Posts Tagged ‘Obama Administration’

Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway — Politico Investigates

April 25, 2017

Image may contain: 6 people, text

By dropping charges against major arms targets, the administration infuriated Justice Department officials — and undermined its own counterproliferation task forces.

04/24/17 05:00 AM EDT

When President Barack Obama announced the “one-time gesture” of releasing Iranian-born prisoners who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses” last year, his administration presented the move as a modest trade-off for the greater good of the Iran nuclear agreement and Tehran’s pledge to free five Americans.

“Iran had a significantly higher number of individuals, of course, at the beginning of this negotiation that they would have liked to have seen released,” one senior Obama administration official told reporters in a background briefing arranged by the White House, adding that “we were able to winnow that down to these seven individuals, six of whom are Iranian-Americans.”

But Obama, the senior official and other administration representatives weren’t telling the whole story on Jan. 17, 2016, in their highly choreographed rollout of the prisoner swap and simultaneous implementation of the six-party nuclear deal, according to a POLITICO investigation.

In his Sunday morning address to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as “civilians.” The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.”

In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran.

And in a series of unpublicized court filings, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives. The administration didn’t disclose their names or what they were accused of doing, noting only in an unattributed, 152-word statement about the swap that the U.S. “also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.”

Three of the fugitives allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities say had supported Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. A fourth, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was charged with conspiring to buy thousands of U.S.-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran.

A fifth, Amin Ravan, was charged with smuggling U.S. military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. U.S. authorities also believe he was part of a procurement network providing Iran with high-tech components for an especially deadly type of IED used by Shiite militias to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq.

The biggest fish, though, was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that from 2005 to 2012 procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China. That included hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran whose progress had prompted the nuclear deal talks in the first place.

When federal prosecutors and agents learned the true extent of the releases, many were shocked and angry. Some had spent years, if not decades, working to penetrate the global proliferation networks that allowed Iranian arms traders both to obtain crucial materials for Tehran’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs and, in some cases, to provide dangerous materials to other countries.

“They didn’t just dismiss a bunch of innocent business guys,” said one former federal law enforcement supervisor centrally involved in the hunt for Iranian arms traffickers and nuclear smugglers. “And then they didn’t give a full story of it.”

In its determination to win support for the nuclear deal and prisoner swap from Tehran — and from Congress and the American people — the Obama administration did a lot more than just downplay the threats posed by the men it let off the hook, according to POLITICO’s findings.

Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own much-touted National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it was making unprecedented headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation networks. In addition, the POLITICO investigation found that Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so they could be arrested. Similarly, Justice and State, at times in consultation with the White House, slowed down efforts to extradite some suspects already in custody overseas, according to current and former officials and others involved in the counterproliferation effort.

And as far back as the fall of 2014, Obama administration officials began slow-walking some significant investigations and prosecutions of Iranian procurement networks operating in the U.S. These previously undisclosed findings are based on interviews with key participants at all levels of government and an extensive review of court records and other documents.

“Clearly, there was an embargo on any Iranian cases,” according to the former federal supervisor.

“Of course it pissed people off, but it’s more significant that these guys were freed, and that people were killed because of the actions of one of them,” the supervisor added, in reference to Ravan and the IED network.

The supervisor noted that in agreeing to lift crippling sanctions against Tehran, the Obama administration had insisted on retaining the right to go after Iran for its efforts to develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads and cruise missiles that could penetrate U.S. defenses, and to illegally procure components for its nuclear, military and weapons systems.

“Then why would you be dismissing the people that you know about who are involved in that?” the former official asked.

A SHREWD CALCULATION

The saga of how the Obama administration threw a monkey wrench into its own Justice Department-led counterproliferation effort continues to play out almost entirely out of public view, largely because of the highly secretive nature of the cases and the negotiations that affected them.

That may be about to change, as the Trump administration and both chambers of Congress have pledged to crack down on Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Last Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a government-wide review of U.S. policy toward Iran in the face of “alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence, destabilizing more than one country at a time.”

On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared that even if Iran is meeting the terms of its deal with the Obama administration and other world powers, “they are not living up to the spirit of it, I can tell you that. And we’re analyzing it very, very carefully, and we’ll have something to say about that in the not-too-distant future.”

Such reviews are likely to train a spotlight on an aspect of the nuclear deal and prisoner swap that has infuriated the federal law enforcement community most — the hidden damage it has caused to investigations and prosecutions into a wide array of Iranian smuggling networks with U.S. connections.

Valerie Lincy, executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said Obama administration officials made a shrewd political calculation in focusing public attention on just those seven men it was freeing in the United States, and portraying them as mere sanctions violators.

That way, she said, “They just didn’t think it was going to make too many waves. And I think they were right.”

But Lincy, who closely tracks the U.S. counterproliferation effort against Iran, said that by letting so many men off the hook, and for such a wide range of offenses, Washington has effectively given its blessing to Iran’s continuing defiance of international laws.

Former Obama administration officials deny that, saying the men could still be prosecuted if they continue their illegal activity. But with their cases dropped, international arrest warrants dismissed and investigative assets redirected, the men — especially the 14 fugitives — can now continue activities the U.S. considers to be serious threats to its national security, Lincy said.

“This is a scandal,” she said. “The cases bear all the hallmarks of exactly the kinds of national security threats we’re still going after. It’s stunning and hard to understand why we would do this.”

Even some initial supporters of negotiating with Iran said the disclosures are troubling.

“There was always a broader conceptual problem with the administration not wanting to upset the balance of the deal or the perceived rapprochement with the Iranian regime,” said former Bush administration deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate, who later turned against the accord. “The deal was sacrosanct, and the Iranians knew it from the start and took full advantage when we had — and continue to maintain — enormous leverage.”

Most, if not all, of the Justice Department lawyers and prosecutors involved in the Counterproliferation Initiative were kept in the dark about how their cases were being used as bargaining chips, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former officials.

So were the federal agents from the FBI and departments of Homeland Security and Commerce who for years had been operating internationally, often undercover, on the front lines of the hunt for Iranian arms and weapons smugglers.

Read the rest:

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/24/obama-iran-nuclear-deal-prisoner-release-236966

Art at Top: Sean McCabe for POLITICO

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Levin: This BOMBSHELL report on the Iran deal is infuriating

Posted April 24, 2017 07:23 PM by Chris Pandolfo

Anton Watman | Shutterstock

Anton Watman | Shutterstock

There was a “blockbuster” story in Politico Monday that Conservative Review Editor-in-Chief Mark Levin wants you to know about.

In “Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway,” Josh Meyer reports that when President Obama released Iranian-born prisoners to secure Iranian support for his administration’s infamous nuclear deal, he portrayed the released prisoners as simple “civilians.” “In reality,” Meyer writes, “some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security.”

Listen:

The bottom line is that President Obama lied to get support for the Iran Nuclear deal. “And his surrogates lied, and therefore the media lied,” Levin said.

“And [Obama] surrendered America’s national security to do it!”

There is Democrat and mainstream media hysteria over possible, unproven, connections between President Trump and Russia, and meanwhile, President Obama released dangerous Iranian fugitives to pass a deal that enabled the nuclear proliferation of the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism.

And President Trump is somehow undermining American national security? Levin set the record straight:

“Barrack Obama did more damage to our national security, to the United States military, to our border security, to our internal security with our police, than any foreign enemy or opponent could possibly achieve!”

“This is a stunning story! And it gags me to say to Politico, I tip my hat. For once.”

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Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are Conservative Political Philosophy, the American Founding, and Progressive Rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.

https://www.conservativereview.com/articles/levin-this-bombshell-report-on-the-iran-deal-is-infuriating

Iran, Syria And Russia Issue Warning To US; Ex-Syrian General Confirms Assad Lied About Turning Over Chemical Weapons

April 16, 2017

“I could not stand and watch the genocide.”

A day after Iran, Russia and Syria called for an international investigation into the sarin attack on the north Syrian town of Shaykhun and threatened the United States that new strikes on Syrian army positions would not be tolerated, a former Syrian general revealed Assad lied when he said he had turned over all of his chemical weapons in 2013.

Former Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat, who defected from the Syrian army in 2013 and is now living in an undisclosed European country, said during an interview with the British newspaper Telegraph that Assad has deceived United Nations inspectors who came to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Under the Russian-brokered deal — used by the Obama Administration as an excuse to backtrack on an earlier decision to take military action against the Assad regime — the Syrian dictator was supposed to hand over his entire chemical agents inventory but managed to hide at least 700 tons of chemical agents.

Sakat, who used to be the director of the chemical warfare department of the Fifth Division of the Syrian army, says that after the strike on Shaykhun on April 4, Assad still has hundreds of tons chemical weapons at his disposal.

“They admitted only to 1,300 tons, but we knew in reality they had nearly double that. They had at least 2,000 tons. At least,” the defected general told The Telegraph.

Sakat claimed Assad ordered him to carry out attacks with chemical weapons on three occasions but sabotaged the order by switching deadly chemical agents for harmless chemicals in the bombs he had to prepare.

“I couldn’t believe at the beginning that Assad would use these weapons on his people,” he told the British paper.

“I could not stand and watch the genocide. I couldn’t hurt my own people,” he added.

Sakat’s allegations about the chemical weapons stockpile in Addad’s possession are deemed quite “plausible” by Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former commander of the UK’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regimen.

Bretton-Gordon thinks Assad used old sarin gas in the attack on Shaykhun because of the relative low number of casualties.

Read the rest:

http://www.westernjournalism.com/iran-syria-russia-issue-warning-us-ex-syrian-general-confirms-assad-lied-turning-chemical-weapons/

Germany and China must do more to cut trade surpluses: US

April 16, 2017

AFP

Germany and China must do more to cut trade surpluses: US
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Germany in March. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP
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China and Germany are not manipulating the value of their currencies to gain an unfair trade advantage, but both should do more to reduce their large trade surpluses with the United States, the Treasury Department said on Friday.

The decision was expected after President Donald Trump this week reversed himself and said China was not a currency manipulator.

And although the administration’s first report to Congress on the foreign exchange policies of US trading partners continues the stance of the Obama administration, putting six countries with troublesome policies on a watch list, it takes a much tougher tone.

Unlike the previous administration, which issued its final report in October, the latest semi-annual report urges specific policy actions the countries should pursue that would lead to a lower trade surplus.

Trump repeatedly pledged in his election campaign to name China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office — prompting fears of a trade war – but did not do so. He publicly retreated from that position after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida last weekend.

China met only one of the three criteria required to be labeled a currency manipulator – a large trade surplus with the United States – while Germany also met a second: a current account surplus amounting to more than three percent of the nation’s economic output.

Beijing has not intervened recently in markets to weaken the value of its currency – the third criteria – and in fact has tried to keep the renminbi from falling further amid the country’s relatively sluggish growth rate.

Image result for germany, currency, 2017, photos

Germany, as part of the eurozone, cannot act unilaterally to change the value of the euro.

A weaker currency makes exports cheaper compared with those of competitors. Declaring a country a manipulator would set off a process including negotiations that could culminate in punitive trade sanctions on the offender.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said ensuring a level playing field for US businesses is an “essential component of this administration’s strategy.”

“Expanding trade in a way that is freer and fairer for all Americans requires that other economies avoid unfair currency practices, and we will continue to monitor this carefully,” he said in statement.
Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Switzerland also were again included on Treasury’s monitoring list.

China must open economy

Even though China has not moved to keep its currency weak in the past three years, the country “has a long track record of engaging in persistent, large-scale, one-way foreign exchange intervention, doing so for roughly a decade,” the Treasury Department said.

That “distortion in the global trading system… imposed significant and long-lasting hardship on American workers and companies.”

With a trade surplus in goods with the United States of $347 billion last year, and continued policies that restrict free trade and foreign investment, “Treasury will be scrutinizing China’s trade and currency practices very closely.”

The large goods surplus “underscores the need for further opening of the Chinese economy to American goods and services, as well as faster reform to rebalance the Chinese economy toward greater household consumption.”

Beijing also will need to prove that the recent stance of not trying to weaken the currency is “a durable policy shift,” even if the renminbi begins to appreciate again.

Germany should spend more

The Treasury Department said Germany should take steps, notably spending policies, “to encourage stronger domestic demand growth,” something the country’s trading partners and the International Monetary Fund have been urging for some time.

Increased demand “would place upward pressure on the euro… and help reduce its large external imbalances,” increasing domestic consumption, including of imported goods.

Those imbalances include its $65 billion goods trade surplus with the United States last year, and what the department calls “the world’s largest current account surplus at close to $300 billion.”

The report also called on Japan to do more “to revive domestic demand and combat low inflation while avoiding a return to export-led growth.”

This would include more “flexible” government spending policies, and continued reforms to boost the labor market and increase productivity of the Japanese economy.

https://www.thelocal.de/20170415/germany-and-china-must-do-more-to-cut-trade-surpluses-us

U.S. Treasury Stops Short of Calling China a Currency Manipulator

April 15, 2017

Department’s report does sharply criticize Chinese exchange-rate policies

Chinese 100-yuan notes being counted in Hong Kong. The U.S. Treasury Department said China would remain on a ‘monitoring list’ of trade partners with policies deemed to be a risk to the U.S. economy.

Chinese 100-yuan notes being counted in Hong Kong. The U.S. Treasury Department said China would remain on a ‘monitoring list’ of trade partners with policies deemed to be a risk to the U.S. economy. PHOTO: XAUME OLLEROS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Treasury sharply criticized China’s exchange-rate policies on Friday, though it stopped short of labeling the Asian trade giant a currency manipulator, as President Donald Trump said he would do while running for office.

“China has a long track record of engaging in persistent, large-scale, one-way foreign-exchange intervention,” the Treasury Department said in its semiannual report on foreign exchange policies of major U.S. trade partners. Although Beijing has allowed the yuan to slowly appreciate in recent years and actively fought depreciation recently, its past interventions “imposed significant and long-lasting hardship on American workers and companies,” the Treasury said.

The report followed an apparent warming of relations between the U.S. and China following a visit to Washington and Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort by Chinese leader Xi Jinping last week. Mr. Trump is counting on Mr. Xi for support in a confrontation with North Korea. After the visit, Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal he wouldn’t name China a currency manipulator, a label that may have led to a deepening trade confrontation.

Still, the administration sought to stick to some of the tough themes Mr. Trump laid out as a candidate and as president on trade and currency.

“Treasury will be scrutinizing China’s trade and currency practices very closely, especially in light of the extremely sizable bilateral trade surplus that China has with the United States,” the Treasury report said.

The report has traditionally been used as a diplomatic tool to prod other countries whose currency policies were deemed a threat to U.S. industries. The latest report’s censure of China and other countries, including South Korea and Germany, could be used in the future as a pretext for new tariffs.

“Treasury is committed to aggressively and vigilantly monitoring and combating unfair currency practices,” the report said.

Preserving a two-decade precedent, no country was named a currency manipulator.

Along with Friday’s about-face was an acknowledgment by Mr. Trump and his team that Beijing has been propping the yuan up over the last two years, instead of pushing it down as the president had previously alleged. Building debt problems and a slowing economy has put downward pressure on the yuan, forcing the central bank to burn through $1 trillion, or a quarter of its foreign-exchange reserves, to keep the currency from falling.

“The administration clearly realized this was not the right time to have a fight with China over currency,” said Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former senior U.S. Treasury official in the Obama administration.

Still, “there’s a clear suggestion that China needs to do more to open up its markets to U.S. goods and services,” Mr. Setser said. “The challenge will be getting real changes that have a real impact on the size of U.S. exports to China.”

Most Western economists agree Chinese authorities in the past used an undervalued exchange rate to help fuel its rise to being the No. 2 economy in the world. A cheaper currency makes products less expensive to produce and more attractive to buyers overseas. That was an essential factor in making China the world’s biggest manufacturing base, but it cost the U.S. and other countries millions of jobs.

During his campaign, Mr. Trump tapped into anger at China that was pent up in major manufacturing states, saying he would label the country a currency manipulator and slap fresh tariffs on its imports.

Amid rising concerns about an increasingly belligerent North Korea sparking a dangerous conflict with U.S. allies Asia, Mr. Trump earlier this week said he decided to treat Beijing with more leniency on trade and currency in exchange for Beijing’s help in reining in Pyongyang.

China was not alone in being targeted in Treasury’s latest report.

Repeating criticisms made under the Obama administration, the Treasury Department also kept China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany and Switzerland on a special “monitoring list” that flags trade partners with currency and other economic policies deemed to be a risk to the U.S. economy.

The name-and-shame list can trigger sanctions against offending trade partners if the countries can be shown to intervene in foreign-exchange markets and maintain large trade surpluses with the U.S. and rest of the world. None of the countries met all of the criteria.

Japan and South Korea, two major U.S. trade partners, have long been on Treasury’s radar in part because they have pushed down the value of their currencies in the past. And even though Germany doesn’t control the value of the euro because it is only one member of the European currency union, the country has been targeted because its economic policies and a relatively weak euro have helped the country to achieve the world’s largest trade surplus.

Future reports could step up the criticism, given Treasury’s latitude under the original laws guiding the report to Congress.

China could again allow the yuan to fall, triggering fresh criticism from U.S. manufacturers and renewed political pressure on the administration to label them a manipulator. There are costs to keeping the yuan stable beyond selling exchange-rate reserves. It also makes it harder for the government to meet its growth targets.

Also, the Commerce Department is preparing a study of why the U.S. has such large trade deficits with other nations, and some analysts believe that could lay the foundation for applying countervailing duties against countries that manipulate their currencies. The exchange-rate undervaluation, under a proposal the Commerce Department is considering, would be considered a subsidy.

While some trade experts question whether that plan would be compliant with current World Trade Organization rules, the administration could still use it as a pretense for levying across-the-board tariffs on imports from a currency-manipulating country.

Although many of the findings in the report repeated the basic assessments made under the Obama administration, the report still carried a distinct Trump administration tone. For example, it used sharper language in its warning trade partners against exchange-rate offenses.

“Though there has been a trend in the last two years towards reduced currency intervention by key trading partners, it is critical that this not represent merely an opportunistic response to shifting global macroeconomic conditions…but a durable policy shift away from foreign-exchange policies that facilitate unfair competitive advantage,” the report said.

“The United States cannot and will not bear the burden of an international trading system that unfairly disadvantages our exports and unfairly advantages the exports of our trading partners through artificially distorted exchange rates,” it added.

Write to Ian Talley at ian.talley@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-treasury-department-declines-to-label-any-country-a-currency-manipulator-1492204704?mod=e2twa

Related:

Syria Attack Exposes Failed Obama, Kerry Deal to Rid Syrian Regime of Chemical Weapons (What should we think about the Iran nuclear deal?)

April 12, 2017

Efforts to identify gaps in original mission quickly unraveled; Moscow came to see probe as politicized

A poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad adorns a wall as a United Nations vehicle carrying OPCW inspectors leaves a hotel in Damascus in October 2013.

A poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad adorns a wall as a United Nations vehicle carrying OPCW inspectors leaves a hotel in Damascus in October 2013. PHOTO: LOUAI BESHARA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

ISTANBUL—The suspected sarin gas attack in Syria last week revealed one of the worst-kept secrets in international diplomacy: A 2013 deal brokered by Russia and the U.S. failed to cripple the Assad regime’s ability to make or use chemical weapons.

International investigators were already looking into eight incidents involving chemical weapons use just since the start of this year, according to a report by the United Nations Secretary General. Evidence was mounting that Damascus continued to use chemicals—including some it had pledged to give up—in attacks on its citizens, according to Western officials and others involved in the disarmament effort.

But Russia disputed the findings of investigators and experts and blocked any meaningful punishment at the United Nations, and Western powers declined to go further. In recent months, inspectors and diplomats trying to dismantle the chemical weapons program concluded they had hit a wall.

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The April 4 attack, which killed at least 85 adults and children, is a stark example of the challenge: It was launched from an airfield where inspectors years earlier had identified and destroyed a chemical weapons facility, according to two people familiar with the work of the joint mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations at the time.

Ridding Syria of Chemical Weapons: A Timeline

Western and allied intelligence agencies say the Syrian government has had a chemical weapons program since the 1980s. But Damascus never acknowledged having such weapons until a large-scale sarin attack outside Damascus in 2013- in the middle of a civil war to unseat President Bashar al-Assad- almost triggered U.S. military action. Instead, it led to a U.S.-Russian deal to clear Syria of its chemical weapons. Here are key moments since the start of the Syrian war to dismantle the program:

August 2013 — A sarin gas attack hits the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, killing at 1,429 people, according to the U.S. government.
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U.N. investigators already in Syria on the request of the Syrian government divert their attention to the Ghouta attack and conclude that chemical weapons were used on “a relatively large scale” in Eastern Ghouta.
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September 2013 — U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118 establishes a joint OPCW-U.N. mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program.
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October 2013 — Syria officially accedes to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
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To address mounting reports of chlorine attacks in rebel-held areas, the OPCW creates a separate fact-finding mission to investigate and confirm the possible use of toxic chemicals, including chlorine, as a weapon in Syria. (The mission’s mandate is only to verify if and what chemicals were used, not to identify perpetrators of attacks)
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March 2014 — OPCW inspectors report major anomalies in the Syrian government’s disclosures on its research and production facilities. The OPCW also creates a “Declaration Assessment Team” to “attempt to clarify gaps and discrepancies in Syria’s initial declaration.”
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June 2014 — The joint OPCW-U.N. mission says that all declared weapons materials of the Syrian Arab Republic have been removed.
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September 2014 — The OPCW fact-finding mission publishes a report concluding with “a high degree of confidence” that chlorine was used as a weapon systematically and repeatedly in three villages in northern Syria.
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March 2015 — U.N. Security Council Resolution 2209 condemns the use of chlorine gas in Syria, noting that it is “the first ever documented instance of the use of toxic chemicals as weapons within the territory of a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
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August 2015 — Following a U.S.-backed proposal, the U.N. Security Council establishes a “Joint Investigative Mechanism” between the U.N. and the OPCW to hold accountable those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria. Its mission is to identify “individuals, entities, groups or governments” involved.
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April 2016 — The U.S. State Department says in a report that Syria hasn’t declared all elements of its chemical weapons program, in violation of its obligations and international norms.
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January 2017 — The Obama administration imposes sanctions on 18 senior Syria officials it says are involved in the use of chemical weapons, the first such sanctions on Syrian officials related to chemical weapons use.
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February 2017 — Russia and China veto a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking to sanction the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons.

Sources: OPCW, U.N., WSJ research

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The U.S. struck the Shayrat Airfield, where Syrian and Russian forces worked side-by-side in recent months, with 59 Tomahawk missiles last week.

White House officials suspect Russia may have known Syria was preparing to launch a chemical attack, and on Tuesday accused Moscow of trying to cover it up.

The Syrian airforce has resumed bombing runs from the airbase since the U.S. airstrike.

“Assad didn’t fire his last salvo of CW, that’s for sure,” a U.S. official said, using an abbreviation for chemical weapons.

The U.S.-Russian agreement in 2013 sought to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons program.

“Expectations are high… to deliver on the promise of this moment,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at the time.

The mandate of the mission that took up the work later narrowed the parameters to eliminating declared stockpiles and facilities.

Critics of the deal early on said it amounted to a victory for President Bashar al-Assad, who dodged an American military intervention at a moment of regime weakness in exchange for only what chemical stockpiles his regime would declare.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both of whom had backed U.S. military action in Syria, criticized the deal then for leaving out an explicit threat of military force for any failure by Syria to comply, calling it “an act of provocative weakness.”

Obama administration officials said the deal successfully rid Syria of the majority of its chemical weapons and that the alternative—a war with Syria or even Russia —would have been far worse.

Some officials involved in the OPCW-U.N. mission defend its success, saying it had a limited mandate and worked under unprecedented conditions to remove and destroy from Syria chemical weapons declared by the Syrian government. By August 2014, behind schedule but still not a year from its deployment, the mission removed 1,300 metric tons of chemicals from Syria, some destroyed at sea in operations that had never been tried before.

Any effort to paint the mission as flawed is “revisionism,” one official involved in its early set-up said, because “all parties involved seemed to be quite content with what had been declared, on the same page as to the extent and nature of the Syrian CW program.”

Non-proliferation experts concur in that assessment.

“Though not acknowledged openly, it is not possible to achieve 100% disarmament of a CW program and verify such, even in the best of circumstances and over a long-period of time. Syria in 2013 was anything but best case scenario,” said Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who served on U.N. weapons inspection missions in Iraq. “I still view the mission as a success, from a non-proliferation perspective.”

U.S. and allied intelligence agencies meanwhile are trying to get a better picture of Syria’s chemical weapons after the attack.

A Wall Street Journal investigation in 2015 showed that the regime hid some nerve agents, scattered stockpiles to complicate the work of inspectors, and continued to operate weapons-research facilities even after the main mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons in 2014 ended.

More recent concern among U.S. and allied officials, before the latest attack, centered on how traces of sarin were still showing up on the Syrian battlefield. Damascus was also turning to new toxins, such as chlorine and developing new munitions, according to Western officials tracking the issue.

Syria has repeatedly denied it has used chemical weapons.

Western officials and others directly involved in the effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons described in interviews what took place in the months and years that followed the 2013 deal.

The technical efforts to try to identify what the original mission omitted or missed—and the rare U.S.-Russian unity of purpose that backed it—would begin to unravel even before the Danish ship carrying the last batch of chemicals departed the Syrian port of Tartous in the summer of 2014. That spring, the team tasked with dismantling the program saw such inconsistencies between the Syrian government’s declarations and previous intelligence assessments that the OPCW set up a new team dedicated to filling the gaps.

In the months that followed, as scientists studied results from destroyed facilities and inspected equipment that Damascus had denied was related to chemical weapons, the discrepancies grew wider. For example, inspectors couldn’t reconcile the quantities of munitions the Syrians were producing with the chemical weapons they said they had intended to produce.

At the same time, the organization created a separate fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of chlorine attacks—which fell outside the mandate of the inspectors working on destroying the chemical weapons program—in rebel-held areas.

The follow-up work infuriated Russia and Iran, which wanted the OPCW to focus on a narrowly-defined technical mission, according to mission officials and diplomats. Chlorine attacks on rebels surged again several months later, and the OPCW fact-finding mission concluded in a public report that chlorine had been used as a weapon systematically in three villages in northern Syria.

In Damascus, the OPCW team trying to get clearer answers from the government on its initial declarations struggled to get face-time with the relevant officials. Several times they were told Syria had no other information to offer because no paper documents existed related to its chemical weapons program, a major state secret.

“What could be done?” said Wa’el Alzayat, a former advisor to Samantha Power, the U.S.’s former envoy to the U.N, recalling that time period in 2014. “There was no recourse on the U.N. Security Council because of the Russian veto, and there was no recourse on the ground because the [former] administration didn’t want to get involved militarily.”

At the U.N., reports to the Security Council based on briefings from the OPCW made clear Syria was skirting its obligations, but drafts were often watered down to avoid clashing with Russia, diplomats said. “There was absolutely no appetite in the U.N. or among member states to open that can of worms,” a senior U.N. official said. “Everybody conveniently decided to put it to rest, while the bureaucracy continued to report.”

The U.S. scored a diplomatic victory in late 2015, getting Russia at the Security Council to back a new U.N. mission with the OPCW, called the Joint Investigative Mechanism, to identify individuals, entities, groups, or governments involved in chemical weapons in Syria. “Pointing the finger matters,” Ms. Power, the U.S. envoy at the time, told the Security Council.

The resolution came after three more fact-finding missions in Syria established a pattern of attacks with chlorine, and indirectly pointed the blame at the government by identifying that helicopters were used in the attack.

They also found that in at one instance, Islamic State militants had likely used chemical weapons too. Syria had tried to “exercise veto power” over the fact finding missions, according to a U.S. State Department report, but was overruled by the organization.

Damascus at this time again said it had never used chemical weapons, and warned about their use by terrorist groups.

Within months of the new mission starting its work, U.S. and European officials believed they had the evidence they needed to coax Russia into their camp and consider U.N.-backed sanctions on the Syrian regime.

The mission identified Syrian military units and officials believed to be involved in chemical weapons attacks. But Moscow made clear it considered the reporting politicized and didn’t think any of the evidence was credible enough, U.N. diplomats said.

After a report on those findings, which one European official described as “the smoking gun,” was published in the early fall of 2016, it took several months for any response to be debated in earnest, and then attention turned to the Russian-backed Syrian government campaign to drive rebels out of the city of Aleppo.

By the end of 2016, the U.N. was citing “no progress” in the effort to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program. With no movement at the U.N., Western nations reverted to sanctions. In November 2016, the E.U. placed sanctions on 17 Syrian officials. The Obama administration followed the move in January 2017, sanctioning 18 senior Syrian officials it said were involved in the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

In March, OPCW investigators told their counterparts at the U.N. they had no new information to report from Syria and were aiming to resume high-level consultations with the Syrian government in early May.

Corrections & Amplifications
Samantha Power was the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. in 2015. An earlier version of this article misspelled her surname on second reference. An earlier version of this story (April 12)

Write to Nour Malas at nour.malas@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/syria-attack-exposes-failed-deal-to-rid-regime-of-chemical-weapons-1491963112

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What should we think about the Iran nuclear deal?

Trump Vows Response on Syria, Military Draws Up Options

April 6, 2017

Tillerson says Assad has no role in Syria’s future in wake of this week’s chemical attack

Hassan Youssef, a victim of Tuesday’s suspected chemical attack in Syria, received medical care Thursday in a nearby hospital.

Hassan Youssef, a victim of Tuesday’s suspected chemical attack in Syria, received medical care Thursday in a nearby hospital. PHOTO:OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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The U.S. military is crafting options to strike Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as President Donald Trump vowed a U.S. response to this week’s suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria and said “something should happen” with the Syrian leader.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Mr. Assad has no role in Syria’s future, backing away from the Trump administration’s position days earlier that he could remain in power. Mr. Tillerson said Washington backs a political process that would lead to Mr. Assad leaving power.

“With the acts that he has taken, there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people,” Mr. Tillerson said.

Pentagon officials said Thursday that planning for a possible military strike accelerated after Mr. Trump said the day before that the suspected Syrian regime strike said it went “beyond a red line” for him.

The new Pentagon activity came as the Turkish health ministry said Thursday that autopsy results of three victims of Tuesday’s gas attack in Syria suggest the banned chemical agent sarin was the cause of death and as international pressure mounts for a wider investigation into who was responsible for the mass civilian death toll.

U.S. defense officials said that they have little doubt that the attack, which killed at least 85 people, was carried out by Mr. Assad’s air force.

The Pentagon has determined that Syrian pilots carried out airstrikes on a village in northwestern Syria and that victims were killed by suspected chemical weapons. They have also rejected the Russian contention that the victims were killed because an airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons depot.

“The case is pretty concrete,” one U.S. military official said Thursday.

The U.S. military already has plans for striking the Assad regime that it can use as a template for hitting Syria, U.S. officials said. In 2013, the Pentagon crafted plans to hit Mr. Assad’s chemical weapons storage sites after the Syrian leader used sarin gas in a strike near Damascus, killing 1,400 people, according to U.S. estimates.

 Image result for donald trump, rose garden, April 5, 2017, photos
President Donald Trump indicated the possibility of a policy shift on Syria during a press conference on Wednesday, after a chemical attack left dozens of Syrian citizens dead. Where may Mr. Trump be heading? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer. Photo: Getty
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One big concern for the U.S. military is the potential for a backlash from a U.S. strike on Mr. Assad for American forces operating in northern Syria. The U.S. has been sending more forces into northern Syria as part of an intensifying campaign against Islamic State.

The U.S. is militarily capable of striking Mr. Assad quickly. The USS George H.W. Bush is already in the Persian Gulf, where the aircraft carrier is launching airstrikes against Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria. The Bush is accompanied by destroyers equipped with guided missiles that also could be part of a U.S. response.

But a major complication for any strike is Russia, which is aiding Mr. Assad. Russia has created a sophisticated air defense system for the Syrian regime. Russian pilots and soldiers work side-by-side with their Syrian counterparts. And Moscow has provided Mr. Assad with vital political support that has thwarted international efforts to force him from power.

The Turkish health ministry said the autopsies showed that victims suffered excess fluid in the lungs, increased lung weight and internal bleeding before death, which it said suggested poisoning by sarin. It didn’t provide any further details, or reasons why the ministry is pointing to sarin as opposed to other nerve agents or poisonous gases.

“Based on the test results, evidence was detected in patients which leads one to think they were exposed to a chemical substance [sarin],” the ministry said.

Biological samples from the victims, a 35-year-old Syrian woman and two Syrian men, 25 and 26, were taken during autopsies that started late Wednesday and continued until Thursday morning. The tests were conducted by forensics teams in the southern city of Adana with representatives from the U.N.’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization in attendance, according to the Adana prosecutor’s office.

Mr. Trump on Wednesday said at a news conference with the visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan that the suspected chemical attack had changed his views about Syria and Mr. Assad. The Trump administration had said days earlier that they were not focused on removing Mr. Assad from power, a departure from Obama administration policy.

Mr. Tillerson is heading to Russia next week for meetings where discussions about Syria are likely to be tense. In Washington, Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Washington are pressing Mr. Trump to strike.

“This is a test for the new administration, but also for the entire country,” said Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which oversees the U.S. military. “Assad is trying to see what he can get away with. The rest of the region and the world is also watching to see how our country will respond.”

Mr. McCain urged Mr. Trump on Thursday to attack Mr. Assad’s air force to prevent it from carrying out airstrikes.

“This capability provides Assad a strategic advantage in his brutal slaughter of innocent civilians, both through the use of chemical weapons as well as barrel bombs, which kill far more men, women and children on a daily basis,” he said.

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com and Margaret Coker at margaret.coker@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-military-drawing-up-options-for-syria-response-1491499835

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Tillerson: ‘No role’ for Assad in governing Syria — Pentagon presenting possible options to Trump on military retaliation

April 6, 2017

Image result for syria, chemical weapons, photos

A man carries the body of a dead child after a chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

The Hill

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday said the U.S. is considering an “appropriate response” to the Syrian government’s apparent use of chemical weapons and that he sees “no role” in the country for President Bashar Assad.

“The process by which Assad would leave is something that requires an international community effort both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country to avoid further civil war and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving,” Tillerson said at a news conference in Palm Beach, Fla.

Image result for syria, chemical weapons, photos

“Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly, and with the acts that he has taken it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people,” he said.

On Tuesday, a chemical attack in northern Syria killed more than 70 civilians, including several children.

Eyewitnesses and aid workers say the strike was carried out by Syrian government forces.

No automatic alt text available.

President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday that “something should happen” to Assad in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack, though he declined to say what role the U.S. would play.

“He’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen,” Trump said.

The president would not confirm reports on Thursday that the U.S. was weighing a military response in Syria, and that the Pentagon was presenting possible options to Trump on military retaliation.

“I don’t want to say what I’m going to be doing with respect to Syria,” he added.

Tillerson’s remarks on Thursday marked a change of tone for the secretary of State, who said last week that the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who told reporters last week that removing Assad from power would no longer be a “priority” of the U.S.

Haley, however, offered a sweeping condemnation of the chemical weapons attack on Wednesday during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, in which she tore into Russia for its continued support of the Assad regime and called for swift action against the Syrian government.

“We don’t yet know everything about yesterday’s attack. But there are many things we do know,” she said. “We know that yesterday’s attacks bears all the hallmarks of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. We know that Assad has used these weapons against the Syrian people before.”

In the wake of the chemical attack on Tuesday, Trump issued a statement condemning the strike and placing blame on the Obama administration for not previously taking action in Syria.

But on Wednesday, the president toughened his rhetoric. The chemical weapons attack, he said in the White House Rose Garden, had a “big impact” on him and altered his view of Assad and Syria.

“I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me — big impact,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.

“My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much. … You’re now talking about a whole different level.”

– This story was updated at 4 p.m.

Image result for father holds twin girls, syria, photos

Abdul-Hamid Alyousef holds the bodies of his twin babies, Aya and Ahmed. Alaa Alyousef via AP

Senate committee wants more information about FBI number 2 Andrew McCabe role in Disclosures about Donald Trump

April 2, 2017

By BYRON YORK (@BYRONYORK) 4/1/17 7:17 PM

Washington Examiner

Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey demanding the story behind the FBI’s reported plan to pay the author of a lurid and unsubstantiated dossier on candidate Donald Trump. In particular, Grassley appears to be zeroing in on the FBI’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, indicating Senate investigators want to learn more about McCabe’s role in a key aspect of the Trump-Russia affair.

Grassley began his investigation after the Washington Post reported on February 28 that the FBI, “a few weeks before the election,” agreed to pay former British spy Christopher Steele to investigate Trump. Prior to that, supporters of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign had paid Steele to gather intelligence on Clinton’s Republican rival. In the end, the FBI did not pay Steele, the Post reported, after the dossier “became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials.” It is not clear whether Steele worked under agreement with the FBI for any period of time before the payment deal fell through.

“The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for president in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Comey dated March 28.

Grassley demanded the FBI turn over all its records relating to Steele and the dossier, in addition to “all FBI policies, procedures, and guidelines applicable when the FBI seeks to fund an investigator associated with a political opposition research firm connected to a political candidate, or with any outside entity.”

Image result for Andrew McCabe, FBI, Photos

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

But the most noteworthy thing about Grassley’s letter is its focus on McCabe. Grassley noted that McCabe is already under investigation by the FBI‘s inspector general for playing a top role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation even though McCabe’s wife accepted nearly $700,000 in political donations arranged by a close Clinton friend, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, for her run for state senate in Virginia.

“While Mr. McCabe recused himself from public corruption cases in Virginia…he failed to recuse himself from the Clinton email investigation,” Grassley wrote, “despite the appearance of a conflict created by his wife’s campaign accepting $700,000 from a close Clinton associate during the investigation.”

Now, Grassley wrote, there could be a problem with McCabe’s participation in the Trump-Russia probe. If McCabe had a conflict being too close to Clinton, how could he then investigate Trump? A key passage from Grassley’s letter:

Mr. McCabe’s appearance of a partisan conflict of interest relating to Clinton associates only magnifies the importance of those questions. That is particularly true if Mr. McCabe was involved in approving or establishing the FBI‘s reported arrangement with Mr. Steele, or if Mr. McCabe vouched for or otherwise relied on the politically-funded dossier in the course of the investigation. Simply put, the American people should know if the FBI’s second-in-command relied on Democrat-funded opposition research to justify an investigation of the Republican presidential campaign.

Grassley followed with a dozen questions, all targeted at McCabe. Has McCabe been involved “in any capacity” in investigating alleged collusion between TrumpWorld and Russia? Has McCabe been involved in surveillance or intercepts of any sort in the case? Has McCabe “made any representations to prosecutors or judges” regarding the Steele dossier? Has McCabe had any interactions with Steele himself? Did McCabe brief anyone in the Obama administration on the Trump-Russia investigation? Was McCabe ever authorized by the FBI to speak to the media about the case? Did he ever do so without authorization? Has anyone in the FBI raised questions about McCabe’s possible Clinton-Trump conflict of interest? Has any complaint been filed about it? Has anyone at the FBI recommended or requested that McCabe recuse himself from the Russia-Trump investigation?

Read More:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/byron-york-senate-committee-targets-fbi-no.-2-in-trump-dossier-probe/article/2619120

2 White House Officials Helped Give Nunes Intelligence Reports

March 30, 2017

WASHINGTON — A pair of White House officials played a role in providing Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The revelation that White House officials assisted in the disclosure of the intelligence reports — which Mr. Nunes then discussed with President Trump — is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the last presidential election.

Mr. Nunes has also been faulted by his congressional colleagues for sharing the information with President Trump before consulting with other members of the intelligence committee.

The congressman has refused to identify his sources, saying he needed to protect them so others would feel safe coming to the committee with sensitive information. He disclosed the existence of the intelligence reports on March 22, and in his public comments he has described his sources as whistle-blowers trying to expose wrongdoing at great risk to themselves.

Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment.

Mr. Cohen-Watnick is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who was originally brought to the White House by Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser. The officials said that this month, shortly after Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter about being wiretapped on the orders of President Barack Obama, Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials.

Officials said the reports consisted primarily of ambassadors and other foreign officials talking about how they were trying to develop contacts within Mr. Trump’s family and inner circle in advance of his inauguration.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the intelligence and to avoid angering Mr. Cohen-Watnick and Mr. Ellis. Officials say Mr. Cohen-Watnick has been reviewing the reports from his fourth-floor office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the National Security Council is based.

But the officials’ description of the intelligence is in line with Mr. Nunes’s own characterization of the material, which he has said was not related to the Russia investigations when he disclosed its existence in a hastily arranged news conference.

According to Mr. Nunes, he received a phone call from a source the night before, and then rushed to meet the person on the grounds of the White House. He has explained the choice of location by saying he needed access to a secure place where people with security clearances could legally view classified information, though such facilities can also be found in the Capitol building and at other locations across Washington.

The next day, Mr. Nunes gave a news briefing at the Capitol and then returned to the White House to brief President Trump on the information.

Mr. Nunes and Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee, have held dueling news conferences in the days since Mr. Nunes’s revelations, fueling criticism that the committee is unable to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation.

The chaotic situation prompted the leaders of the Senate intelligence committee, which is running its own investigation, to state bluntly on Wednesday that their work had nothing to do with the House inquiry. And television news programs have been dominated by arguments about whether the incidental intelligence gathering of Mr. Trump and his associates was the real issue, or simply a distraction from the Russia investigations.

Mr. Nunes has acknowledged that the incidental intelligence gathering on Trump associates last year was not necessarily unlawful. American intelligence agencies typically monitor foreign officials of allied and hostile countries, and they routinely sweep up communications linked to Americans who may be taking part in the conversation or are being spoken about.

The real issue, Mr. Nunes has said, was that he could figure out the identities of Trump associates from reading reports about intercepted communications that were shared among Obama administration officials with top security clearances. He said some Trump associates were also identified by name in the reports. Normally, intelligence agencies mask the identities of American citizens who are incidentally present in intercepted communications.

FBI director James Comey ‘wanted to reveal Russian meddling months before the election but was talked out of it by the Obama administration’

March 30, 2017

  • James Comey presented a draft op-ed to top Obama administration officials during a White House meeting in June or July, sources say
  • The op-ed unveiled information about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election
  • His idea was rejected because officials thought the message would have more impact coming from multiple agencies
  • He revealed last week the FBI is investigating Russian meddling in the election

FBI director James Comey wanted to go public with information about Russia‘s interference in the 2016 election as early as last summer but was reportedly barred from doing so by the Obama administration.

According to Newsweek sources, Comey presented a draft op-ed to top administration officials during a White House meeting in June or July.

‘He had a draft of it or an outline,’ the source said. ‘He held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward, what do people think of this?”

FBI director James Comey wanted to go public with information about Russia’s interference in the election last summer but was reportedly barred by the Obama administration

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and ex national security adviser Susan Rice were among those in the meeting.

Comey’s idea was rejected because White House officials thought the message would have more impact coming from multiple agencies and not just him.

‘An op-ed doesn’t have the same stature, it comes from one person,’ the source said.

A second source told Newsweek the op-ed, which Comey would have likely sought to publish in the New York Times, contained the same information as the intelligence report made public on January 6 that said Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the presidential election.

Comey presented a draft op-ed to top Obama administration officials during a White House meeting in June or July but it was rejected, according to Newsweek sources

Comey presented a draft op-ed to top Obama administration officials during a White House meeting in June or July but it was rejected, according to Newsweek sources

Comey’s op-ed was rejected around the same time he publicly revealed details about the investigation in Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The FBI director revealed before the House Intelligence Committee last week that the agency is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

He told the Intelligence Committee the Russians were ‘very noisy’ and ‘unusually loud’ in their hacking of US Democratic party computers.

‘It was almost as if they didn’t care if we found out,’ he added.

He said the FBI is looking at possible links and coordination between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russians. The investigation includes an assessment of potential crimes that were committed.

Because the investigation is ongoing, and it deals with classified information, Comey said he could not share additional details about who the target of the probe is and what conduct is under scrutiny in a public setting.

In July last year Comey told Congress under oath that Clinton was reckless in her use of a private email server and careless in her handling of information but had not committed a criminal act.

Comey revealed last week that the FBI is looking at possible links and coordination between President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and the Russians

Comey revealed last week that the FBI is looking at possible links and coordination between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russians

On 28 October Comey alerted members of Congress that more of Clinton’s State Department emails had been found, heightening speculation she could still be charged with mishandling classified materials.

The emails were found on a laptop handed over to authorities by Anthony Weiner – former partner of Clinton adviser Huma Abedin – who was being investigated for a separate matter.

Then, days before the election Comey said the FBI had decided the new batch of emails ‘had not changed our conclusion’ that she had not committed any criminal wrongdoing.

But Trump and his supporters raised the email issue repeatedly throughout the campaign and it is thought to have had a negative effect on Clinton’s trustworthiness among voters.  

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4363070/Comey-wanted-reveal-Russian-meddling-election.html#ixzz4coFx1To0
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