U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

March 25 at 6:48 PM
The U.S. government has not figured out how to deter the Russians from meddling in democratic processes, and stopping their interference in elections, both here and in Europe, is a pressing problem, the top civilian leader of the National Security Agency said.The NSA was among the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ordered a cyber-enabled influence campaign in 2016 aimed at undermining confidence in the election, harming Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helping elect GOP nominee Donald Trump.“This is a challenge to the foundations of our democracy,” said NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett, 58, who is retiring at the end of April, in an interview at Fort Meade, Md., the agency’s headquarters. “It’s the sanctity of our process, of evaluating and looking at candidates, and having accurate information about the candidates. So the idea that another nation-state is [interfering with that] is a pretty big deal and something we need to figure out. How do we counter that? How do we identify that it’s happening — in real-time as opposed to after the fact? And what do we do as a nation to make it stop?”The lack of answers, he said, “as an American citizen . . . gives me a lot of heartburn.”

Ledgett, known as a straight-shooting, unflappable intelligence professional, began his NSA career in 1988 teaching cryptanalysis — how to crack codes — and rose to become the agency’s top civilian leader . The NSA, with 35,000 civilian and military employees, gathers intelligence on foreign targets overseas through wiretaps and increasingly by cyberhacking. Its other mission is to secure the government computers that handle classified information and other data critical to military and intelligence activities.

Asked whether the NSA had any inkling that the Kremlin was going to orchestrate the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails last July, he demurred. “I actually don’t want to talk about that.”

At the same time, he said, what Moscow did was “no strategic surprise.” Rather, “what may have been a tactical surprise was that they would do it the way they did.”

Campaigns of propaganda and disinformation, dating back to the Soviet Union, have long been a staple of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Now, however, it is making effective use of its hacking prowess to weaponize information and combine it with its influence operations, or what intelligence officials call “active measures.”

“In general, if you’re responding to nation-state actions like that, you have to find out what are the levers that will move the nation-state actors and are you able and willing to pull those levers?” said Ledgett when asked how the United States should respond.

The Obama administration slapped economic sanctions on two Russian spy agencies involved in hacking the DNC, three companies believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration also ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

Yet, intelligence officials including NSA Director Michael S. Rogers and FBI Director James B. Comey said on Monday that they believe Moscow will strike again — in 2020, if not in 2018.

So should the government mull other options, such as hacking Russian officials’ emails or financial records and releasing them in a bid to embarrass or show corruption? “I think every element of national power is something we should consider,” he said. “That would probably fall under something like a covert action. But if that’s the right answer, that’s the right answer.”

Ledgett is probably most well-known for leading the agency task force that handled the fallout from the leaks of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. The disclosures prompted a national and global debate about the proper scope of government surveillance and led Congress to pass some reforms, including the outlawing of bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata.

But the disclosures also caused great upheaval in NSA’s collection efforts, hurt morale, and damaged relations with allies and with tech firms that enable court-ordered surveillance, Ledgett said. “It was a terrible time for the agency,” he said.

He oversaw the probe of the internal breach; relations with Congress, the White House, foreign governments and the press; and the effort to prevent a recurrence. “There was a bit of a narrative on the outside about this evil agency that hoovered up all the communications in the world and rooted through them for things that were interesting, and that wasn’t actually true.”

The operational hit was significant, he said. More than 1,000 foreign targets — whether a person or a group or an organization — altered or attempted to alter their means of communications as a result of the disclosures, he said. They “tried with varying degrees of success to remove themselves from our ability to see what they were doing,” he said.

The agency, which has some 200 stations worldwide, reworked capabilities including virtually all of its hacking tools. “In some cases, we had to do things very differently” to gather the same foreign intelligence as before.

Raj De, a former NSA general counsel, said Ledgett was relied on heavily by both Rogers and Rogers’s predecessor, Keith B. Alexander. “He has really been a source of steadiness for the agency,” said De, now head of the Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice at Mayer Brown, a global law firm. “What is particularly notable about Rick is his willingness to engage with all types of people, to keep an open mind.”

In December 2013, Alexander, when he was the NSA director, said that Snowden should be given no amnesty. But Ledgett told CBS’s “60 Minutes” then that “my personal view is yes, it’s worth having a conversation about.”

In his interview earlier this week, however, he said what he meant was that by engaging Snowden in conversation, the agency might have been able to learn what material had not been released and where it was.

Today, he said, there is no longer any need to talk to Snowden. “He’s past his usefulness to us.” Snowden, who is living in Moscow under a grant of asylum, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act, and Ledgett said he should not be pardoned. “I’ve always been of the idea that ‘Hey, I think he needs to face the music for what he did.’ ”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Schiff: ‘More Than Circumstantial Evidence’ Trump Associates Colluded With Russia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

MAR 22 2017, 10:20 PM ET

Schiff: ‘More Than Circumstantial Evidence’ Trump Associates Colluded With Russia

WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee claimed Wednesday evening that he has seen “more than circumstantial evidence” that associates of President Donald Trump colluded with Russia while the Kremlin attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the Ranking Member on the committee, was asked by Chuck Todd on “Meet The Press Daily” whether or not he only has a circumstantial case.

“Actually no, Chuck,” he said. “I can tell you that the case is more than that and I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now.”

Play
House Intel Cmte. Creates Confusion As Chairman Releases Trump Details 1:59

Questioned whether or not he has seen direct evidence of collusion, Schiff responded, “I don’t want to get into specifics but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of an investigation.”

That is a shift from Sunday’s “Meet the Press” interview, when Schiff only went as far as to say that there was circumstantial evidence of collusion and “direct evidence” of deception.

.@RepAdamSchiff on Trump/Russia connection: “There is more than circumstantial evidence now…and is very much worthy of investigation.”

The Trump campaign and the White House have repeatedly denied that Trump’s associates were at all connected to any activities related to Russia’s attempts to influence the last election.

Schiff’s comments came after Republican committee chair Devin Nunes said that he had seen reports from the U.S. intelligence community showing communication from members of the transition team — and possibly the president himself — were “incidentally collected” as part of a broader surveillance effort.

Nunes said it appeared most of the information was collected after the election and during the transition, it appears it was collected legally, and none of it was related to Russia or the investigation into Russia. He said he did not know who ordered the alleged surveillance.

The disclosure drew condemnation from some Democrats. Schiff bristled at the fact that Nunes did not share the information with him before updating reporters and the White House.

“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct, which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he’s going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both,” Schiff said.

Play
Full Interview: Schiff on His Confidence in House Intel Committee 8:40

Nunes said at a press conference that “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about American citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

“From what I know right now it looks like incidental collection, we don’t know exactly how that was picked up, but we’re are trying to get to the bottom of it,” Nunes said.

Trump said he felt somewhat vindicated by Nunes’ disclosure: “I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found,” the president said.

Nunes said he has not seen any evidence that former President Barack Obama had Trump’s “wires tapped” before the election — a claim Trump made on Twitter. The director of the FBI said Monday he has no evidence backing up the tweeted claim.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said he was “absolutely mystified by Chairman Nunes’ actions,” and the decision to brief Trump on the information “seems pretty inappropriate to me.”

Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren that the back-and-forth among the top members of the committee was “bizarre” and he said partisan fighting had cost Congress its credibility to investigate Russian interference the election.

“No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone, and I don’t say that lightly,” McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.

Play
McCain: Select Committee On Russia Now A ‘Requirement’10:36

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia had been ongoing since July. Comey said the probe was included in the agency’s investigation into what the U.S. intelligence community concluded was an attempt by Russia to interfere with the 2016 election with the purpose of helping Trump win.

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are conducting their own investigations.

Two weeks ago on “Meet The Press,” James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence under President Obama, said that to his knowledge, there was no evidence of collusion between Moscow and Trump associates. Clapper oversaw the work of U.S. intelligence agencies through January 20th.

On Wednesday, Schiff told Todd of Clapper’s statements, “All I can tell you is reviewing the evidence that I have, I don’t think you can conclude that at all — far from it.”

Trump The Moron At It Again: Saying Obama Got The British Intelligence Agency To Spy On Him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

White House Seeks to Allay British Concerns Over Unfounded Wiretapping Claim

11:43 AM ET
White House officials tried to calm the concerns of British allies after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated an unfounded claim that the British spy service spied on President Trump. But the White House is stopping short of saying it offered an apology to its closest foreign ally.

“[British Ambassador to the U.S.] Kim Darroch and [National Security Advisor] Sir Mark Lyall expressed their concerns to Sean Spicer and General McMaster,” a White House official said Friday. “Mr. Spicer and General McMaster explained that Mr. Spicer was simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story.”

Several British outlets reported Friday that the White House apologized to the U.K. government, but the White House would not confirm those accounts.

The row began Thursday, as Spicer repeated the claim of Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano, who suggested that former President Obama had ordered GCHQ, the U.K.’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, to spy on his successor. For nearly two weeks the White House has been struggling to justify Trump’s assertion in a March 4 tweet that Obama had him “wire tapped.”

On Thursday, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee jointly stated they’ve seen no evidence of any surveillance of Trump Tower. Even Trump allies in Congress are staying away from the claim, though Trump maintained Wednesday in an interview with Fox News that he would be vindicated by new information “very soon.” The White House has argued that Trump’s use of quotation marks around the phrase wires tapped implied he meant all manners of surveillance against him, but hasn’t offered any official proof of the claim, beyond reports in the press.

Reading a long list of media reports that mentioned alleged signals intelligence about Trump and his ties to Russia, Spicer quoted comments.

“Last, on Fox News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement,” Spicer said during the daily White House briefing. “‘Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI, and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ, what is that? It’s the initials for the British Intelligence Spying Agency. So simply, by having two people saying to them, “The President needs transcripts of conversations involved in candidate Trump’s conversations involving President-elect Trump,” he was able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this.'”

Within hours GCHQ responded in a rare statement calling the claim “utterly ridiculous.

“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense,” a GCHQ spokesperson said. “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

Asked by a reporter whether the subject of GCHQ’s alleged involvement had raised between the two governments and whether it would affect the so-called “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K., Spicer backtracked.

“No, no, it has not been raised,” Spicer said. “But I do think that, again, we’re not — all we’re doing is literally reading off what other stations and people have reported, and I think that casts into concern some of the activities that may have occurred during the ’16 election. We’re not casting judgment on that. I think the idea is to say that if these organizations, these individuals came to these conclusions, they merit looking into.”

The claim is all the more incendiary given the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the two countries. The U.S. and the U.K., along with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, form the Five Eyes — a decades-old intelligence cooperative in which the countries share much of their signals intelligence and pledge not to spy on each another.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May told The Independent that the White House would not float the claims again. “We’ve made clear to the Administration that these claims are ridiculous and they should be ignored and we’ve received assurances they won’t be repeated.”

President Trump Seeking To Slash NOAA Budget By 17-22% Putting Many American Lives At Risk

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Trump administration is seeking to slash the budget of one of the government’s premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas.

NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, which would be hit by an overall 18 percent budget reduction from its current funding level.

The Office of Management and Budget also asked the Commerce Department to provide information about how much it would cost to lay off employees, while saying those employees who do remain with the department should get a 1.9 percent pay increase in January 2018. It requested estimates for terminating leases and government “property disposal.”

The OMB outline for the Commerce Department for fiscal 2018 proposed sharp reductions in specific areas within NOAA such as spending on education, grants and research. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service would be fortunate by comparison, facing only 5 percent cuts.

The figures are part of the OMB’s “passback” document, a key part of the annual budget process in which the White House instructs agencies to draw up detailed budgets for submission to Congress. The numbers often change during the course of negotiations between the agency and the White House and between lawmakers and the administration later on. The 2018 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

A spokesperson for the Commerce Department declined to comment. A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the process was “evolving” and cautioned against specific numbers. The official would not respond to questions about the four-page passback document.

The biggest single cut proposed by the passback document comes from NOAA’s satellite division, known as the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which includes a key repository of climate and environmental information, the National Centers for Environmental Information. Researchers there were behind a study suggesting that there has been no recent slowdown in the rate of climate change — research that drew the ire of Republicans in Congress.

Another proposed cut would eliminate a $73 million program called Sea Grant, which supports coastal research conducted through 33 university programs across the country. That includes institutions in many swing states that went for President Trump, such as the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, the University of Florida and North Carolina State University.

The OMB passback said that the administration wanted to “prioritize rebuilding the military” and would seek “savings and efficiencies to keep the Nation on a responsible fiscal path.” It said that its proposed funding cut for the Commerce Department “highlights the tradeoffs and choices inherent in pursuing these goals.”

The OMB also said that the White House would come up with ideas to modernize “outdated infrastructure,” but it said that agencies should not expect increases in their fiscal 2018 discretionary-spending “toplines” as a result.

On Wednesday, after his confirmation, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that drawing up a budget would be a top priority. “One of the first steps,” he said, “will be securing adequate appropriations from the Congress. In a period of budgetary constraint, that will be a major challenge.”

The OMB passback document said that the Commerce Department, like other agencies, should “buy and manage like a business.” It urged the department to explore greater use of privately owned commercial satellites and commercial cloud services while submitting to the OMB a plan to retire or replace “at least one high priority legacy IT system” beginning in 2018.

Many scientists warned that the deep cuts at NOAA could hurt safety as well as academic programs.

Conrad Lautenbacher, a retired vice admiral who was the NOAA administrator under President George W. Bush, said, “I think the cuts are ill timed given the needs of society, economy and the military.” He added, “It will be very hard for NOAA to manage and maintain the kind of services the country requires” with the proposed cuts.

Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator under President Barack Obama, said that 90 percent of the information for weather forecasts comes from satellites. “Cutting NOAA’s satellite budget will compromise NOAA’s mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather and providing forecasts that allow businesses and citizens to make smart plans,” she said.

Rick Spinrad, a former chief scientist for NOAA, said: “NOAA’s research and operations, including satellite data management, support critical safety needs. A reduced investment now would virtually guarantee jeopardizing the safety of the American public.”

Time-lapse images show Tropical Storm Matthew turning into a hurricane

Embed Share

Play Video0:36
NOAA released a time lapse of satellite imagery from Sept. 27 to Sept. 30 that shows Tropical Storm Matthew moving into the Caribbean Sea, where it became a hurricane. (NOAA)

He said that weather warnings for tornadoes and hurricanes could be compromised and that navigational capacity used to help guide commercial ships and other mariners would suffer, leaving them without the “improved forecasts they need to safely maneuver coastal waters.” It could become harder to warn of tsunamis and forecast weather that will cause power outages.

David Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University who served as NOAA’s chief operating officer in the Obama administration, said that “oddly” the White House budget office, despite the president’s commitment to building infrastructure, would cut NOAA’s budget for ships and satellites. “These cuts will impact good private-sector jobs in the U.S.,” Titley said. “The loss of capability will make America weaker both in space and on the sea — a strange place to be for an administration that campaigned to ‘make America great again.’ ”

Chris Mooney and Abby Phillip contributed to this report.

Trump Accuses Obama Of “Nixon/Watergate” Type “Bugging” Of Trump Tower Phones

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.

Citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of five tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”

Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities.

A spokesman for Obama did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency. He has ordered internal inquiries to find who leaked sensitive information regarding communications during the campaign between Russian officials and his campaign associates and allies, including ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

What is next for Trump and the intelligence community?

Washington Post reporter Adam Entous breaks down Friday’s intelligence report on Russian involvement in the 2016 election. (Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)

Some current and former intelligence officials cast doubt on Trump’s assertion.

“It’s highly unlikely there was a wiretap on the president-elect,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity. “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power.”

A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility, the official said, without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power — or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can’t just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.

Trump sent the tweets from Palm Beach, Fla., where he is vacationing this weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago estate. It has long been his practice to stir up new controversies to deflect attention from a damaging news cycle, such as the one in recent days about Sessions and Russia.

Trump’s tweets took numerous top White House aides by surprise, according to a second White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly. There was an expectation that Saturday would be a “down day, pretty quiet,” this official said, and there was little if any attempt to coordinate the president’s message on the wire-tapping allegations.

Republican Congressman Defends His Comments About Democratic Congresswomen Wearing White Outfits

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer defended his comment Wednesday that the Democratic women who wore white to President Donald Trump’s joint address were “poorly” dressed, telling CNN that they looked “silly” and that he didn’t buy their argument that it was done in honor of the suffrage movement.

The at-large congressman from North Dakota also reiterated that he hasn’t ruled out a Senate bid next year for the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, and he said Trump has already pledged his support should Cramer decide to run.
The women, who represented the House Democratic Women’s Working Group, said they were wearing white not only in memory of the suffrage movement but also to show Trump their support for a number of issues affecting women, such as affordable health care, reproductive rights, equal pay and paid leave. The effort was also a nod to the start of Women’s History Month, they said.
Cramer, however, said the women “were really there to be rude to Donald Trump.”
“That was obvious, not just, not by their clothes, but in addition to their clothing, their gestures, their hand gestures, their thumbs down, their quick exit from the gallery ahead of the President,” he said. “Their behavior in general.”
Earlier Wednesday, Cramer poked fun at the women’s outfits — which consisted of a mix of white dresses, dress suits and pantsuits — during a radio town hall, saying their coordinated effort was akin to a “disease.”
“But by the way, did you notice how poorly several of them were dressed as well?” he said, responding to a constituent on the call. “It is a syndrome. There is no question, there is a disease associated with the notion that a bunch of women would wear bad-looking white pantsuits in solidarity with Hillary Clinton to celebrate her loss. You cannot get that weird.”
Cramer acknowledged some Democrats stood up and applauded during parts of Trump’s speech, and said both parties could work together on issues like jobs and infrastructure.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz responded to Cramer’s comments during CNN’s “Erin Burnett ” on Wednesday, saying the North Dakota Republican just didn’t get it.
“He obviously misses the point,” the Florida Democrat told Burnett. “When we are sitting right in front of (Trump) with a sea of white attire, that we are not going to allow him to roll back women’s progress in this country, it’s actually patriotic and shows that we care about the issues that are important to women and won’t let them roll back our progress.”
Wasserman Schultz jokingly added that she chose to wear a sleeveless white dress — “that I have gotten lots of compliments on.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded to Cramer’s comments on Twitter.
“Thank you for illustrating why we so badly need to honor #WomensHistoryMonth,” Pelosi tweeted, along with a link to a Politico article about his comment. 
She added that they wore white “in solidarity with the suffragists in unity against Republican attempts to roll back the hard-earned progress that has been made on behalf of women and girls.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois, tweeted a sarcastic comment about Cramer. “The @HouseGOP is off to a great start for #WomensHistoryMonth.”
“But at the same time, they looked silly,” he said, again stating that the women were being rude.
“I don’t buy their argument that it was a celebration of suffrage. I think they should be celebrating the fact that there were women members of Congress sitting in a joint session, listening to the President of the United States on equal footing as a co-equal branch — and sort of get over this notion that somehow we have to be offended all the time.”
As for a 2018 Senate bid, Cramer said he has not “ruled it out,” but added that it’s “not a top-of-the-mind issue for me right now, and it won’t be for several months.”
He added that Trump has spoken to him about the topic. “He’s pledged his support should I run for the Senate — and in a big way.”
CNN has reached out to the White House to confirm that Trump has already committed his support.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Lied In His Confirmation Hearing About His 2 Meetings With Russia’s Top Spy?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Sessions did not disclose meetings with Russian ambassador

  • The diplomat’s interactions with former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn led to Flynn’s firing
  • The Justice Department disclosed the meetings

(CNN) Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington whose interactions with President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn led to Flynn’s firing, according to the Justice Department.

Sessions did not mention either meeting during his confirmation hearings when he said he knew of no contacts between Trump surrogates and Russians. A Justice official said Sessions didn’t mislead senators during his confirmation.
The Washington Post first reported on Sessions’ meetings with the official.
Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior US government officials.
Sessions met with Kislyak twice, in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention, and in September in his office when Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services committee. Sessions was an early Trump backer and regular surrogate for him as a candidate.
Sessions responded swiftly Wednesday, strongly stating that he never discussed campaign-related issues with anyone from Russia.
“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” he said in a statement. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Key Democratic lawmakers immediately called for Sessions’ resignation after the news broke.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi characterized Sessions’ comments in his confirmation “apparent perjury,” and said the attorney general should resign.
Kislyak’s potential proximity to Russian spying is one reason why Flynn’s interactions with him, and Flynn’s failure to disclose what he discussed with Kislyak, raised concerns among intelligence officials.
In his confirmation hearing to become attorney general, Sessions was asked about Russia and he responded at the time that he “did not have communications with the Russians.”
Sessions’ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said there was nothing “misleading about his answer” to Congress because the Alabama Republican “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.”
“Last year, the Senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors,” Isgur Flores said in the statement.
A Justice Department official confirmed the meetings, but said Sessions met with the ambassadors “in his capacity as a senator on the Armed Serviced Committee.”
A White House official said: “This is the latest attack against the Trump Administration by partisan Democrats. (Attorney) General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony.”
In reaction to the report, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, also called for Sessions’ resignation.
“There is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission” to investigate potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Cummings said. “It is inconceivable that even after Michael Flynn was fired for concealing his conversations with the Russians that Attorney General Sessions would keep his own conversations for several weeks.”
Cummings called Sessions’ claim during his confirmation hearing that he did not have communications with the Russians “demonstrably false.”
Minnesota Democrat Sen. Al Franken, who asked Sessions about Russia at the confirmation hearing, said if the reports of Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak were true, then Sessions’ response was “at best misleading.”
“It’s clearer than ever now 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,” Franken said.
News of Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak came as the New York Times reported Wednesday evening that officials under former President Barack Obama had sent information throughout government about potential Russian contact with Trump’s associates and interference in the 2016 election. The officials did so, the Times reported, in order to preserve the information after Obama left office.
Regarding the Obama administration efforts, Obama’s spokesman Eric Schultz told CNN: “This situation was serious, as is evident by President Obama’s call for a review — and as is evident by the United States response. When the (intelligence community) does that type of comprehensive review, it is standard practice that a significant amount of information would be compiled and documented.”
Two days before Trump’s inauguration, the State Department sent Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat and the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a batch of documents related to Russian attempts to meddle in elections worldwide, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Cardin spokesman Sean Bartlett told CNN that the senator had received the classified documents on request and that they were shared with both Republican and Democratic committee staffers.

President Trump: Is He The Most Clueless Ignorant Fool To Ever Set Foot In The White House?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

President Trump suggests anti-Semitic threats across U.S. are coming from within Jewish community

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said that the President suggested that threats were coming from within the Jewish community.

(OLIVIER DOULIERY / POOL/EPA)

President Trump appeared to suggest Tuesday that the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the U.S. could be coming from within the Jewish community itself, according to a Pennsylvania state lawmaker present for the comments.Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was part of a group of state attorneys general meeting with Trump at the White House Tuesday, relayed Trump’s comments about the bomb threats to Buzzfeed News, explaining that the commander-in-chief seemed to indicate he felt some of the threats were being made from the inside, as part of a potential effort “to make others look bad.””He just said, ‘sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people, or to make others, look bad,'” Shapiro, a Democrat, said, repeating Trump’s alleged response to questions during the meeting about the large number of bomb threats against Jewish community centers in recent months.”It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” Shapiro said of Trump’s remarks.

Bomb threats again reported at Jewish centers, including New York

Shapiro claimed Trump used the word “reverse,” “two or three times,” adding that Trump also called the threats “reprehensible” toward the beginning of his remarks.

Trump also said he would address the bomb threats during his speech Tuesday night before the joint session of Congress, according to Shapiro.

The White House disputed Shapiro’s description of Trump’s comments.

“This is not what he said or meant,” a White House spokesperson told the Daily News in an email.

Pence visits vandalized Jewish cemetery, decries anti-Semitism

“He means (he) was referring to protesters,” the spokesperson added.

Trump’s latest comments came one day after yet another wave of bomb threats hit Jewish community centers across America, including one in Staten Island.

Jewish centers in at least nine states faced threats throughout Monday morning and afternoon, causing closures and evacuations, but there were no actual attacks.

The targeted locations included three New York centers — in Staten Island, Tarrytown and New Rochelle, according to officials and center representatives. Bomb threats also came in for centers in Cherry Hill, N.J.; Providence, R.I.; Asheville, N.C.; Mobile, Ala.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Talleyville, Del.; and Indianapolis, Ind., according to local reports.

Jewish community centers receive fourth wave of bomb threats

A spokesman for Trump, who has been criticized for not speaking out more quickly and forcefully, condemned the threats Monday afternoon.

“The President continues to condemn these, and other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. “No one in America should be afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely.”

The latest calls, however, come amid another trend of anti-Semitic vandalism nationwide: In the past week, dozens of headstones at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis were vandalized. Residents in Miami Beach, Fla. on Sunday reported finding swastikas carved onto their cars.

Trump, for his part, has faced scathing criticism for having not responded earlier and more forcefully to the increasing threats.

President Trump finally denounces anti-Semitism

And Trump’s latest comments prompted another round of backlash.

Vandals pushed gravestones on their bases at Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

Vandals pushed gravestones on their bases at Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

(TOM MIHALEK/REUTERS)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the Daily News that Trump’s remarks were “an absurd and obscene statement,” while the Anti-Defamation League said it was “astonished.”

“It is incumbent upon the White House to immediately clarify these remarks,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “In light of the ongoing attacks on the Jewish community, it is also incumbent upon the President to lay out in his speech tonight his plans for what the federal government will do to address this rash of anti-Semitic incidents.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman tweeted he was, “sadly not surprised – but certainly disturbed – by Pres.Trump’s apparent claim that threats against Jews are false flags.”

Trump acknowledging rampant anti-Semitism won’t make it disappear

“If the reports are true, President Trump has gone over the Anti-Semitic deep end,” Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center, said in a statement.”

“Mr. President, have you no decency? To cast doubt on the authenticity of Anti-Semitic hate crimes in America constitutes Anti-Semitism in itself, and that’s something none of us ever dreamed would disgrace our nation from the White House,” Goldstein added. “If the reports are true, you owe the American Jewish community an apology.”

Members of Trump’s inner circle have also faced similar criticism.

Earlier Tuesday, a former Trump campaign adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, posted an ambiguous screed to his Twitter wall that appeared to connect the recent bomb threats to Democratic lawmakers.

“It’s not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are. Don’t forget @TheDemocrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies,” Scaramucci tweeted, along with a link to a story from alt-new site Breitbart alleging that Democrats had hired “trained provocateurs to instigate violence at Republican events” during the 2016 campaign.

Tags:
DONALD TRUMP
DONALD TRUMP FIRST 100 DAYS
PENNSYLVANIA

Muslim Woman Pens Essay About Her 8 Days Working For President Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

NEWS

Muslim Woman Pens Essay About Her 8 Days Working for President Trump

Feb. 24, 2017

‘I was the only hijabi in the West Wing’

A Muslim woman who spent eight days working in President Donald Trump’s White House penned a powerful essay about the experience.

Rumana Ahmed was hired right after college to work in the White House, eventually landing on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama. “I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman — I was the only hijabi in the West Wing — and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included,” Ahmed wrote in The Atlantic. “It felt surreal — a 22-year-old American Muslim woman from Maryland who had been mocked and called names for covering my hair, working for the president of the United States.”

Though she said that Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims during the 2016 presidential election dismayed her, she decided to remain on the National Security Council so she could have a seat at the table. “Cautiously optimistic, and feeling a responsibility to try to help them continue our work and be heard, I decided that Trump’s NSC could benefit from a colored, female, hijab-wearing, American Muslim patriot,” she said.

But she ultimately came to regret that decision, saying that the diverse White House she worked for under President Obama became a “monochromatic and male bastion.” She decided to leave after President Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended the State Department’s Refugee Assistance Program and temporarily banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat,” she wrote.”

Homeland Security Computers Hacked: Employees Locked Out Their Computer System

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

By Dustin Volz | WASHINGTON

U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees in the Washington area and Philadelphia were unable to access some agency computer networks on Tuesday, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

It was not immediately clear how widespread the issue was or how significantly it affected daily functions at DHS, a large government agency whose responsibilities include immigration services, border security and cyber defense.

Employees began experiencing problems logging into networks at 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday due to a problem related to domain controllers, or servers that process authentication requests, and personal identity verification (PIV) cards used by federal workers and contractors to access certain information systems, one source said.

At least four DHS buildings in the Washington area were affected, the source said, including locations used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but some employees were able to access systems through a virtual private network.

The source characterized the issue as one stemming from relatively benign information technology missteps and a failure to ensure network redundancy. There was no evidence of foul play, the source said, adding that it appeared DHS’s domain controller credentials had expired on Monday when offices were closed for the federal Presidents Day holiday.

Another source said it was unclear if PIV cards were connected to network issues. DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

President Donald Trump vowed to make cyber security a priority during his administration, following an election marred by hacks of Democratic Party emails that U.S. intelligence agencies concluded were carried out by Russia in order to help Trump, a Republican, win. At a White House event last month he said he would “hold my Cabinet secretaries and agency heads accountable, totally accountable, for the cyber security of their organizations.”

Trump had planned to sign a cyber security executive order last month but it was put on hold to allow more time for review.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Follow me on Twitter

Social

Follow Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world on WordPress.com
oldpoet56

oldpoet56

truthtroubles.wordpress.com/ Just an average man who tries to do his best at being the kind of person the Bible tells us we are all suppose to be. Not perfect, never have been, don't expect anyone else to be perfect either. Always try to be very easy going type of a person if allowed to be.

View Full Profile →

Descopera misterele naturii

Discover the mysteries of nature

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes (Charles Spurgeon)

“The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting. It has rather been found difficult and left untried.”

mingophoto

Fotos - sonst nichts

♣ WELKOM OP DE SITE VAN ANN ♣

VAN ALLES WAT VOOR ELK WAT WILS.

Ordinary Handsome

Writeography by Steven Baird

Les Petits Pas de Juls

Carnets de Voyages trilingues (Français, English, Español)

PHIELD TRIPS

When you need help with your travels to the Philippines, you're on the right place.

Budding Poet

"Don't Compromise Yourself ,You Are All You've Got!!"

Venus💎Lotus

✧Seeking & Sharing Great ℱood, Art, Astrology, Music...ℬliss✧

Luíz Müller Blog

Espaço de divulgação de textos e ações que defendem trabalho decente no Rio Grande e no Brasil

wakasa15thfd

Just another WordPress.com site

Remember The 14 Words

We Must Secure The Existence Of Our People And A Future For White Children

Chinese Correspondence

Chinese, language, learn, speak, write, textbook, contract, beginner, advanced, intermediate, commercial, marketing, correspondence, characters, radicals, decomposition, business, numbers, numerals

a cooking pot and twisted tales

Thoughts and Tales...A Lifestyle Blog with a Zing.

The ThinkTheorist

Think more...think theory

Yarnspinnerr

Just Fiction and other things that seem fictitious.

MIL QUESTIONS

Latest World News: international news, features and analysis

A Buddhist Year

Meditative Skills for Modern Life

openobserver

Toward Greater Understanding

70news

sharing news that matters to you

BUNKERVILLE | God, Guns and Guts Comrades!

God, Guns and Guts Comrades!

Variety as Life Spice

Words by a post-90s in Hong Kong

sufi

Yarnspinnerr and Sufi Esotericism

Chinese Characters Decomposition

Chinese, language, learn, speak, write, textbook, contract, beginner, advanced, intermediate, commercial, marketing, correspondence, characters, radicals, decomposition, business, numbers, numerals, contract, email

Scottish Muslimah

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart - William Wordsworth

Welcome to Chanty's Cosmos

~~~Never let anyone to dull your Sparkle~~~

Blame Chocolate

and the girl who has too much of it

The Beauty of Words

Mastering social media, writing, and editing

Blog about Mexico's Riviera Maya

MyMexico.Blog : Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cancun, Chichen Itza, Playacar, Cenotes, Sian Ka'an, Cozumel, Bacalar, Mahahual...

A Hungry Soul

Truth and love is what makes you human

lucialuz.wordpress.com/

Les Mots du Coeur

simplysands

Photography & Inspiration

HorseAddict

The world is best viewed through the ears of a horse.

this tiny blue house

striving to live simply, mindfully and intentionally.

رمادي

كلمات أرصها فأكتشف بمحض الصدفة أنها أنا.

FREE-VERSE POETRY by Douglas Gilbert

free verse for the universe

Vaca Cut Point

11785 5th Ave Ocean Marathon, Florida 33050

The Godly Chic Diaries

Smiling • Writing • Dreaming

ThumbWind

Fun in Michigan's Upper Thumb

Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet

there are no perfect experiences in life, but there is still much to savor

Aspie Under Your Radar

Living well on the autism spectrum - just out of public view

%d bloggers like this: