian Officials for 2016 Hacking

 Updated on 
  • Charges of hacking into Clinton campaign, Democratic emails
  • Indictments came three days before a Trump-Putin summit

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking offenses related to the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

[Read the indictment here]

The 12, who are members of the GRU, a Russian intelligence agency, are accused of stealing usernames and passwords of volunteers in Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including its chairman John Podesta. They also hacked into the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in an operation starting around March 2016.

The charges include conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S., aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to launder money. They are accused of releasing the stolen emails on the web.

The announcement came only three days before President Donald Trump is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters Friday that “I briefed President Trump about these allegations earlier this week. The president is fully aware of the department’s actions.”

Rosenstein said two separate Russian units of the GRU intelligence agency stole emails and information from Democrats and then disseminated it via online personas, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0. He also said there’s no allegation in the indictment that any American was involved in the operation.

“The object of the conspiracy was to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the indictment said.

The Russians masked their activities by using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to buy servers, register Internet domains and make other payments in the hacking operation, according to the indictment. It said the Russians also funded the operation in part by “mining” Bitcoin.

With the charges, Mueller’s prosecutors have marked out another Internet pathway they say Russia used to influence the U.S. election. On Feb. 16, his prosecutors charged 13 Russians and three Russian entities they said were part of a broader effort to sow discord among U.S. voters through social media — which they used to impersonate Americans, coordinate with unwitting U.S. activists and even plan rallies.

Trump told reporters in London Friday that he will “absolutely firmly” ask Putin about the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that he authorized the campaign of interference. But he added, “I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me” confession.

Read More: Trump Says Not to Expect ‘Perry Mason’ Moment With Putin

Trump has frequently dismissed the Russia probe as a “witch hunt” and expressed his anger that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation. That put Rosenstein in charge, and he promptly appointed former FBI Director Mueller as special counsel.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin personally ordered a campaign to undermine “public faith in the U.S. democratic process” with the goal of hurting Clinton’s candidacy and ultimately helping to elect Trump.

Because Mueller has maintained public silence on his investigation, Rosenstein has made the few public pronouncements on the probe outside of legal documents and courtroom proceedings.

— With assistance by David Joachim

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-13/mueller-indicts-12-russian-spies-for-hacking-in-2016-campaign

‘Trust but Verify’ Applies to the FBI

April 15, 2018

America’s premiere law enforcement agency suffers the consequences of self inflicted wrongdoing and failures….

We refute tyranny when we hold law enforcement accountable.

‘Trust but Verify’ Applies to the FBI
PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Federal law enforcement did not cover itself in glory—again—in the just-concluded trial of Noor Salman, wife of the Pulse nightclub mass murderer in Orlando, Fla.

A judge scolded prosecutors during the trial for withholding exculpatory evidence. At her original bail hearing, the FBI had relied on a confession, extracted from Ms. Salman in an 11-hour interrogation, that she had helped Omar Mateen scope out the gay nightclub in advance of the shooting. As was subsequently revealed, the FBI was already in possession of cellphone location data that contradicted her claim. Other evidence also cast doubt on the confession, which the FBI failed to record or sustain with circumstantial proof. Ms. Salman was acquitted.

Happily, the malpractice here was less consequential than in the thrown-out corruption conviction of the late Sen. Ted Stevens. It was less brazen than the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s manufacture of fake statistical evidence of racial bias in auto lending or the questionable federal and state asset seizures that keep coming to light.

The Noor outcome may not be flattering to the FBI, but it should be flattering to America. Holding law enforcement accountable is the best refutation of the authoritarian temptation, with its mocking of our insistence on due process, elections and respect for individual rights.

At the same time, not every culpable police action is motivated by careerism or dishonesty of purpose. Murders are down in New York City. Policing is a reason. Yet two of the city’s most productive detectives were recently charged with manufacturing evidence to support an otherwise legitimate seizure of an illegal gun. Now under way is a spreading crackdown on police “testilying” in court.

So skepticism, leavened with a certain understanding, is required in the clash between individual rights and the police. This is about to become especially true in the mother of all cases, the FBI’s role in the 2016 election.

We’ve already learned a few unsettling things. Trump associates Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos were treated in unforgiving fashion for lies that may not have been lies, whereas the FBI practically conspired with Hillary Clinton and her aides to make sure their truth-shading was overlooked. The FBI’s use of evidence to win a Carter Page surveillance order appears to have been every bit as disingenuous as that used by prosecutors in the Noor Salman bail hearing.

Political bias or simply toadying to the party in power may turn out to have been a factor, but we are likely to hear a great deal about what top law-enforcement officials believed, rather than knew, about Donald Trump.

The autobiography of FBI chief James Comey is due next week. The chances are nil that it will deal honestly and completely with the 2016 race, especially the role of U.S. intelligence agencies in influencing some of the FBI’s actions. But as leaks already reveal, the book is accurately redolent of the contempt and distrust top officials felt for Candidate Trump, leading to actions that are hard to defend in hindsight.

Coming next will be a Justice Department inspector general’s report on Mr. Comey’s anomalous exculpation of Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 race. If, as we suspect, Robert Mueller is framing his own investigation partly to justify the pre-election actions of the FBI, then we will doubly need the recently launched investigation by U.S. Attorney John Huber, which doesn’t start from the assumption that the one thing that doesn’t need investigating is the investigators.

Then there’s the Stormy Daniels matter, in which a seamy but not illegal payment might, in theory, be illegal under campaign-finance rules.

At least efforts at suppressing Mr. Trump’s sexual history are a gentlemanly improvement on those of the Bill Clinton campaign 24 years earlier. If Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made an “in-kind” donation by paying off Ms. Daniels, didn’t Ms. Daniels make an in-kind donation when she agreed not to speak? Weren’t those Clinton women who didn’t come forward because they didn’t want to be savaged by the Clinton machine making in-kind contributions to the Clinton campaign?

The questions are absurd because the law is absurd. What should be a personal and political embarrassment for Mr. Trump has become another superfluous legal jeopardy for the man 46% of American voters wanted for their president. When we metastasize laws for criminalizing politics, we become more like Vladimir Putin’s Russia, not less so. Witness the liberal group Common Cause, which can’t get enough campaign regulation, rushing out Stormy-related federal complaints against the Trump campaign on Thursday.

But another lesson also applies in such a world. All presidents face opponents who seek to make sure they deliver as little as possible even when delivering would be good for the country. Mr. Trump came to the presidency with too much baggage that his opposition could use against him. That’s something Mr. Trump’s voters and party should have thought about before nominating him.

Appeared in the April 14, 2018, print edition.

House Intelligence Committee: former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper misled Congress on possible collusion — U.S. Intel “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft” on Russian election meddling

March 23, 2018

James Clapper

James Clapper / Getty Images

BY: 

A House Intelligence Committee investigation of Russian election meddling has concluded that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper misled Congress about disclosing information to CNN.

The committee’s final report on the investigation was approved on Thursday and now awaits an intelligence agency review.

Despite 472 days of investigation and thousands of witnesses, the committee stated in its list of final conclusions and recommendations that it found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump, his campaign aides, and Russia.

“The committee found no evidence that meetings between Trump associates—including Jeff Sessions—and official representatives of the Russian government—including Ambassador Kislyak—reflected collusion, coordination, or conspiracy with the Russian government,” the list states.

The report also said former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI regarding conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak “even though the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents did not detect any deception during Flynn’s interview.”

The finding suggests the FBI improperly charged Flynn.

The Obama administration also failed to notify the Trump campaign that members of the campaign were assessed to be counterintelligence concerns, the report said.

The committee said opposition to Trump from the U.S. national security establishment prompted the campaign to hire unqualified aides such as George Papadopoulous and Carter Page.

Trump advisers had contacts with the pro-Russian Wikileaks, but none were involved in the theft or publication of Clinton campaign emails, the report said.

On the former DNI, the report says that Clapper, now a contributor to CNN as a national security analyst “provided inconsistent testimony to the committee about his contacts with the media, including CNN.”

A CNN spokeswoman did not return an email seeking comment. Clapper could not be reached for comment.

The report also states that leaks of classified information about Russian intentions to sow discord in the U.S. presidential election began prior to Election Day. The disclosures of U.S. secrets alleging Russia was working to help elect Trump “increased dramatically” after the Nov. 8, 2016 election.

The panel suggested that the leaks “correlate to specific language” in a U.S. intelligence community assessment of Russian election meddling.

The finding suggests that leaks of classified information were politically motivated to undermine Trump after he won the election.

The findings also say the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign funded the anti-Trump dossier produced by former British intelligence officers Christopher Steele.

Steele “claims to have obtained his dossier information second- and third-hand from purported high-placed Russian sources, such as government officials with links to the Kremlin and intelligence services,” the report says.

“Christopher Steele’s information from Russian sources was provided directly to Fusion GPS and Perkins Cole and indirectly to the Clinton campaign,” the report said.

The report suggests that the research group Fusion GPS was used by Russia for disinformation. “Prior to conducting opposition research targeting candidate Trump’s business dealings, Fusion GPS conducted research benefitting Russian interests,” the report said.

The Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS early in the 2016 election campaign but had no role in the Steele dossier.

The report also concluded that Russia intelligence used social media to sow political discord and undermine the election.

The FBI was criticized by the committee for not providing victims information about Russian hacking operations.

Also, U.S. intelligence community judgments regarding Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s strategic intentions “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft,” the report said.

The report said Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted former Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort on charges unrelated to collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/house-probe-accuses-clapper-misleading-congress/

Democrats for Eavesdrop Abuse

February 26, 2018

Their intel memo confirms the FBI used Clinton research to spy on Carter Page.

A Democratic memo written under the direction of ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff.
A Democratic memo written under the direction of ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff. PHOTO: DANIEL ACKER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The House Intelligence Committee on Saturday released the long-awaited Democratic response to allegations the FBI abused its surveillance powers during the 2016 election. Committee Chairman Devin Nunes owes ranking Democrat Adam Schiff a thank you for assisting his case.

The 10-page Democratic memo begins by declaring that “The FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.” Yet the facts it lays out show the opposite.

In particular the memo confirms that the FBI used an opposition-research document paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee as part of its application to surveil Carter Page, who was associated with the Donald Trump campaign.

Democrats dispute the degree to which the FBI relied on the dossier created by opposition-researcher Christopher Steele in applying for its FISA court order, but that’s beside the point. If the FBI had as much “compelling evidence” and “probable cause” as the memo asserts, it would not have needed to cite the Steele document. And the Democrats do not dispute that the Steele dossier was the FBI’s only source in its initial FISA application for its allegation that Mr. Page met with suspect Russians in Moscow in July 2016.

The Democratic memo makes no attempt to rebut the widely reported news that former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe told Congress that the FBI would not have sought a surveillance warrant without the dossier. Democratic Rep. Jim Himes claimed on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. McCabe never said that, but then why not put that in the memo?

The Democratic memo also confirms that the FBI withheld from the court the partisan provenance of the dossier. Democrats even provide, for the first time in public, the precise language the FBI used in its initial application in a long, obfuscating footnote.

Democrats say the FBI told the FISA court that a “law firm” [Clinton/DNC firm Perkins Coie] hired “an identified U.S. person” [oppo-research firm Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson ] to “conduct research regarding Candidate #1s ties to Russia.” The “identified U.S. person” then hired “Source #1” [Mr. Steele] to do the research. The footnote ends: “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.”

Speculates? Likely? Could? The dossier was paid for by actors whose overriding purpose was to defeat Mr. Trump. Nowhere do Democrats say the FBI used the words “political” or “partisan” or “campaign,” much less Clinton or Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic memo claims the FBI acted “appropriately” in not “revealing” the name of an “entity” in a FISA application, but this is laughable. The FBI sometimes masks identities to preserve sources and methods, but the Steele dossier was a pastiche of gossip and rumor based on Mr. Steele’s contacts. Disclosing his partisan funders would have betrayed no important intelligence sources but would have given the court reason to ask the FBI for more credible information before granting an eavesdrop order.

Messrs. Steele and Simpson briefed their media friends in September and October about their dossier, despite FBI prohibitions. The FBI nonetheless falsely told the court that Mr. Steele wasn’t the source of a Yahoo News article that it used as additional evidence in its application. While the Democratic memo repeatedly refers to Mr. Steele’s reporting as “reliable” and “credible,” it confirms that the FBI fired Mr. Steele after it found he hadn’t told the truth about his media spinning.

The Democratic memo devotes considerable space to smearing the hapless Mr. Page, as if he’s some kind of master spy and the Rosetta Stone of the Trump-Russia story. Yet no one has offered proof that he colluded with the Russians, and he hasn’t been indicted.

Democrats also make much of the fact the FBI started looking into the Trump campaign in July 2016 but didn’t receive “Steele’s reporting” until “mid-September.” So what? The issue here is the fairness and honesty of the FISA application in late October (not the investigation), and what matters is that the FBI didn’t move on the FISA application until after it received the dossier.

***

The only definitive evidence of political “collusion” so far is that the Clinton campaign paid Mr. Steele to troll his Russian sources for dirt on Donald Trump. The FBI then used this dirt as a reason to spy on Mr. Page and anyone he was communicating with. Imagine how the press would be playing this story if the roles were reversed?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/democrats-for-eavesdrop-abuse-1519598461

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Trump, Top Democrat Make Dispute Over Memo Personal

Adam Schiff says White House delayed release until the weekend to minimize news coverage; president calls him ‘phony’

WASHINGTON—A feud flared over the weekend between President Donald Trump and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee over the release of a Democratic memo defending federal investigators’ handling of surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California accused the White House of delaying the memo’s release until the weekend to minimize news coverage, while the president said Mr. Schiff leaks information from the committee and is a “bad guy.”

How Not to Fix the FBI

February 13, 2018

A second special prosecutor would undermine the good work of Congress.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears at the National Sheriffs Association Winter Conference in Washington, Feb. 12.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears at the National Sheriffs Association Winter Conference in Washington, Feb. 12. PHOTO: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS

Rep. Devin Nunes has rendered the public an extraordinary service. Almost single-handedly, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has pried loose from an obstructionist Justice Department documents revealing how the Federal Bureau of Investigation used Clinton campaign research to justify a warrant to spy on Carter Page, a onetime Trump campaign associate. So why are Republicans now threatening to undermine all this good work by calling for a special counsel?

In the past few days, the calls for a special counsel to look into the FBI and Justice Department have grown louder. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham want one. So do Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and others. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is thinking about it. Meanwhile, President Trump’s deputy press secretary has told reporters that the president’s lawyers want one too.

It’s a tempting proposition. Republicans are plagued by a special counsel whose mere existence calls into question the legitimacy of the last election. Why shouldn’t they inflict the same menace on Mr. Trump’s opponents? The answer is that a special counsel is not only unnecessary but counterproductive.

Right now, two big questions hang over our public life: how the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential elections, and whether the Justice Department and FBI let Hillary Clinton off the hook in the investigation into her private email server even as they politicized counterintelligence operations to undermine team Trump.

Republicans who think a special counsel is the right way to pursue answers ought to take a hard look at the Robert Mueller investigation. Mr. Mueller has indicted a few folks since being named special counsel last May. But he’s produced scant evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and no one knows what he’s really found because it’s all secret.

What makes anyone think a new special counsel would be any different? Once appointed, the curtain would drop. Congress would be asked to stand down, on the grounds that it must not do anything that might interfere with a criminal investigation.

This prosecutorial approach turns the Constitution on its head. In our system of self-government, the American people, acting through their elected representatives, are given oversight of what their politicians and government have been up to. For the most part, accountability is meant to come via the ballot box—not a grand jury.

A better way forward would be for Mr. Sessions to appoint a U.S. attorney to investigate abuses of power within the Justice Department and FBI. Rather than destroying these organizations, the goal of the investigation would be to restore their credibility by identifying any abuses of power and removing the responsible individuals. Although the threat of a grand jury would likely be necessary to concentrate the minds of certain officials who might not be inclined to cooperate, the goal would be to hold individuals accountable, not to tar whole institutions.

Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, says that such an investigation would require the unequivocal support of three principal players: President Trump, Attorney General Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Each would have to show a commitment that has so far been lacking.

Image result for Christopher Wray, photos

Christopher Wray

Mr. Trump would need to overcome his administration’s reluctance to use its declassification powers to make public crucial material. Mr. Sessions would have to provide the designated U.S. attorney not only with support but clear parameters and a time frame to ensure the effort did not drag on and on. Mr. Wray, for his part, would have to show cooperation that doesn’t require the threat of a congressional contempt citation.

The man or woman appointed to lead the investigation, Mr. McCarthy says, “has to be someone who is looking to hold people accountable while preserving Justice and the FBI as the essential institutions they are, and who is looking to have this wrapped up in short order, not an empire builder à la Mueller.”

Mr. McCarthy believes that although there are other possible investigators, it would be best to use FBI agents. Of course, these agents would have to lack any connection to the subjects of their investigation, and they would need a guarantee that their careers would not suffer. But using FBI agents to root out the bad apples, says Mr. McCarthy, could elicit more cooperation from a bureau that might otherwise see itself as under siege from people who wanted the institution destroyed.

 

If handled properly, such an investigation could bring many benefits. The public would get a full accounting of the dossier saga. Those responsible for any abuses would be removed. And the American people would see that our system of government is capable of identifying abuse and correcting it—without resorting to the constitutional aberration known as the special counsel.

Write to mcgurn@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-not-to-fix-the-fbi-1518478919

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