Posts Tagged ‘Russian government’

Russian-American lobbyist also at Trump Tower Meeting With Donald Trump Jr., Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, The Associated Press Finds

July 15, 2017

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Donald Trump Jr. is interviewed by host Sean Hannity on his Fox News Channel television program, in New York Tuesday, July 11, 2017. (Richard Drew – Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A prominent Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer attended a meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman last year, the lobbyist said Friday, adding a new wrinkle to the Trump team’s evolving explanations about the June 2016 session.

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Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his involvement to The Associated Press in an interview. He had not been previously identified as a participant in the meeting at Trump Tower in New York, which was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican’s White House campaign.

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Rinat Akhmetshin

A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, marking another shift in the account of a discussion that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. (July 14)

The meeting has heightened questions about whether Trump’s associates coordinated with Russia to meddle in the presidential election — to help him and thwart Hillary Clinton — and whether they’ve been forthcoming about their foreign contacts. Federal and congressional investigators are probing possible connections between the campaign and Moscow.

Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence, a characterization he dismisses as a “smear campaign.” He’s a well-known Washington presence, lobbying for Russian interests trying to undermine the allegations of a lawyer who died in a Russian prison and is the namesake of a U.S. sanctions law.

Akhmetshin told the AP he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but he was never formally trained as a spy.

In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, a music publicist said he arranged the meeting because a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Democrat Clinton. The go-between stated that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help the GOP candidate.

While Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he has not disclosed Akhmetshin’s presence. The president’s son has publicly discounted the meeting, saying he did not receive the information he was promised.

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Natalia Veselnitskaya

In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said the attorney had said she had information that people tied to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Clinton, a description that Akhmetshin backed up in his interview with the AP.

In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats, Akhmetshin said. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign, he said.

“This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” Akhmetshin recalled her saying.

Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had sufficient evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.

“They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he said.

Akhmetshin said he does not know if Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates. It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room or simply left them behind, he said.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and current White House senior adviser, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting. Akhmetshin said he recognized Kushner and Trump Jr. He also said he recognized Manafort because they worked in “adjacent political circles” but never together.

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Paul Manafort

He said there were others in the room but he didn’t know them. Publicist Rob Goldstone, who brokered the meeting via email with Trump Jr., has told the AP that he was there.

Asked about Akhmetshin’s participation, Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni declined comment. Trump Jr.’s attorney did not respond to inquiries, nor did a spokesman for Kushner. Veselnitskaya has denied having any ties to the Russian government. When reached by the AP this week, she declined comment. She did not respond to additional attempts to contact her Friday.

The confirmation of Akhmetshin’s participation in the meeting drew swift reaction from the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who said he wanted Akhmetshin to appear before the committee and provide “any relevant documents and information.”

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Jared Kushner

Schiff said whether Akhmetshin is connected to Russian intelligence or not “it is clear the Kremlin got the message that Donald Trump welcomed the help of the Russian government in providing dirt on Hillary Clinton.” Schiff said Trump Jr.’s omission of Akhmetshin’s role in his public account of the meeting and the president’s son’s shifting explanations “paint a portrait of consistent dissembling and deceit.”

Kushner disclosed the meeting on his security clearance paperwork, but Schiff said the Akhmetshin revelation raises questions about how much Kushner disclosed about it. He said he believes Kushner’s clearance should be reviewed, and “if he was not perfectly candid,” the clearance should be revoked.

Akhmetshin, who spoke to the AP while on vacation in France where he said he has been surfing, said the meeting was “not substantive” and he “actually expected more serious” discussion.

“I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest,” he said.

The Russian government has denied any involvement or knowledge of the June 2016 meeting. Asked Friday about Akhmetshin, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters: “We don’t know anything about this person.”

Akhmetshin has been identified in media reports as a former officer in Russia’s military intelligence service known as the GRU. He has denied that, saying he served in the Soviet Army from 1986 to 1988 after he was drafted but was not trained in spy tradecraft. He said his unit operated in the Baltics and was “loosely part of counterintelligence.”

Akhmetshin said he has not been contacted by the U.S. special counsel’s office or the FBI about the meeting with Trump Jr. He said he’s willing to talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman has pressed the Justice Department about why Akhmetshin has not registered as a foreign agent.

The chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said in a March letter that Akhmetshin has “reportedly admitted to being a ‘Soviet counterintelligence officer’ and has a long history of lobbying the U.S. government for pro-Russia matters.”

Akhmetshin said that the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit sent him a letter in April and told him, “it has come to our attention you should have filed for FARA.” He said he didn’t believe he needed to file. He has previously registered with Congress for the lobbying work, and he plans to raise this issue before Grassley’s committee.

“I think I have a legal right to tell my story,” he said.

Separately on Friday, the data and digital director for Trump’s presidential campaign said he will speak with the House Intelligence committee later this month as part of its own Russia probe.

Brad Parscale said in a statement that he is “unaware of any Russian involvement” in the data and digital operations but will voluntarily appear before the panel.

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Stephen Braun and Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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Rob Goldstone from his Facebook page

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4697784/Did-Jared-leak-Donald-Trump-Jr-meeting-emails.html#ixzz4msMduZi1
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Donald Trump Jr: Former Soviet counterintelligence officer confirms he attended Russian lawyer meeting

Mr Trump Jr has dismissed the controversy as a ‘big yawn’

The Independent

A Russian former military operative with links to counterintelligence also attended Donald Trump Jr’s notorious meeting with a Russian lawyer about obtaining possibly incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Rinat Akhmetshin, a dual Russian-American citizen and lobbyist who has been accused of acting as “an unregistered agent for Russian interests” and with ties to Russian military intelligence service, or GRU, has confirmed he attended the meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Also participating in the meeting was a US-based Russian translator, Anatoli Samochornov, who had worked previously for Ms Veselnitskaya and the US State Department at various points.

Mr Akhmetshin said he accompanied Ms Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower on 9 June 2016. Although he had known and worked with Ms Veselnitskaya for a number of years, he said he had only learned about the meeting that day when she asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

Mr Trump Jr’s account of the meeting, which has shifted several times, failed to mention the presence of Mr Akhmetshin, or the translator. Mr Trump Jr said he had agreed to the meeting, also attended by Mr Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort, because he was told Ms Veselnitskaya had material damaging to Ms Clinton that was “high level and sensitive information [and] is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump”.

Mr Akhmetshin said Ms Veselnitskaya brought a plastic folder with her, containing printed documents that detailed what she believed could potentially be the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee. Ms Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the Trump campaign, he said.

Mr Trump Jr asked the lawyer if she had all the evidence to back up her claims, according to Mr Akhmetshin, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Ms Veselnitskaya allegedly claimed the Trump campaign would need to research it more.

After that exchange, Mr Trump Jr lost interest, Mr Akhmetshin said. “They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he told the Associated Press.

Mr Akhmetshin said he does not know if Ms Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates. It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room, or simply left them behind, he said.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said that the reports about Mr Akhmetshin add “another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting”.

Mr Trump Jr has insisted the meeting did not amount to much, that he was offered no information on Ms Clinton and that in truth Ms Veselnitskaya wanted to talk about the Magnitsky Act, a piece of US legislation that sanctions a handful of Russians the US believes might be linked to the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Ms Veselnitskaya has denied offering any information to Mr Trump Jr and working for the Russian state.

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Ms Veselnitskaya has denied working for the Russian government (AP)
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Mr Akhmetshin has been closely associated with Ms Veselnitskaya for several years and has worked with her in an effort to overturn the Magnitsky Act. Mr Samochornov did translation for Ms Veselnitskaya in relation to her lobbying and legal work in the US.

In 2016, Ms Veselnitskaya’s client, Denis Katsyv, head of the company Prevezon, registered a nonprofit company in Delaware called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation (HRAGIF) in February 2016, which says its aim is to overturn an adoption ban on impacting American couples but which many believe is a front to lobby against the Magnitsky Act, the passage of which is said to have infuriated Vladimir Putin.

The HRAGIF’s registered lobbyist was Mr Akhmetshin, who took UK citizenship in 2009.

Earlier this year, Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he wanted to learn more about Mr Akhmetshin’s activities.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in April, Mr Grassley wrote: “I write to obtain information regarding Mr Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant to the United States who has been accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests and apparently has ties to Russian intelligence.”

He added: “Mr Akhmetshin is a Russian immigrant to the US who has admitted having been a ‘Soviet counterintelligence officer’. In fact, it has been reported that he worked for the GRU and allegedly specialises in ‘active measures campaigns, subversive political influence operations often involving disinformation and propaganda.”

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Rinat Akhmetshin has worked as a lobbyist on behalf of various Russia-related issues for a number of years (Bill Browder)
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Mr Akhmetshin has denied that he worked for the GRU, saying he served in the Soviet Army from 1986 to 1988 after he was drafted but was not trained in spy tradecraft. He said his unit operated in the Baltics and was “loosely part of counterintelligence”.

The development has infuriated President Trump, who had hoped to get away from the Russia story, even as special prosecutor Robert Mueller continues a probe into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s alleged effort to interfere in the 2016 election.

Mr Akhmetshin said he has not been contacted by Mr Mueller’s office or the FBI about the meeting with Mr Trump Jr. He said he is willing to talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Earlier this week, Mr Trump was obliged to defend his eldest son, saying that “anyone” would have taken the meeting.

Speaking in France, where he was meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, he said: “I do think this, that taken from a practical standpoint … most people would’ve taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent. I’ve only been in politics for two years, but I’ve had many people call up, ‘Oh gee, we have information on this factor or this person,’ or, frankly, Hillary.”

He added: “That’s very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world.”

Mr Akhmetshin did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Independent. President Trump’s lawyers also failed to respond.

Elsewhere, a former Trump campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, said after he testified to the House Intelligence Committee in closed session on Friday that he had no contact with Russians and never heard of anyone in the campaign “talking with Russians”.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-jr-russia-meeting-societ-counter-intelligence-officer-jared-kushner-hillary-clinton-a7841386.html

Russian Officials Overheard Discussing Trump Associates Before Campaign Began

July 13, 2017

It isn’t clear whether Mr. Trump’s associates had any connection to his presidential aspirations

Updated July 12, 2017 9:26 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Investigators are re-examining conversations detected by U.S. intelligence agencies in spring 2015 that captured Russian government officials discussing associates of Donald Trump, according to current and former U.S. officials, a move prompted by revelations that the president’s eldest son met with a Russian lawyer last year.

In some cases, the Russians in the overheard conversations talked about meetings held outside the…

https://www.wsj.com/articles/russian-officials-overheard-discussing-trump-associates-before-campaign-began-1499890354

New York Times Reports that Donald Trump Jr Was Told of Kremlin Efforts to Help Trump Win Election

July 11, 2017

Reuters and France 24

© Mandel Ngan, AFP | This file photo taken on November 7, 2016 shows Donald Trump, Jr., (L) and his father the then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-07-11

Donald Trump Jr. was told before meeting a Russian lawyer who he thought had information damaging to Hillary Clinton that the material was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign, the New York Times said Monday.

Citing three people with knowledge of the email, the newspaper said publicist Rob Goldstone indicated in an email to U.S. President Donald Trump’s eldest son that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information, according to the Times.

The email is likely to be of high interest to investigators probing whether any of Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to sway last year’s election, the Times said.

Trump Jr. hired a lawyer on Monday to represent him in the Russia-related investigations as prominent Republicans voiced concern about the meeting between the president’s son and a Russian.

Allegations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have cast a shadow over the Republican president’s first months in office and sparked investigations by congressional committees and a federal special counsel, Robert Mueller, into whether Russia interfered in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign.

Moscow denies interfering and Trump, who became president on Jan. 20, says there was no collusion.

“It’s a very serious development,” Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC of the Times report. “It all warrants thorough investigation. Everyone who was in that meeting ought to come before our committee.”

Dumping of stolen emails began in July 2016. If Don Jr. learned of Kremlin intent to help Trump in June, that was well before public knew. https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/884580641433690112 

Trump Jr. hired New York lawyer Alan Futerfas, who specializes in criminal defense and whose clients have included alleged organized crime figures, a Russian computer hacker and white-collar criminals.

“I look forward to assisting Donald Jr. and, quite frankly, there is nothing to all of the media buzz about the June 9th, 2016 meeting,” Futerfas told Reuters. “That will be proven to be the case.”

Futerfas would not say when he was retained or whether he played any part in the statements Trump Jr. made during the weekend about his June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, during the presidential election campaign.

Trump Jr. said he agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, described by the New York Times as having links to the Kremlin, after being promised damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent… went nowhere but had to listen. https://twitter.com/DRUDGE_REPORT/status/884390823881719808 

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also attended, the Times said.

It called the encounter the first confirmed private meeting of members of Donald Trump’s inner circle with a Russian national during the campaign.

A Republican member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Susan Collins, called on Trump Jr. to testify before the panel, which is looking into accusations of Russian meddling in the election.

“Our intelligence committee needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting,” she told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.

(REUTERS)

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Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign

WASHINGTON — Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy.

Mr. Goldstone’s message, as described to The New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. It does not elaborate on the wider effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign.

There is no evidence to suggest that the promised damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails. The meeting took place less than a week before it was widely reported that Russian hackers had infiltrated the committee’s servers.

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Defiant President Trump Insists There Was “No Collusion” — As Former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election

May 18, 2017

Robert S. Mueller III, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), speaks at the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) on August 8, 2013 in New York City. The ICCS, which is co-hosted by Fordham University and the FBI, is held every 18 months; more than 25 countries are represented at this year's conference

  • The Justice Department has named a special to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election
  • Longtime former FBI Director Robert Mueller will lead the probe
  • Democrats and others have been demanding an independent probe that would be free from possible interference
  • Inquiry to probe any links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’ 
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he will recuse himself from election investigations, after his own undisclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. were revealed 
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the move 
  • He said Mueller would have ‘all appropriate resources’ 
  • News broke as Trump was interviewing candidates to be the new FBI director – who will no longer oversee the Russia probe

A defiant President Trump again proclaimed that there were no ties between his presidential campaign and Russia on the heels of a Justice Department announcement that a special counsel would take over the probe.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who served a decade and was then reappointed by President Obama, will take over the executive branch investigation.

‘As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,’ Trump said in a statement released several hours after the news broke Wednesday night.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14:  FBI Director Robert Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a oversight hearing on Capitol Hill December 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. Mueller testified on the over 2,500 open cases the FBI Corporate and Securities is probing for fraud after they are up close to 50 percent from 2008.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 14: FBI Director Robert Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a oversight hearing on Capitol Hill December 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. Mueller testified on the over 2,500 open cases the FBI Corporate and Securities is probing for fraud after they are up close to 50 percent from 2008. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Justice Department announced that Mueller would serve as special counsel, and would have ‘all appropriate resources’ to carry out the probe – during a week when Donald Trump‘s White House was battered by disclosures about his contacts with the Russians and his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The White House has spent weeks batting back efforts to install an independent outsider to lead the Russia probe, saying there are already sufficient probes. As Special Counsel, Mueller will have a wide berth to follow the investigation where he sees fit, and set his own terms for how much information he wants to reveal or withhold.

Democrats in Congress have been pushing for an independent investigation that would be free from interference from Trump administration officials, as well as a special congressional commission that might probe deeper into charges that Russia tried to sway the election through hacking and other means.

It wasn’t immediately clear how or whether Trump’s contacts with Comey and reported efforts to either steer or inquire about the FBI’s Russia probes played a role in the decision.

The White House had repeatedly an independent investigation wasn’t needed.

Wednesday night, Trump said he hoped the investigation would be speedy.

‘I look forward to this matter concluding quickly,’ he said. ‘In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.’

President George W. Bush appointed Mueller to lead the FBI in 2001. He was reappointed by President Obama 10 years later to serve an addition two years. He has a reputation among members of both parties for probity.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the move Wednesday evening, after getting grilled during his own confirmation hearings about under what circumstances he would be willing to appoint a special counsel.

‘In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,’ Rosenstein said.

‘My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,’ he continued.

Rosenstein added, ‘Each year, the career professionals of the U.S. Department of Justice conduct tens of thousands of criminal investigations and handle countless other matters without regard to partisan political considerations.’

He continued: ‘I have great confidence in the independence and integrity of our people and our processes. Considering the unique circumstances of this matter, however, I determined that a Special Counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome.’

‘Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly. Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result,’ he added.

A letter appointing Mueller as special counsel charges him with investigating links 'between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump'

A letter appointing Mueller as special counsel charges him with investigating links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’

Sen. John McCain compared Trump scandals to Watergate in scope in comments Tuesday, where he also referenced Iran-Contra

Sen. John McCain compared Trump scandals to Watergate in scope in comments Tuesday, where he also referenced Iran-Contra

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak (L-R) talking during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak (L-R) talking during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House

In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, then-incoming FBI Director James Comey talks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller before Comey was officially sworn in at the Justice Department in Washington

In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, then-incoming FBI Director James Comey talks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller before Comey was officially sworn in at the Justice Department in Washington

Rosenstsein’s letter tasks Mueller with investigating links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.’

The wide scope also includes ‘any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation’ – which would appear to include any efforts Trump may have made to interfere with the FBI’s investigation of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.

‘I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,’ Mueller said in a statement.

Rosenstein didn’t inform the White House or the Attorney General of the decision until after he had signed the order, CNN reported.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was spotted at the White House about 5 pm Wednesday, about an hour before the news broke.

It wasn’t immediately clear what Sessions was doing at the White House. In response to an inquiry from DailyMail.com, a DOJ official said: The White House was informed after the order was signed as was the attorney general.

In Mueller, the department has tapped a counsel with a reputation for probity.

The soon-to-be special counsel was born outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned degrees from Princeton, New York University and the University of Virginia.

A decorated war veteran, he served as a Marine in Vietnam and came home with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and two Navy commendation medals.

Mueller took over the helm of the FBI in 2001. In July, after he was nominated by then President George W. Bush, the Justice Department announced that he had prostate cancer and would undergo surgery.

That surgery was scheduled for three days after his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His nomination passed unanimously on the Senate floor on August 2, 2001, 98-0.

Mueller didn’t fully step into the job until September 4, 2001, a week before the Sept. 11, terror attacks.

Democrats have been calling for an independent probe of Moscow’s alleged election interference since the existence of the FBI’s Russia probe was reported and then confirmed by ex FBI Director Mueller during Trump’s first 100 days in office.

The calls only increased after Trump sacked Comey last week. The president said in an NBC interview that the FBI’s Russia probe, which he has called a ‘hoax,’ was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that according to a memo written by Comey, Trump had asked Comey to back off in the FBI’s probe of ex national security advisor Mike Flynn, whose own Russia connections are under investigation.

Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have emerged as key figures in the sprawling FBI investigation, NBC News reported.

Although Republicans have provided considerable cover for Trump, there were early stirrings of more aggressive oversight on Wednesday.

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks during a press conference after a classified meeting of the committee in which they reviewed documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks during a press conference after a classified meeting of the committee in which they reviewed documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who has been criticized by committee Democrats for not taking an aggressive investigative stance toward the Trump administration, wrote the FBI on Tuesday seeking copies of ‘any and all documentation the fired FBI director James Comey kept of his communications with President Donald Trump.’

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has its own investigation of alleged Russian election interference, also wants Comey to appear in closed and open session.

It asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to hand over any notes Comey has of conversations between the White House and Justice Department officials about the Russia probe.

Still another panel, the Senate Judiciary Committee, is also seeking documents.

Panel chair Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California wrote the Justice Department and the White House on Wednesday seeking documents.

Democrats, for the most part, greeted the development positively.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who worked under President Obama, called Mueller ‘Incorruptible.’

‘As long as his charter is appropriate defined and he is properly resourced, this is a good move.’

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware sent out a bevvy of tweets praising Mueller.

‘Director Mueller helps restore confidence in the independence and integrity of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference,’ he wrote, calling the ex-FBI head a ‘strong choice.’

Some Democratic lawmakers, while praising the choice of Mueller, again pointed a finger at the Trump administration and demanded that the probe be given proper resources.

‘And now that the Justice Department has rightly turned the reins of the investigation over to an independent special prosecutor, it is critical that former Director Mueller is given the resources he needs to get to the bottom of Russia’s attack on our democracy, without any interference from the Trump administration,’ said Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota.

Republicans’ responses were more mixed.

Sen. Lamar Alexander praised Mueller’s ‘independence and integrity’ while working with both Presidents Bush and Obama.

‘Which are exactly the qualities needed to pursue the Russia investigation to its conclusion,’ Alexander said.

The Tennessee lawmaker also urged the Senate to continue its investigation and bring ex-FBI director Comey before Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said nothing to Mueller’s character, but pledged the Senate’s probe would go on, and said appointing a special prosecutor ensures the FBI’s investigation ‘will continue.’

House Speaker Paul Ryan said, ‘My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead.’

 ‘That is what we’ve been doing here in the House,’ he continued. ‘The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice.’

The House’s ‘important ongoing bipartisan investigation,’ Ryan also said, will continue.

MUELLER’S ROLE IN WASHINGTON’S MOST-TOLD STORY ABOUT JIM COMEY

During Mueller’s tenure at the top of the FBI, he was involved in one of the most memorable parts of his successor Comey’s biography.

As the story goes, Comey – whose firing last week by President Trump teed of the White House’s most recent troubles – received a call in 2004 informing him that President Bush’s White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card were heading to the intensive care unit where Comey’s boss, John Ashcroft, the attorney general, lay ill.

Gonzales and Card wanted Ashcroft to sign off on a reauthorization of President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program, which the Republican president had signed off on in the aftermath of 9/11.

The Justice Department had just deemed the program illegal.

Comey, serving as the deputy attorney general, alerted Mueller and then rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital bed, barely beating Gonzales and Card, according to an account from the Washington Post.

Ashcroft, at that time, refused to sign.

The White House officials eventually stood down, when Bush relented, after both Mueller and Comey, along with Ashcroft, threatened to resign.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4516640/Justice-names-special-counsel-lead-Russia-probe.html#ixzz4hQEHIycy
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 (Wall Street Journal)

Mysterious hacking collective called ‘The Shadow Brokers’ stole NSA superweapon and caused global cyber attack that has shut hospitals, hit FedEx and is causing chaos in 99 countries

May 13, 2017

The NHS has been hit by a major cyber attack hitting computers, phones and emergency bleepers in hospitals and GP surgeries - and pop-ups like this one have appeared demanding a ransom
  • Hackers hit dozens of countries on Friday by exploiting a stolen tool used by the US National Security Agency  
  • The cyber attack rapidly spread and infected computers across the globe 
  • Hackers are believed to have exploited the NSA tool, which was stolen and released to the world by a group known as the Shadow Brokers last month
  • British hospitals, the Russian government and German railways were among those affected by the cyber attack 
  • Victims have been reported in 99 countries including Germany, Spain and USA

A global cyber attack using hacking tools widely believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency and leaked online by a group called the Shadow Brokers has caused chaos around the world.

British hospitals, the Russian government, German railways and big companies like FedEx were among those affected on Friday when they were crippled by the ‘ransomware’ that rapidly spread across the globe and infected tens of thousands of computers in 99 countries.

Security experts say the malicious software behind the onslaught appeared to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was identified by the US National Security Agency for its own intelligence-gathering purposes.

The NSA documents were stolen and then released to the world last month by a mysterious group known as the Shadow Brokers.

The hackers, who have not come forward to claim responsibility, likely made it a ‘worm’, or self spread malware, by exploiting a piece of NSA code known as Eternal Blue, according to several security experts.

The Shadow Brokers released Eternal Blue last month as part of a trove of hacking tools that they said belonged to the US spy agency. It has stoked fears that the spy agency’s powerful cyber weapons had been stolen and repurposed by hackers with nefarious goals.

The malicious software was blocking access to computers and demanding payments of as much as $600 to restore access and scrambling data. It is thought to have impacted at least 75,000 computers, including machines in the Russian government.

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This map released by cybersecurity experts, shows the impact of the ransomware around the world - with affected countries shown in orange and red. Russia is thought to be the worst affected

This map released by cybersecurity experts, shows the impact of the ransomware around the world – with affected countries shown in orange and red. Russia is thought to be the worst affected

The NHS has been hit by a major cyber attack hitting computers, phones and emergency bleepers in hospitals and GP surgeries - and pop-ups like this one have appeared demanding a ransom

The NHS has been hit by a major cyber attack hitting computers, phones and emergency bleepers in hospitals and GP surgeries – and pop-ups like this one have appeared demanding a ransom

The technological meltdown began earlier on Friday afternoon in Britain when more than 40 NHS organisations including hospitals and GP surgeries were hit by the virus.

But with the virus spreading at a rate of five million emails per hour, tens of thousands of victims have now been reported in 99 countries including the US, Australia, Belgium, France,Germany, Italy and Mexico.

Russia is thought to have been among the worst hit by the ransomware amid reports that 1,000 computers in the country’s Interior Ministry were affected, but sources say no information was leaked.

Ministry spokeswoman Irina Volk told Russian news agencies it had ‘recorded a virus attack on the ministry’s personal computers controlled by a Windows operating system.’

WHO HAS BEEN AFFECTED BY CYBER ATTACK?

The UK’s National Health Service: British hospitals and clinics were forced to send patients away and cancel appointments.

Russia: The country was believed to be among the worst hit when computers in the interior ministry were hit. Megafon – Russia’s second largest phone network – had also been affected.

German railway stations: Photos surfaced on social media appeared to show ticketing computers at train stations having been affected by the cyber attack.

Spanish companies: Telecoms giant Telefonica, power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural all suffered from the virus.

FedEx: The shipping company confirmed they were affected and were implementing remediation steps.

Leading international shipper FedEx Corp was among the companies whose Microsoft Corp Windows systems were affected. They said they were ‘implementing remediation steps’.

The German rail system was also experiencing issues due to the ransomware. Photos surfaced on social media appeared to show ticketing computers at train stations having been affected by the cyber attack.

In Spain, the Telefonica mobile phone network, power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural all suffered from the virus.

Some big firms in Spain took pre-emptive steps to thwart ransomware attacks following a warning from the National Cryptology Centre of ‘a massive ransomware attack’.

Iberdrola and Gas Natural, along with Vodafone’s unit in Spain, asked staff to turn off computers or cut off internet access in case they had been compromised.

Security teams at large financial services firms and businesses were reviewing plans for defending against cyber attacks, according to executives with private cyber security firms.

Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer with cyber security firm Veracode, said: ‘Seeing a large telco like Telefonica get hit is going to get everybody worried.

‘Now ransomware is affecting larger companies with more sophisticated security operations.’

A cybersecurity researcher told AFP they appeared to have discovered a ‘kill switch’ that could prevent the spread of the ransomware for now.

The researcher, tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog, said the discovery was accidental, but that registering a domain name used by the malware stops it from spreading.

‘Essentially they relied on a domain not being registered and by registering it, we stopped their malware spreading,’ @MalwareTechBlog told AFP in a private message on Twitter.

The researcher warned however that people ‘need to update their systems ASAP’ to avoid attack: ‘The crisis isn’t over, they can always change the code and try again.’

The German rail system was also experiencing issues due to the ransomware. Photos surfaced on social media showing ticket machines at train stations having been affected

The German rail system was also experiencing issues due to the ransomware. Photos surfaced on social media showing ticket machines at train stations having been affected

Medics have claimed that messages are flashing up on screens saying they must pay cash or terminals are down completely

Medics have claimed that messages are flashing up on screens saying they must pay cash or terminals are down completely

Some hospitals said they were forced to divert emergencies on Friday after a suspected national cyber attack.

Some hospitals said they were forced to divert emergencies on Friday after a suspected national cyber attack.

Several computers at a university in Italy were also randomly targeted in the cyber attack

Several computers at a university in Italy were also randomly targeted in the cyber attack

Computer expert Lauri Love, who is facing extradition to the US over the alleged theft of data from government computers, said the attack is being powered by a ‘top of the range cyber weapon’ used by spies in the US.

‘It appears the cyber attack affected so many computers in the UK in the NHS and in Spain by taking advantage of a very nasty vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, which was dumped by hacking group Shadow Brokers who obtained it from the NSA in America.’

RANSOMWARE: THE CYBER ATTACK THAT CRIPPLED THE WORLD

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that criminals use to attack computer systems.

Hackers often demand the victim to pay ransom money to access their files or remove harmful programs.

The aggressive attacks dupe users into clicking on a fake link – whether it’s in an email or on a fake website, causing an infection to corrupt the computer.

In some instances, adverts for pornographic website will repeatedly appear on your screen, while in others, a pop-up will state that a piece of your data will be destroyed if you don’t pay.

In the case of the NHS attack, the ransomware used was called Wanna Decryptor or ‘WannaCry’ Virus.

What is the WannaCry virus?

The WannaCry virus targets Microsoft’s widely used Windows operating system.

The virus encrypts certain files on the computer and then blackmails the user for money in exchange for the access to the files.

It leaves the user with only two files: Instructions on what to do next and the Wanna Decryptor program itself.

When opened the software tells users that their files have been encrypted and gives them a few days to pay up or their files will be deleted.

It can quickly spread through an entire network of computers in a business or hospital, encrypting files on every PC.

How to protect yourself from ransomware

Thankfully, there are ways to avoid ransomware attacks, and Norton Antivirus has compiled a list of prevention methods:

1. Use reputable antivirus software and a firewall

2. Back up your computer often

3. Set up a popup blocker

4. Be cautious about clicking links inside emails or on suspicious websites

5. If you do receive a ransom note, disconnect from the Internet

6. Alert authorities

In December last year it was revealed about 90 per cent of NHS Trusts were still running Windows XP, two and a half years after Microsoft stopped supporting the system.

Citrix, an American software company, sent a Freedom of Information request to 63 NHS Trusts, 42 of which responded. It revealed that 24 Trusts were unsure when they would even upgrade, The Inquirer reported.

Windows XP was released more than 15 years ago and is now particularly vulnerable to viruses. Microsoft stopped providing virus warnings for the ageing Windows XP in 2015.

A number of UK hospitals continue to run the outdated software, including East Sussex, Sheffield’s Children’s hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.

Hours after news of the cyber attacks broke, a Microsoft spokesman revealed that customers who were running the company’s free antivirus software and who had enabled Windows updates were ‘protected’ from the attack.

It raises questions about why NHS computers using the operating system were not shielded from the ransomware.

The spokesman said: ‘Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt.

‘In March, we provided a security update which provides additional protections against this potential attack.

‘Those who are running our free antivirus software and have Windows updates enabled, are protected.

‘We are working with customers to provide additional assistance.’

One message circulated online claims the hackers demand 300 US dollars (£230) in the virtual currency bitcoins to relinquish control of their IT systems.

The pop-up contains a countdown clock with a deadline of next Friday. At least 10 payments of around USD$ 300 have been made to Bitcoin accounts that the hackers have asked to be paid on Friday.

But, although all Bitcoin transactions are public, we cannot see who made the payments so cannot know if they have been made by anyone in the NHS.

‘Non urgent’ appointments and operations were postponed across the UK and some hospitals diverted ambulances to neighbouring ones to ensure patient safety.

Computer systems were switched off or immobilised and key services including the bleeper system for doctors were also believed to be down.

In the minutes after the attack one doctor in the UK tweeted: ‘Massive NHS hack cyber attack today. Hospital in shut down. Thanks for delaying emergency patient care & endangering lives. A******s’.

NHS Digital, which is responsible for the health service’s cyber security, says computer systems are believed to have been hit by a ransomware cyber attack using malware called ‘Wanna Decryptor’.  Three hospitals in America were hit in the same way last year.

Ransomware: How do hackers take your data hostage?

Ransomware: How do hackers take your data hostage?

The National Cyber Security Centre is investigating and is working with Britain’s FBI – the National Crime Agency. 

GP surgeries hit in the attack say their phones went down and patients should avoid calling unless ‘absolutely necessary’ and doctors were back to using pen and paper in some areas.

Explaining the fallout, one doctor said in a message shared on Twitter: ‘So our hospital is down. We got a message saying your computers are now under their control and pay a certain amount of money. And now everything is gone.’

A screenshot obtained by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) purported to show the pop-up that appeared on at least one of the computers affected.

It said: ‘Your important files are encrypted. Maybe you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but do not waste your time.

‘Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service.’

It goes on to demand payment, otherwise the files will be deleted. It gives a deadline of next Friday afternoon, May 19, to pay.

The HSJ said services affected were thought include archiving systems for X-rays, pathology test results, phone and bleep systems, and patient admin systems.

OUR SCREENS WERE ‘WIPED OUT ONE BY ONE’

A shocked worker at Colchester General Hospital described how her office’s computers were ‘wiped out, one by one’.

She said: ‘My computer locked at about 3pm and I couldn’t get anything to work. Then my colleague sat next to me said her computer was down.

‘It swept through the office and everyone was effected and didn’t know what was going on. One by one the computers were wiped out.

‘Nothing was working and switching them off and on did not solve the problems.

The NHS has been hit by a major cyber attack and criminals have taken control of computers and cut off phone lines across England, leaving some departments working with pen and paper

The NHS has been hit by a major cyber attack and criminals have taken control of computers and cut off phone lines across England, leaving some departments working with pen and paper

‘Some of our colleagues from a neighbouring department came in and they’d been told to unplug their internet cables and await further instruction.’

The health worker said the effect of such a hack on modern hospitals would be catastrophic because ‘all the doctors’ notes’ are kept on the computers now.

‘They record their notes to a dictaphone during a consultation but that’s only so the the notes can be typed up and stored on the computer.

‘It’s very worrying that the impact has been so far-reaching in such a short space of time.’

A Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust spokesman, which runs Colchester General, confirmed patients are being warned to told to avoid A&E where possible.

According to a hospital official statement patients are being warned that all non-urgent activity is being postponed.

Hackers demand ransom money in major NHS cyber attack
East and North Herts NHS Trust issued this warning to patients on their website

East and North Herts NHS Trust issued this warning to patients on their website

Blackpool Victoria Hospital is one of many across the country hit - operations have been cancelled and ambulances diverted 

Blackpool Victoria Hospital is one of many across the country hit – operations have been cancelled and ambulances diverted

Ambulances outside the accident and emergency department (stock image)

Ambulances outside the accident and emergency department (stock image)

Fylde and Wyre NHS Trust and Blackpool Hospitals in Lancashire, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust have admitted having problems.

Fylde and Wyre NHS Trust and Blackpool Hospitals in Lancashire, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust have admitted having problems.

Barts NHS Trust in east London said they are treating it as a ‘major incident’ to ensure they can ‘maintain the safety and welfare of patients’.

A spokesman said: ‘We are experiencing a major IT disruption and there are delays at all of our hospitals.

‘Ambulances are being diverted to neighbouring hospitals. The problem is also affecting the switchboard at Newham hospital but direct line phones are working. All our staff are working hard to minimise the impact and we will post regular updates on the website’.

Fylde and Wyre NHS Trust and Blackpool Hospitals in Lancashire, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust have admitted having problems. Colchester University Hospitals Trust is also a victim as is neighbouring Chelmsford in Essex.

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust which runs York and Scarborough hospitals has confirmed its computers have been affected by the widespread attack.

They have urged people to be patient and avoid calling GP surgeries and hospitals unless ‘absolutely necessary’.

NHS Merseyside said: ‘Following a suspected national cyber attack we are taking all precautionary measures possible to protect our local NHS systems and services’.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4500738/NHS-hack-huge-global-cyber-attack.html#ixzz4gwZ7JYCh
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Trump Considering Ex-Congressman Mike Rogers for FBI Director

May 11, 2017
May 11, 2017, 10:06 AM EDT May 11, 2017, 11:09 AM EDT
  • Rogers is a former Intelligence Committee chair and FBI agent
  • Former representative from Michigan is among other candidates

President Donald Trump is considering Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman and FBI agent from Michigan, among candidates to replace James Comey as FBI director, a White House official said.

Image result for Mike Rogers, photos

Rogers, 53, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, retired from Congress in 2015 after seven terms to pursue a career in talk radio. He advised the Trump presidential transition team on national security issues but was asked to leave at about the same time New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was removed as head of the transition.

Trump fired Comey on Tuesday after what White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders described as months of rising frustration with the FBI director, dating back to Trump’s election. Comey was leading the FBI investigation of potential collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian government officials who sought to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Comey also publicly dismissed Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama spied on him.

The firing has plunged the Trump White House into another political crisis, as Democrats have roundly castigated the decision and some Republicans have expressed unease.

What Happens to Trump-Russia Probe After Comey: QuickTake Q&A

Rogers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

FBI Shock

Two days after Comey’s firing, there is still shock within the FBI, said a former senior agent with contacts within the bureau. Rank-and-file agents regard Trump’s decision on Comey’s replacement as a tipping point: will the FBI remain independent or become politicized under the new president, the former agent said.

Rogers is respected in foreign policy and intelligence communities and he would likely be well received by Republican leaders in Congress, but Democrats would likely regard him as too political a choice. FBI agents would also prefer a non-political leader, the former agent said.

Rogers is not the only candidate Trump is considering, but the official did not share other names. People floated as possible picks include Dana Boente, a U.S. attorney who briefly filled in as Attorney General after Trump fired Sally Yates in January; John Pistole, a former director of the Transportation Security Administration and a former FBI deputy director; former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; and Michael Mason, a senior vice president at Verizon Inc. and a former FBI executive assistant director.

The former agent said Pistole in particular would be popular within the FBI.

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, suggested on Twitter Thursday morning that Trump appoint U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to lead the FBI. Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court last year, but Senate Republicans refused to consider him.

Twenty Democratic state attorneys general meanwhile sent a letter to Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday calling on him to appoint a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the election. Rosenstein, who has been in office for about two weeks, wrote a letter recommending Comey’s dismissal — at Trump’s request — that the White House has used as justification for the firing.

“As prosecutors committed to the rule of law, we urge you to consider the damage to our democratic system of any attempts by the administration to derail and delegitimize the investigation,” the attorneys general wrote. They included New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-05-11/trump-said-to-consider-ex-congressman-rogers-for-fbi-director

Digital Clue Links North Korea to Theft at New York Fed

April 3, 2017

Kaspersky Lab says digital records show link to a computer with North Korean internet address

By ROBERT MCMILLAN
The Wall Street Journal
April 3, 2017 2:00 p.m. ET

.

A newly discovered digital clue links the hacking group blamed for a multimillion-dollar cyberattack on Bangladesh’s central bank to a computer in North Korea, according to the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab ZAO.

Kaspersky announced Monday at its security conference on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten that its researchers had obtained digital records showing a European server used by the group to launch its attacks…

Syria Gets 50,000 Tonnes of Russian Wheat in Aid, None From Commercial Deals

March 28, 2017

CAIRO/MOSCOW — Syria has received 50,000 tonnes of Russian wheat as humanitarian aid, Syrian and Russian government sources said on Tuesday.

The two cargoes arrived in March, they said.

However, no Russian wheat from the commercial deals signed with state grain buyer Hoboob have arrived yet, the Syrian government source said.

The Russian Agriculture Ministry declined to comment.

Russian government officials said in November their country plans to send around 100,000 tonnes of wheat as aid to Syria.

A deal struck in October for Syria to buy 1 million tonnes of Russian wheat with little known firm Zernomir is in jeopardy, according to Syrian and Russian government sources, after Hoboob failed to receive any grain from the deal.

Also no wheat has arrived under another deal struck with local Syrian wheat traders in February for 1.2 million tonnes of Russian wheat.

“We have received nothing from these two deals yet,” the Syrian government source said.

(Reporting by Maha El Dahan, Polina Devitt and Michael Hogan; Editing by Mark Potter, Greg Mahlich)

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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)

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