Posts Tagged ‘Russian government’

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

March 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

Yahoo Hacking Charges Cast New Light on Ties Between Russia’s FSB, Cybercriminals

March 16, 2017

U.S. indictments overlap with major cybercrime scandal that rocked Russian political establishment

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow. AFP photo

By Nathan Hodge
The Wall Street Journal
March 15, 2017 6:11 p.m. ET

MOSCOW — The U.S. government’s indictment of Russian government officials in connection with the hacking of Yahoo Inc. casts new light on the nexus between Russia’s intelligence services and the world of cybercriminals.

The Justice Department on Wednesday alleged two officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, recruited hackers to breach the Yahoo’s networks.

It isn’t the first time the U.S. government has accused Russia’s spies of tapping the expertise of hackers. U.S. intelligence agencies last year accused the Russian government of trying to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections by orchestrating the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee and other entities. The Russians have consistently denied any interference in U.S. domestic politics.

“Washington did not communicate with Moscow through the channels available to address issues related to cybersecurity in this case,” a Russian official said Wednesday following the Justice Department’s allegations. “This fact, as well as the lack of specifics in this case, suggest the next round of raising the theme of ‘Russian hackers’ in the domestic political squabbles in the U.S.”

The new U.S. indictments also appear to overlap with a major cybercrime scandal that has rocked the Russian political establishment.

Earlier this year, Russian news media were abuzz over the news of arrests tied to a high-profile treason case. Those arrested included at least two intelligence officials at the FSB and an employee at Kaspersky Lab, Russia’s most prominent cybersecurity firm. The Russian government provided little official confirmation, but investigative reports and Russian news media speculated the arrests were tied to a hacking collective named “Shaltai Boltai,” a shadowy group that earned notoriety in Russia by leaking the private correspondence of high-ranking government officials.

The FSB hasn’t spoken publicly about the treason case and couldn’t be reached about the charges announced Wednesday.

Much as WikiLeaks has become a headache for successive U.S. administrations, Shaltai Boltai revealed compromising information and hacked the accounts of prominent individuals, including the Twitter account of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

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Adding to the sensation of the case, two of the individuals named late last year in the arrests were Russian intelligence officers charged with battling cybercrime: They worked in the Information Security Center, the FSB’s cybersecurity wing. One of those two officers was Dmitry Dokuchaev, who was also charged in the U.S. government indictment Wednesday.

Mr. Dokuchaev couldn’t be reached for comment. He is believed to be in Russia.

Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia’s internet, said Mr. Dokuchaev, who went by the online alias Forb, according to Russian media, was recruited into the security services for his skills and contacts in the darker corners of the web.

“He had some knowledge about the digital underground, that’s something really important,” Mr. Soldatov said. “For the FSB, it was the perfect thing to try to get.”

Mark Galeotti, senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague, said Russian spy agencies had employed “a degree of outsourcing of capacity” for cyber operations, turning to groups that use hacking for criminal enterprises such as fraud and online scams.

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“The Americans outsource [cyber capabilities], but they tend not to go to criminals,” he said. “The Russians have a more pragmatic approach.”

Several countries caught up in confrontation with Russia have been on the receiving end of cyberattacks in recent years. Cyber attackers traced to Russia carried out attacks on Estonian websites in 2007, temporarily taking down much of the country’s online traffic. During a brief war between Russia and Georgia the following year, hackers traced to Russia attacked and defaced Georgian sites.

In recent years, however, Mr. Galeotti said Russian intelligence agencies have built up their own in-house cyberattack capabilities, recruiting hackers and putting them directly in government employ.

But when they need “surge capacity,” such as during the conflict with Ukraine, Mr. Galeotti added, “they have gone to the private sector — the criminal private sector.”

Write to Nathan Hodge at nathan.hodge@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/yahoo-hacking-charges-cast-new-light-on-ties-between-russias-fsb-cybercriminals-1489615891

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 (Contains links to several other related articles)

Yahoo cyber indictment shows Kremlin, hackers working hand-in-hand

March 16, 2017

Reuters

Thu Mar 16, 2017 | 12:11am EDT

The John Sopinka Courthouse, where Karim Baratov appeared in front of a judge, in connection with a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the 2014 hacking of Yahoo, is pictured in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada March 15, 2017 . REUTERS/Peter Power
By Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay | WASHINGTON

Wednesday’s indictments in the United States of four people in a 2014 cyber attack on Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) provides the clearest details yet on what some U.S. officials say is a symbiotic relationship between Moscow’s security services and private Russian hackers.

The indictment charges two officers of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service, and two hackers who allegedly worked hand-in-hand with them to crack 500 million Yahoo user accounts.

U.S. authorities and cyber security specialists have long said the Kremlin employs criminal hackers for its geostrategic purposes. They say the arrangement offers deniability to Moscow and freedom from legal troubles for the hackers.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said employing criminal hackers helps “complement Kremlin intentions and provide plausible deniability for the Russian state.”

The FSB in Moscow did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Wednesday evening.

The United States sometimes engages with criminal hackers as well, buying tools from them or recruiting them to help find other criminal hackers, cyber security professionals and government officials say.

Milan Patel, a former FBI cyber agent and now managing director for cyber defense at K2 Intelligence, said the intermingling of espionage and cyber crime in Russia had led the United States and its allies to be far more wary about alerting Moscow to criminal hackers.

“Magically those guys would disappear off the battlefield and most likely end up working for the Russian government,” Patel said of the names shared by Washington.

The Russian government had no official comment on the charges in the Yahoo case.

Russian news accounts stressed that one of the FSB agents, Dmitry Dokuchaev, was arrested by Russian authorities in December and charged with treason.

The indictment charges Dokuchaev with having acted as a handler for a hacker named Karim Baratov, directing him to use the Yahoo data to crack emails on other systems and paying him a bounty when he succeeded.

Baratov is in custody in Canada, according to the Toronto police, while Dokuchaev remains in Russia.

The charges coincide with mounting tensions between U.S. intelligence agencies and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, which they accused of hacking the 2016 U.S. presidential election to influence the vote in favor of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

In addition, congressional committees are investigating possible links between Russian figures and associates of President Trump.

Senator John Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement the indictments showed “the close and mutually beneficial ties between the cyber underworld and Russia’s government and security services.”

He said the case “underscores the complexity and the urgency” of the committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

James Lewis, a former State Department official and now a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said there were three rules for cooperation between the Russian government and criminal hackers.

Private hackers know to avoid attacking Russian-language sites and to share their profits with authorities, he said. “Rule Number Three (is), if we ask you to do us a favor, do it.”

(Reporting by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Jonathan Weber, Grant McCool and Paul Tait)

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Edward Snowden

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Julian Assage

Rigged Debates: Wikileaks Emails Confirm Media in Clinton’s Pocket

Donald Trump Jr. Was Likely Paid at Least $50,000 for Event Held by Hosts Allied With Russia on Syria

March 3, 2017

October appearance by son of then-candidate is one of string of contacts between members of the president’s inner circle and individuals connected to Moscow

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and suit

Then-candidate Donald Trump listens as his son Donald Trump Jr. addresses a campaign rally in New Orleans.

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March 2, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s eldest son was likely paid at least $50,000 for an appearance late last year before a French think tank whose founder and wife are allies of the Russian government in efforts to end the war in Syria.

Donald Trump Jr. addressed a dinner on Oct. 11 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, hosted by the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs. Its president, Fabien Baussart, and his Syrian-born wife, Randa Kassis, have cooperated with Russia in its drive to end the Syrian civil war, according to U.S., European and Arab officials. In December, Baussart formally nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kassis is a leader of a political faction endorsed by Russia in negotiations to end the war in Syria. The couple said they don’t represent Russia and are solely focused on ending the Syrian conflict.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and suit

The meeting in October represents one in a string of contacts over the past year between members of the president’s inner circle and individuals connected to Moscow and to Russian interests. The Wall Street Journal in November reported Donald Trump Jr.’s appearance at the event.

A U.S. counterintelligence investigation has examined contacts with Russia involving several associates of President Trump, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to people familiar with the matter. The outcome of the Sessions inquiry, and whether it is ongoing, is unclear. There has been no indication that the president’s son is under similar scrutiny.

The existence of a financial connection between the younger Trump and an entity associated with the Kremlin adds to questions involving Mr. Trump’s administration and Russia, following a campaign in which he was loath to criticize Russia’s leader and repeatedly called for better ties to Moscow.

Donald Trump Jr. serves as the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, a real-estate company founded by his father, and was a top official in his father’s presidential campaign.

The younger Trump was likely paid at least $50,000 for his Paris appearance by the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs. The Trump Organization didn’t dispute that amount when asked about it by The Wall Street Journal.

“Donald Trump Jr. has been participating in business-related speaking engagements for over a decade—discussing a range of topics including sharing his entrepreneurial experiences and offering career specific advice,” said Amanda Miller, the company’s vice president for marketing.

A talent booking agency, called All American Speakers, lists Donald Trump Jr. on its website as a client who commands a minimum of $50,000 per appearance. People who have participated in events at the French think tank say it often pays speakers 20% to 30% above their going rate.

At a different event in October, the Center hosted James Rubin, a former State Department spokesman who served in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. He was paid nearly $40,000 to attend, according to people briefed on the event.

Mrs. Kassis heads a political party, the Movement for a Pluralistic Society, which is part of a faction endorsed by Russia in international negotiations aimed at ending the six-year Syrian conflict. She regularly visits Moscow to coordinate policy with Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said Arab and European officials.

In interviews, Mrs. Kassis said she stressed to Donald Trump Jr. in October the need for the U.S. and Russia to cooperate in ending the Syrian conflict. She said she passed on Mr. Trump’s views to Russian diplomats in subsequent trips she’s made to Moscow.

Mr. Baussart said his focus has been on finding a Syria solution in which Russia and the U.S. have key roles.

Mr. Baussart told Russian state media that Mr. Putin should be recognized for his efforts to end the Syrian civil war and combat international terrorism. The Obama administration, in contrast, accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria.

“I believe that President Putin has deserved it,” Mr. Baussart told RIA Novosti, referring to the Nobel Peace Prize. “He is the only one who is truly fighting terrorism.”

The couple said they believe an end to the Syrian conflict can only be achieved through a political agreement between Washington and Moscow. “There’s never going to be peace in Syria if Russia and the U.S. don’t cut a broader deal,” Mr. Baussart said in Paris.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com and Benoit Faucon at benoit.faucon@wsj.com

Source: http://us.pressfrom.com/news/politics/-29930-donald-trump-jr-was-likely-paid-at-least-50-000-for-event-held-by-hosts-allied-with-russia-on-syria/

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-jr-was-likely-paid-at-least-50-000-for-event-held-by-hosts-allied-with-russia-on-syria-1488473640

Sessions met with Russian envoy twice, contacts he did not disclose during hearing

March 2, 2017

Sessions met with Russian envoy twice, encounters he did not disclose in confirmation hearings

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The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new calls for a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Jeff Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde, Sarah Parnass/Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
March 1 at 9:35 PM
The Washington Post

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.

When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.

Sessions spoke twice with Russian ambassador during Trump’s presidential campaign

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Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice in 2016 with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, but did not mention this during his confirmation hearing to become U.S. attorney general. Sessions was asked about possible contacts between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen.  Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak.

“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions’s spokeswoman.

In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote.

Sessions ‘unable to comment’ on Trump intelligence briefing reports

 <iframe width=’480′ height=’290′ scrolling=’no’ src=’//www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/b91d3ec0-d78d-11e6-a0e6-d502d6751bc8′ frameborder=’0′ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen>
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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questioned attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) about news that intelligence officials briefed President-elect Trump on unconfirmed reports that Russia has compromising information on Trump. (Senate Judiciary Committee)

Sessions responded with one word: “No.”

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Sessions said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

Justice officials said Sessions met with Kislyak on Sept. 8 in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel rather than in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.

“He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee,” Flores said.

She added that Sessions last year had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian and German ambassadors, in addition to Kislyak.

In the case of the September meeting, one department official who came to the defense of the attorney general said, “There’s just not strong recollection of what was said.”

The Russian ambassador did not respond to requests for comment about his contacts with Sessions.

The Washington Post contacted all 26 members of the 2016 Senate Armed Services Committee to see whether any lawmakers besides Sessions met with Kislyak in 2016. Of the 20 lawmakers who responded, every senator, including Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), said they did not meet with the Russian ambassador last year. The other lawmakers on the panel did not respond as of Wednesday evening.

“Members of the committee have not been beating a path to Kislyak’s door,” a senior Senate Armed Services Committee staffer said, citing tensions in relations with Moscow. Besides Sessions, the staffer added, “There haven’t been a ton of members who are looking to meet with Kislyak for their committee duties.”

Last month, The Post reported that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Kislyak during the month before Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, and other top Trump officials. Flynn was forced to resign the following week.

When asked to comment on Sessions’s contacts with Kislyak, Franken said in a statement to The Post on Wednesday: “If it’s true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading.”

Franken added: “It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”

Several Democratic members of the House on Wednesday night called on Sessions to resign from his post.

“After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement, adding that “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter late Wednesday that “we need a special counsel to investigate Trump associates’ ties to Russia.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said at a CNN town hall Wednesday night that if the substance of Sessions’s conversations with the Russian ambassador proved to be improper or suspect, he too would join the call for Sessions to go.

“If there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make that decision about Trump,” Graham said – although he stressed he Sessions’s contacts with the Russian ambassador could have been “innocent.”

“But if there’s something there that the FBI thinks is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor. If that day ever comes, I’ll be the first one to say it needs to be somebody other than Jeff.”

Current and former U.S. officials say they see Kislyak as a diplomat, not an intelligence operative. But they were not sure to what extent, if any, Kislyak was aware of or involved in the covert Russian election campaign.

Steven Hall, former head of Russia operations at the CIA, said that Russia would have been keenly interested in cultivating a relationship with Sessions because of his role on key congressional committees and as an early adviser to Trump.

Sessions’s membership on the Armed Services Committee would have made him a priority for the Russian ambassador. “The fact that he had already placed himself at least ideologically behind Trump would have been an added bonus for Kislyak,” Hall said.

Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor who until 2014 served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, said he was not surprised that Kislyak would seek a meeting with Sessions. “The weird part is to conceal it,” he said. “That was at the height of all the discussions of what Russia was doing during the election.”

Two months before the September meeting, Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention that was attended by about 50 ambassadors. When the event was over, a small group of ambassadors approached Sessions as he was leaving the podium, and Kislyak was among them, the Justice Department official said.

Sessions then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak, the official said. In the informal exchanges, the ambassadors expressed appreciation for his remarks and some of them invited him to events they were sponsoring, said the official, citing a former Sessions staffer who was at the event.

Democratic lawmakers, including senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have demanded in recent weeks that Sessions recuse himself from the government’s inquiry into possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.

Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, became one of the few Republican representatives to state publicly the need for an independent investigation.

Sessions’s public position on Russia has evolved over time.

In an interview with RealClear World on the sidelines of the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum in March 2015, Sessions said the United States and Europe “have to unify” against Russia.

More than a year later, he spoke about fostering a stronger relationship with the Kremlin. In a July 2016interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sessions praised Trump’s plan to build better relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that’s putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities,” Sessions told CNN.

Asked whether he viewed Putin as a good or bad leader, Sessions told CNN: “We have a lot of bad leaders around the world that operate in ways we would never tolerate in the United States. But the question is, can we have a more peaceful, effective relationship with Russia? Utilizing interests that are similar in a realistic way to make this world a safer place and get off this dangerous hostility with Russia? I think it’s possible.”

Julie Tate, Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-spoke-twice-with-russian-ambassador-during-trumps-presidential-campaign-justice-officials-say/2017/03/01/77205eda-feac-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.ae8450084812

Related:

Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns — “I can’t recall ever seeing this level of friction. And that is just not good for the country.”

February 16, 2017

Decision to withhold information underscores deep mistrust between intelligence community and president

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Donald Trump. Getty Images

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Updated Feb. 16, 2017 12:33 a.m. ET

U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.

The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government,…

The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward US spy agencies.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him.

In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.

A White House official said: “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.”

Intelligence officials have in the past not told a president or members of Congress about the ins and outs of how they ply their trade. At times, they have decided that secrecy is essential for protecting a source, and that all a president needs to know is what that source revealed and what the intelligence community thinks is important about it.

But in these previous cases in which information was withheld, the decision wasn’t motivated by a concern about a president’s trustworthiness or discretion, the current and former officials said.

It wasn’t clear Wednesday how many times officials have held back information from Mr Trump.

The officials emphasised that they know of no instance in which crucial information about security threats or potential plotting has been omitted. Still, the misgivings that have emerged among intelligence officials point to the fissures spreading between the White House and the US spy agencies.

Mr Trump, a Republican, asked on Monday night for the resignation of Mike Flynn, his national security adviser, after the White House said the president lost trust in him, in part, because he misstated the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Last night, Mr Trump castigated the intelligence agencies and the news media, blaming them for Mr Flynn’s downfall.

The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by “intelligence” like candy. Very un-American!

“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” Mr Trump tweeted.

Mr Trump doesn’t immerse himself in intelligence information, and it isn’t clear that he has expressed a desire to know sources and methods. The intelligence agencies have been told to dramatically pare down the president’s daily intelligence briefing, both the number of topics and how much information is described under each topic, an official said. Compared with his immediate predecessors, Mr Trump so far has chosen to rely less on the daily briefing than they did.

The current and former officials said the decision to avoid revealing sources and methods with Mr Trump stems in large part from the president’s repeated expressions of admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his call, during the presidential campaign for Russia to continue hacking the emails of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia stole and leaked emails from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign to undermine the election process and try to boost Mr Trump’s chances of winning, an allegation denied by Russian officials.

Several of Mr Trump’s current and former advisers are under investigation for the nature of their ties to Moscow, according to people familiar with the matter. After Mr Flynn’s dismissal, politicians have called on the government to release the transcripts of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and to disclose whether Mr Trump was aware of or directed Mr Flynn’s conversations.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he has heard concerns from officials about sharing especially sensitive information with Mr Trump.

“I’ve talked with people in the intelligence community that do have concerns about the White House, about the president, and I think those concerns take a number of forms,” Mr Schiff said, without confirming any specific incidents. “What the intelligence community considers their most sacred obligation is to protect the very best intelligence and to protect the people that are producing it.”

“I’m sure there are people in the community who feel they don’t know where he’s coming from on Russia,” Mr Schiff said.

Tensions between the spy agencies and Mr Trump were pronounced even before he took office, after he publicly accused the Central Intelligence Agency and others of leaking information about alleged Russian hacking operations to undermine the legitimacy of his election win. In a meandering speech in front of a revered CIA memorial the day after his inauguration, Mr Trump boasted about the size of his inaugural crowd and accused the media of inventing a conflict between him and the agencies.

In a news conference today with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Mr Trump again lashed out at the media and intelligence officials, whom he accused of “criminal” leaks about Mr Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador last December.

Mr Trump didn’t explain Wednesday why he asked for Mr Flynn’s resignation. Instead, he suggested the leaks and the media were to blame for his ouster.

“General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media,” Mr Trump said. “And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”

“I think in addition to that from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked,” Mr Trump said. “It’s criminal action. It’s a criminal act and it’s been going on for a long time before me but now it’s really going on.”

Reviving his line of criticism against intelligence officials during the transition, Mr Trump said the “illegally leaked” information was from people with political motivations. “People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton,” Mr Trump said.

A person close to Mr Trump said he was reluctant to let go of Mr Flynn because Mr Flynn had vigorously supported him at a stage of his presidential campaign when few people did. Mr Trump also felt Mr Flynn did nothing wrong in his conversations with the US ambassador to Russia and had good intentions.

“They both continue to support each other,” this person said.

For intelligence veterans, who had hoped that Mr Trump’s feud with the agencies might have subsided, Wednesday’s comments renewed and deepened concerns.

“This is not about who won the election. This is about concerns about institutional integrity,” said Mark Lowenthal, a former senior intelligence official.

“It’s probably unprecedented to have this difficult a relationship between a president and the intelligence agencies,” Mr Lowenthal said. “I can’t recall ever seeing this level of friction. And it’s just not good for the country.”

Several congressional probes are examining Russia’s alleged meddling in the election. On Wednesday, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee requested a Justice Department briefing and documents related to Mr Flynn’s resignation, including details of his communications with Russian officials.

Carol E Lee and Damian Paletta contributed to this article

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Donald Trump Blasts Media and Intelligence Agencies — NYT: Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

February 15, 2017

Tweets come in wake of adviser’s resignation and reports on probes of Russian communications

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The resignation of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn is raising new questions, after it emerged that the Trump administration was aware last month that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions. Photo: Getty Images

Updated Feb. 15, 2017 9:47 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump leveled a fresh wave of Twitter attacks on the intelligence community and the news media Wednesday morning after a tumultuous few days that included the departure of his national security adviser and reports about U.S. investigations into his team’s communications with Russian authorities.

Mr. Trump, in his tweets, accused intelligence agencies of “illegally” leaking information “just like Russia”…

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Russian newspaper tells women beaten by their husbands to ‘be proud of their bruises’ after Putin decriminalises domestic abuse

February 9, 2017

  • Column in Komsomolskaya Pravda said women have ‘grounds to be proud’
  • It cites research which found female victims are more likely to give birth to boys
  • This week Vladimir Putin signed controversial domestic violence law
  • It was branded ‘retrograde’ by British Prime Minister Theresa May 

A Russian newspaper has claimed victims of domestic abuse should be ‘proud of their bruises’.

A column in Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the country’s most popular papers, has said that women should ‘find solace’ in the fact that women who suffer domestic violence are more likely to give birth to boys.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Tuesday which decriminalises domestic violence, sparking allegations his government is ‘trivialising’ the problem.

Victims of domestic violence are more likely to give birth to boys, a Russian newspaper has stated

Victims of domestic violence are more likely to give birth to boys, a Russian newspaper has stated

The article, by writer Yaroslav Korobatov, stated: ‘For years, women who have been smacked around by their husbands have found solace in the rather hypocritical proverb, “If he beats you, it means he loves you!”

‘However, a new scientific study is giving women with irascible husbands new grounds to be proud of their bruises, insofar as women who are beaten, biologists confirm, have a valuable advantage – they’re more likely to give birth to boys!’

He cites research by controversial evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, who in 2005 published an article called ‘Violent men have more sons’.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law on Tuesday, prompting widespread criticism

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law on Tuesday, prompting widespread criticism

The new Russian law reduces battery of a relative to a civil offence instead of a criminal one in first instances, when the victim suffered no serious harm.

British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday hit out at the new legislation, telling Parliament: ‘We see this as a retrograde step by the Russian government. Repealing existing legislation sends out absolutely the wrong message on what is a global problem.’

And human rights group Amnesty International described the move as a ‘sickening attempt to trivialise domestic violence’.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the legislation sent out the 'wrong message' on a global problem

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the legislation sent out the ‘wrong message’ on a global problem

Those who support new legislation, including members of Putin’s United Russia party, say they want to protect parents’ right to discipline their children and to reduce the state’s ability to meddle in family life.

They say anyone who inflicts serious physical harm will still be criminally liable.

But critics say the move is a step backwards which will exonerate ‘tyrants in the home’ and discourage victims from reporting abuse.

Each year, about 14,000 women die in Russia at the hands of husbands or other relatives, according to a 2010 United Nations report.

In a statement on its website, the Kremlin said Putin had signed the law after it was approved by both chambers in Russia’s parliament.

The State Duma, or lower house of parliament, passed the bill in January in its second of three readings by 385 votes to two.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4206926/Russian-newspaper-tells-women-proud-bruises.html#ixzz4YCW5FRqN
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