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|The Early Edition: January 5, 2018|
Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.NORTH KOREANorth Korea agreed to a South Korean proposal to hold high-level official talks on Jan. 9 on the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom, a South Korean Unification Ministry spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun told reporters today, adding that the two sides would work on the details of the talks which include discussion on improving relations and next months Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Euan McKirdy and Taehoon Lee report at CNN.
President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday agreed to delay joint military exercises until after the Winter Olympics, North Korea had accused the joint exercises as being preparations for war and the announcement has the potential to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The news shortly preceded the announcement by North and South Korea that they would hold official talks, Michael R. Gordon and Andrew Jeong report at the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S.-South Korea exercises will begin after the Paralympics, the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said yesterday, Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
The inter-Korean talks have the potential to drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea as the two countries diverge in their approach to the North Korean threat, however President Trump appeared to take credit for the development, saying in a message posted on Twitter that talks between the two countries were a good thing and were happening because he had been firm on North Korea. Bryan Harris reports at the Financial Times.
I wont be weak-kneed or just focus on dialogue, as we did in the past, Moon said today, stating that he would strengthen South Koreas military even while promoting peace talks with North Korea. Moon, a progressive, made the comments in an apparent bid to reassure conservative voters and those concerned that he would make too many concessions to North Korea, Choe Sang-Hun reports at the New York Times.
Trump is beginning to look like a bystander in the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the recent developments have signaled a turning point in the crisis, suggest that the two Koreas have control of the decision-making, and the U.S. may not enjoy the backing of South Korea in its maximum pressure and engagement strategy, which seeks to force North Korea into talks with little leverage. Adam Taylor provides an analysis at the Washington Post.
Trump instructed White House counsel Don McGahn in March to stop the Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Justice Departments investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter, the special counsel Robert Mueller has learned of this development during his teams investigation into whether Trump obstructed the F.B.I.s Russia probe, Mueller has also received information about how Trump urged former F.B.I. Director James Comey to say publicly that he was not under investigation. Michael S. Schmidt reports at the New York Times.
The circumstances surrounding Sessionss recusal, including the decision by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller after Sessions recused himself, are explained by Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey at the Washington Post.
The publication of Michael Wolffs book about the Trump administration has been brought to today after lawyers for Trump sent a letter demanding that Wolff and his publisher immediately cease and desist from any further publication release or dissemination. The book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House details the atmosphere within the administration and includes explosive comments from the White House former chief strategist Steve Bannon who called the meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians in June 2016 at the Trump Tower treasonous and unpatriotic. Lauren Gambino, David Smith, Sabrina Siddiqui and Edward Helmore report at the Guardian.
I authorized Zero access to White House for author of phony book! Look at this guys past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve! Trump tweeted, stating that the Wolffs book was full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that dont exist. The BBC reports.
The attempt by Trumps lawyers to stop the publication of Wolffs book is unprecedented, legal experts and historians have warned about the potential damage to freedom of speech. Trumps lawyers also sent a similar cease and desist letter to Bannon, alleging that he had defamed the president and violated a non-disclosure employment agreement, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report at the Washington Post.
Bannons comments labeling the Trump tower meeting as treasonous shifts the frame of the Russia inquiry and raises the possibility that Bannon may cooperate, or may already be cooperating, with Muellers investigation. Ed Pilkington explains at the Guardian.
The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday rejected the claims in Wolffs book that he informed Trumps son-in-law Jared Kushner that the Trump campaign staff may have been under British surveillance, Blair said that the story was literally an invention. Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.
The former Trump aide Rick Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort hold the keys to their own release from house arrest, the U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in an order yesterday, setting out that both defendants who have pleaded not guilty to charges made in the Mueller inquiry must submit documentation showing collateral to guarantee bail packages reached with Muellers team. Darren Samuelsohn reports at POLITICO.
The Trump Tower meeting was not treasonous, treason is a unique crime that applies to a foreign power in open hostility with the U.S., although Russia may be a competitor, it is not an enemy. Danny Cevallos writes at NBC News.
Wolffs book reveals few new details and the fallout between the president and Bannon could help the Trump Presidency and the Republican Party, the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned five entities linked to Irans ballistic missile program yesterday, when announcing the measures, the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the Iranian government and Irans Revolutionary Guard Corps (I.R.G.C.) fund foreign militants, terrorist groups and human rights abuses while the Iranian people suffer. Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The decision to impose sanctions comes after a week of anti-government protests across Iran which have led to the deaths of more than 20 people, the sanctions also come ahead of a Jan. 15 deadline for Trump to decide whether to certify Irans compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.
The Iranian authorities have arrested more than 1,000 individuals over the past week, according to rights groups and the State Department, earlier in the week the head of Irans Revolutionary Court warned that arrested demonstrators could face the death penalty. Loveday Morris reports at the Washington Post.
We have ample authorities to hold accountable those who commit violence against protestors, contribute to censorship, or steal from the people of Iran, the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said yesterday. Mallory Shelbourne reports at the Hill.
The President and vice president of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts, Iran alleged in a letter to the U.N. sent yesterday, Angela Dewan and Marilia Brocchetto reporting at CNN.
Iranian officials yesterday issued a series of statements accusing the U.S. and other foreign enemies of causing the unrest, Thomas Erdbrink reports at the New York Times.
The situation in Iran will stabilize within a day or two, theres no need to be worried, thats what they told me, the Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdğan said, relaying his discussion with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an interview broadcast yesterday. Reuters reports.
The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency session today about the unrest in Iran following a request from the U.S., which has sought to demonstrate support for the anti-government protestors, the AP reports.
The Security Council emergency session on Iran is harmful and destructive, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying yesterday, Denis Pinchuk reporting at Reuters.
U.S. senators met with Trump administration officials yesterday to discuss possible bipartisan compromise legislation to increase pressure on Iran while keeping the U.S. in the 2015 nuclear deal, the meeting included the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the panels top Democrat Ben Cardin (Md.) and Trumps national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Patricia Zengerle reports at Reuters.
The U.S. and Israel have increased their criticism of Irans role in conflicts across the Middle East, Israel has accused Iran of supporting terrorists in the Palestinian West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the Trump administration has used the protests as part of its efforts to ostracize Iran. Rory Jones and Dion Nissenbaum explain at the Wall Street Journal.
The Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi urged the U.S. and the international community to support the protestors through political sanctions rather than economic sanctions, adding that she supported the protestors one hundred percent and urged the people of Iran to protest peacefully and engage in civil disobedience. Bozorgmehr Sharafedin reports at Reuters.
The West should careful about its statements on the protests, but is clear that silence is wrong, Trump has been right to condemn the Iranian regime and the West should help keep communications open in the country. David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.
The protests have been driven by economic grievances and the U.S. and others have been exploiting the protests to suit their own agendas, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also resorted to predictable clichés blaming foreign enemies for the unrest. Simon Tisdall writes at the Guardian, saying that Trump and his allies, and Khamenei and his followers look as foolish as they are ignorant.
The Trump administration yesterday announced that it would freeze more than $1bn in security funds to Pakistan, in addition to the $255m in U.S. military aid that the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said earlier this week that they would withhold. Felicia Schwartz, Nancy A. Youssef and Saeed Shah report at the Wall Street Journal.
The suspended aid would remain in effect until Pakistan takes decisive action against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, officials have acknowledged that the measure is mostly symbolic in the short term, but it reflects the deteriorating U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Missy Ryan, Annie Gowen and Carol Morello report at the Washington Post.
The State Department announced yesterday that it has placed Pakistan on a watch list for severe violation of religious freedoms, Reuters reports.
A suicide bomb attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul killed at 20 people yesterday and wounded 30, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. Fahim Abed reports at the New York Times.
Police officers and civilians were among the victims, according to the deputy spokesperson for the Afghan interior ministry, Al Jazeera reports.
The Islamic State groups branch in Egypts Sinai Peninsula has called on its followers to attack the Palestinian Hamas group based in the Gaza Strip, saying that Hamas has cracked down on Islamist militant groups in Gaza and failed to prevent the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Loveday Morris reports at the Washington Post.
Right-wing politicians in Israel have been taking measures to undermine the two-state solution, hardliners have taken advantage of the recent U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the political damage that has ensued following the corruption investigations into Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move further to the right. The New York Times editorial board writes, calling on Trump to reaffirm Americas longstanding commitment to a two-state solution and tell the Israeli right that it is going too far.
At least 25 civilians were killed in airstrikes in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near the Syrian capital of Damascus yesterday, according to witnesses the strikes were carried out by Russian jets, and the Eastern Ghouta area has been besieged by pro-Syrian government forces since 2013. The BBCreports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 46 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between December 22 and December 28. [Central Command]
The Justice Department is reviewing Hillary Clintons use of a private email server while she was secretary of state in an attempt to gather new details about how Clinton and her aides dealt with classified materials. Betsy Woodruff reveals at The Daily Beast.
The Justice Department has launched a new investigation into the Clinton Foundation, according to anonymous sources the inquiry will examine whether the Clintons promised or performed any policy favors in return for support for the Foundation. John Solomon reports at the Hill.
U.S. officials have said they have considered the dangers of the U.S. decision to send weapons to Ukraine and the risk of the weaponry falling into enemy hands, the weapons have been designated for units away from the eastern Ukraine frontline and will be stored at training centers however concerns remain in light of past experiences. Thomas Grove and Julian E. Barnes report at the Wall Street Journal.
The Turkish foreign ministry has called the jurys decision to convict a Turkish banker of conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran an unprecedented interference in Turkeys internal affairs. Carlotta Gill reports at the New York Times.
The European Union is a predictable and solid partner to Cuba, the E.U. Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini said at the end of a two-day visit, seemingly making a dig at the Trump administrations policies toward Cuba. The AP reports.
The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has embarked on a plan to disarm Iran-backed Shiite militias in the country, the Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.) played an important role in defeating the Islamic State group in the country. Ahmed Rasheed explains at Reuters.
|Was the 2016 Election an Intelligence Failure? – War on the Rocks|
|Was the 2016 Election an Intelligence Failure?|
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth installment of “The Brush Pass,” a column by Joshua Rovner (@joshrovner1) on intelligence, strategy, and statecraft.
Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. Its method was simple: steal emails from prominent Democrats and leak them to the public. According to multiple government and private sector reports, Russian intelligence organizations deceived email users into undermining their own communications security. It then used cutouts like Wikileaks and DCLeaks to reveal their communications. Russia also engaged in a massive disinformation campaign to sow confusion and doubt among the public. Spreading “fake news” supported Trump’s claims that the electoral system was rigged, that mainstream media outlets were untrustworthy, and that existing institutions were designed to favor elites at the expense of the people. All of this created an environment of distrust and disillusionment.
This was not the first time that Moscow employed so-called active measures to interfere with U.S. politics, but Cold War efforts were laughable flops. This case was different. The rise of social media created new opportunities to spread misinformation rapidly, and the razor thin electoral margin in key states meant that even minor shifts in public opinion could change the outcome.
Some observers claim Russian success was also an American intelligence failure. Writing in The New Yorker, Dana Priest charges the intelligence community with failing to predict the Russian disinformation campaign, and then failing to warn the public and Congress when it occurred. “Only after the fact,” she concludes, “when a Russian disinformation campaign had already tainted the 2016 Presidential election, did the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, another vast post-9/11 creation, disclose the Kremlin’s interference.”
Others have made similar arguments, including longtime intelligence officials. Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morrell suggested that the election was a multi-layered failure. Part of the problem, said Morrell, was a “lack of imagination.” While analysts had been worried about Russian cyber operations for years, they had failed to imagine how Moscow could use social media platforms as political tools.
The failure to anticipate Russian actions is a particularly serious charge, given that the intelligence community had made anticipatory intelligence one of the key tenets of its reform effort. According to the 2014 National Intelligence Strategy, the goal of anticipatory intelligence is to “detect, identify, and warn of emerging issues and discontinuities.” The concept is more flexible than traditional strategic warning against states and non-state groups. Instead, it encourages creative approaches to predicting new kinds of threats and opportunities, especially including novel quantitative methods. In addition, it focuses on “trends, events, and changing conditions” instead of specific adversaries. The strategy describes anticipatory intelligence as one of the community’s “foundational intelligence missions,” and the Intelligence Advanced Research and Projects Activity is currently sponsoring a variety of research effortsto develop new technologies, methodologies, and approaches to measuring accuracy.
Organizational changes have complimented this new approach to warning. In 2011 Director of National Intelligence James Clapper eliminated the position of national intelligence officer for warning, perhaps trying make good on the old adage that every analyst should also be a warning analyst. The idea was that subject matter experts with deep knowledge of specific regions or issues would be best suited to spot indicators of change. Better to get them in the habit of providing warning, rather than leaving the task to an office of generalists.
The community’s effort to grapple with Russian election meddling is arguably the first real test of America’s new approach to anticipatory intelligence. While we do not have access to classified assessments, what we know suggests it missed the mark. Intelligence officials frequently warned of Russian activities, noting that it was beefing up its ability to use cyberspace for espionage, military operations, and possibly sabotage. But they largely missed the key ways in which Russia interfered in the election. While anticipatory intelligence is meant to flag discontinuities, assessments of Russian activity took an evolutionary approach.
The unclassified annual threat briefings given by the director of national intelligence to Congress are instructive. In 2014, Clapper mentioned Russia’s efforts to integrate cyber-operations with conventional military operations and warned that it would continue to exploit cyberspace for espionage. In 2015, he mentioned how Russia was using the Internet for propaganda purposes, but focused more attention on the threat of cyber-attacks against industrial control systems.
The picture became a bit clearer in the January 2016 briefing. Clapper used familiar language about Russian propaganda but also included an important warning: “Russian cyber actors, who post disinformation on commercial websites, might seek to alter online media as a means to influence public discourse and create confusion.” This was a fair summary, though it wasn’t very precise. The tone of the briefing, especially when compared to previous years’ assessments, suggested that the community was more concerned about Western solidarity than with the effects of fake news on U.S. politics. And the briefing was silent about doxxing – the practice of stealing individuals’ private information and posting it online.
At a glance this looks like a clear a failure of anticipatory intelligence, though it will be many years before we have a full picture of what analysts actually concluded in the years before the election. Their classified reports may have been more prescient. We should also be cautious about accepting claims that the election was failure of imagination. The 9/11 Commission used the same phrase to describe intelligence before al-Qaeda’s attack, but it was wrong. Calling for more imagination is dubious advice in any case, because we are capable of imagining just about anything.
In this case, however, the critics may be right. It is certainly possible that the community failed to anticipate the scope and importance of Russia’s activities, despite all the investment in anticipatory intelligence. There are several reasons why assessments may have gone wrong. First, while analysts were aware of past Russian efforts to meddle in U.S. elections, those efforts never amounted to much. There were clearly other reasons to worry about Russian cyber-operations, as the annual threat briefings attest, but this wasn’t high on the list. Second, analysts may have been befuddled by the bizarre confluence of events in the campaign season. Russian influence operations may have been important, but only because they occurred during the strangest election in modern U.S. history. Third, the intelligence community may have missed the mark because anticipatory intelligence is still an immature concept. Despite its prominent placement in the National Intelligence Strategy, the community had only recently begun funding efforts to put the concept into practice.
Finally, intelligence leaders may have been too eager to make every analyst a warning analyst. While this idea wasn’t new, warning intelligence had previously been treated as a distinct discipline requiring its own training regimen. Asking line analysts who specialize in other areas to add this to their portfolio is a recipe for disaster, especially given that the community was simultaneously redefining what it meant by warning. And according to a recent survey, there was no complimentary effort to increase the amount and quality of warning education. In short, analysts were being asked to perform a separate and still ambiguous mission on top of their existing duties and without sufficient preparation.
What about the claim that intelligence officials should have gone public sooner? The intelligence community, after all, was reportedly tracking Russian activities by at least spring 2016. The FBI privately confirmed to reporters that Russia was behind the DNC hack shortly thereafter, and over the summer of 2016 the CIA reported that Vladimir Putin was personally involved. Shouldn’t they have done more to protect the integrity of the election by sounding the alarm about Russian-sponsored doxing and fake news?
This criticism is less convincing. Intelligence agencies are responsible to the president, not the public. The decision to release intelligence is not theirs to make. It’s harder to judge Priest’s claim that intelligence officials kept congressional intelligence committees in the dark, as she provides no evidence that this occurred. Instead she cites a State Department official who was unimpressed with the level of detail in intelligence reporting, and infers that members of Congress were similarly uninformed.
In any case, while the community may have failed to anticipate the nature or consequences of Russian meddling, it deserves credit for attributing Russian actions, giving the Obama administration months to respond. Whether it chose the right response is another question.
Injecting intelligence into domestic controversies is inherently dangerous because it invites politicization. If the public expects intelligence agencies to weigh in, policymakers will be tempted to pressure them to reach certain conclusions. This has terrible consequences for the quality of intelligence and for intelligence-policy relations. Over time a certain cynicism is likely to emerge. Critics will accuse agencies of partisanship and the community as a whole will lose any vestiges of independence and objectivity; witness the claims that intelligence professionals are card-carrying members of the “deep state.” Intelligence agencies have struggled for decades to maintain political neutrality while still remaining responsive to political leaders. Asking them to join the fray will make that much more difficult. As U.S. officials work to prevent foreign states from influencing future elections, they should keep this danger in mind.
Joshua Rovner is Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University. He is the author of Fixing the Facts: National Security and the Politics of Intelligence (Cornell, 2011), and writes widely about intelligence and strategy.
|Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trumps Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation|
Among the other episodes, Mr. Trump described the Russia investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated” in a letter that he intended to send to the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, but that White House aides stopped him from sending. Mr. Mueller has also substantiated claims that Mr. Comey made in a series of memos describing troubling interactions with the president before he was fired in May.
The special counsel has received handwritten notes from Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, showing that Mr. Trump talked to Mr. Priebus about how he had called Mr. Comey to urge him to say publicly that he was not under investigation. The president’s determination to fire Mr. Comey even led one White House lawyer to take the extraordinary step of misleading Mr. Trump about whether he had the authority to remove him.
The New York Times has also learned that four days before Mr. Comey was fired, one of Mr. Sessions’s aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about Mr. Comey, part of an apparent effort to undermine the F.B.I. director. It was not clear whether Mr. Mueller’s investigators knew about this episode.
Mr. Mueller has also been examining a false statement that the president reportedly dictated on Air Force One in July in response to an article in The Times about a meeting that Trump campaign officials had with Russians in 2016. A new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, says that the president’s lawyers believed that the statement was “an explicit attempt to throw sand into the investigation’s gears,” and that it led one of Mr. Trump’s spokesmen to quit because he believed it was obstruction of justice.
Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer dealing with the special counsel’s investigation, declined to comment.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers have said the president has fully cooperated with the investigation, and they have expressed confidence that the inquiry will soon be coming to a close. They said that they believed the president would be exonerated, and that they hoped to have that conclusion made public.
Legal experts said that of the two primary issues Mr. Mueller appears to be investigating — whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice while in office and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — there is currently a larger body of public evidence tying the president to a possible crime of obstruction.
But the experts are divided about whether the accumulated evidence is enough for Mr. Mueller to bring an obstruction case. They said it could be difficult to prove that the president, who has broad authority over the executive branch, including the hiring and firing of officials, had corrupt intentions when he took actions like ousting the F.B.I. director. Some experts said the case would be stronger if there was evidence that the president had told witnesses to lie under oath.
The accounts of the episodes are based on documents reviewed by The Times, as well as interviews with White House officials and others briefed on the investigation. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.
Regardless of whether Mr. Mueller believes there is enough evidence to make a case against the president, Mr. Trump’s belief that his attorney general should protect him provides an important window into how he governs. Presidents have had close relationships with their attorneys general, but Mr. Trump’s obsession with loyalty is particularly unusual, especially given the Justice Department’s investigation into him and his associates.
A LAWYER’S GAMBIT
It was late February when Mr. Sessions decided to take the advice of career Justice Department lawyers and recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
The pressure to make that decision public grew days later when The Washington Post reported that Mr. Sessions had met during the presidential campaign with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. The disclosure raised questions about whether Mr. Sessions had misled Congress weeks earlier during his confirmation hearing, when he told lawmakers he had not met with Russians during the campaign.
Unaware that Mr. Sessions had already decided to step aside from the inquiry, Democrats began calling for Mr. Sessions to recuse himself — and Mr. Trump told Mr. McGahn to begin a lobbying campaign to stop him.
Mr. McGahn’s argument to Mr. Sessions that day was twofold: that he did not need to step aside from the inquiry until it was further along, and that recusing himself would not stop Democrats from saying he had lied. After Mr. Sessions told Mr. McGahn that career Justice Department officials had said he should step aside, Mr. McGahn said he understood and backed down.
Mr. Trump’s frustrations with the inquiry erupted again about three weeks later, when Mr. Comey said publicly for the first time that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. were conducting an investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. Mr. Comey had told Mr. Trump in private that he was not personally under investigation, yet Mr. Comey infuriated Mr. Trump by refusing to answer a question about that at the hearing where he spoke publicly.
After that hearing, Mr. Trump began to discuss openly with White House officials his desire to fire Mr. Comey. This unnerved some inside the White House counsel’s office, and even led one of Mr. McGahn’s deputies to mislead the president about his authority to fire the F.B.I. director.
The lawyer, Uttam Dhillon, was convinced that if Mr. Comey was fired, the Trump presidency could be imperiled, because it would force the Justice Department to open an investigation into whether Mr. Trump was trying to derail the Russia investigation.
Longstanding analysis of presidential power says that the president, as the head of the executive branch, does not need grounds to fire the F.B.I. director. Mr. Dhillon, a veteran Justice Department lawyer before joining the Trump White House, assigned a junior lawyer to examine this issue. That lawyer determined that the F.B.I. director was no different than any other employee in the executive branch, and that there was nothing prohibiting the president from firing him.
But Mr. Dhillon, who had earlier told Mr. Trump that he needed cause to fire Mr. Comey, never corrected the record, withholding the conclusions of his research.
Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, called the episode “extraordinary,” adding that he could not think of a similar one that occurred in past administrations.
“This shows that the president’s lawyers don’t trust giving him all the facts because they fear he will make a decision that is not best suited for him,” Mr. Vladeck said.
SEARCHING FOR DIRT
The attempts to stop Mr. Trump from firing Mr. Comey were successful until May 3, when the F.B.I. director once again testified on Capitol Hill. He spent much of the time describing a series of decisions he had made during the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal email account.
Once again, Mr. Comey refused to answer questions from lawmakers about whether Mr. Trump was under investigation.
White House aides gave updates to Mr. Trump throughout, informing him of Mr. Comey’s refusal to publicly clear him. Mr. Trump unloaded on Mr. Sessions, who was at the White House that day. He criticized him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, questioned his loyalty, and said he wanted to get rid of Mr. Comey. He repeated the refrain that the attorneys general for Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Obama had protected the White House.
In an interview with The Times last month, Mr. Trump said he believed that Mr. Holder had protected Mr. Obama.
“When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, aah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems,” Mr. Trump said. “When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest.”
Two days after Mr. Comey’s testimony, an aide to Mr. Sessions approached a Capitol Hill staff member asking whether the staffer had any derogatory information about the F.B.I. director. The attorney general wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the episode did not occur. “This did not happen and would not happen,” said the spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores. “Plain and simple.”
Earlier that day, Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, had pulled one of Mr. McGahn’s deputies aside after a meeting at the Justice Department. Mr. Rosenstein told the aide that top White House and Justice Department lawyers needed to discuss Mr. Comey’s future. It is unclear whether this conversation was related to the effort to dig up dirt on Mr. Comey.
Mr. Trump spent the next weekend at his country club in Bedminster, N.J., where he watched a recording of Mr. Comey’s testimony, stewed about the F.B.I. director and discussed the possibility of dismissing him with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. He had decided he would fire Mr. Comey, and asked Mr. Miller to help put together a letter the president intended to send to Mr. Comey.
In interviews with The Times, White House officials have said the letter contained no references to Russia or the F.B.I.’s investigation. According to two people who have read it, however, the letter’s first sentence said the Russia investigation had been “fabricated and politically motivated.”
On Monday, May 8, Mr. Trump met with Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein to discuss firing Mr. Comey, and Mr. Rosenstein agreed to write his own memo outlining why Mr. Comey should be fired. Before writing it, he took a copy of the letter that Mr. Trump and Mr. Miller had drafted during the weekend in Bedminster.
The president fired Mr. Comey the following day.
A week later, The Times reported that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey in February to shut down the federal investigation into Michael T. Flynn, who at the time was the national security adviser. The following day, Mr. Rosenstein announced that he had appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel.
Once again, Mr. Trump erupted at Mr. Sessions upon hearing the news. In an Oval Office meeting, the president said the attorney general had been disloyal for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, and he told Mr. Sessions to resign.
Mr. Sessions sent his resignation letter to the president the following day. But Mr. Trump rejected it, sending it back with a handwritten note at the top.
“Not accepted,” the note said.
|Turkey: The World is toast – Google Search|
Anadolu Agency–6 hours ago
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday slammed the recent U.S. verdict in a case involving Turkishbanker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, saying the U.S. should reconsider its sense of justice. “If this is the U.S.’ sense of justice, then yes, the world is toast. The U.S. must reconsider its sense of justice,” Erdogan …
|NPR News Now: NPR News: 01-05-2018 9AM ET|
NPR News: 01-05-2018 9AM ETDownload audio: https://play.podtrac.com/npr-500005/npr.mc.tritondigital.com/NPR_500005/media/anon.npr-mp3/npr/newscasts/2018/01/05/newscast090626.mp3?orgId=1&d=300&p=500005&story=575904715&t=podcast&e=575904715&ft=pod&f=500005 NPR News Now
|2:04 PM 1/4/2018 Was the 2016 Election an Intelligence Failure?|
Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks Was the 2016 Election an Intelligence Failure? Was the 2016 Election an Intelligence Failure? – War on the Rocks Michael Wolff tells a juicy tale in his new Trump book. But should we believe it? Michael Wolff’s book ‘Fire and Fury’ leaves breadcrumbs for Mueller to investigate … Continue reading“2:04 PM 1/4/2018 – Was the 2016 Election an Intelligence Failure?”
|2:04 PM 1/4/2018 – Was the 2016 Election an Intelligence Failure?|
2:04 PM 1/4/2018 – Was the 2016 Election an Intelligence Failure?
|The Latest: Flights suspended at JFK and LaGuardia airports – seattlepi.com|
|Sites and Blogs Review: Selected Posts 1.4.18|
9:58 AM 1/4/2018 – The Early Edition: January 4, 2018 | Michael Wolffs Fire and Fury: Inside Trumps White House | Intel responds to the CPU kernel bug, downplaying its impact on home users – PCWorld | VOA Interview: Security Adviser McMaster Discusses Iran, Pakistan Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here. Before the start … Continue reading“Selected Posts – 1.4.18” Sites and Blogs Review
|US Suspends Most Security Assistance To Pakistan – NPR|
|Recreational marijuana is legal in California but you still can’t smoke it at work or in your car – Los Angeles Times|
|Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation – New York Times|
|Brutal cold follows massive winter storm on much of East Coast — live updates – CBS News|
|Palmer Report: Donald Trump threatens Steve Bannon, and it quickly backfires|
Yesterday, after Steve Bannon accused Donald Trump and his son of participating in a “treasonous” plot with Russia against the United States, Trump tried to fire back in the toughest manner he could think of. Of course Trump isn’t particularly adept at thinking, so his plan consisted entirely of sending a cease and desist letter to Bannon, and then informing the media about the letter. It’s taken all of sixteen hours for that move to promptly blow up in Trump’s face.Trump was almost certainly never going to sue Bannon, because a lawsuit would end up airing all of Trump’s dirty laundry. It was a bluff. Not only is Bannon calling the bluff today, he’s raising it. CNN just reported on-air that Bannon is considering suing Trump for defamation of character. There is a lot of disagreement among experts about who can sue a sitting President for what and under what circumstances, without a ton of precedent on the books. But because Trump is threatening to sue Bannon, it probably increases the odds of Bannon being able to pull off a preemptive countersuit against Trump. It’s even uglier than that though.Even if no one sues anyone and these two men are just huffing and puffing at each other, Bannon just won their feud. Trump tried to use his wealth, his fancy lawyers, and his power as (supposed) President of the United States to scare Bannon into backing down. Bannon responded by signaling that he just doesn’t give a damn anymore.Maybe that’s because Steve Bannon is sitting on enough evidence to send Donald Trump to prison, and he therefore knows Trump can’t really hurt him. Maybe Bannon is just so recklessly bent on revenge that he doesn’t care if he takes himself down by going after Trump. Either way, Bannon thinks he has nothing left to lose. He knows most or all of Trump’s secrets. Trump has a far bigger problem here than he thought.
The post Donald Trump threatens Steve Bannon, and it quickly backfires appeared first on Palmer Report.
|Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Started Blaming the President in Order to Save Themselves, Wolff’s Book Claims – Newsweek|
|Palmer Report: Donald Trump declares war on his own people|
Yesterday’s and today’s headlines are understandably focused on the escalating war of words, and war of legal threats, between Donald Trump and his former top adviser Steve Bannon. Bannon is accusing Trump of “treasonous” activities. Trump is threatening to sue Bannon. Bannon is threatening to countersue. These two creeps deserve each other. But it’s drowning out a larger pattern over the past twenty-four hours which has seen Trump go to war against his own people in general.It began today when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seemingly one of the few people left in the West Wing whom Trump trusts, announced that no one will be allowed to bring personal cellphones and other personal technology devices around anymore. This is an obvious belated reaction to the fact that Michael Wolff spent months wandering around the White House, using his own devices to record anything he wanted, only to turn it into a devastating insider book. So now Trump is punishing his own staffers by closing the barn door on them after the horse has left the stable. But this is just the beginning.Trump already forced former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Katie Walsh out of a job once. Now that she’s also been quoted saying negative things about him and his administration in this new book, he’s trying to get her fired again, according to a Bloomberg report (link). She’s now working at a Republican Super PAC, which isn’t supposed to have any coordination with any politician or candidate. Yet multiple media outlets are reporting that Trump is indeed trying to get the Super PAC to fire Walsh, as punishment for her remarks in the book.It’s worth noting that Donald Trump is skipping straight to punishing Katie Walsh, a woman, even though a number of his male advisers have said far worse things about him in this book. But Trump will probably circle around to Gary Cohn and the others next. He’s declaring war on his own people, because he cares more about personal grudges than he does about succeeding as president, or fending off his true adversaries.
|trump russian money – Google News: Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. Could Go to Jail for Money Laundering If Steve Bannon Is Right – Newsweek|
trump russian money – Google News
|Trump Org turns over documents to Russia investigations: report – The Hill (blog)|
|Russian propaganda on social media – Google News: CEO Zuckerberg sets 2018 goal: ‘fix’ Facebook – Reuters|
Russian propaganda on social media – Google News
|Saved Stories – Russian propaganda on social media: Old KGB spy manual reveals origin of fake-news strategy – Metro US|
Saved Stories – Russian propaganda on social media
|trump russian money – Google News: All of Trump’s Problems Seem to Perpetually Come Down to Money – Esquire.com|
trump russian money – Google News
|San Antonio’s Brad Parscale Asked to Testify in Senate Russia Investigation – San Antonio Current|
|National News |: Sessions ends policy that allowed legal pot, disrupting state markets|
Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Thursday an Obama-era policy that paved that way for states to legalize marijuana. Instead, Sessions will allow federal prosecutors in states where pot is legal … Click to Continue » National News |
|Trump liar – Google News: Trump and the liar’s paradox – Washington Post|
Trump liar – Google News