Posts Tagged ‘Democratic National Committee’

Carter Page suing DNC for defamation over Steele dossier — DOJ, FBI Wrongdoing Unravels

October 16, 2018

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page is suing the Democratic National Committee for defamation over the Christopher Steele dossier.

Page claims in a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma federal court on Monday that from June 2016 through at least September 2016, the DNC, its law firm Perkins Coie and two of the firm’s partners, Marc Elias and Michael Sussmann, intentionally spread the contents of the dossier to media organizations and to entities in the US government.

Page says he wants to hold them accountable for “funding and distributing to the media an extensive series about him they knew to be false.”

The so-called “Trump dossier,” commissioned by Fusion GPS, contained many scandalous and unverified claims about President Trump’s ties to Russia.

It also said that Page was the Trump campaign’s intermediary to Russia. Page denies this.

“The slanderous statements made and libelous documents” allegedly provided to the media, “directly exposed Dr. Page to public hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy… and injured him severely in all his occupations, and tended to scandalize both his colleagues and friends,” the lawsuit states.

He is seeking special and punitive damages in excess of $75,000.

The DNC and Perkins Coie didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.


Trump blasts FBI, DOJ over report on Carter Page surveillance warrants


Memos detail FBI’s ‘Hurry the F up pressure’ to probe Trump campaign


U.K. Accuses Russia of Waging Cyber Attacks Against the West

October 4, 2018

The announcement comes as the Dutch government said its intelligence services disrupted a GRU cyberhack of chemical weapons watchdog

Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects the headquarters of the GRU in  November 2006.
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects the headquarters of the GRU in November 2006. PHOTO: DMITRY ASTAKHOV/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX

LONDON—The British government Thursday stepped up its accusations against Russia’s military intelligence service, saying the unit had directed a series of high-profile online hacks including the 2016 leak of Democratic National Committee emails and the release of U.S. and other athletes’ antidoping test results.

The British Foreign Office said Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU, was guilty of “indiscriminate and reckless” cyberattacks over the last three years that targeted a range of political and media institutions.

The statement comes following a serious deterioration in British relations with the Kremlin following an alleged chemical-weapons attack this year on Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer living in Britain, for which the U.K. holds his former employer responsible.

In a separate announcement on Thursday, a Dutch government official said its intelligence services disrupted a GRU cyberhack of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors the use of chemical weapons, in April this year.

The OPCW, based in The Hague, was the international agency that confirmed chemical weapons were used on British soil as part of the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter in March. OPCW officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Moscow was bitter in its condemnation of the U.K.’s claim, describing the allegations as delusional and a “diabolical blend of perfume.”

“They mixed everything up in one bottle, which could be a bottle of Nina Ricci perfume: GRU, cyber spies, Kremlin hackers, and the [World Anti-Doping Agency],” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s told reporters at a press briefing Thursday, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

British authorities believe the Novichok nerve agent was hidden in a Nina Ricci perfume bottle.

After the attempted poisoning earlier this year the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to expose the GRU’s activities.

Many of the cyberattacks cited by the U.K. have already been attributed to Russian hackers. However, it is the first time the U.K. government has linked them directly back to the Kremlin.

“The U.K. government has made the judgment that the Russian government—the Kremlin—was responsible,” for the hacks the Foreign Office said.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, which is affiliated to the U.K. top intelligence agency, said with “high confidence” that the GRU were behind theft and leak of embarrassing Democratic National Committee emails ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

It added that the GRU was responsible for a number of other attacks including the “Fancy Bear” or “Strontium” hacks, where phishing emails were used to direct targets to fake websites designed to resemble legitimate ones where they steal login credentials.

The U.K. also said that the GRU was behind hackers who accessed the World Anti-Doping Agency’s medical database and released the private information of top U.S. Olympians and other athletes.

A number of other cyberattacks were also traced to the intelligence agency, including ransomware that encrypted hard drives and paralyzed Russia’s central bank and caused disruption on the Kiev subway.

Diplomatic relations between the U.K. and Russia have hit lows following the attempted murder of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English town of Salisbury earlier this year.

Two men, identified as Russian GRU operatives by the British, have been charged by U.K. prosecutors. Russian President Vladimir Putin previously dismissed the allegations of Russian involvement, saying the two men accused by the U.K. of the poisonings were civilians.

Mr. Putin this week lambasted Mr. Skripal, branding him ’scum’ and a ’traitor.’

“Some media outlets are trying to put forward the idea that Skripal was practically a human- rights defender,” Mr. Putin said Wednesday in an address at Russian Energy Week in Moscow, “He is simply a spy and a traitor to his country. He is just scum, and that is it.”

The fallout from the poisoning led to the expulsion by Western governments of Russian diplomats, including 23 from the U.K., its single biggest expulsion in more than three decades.

Mr. Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who was a double agent for the U.K., and his daughter are now under the protection of British authorities at an undisclosed location.

Write to Max Colchester at


UK, Australia blame Russian military for cyber attacks

October 4, 2018

Britain and Australia on Thursday blamed Russia’s military intelligence service for some of the biggest cyber attacks of recent years — including one on the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

They said the GRU military intelligence service could have only been conducting operations of such scale on Kremlin orders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly and angrily rejected similar charges.

He told US President Donald Trump during a July summit in Helsinki that talk of Russia meddling in the 2016 election was “nonsense”.

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin leave after a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. AP PHOTO/Alexander Zemlianichenko

But Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the Australian government pointed the blame directly at alleged GRU front operations such as Fancy Bear and APT 28.

The announcement could further strain relations between Russia and Britain that began to deteriorate with the 2006 assassination with polonium in London of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

“This is not the actions of a great power, this is the actions of a pariah state,” British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said during a visit to Brussels.

“We’ll continue working with allies to isolate, make them understand they cannot continue to conduct themselves in such a way.”

The Australian government added that Russia’s actions violated its international commitments to “responsible state behaviour” in cyberspace.

“Cyberspace is not the Wild West,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a joint statement.

– Airports and tennis stars –

Russia is not the only nation accused of conducting aggressive cyber operations in recent years.

The United States blames North Korea for hacking Sony in 2014 and launching the WannaCry ransomware attack last year.

US security researchers said on Wednesday that an elite group of North Korean hackers was also the source of attacks on world banks that netted “hundreds of millions” of dollars.

But British government sources said the NCSC has assessed with “high confidence” that the GRU was “almost certainly” behind the DNC hack that some Hillary Clinton supporters helped tip the US election in Trump’s favour.

Batches of DNC emails were later published by WikiLeaks. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether their release was coordinated with the Trump campaign.

Mueller in July indicted 12 Russian GRU officers in connection with the DNC attack.

The independent findings by Britain and Australia may help Mueller fend off some of the accusations of political bias in his probe.

British sources said the GRU was also behind BadRabbit ransomware that caused disruptions on the Kiev metro and at an international airport in the Ukrainian port of Odessa last October.

The same attack affected Russia’s Interfax news agency and the popular news site.

British sources said the third strike resulted in the release of the medical files of global sports stars in August 2017.

They included tennis’s Serena and Venus Williams and Britain’s Tour de France winning cyclists Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) thinks the files’ release resulted from a data hack of its Doping Administration and Management system.

Russia was arguing at the time that its athletes were being unfairly targeted by anti-doping inspectors.

The fourth attack identified by the NCSC accessed multiple accounts belonging to a small UK-based TV station.

Some opposition Russian-language channels operate out of London.

– Blurring war and peace –

British government sources identified 12 fronts the GRU allegedly uses to conduct its operations in cyberspace.

APT 28 and Fancy Bear have already been identified by the Mueller probe.

The other names on the list include Cyber Berkut — long suspected of targeting Ukraine — as well as less-known groups such as Sednit and BlackEnergy Actors.

Researchers at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London said Russia often conducts cyber attacks to simply show it is capable of disrupting the networks of a potential enemy.

“The GRU’s activities go well beyond this traditional peacetime espionage role,” said RUSI Professor Malcolm Chalmers.

“By launching disruptive operations that threaten life in target societies, they blur the line between war and peace.”


Devin Nunes: ‘Laughable’ to argue Trump’s declassification order endangers national security

September 18, 2018

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said it is “laughable” to claim President Trump’s order Monday to declassify documents related to the Russia investigation is a danger to national security.

The “mainstream media” is “buying the Kool-Aid,” Nunes, R-Calif., said in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham reacting to a warning given hours earlier by his Democratic counterpart on the intelligence panel.

In a statement, Rep. Adam Schiff called Trump’s order a “clear abuse of power” and said he was previously informed by the FBI and Justice Department that they would consider the release of these materials the stepping past a “red line that must not be crossed as they may compromise sources and methods.”

Image result for Adam Schiff, photos

Rep. Adam Schiff

Nunes brushed off what he described as a political “play call,” which has been echoed by other Democrats, politicos, and legal experts. “It’s laughable that they are saying this will somehow endanger national security,” Nunes said. “This is really full transparency for the American people.”

Answering a push by his GOP allies in Congress, who have been clamoring to secure public evidence showing a tainted Russia investigation and bias in the top levels of the DOJ and FBI, the White House announced early Monday evening that Trump had ordered the declassification of certain key documents that Nunes and others have had their eyes on, and more.

Among them are about 20 pages of the June 2017 application to the FISA court seeking the authority to spy on onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who had suspicious ties to Russia. While it’s not the first application submitted — there were four in total — Nunes explained this one contains the main details of the other three. The FISA documents were released earlier in the summer, but in heavily redacted form.

The GOP majority in the House Intelligence Committee, with the release of a memo in February that was declassified by Trump, raised the alarm about the FBI possibly misleading the FISA court by hiding the political origins of dossier, written by ex-British spy Christopher Steele and funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Trump and Republicans have repeatedly questioned the credibility of the Russia investigation, specifically how much the dossier — which contains unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia — was used by top federal law enforcement officials to justify launching it in 2016. Trump’s order Monday also covers documents on FBI interviews with DOJ official Bruce Ohr, who not only fed the bureau information he got from Steele, but also has a wife who had done work for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the dossier.

Democrats have decried the GOP efforts, characterizing them as a means to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In his statement Monday, Schiff accused Trump of deciding to “intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative.”

Meanwhile, there has been talk that Trump could be breaking the law with his order; not in regards to the Russia documents, but rather with the unexpected move of ordering the unredacted release of text messages of current and former officials, including ex-FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Ohr, and former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who became infamous for their anti-Trump text messages.

“There could very likely be Privacy Act implications,” former Justice Department attorney Scott Hodes told Politico.

While Nunes and others, like Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., praised Trump for allowing transparency to win, there remain hurdles. In a statement Monday evening, the Justice Department suggested that the declassification effort, which will involve multiple agencies, will take some time.

“When the President issues such an order, it triggers a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House Counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests. The Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President’s order,” a DOJ spokeperson said.

Even when the documents are declassified, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano warned that some of them may not see the light of day. “Just because something is no longer classified doesn’t mean it’s public,” he said on air.

Former government officials explained to the Wall Street Journal that members of Congress, including those in the House Intelligence Committee, could obtain them and then release some of the documents themselves. They would also be subject to freedom of information laws.


Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr was told Russia had ‘Trump over a barrel’ — report

September 1, 2018

Trump-Russia dossier author also said to tell Bruce Ohr that campaign aide Carter Page met with more-senior Russian officials than he’d acknowledged


In this photo from August 28, 2018, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr arrives for a closed hearing of the House Judiciary and House Oversight committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In this photo from August 28, 2018, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr arrives for a closed hearing of the House Judiciary and House Oversight committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Justice Department lawyer says a former British spy told him at a breakfast meeting two years ago that Russian intelligence believed it had Donald Trump “over a barrel,” according to multiple people familiar with the encounter.

The lawyer, Bruce Ohr, also says he learned that a Trump campaign aide had met with higher-level Russian officials than the aide had acknowledged, the people said.

The previously unreported details of the July 30, 2016, breakfast with Christopher Steele, which Ohr described to lawmakers this week in a private interview, reveal an exchange of potentially explosive information about Trump between two men the president has relentlessly sought to discredit.

They add to the public understanding of those pivotal summer months as the FBI and intelligence community scrambled to untangle possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. And they reflect the concern of Steele, a longtime FBI informant whose Democratic-funded research into Trump ties to Russia was compiled into a dossier, that the Republican presidential candidate was possibly compromised and his urgent efforts to convey that anxiety to contacts at the FBI and Justice Department.

The people who discussed Ohr’s interview were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the closed session and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

US President Donald Trump speaks with reporters upon arriving at the White House on August 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Among the things Ohr said he learned from Steele during the breakfast was that an unnamed former Russian intelligence official had communicated that Russian intelligence believed “they had Trump over a barrel,” according to people familiar with the meeting.

It was not clear from Ohr’s interview whether Steele was directly told that or had picked that up through his contacts, but the broader sentiment is echoed in Steele’s dossier.

Steele and Ohr, at the time of the election a senior official in the deputy attorney general’s office, had first met a decade earlier and bonded over a shared interest in international organized crime. They met several times during the presidential campaign, a relationship that has exposed both men and federal law enforcement more generally to partisan criticism, including from Trump.

Republicans contend the FBI relied excessively on the dossier during its investigation and to obtain a secret wiretap application on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. They also say Ohr went outside his job description and chain of command by meeting with Steele, including after his termination as a FBI source, and then relaying information to the FBI.

Trump this month proposed stripping Ohr, who until this year had been largely anonymous during his decades-long Justice Department career, of his security clearance and has asked “how the hell” he remains employed. He has called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt” and denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

The president and some of his supporters in Congress have also accused the FBI of launching the entire Russia counterintelligence investigation based on the dossier. But memos authored by Republicans and Democrats and declassified this year show the probe was triggered by information the US government earlier received about the Russian contacts of then-Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The FBI’s investigation was already under way by the time it received Steele’s dossier. The investigation’s lead agent, Peter Strzok, told lawmakers last month that “it was not Mr. Ohr who provided the initial documents that I became aware of in mid-September.”

Ohr described his relationship with Steele during a House interview Tuesday.

This photo from March 7, 2017, shows Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who set up Orbis Business Intelligence and compiled a dossier on Donald Trump, in London. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

One of the meetings he recounted was a Washington breakfast attended by Steele, a Steele associate and Ohr. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, who worked for Fusion GPS, the political research firm that hired Steele, attended at least part of it.

Beside the “over a barrel” remark, Ohr also told Congress that Steele told him that Page, a Trump campaign aide who traveled to Moscow that same month and whose ties to Russia attracted FBI scrutiny, had met with more-senior Russian officials than he had acknowledged.

The breakfast took place amid ongoing FBI concerns about Russian election interference and possible communication with Trump associates.

By that point, Russian hackers had penetrated Democratic email accounts, including that of the Clinton campaign chairman, and Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign associate, was said to have revealed that Russians had “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of emails, court papers say.

That revelation prompted the FBI to open the counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016, one day after the breakfast but based on entirely different information.

Ohr told lawmakers he could not vouch for the accuracy of Steele’s information but has said he considered him a reliable FBI informant who delivered credible and actionable intelligence, including about corruption at FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.

In the interview, Ohr acknowledged that he had not told superiors in his office, including Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, about his meetings with Steele because he considered the information inflammatory raw source material.

He also provided new details about the department’s move to reassign him once his Steele ties were brought to light.

Ohr said he met in late 2017 with two senior Justice Department officials, Scott Schools and James Crowell, who told him they were unhappy he had not proactively disclosed his meetings with Steele. They said he was being stripped of his associate deputy attorney post as part of an internal reorganization that would have occurred anyway, people familiar with Ohr’s account say.

He met again soon after with one of the officials, who told him Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein didn’t believe he could remain in his current position as director of a law enforcement grant-distribution initiative known as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces program because the position entailed White House meetings and interactions.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment.

Rudy Giuliani: DOJ lawyer Bruce Ohr should be investigated for felony

August 31, 2018

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested the Department of Justice should investigate its own employee, Bruce Ohr, over payments his wife received from Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the Steele dossier.

Bruce Ohr in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2010.
Bruce Ohr in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2010. PHOTO: C-SPAN

Writing on Twitter, Giuliani questioned whether the Justice Department has opened an investigation into whether Ohr had a written waiver for his wife’s work for Fusion GPS.

“What are the odds the DOJ or Mueller have begun an investigation of Bruce Ohr for violating 18 USC sec. 208? That’s a federal felony unless he disclosed all facts to the DOJ and has a written waiver. How many of you know what that is?” Giuliani wrote.

Rudy Giuliani


What are the odds the DOJ or Mueller have begun an investigation of Bruce Ohr for violating 18 USC sec. 208? That’s a federal felony unless he disclosed all facts to the DOJ and has a written waiver. How many of you know what that is?

Rudy Giuliani


Ohr’s wife was financially benefitted by Ohr, a DOJ official, advancing the Steele phony dossier. Her firm got some part of the $1.02 million paid by Hillary and DNC. A crime unless he has a written waiver from Obama’s politicized DOJ which is possible.

Ohr’s wife, a Russia expert named Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS as part of its Democrat-funded investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

The law firm that represented the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid Fusion GPS just over $1 million to investigate Trump. Fusion, which was founded by three former Wall Street Journal reporters, paid Steele $178,000 for his work. Nellie Ohr was paid $44,000, according to California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who took part in Ohr’s hearing Tuesday.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that Ohr did not obtain a conflict of interest waiver from the Justice Department for his wife’s work. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Bruce Ohr Hid Wife’s Fusion GPS Payments From DOJ)

According to Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney, Ohr’s wife receiving money on the dossier project would constitute “a crime unless he has a written waiver from Obama’s politicized DOJ which is possible.”

Asked for comment, a Justice Department spokeswoman referred the matter to the DOJ’s office of the inspector general.

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Russian oligarch, Justice Department and a clear case of collusion

August 30, 2018

In a 20-month search for evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, none that is compelling has emerged.

Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress he found none. The U.S. intelligence community has given a similar assessment, though it did prove convincingly that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election through cyber warfare. And, so far, special counsel Robert Mueller has not offered any collusion evidence, though his work continues.

But, for the first time, I can say there is evidence of collusion between Russians and Americans — specifically, the sort that is at the heart of counterintelligence work.

Before we review that evidence, let’s define collusion. The Collins Dictionary says its original British meaning was “secret or illegal cooperation, especially between countries or organizations.” Using that definition, collusion can be secret but good, if the outcome is well-intended. Or, it can be bad, if it is meant to defraud, deceive or create illegality.

By John Solomon

Now for the evidence, as presented to me by several sources, American and foreign:

In September 2015, senior Department of Justice (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr and some FBI agents met in New York with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to seek the Russian billionaire’s help on organized crime investigations. The meeting was facilitated — though not attended — by British intelligence operative Christopher Steele.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Oleg Deripaska

In 2012, Steele’s private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, was hired as a subcontractor by a law firm working for Deripaska, who then headed Russia’s largest aluminum company. Steele’s firm was asked to do research to help the law firm defend a lawsuit filed against Deripaska by a business rival.

By 2015, Steele’s work had left him friendly with one of Deripaska’s lawyers, according to my sources. And when Ohr, then the associate deputy attorney general and a longtime acquaintance of Steele, sought help getting to meet Deripaska, Steele obliged.

Deripaska, who frequently has appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at high-profile meetings, never really dealt with Steele, but he followed his lawyer’s recommendations and met with Ohr, my sources say.

By that time, Deripaska already had proven himself helpful to the FBI. As I’ve written previously, based on numerous U.S. sources, he cooperated with the bureau from 2009 to 2011 and spent more than $25 million of his own money on an FBI-supervised operation to try to rescue retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who was captured in Iran while working as a CIA contractor.

U.S. officials and Levinson’s family told me that Deripaska’s efforts came close to securing Levinson’s freedom before the State Department scuttled a deal. The former agent has never been heard from again.

The 2015 meeting between Ohr, the FBI and Deripaska is captured cryptically in some of Ohr’s handwritten notes, recently turned over to Congress.

People familiar with the meeting said U.S. officials posed some investigative theories about suspected Russian organized crime and cyber espionage activity, theories that Deripaska indicated he did not believe were accurate.

The sources stressed that the 2015 meeting had nothing to do with any allegation about Russian meddling in the upcoming 2016 election but, rather, was an “outreach” about other types of suspected activity overseas that concerned U.S. officials.

A year later, Deripaska would get another visit from his FBI friends in New York. But this time the questions were about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Specifically, the agents told Deripaska they believed Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was secretly coordinating the election with Moscow.

Steele had planted that theory with the FBI. By that time the former MI6 agent was working for the American opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which had been hired by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee to find Russian dirt on Trump. Steele’s theories, of course, are contained in the so-called Steele dossier provided to the FBI.

Ohr had his own connection to Fusion, which was paying his wife, Nellie, to work on the anti-Trump research project, according to congressional testimony.

Deripaska once had a business relationship with Manafort, but it ended in lawsuits. Despite that acrimony, Deripaska told the agents in that September 2016 meeting that he thought the theory that Manafort was colluding with Russia to help Trump win the election was preposterous.

Deripaska — like the many foreign business figures to whom U.S. intelligence has turned for help over the decades — is not without controversy or need. The State Department tried to keep him from getting a U.S. visa between 2006 and 2009 because they believed he had unspecified connections to criminal elements in Russia as he consolidated power in the aluminum industry. Deripaska has denied those allegations and claims FBI agents told him in 2009 that the State Department file blocking his entry to the country was merely a pretext.

Whatever the case, it is irrefutable that after he began helping the FBI, Deripaska regained entry to the United States. And he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017, visa entry records show.

We now know that, on multiple occasions during those visits, the DOJ and FBI secretly collaborated with Deripaska in the hope of getting help, first regarding Levinson, then on Ohr’s matters, and finally on the Manafort case. U.S. officials told me they assumed Deripaska let Putin’s team know he was helping the U.S. government and that his motive for helping was to keep visiting America.

Today, Deripaska is banned anew from the United States, one of several Russians sanctioned in April by the Trump administration as a way to punish Putin for 2016 election meddling. But he wants to be clear about a few things, according to a statement provided by his team. First, he did collude with Americans in the form of voluntarily assisting and meeting with the FBI, the DOJ and people such as Ohr between 2009 and 2016.

He also wants Americans to know he did not cooperate or assist with Steele’s dossier, and he tried to dispel the FBI notion that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded during the 2016 election.

“The latest reckless media chatter proposes that I had some unspecified involvement in the so-called dossier. Like most of the absurd fantasies and smears that ricochet across the internet, it is utterly false. I had absolutely nothing to do with this project, and I never had any knowledge of it until it was reported in the media and I certainly wasn’t involved in any activity related to it,” Deripaska said in the statement his team provided me.

Americans can form their own conclusions about the veracity of those claims. But they now have a pretty convincing case of collusion between U.S. officials and Russians, one that isn’t necessarily all that harmful to the American interest.

And the tale of Ohr, Steele, Deripaska, the FBI and the DOJ is a cogent reminder that people looking for black-and-white answers on Russia are more likely to find lots of gray — the favorite color of the murky counterintelligence world.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

Includes video:



US Democrats lessen superdelegates’ role in picking 2020 candidate

August 25, 2018

The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday to reduce the influence of so-called superdelegates in choosing a presidential nominee, in a move intended to bring greater transparency while healing the wounds of a contentious 2016 primary season.

At the party‘s presidential nominating convention that year, superdelegates — elected officials and other party leaders and activists — were able to add their influential votes to those coming from individual states’ primary contests.

Supporters of left-leaning senator Bernie Sanders complained bitterly that superdelegates, unbound by state-level results and so not necessarily reflecting the popular will, threw the nomination to the more establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Even without the superdelegates’ votes, Clinton won the majority needed for nomination. But Sanders supporters said the superdelegates’ influence had unfairly made Clinton’s candidacy appear unassailable. She went on to lose to Donald Trump in a stunning upset.

© Joe Raedle, AFP | DNC Chair Tom Perez speaks during a campaign event in Miami, Florida on April 19, 2017.

DNC members in a voice vote stripped superdelegates of the ability in future to cast polls during the first round of balloting, which has nearly always been decisive.

They will retain voting privileges on other Democratic business, such as the party platform.

In a Twitter message, Sanders welcomed the DNC’s decision as “an important step forward in making the Democratic Party more open, democratic and responsive to the input of ordinary Americans.”

Many superdelegates strongly opposed the change, saying the party activists who worked hardest to boost Democratic causes deserved special consideration.

But DNC chair Tom Perez defended it as a major reform that will “help grow our party, unite Democrats and restore voters’ trust by making our 2020 nominating process the most inclusive and transparent in our history.”

The field of Democratic aspirants for 2020 is wide open, and in the face of the intensely polarising and often chaotic presidency of Donald Trump, Democratic leaders hope to bind up intraparty wounds well ahead of time.


Tensions Flare as Hackers Root Out Flaws in Voting Machines

August 13, 2018

Defcon hack-a-thon conference aims to help test election security, but makers of voting equipment raise doubts

Hacker Robert Ou tries to access an AccuVote TSx voting machine at Defcon’s Voting Village on Friday.
Hacker Robert Ou tries to access an AccuVote TSx voting machine at Defcon’s Voting Village on Friday. PHOTO: ROBERT MCMILLAN

LAS VEGAS—Hackers at the Defcon computer security conference believe they can help prevent manipulation of U.S. elections. Some election officials and makers of voting machines aren’t so sure.

That tension was front and center at Defcon’s second-annual Voting Village, where computer hackers are invited to test the security of commonly used election machines. Organizers see the event as an early test of U.S. election security and a counterpunch to potential outside interference.

On the first day of the event, which runs through Sunday, hackers were able to swap out software, uncover network plug-ins that shouldn’t have been left working, and uncover other ways for unauthorized actors to manipulate the vote.

These hacks can root out weaknesses in voting machines so that vendors will be pressured to patch flaws and states will upgrade to more secure systems, organizers say.

Yet some manufacturers and security experts believe the hack-a-thon is unlikely to uncover the type of real-world issues that would come up in an election.

“Anybody could break into anything if you put it in the middle of a floor and gave them unlimited access and unlimited time,” said Leslie Reynolds, executive director of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Election Systems & Software LLC, a leading manufacturer of voting equipment, was reluctant to have its systems tested at the conference. The company played down the expected findings from the event in a letter to customers. Hackers “will absolutely access some voting systems internal components because they will have full and unfettered access to a unit without the advantage of trained poll workers, locks, tamper-evident seals, passwords, and other security measures that are in place in an actual voting situation.”

Kathy Rogers, senior vice president of government relations for ES&S, said the letter was sent “in response to numerous inquiries by our customers as to what equipment might be at Defcon and what they might expect.”

In the letter, ES&S also warned election officials ahead of the conference that unauthorized use of its software violated the company’s licensing agreements, according to a copy of the letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal. Voting Village organizer Jake Braun disagreed with this interpretation of the agreements.

Some manufacturers and experts believe the hack-a-thon is unlikely to uncover the type of real-world issues that would come up in an election.
Some manufacturers and experts believe the hack-a-thon is unlikely to uncover the type of real-world issues that would come up in an election. PHOTO: MATT CAMPBELL/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

The states and vendors are making a mistake by not participating in the voting village, which amounts to a thorough security test for any machine involved, Mr. Braun said. “This is not a cyber-mature industry,” he said.

Some state and local election officials at the conference said the companies that sell voting equipment are more interested in maintaining their profit margins than improving the security of their machines.

ES&S had two employees attend Defcon to “learn about any ideas for enhancements to voting security,” Monica Tesi, a spokeswoman for the company, said. Making voting equipment available to “potential bad actors, foreign or otherwise,” could harm national security, Ms. Tesi said, adding that Defcon has no security or identity requirements and that anyone who pays the $280 registration fee can enter.

Dominion Voting, another voting machine maker, declined to comment and wouldn’t say whether it had employees present at the hacking conference.

Mr. Braun disputed the assertion that the Voting Village hacking could threaten national security, saying it would be naive to assume that Russia wasn’t already looking for voting system flaws. “I think it would be a national security threat not do so it,” said Mr. Braun. Representatives for Defcon didn’t immediately respond on Sunday when asked to comment on ES&S’s criticism of its security policies.

Election cybersecurity has been a national concern since 2016, when Russian-government hackers allegedly broke into systems at the Democratic National Committee, launched an influence campaign on Facebook Inc.’s social network, and targeted more than 20 voter registration systems, government officials say.

Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the election.

Earlier this month, senior intelligence officials in the Trump administration warned that Russia was again engaging in “pervasive” efforts to interfere in the November elections.

In March, Congress appropriated $380 million to shore up the nation’s election systems—money that has now been allocated to 50 states and five territories to pay for improved election equipment, and security training and testing, according to the Election Assistance Commission, the agency responsible for disbursing the funds.

Jeanette Manfra, a senior cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, said that security researchers at Defcon were doing important work by finding vulnerabilities in voting systems that could be used by bad actors. But she said she sympathized with concerns from election officials that the vote-hacking village could unintentionally lower public confidence in American elections—considered a chief goal of Russian interference.

“You want companies to be building more secure products, but at the same time the public doesn’t necessarily know the full picture,” Ms. Manfra said. “If all you are saying is, ‘Look, even a kid can hack into this’, you’re not getting the full story, which can have the impact of having the average voter not understanding what is going on.”

“It’s really, really difficult to actually manipulate the vote count itself,” she said.

But it’s still worth uncovering any potential security flaws in these machines, because there are plenty of others—organized criminals for example—who might want to throw an election, said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist with the nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology.

“Everybody’s talking about Russians, but we have to be clear that there are other threats here,” said Mr. Hall on Friday while mingling with hackers at the Defcon Voting Village. It’s a conference room deep in the bowels of Caesars Palace—littered with voting machines, memory cards and scanners.

A few minutes later, Mr. Hall stopped talking and cast a wary eye over at two attendees who were examining a big gray vote scanning machine in the corner of the room. He was worried they might plug it in and fire up its powerful engine without supervision. “We’re OK with destructive testing of these things. I just don’t want you to hurt yourself,” he said. “There are things that will take your fingers off in there.”

Write to Robert McMillan at

House Committee to Interview Bruce Ohr and Wife, Nellie Ohr, About Steele Dossier

August 11, 2018

The House Judiciary Committee is looking to interview—and will subpoena if necessary—Justice Department (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr and his wife, Nellie Ohr, along with several current and former FBI and DOJ officials.

“We plan to interview the people noted in the coming weeks and we will issue subpoenas to compel their attendance if necessary,” a committee aide wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

The DOJ confirmed that the committee reached out to them in regard to the interviews.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte could issue orders as early as the coming week, according to the Hill. Goodlatte’s committee is part of a joint investigation with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into decisions made by the FBI and the DOJ during the 2016 election.

Bruce Ohr on March 18, 2014. (Italy in US via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0])

The committee’s interview requests come on the heels of revelations that Bruce Ohr maintained contact with former British spy Christopher Steele for more than a year after the FBI terminated ties with Steele for leaking to the media. Ohr then became Steele’s back-door conduit for feeding information to the FBI.

Ohr also attempted to reinstate Steele with the bureau and link him into special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The pair remained in contact until mid-November 2017.

The revelations are problematic because Ohr has no official role in the Russia investigation and Steele had been prohibited from collecting intelligence on behalf of the FBI. The problem is compounded by the fact that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for the same opposition research firm as Steele, Fusion GPS.

Steele authored the opposition research dossier on then-candidate Donald Trump that was used to secure a warrant to spy on former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. Many of the dossier’s claims have been debunked while the rest remain unverified.

It was the Hillary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee that ultimately paid for Steele’s work. FBI and DOJ officials who used the dossier to apply for a secret court surveillance warrant on Page failed to mention that fact to the judge.

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Peter Strzok

Ohr met with FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page shortly after meeting Steele in late November 2016. Strzok, Page, and Steele were found to be strongly biased against Trump. Congressional investigators have reviewed text messages that show Steele and Strzok were willing to take action to stop Trump from becoming president. The messages show Strzok musing about impeaching Trump days after joining special counsel Mueller’s team.

The committee is also looking to interview current and former FBI and DOJ officials James Baker, Sally Moyer, Jonathan Moffa, and George Toscas.

In January, Goodlatte reached a deal with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to interview a number of DOJ and FBI officials, including Ohr, Baker, Moyer, Strzok, Page, FBI assistant directors Gregory Brower and Bill Priestap, and FBI special agent James Rybicki. Since then, only Page, Priestap, and Strzok are publicly known to have testified.

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes referred several of the above officials to Goodlatte in a letter in late June.

Baker, Brower, Page, and Rybicky have resigned from the FBI.