Posts Tagged ‘James Comey’

A President’s Credibility

March 22, 2017

Trump’s falsehoods are eroding public trust, at home and abroad.

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, March 21.

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, March 21. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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The Wall Street Journal
Editorial Board

March 21, 2017 7:28 p.m. ET

If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.

The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago that he had “found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence.

Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims. Sean Spicer—who doesn’t deserve this treatment—was dispatched last week to repeat an assertion by a Fox News commentator that perhaps the Obama Administration had subcontracted the wiretap to British intelligence.

That bungle led to a public denial from the British Government Communications Headquarters, and British news reports said the U.S. apologized. But then the White House claimed there was no apology. For the sake of grasping for any evidence to back up his original tweet, and the sin of pride in not admitting error, Mr. Trump had his spokesman repeat an unchecked TV claim that insulted an ally.

The wiretap tweet is also costing Mr. Trump politically as he hands his opponents a sword. Mr. Trump has a legitimate question about why the U.S. was listening to his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and who leaked news of his meeting with the Russian ambassador. But that question never gets a hearing because the near-daily repudiation of his false tweet is a bigger media story.

FBI director James Comey also took revenge on Monday by joining the queue of those saying the bureau has no evidence to back up the wiretap tweet. Mr. Comey even took the unusual step of confirming that the FBI is investigating ties between the Trump election campaign and Russia.

Mr. Comey said he could make such a public admission only in “unusual circumstances,” but why now? Could the wiretap tweet have made Mr. Comey angry because it implied the FBI was involved in illegal surveillance? Mr. Trump blundered in keeping Mr. Comey in the job after the election, but now the President can’t fire the man leading an investigation into his campaign even if he wants to.

All of this continues the pattern from the campaign that Mr. Trump is his own worst political enemy. He survived his many false claims as a candidate because his core supporters treated it as mere hyperbole and his opponent was untrustworthy Hillary Clinton. But now he’s President, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything. As he is learning with the health-care bill, Mr. Trump needs partners in his own party to pass his agenda. He also needs friends abroad who are willing to trust him when he asks for support, not least in a crisis.

This week should be dominated by the smooth political sailing for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and the progress of health-care reform on Capitol Hill. These are historic events, and success will show he can deliver on his promises. But instead the week has been dominated by the news that he was repudiated by his own FBI director.

Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.

Appeared in the Mar. 22, 2017, print edition.

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FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

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

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(AP)

Related:

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

March 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

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

March 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

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

By Chris Strohm, Alan Bjerga, and Billy House

Bloomberg News

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

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

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

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

Here’s what to watch for:

Was Trump wiretapped?

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

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

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

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

Was Trump’s campaign under surveillance?

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever happened to Russian hacking?

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

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

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

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

Did Trump’s aides collude with Russia?

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

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

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

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

Can Comey satisfy lawmakers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 20, 2017

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Image may contain: outdoor

By EILEEN SULLIVAN and ERIC TUCKER

The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4329060/House-intel-chief-says-no-evidence-wiretap-warrant.html#ixzz4bqrLGHG8
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Donald Trump furious as Congress agrees to probe claim Barack Obama wiretapped him in Watergate-style bugging

March 6, 2017

Donald Trump escalated his war with Barack Obama as a committee in Congress agreed to look into his claims that the former president and his administration abused executive powers in last year’s election.

In his latest high stakes salvo Mr Trump had called for a congressional investigation after alleging that he was the victim of a dirty tricks campaign akin to Watergate.

His move came a day after he claimed his predecessor ordered a wiretap of the phones at Trump Tower in New York, Mr Trump’s campaign headquarters.

Donald Trump speaks during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C on Tuesday, February 28

Donald Trump speaks during a joint session of Congress in Washington DC on Tuesday, February 28 CREDIT: JIM LO SCALZO/BLOOMBERG

James Comey, the FBI director, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly refute Mr Trump’s assertion, unnamed officials told the New York Times on Sunday.

Mr Comey and the Justice Department have been working to reject the claim because it falsely insinuates that the FBI broke the law, it was reported.

Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department have so far released any public statement.

Watch | Donald Trump vs Barack Obama – in 90 seconds

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/05/trump-renews-attack-obama/

01:33

Mr Obama has said the allegations made against him by Mr Trump were “simply false”. James Clapper,  his former intelligence chief also “absolutely denied” the claims. But Mr Trump told a friend he was convinced he would be “proven right”.

Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a Trump donor, said he had spoken to the president twice at the weekend about the wiretap allegations.

Mr Ruddy said: “I haven’t seen him this p***** off in a long time. When I mentioned Obama ‘denials’ about the wiretaps he shot back ‘This will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right’.”

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations were “very troubling”.

He said: “President Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”

(1/4) Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling.

Congressman Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, responded by confirming that his committee “will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party’s campaign officials or surrogates”.

The committee is already examining possible links between Russia and Mr Trump’s campaign.

Tom Cotton, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it would also investigate Mr Trump’s allegations.

He said: “We’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead us and I’m sure that this matter will be a part of that inquiry.”

Mr Trump offered no evidence and is believed to have based the claims, made in a series of tweets on Saturday, on press reports.

Those reports suggested the FBI had a warrant from a secret court to carry out electronic surveillance at Trump Tower.

Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, “Tell Vladimir that after the election I’ll have more flexibility?” @foxandfriends

Press reports stretching back to November suggested the FBI obtained a warrant under the Foreign Surveillance Act (FISA) to conduct the surveillance towards the end of the election campaign.

At the time the agency was looking into possible communications between a Trump Organization computer server and Alfa Bank, a Russian bank.

The FBI did investigate but concluded the communications were innocuous.

Donald Trump arrives back at the White House on Sunday evening
Donald Trump arrives back at the White House on Sunday evening CREDIT: BARCROFT MEDIA

James Clapper, the director of national  intelligence under Mr Obama, on Sunday denied there was ever a FISA warrant relating to Trump Tower.

Democrats called Mr Trump’s allegations against Mr Obama “ridiculous and unhinged”. Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democrats in the Senate, said they were “beneath the dignity of the presidency”.

Marco Rubio, a Republican senator on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “I have no insight into exactly what he (Mr Trump) is referring to. The president put that out there, and now the White House will have to answer for exactly what he was referring to.”

“What I think we should do is, everybody needs to take a deep breath and calm down here.”

Watch | Pro-Trump rally turns violent in California

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/05/trump-renews-attack-obama/

01:15

Continuing his attacks on Mr Obama the president said on Twitter: “Who was it that secretly said to Russian President ‘Tell Vladimir that after the election I’ll have more flexibility?'”

He appeared to be referring to a conversation, picked up on a microphone, between Mr Obama and then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in March 2012.

It came as Mr Trump prepared to sign this week a revised version of his controversial travel ban on immigrants from some predominantly Muslim countries.

More on Trump-Putin relationship at the link:

 

John Podesta repeats his claims that the F.B.I. deliberately sabotaged Hillary’s run for President

February 22, 2017

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John Podesta. (Eric Jamison photo for AP)

  • John Podesta said earlier this month he believed the FBI was against Clinton
  • He pointed to its probe of her use of emails but said it ignored the DNC hack
  • Podesta also slammed director James Comey’s announcement to reopen investigation into Clinton’s email that came 11 days before polls opened
  • He also called for Trump and his campaign team to face investigation into ties with Russia 

John Podesta has reiterated his theory the FBI deliberately sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s election campaign, saying there were forces within the bureau that ‘wanted her to lose’.

In an interview earlier this month, Podesta, who was Clinton‘s campaign manager, pointed to the Russian hack of the DNC and the FBI’s lackluster response to it as proof of his theory.

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Obama White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice, right, and John Podesta

Compared to its ‘painstaking’ dig into Clinton’s emails and its bold decision to reopen an investigation into her use of them days before the polls opened, he said it the bureau seemed stacked against their campaign.

‘There are at least forces within the FBI that wanted her to lose.

‘I’m not sure they really understood the alternative but they wanted her to lose,’ he told Bloomberg’s John Heilemann at the Newco Shift Forum earlier this month.

Scroll down for video 

Podesta (left in December) said the FBI director James Comey was 'inexplicable' in his treatment of the investigation into Clinton's emails versus its approach to the DNC hack
Podesta (left in December) said the FBI director James Comey was 'inexplicable' in his treatment of the investigation into Clinton's emails versus its approach to the DNC hack

 Podesta (left in December) said there were ‘forces within the FBI’ (director James Comey is pictured, right) that wanted Hillary Clinton to lose the election

Podesta said he found it ‘inexplicable’ at first that the FBI took a soft approach to the DNC hack which resulted in the leak of thousands of emails from inside the Clinton campaign.

Despite being aware of the potential threat from Russian hackers, Podesta said the bureau did not send any agents to the committee’s headquarters and instead left a voicemail with its IT department.

‘It’s inexplicable that they were so casual about first the investigation about the Russian penetration of the DNC emails, they didn’t even bother to send an agent to the DNC, they didn’t call anybody senior, they left a couple of messages at the IT help desk saying you might want to be careful.

‘It was very hard to get any information from them.’

By contrast, agents were aggressive in their investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Podesta made the comments during an interview with Bloomberg’s John Heilemann earlier this month (above)

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Podesta said it was 'inexplicable' that the FBI didn't send agents to the Democratic National Committee to investigate the hack of its emails. Above, Clinton is pictured giving her concession speech weeks later 

Podesta said it was ‘inexplicable’ that the FBI didn’t send agents to the Democratic National Committee to investigate the hack of its emails. Above, Clinton is pictured giving her concession speech weeks later

Podesta pointed to the bureau's aggressive investigation into Clinton's emails and the decision by Director James Comey to reopen the probe days before the polls opened 

Podesta pointed to the bureau’s aggressive investigation into Clinton’s emails and the decision by Director James Comey to reopen the probe days before the polls opened

Podesta blames Russia for Wikileaks email hack release in October

The announcement by director James Comey to reopen the probe just 10 days before the polls open was even more intrepid, he said.

‘(He) ended up dropping this bombshell in the middle of the election against the advice of the Justice Department, against the long term practice of Democratic and Republican administrations…it’s inexplicable.’

Comey said there ought to be a ‘deep investigation’ into Trump’s ties with Russia

Podesta also called for a ‘deeper investigation’ into Trump’s ties with Russia, alleging the president’s camp knew about the country’s attempts to thwart Clinton’s campaign in advance.

‘I think that needs to happen is a much more serious investigation of whatever collusion existed between the Trump campaign, the Russians and Assange.

‘I think there needs to be a deeper investigation of what did they know, when did they know it, who were they talking to, and it’s fairly clear that at least they had foreknowledge of some of the activities that were being run against our campaign.’

Podesta first shared his suspicion that the FBI acted deliberately against Clinton during the election campaign in an opinion piece for The Washington Post in December.

The article was titled ‘Something is deeply broken at the FBI’ and mapped out his concerns with the bureau’s seemingly one-sided approach to the incidents which plagued the campaign.

At the forum earlier this month, he said another possible explanation for why it came down so heavily on his candidate was that Comey was trying to keep on the right side of influencers within it.

‘(It has) become a ‘cover your a**’ ass organization and there was pressure coming up from underneath him.’

Clinton calls FBI letter on emails ‘deeply troubling’ in October

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4247558/John-Podesta-FBI-wanted-Hillary-lose.html#ixzz4ZPnAv5F0
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Former Intel Chief: Community Caught Between ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ on Trump Dossier — Plus The Editorial: James Comey Should Resign

January 15, 2017

A conversation on intelligence and well-meant incompetence

The J. Edgar Hoover building, the FBI headquarters

The J. Edgar Hoover building, the FBI headquartersAndrew Harnik / AP

By KATHY GILSINAN

There were two high-profile, highly sensitive documents circulating in Washington in early January, both relating to Donald Trump and the Russians. The first, a classified report by the U.S. intelligence community, contained evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 United States election, which intelligence officials have publicly concluded was intended to help Trump win the presidency. The second, a now-public, unverified opposition research report compiled by a private intelligence firm, contained explosive personal and financial allegations about the president-elect, in some cases allegedly gathered by or in the possession of Russian intelligence.

And what has publicly linked these two reports of different genres is two pages. That was the length of an “annex” appended to the classified government document on Russian election hacking, reportedly summarizing some allegations from the other document, the private firm’s dossier on Trump. And it was a news leak about those two pages that precipitated the publication of the full opposition dossier. Though members of the intelligence community had been made aware of the dossier as far back as August 2016, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, emphasized this week that the dossier was not, itself, “an intelligence community product”—American intelligence officials had neither produced nor verified the contents of the report, but summarized parts to provide policymakers with the “fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.” (Further confusing matters, it appears a former Britishintelligence official did produce it.)

As Stanford’s Amy Zegart notes, all intelligence is information, but not all information is intelligence. So what information qualifies? And how does the intelligence community process or try to verify alleged information like what’s in the Trump dossier? I spoke about these and other questions with Dennis Blair, who was the director of national intelligence, overseeing the intelligence community, in 2010 and 2011. A condensed and edited transcript of our conversation follows.

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FBI Director James Comey

Kathy Gilsinan: What distinguishes the Trump dossier from an intelligence product?Dennis Blair: An intelligence product is written to answer a specific question that’s of interest either to policymakers or to operational leaders in the field, and it generally starts with a particular intelligence requirement: “What will ISIS do next?” at the high end, down to “Where are the IEDs in Aleppo?” on the low end. So the intelligence community doesn’t just wander off and write about what catches its fancy. It’s trying to provide information to help better decisions.On the information that goes into an intelligence report, it’s a combination of intelligence that’s gathered through clandestine means, whether it be signals intelligence, where you copy an email or tap a phone; or human intelligence, where you have a spy talking to you; or technical intelligence, like a picture that you interpret—that’s the information that you go out and gather. And you blend that with information that’s available to most any expert in the field—databases that are put together by academic institutions or businesses in some cases, observations from people in the field who are not intelligence officers, but are knowledgeable observers.It starts with those sources of intelligence, and then it has to come to some sort of an assessment of answering a question: “Here’s where the IEDs are,” “this is what we think ISIS will do.” So that’s 99 percent of what the intelligence community spends its time doing. But occasionally, just in the course of [their] business, people in the intelligence community run across documents or stories that are just generally one-offs that clearly are going to be of interest to policymakers. And when you find something about the actions of your president-elect, that certainly falls squarely in that category. So then you have to make a decision—generally at a high level in the intelligence community—as to what you do with it.

 

Gilsinan: So we have this mysterious dossier from a private intelligence company that approaches the FBI in Rome, sometime in August in 2016. Generally speaking, how would the community—the FBI in this case—process something like that?Blair: It would be turned into a field report describing how it arrived, and then that context for how it showed up [would be forwarded], along with the document itself or evidence of other kinds, and that would be sent in a field report to the analytical center at headquarters. Something this explosive and this big would be sent at fairly high levels; there would be extra precautions taken to make sure that it’s not widely disseminated. It would get to leadership within the FBI and then in the intelligence community pretty quickly.Gilsinan: Suppose I were some guy in Rome in August 2016 and I went to the FBI with some explosive allegations that I had totally made up. Would that reach high levels? How do you know when to take information seriously enough to waste the boss’s time with it, essentially?Blair: That’s a tricky one. You would give [it] an initial screening. If the guy who walked in the door was drooling, ill-clad, not making sense, and there were a lot of misspellings and typos in the document itself, you’d probably put it in a circular file right away. But if it’s something that has a superficial veracity to it and seems like it might be true, if you’re sitting there as the legal attaché in Rome, you say, “Wow, this is really hot.” The main thing is that it involves a U.S. citizen, and as soon as something involves a U.S. citizen, a whole different set of procedures [goes] into play. Whether it involves the president-elect, or something came across with your [Kathy Gilsinan’s] name on it, it simply cannot be used—it cannot be put into a normal intelligence report, because the United States does not collect or report on Americans.

So there are two aspects of it. Number one, it was about a U.S. citizen; number two, it was about our president-elect [then the Republican presidential nominee].For example, sometimes the NSA will obtain signals intelligence which says something about an American, or the NSA or CIA has a spy report that talks about an American citizen. What’s done in those cases is that the identity of the citizen is blocked out in the original report, and then [determining] who that American really is requires a set of extraordinary permissions at a very high level within the community.But you can imagine, if you sent this up saying so-and-so went to such-and-such a hotel, it’d be pretty [thinly] that you’d actually be able disguise who it was about. Therefore you would simply keep the whole thing in a very restricted channel, and send it up to your boss and say, “What the hell do we do with this?”Gilsinan: But can the FBI collect information on American citizens?

Blair: Only if it has a warrant. The only way the FBI could go out and collect the information on what Americans are doing overseas, for example, would be if they went to a judge [and] got a warrant based on reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed. In that case, they could then conduct surveillance, put a listening bug into a room. But that’s all done with the FBI—the law-enforcement agency—and they’re either investigating a crime, or if they have a suspicion, they have to go through the warrant process that we’re all familiar with. And that’s true for overseas investigation as well as for domestic ones.

 

Gilsinan: And the FBI tried to get a warrant in this case?Blair: Oh, did they?Gilsinan: They tried to get a FISA warrant, and the judge rejected their request.Blair: Good, good, the FISA system works.

Gilsinan: So then it sounds like there’s not much they could do to investigate this, right? The reports that I’m reading say, “the FBI had been trying to check this out and hadn’t been able to verify anything.” What you’re saying seems to suggest that they wouldn’t legally be able to check it out anyway?

Blair: Correct. My understanding is that there’s no evidence that a crime was committed, there’s no suspicion, so they don’t have any grounds to take it any further. A field office wouldn’t sit on something like this and make up its own ideas. This would be handled at headquarters. Based on what you said and what I know about it, I don’t see any compelling rationale to investigate it. That’s stuff that reporters investigate, not the FBI.

Gilsinan: So there are the salacious allegations, but there are also allegations in the document of people in the Trump campaign accepting money or colluding with Russia, which would be a crime, right? In which case the FBI could’ve investigated that, but they would’ve still needed a warrant.

Blair: I haven’t read this document. If a document comes across and says a crime has been committed, then the FBI has initial grounds to investigate and there are things they can do without a warrant. Just to choose [an] example, if a document that they receive in an unexpected fashion says that a bank robbery occurred a couple of weeks ago, then it’s worth checking with the bank, and you can do that without a warrant. But then the minute you go further into having to take any action that invades the privacy of a suspect, then you have to have a warrant.

 

Gilsinan: So hypothetically, the FBI could’ve asked the Ritz Carlton Moscow, “Who showed up?”— right?Blair: Yeah, was there a reservation in this person’s name on this date? That’s sort of an easy one to check without violating privacy, and puts you in the ballpark of reality on something like this.Gilsinan: But then they would have to stop there? Like, suppose the answer was yes. Then what happens?Blair: Well, suppose the answer was, “We’re not going to tell you; our guest records are private.” Then they would have had to have gotten a warrant, convince the judge it was probable enough that they could proceed.

Gilsinan: What’s your reaction as an intelligence professional about how this got out? You were saying that, within the intelligence community, this kind of thing would be very closely held, and yet it was bouncing around DC for a couple of months. What’s your feeling on that? How could that happen?

Blair: The report itself was provided to several news organizations in addition to the FBI. On the

how did the information get out that [a briefing summarizing the dossier’s conclusions] was provided to the president-elect [by intelligence officials], I guess you look at it two ways.

The way I’ve always found most fruitful is the cui bono test: Who would either get an advantage or get a kick out of leaking it? The people who knew about [the briefing] within the intelligence community were pretty highly placed. They’ve been involved in public spats with the president[-elect]. They know it’s not good for them or for the president-elect or for their future relationships, so why in the world would they put this out and make their lives even more difficult?

 

So what does that lead you to? That leads you to low-level people who know about it but are not involved substantively and just get a kick out of seeing shitstorms in the paper and being able to say to their buddies over a beer, “You know that big story? I did that.” That does happen. You do have cipher clerks who handle it, and secretaries who set up meetings and so on, and I’ve found over time that there are some who just get a kick out of reading awful stuff in the press, as long as it was they who provided it. And that could’ve been on the intelligence side or on the [side of] President-elect Trump’s [transition team]. The way you do leak investigations is you go through the real police detective work of “Okay, let’s get a copy of every document, let’s trace every time it was sent, who was on the distribution list, every meeting in which it was discussed—what was the attendance list? Let’s go out and talk to all of them.”

Gilsinan: But [the document itself] could also have come from the private company itself or from the campaigns it was working for—not necessarily a leak from the intel community. What to make of the fact that the allegations were taken seriously enough that officials felt they had to brief the president and the president-elect?

Blair: There is no more powerful force in Washington than, “What if this comes out somehow and I was found not to have done my utmost?” Just think of the position that the intelligence leadership has been in for the last couple of weeks. I’m sure they sat around and thought, “What if we sat on this [and] it comes out somehow that we were sitting on it, [and] the president-elect said, ‘You knew about this and you didn’t tell me that it was out there?’” Those were the Scylla and a Charybdis that they were caught between, and I can very much understand a decision to provide it to the president-elect. They clearly, based on what they’ve said, made all of the qualifications of, “We haven’t investigated this; this is not verified; but boss, you need to know this is out there.” I think they made that call, rather than saying, “Let’s bury this.” Because then I think the chances within the intelligence community of a leak would be much greater, especially in the FBI which has this sort of sense of entitlement among a lot of its agents that they know more than their director does. They’re happy to tell you news people how they do; it happens all the time.

Gilsinan: Anything else?

Blair: I would just give you one of Blair’s Laws developed over the years: If there is a choice in explaining a government action between a Machiavellian, clever, ingenious plot to achieve that result and sort of blind, bumbling, well-meant incompetence, choose number two all the time.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/trump-dossier-intelligence/513089/

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Wall Street Journal: Comey should resign

Wall Street Journal: Comey should resign
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The Wall Street Journal says President-elect Donald Trump‘s incoming administration should fire James Comey if the FBI director does not resign.

“The best service Mr. Comey can render his country now is to resign,” its editors wrote Thursday. “Failing that, [Sen.] Jeff Sessions [R-Ala.] should invite him for a meeting after he is confirmed as Attorney General and ask him to resign.”

“If Mr. Comey declines, Donald Trump can and should fire him in the best interests of the nation’s most important law enforcement agency.”

 No automatic alt text available.

The editorial board said there is bipartisan dissatisfaction with Comey after last year’s presidential race.“It’s no secret that the United States is a house divided in 2017, and that Americans of different political persuasions agree on little when it comes to Washington,” the said. “But there’s one tall exception to this state of affairs, and his name is James B. Comey.”

“But if the FBI director has demonstrated anything in the last year, it’s that he has lost the trust of nearly everyone in Washington, along with every American who believes the FBI must maintain its reputation as a politically impartial federal agency.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general on Thursday announced it would investigate the FBI’s conduct leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

The probe was inspired by requests from numerous chairmen and ranking members of congressional oversight committees.

The investigation will probe what impact, if any, public disclosures about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server had on voters before Election Day.

Clinton’s campaign has blamed Comey and the FBI for her loss to Trump in November.

Critics say Comey broke FBI precedent by publicly commenting on the bureau’s probe of Clinton’s handling of classified information as secretary of State.

Krauthammer: Trump is wearing out his honeymoon and he hasn’t even taken office — Obama unwittingly confessed to being nothing more than a historical parenthesis

January 13, 2017

Opinion writer January 12 at 7:45 PM

The shortest honeymoon on record is officially over. Normally, newly elected presidents enjoy a wave of goodwill that allows them to fly high at least through their first 100 days. Donald Trump has not yet been sworn in and the honeymoon has already come and gone.

Presidents-elect usually lie low during the interregnum. Trump never lies low. He seized the actual presidency from Barack Obama within weeks of his election — cutting ostentatious deals with U.S. manufacturers to keep jobs at home, challenging 40-year-old China policy, getting into a very public fightwith the intelligence agencies. By now he has taken over the presidential stage. It is true that we have only one president at a time, and for over a month it’s been Donald Trump.

The result is quantifiable. A Quinnipiac poll from Nov. 17 to 20 — the quiet, hope-and-change phase — showed a decided bump in Trump’s popularity and in general national optimism. It didn’t last long. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, the numbers have essentially returned to Trump’s (historically dismal) pre-election levels.

 

For several reasons. First, the refusal of an unbending left to accept the legitimacy of Trump’s victory. It’s not just the demonstrators chanting “not my president.” It is leading Democrats pushing one line after another to delegitimize the election, as in: He lost the popular vote, it’s James Comey’s fault, the Russians did it.

Second, Trump’s own instincts and inclinations, a thirst for attention that leads to hyperactivity. His need to dominate every news cycle feeds an almost compulsive tweet habit. It has placed him just about continuously at the center of the national conversation and not always to his benefit.

Trump simply can’t resist playground pushback. His tweets gave Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes screed priceless publicity. His mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger for bad “Apprentice” ratings — compared with “the ratings machine, DJT” — made Trump look small and Arnold (almost) sympathetic.

Nor is this behavior likely to change after the inauguration. It’s part of Trump’s character. Nothing negative goes unanswered because, for Trump, an unanswered slight has the air of concession or surrender.

Finally, it’s his chronic indiscipline, his jumping randomly from one subject to another without rhyme, reason or larger strategy. In a week packed with confirmation hearings and Russian hacking allegations, what was he doing meeting with Robert Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine activist pushing the thoroughly discredited idea that vaccines cause autism?

We know from way back during the Republican debates that Trump himself has dabbled in this dubious territory. One could, however, write it off as one of many campaign oddities that would surely fade away. Not so, apparently.

This is not good. The idea that vaccines cause autism originally arose in a 1998 paper in the medical journal the Lancet that was later found to be fraudulent and had to be retracted. Indeed, the lead researcher acted so egregiously that he was stripped of his medical license.

Kennedy says that Trump asked him to chair a commission about vaccine safety. While denying that, the transition team does say that the commission idea remains open. Either way, the damage is done. The anti-vaccine fanatics seek any validation. This indirect endorsement from Trump is immensely harmful. Vaccination has prevented more childhood suffering and death than any other measure in history. With so many issues pressing, why even go there?

The vaccination issue was merely an exclamation point on the scatter-brained randomness of the Trump transition. All of which contributes to the harried, almost wearying feeling that we are already well into the Trump presidency.

Compare this with eight years ago and the near euphoria — overblown but nonetheless palpable — at the swearing-in of Barack Obama. Not since JFK had any new president enjoyed such genuine goodwill upon accession to office.

And yet it turns out that such auspicious beginnings are not at all predictive. We could see it this same week. Tuesday night, there stood Obama giving a farewell address that only underscored the failure of a presidency so bathed in optimism at its start. The final speech, amazingly, could have been given, nearly unedited, in 2008. Why, it even ended with “yes we can.”

Is there more powerful evidence of the emptiness of the intervening two terms? When your final statement is a reprise of your first, you have unwittingly confessed to being nothing more than a historical parenthesis.

Read more from Charles Krauthammer’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Donald Trump and Russian Hacking: Claim Russians have ‘compromising’ personal information ‘a fabrication’ — Trump denies — More Fake News From Vladimir Putin?

January 11, 2017

 

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President-elect Donald Trump stands with Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma as they walk to speak with reporters after a meeting at Trump TowerEvan Vucci/AP Images
BABA Alibaba Grp Sp ADS
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A former British spy claims Russian operatives have ‘compromising’ personal information about Donald Trump

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The Kremlin says documents suggesting Russia has compromising information about Donald Trump were fabricated in an attempt to damage US-Russia relations.

It emerged on Tuesday night that a former British spy reportedly tipped off US intelligence that Russian operatives are claiming to have compiled damaging information about the president-elect.

The claims were included in an addendum to a top secret report presented last week to Mr Trump and to President Barack Obama, according to CNN.

According to the report, the British source informed the US that Russian operatives were claiming to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr Trump.

The FBI is now investigating the veracity of the Russian claims.

<img src=”/content/dam/news/2016/07/07/102701806_James_Comey_foreign-small_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.jpg” alt=”James Comey” width=”320″ height=”218″ class=”responsive-image–fallback”/> James Comey
James Comey, the FBI director Credit: Michael Reynolds/EPA

While intelligence sources told CNN they consider the former British agent’s past work credible, doubts were raised after Buzzfeed News published a full version of the agent’s disclosures.

They included factual errors, as well as allegations that Russia was aware of “sexual perversion” engaged in by Mr Trump during a visit to Moscow. According to Buzzfeed, the dossier was prepared for Mr Trump’s political rivals.

On Wednesday morning the Kremlin said the claims had been fabricated in an attempt to damage US-Russia relations.

Mr Trump responded to the report on Twitter:

Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump

Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.” Very unfair!

Michael Cohen, special counsel to Mr Trump, also denied allegations in the dossier that he was central to “the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership” and that he met secretly with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.

Mr Cohen tweeted a picture of his passport, saying “I have never been to Prague in my live #fakenews”.

A two-page summary of the findings was included in a report on Russia’s interference in the US election which was shown to Mr Trump last week.

The director of national intelligence and the chiefs of the CIA, FBI and NSA all travelled to Trump Tower to brief Mr Trump on the report on Friday.

After the meeting Mr Trump for the first time accepted the possibility that Russia may have been behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, but insisted that Russia’s efforts did not impact the election result.

He also emphasised the importance of warmer relations with Moscow.

James Comey, the FBI director, declined to answer when asked during a Senate hearing on Tuesday whether the FBI was conducting an investigation into ties between Mr Trump or his associates and Russia.

<img src=”/content/dam/news/2016/12/13/7868fdc5-1236-465b-b8ab-e19b06e2ebd3-small_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqYG-7GzYVtFQSFAHuTMXOjHQCcM0GOmzB3hnGKZgKhpU.jpeg” alt=”Tillerson” width=”320″ height=”200″ class=”responsive-image–fallback”/> Tillerson
Rex Tillerson, nominee for secretary of state Credit: Reuters

The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s nominee for  be secretary of state, on Wednesday.

Senators from both parties have expressed concern about the former ExxonMobil chief executive’s close working relationship with key figures in the Kremlin during his time at the oil company.

While Mr Trump has said he will improve relations with Russia, the country’s relationship with the UK may be souring.

Russia has claimed Britain is launching an “official witch-hunt” against Mr Putin’s administration in an 800-word statement posted online on Tuesday by the country’s embassy in London.

The outburst railed against Western “hysterics” and said the “elite” were protecting their interests with money from TV licences.

The outburst railed against Western “hysterics” and said the “elite” were protecting their interests with money from TV licences.

Summary on Russian Hackers:

“It seems that the Western elites will go to great lengths to save their own world with its Washington consensus, Davos and austerity, even if it does no longer benefit anybody else,” the statement said. “Its demise is presented as the end of the world, another twilight of Europe.

“This panic and hysterics is a response to the overall loss of control, which brought about war a hundred years ago.

“It is also a loss of control over the public debate, exercised by way of the Orwellian newspeak of political correctness. Will the elite protect its vested interest with taxpayers’ money and that of TV licences?”

The long-ranging statement, which also set out Russia’s interpretation of world events including the “successful humanitarian evacuation of East Aleppo”, came amid a war of words between Britain and Russia.

<img src=”/content/dam/news/2017/01/05/Russian-President-Vladimir-Putin-deliver-small_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.jpg” alt=”Vladimir Putin” width=”320″ height=”202″ class=”responsive-image–fallback”/> Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin Credit: AFP

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that hacking was just one of the “dirty tricks” carried out by Vladimir Putin’s government, revealing for the first time that British officials share the assessment by American intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the US election.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said it was “pretty clear” Moscow was behind the hacking and that the Russian government “is up to all sorts of very dirty tricks, such as cyber-warfare.”

The foreign secretary made the comments as he briefed the House about a meeting with senior advisers to Mr Trump on the weekend.

“If you look at what the Russians have done in the western Balkans and on cyber-warfare, it is clear they are up to no good,” Mr Johnson said.

However, he said, it “would be folly further to demonise Russia or to push Russia into a corner.”

Alleged Russian Hacking Operations:

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/11/donald-trump-briefed-former-british-spys-report-russia-claims/

Related:

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Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him

WASHINGTON — The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and President-elect Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.

The summary is based on memos generated by political operatives seeking to derail Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Details of the reports began circulating in the fall and were widely known among journalists and politicians in Washington.

The two-page summary, first reported by CNN, was presented as an appendix to the intelligence agencies’ report on Russian hacking efforts during the election, the officials said. The material was not corroborated, and The New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims. But intelligence agencies considered it so potentially explosive that they decided Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump and congressional leaders needed to be told about it and informed that the agencies were actively investigating it.

Intelligence officials were concerned that the information would leak before they informed Mr. Trump of its existence, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Trump responded on Twitter:

In an appearance recorded for NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” Mr. Trump’s spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, said of the claims in the opposition research memos, “He has said he is not aware of that.”

On Wednesday, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia dismissed the allegations. “The Kremlin has no compromising dossier on Trump, such information isn’t consistent with reality and is nothing but an absolute fantasy,” the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said at a news conference.

Since the intelligence agencies’ report on Friday that Mr. Putin of Russia had ordered the hacking and leaks of Democratic emails in order to hurt his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and help Mr. Trump, the president-elect and his aides have said that Democrats are trying to mar his election victory.

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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/10/us/politics/donald-trump-russia-intelligence.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
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