Posts Tagged ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation’

Trump Says Putin Feels Insulted by Repeated Questions on Election Meddling

November 11, 2017

Leaders finalize aligned positions on Syria after meeting at APEC summit in Vietnam

U.S. President Donald Trump said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had several conversations on Saturday in which they aligned their positions on Syria, and appeared to share skepticism about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking to reporters for nearly 30 minutes on Air Force One, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Putin is becoming irritated by repeated questions about Russia’s interference in his electoral victory.

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr. Trump said on the flight from Da Nang to Hanoi. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”

“There is nothing to investigate here,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted Mr. Putin as saying in Da Nang. “You can dig deeper in search of some sensation, but it’s not there.”

A report from the U.S. intelligence community in January concluded that Russia attempted to interfere in the presidential election through a campaign of disinformation, data thefts and leaks. The report concluded that the effort was aimed at boosting Mr. Trump and damaging his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Top intelligence officials in the Trump administration—the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency—all testified in May that they accepted the conclusion of the report. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has questioned the findings.

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Messrs. Trump and Putin met briefly at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation plenary session when the U.S. president entered the room and walked to his Russian counterpart. The two stood shaking hands and spoke briefly before taking their respective seats.

Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Putin had “two or three conversations” during the summit in which they discussed the situation in Syria. The two countries later issued a joint statement that underscored how close Moscow and Washington’s positions have grown around the war-torn country.

“It’s going to save a tremendous numbers of lives and we did it very quickly, we agreed very quickly,” Mr. Trump said. “We seem to have a very good feeling for each other, a good relationship considering we don’t know each other well. I think it’s a very good relationship.”

Interfax reported the statement as saying, “The presidents agreed there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria.”

World leader at the 21-country summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Saturday. Photo: Klimentyev Mikhail/Zuma Press

Though the statement reiterated Washington and Moscow’s broad policies on the country, Syria appears to be one of the few arenas in which Messrs. Putin and Trump, both of whom have advocated better ties between Moscow and Washington, can make a show of cooperation. Mr. Trump is largely limited in expanding ties with Russia as Congress has expanded sanctions against the country for meddling in the election.

Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the agreement had been finalized in talks between the two leaders on the sidelines of the conference.

Mr. Peskov said the text of the statement had been worked out between U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier in the day.

In the sharpest break with the U.S.’s traditional tone on Syria, the statement noted the adherence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Geneva peace process, including constitutional reform and conditions for free and fair elections.

Unlike the previous U.S. administration, Mr. Trump has said Mr. Assad’s departure isn’t a precondition for starting peace talks. However, Mr. Trump personally authorized a volley of cruise missiles to strike a Syrian government base in April following a chemical weapons attack earlier this year.

Mr. Tillerson said last month that the reign of Mr. Assad’s family is coming to an end, adding “the only issue is how that should be brought about.

“He’s easy to talk to regarding cooperation.”

Mr. Trump, who returns to Washington on Wednesday after 10 days in Asia, said he believed it was a “great trip” so far. He touted his stamina—the entire trip, which started with a stop in Hawaii, will include 12 days away from Washington—and said he has improved relationships for the U.S. across Asia.

He said that Japan and South Korea, the first two countries he visited, are “now getting along much, much better.” He touted his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he met with on his third stop, and said the leader was “a strong person” and “very smart.”

Mr. Trump said he would like to see Mr. Xi put more pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program

“I’d like to have [Mr. Xi] ratchet it up,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think he’s doing that. We had a long talk about it.”

But Mr. Trump said he has great relationships with leaders around the world. Noting the 21-country summit in Da Nang that he participated in, Mr. Trump said he has “a great relationship with every single one of them.”

He said he has the “potential” to be as close to Mr. Putin as he is with Mr. Xi.

“I don’t know him like I know President Xi because I spent a lot of time with President Xi,” Mr. Trump said. “I think we have the potential to have a very, very good relationship.”

Mr. Putin said he and Mr. Trump had much to talk about regarding their bilateral relations and that opportunities must be found for dialogue.

“We don’t know each other well, but the president of the United States behaves highly appropriately,” Mr. Putin said. “He’s easy to talk to regarding cooperation.”

He also said that time for a separate meeting with Mr. Trump hadn’t been found because of protocol issues the teams of the two presidents failed to solve.

“They’ll be punished,” he said, referring to those responsible.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-putin-take-joint-stance-on-syria-1510394190

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First Charges Filed in Russia Probe Led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller

October 28, 2017

At least one defendant is expected to be taken into custody as soon as Monday

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At least one person was charged Friday in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter.

That person could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, these people said. The number and identity of the defendants, and the charges, couldn’t be determined.

That person could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, these people said. The number and identity of the defendants, and the charges, couldn’t be determined.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Peter Carr, declined to comment. The news of the charges, marking the first in Mr. Mueller’s investigation, was reported by CNN on Friday.

Appointed in May, Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have been examining alleged Russian efforts to influence last year’s election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or Mr. Trump’s associates colluded with the Kremlin.

Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The Republican president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

Mr. Mueller is also probing the separate business dealings of former aides to Mr. Trump, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is under investigation for alleged money laundering and tax issues, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported.

Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors have been presenting evidence before a federal grand jury in Washington.

A spokesman for Mr. Manafort declined to comment. Mr. Manafort has previously said he has done nothing wrong.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com and Del Quentin Wilber at del.wilber@wsj.com

Appeared in the October 28, 2017, print edition as ‘Charge Is Filed In Mueller Probe.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/first-charges-filed-in-russia-probe-led-by-special-counsel-robert-mueller-1509161000

********************************************

Many other reports:

MSNBC

Congressional investigations into alleged Russian involvement in the presidential election are also underway.

CNN, citing sources, said that an arrest could happen Monday.

“Sealing is fairly common at the stage when you have an indictment that is issued or approved, as it may have been today,” former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said on MSNBC Friday.

 Charges filed in Trump Russia probe: Report 11:40

“And the reason is that law enforcement kind of wants its ducks in a row before they go out and arrest the defendant or even notify him — it may be that they don’t arrest whoever this defendant is because they’ve worked out a relationship with his or her defense attorney to bring them in to appear on the case,” she said.

Trump has repeatedly denied that any collusion with Russia took place. Trump has called the Russia probe a “witch hunt.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/grand-jury-approves-first-charges-mueller-s-russia-probe-report-n815246?cid=sm_npd_ms_tw_ma

U.S. lawmakers want to restrict internet surveillance on Americans

October 5, 2017

By Dustin Volz

Reuters

(Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.

The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Thursday, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the U.S. government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the  Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on Dec. 31.

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Senior U.S. intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

It allows U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counter-espionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and

(Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.

The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Thursday, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the U.S. government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on Dec. 31.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

It allows U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counter-espionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.

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Police Seek Clues to Las Vegas Mass Shooting — Bloodiest in Modern U.S. History — “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath.”

October 3, 2017

LAS VEGAS — Police sought clues on Tuesday to explain why a retiree with a penchant for gambling but no criminal record set up a sniper’s nest in a high-rise Las Vegas hotel and poured gunfire onto a concert below, slaying dozens of people before killing himself.

The Sunday night shooting spree from a 32nd-floor window of the Mandalay Bay hotel, on the Las Vegas Strip, killed at least 59 people before the gunman turned a weapon on himself. More than 500 were injured, some trampled, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Image result for Guns & Guitars shop , Mesquite, AZ, photos

Concert goers flee on foot after the shooting started…

The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, left no immediate hint of his motive for the arsenal of high-powered weaponry he amassed, including 34 guns, or the carnage he inflicted on a crowd of 22,000 attending an outdoor country music festival.

Paddock was not known to have served in the military, or to have suffered from a history of mental illness or to have registered any inkling of social disaffection, political discontent or radical views on social media.

U.S. officials also discounted a claim of responsibility by the militant Islamic State group.

“We have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group,” Aaron Rouse, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Las Vegas, told reporters on Monday.

Police said they believed Paddock acted alone but were at a loss to explain what might have precipitated it.

“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath.”

Although police said they had no other suspects, Lombardo said investigators wanted to talk with Paddock’s girlfriend and live-in companion, Marilou Danley, who he said was traveling abroad, possibly in Tokyo.

Lombardo also said detectives were “aware of other individuals” who were involved in the sale of weapons Paddock acquired.

Still, the closest Paddock appeared to have ever come to a brush with the law was for a traffic infraction, authorities said.

ITINERANT EXISTENCE

The death toll, which officials said could rise, surpassed last year’s record massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Paddock, however, seemed atypical of the overtly troubled, angry young men who experts said have come to embody the profile of most mass shooters.

Public records point to an itinerant existence across the U.S. West and Southeast, including stints as an apartment manager and aerospace industry worker. But Paddock appeared to be settling in to a quiet life when he bought a home in a Nevada retirement community a few years ago, about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas and the casinos he enjoyed.

His brother, Eric, described Stephen Paddock as financially well-off and an avid enthusiast of video poker games and cruises.

“We’re horrified. We’re bewildered, and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric Paddock said in a telephone interview from Orlando, Florida. “We have no idea in the world.”

Image result for Guns & Guitars shop , Mesquite, AZ, photos

Las Vegas’s casinos, nightclubs and shopping draw some 3.5 million visitors from around the world each year, and the Strip was packed with visitors when the shooting started shortly after 10 p.m. local time on Sunday (0400 GMT Monday).

BLOODSHED AND PANDEMONIUM

The gunfire erupted during the Route 91 Harvest music festival as country music star Jason Aldean was performing. The musician ran off stage as the shooting progressed.

Video of the attack showed throngs of people screaming in horror and cowering on the open ground, hemmed in by fellow concert-goers, as extended bursts of gunfire strafed the crowd from above from a distance police estimated at more than 500 yards (457 meters). Those at the edges of the crowd fled as best they could, many trampled or hurt jumping over fences while the shooting went on, by some accounts, for about 10 minutes.

The bloodshed ended after police swarming the hotel closed in on the gunman, who shot and wounded a hotel security officer through the door of his two-room suite and then killed himself before police entered, authorities said.

Police said 23 guns were found in Paddock’s suite, along with more than 10 suitcases.

Lombardo said a search of the suspect’s car turned up a supply of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer compound that can be formed into explosives and was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal office building that killed 168 people.

Police found another 19 firearms, some explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition at Paddock’s home in Mesquite, about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Las Vegas, along with some electronic devices, including computers.

They also obtained a warrant to search a second house connected to Paddock in Reno, Nevada, more than 400 miles (644 km) northwest of Las Vegas.

Chris Sullivan, the owner of the Guns & Guitars shop in Mesquite, issued a statement confirming that Paddock was a customer who cleared “all necessary background checks and procedures,” and said his business was cooperating with investigators.

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“He never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time,” Sullivan said. He did not say how many or the kinds of weapons Paddock purchased there.

Lombardo said investigators knew that a gun dealer had come forward to say that he had sold weapons to the suspect, but it was not clear if he was referring to Sullivan. He said police were aware of “some other individuals who were engaged in those transactions,” including at least one in Arizona.

Investigators also want to interview Danley, who police initially described as a “person of interest” but not a suspect. She is an Australian citizen who is reported to have been born in the Philippines.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Chris Michaud and Frank McGurty in New York, Susan Cornwell and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Ali Abdelaty in Cairo and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Paul Tait)

SEC Discloses Edgar Corporate Filing System Was Hacked in 2016

September 21, 2017

The SEC disclosed that hackers penetrated its electronic system for storing public-company filings and may have traded illegally on the information.

Breach may have allowed trading that profited from nonpublic information, regulator says

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WASHINGTON—The top U.S. markets regulator disclosed Wednesday that hackers penetrated its electronic system for storing public-company filings last year and may have traded on the information.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s chairman, Jay Clayton, revealed the breach in an unusual and lengthy statement issued Wednesday evening that didn’t provide many details about the intrusion, including the extent of any illegal trading.

The SEC said it was investigating the source of the hack, which exploited a software vulnerability in a part of the agency’s Edgar system, a comprehensive database of filings made by thousands of public companies and other financial firms regulated by the SEC.

The commission said the hack was detected in 2016, but that regulators didn’t learn about the possibility of related illicit trading until August, when they started an investigation and began cooperating with what the SEC called “appropriate authorities.”

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment on the SEC disclosure.

The commission’s disclosure follows a major breach of Equifax Inc. that affected 143 million Americans and warnings from executives of the New York Stock Exchange and Bats Global Markets Inc. that a planned data repository of all U.S. equity and options orders could become a juicy target for hackers.

“Cybersecurity is critical to the operations of our markets and the risks are significant and, in many cases, systemic,” Mr. Clayton said in a written statement. “We also must recognize—in both the public and private sectors, including the SEC—that there will be intrusions, and that a key component of cyber risk management is resilience and recovery.”

The intrusion shows how confidential information that can yield easy trading profits has increasingly become a target of hackers.

The SEC in December sued three Chinese traders who allegedly earned more than $4 million in illegal gains after they stole information from the computer systems of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, which represent Wall Street banks and Fortune 500 companies.

The SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system, or Edgar, is used by investors who access the online system to view companies’ earnings statements and other disclosures on material developments at companies. Some companies purchase and resell electronic feeds of the filings that cater to electronic and algorithmic traders.

Mr. Clayton’s statement didn’t identify the precise date of the intrusion or what sort of nonpublic data was obtained. The agency said the hackers exploited a vulnerability in part of the Edgar system that allows companies to test the accuracy of data transmitted in new forms. Many corporate filings are made public as soon as they are received through Edgar, although other forms may have to be reviewed first by SEC staff.

The SEC’s statement also didn’t explain why the SEC waited to reveal the breach until Wednesday.

SEC officials have sometimes indicated they could take enforcement action against a public company that misled investors about a significant hack that affected share prices.

Mr. Clayton, who is due to testify before the Senate Banking Committee next week, is sure to face questions about his own agency’s cyber vulnerabilities.

“We face the risks of cyber threat actors attempting to compromise the credentials of authorized users, gain unauthorized access to filings data, place fraudulent filings on the system, and prevent the public from accessing our system through denial of service attacks,” Mr Clayton said. “We also face the risks of actors attempting to access nonpublic data relating to our oversight, or enforcement against, market participants, which could then be used to obtain illicit trading profits,” he added.

The Edgar system, which was launched to equalize access to information among retail and sophisticated investors, has occasionally caused headaches for the commission. Academic researchers found in 2014, for instance, that hedge funds and other rapid-fire investors got earlier access to market-moving documents from Edgar than other users of the standard, web-based system, giving them a potential edge on other traders. The SEC later said it fixed the problem.

The system has also been exploited by traders who submitted fake corporate filings. In 2015, a 37-year-old man in Bulgaria filed a fake takeover offer for Avon Products Inc., which succeeded in sending the beauty-product company’s shares soaring but netted the mastermind just $5,000, regulators alleged.

Mr. Clayton’s statement acknowledged that the planned data repository, known as the Consolidated Audit Trail, could be targeted by cyber thieves looking to steal personal information of stockbrokers’ customers. The audit trail has been in the works for nearly seven years and the SEC approved its final design last year. However, exchange executives have recently cited the Equifax hack as evidence that the audit trail should be pared back, even if that takes away information that could help regulators spot manipulative traders more quickly.

Stock and options exchanges, as well as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees brokers, are due to begin reporting data to the repository in November.

Robert Cook, chief executive of Finra, also has questioned whether the audit trail should be scaled back in light of the Equifax data breach. Speaking Wednesday at a banking luncheon in Washington, Mr. Cook questioned whether the database designed to help regulators sort through flash crashes and spot market manipulation should include personal information about stockbrokers’ customers.

“Especially post-Equifax when we are trying to win back investor confidence in the markets, it seems to be a useful question to ask whether we’ve got the right approach here or we need to revisit it,” he said.

Write to Dave Michaels at dave.michaels@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/sec-discloses-edgar-corporate-filing-system-was-hacked-in-2016-1505956552

Americans Feel Good About the Economy, Not So Good About Trump

July 17, 2017

By John McCormick
Bloomberg

July 17, 2017, 4:00 AM EDT
  • Just 40 percent approve of president’s performance in office
  • Narrow majority expect stock market to be higher by year’s end
Traders pass in front of an American flag displayed outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.

 Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Almost six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans are feeling fairly optimistic about their jobs, the strength of the U.S. economy, and their own fortunes. That should be welcome news for the president, except for one thing: The public’s confidence largely appears to be in spite of Trump, not because of him.

The latest Bloomberg National Poll shows 58 percent of Americans believe they’re moving closer to realizing their own career and financial aspirations, tied for the highest recorded in the poll since the question was first asked in February 2013.

A majority expect the U.S. stock market to be higher by the end of this year, while 30 percent anticipate a decline. Yet they don’t necessarily think Trump deserves credit for rising markets and falling unemployment.

Just 40 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing in the White House, and 55 percent now view him unfavorably, up 12 points since December. Sixty-one percent say the nation is headed down the wrong path, also up 12 points since December.

Trump scored his best numbers on his handling of the economy, but even there the news for him isn’t great. Less than half of Americans — 46 percent — approve of Trump’s performance on the economy; 44 percent disapprove. He gets slightly better marks for job creation, with 47 percent approving.

“If you take the president’s scores out of this poll, you see a nation increasingly happy about the economy,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “When Trump’s name is mentioned, the clouds gather.”

In nearly every measure of his performance, the poll indicates that Trump’s tumultuous presidency is not wearing well with the public. A 56 percent majority say they’re more pessimistic about Trump because of his statements and actions since the election. That’s a huge swing since December when 55 percent said his statements and actions made them more optimistic about him.

Read the poll questions and methodology here.

The public has grown more skeptical that Trump will deliver on some of his most ambitious campaign promises. Two-thirds don’t think he’ll succeed in building a wall along the Mexican border during his first term. More than half say he won’t be able to revive the coal industry.

A majority — 54 percent — believe Trump will manage to create trade deals more beneficial to the U.S., but that’s down from 66 percent in December. There’s division on whether he’ll be able to bring a substantial number of jobs back to America, or significantly reform the tax code.

And despite his assurances that he and congressional Republicans will repeal Obamacare and replace it with a “beautiful” new health care bill, 64 percent of Americans say they disapprove of his handling of the issue. That’s especially significant because health care topped unemployment, terrorism and immigration as the issue poll respondents chose as the most important challenge facing the nation right now.

There are at least two areas where Americans say they believe Trump will deliver: Almost two-thirds say he will make significant cuts in government regulation, though it’s not clear whether most think that’s a good or bad thing. Likewise, 53 percent believe he will succeed in deporting millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The public is also skeptical about Trump’s abilities as a world leader, with 58 percent saying they disapprove of the way he handles relations with other countries and 46 percent disappointed in his actions on trade agreements.

Americans are more pessimistic about foreign policy than they were in December. Fifty-five percent now say they expect dealings with Germany to get worse during the next four years, up 22 points. The share of poll respondents who anticipate worsening relations with the U.K., Mexico, Cuba and Russia also increased by double digits.

The public is also wary of Trump’s motives in his negotiations with other countries. Just 24 percent said they were “very confident” that Trump puts the nation’s interests ahead of his businesses or family when dealing with foreign leaders.

Americans have plenty of other worries about the world. Majorities believe it’s realistic that terrorists will launch a major attack on U.S. soil (68 percent) and that North Korea will launch a nuclear weapon aimed at the U.S. (55 percent).

Trump has called the expanding investigations into possible connections between his presidential campaign and Russia a “witch hunt.” But the public isn’t necessarily taking his side. Since the president’s decision to oust former FBI Director James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s standing has improved. It’s now viewed favorably by 68 percent, up 10 points since December. Comey is viewed positively by 43 percent, while 36 percent see him negatively.

Meanwhile, most Americans don’t share the president’s apparent soft spot for Vladimir Putin: 65 percent view the Russian president negatively — and 53 percent say it’s realistic to think Russian hacking will disrupt future U.S. elections.

There is one notable bright spot for Trump. Though views of the White House as an institution are at the lowest level ever recorded by the poll — with 48 percent now viewing it unfavorably, up 21 points since December — Trump’s voters are still sticking with him. Among those who cast ballots for him, 89 percent still say he’s doing a good job.

The telephone poll of 1,001 American adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, higher among subgroups. It was conducted July 8-12 by Iowa-based Selzer & Co.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-17/americans-feel-good-about-the-economy-not-so-good-about-trump-j57v0var

Trump Denies Obstructing FBI Probe, Says Has No Tapes of Talks With Comey

June 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had not obstructed the FBI’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and had not recorded his conversations with former FBI chief James Comey.

Comey was leading the investigation into allegations Russia tried to sway the election towards Trump and the possibility Trump associates colluded with Moscow when the president fired him on May 9, sparking a political firestorm.

“Look there has been no obstruction, there has been no collusion,” Trump told Fox News Channel in an interview set to air on Friday. Fox released a partial transcript of the interview on Thursday.

The former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified before a Senate committee that Trump had asked him to drop a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s alleged ties to Russia.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump said he did not make and does not possess any tapes of his conversations with Comey, after suggesting last month he might have recordings that could undercut Comey’s description of events.

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Then FBI Director James Comey, March 20, 2017

“I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Lawmakers investigating allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election had asked the White House for any such recordings.

Shortly after dismissing Comey, Trump mentioned the possibility of tapes in a Twitter post.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump tweeted on May 12.

Allegations of ties to Russia have cast a shadow over Trump’s first five months in office, distracting from attempts by his fellow Republicans in Congress to overhaul the U.S. healthcare and tax systems.

Trump has privately told aides that the threat of the existence of tapes forced Comey to tell the truth in his recent testimony, a source familiar with the situation said.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said Trump still had questions to answer about possible tapes.

Image result for Adam Schiff, photos

Adam Schiff

“If the president had no tapes, why did he suggest otherwise? Did he seek to mislead the public? Was he trying to intimidate or silence James Comey? And if so, did he take other steps to discourage potential witnesses from speaking out?” Schiff said in a statement.

CNN reported on Thursday that two top U.S. intelligence officials told investigators Trump suggested they publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and Russia, but that they did not feel he had ordered them to do so.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers met separately last week with investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to CNN.

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

The two officials said they were surprised at Trump’s suggestion and found their interactions with him odd and uncomfortable, but they did not act on the president’s requests, CNN reported, citing sources familiar with their accounts.

Reuters was unable to verify the CNN report.

In his interview with Fox, Trump expressed concern about what he described as the close relationship between Comey and Mueller, who was appointed to take over the investigation after Comey was fired.

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Then FBI Director Robert Mueller in a 2013 file photo by
J. Scott Applewhite AP

“Well he’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome,” Trump said, according to the Fox transcript.

The Kremlin has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Moscow tried to tilt the election in Trump’s favor, using such means as hacking into the emails of senior Democrats.

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.

(Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann, Steve Holland, Patricia Zengerle and Susan Heavey; Writing by Alistair Bell and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Peter Cooney and Paul Tait)

State Officials to Testify on Possible Russian Involvement in 2016 Election

June 18, 2017

State election directors, federal officials to testify on alleged security breaches, possible voting-machine tampering

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington. On Wednesday, the Senate and House intelligence committees are scheduled to hold open hearings on possible Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington. On Wednesday, the Senate and House intelligence committees are scheduled to hold open hearings on possible Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. elections. PHOTO: AARON P. BERNSTEIN/REUTERS

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June 18, 2017 8:00 a.m. ET

The Senate and House intelligence committees are set on Wednesday to hold two open hearings examining  efforts during the 2016 election, featuring testimony from current and former Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials as well as state election directors.

Steve Sandvoss, the executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, is expected to walk the Senate committee through a cyberattack last July that allowed hackers to breach a database of up to 200,000 personal voter records.

Following the breach, the board informed the state attorney general’s office of the cyberattack. The board was subsequently contacted by the FBI, but the agency hasn’t informed the board who was responsible for the attack, according to Ken Menzel, the board’s general counsel.

An information-technology report to the board in August said the FBI was “highly confident” that no voter data had been altered.

The Senate committee will also hear testimony from J. Alex Halderman, a Michigan computer scientist who helped lead a push last year for an examination of paper ballots and electronic voting machines in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan to conclusively prove that hackers hadn’t manipulated the results. A series of legal rulings ultimately halted some of the recount efforts, while others were completed and found no widespread irregularities.

The hearings represent the most robust effort to date to elicit public testimony from state election officials concerning what federal officials have described as an aggressive and sustained effort by Russia to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is also investigating whether campaign advisers to President Donald Trump had ties to the Russian activities, a probe that has expanded to include whether the president obstructed justice by trying to influence its outcome, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

States are also examining their own systems. A survey by The Wall Street Journal of election officials in nearly 50 states found many continue to participate in a Department of Homeland Security program of periodic checks of their election systems for any vulnerabilities and many had been in touch with the FBI before the election, when the bureau had provided states with a list of suspicious IP addresses.

A woman placed her ballot in a tabulation machine after voting at a high school in Detroit on Nov. 8, 2016. Computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, who led a push to examine voting results from Michigan and other states last year, is set to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

A woman placed her ballot in a tabulation machine after voting at a high school in Detroit on Nov. 8, 2016. Computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, who led a push to examine voting results from Michigan and other states last year, is set to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. PHOTO: JEFF KOWALSKY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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The North Carolina State Board of Elections’ investigations unit, led by a former FBI agent, is investigating the reported attempts to compromise VR Systems Inc., a Tallahassee, Fla., firm whose electronic poll book software was used on Election Day in 21 of the state’s 100 counties.

The software deals with checking voters in, not with counting their votes. But on Election Day last year, that system failed in Durham County, which holds the state’s most reliable Democratic voters. That forced the county to issue ballots by hand, meaning longer lines and delays—factors that can often depress turnout. The county voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton by 77.7%, while Mr. Trump won the state with 49.8% of the vote, according to the state’s board of elections.

“The Republicans were claiming that this was Democratic voter fraud, but maybe the other explanation, the simplest answer, is most likely to be the correct one. Look at the Russians,” said Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the North Carolina legislature and an expert on state election law. “If you were trying to hurt Democrats in North Carolina, shutting down Durham’s Election Day voter check-in would be your quickest and most effective method.”

The aim of the Senate hearing, according to an email sent by a committee aide to those testifying, is to “give the public an unclassified look at Russian activity in the 2016 U.S. election, as well as a look at what we are facing from an election security standpoint in 2018 and 2020.”

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, meanwhile, will testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday to discuss “Russian active measures” during the 2016 election.

Scary Ways Hackers Could Impact the U.S. Election (From Sept. 8, 2016)

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/state-officials-to-testify-on-possible-russian-involvement-in-2016-election-1497787201?mod=e2tw
Scary Ways Hackers Could Impact the U.S. Election
America’s democratic election process appeared to be the target of Russian hackers in 2016, according to some top government officials. So how could foreign actors have hacked the U.S. election and what could they do with voter information? WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains the worst case scenarios. Photo: iStock
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Department of Homeland Security officials have said at least 20 states were targeted during the 2016 election. Last August, the FBI issued a warning to state governments that cited the Illinois breach and a hacking attempt in Arizona. Speaking before the House Judiciary Committee last September, then-FBI Director James Comey said the agency’s counterintelligence investigators were “doing an awful lot of work…to understand just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election.”

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the agency’s investigation.

In early June, the website the Intercept published a top-secret National Security Agency document that said Russian military intelligence had executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier in August 2016.

The document also said Russian operatives had sent “spear-phishing” emails to more than 100 email addresses linked to local government organizations—potentially including local election officials—in the days preceding the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The NSA report, however, didn’t draw conclusions about whether such activity had any effect on the outcome of the election.

At least five counties in Florida have reported receiving the phishing emails described in the Intercept article that appeared to come from VR Systems. But none appear to have resulted in a breach of their voting systems.

Earlier this month, VR Systems said it had no indication that any customers had been compromised by the phishing emails and said it has “policies and procedures in effect to protect our customers and our company.”

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified before a Senate committee in Washington on June 6. Mr. Kelly said at the hearing that he doesn’t support rolling back a federal designation of voting apparatus as ‘critical infrastructure.’

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified before a Senate committee in Washington on June 6. Mr. Kelly said at the hearing that he doesn’t support rolling back a federal designation of voting apparatus as ‘critical infrastructure.’ PHOTO: SUSAN WALSH/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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As states undertake their own investigations of the 2016 election, the Department of Homeland Security is weighing whether to maintain the designation of voting apparatus as “critical infrastructure,” which gives the federal government additional authority to protect the systems, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in testimony to the Senate Homeland Security Committee earlier this month.

That decision was made by Mr. Kelly’s predecessor, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Kelly testified that he has had a “large amount of pushback” on the determination from states and members of Congress.

Many states have expressed concern about additional federal authority over their election systems and have said the Constitution provides states the right to run their own elections.

In his testimony earlier this month, Mr. Kelly said he doesn’t support rolling back the designation and hopes to persuade states that they allow the federal government to be helpful on such issues. When asked about the review of the designation, a Department of Homeland Security official defended it, emphasizing that it allows the department to “prioritize our cybersecurity assistance to election officials, for those who request it.”

“A designation makes it easier for the federal government to have full and frank discussions with key stakeholders regarding sensitive vulnerability information,” the Homeland Security official said. The official also noted that the designation creates no new regulations for states.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com, Erica Orden at erica.orden@wsj.com and Valerie Bauerlein at valerie.bauerlein@wsj.com

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Mueller Probe Examining Whether Donald Trump Obstructed Justice

June 15, 2017

Special-counsel investigation has expanded to look into president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller giving testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2013 in Washington.

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller giving testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2013 in Washington. PHOTO: ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey is now a subject of the federal probe being headed by special counsel Robert Mueller, which has expanded to include whether the president obstructed justice, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Mueller is examining whether the president fired Mr. Comey as part of a broader effort to alter the direction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether associates of Mr. Trump colluded with Moscow, the person said.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, denounced the revelation in a statement.

“The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” Mr. Corallo said.

Mr. Trump’s reaction to the new turn in Mr. Mueller’s inquiry came early Thursday morning in the form of a tweet. He suggested that he is unhappy with the focus on obstruction of justice, given that he believes there was no underlying crime.

They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!

“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Aides to Mr. Trump have warned him not to tweet about the Russia investigation, an inquiry in which any statement he makes could become fodder for investigators.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mr. Mueller, declined to comment. The special counsel’s pursuit of an obstruction of justice probe was first reported Wednesday by the Washington Post.

Mr. Mueller’s team is planning to interview Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers as part of its examination of whether Mr. Trump sought to obstruct justice, the person said.

The special counsel also plans to interview Rick Ledgett, who recently retired as the deputy director of the NSA, the person added.

While Mr. Ledgett was still in office, he wrote a memo documenting a phone call that Mr. Rogers had with Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. During the call, the president questioned the veracity of the intelligence community’s judgment that Russia had interfered with the election and tried to persuade Mr. Rogers to say there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russian officials, they said.

Russia has denied any government effort to meddle in the U.S. election. Mr. Ledgett declined to comment, and officials at the NSA didn’t respond to a request for comment. An aide to Mr. Coats declined to comment.

Mr. Coats and Mr. Rogers told a Senate panel June 7 that they didn’t feel pressured by Mr. Trump to intervene with Mr. Comey or push back against allegations of possible collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. But the top national security officials declined to say what, if anything, Mr. Trump requested they do in relation to the Russia probe.

“If the special prosecutor called upon me to meet with him to ask his questions, I said I would be willing to do that,” Mr. Coats said June 7. Mr. Rogers said he would also be willing to meet with the special counsel’s team.

Mr. Comey told a Senate panel on June 8 that Mr. Trump expressed “hope” in a one-on-one Oval Office meeting that the FBI would drop its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned under pressure for making false statements about his conversations with a Russian diplomat. Mr. Trump has denied making that request.

Mr. Comey said during the testimony that it was up to Mr. Mueller to decide whether the president’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice. The former FBI director also said he had furnished the special counsel with memos he wrote documenting his interactions with the president on the matter.

At a June 13 hearing at a House of Representatives panel, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declined to say who asked him to write a memo justifying Mr. Comey’s firing. The White House initially cited that memo as the reason for the termination, and Mr. Trump later said in an NBC interview that he also was influenced by the Russia investigation. Mr. Rosenstein said he wasn’t at liberty to discuss the matter.

“The reason for that is that if it is within the scope of Director Mueller’s investigation, and I’ve been a prosecutor for 27 years, we don’t want people talking publicly about the subjects of ongoing investigations,” Mr. Rosenstein said.

Write to Del Quentin Wilber at del.wilber@wsj.com, Shane Harris at shane.harris@wsj.com and Paul Sonne at paul.sonne@wsj.com

Appeared in the June 15, 2017, print edition as ‘Mueller Probes Trump Over Obstruction.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mueller-probe-examining-whether-donald-trump-obstructed-justice-1497490897

Trump wants to re-engage with Moscow, Tillerson says

June 6, 2017

AFP

© AFP | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to the media during a joint press conference with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English in Wellington, said President Donald Trump had ordered him to build ties with Russia

WELLINGTON (AFP) – 

US President Donald Trump has told his top diplomat to ignore trouble in Washington and re-engage with Russia to rebuild ties, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday.

With ex-FBI director James Comey due to testify to Congress on Thursday, Tillerson was asked if he feared the adminstration would be brought down over allegations of Trump’s election campaign ties with Moscow.

“The president has been clear to me, ‘Do not let what’s happening over here in the political realm prevent you from the work you need to do in this relationship’,” he told reporters in New Zealand.

Comey’s testimony will be his first public remarks since being fired by Trump last month, and represents a moment of danger for the embattled president.

His sacking came as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probes possible collusion between Trump’s election campaign team and Russia — which US intelligence believes hoped to tilt the election in the Republican’s favor.

Tillerson said he could not comment on the investigations into Russian ties and was “really … not involved in any of these other issues”.

But he added: “The president has been very clear with me that Russia is an important global player and today our relationships with Russia are at a very low point and they’ve been deteriorating.

“So the president asked me to begin a re-engagement process with Russia to stabilise that relationship so it does not deteriorate further.”

Trump wanted him to “identify areas of mutual interest where perhaps we can build some level of trust and confidence so that there are areas where we can work together”.

“And that’s the process that’s under way today,” Tillerson said.

“He’s been quite clear with me to proceed at whatever pace and in whatever areas we might make progress.”

Tillerson met New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee on Tuesday after stopovers in Australia and Singapore.