February 13 at 11:39 AM
Washington Post
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on Tuesday defended the bureau’s handling of a security clearance investigation into a senior White House aide accused of spousal abuse.“The FBI process involves a fairly elaborate set of standards, protocols,” he said at a Congressional hearing. “I am quite confident that in this instance, the FBI followed established protocols.”His remarks come as the White House is seeking to deflect criticism over its handling of a security clearance for senior aide, Rob Porter, who stepped down last week, saying it relies on law enforcement and intelligence agencies to run the process.Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee for its annual worldwide threat hearing, Wray said the FBI submitted a partial report on the Porter clearance in March last year, and then a report on the completed investigation in July. Soon after, the FBI received a request for a follow-up, which the bureau completed and provided in November. The FBI closed the file in January and then earlier this month, Wray said, the bureau received additional information and “we passed that on as well.”

Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, declined to comment on Porter’s case or those of other White House officials, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who have temporary security clearance but still have access to classified information.

But in general, Coats said, people with temporary clearance should have limited access to classified information.

At the hearing, which ranged over a host of topics, the U.S. government’s top intelligence official also said he expects Russia to continue using propaganda, false personas and other tactics to undermine the upcoming elections.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts” to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign “as a success,” and it “views the 2018 midterm elections” as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said Coats.

His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads present at the hearing, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.

The committee’s Democratic vice chairman faulted the Trump administration for not preparing for potential Russian interference in the 2018 elections.

“Make no mistake: This threat did not begin in 2016, and it certainly didn’t end with the election,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). “What we are seeing is a continuous assault by Russia to target and undermine our democratic institutions, and they are going to keep coming at us.”

“Despite all of this, the president inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia,” Warner continued. “He didn’t increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasn’t even tweeted a single concern. This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top.”

The intelligence chiefs also said that North Korea’s presence at the Olympics in South Korea, which saw an historic visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, had not changed the intelligence community’s assessment that the regime is trying to build nuclear weapons to threaten its neighbors and the United States.

“The decision time is becoming ever closer in terms of how we respond” to North Korea’s weapons development, Coats said.

Pompeo said his agency has completed an analysis of how North Korea would respond to a U.S. military strike, as well as what it would take to bring the regime to the negotiating table. He offered to describe that analysis only in a closed, classified session.

Pompeo also responded to reporting last week by The New York Times and The Intercept about an intelligence operation to retrieve classified National Security Agency information believed to have been stolen by Russia. The Times reported that U.S. spies had been bilked out of $100,000, paid to a shadowy Russian who claimed to be able to deliver the secrets, as well as compromising information about President Trump.

Pompeo categorically denied that the intelligence agency had paid any money, directly or indirectly. He claimed that the newspaper had been duped by the same person trying to sell the U.S. government information that turned out to be bogus.


See also

The New York Times:

Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord, Intelligence Chiefs Warn