Posts Tagged ‘intelligence agencies’

The 5G Race: China and U.S. Battle to Control World’s Fastest Wireless Internet

September 10, 2018

At stake are billions of dollars in royalties, a head start in developing new technologies and national security

Image result for MIGUEL CANDELA, photos, china, commuters

5G networks are expected to be as much as 100 times faster than current networks. MIGUEL CANDELA/LIGHTROCKETGETTY IMAGES



The early waves of mobile communications were largely driven by American and European companies. As the next era of 5G approaches, promising to again transform the way people use the internet, a battle is on to determine whether the U.S. or China will dominate.

Equipment makers and telecom operators in both countries are rushing to test and roll out the next generation of wireless networks, which will be as much as 100 times faster than the current 4G standard. Governments are involved as well—with China making the bigger push.

The new networks are expected to enable the steering of driverless cars and doctors to perform complex surgeries remotely. They could power connected appliances in the so-called Internet of Things, and virtual and augmented reality. Towers would beam high-speed internet to devices, reducing reliance on cables and Wi-Fi.

At the Shenzhen headquarters of Huawei Technologies Co., executives and researchers gathered in July to celebrate one of its technologies being named a critical part of 5G. The man who invented it, Turkish scientist Erdal Arikan, was greeted with thunderous applause. The win meant a stream of future royalties and leverage for the company—and it marked a milestone in China’s quest to dominate the technology.

At a Verizon Communications Inc. lab in Bedminster, N.J., recently, computer screens showed engineers how glare-resistant window coatings can interfere with delivering 5G’s superfast internet into homes. A model of a head known as Mrs. Head tested the audio quality of new wireless devices. Verizon began experimenting with 5G in 11 markets last year.

Nearby, in Murray Hill, N.J., Nokia Corp. engineers are testing a 5G-compatible sleeve that factory workers could wear like an arm brace during their shifts to steer drones or monitor their vital signs. The company began its 5G-related research in 2007.

At a Verizon lab in New Jersey, engineers use a model called Mrs. Head in their tests.
At a Verizon lab in New Jersey, engineers use a model called Mrs. Head in their tests. PHOTO: VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC.

While the economics of 5G are still being worked out, boosters say the potential payoffs are immense. Companies that own patents stand to make billions of dollars in royalties. Countries with the largest and most reliable networks will have a head start in developing the technologies enabled by faster speeds. The dominant equipment suppliers could give national intelligence agencies and militaries an advantage in spying on or disrupting rival countries’ networks.

“As we face the future, we know deep down that the birth of 5G standards represents a new beginning,” Huawei’s chairman, Eric Xu, told the audience at the company event.

Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s chief executive officer, speaks of the technology in equally dramatic terms. “We are strong believers that 5G [will have] a very transformative effect on many things in our society,” he said. “Consumer, media, entertainment…whole industries.”

By some measures, China is ahead. Since 2013, a government-led committee has worked with China’s mobile carriers and gear-makers on testing and development. The state-led approach, combined with an enormous domestic market, ensures that Chinese companies such as Huawei will sell large quantities of 5G equipment and gain valuable experience in the process.

An engineer checked broadband at a trial 5G base station on Feb. 5 in Wuhan, China.
An engineer checked broadband at a trial 5G base station on Feb. 5 in Wuhan, China. PHOTO: XIONG QI/XINHUA/ZUMA PRESS

In the U.S., where the government typically avoids mandating and coordinating efforts by the private sector, much of the experimentation has been led by companies such as AT&T Inc., Verizon, Samsung Electronics Co. and Nokia. Last week, tech companies including Intel Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. argued in comments filed to the U.S. Trade Representative that proposed tariffs would raise the cost of routers, switches and other goods, slowing development of 5G.

Three of the major carriers plan to roll out 5G service in select cities later this year, though most mobile devices compatible with the new network won’t be ready until early 2019.

The race to 5G has come with tit-for-tat regulatory moves aimed at securing each country’s advantage. In March, the Trump administration blocked Singapore-based Broadcom’s acquisition of U.S. chip giant and 5G leader Qualcomm Inc., citing concerns that Broadcom would cut the company’s research and development funds and allow Chinese companies to pull ahead in 5G.

In July, China squelched Qualcomm’s planned acquisition of Dutch chip maker NXP Semiconductors NV, a deal that would have helped Qualcomm profit from 5G investments in new markets such as connected cars.

Much of the U.S. unease stems from the rising clout of Huawei, which was labeled a national-security threat, along with ZTE Corp. , by a Congressional panel in 2012 that said those firms’ equipment could be used for spying on Americans. In August, aligning itself with the U.S., Australia said it was banning Huawei and ZTE equipment from its 5G network. Other U.S. allies are studying similar bans.

Huawei and ZTE have consistently denied providing government agencies with backdoor access to their products. Beijing has likewise pushed to replace or sideline U.S. high-tech firms within China’s networks on fears of espionage.

China has made 5G a priority after failing to keep pace with Western countries in developing previous generations of mobile networks. The U.S. dominated 4G, built in the late 2000s, much in the same way Europeans controlled 3G standards. The American lead in 4G has been a boon to companies such as Apple Inc. and Qualcomm, and helped give rise to a host of consumer smartphone applications from the U.S.

Mixed SignalsDense networks of antennas are required for5G, and China is ahead of the U.S. on thatmeasure.Wireless antenna sites per 10,000 people,2017Source: Deloitte

Since 2015, China has built about 350,000 cell sites, compared with fewer than 30,000 in the U.S., according to an August study by consulting firm Deloitte. It also noted China has 14.1 sites for every 10,000 people, compared with 4.7 in the U.S. That matters for 5G, because the new networks will require much larger numbers of cell sites than 4G.

The physical manifestation of China’s push is a government-run 5G lab near the Great Wall north of Beijing. The sprawling facility is festooned with base stations and prototype mobile devices, with indoor and outdoor facilities for each of the major Chinese carriers and equipment makers, according to engineers and executives who have visited the site.

Trials are coordinated by a consortium of tech firms, universities and research institutes that operate under China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The group aims to wrap up tests by the end of the year.

After those trials conclude, state-run carrier China Mobile , the world’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, will follow up with its own tests in 17 cities, according to Chih-Lin I, a former Bell Labs researcher and the company’s chief scientist of mobile technologies. China’s 5G service is expected to be ready for commercial use by 2020.

The faster generation of networks relies on sophisticated technology that allows wireless airwaves to be used more efficiently. Plans call for it to run on high-frequency millimeter waves, which can handle more data but can’t travel as far as lower-frequency waves used by older networks. That means 5G will rely on clusters of antennae as well as decentralized data centers close to consumers and businesses—requiring big investments in infrastructure. The networks are expected to have the speed and responsiveness needed for advances such as driverless cars, which must instantaneously communicate with traffic signals, other cars and their surroundings.

*Including smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices

Sources: China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (China subscribers, data); CTIA (U.S. connections)

China’s bid to steer the 5G future depends heavily on setting technical standards the rest of the world will have to follow—and pay royalties and licensing fees to use. It has played an aggressive role in the international telecom industry collective that sets global standards.

Experts inside and outside China expect Qualcomm and other Western firms to end up with a majority of the essential patents once the standards are fully determined, but China is making progress.

In 2009, as Huawei’s 5G push began, it recruited Tong Wen, a former senior researcher at now-defunct equipment maker Nortel Networks Corp., to set up a research lab in Ottawa. While flipping through an academic journal, Mr. Tong had stumbled on “polar coding,” a novel method for correcting errors in data transmission invented by Mr. Arikan, the Turkish scientist.

Huawei poured resources into developing it, and the government leaned on Chinese companies to vote for it en masse at a key standard-setting meeting at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nev., in 2016. The result was a tense fight that lasted past midnight with proponents of a rival technology favored by most Western firms, according to one standards expert who was there.

“The Chinese decided this was important,” the expert said. “This was one of the biggest political battles we’ve ever seen.”

The meeting ended with a compromise: Polar codes will be adopted for part of the standard, giving Huawei ownership of a critical patent. The company has spent more than $1 billion on 5G research and development so far.

Richard Yu, Huawei’s chief executive officer, presented 5G equipment on Feb. 25 in Barcelona.
Richard Yu, Huawei’s chief executive officer, presented 5G equipment on Feb. 25 in Barcelona. PHOTO: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The U.S. government has stopped short of mandating efforts by the private sector, opening the door to more diffuse outcomes determined by the work of individual companies. In January, a senior National Security Council official floated the idea of rivaling Beijing with a government-led effort to build a nationalized wireless network, but regulators and officials said it was too expensive and unrealistic.

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission announced a plan to speed up the build-out of 5G networks by overriding some local rules and fees governing the deployment of small cellular transmitters, an important component of the infrastructure. The plan is expected to win approval in late September.

The government has funded some academic research that has paved the way for commercial technologies. One agency, the National Science Foundation, is coordinating an effort to build test beds for 5G and future generations of wireless networks.

“The United States is very much behind in this space” relative to Europe, South Korea, Japan and China, said a 2015 internal NSF report on 5G network development.

Thyaga Nandagopal—a former researcher at Bell Labs who is a director at the foundation—is leading the test bed project, in which companies, academics and government agencies will be able to test 5G and other wireless network applications in tandem. Nearly 30 U.S., European and Asian companies have committed $50 million of capital and equipment over the next seven years, while the U.S. government has pledged to invest another $50 million. In New York, an NSF-funded site run by academic institutions including Columbia University aims to launch a small pilot phase by the beginning of January.

Mr. Nandagopal said that China’s coordinated investments have put it in a “pretty good pole position” but that the NSF’s efforts are focused on wireless developments after 2020, rather than the early years of 5G deployment.

“We can invest our money strategically and still get better results than anyone else,” he said.

Some American telecom companies are staking claims to rooftops and light poles where they can position small cells that enable the faster networks, and pressing equipment and device makers to create 5G-compatible products.

Verizon’s Hans Vestberg at the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 10 in Las Vegas.
Verizon’s Hans Vestberg at the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 10 in Las Vegas. PHOTO: STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS

For all the investment, industry experts note the standards for 5G aren’t fully written and wireless carriers are still figuring out how they can best profit from the service.

At a 5G forum in Santa Clara, Calif., in July, Henning Schulzrinne, a former chief technology officer at the FCC, said operators would also have to find a way to drastically reduce the cost of data to make applications such as augmented or virtual reality affordable enough to sell to consumers over 5G. Some of those applications could work using 4G or Wi-Fi instead.

“Who’s going to stream AR or VR if it’s going to cost them $10 per minute?” he said.

John Donovan, chief executive of AT&T’s communications business, said the company’s researchers have been among the most prolific writers of 5G standards, but it is being cautious as it puts the technology in the field.

“To deploy technology in advance of need, before the use cases are there—you’re wasting money,” he said.

Executives at Huawei have also sought to temper 5G expectations. Before an audience of analysts at an annual meeting at the Shenzhen headquarters in April, Mr. Xu, Huawei’s chairman, said that “the entire industry and also governments around the world have regarded 5G too high, to the extent that it’s going to be the digital infrastructure for everything.”

Huawei and China Mobile will push ahead with 5G on a large scale regardless, according to executives from both companies.

“5G is such an important strategic project for China—kitchen sink, all the resources,” said Edison Lee, a telecom analyst at investment bank Jefferies in Hong Kong. “Because if they get their foot in the door for 5G, they get their foot in the door of 6G, 7G, 8G.”

Write to Josh Chin at, Sarah Krouse at and Dan Strumpf at

Appeared in the September 10, 2018, print edition as ‘U.S. and China Battle for 5G Dominance.’


Obama, who once surveilled reporters, criticizes Trump over press freedom

September 9, 2018

Pot, meet kettle.

When former President Barack Obama blasted President Trump in a blistering speech that derided his successor’s frequent clashes with the press, he skirted the fact that his own administration surveilled reporters – and even polygraphed intelligence agency employees – in an effort to nail leakers.

“It’s probably a good time to remind you that Obama used the Espionage Act to go after whistleblowers who leaked to journalists more than all previous presidents combined,” GOP consultant Caleb Hull tweeted.

“It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say that we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories we don’t like,” Obama said at the University of Illinois’s Urbana-Champaign campus on Friday, in his first overt foray back into politics since Trump’s inauguration.

“I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down, or call them ‘enemies of the people,’” Obama said.

But in 2010, Obama’s Department of Justice began secret surveillance of James Rosen, then Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent, in the wake of his reports on American monitoring of North Korea’s nuclear program.

They collected Rosen’s phone conversations and emails with sources – and even kept tabs on the reporter’s parents – and accused the reporter of being the “co-conspirator” of a State Department whistleblower. The surveillance did not come to light until 2013.

Obama’s DOJ also seized records for 20 phone lines at the Associated Press – used by more than 100 reporters – in 2013, and subpoenaed emails and calls between New York Times reporters and government officials.

The incidents, part of the administration’s crackdown on Washington leakers, were detailed in a highly critical 2013 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In Friday’s speech, Obama warned against Trump’s threats to “pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents.”

The criticism came as Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to seek out the anonymous administration official who published an anti-Trump op-ed on Wednesday.

But Obama’s own administration used the justice system to prosecute eight people for leaking national security secrets under the Espionage Act.

As part of that effort, James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, announced in June 2012 that employees of 16 intelligence agencies would be subject to stringent polygraph tests and quizzed about their communications with reporters.

The administration dubbed their plan the “Insider Threat Program.”

Many sources took to talking to reporters only through middle men and couriers, in hopes of passing their regular lie-detector tests, according to the CPJ report.

“There’s no question that sources are looking over their shoulders,” Michael Oreskes, a senior managing editor of The Associated Press, said in 2013.

Obama hit the campaign trail in earnest Saturday, with a visit to Orange County, Calif., to boost a group of seven Democrats running for Congress.



Merkel accuses far-right party of stoking ethnic tension

September 6, 2018

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday accused the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) of using violent protests over a fatal stabbing blamed on migrants to stir up ethnic tension.

Seehofer was rebuked by politicians and Germans on social media for telling CSU members in the eastern state of Brandenburg on Wednesday: “Migration is the mother of all problems.”

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is running third in Sunday’s national election, with as much as 12% of the vote German polls show. That finish would mark a milestone: AfD would be the first far-right nationalist party to enter Germany’s parliament since the defeat of the Nazis in World War II.

All the mainstream parties in Germany have ruled out allowing AfD to be part of any coalition government — necessary under the German system because there are so many political parties. But if it does as well as forecast, AfD would emerge as the chief opposition in the parliament, or Bundestag, to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who appears headed for an easy victory to a fourth term.

Here’s what AfD wants to see happen in Europe’s largest economy.

Image may contain: 2 people


German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during a reception for prize winners of “Youth Researches 2018” at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Mang

Far-right groups clashed with police and chased people they deemed to be migrants in the eastern city of Chemnitz on Aug. 26 after police said a Syrian and an Iraqi had been detained as suspects in the killing of a 35-year-old German man.

AfD leader Alexander Gauland had earlier this week urged a “peaceful revolution” against Merkel’s liberal immigration policy and said this required banishing politicians and members of the media who support the “Merkel system”.

Asked about the role of the AfD in the events in Chemnitz, Merkel told the RTL broadcaster: “The AfD is stirring up the mood and this has to be said clearly. I view some of their remarks very critically.”

The protests in Chemnitz have set off a debate about whether politicians are being too complacent in the face of rising xenophobia in a country where many had thought the lessons of Germany’s Nazi history had been learned.

The protests, during which some members of an 800-strong crowd performed the illegal Hitler salute, laid bare the divisions in Germany over Merkel’s decision in 2015 to take in around one million, mostly Muslim asylum seekers.

Some in Germany blame Merkel’s liberal immigration policy for the rise of the AfD, which entered parliament for the first time in an election last year as the third-largest party.

After the violence in Chemnitz, German politicians urged intelligence agencies to start monitoring the far-right party, some of whose members marched with supporters of the anti-Islam PEGIDA group in the city last weekend to protest the stabbing.


Merkel repeated her position in the RTL interview that only intelligence chiefs can decide whether to monitor the party.

“We first want to deal with the AfD politically,” Merkel said.

The state intelligence agency in Thuringia on Thursday said it would examine whether the AfD’s state chapter was pursuing anti-constitutional goals, a possible step toward putting the group under official surveillance.

Merkel’s immigration policy has also caused a rift within her conservative bloc, which includes her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Christian Social Union (CSU) Bavarian allies, that almost toppled her coalition government in June.

Interior Minister and CSU leader Horst Seehofer had threatened to pull out of the coalition government over immigration.

In an interview with the Rheinische Post published on Thursday, Seehofer said: “People are annoyed and outraged because of such homicides and I understand that.

“If I had not been a minister, I would have taken to the streets as a citizen, but of course not with the radicals.”

He added: “I understand it when people protest, but this doesn’t make them Nazis.”

Seehofer has taken an increasingly hardline stance on immigration as his party tries to fight off a strong challenge from the AfD in October’s regional election in Bavaria.

Seehofer was rebuked by politicians and Germans on social media for telling CSU members in the eastern state of Brandenburg on Wednesday: “Migration is the mother of all problems.”

Asked what she thought about Seehofer’s remark, Merkel said: “I say it differently. Migration presents us with challenges and here we have problems but also successes.”


Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Hans-Edzard Busemann; Editing by Michelle Martin and Janet Lawrence

No Collusion Starting To Look Like a Certainty for Trump — But John Brennan, James Comey, Hillary Clinton and Others Owe Us Some Explanations

August 18, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person

A year after Donald Trump Jr. was first raked over the coals for meeting with a Russian national, the charge that this amounted to illegal “collusion” has resurfaced, as the president’s critics become increasingly desperate for a scintilla of evidence supporting that narrative.

Given the continuing revelations peeling away the shiny exterior of the rotten Steele Dossier, however, the collusion gun may be pointing back on its shooters: John Brennan, James Comey, Hillary Clinton and their underlings.

George Stephanopoulos recently revived the questionable theory that receipt of information by a campaign from a foreign national is a crime because information is “a thing of value.” Good luck with that. It is, after all, difficult for all but the most biased to believe that Trump Jr. could not legally receive evidence of a crime committed against his father’s campaign. Certainly, the case for Trump Jr.’s criminality would be stronger if he were planning to use the promised information in some illegal manner.

We can accept the theory that if Trump Jr. were planning to use the information fraudulently in his father’s presidential campaign, then he might face criminal jeopardy. Of course, there is no evidence that young Trump was planning anything other than receiving legitimate documentary evidence of a Clinton crime, without any hint of criminal intent. To the contrary, he might be criticized if he were seen to be condoning Clinton’s criminal activity by not investigating it.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

But hypothetically, what if his father had hired secret agents to work closely with the Kremlin to try to falsely charge Clinton with electoral crimes? What if he enlisted corrupt intelligence officials to use this false information to surveil Clinton through a FISA warrant and to investigate her if she won? If this hypothetical ever came to pass, it would amount to earth-shakingly criminality making Watergate look like child’s play.

None of this hypothetical fraud, however, can realistically be applied to the Trump campaign. Neither Trump nor his son tried to gin up false electoral charges against Clinton, and certainly the intelligence agencies, the heads of which hated Trump, would not have cooperated if he did so.

Wouldn’t the scenario outlined here be applicable to Hillary Clinton and her supporters heading the CIA and FBI, John Brennan and James Comey? After all, the three of them joined to pursue charges against Trump both before his election, trying to prevent it, and then pursued them after the election in order to delegitimize him, using as a basis the now-discredited Steele Dossier.

But how could anyone contradict their assertion of good-faith belief in the truth of the Steele Dossier documenting these Trump crimes?

The answer, unfortunately, for Brennan, Comey and Clinton, is Sergei Millian.

Millian is a Belarus-born Russian and American citizen, who is the founder and Director of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce. It should come as no surprise that these same agencies — the CIA and the FBI —  have had Sergei Millian on their watch list for years as a suspected Russian asset, which common sense would readily suggest.

Millian actually claims to have moved easily in Kremlin and Russian intelligence circles, indeed, the basis he claimed for knowledge of kompromat on Donald Trump.

Even Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson has admitted that Millian’s outfit is a “shadowy kind of trade group.” Simpson observed, “Russians are known to use chambers of commerce and trade groups for intelligence operations.” Moreover, Millian was associated with Rossotrudnichestvo, a foreign youth-outreach Russian government agency thought to be a Russian intelligence front in America. Even Millian downplayed his own Trump connections once he drew public attention in 2016.

So what if Millian is, in fact, a Russian asset?

The problem this raises for Clinton and her group is that Steele used him as a source, actually both Source D and Source E, in his Dossier. If there was any doubt about this, it was dispelled when one version of the Dossier given to the FBI referred to Millian by name.

These agencies knew that Millian was a source, knew he was a Russian asset and knew he was lying about any claim relating to the Trump campaign. And Steele does not cite him as a Kremlin source, but as a supposed insider in the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign.

It was Millian who, claiming such status, affirms that Trump was colluding with Putin, and also that he had witnessed the peeing prostitute activity in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, the supposed kompromat on Trump.

The statements, in turn, were major components of the basis for the FBI’s seeking and obtaining a FISA warrant. The scurrilous allegations were obviously embraced by the FBI because it began paying Steele for continuing to pursue them.

In any case, Millian was a central, perhaps critical, part of the Steele Dossier — the only major “source” coming from the Trump side. The others all claimed to be sources within the Kremlin halls, from which sensible analysts would suspect disinformation.

Image may contain: 2 people, closeup

Why is this so important? Although no member of the public has seen the entire FISA application, it is a solid bet that Peter Strzok, James Comey, Bruce Ohr and, of course, John Brennan, made no effort to tell FISC that they knew these key Millian allegations were false, that he was not a Trump insider, that he had no knowledge of the campaign’s doings and that he was likely a false-flag Russian asset — all important failures of disclosure.

We know as well that Steele had several sources who, unlike Millian, claimed to be speaking with knowledge of Putin and/or his intentions. So there was clear Russian governmental “collusion,” through Steele as a conduit, between the Russian government feeding Steele false allegations and our government agencies and Clinton, who paid Steele for his Russian information.

It would be intellectually dishonest, however, to contend that merely receiving “dirt” from Kremlin sources amounts to illegal collusion. Although common sense would tell us that the Steele’s supposed Kremlin sources were likely giving nothing but disinformation pap, it is possible that Brennan, Comey and Clinton were so blinded by partisanship that they believed these sources.

But there can be no doubt that all involved — Brennan, Comey, Clinton, Nellie and Bruce Ohr — knew of the falsity of the critical Millian allegations. The charges made by Millian became the core of the anti-Trump narrative, leaked at first by the unscrupulous Harry Reid, after a private briefing by Brennan. They were also key in the post-election efforts to delegitimize Trump’s win and to begin an investigation culminating in the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller.

So we have reasonable certainty that Brennan, Comey and Clinton, including their top associates, engaged in illegal collusion to commit fraud in league with the Russian government, the purpose to interfere with and sow discord in our electoral processes. Whether federal law enforcement — led by Tower of Jello Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — will prosecute this clear criminality is quite another question.

So when the likes of Stephanopoulos again dredge up the collusion narrative, grasping for the straws of Trump Jr.’s twenty-minute Russian meeting, the discussion that it begins should end with this conclusion: Yes, there was illegal, fraudulent electoral collusion with the Russian government, but its perpetrators were not named Trump.

By John D. O’Connor

John D. O’Connor is the San Francisco attorney who represented W. Mark Felt during his revelation as Deep Throat in 2005. O’Connor is the co-author of “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington” and is a producer of “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (2017), written and directed by Peter Landesman.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.


America’s media has covered-up corrupt meddling in the U.S. election by our own intelligence agencies

August 18, 2018

There is much to know about America’s own spies in 2016, but it would be impolitic to ask.

Former FBI Director James Comey answers questions during an interview forum in Washington, May 8.
Former FBI Director James Comey answers questions during an interview forum in Washington, May 8. PHOTO: WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

The two biggest shoes are yet to drop in the 2016 investigations. We still don’t know the origins and back story of the intercepted Russian intelligence document that was pivotal in James Comey’s unprecedented, ill-advised and possibly decisive (according to numerous Democratic and independent election analysts) interventions in the presidential race.

Depending on what report you credit, the information was false, it was planted by the Russians, or it accurately indicated an illegal conspiracy to obstruct justice by the Clinton campaign and Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch. If it was a Russian fabrication, then Mr. Comey was spoofed by the Kremlin into his improper intervention in the race. If the parties to the incepted exchange were simply misinformed, it’s hard to understand Mr. Comey’s reason for intervening.

Presumably some of the questions are answered in a still-secret annex to the inspector general’s report that criticized Mr. Comey’s performance, but even that won’t tell us everything we need to know. What did fellow intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, tell the FBI about this intercept? What did they advise Mr. Comey to do?

The second shoe concerns the Steele dossier. Who were the alleged Russian sources behind it? What were their motives? Go back and read Robert Mueller’s indictment of the Russian hackers in the DNC email theft. It is not a remarkable account of hacking, but it is remarkable that it exists, with its detailed re-creation of specific actions by specific Russian officials sitting at their laptops. Your government could use the same resources to get to the bottom of an episode that has had exponentially more influence on our political life than even Russia’s trafficking in DNC emails.

After all, a foreign citizen produces a catalog of unverifiable, scandalous accusations against a U.S. presidential candidate, attributed to unnamed Russian officials. Paying for this “opposition research” is the candidate of the party in power. Her confederates, including elected Democrats, conspire to use the FBI’s possession of this document to get U.S. media outlets to report allegations from sources who won’t identify themselves, who offer no support for their claims, passed along by an operator whose political motives are manifest.

George Smiley, the careful, methodical, skeptical spy of the John le Carré novels, would have considered it a matter of good housekeeping for any spy agency to learn how it might have been misled or manipulated into ill-advised actions. Both subjects fit into Robert Mueller’s remit. Both involve Russian influence on our election and include prima facie evidence of crimes by U.S. persons.

Unfortunately, our most prominent ex-spies bear no resemblance to George Smiley. If you are not by now open to the suspicion that the blowhardism of former Obama intelligence officials John Brennan and James Clapper is aimed at keeping the focus away from their actions during the election, then you haven’t been paying attention. In his New York Times op-ed this week after being stripped of his courtesy, postretirement security clearance, the CIA’s Mr. Brennan finally put his collusion cards on the table: Mr. Trump’s ill-advised remark during the campaign inviting Russia to find the missing Hillary Clinton emails.

Image may contain: 2 people

Really? This is it? Mr. Trump’s behavior was typically unpresidential in the fashion that we have now become used to, such as referring to a fired White House employee as a dog. But his jibe was at least as much aimed at the media, which he correctly noted would eagerly traffic in the stolen emails even as it deplored Russian meddling.

When Mr. Trump tweets and blurts out so many offhand things, are you really going to build a “treason” case (a term Mr. Brennan has used) out of just another free-form Trump campaign riff of 2016? If that’s all he’s got, the secret knowledge Mr. Brennan keeps hinting at is a fabulous fraud.

Which brings us to the press. The two stories outlined above are of legitimate, pressing interest, but editors and reporters say to themselves: “Might not looking into these matters be construed as pro-Trump? We can’t have that.” Not one U.S. paper, despite lavish coverage of the DOJ inspector general’s report, even noted the existence of a secret appendix. According to reports in his own Washington Post, Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book will be an upmarket “Fire and Fury” looking into the known knowns of Mr. Trump’s chaotic first year in office. Meanwhile, history is screaming at Mr. Woodward to dig into the known unknowns of U.S. intelligence activities in the campaign that elected Mr. Trump.

In fact, these stories cut both ways. They suggest foolish if not corrupt meddling in the U.S. election by our own intelligence agencies, but also that Mr. Trump may occupy the White House because their malign intervention inadvertently pushed him over the top.

Appeared in the August 18, 2018, print edition.


FBI agent Peter Strzok and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Officials’ Stark Warnings on Russia Diverge From White House View

July 23, 2018

Clashing assessments raise a question ahead of the next Trump-Putin summit: Can the U.S. formulate a coherent Russia policy?

FBI Director Christopher Wray, left, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are among the U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence officials whose recent stark warnings on Russia election-meddling diverge from White House statements. The two men testified before the House Judiciary Committee on June 28.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, left, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are among the U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence officials whose recent stark warnings on Russia election-meddling diverge from White House statements. The two men testified before the House Judiciary Committee on June 28. PHOTO: ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

As the administration prepares for another summit meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, there is division within the U.S. ranks over Moscow’s intentions and whether the two sides will be able to cooperate on a range of issues including the conflict in Syria.

Mr. Trump has expressed hopes of working more closely with Russia in Syria, where Moscow has played a central role in cementing President Bashar al-Assad’s power. The administration raised the issue with Mr. Putin’s government during and after their meeting in Helsinki last week.

But the U.S. general overseeing the fight against Islamic State expressed doubt about deepening cooperation with the Russian military. “I’ve watched some of the things that Russia has done, it does give me some pause,” Gen. Joseph Votel said in an interview en route to Afghanistan.

Image result for Gen. Joseph Votel, photos

Gen. Joseph Votel

Gen. Votel heads the U.S. Central Command, which also oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, including Syria, where Russian has been carrying out air strikes to help Mr. Assad’s forces reclaim territory from Syrian rebels.

A parade of top officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Justice Department and intelligence agencies, as well as U.S. lawmakers, have issued warnings in recent days about Russian interference in U.S. elections. Mr. Trump and others in the White House say they have raised concerns about interference, and are focusing on other issues.

The skepticism has frustrated Russian officials who had hoped for an opening between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin to see eye-to-eye on thorny regional issues, terrorism and arms control.

Seeking to capitalize on the Helsinki meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday about potential cooperation in Syria and demanded the release of Russian citizen Maria Butina, who was arrested last week and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent. Mr. Lavrov called the accusations against her “fabricated.”

A statement from the U.S. State Department on Sunday said the men discussed Syria, counterterrorism and business-to-business ties but made no mention of Ms. Butina.

Before last week’s the Helsinki summit, Syria was seen as a potential area of cooperation between the two countries, especially since the U.S. is no longer providing covert support to Syrian rebels opposed to Mr. Assad. Mr. Trump has said he would like to eventually remove the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in the country.

The White House’s paramount concern in Syria has been finding a way to evict Iranian forces. National Security Adviser John Bolton voiced hopes earlier this month that Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin might work together to scale back Iran’s role.

But no agreement to reduce Iran’s role was announced in Helsinki. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed skepticism at the policy symposium that Russia would help.

“We have assessed that it’s unlikely Russia has the will or the capability to fully implement and counter Iranian decision and influence,” Mr. Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum. “It’s a big country. There are a lot of hot spots there. Russia would have to make significantly greater commitments from a military standpoint, from an economic standpoint. We don’t assess that they are keen to do that.”

Mr. Trump has said little about the Helsinki summit, including Syria. Russian officials said they are preparing to set up a working group with the U.S. to focus on getting Syrian refugees back home.

In his interview, however, Gen. Votel outlined the pitfalls of seeking to a closer military relationship with Moscow in Syria.

At present, the U.S. military maintains regular consultations with its Russian counterparts to avoid inadvertent confrontation in Syria—what the Pentagon calls “deconfliction.”

“I don’t see anything that we ought to be doing militarily right now beyond what we are currently doing,” he said.

“They have supported a regime that has pretty brutally attacked their people,“ Gen. Votel explained. ”They’ve actively worked to make sure that the Syrian regime wasn’t held to full accountability for their use of chemicals.”

“These are not things that give me great confidence that just by stepping over into the next level of coordination that things are going to be fine. I don’t,” Gen Votel continued. “It’s Russia. Let’s not forget that it’s Russia.”

Before the Helsinki summit, Russia pushed the U.S. to close an American base in southern Syria, where Iran is looking to open a corridor to shuttle weapons to its allies in Lebanon. It remained unclear if Mr. Trump had discussed closing the base in exchange for Mr. Putin’s help in containing Iran’s influence in Syria.

But Gen. Votel said he is opposed to closing the base, known as Al Tanf, which has been used to train Syrian militants battling Islamic State.

Another wild card that could complicate U.S.-Russia relations as a summit approaches is the possibility of more sanctions, which some in Congress have brandished if there is more Russian election interference.

While Russia had hoped that Mr. Trump’s election would lead to an easing of sanctions, a law passed last year by Congress and signed by Mr. Trump, along with existing executive orders, mandate punitive measures in response to Kremlin election interference, cyber attacks and military interventions in Ukraine and Syria.

The new law, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or Caatsa, was invoked after special counsel Robert Mueller in February obtained indictments against several Russian companies and citizens for their alleged involvement in election interference. In that instance, the Treasury Department sanctioned the defendants.

The July 13 indictment of 12 officers from cyber units in Russia’s military-intelligence agency provided Treasury officials with information on additional Kremlin-linked actors with which to take similar action.

“Congress has provided important tools to hold Russia accountable for its meddling,” said Rep. Ed Royce, the California Republican who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The administration needs to use them to the fullest extent.”

Write to Michael R. Gordon at

Appeared in the July 23, 2018, print edition as ‘Trump, Aides Diverge Further on Russia.’


Containing Putin—and Trump

July 18, 2018

Congress needs to block any new arms deal until Russia stops cheating.

In this video grab provided by RU-RTR Russian Television on March 1, Russia's new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile blasts off during a test launch from an undisclosed location in Russia.
In this video grab provided by RU-RTR Russian Television on March 1, Russia’s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile blasts off during a test launch from an undisclosed location in Russia. PHOTO: RU-RTR RUSSIAN TELEVISION/ASSOCIATED PRESS


President Trump rarely admits mistakes, so it was good on Tuesday to see him reverse his claim of Monday that Russia may not have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. The problem is that he still doesn’t seem to understand the nature of the adversary known as Vladimir Putin whom he wants to make his friend.

“I have full faith in our intelligence agencies,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday at the White House. He added that he unintentionally erred Monday when he said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia” that had done the cyber-hacking. He said he meant to say, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”

We wonder who thought of that one, but never mind. At least Mr. Trump has at last publicly sided with his own advisers over the former KGB agent in the Kremlin. He also said “we are doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference” in the 2018 election, which his intelligence advisers have also warned him about.

Less encouraging is Mr. Trump’s continued enthusiasm for working with Mr. Putin on issues like Syria and arms control. On nuclear weapons in particular, Mr. Trump is a neophyte compared with the Russian who wants to rewrite the historical record to lure the President into further reducing the U.S. arsenal.

Nuclear weapons are “the greatest threat of our world today,” Mr. Trump told reporters Tuesday. Russia is “a great nuclear power, we’re a great nuclear power. We have to do something about nuclear, and so that was a matter that we discussed actually in great detail, and President Putin agrees with me.”

Uh oh. In an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace Monday, Mr. Putin lamented America’s “unilateral withdrawal” from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) during the George W. Bush Administration. “We didn’t want the United States to withdraw from the ABM treaty, but they did despite our request not to do it,” Mr. Putin said.

What Mr. Putin didn’t explain is that the ABM Treaty, which limited deployments of missile defenses, was a bilateral pact that the U.S. adhered to and the Soviets repeatedly violated, notably by building a large, phased-array radar at Krasnoyarsk. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the ABM Treaty was effectively voided, yet Republican and Democratic Presidents kept the treaty in place.

George W. Bush finally withdrew from ABM in 2002, explaining that the Cold War had ended, Russia was no longer an enemy, and the treaty hindered the U.S. “ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks.” The Bush Administration understood that the treaty left the U.S. defenseless against a missile from the likes of Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Bush’s withdrawal was legal under the treaty’s termination clause, and at the time Mr. Putin said the move was “mistaken” but “presented no threat to Russia’s security.” Yet on Monday Mr. Putin said Russia’s development of new offensive weaponry like the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile was “born as a response to the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty.”

In his news conference with Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin also excused Russian violations of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bars ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Mr. Putin blamed “implementation issues.” He didn’t say that the Pentagon believes a new medium-range nuclear cruise missile that Russia has deployed in Europe violates the INF treaty. And Mr. Trump didn’t call him on it.

Mr. Putin wants to draw Mr. Trump into an arms-control negotiation that would revive the ABM limits while expanding Barack Obama’s New Start reductions in U.S. missiles. Mr. Trump is so confident of his personal deal-making skills, and so untutored in nuclear arms, that we hope the negotiations never begin.

This is where Congress needs a containment strategy—for Mr. Putin and for Mr. Trump’s desire to cut deals with him. Members of both parties can make clear that no new arms deal is possible until Mr. Putin stops cheating on current treaties; that no limit on missile defenses is tolerable; and that any new deal must be submitted to the Senate as a treaty requiring a two-thirds vote for ratification.

Appeared in the July 18, 2018, print edition.

At summit, Trump refuses to confront Putin on vote row

July 17, 2018

 President Donald Trump refused to confront Vladimir Putin over meddling in the US election at their first face to face summit, publicly challenging the findings of the US intelligence community and triggering bipartisan outrage at home.

The US and Russian presidents came out of their meeting in Helsinki Monday expressing desire for a fresh start between the world’s leading nuclear powers and more talk on global challenges, after discussing an array of issues from Syria, Ukraine and China to trade tariffs and the size of their nuclear arsenals.

There were indications of an arrangement to work together and with Israel to support a ceasefire in southern Syria, suggesting that the US administration is backing off its demand that Moscow’s ally Bashar al-Assad step down.

If that is anathema to many in Washington, Trump’s apparent concessions to Putin over the election controversy drew stinging condemnation from across the political divide.

Standing alongside the Kremlin boss at a joint news conference, Trump acknowledged that his intelligence chiefs believe Russia hacked and leaked Democrats’ emails containing politically damaging information about his rival Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But, insisting he had won the race fair and square, the wealthy property tycoon said: “I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Friday’s US indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents exploded with embarrassing timing for Trump as he prepared to meet Putin. On Monday, officials said another Russian agent had been arrested for seeking to influence US politics.

But the US leader insisted that his counterpart had delivered a “powerful” denial of any Russian manipulation, and that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller was proving a “disaster” for the United States.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standing and text

In his own interview with Fox, Trump said he was “fascinated” by an offer from Putin for US agents to indirectly grill the indicted Russians by submitting their questions to Russian officials but said Mueller’s team “probably won’t want to go” to Moscow.

– ‘Never interfered’ –

Trump again denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin, while Putin insisted: “The Russian state has never interfered and is not planning to interfere in the USA’s internal affairs.”

As criticism mounted, Trump tweeted from Air Force One on his way home from Finland that he had “GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people”.

“However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past  as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along.”

Angry criticism of his disavowal of his own intelligence agencies came even from within Trump’s Republican Party.

Senior Republican Senator John McCain was particularly scathing, saying: “Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American presidency.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats distanced himself from his boss, issuing a statement saying the US intelligence community’s judgment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election was “clear”.

But the top Democrat in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, tweeted that many Americans can only wonder if “the only possible explanation for this dangerous behaviour is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.”

And former CIA director John Brennan said Trump’s behavior at the news conference “rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous.”

Putin denied the notion that Russian spy bosses may hold compromising information on Trump, who in his previous business career oversaw the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.

“Please get this rubbish out of your heads,” the Russian leader said.

In a post-summit interview with Fox News, Putin said US-Russia relations should not be held “hostage” to “internal political games,” referring to the Mueller probe.

The two leaders appeared relaxed at the Helsinki news conference, smiling on occasion, in contrast to their sombre demeanour at the start of the day.

Trump, bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief despite the election allegations, went into the summit blaming the “stupidity” of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.

His manner towards Putin was also a contrast to the anger Trump flashed at NATO allies at a combative summit of the alliance in Brussels last week, which critics said would only hearten Putin.

– ‘Only the beginning’ –

A post-NATO trip to Britain, supposedly America’s partner in a “special relationship”, was riddled with controversy as well.

In Helsinki, however, Trump was determined to accentuate the positive, as was Putin.

The two leaders met one-on-one for more than two hours, with just their interpreters present, before they were joined by their national security teams.

Many in Washington were agog at Trump’s decision to sit alone with Putin, worried about what he might give away to the former KGB spymaster, after previously cosying up to the autocratic leaders of China and North Korea.

But Trump, convinced his unique brand of diplomacy can win over Putin, pressed ahead and looked forward to “having an extraordinary relationship” as the pair sat down to discuss global hotspots.

– ‘Foolishness and stupidity’ –

Trump began the day by firing a Twitter broadside at his domestic opponents, blaming the diplomatic chill on the election investigation.

“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted.

Russia’s foreign ministry tweeted in response: “We agree.”

In a weekend interview with CBS News, Trump admitted that Russia remains a foe, but he put Moscow on a par with China and the European Union as economic and diplomatic rivals.


Congressional leaders get briefings on Russia probe

May 25, 2018

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have gotten classified briefings about the origins of the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a highly unusual series of meetings prompted by partisan allegations that the bureau spied on Donald Trump’s campaign.

Democrats emerged from the meetings saying they saw no evidence to support Republican allegations that the FBI acted inappropriately, although they did express grave concern about the presence of a White House lawyer at Thursday’s briefings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News he had learned “nothing particularly surprising,” but declined to go into detail.

Still, the extraordinary briefings drew attention to the unproved claims of FBI misconduct and political bias. The meetings were sought by Trump’s GOP allies and arranged by the White House, as the president has tried to sow suspicions about the legitimacy of the FBI investigation that spawned a special counsel probe. Initially offered only to Republicans, the briefings were the latest piece of stagecraft meant to publicize and bolster the allegations. But they also highlighted the degree to which the president and his allies have used the levers of the federal government — in this case, intelligence agencies — to aide in Trump’s personal and political defense.

President Donald Trump says he wants transparency from everyone involved in the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Trump insisted Wednesday, “what I want is total transparency.” (May 23)


Under direct pressure from the president, Justice Department officials agreed to grant Republicans a briefing, and only later opened it up to Democrats. The invite list evolved up until hours before the meeting — a reflection of the partisan distrust and the political wrangling. A White House lawyer, Emmet Flood, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly showed up for both briefings, although the White House had earlier said it would keep a distance, drawing criticism from Democrats.

“For the record, the president’s chief of staff and his attorney in an ongoing criminal investigation into the president’s campaign have no business showing up to a classified intelligence briefing,” Sen. Mark Warner tweeted after the briefing.

The White House said the officials didn’t attend the full briefings, but instead delivered brief remarks communicating the “president’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law” and relaying “the president’s understanding of the need to protect human intelligence services and the importance of communication between the branches of government,” according to a statement.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats attended both meetings — the first at the Department of Justice and the second on Capitol Hill.

Trump has zeroed in on, and at times embellished, reports that a longtime U.S. government informant approached members of his campaign in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election. The president intensified his attacks this week, calling it “spygate” and tweeting Thursday that it was “Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history.”

It was unclear how much information was given to lawmakers. According to a U.S. official familiar with the meeting, the briefers did not reveal the name of an informant. They brought documents but did not share them, and made several remarks about the importance of protecting intelligence sources and methods. The person declined to be identified because the briefing was classified.

In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan wouldn’t say what he learned, but said he looked forward to the “prompt completion” of the House Intelligence Committee’s work now that they are “getting the cooperation necessary.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter, had originally requested the information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. The original meeting was scheduled for just Nunes and Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but the Justice Department relented and allowed additional lawmakers to come after Democrats strongly objected.

Nunes and other Republicans already eager to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation used Trump’s complaints to obtain the briefing from the Justice Department, whose leaders have tried for months to balance demands from congressional overseers against their stated obligation to protect Mueller’s ongoing investigation into ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

Nunes attended both briefings Thursday. According to the U.S. official and another person briefed on the Capitol Hill meeting, Nunes did not speak at all during the briefing. The second person also declined to be named because the meeting was classified.

Democratic lawmakers declined to comment on the substance of the briefing, but gave a joint statement afterward saying their view had not changed that “there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a ‘spy’ in the Trump Campaign, or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.”

The statement was issued by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and the top Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence panels, Warner and Rep. Adam Schiff.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr also attended the briefing but did not comment afterward.

The back and forth between Congress and the Justice Department has simmered for weeks.

The Justice Department had rejected Nunes’ original request, writing in a letter in April that his request for information could put lives in danger.

Negotiations over release of the information stalled but restarted when Trump demanded, via tweet, on Sunday that the Justice Department investigate.

In response to the tweet, the Justice Department immediately asked its inspector general to expand its ongoing investigation to look into whether there was any politically motivated surveillance of the campaign and agreed to hold the classified briefings.

It remained unclear what, if any, spying was done. The White House gave no evidence to support Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama’s administration was trying to spy on his 2016 campaign for political reasons.

It’s long been known that the FBI was looking into Russian meddling during the campaign and that part of that inquiry touched on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian figures. Mueller took over the investigation when he was appointed special counsel in May 2017.


Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Jonathan Lemire, Lisa Mascaro, Chad Day and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.


‘Bigger than Watergate’: Trump joins push by allies to expose role of an FBI source

May 18, 2018

President Trump’s allies are waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source. The effort reached new heights Thursday as Trump alleged that an informant had improperly spied on his 2016 campaign and predicted that the ensuing scandal would be “bigger than Watergate!”

The extraordinary push begun by a cadre of Trump boosters on Capitol Hill now has champions across the GOP and throughout conservative media — and, as of Thursday, the first anniversary of Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment as special counsel, bears the imprimatur of the president.

The dispute pits Trump and the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee against the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, whose leaders warn that publicly identifying the confidential source would put lives in danger and imperil other operations.

Image result for Donald Trump, angry, photos

By Philip RuckerRobert CostaCarol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey
The Washington Post

The stakes are so high that the FBI has been working over the past two weeks to mitigate the potential damage if the source’s identity is revealed, according to several people familiar with the matter. The bureau is taking steps to protect other live investigations that the person has worked on and is trying to lessen any danger to associates if the informant’s identity becomes known, said these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations.

Trump reacted on Twitter on Thursday to recent news reports that there was a top-secret source providing intelligence to the FBI as it began its investigation into Russia’s interference in the election process.

“Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’ ” Trump tweeted. He added, “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!”

[Secret intelligence source who aided Mueller probe is at center of latest clash between Nunes and Justice Dept.]

Trump’s attorney, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said in an interview with The Washington Post that the president believes some law enforcement officials have been conspiring against him.

“The prior government did it, but the present government, for some reason I can’t figure out, is covering it up,” Giuliani said, adding that confirmation of an informant could render the Mueller investigation “completely illegitimate.”

Giuliani said Trump believes it is time for the Justice Department to release classified documents about the origin of the Russia probe, requested by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), that are expected to contain details about the confidential source.

“It’s ridiculous,” Giuliani said. “You guys in the press should have them. I don’t know why the current attorney general and the current director of the FBI want to protect a bunch of renegades that might amount to 20 people at most within the FBI.”

The Post first reported earlier this month that an FBI informant and top-secret, longtime intelligence source had provided information early in the FBI investigation of connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.

A New York Times story published Wednesday about the beginnings of the Russia probe reported that at least one government informant met several times with two former Trump campaign advisers, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

“It looks like the Trump campaign in fact may have been surveilled,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager who now is a White House adviser, said Thursday on Fox News Channel. “It looks like there was an informant there. As the president likes to say, we’ll see what happens.”

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified Wednesday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that the FBI takes seriously its responsibilities to Congress but said the bureau also has important responsibilities to people who provide information to agents.

“The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe,” Wray said. “Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we’re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and the lives of their families.”

The source is a U.S. citizen who has provided information over the years to both the FBI and the CIA, as The Post previously reported, and aided the Russia investigation both before and after Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, according to people familiar with his activities.

Breitbart and other right-wing news websites have been abuzz in recent days with commentary about the source. Sean Hannity, a friend and informal adviser to Trump, speculated about the source on his Fox News show Wednesday night.

[Mueller investigation enters Year Two: What comes next — and how it could end]

Trump’s allies believe outing the source and revealing details about his or her work for the FBI could help them challenge the investigation and, potentially, provide cause for removing Mueller or his overseer, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. They also point to the dossier containing allegations about Trump’s connections to Russia, which was partially funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and was used by the FBI to obtain a search warrant for Page.

“If it were found that the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign was predicated on flimsy facts ginned up by people with a political agenda and used informants to get inside the Trump campaign based on no solid facts, then, yes, I absolutely think it’s grounds for dismissing this entire investigation,” said Mark ­Corallo, a former Justice Department official and former spokesman for Trump’s legal team.

Trump tweeted Thursday that the Mueller probe was a “disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt,” which drew a retort from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“I would say to the president, it’s not a ‘witch hunt’ when 17 Russians have been indicted,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It’s not a ‘witch hunt’ when some of the most senior members of the Trump campaign have been indicted. It’s not a ‘witch hunt’ when Democrats and Republicans agree with the intelligence community that Russia interfered in our election to aid President Trump.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) has been conferring with Trump — in three or more calls a week — communicating concerns that the Justice Department is hiding worrisome information about the elements of the probe, according to people familiar with their discussions.

Meadows declined to discuss his conversations with the president. But he said, “The president has always been consistent in wanting transparency, even when he had no knowledge of what the document might or might not contain, whether it would be good or bad for him.”

Nunes, meanwhile, has purposefully not been talking to Trump, to avoid accusations that he is providing sensitive information to the president, according to these people. Instead, Nunes has been relaying the status of his battle with the Justice Department to White House Counsel Donald McGahn.

“What we’re trying to figure out are what methods the FBI and DOJ used to investigate and open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign,” Nunes said.

Nunes said he and his colleagues have been troubled by reports and indications that sources may have been repeatedly reaching out to Trump campaign members and even offering aides money to encourage them to meet. The president, he said, has ample reason to be angry and suspicious.

“If you are paying somebody to come talk to my campaign or brush up against my campaign, whatever you call it, I’d be furious,” Nunes said.

Nunes redirected his attacks Thursday from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Rosenstein, telling Sinclair Broadcast Group that the deputy attorney general should be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with his subpoena. Sessions is recused from the matter.

[‘Buckle up’: As Mueller probe enters second year, Trump and allies go on war footing]

Inside the West Wing, Trump often complains about the Mueller investigation, with episodic bouts that can be “all-encompassing,” according to a former senior administration official. Trump often talks with his advisers about ways he can fight back against what he views as an encroaching probe — and he sees allies in Congress as more credible surrogates than his own staff, the official said.

Trump often agrees with Meadows and at times has encouraged him and other allies to go on television news shows and, in the words of a senior administration official, “beat the drums.”

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has complained to some colleagues that such conversations between Trump and Meadows and other House allies are not always helpful, according to the former official.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has told the president on several occasions that he should stop talking about the Russia probe, according to an official familiar with their conversations. “You’re not guilty, don’t act like it,” Ryan would say, and Trump would agree, but then the president would go right back to venting about the investigation, according to this official.

For months, Meadows, Nunes and other GOP lawmakers have criticized Rosenstein for refusing to let Congress see a “scope memo” outlining the people and issues under investigation by Mueller. Some House Republicans in March drafted articles of impeachment against Rosenstein as a “last resort” if he does not provide Congress with more information.

In early May, Nunes pushed the Justice Department for more information about the source, but top White House officials, with the assent of Trump, agreed to back the department’s decision to withhold the information. They were persuaded that turning over Justice Department documents could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion and the person’s role.

Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is functioning as an informal adviser to the Trump allies, both inside and outside the administration, who are leading the charge against the Justice Department, according to three people involved in those discussions.

Working from his Capitol Hill townhouse, Bannon has conferred with Meadows, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, among others, about how to bolster support for Trump allies in Congress who are calling for more document disclosures, the people said.

These people said the Bannon-advised group sees itself as a bulwark for the embattled president and said there were growing tensions between them and Kelly and McGahn, whom the group sees as not doing enough to force the hand of top Justice officials.

Kelly met with Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) a few weeks ago and suggested they give Justice officials more time to comply with their request. But Meadows and Jordan did not back off, a senior administration official said.

“The president is frustrated,” Jordan said. “I don’t blame him for being frustrated.”

Devlin Barrett and Shane Harris contributed to this report.