“Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate…” – 9:28 AM 1/12/2018 – Russian trolls and US senators – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks 

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The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate – Consortium News

“Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate…”

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Russian Trolls – Google Search
Putins Trolls – Google Search
Putins Trolls Are Targeting Trumps GOP CriticsEspecially John McCain Mother Jones
Putin’s Trolls Are Targeting Trump’s GOP CriticsEspecially John McCain – Mother Jones
The Early Edition: January 12, 2018

The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate – Consortium News

“Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate…”

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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Russian Trolls and US senators – Google Search
 

mikenova shared this story from Russian Trolls and US senators – Google News.

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from Mother Jones

Putin’s Trolls Are Targeting Trump’s GOP Critics—Especially John …

Mother Jones3 hours ago
Schafer says that the trolls tend to spread disinformation from far-right American sites rather than content from explicitly Russian ones. … McCain’s office hasn’t commented on the recent social-media attacks against the senator, but the Arizona senator has previously criticized Russian disinformation efforts …

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from Federal Times

Democratic report warns of Russian meddling in Europe, US

Federal Times19 hours ago
Senate Intelligence Committee officials have questioned efforts by Facebook and Twitter to accurately determine the extent of Russian political messaging during the 2016 U.S. election. Cardin’s team also noted discrepancies between the extent of Russian troll activity found by independent researchers …

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from The Hill

Senate report challenges quality of Facebook, Twitter investigations …

The Hill14 hours ago
The report, titled “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S.National Security,” calls into question Facebook’s focus on the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked “troll farm” responsible for disseminating content on Facebook intended to sow racial and social …

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from CNNMoney

Twitter misses Senate deadline on Russian meddling

CNNMoneyJan 9, 2018
Twitter missed a Senate Intelligence Committee deadline to answer questions about Russian meddling in the 2016 election and its platform, Senator Mark … testified before the committee in November on how a Russian troll army had set up accounts posing as American in an effort to influence U.S. politics.

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from UNIAN

VOA: Senate Democrats accuse Trump of failing to confront Russian …

UNIANJan 10, 2018
Cardin released a report prepared by the committee’s Democratic staff members that accused Russia of mounting a protracted assault on democracy at home and abroad, and urged a multi-pronged counter-strategy that begins with U.S. presidential leadership. Read alsoRussian troll factory expands its …

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

Russian interference at a glance: findings of the congressional report

The TimesJan 10, 2018
A congressional report, written by Democratic staff on the US Senate foreign relations committee, has documented Russian meddling in the affairs of 19 European countries and warned that President Putin poses an existential threat to western democracy. Here is an outline of the findings, state by state.

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from KOKI FOX 23

Dem senators‘ report warns of Russian meddling across Europe

KOKI FOX 23Jan 9, 2018
And just as Senate Intelligence Committee officials have questioned efforts of Facebook and Twitter to accurately determine the extent of Russian political messaging during the 2016 U.S. election, Cardin’s team also noted alarming discrepancies between the extent of Russian troll activity found by …

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from WIRED

Pro-Kremlin Twitter Trolls Take Aim at Robert Mueller

WIREDJan 5, 2018
Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI and special counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice, is seen as he leaves the U.S. Capitol Building. … The Hamilton68 team keeps its list of suspected Kremlin trollssecret, but it consists of a balance between openly pro-Russia accounts, like Sputnik and RT, as …

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from Quartz

Mitt Romney is the latest political target of Russian trolls and bots

QuartzJan 3, 2018
As soon as Utah senator Orrin Hatch announced he would retire this year, speculation mounted (paywall) that Mitt Romney, a longtime critic of president Donald Trump, would vie for his place. Alongside that speculation came a now familiar force in US politics: Russian bots and trolls. Tweets from Russian …

Story image for Russian Trolls and US senators from Washington Times

Twitter misses deadline in Senate intel panel’s Russia probe

Washington TimesJan 10, 2018
The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Russia interfered in the 2016 White House race by using state-sponsored operatives including … professional trolls to sow discord and disrupt the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, triggering investigations within the Senate, House and …
Russian Trolls – Google Search
 

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Story image for Russian Trolls from Washington Post

Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated …

Washington PostDec 25, 2017
Closer to home for Americans, Russian government trolls in 2012 went after a U.S. ambassador for the first time on social media, inundating his Twitter account with threats. But for U.S. officials, the real wake-up call came in early 2014 when the Russians annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern …

Story image for Russian Trolls from WIRED

Pro-Kremlin Twitter Trolls Take Aim at Robert Mueller

WIREDJan 5, 2018
It was only a matter of time, then, before the troll army set its sights on special counsel Robert Mueller. On the website Hamilton68, the Alliance tracks some 600 Twitter accounts it says are associated with a Russia-linked influence network. According to newly released figures, in the month of December, …

Story image for Russian Trolls from Mother Jones

Putin’s Trolls Are Targeting Trump’s GOP Critics—Especially John …

Mother Jones3 hours ago
Schafer says that the trolls tend to spread disinformation from far-right American sites rather than content from explicitly Russian ones. “GatewayPundit.com and TruePundit.com—sites to the right of Breitbart—those are our frequent flyers,” he says. “The Russians are latching onto hyperpartisan content.”.

Story image for Russian Trolls from NBCNews.com

Russian trolls went on attack during key election moments

<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>Dec 20, 2017
Thousands of Russian trolls targeted national events during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to infiltrate the online conversations of millions of Americans, according to a new analysis of a database of recovered troll tweets by NBC News. The records show how digital communications tools invented by …
Putins Trolls – Google Search
 

mikenova shared this story from PutinâÂÂs Trolls – Google News.

Story image for Putins Trolls from Mother Jones

Putin’s Trolls Are Targeting Trump’s GOP Critics—Especially John …

Mother Jones3 hours ago
Putin’s Russia has no meaningful allies, so it seeks to sow dissent among us and divide us from each other.” Another longtime Republican critic of both Russia and Trump was briefly targeted by the Hamilton-monitored Russian troll network in early January. Mitt Romney, a potential candidate to run for …

Story image for Putins Trolls from ABC News

Spending 10 days inside Putin’s Russia

ABC NewsDec 20, 2017
… the view from inside Putin’s country as he prepares to run for a new term in March. “Nightline” spent 10 days traveling across Russia meeting a wide variety of citizens, from anti-Putin protestors to a leader of a pro-Putin paramilitary group to self-described former internet trolls, to learn about Putin’scountry …

Story image for Putins Trolls from New York Times

Who Will Listen to Democrats’ Warning on Russia?

New York TimesJan 10, 2018
If there has been any benefit from Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, it’s that it has raised awareness about President Vladimir Putin’s broader … would bring consequences, by forging an agreement among political parties not to use bots or paid trolls, and by ensuring cybercooperation between the …
Putins Trolls Are Targeting Trumps GOP CriticsEspecially John McCain Mother Jones
 

mikenova shared this story from Mother Jones.

Mother Jones illustration; W6/Getty

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When John McCain checked into Walter Reed Medical Center in December as he continued his battle against cancer, Russian trolls seized the moment to spread a conspiracy theory that the veteran Republican senator was using his health as a pretense to dodge a rising “scandal” concerning the so-called Trump-Russia dossier. Far-right stories attacking McCain – a frequent critic of President Trump – were among the top 10 shared by Kremlin-backed Twitter accounts in the days after McCain was hospitalized, as well as later in the month after he returned to Arizona, according to recent analysis by the cybersecurity project Hamilton 68.

While the vast majority of the attacks from the 600 Twitter accounts tracked in real time by the Hamilton 68 dashboard are aimed at Democrats, the trolls also turn their sights on Republicans who sometimes stand up to Trump. Repeat targets have included Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. National security adviser H.R. McMaster has also been a target. But no Republican has faced more persistent wrath from the Russian-linked accounts than McCain, says Bret Schafer, an analyst for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a group of national-security experts behind the dashboard working to expose Kremlin meddling in US politics. And those attacks on McCain have intensified in recent weeks.

“In the other cases, it’s usually one day of concentrated activity going after them, any time one of those figures would come out against Trump,” Schafer says. “McCain has been a much more consistent target.”

Schafer says that the trolls tend to spread disinformation from far-right American sites rather than content from explicitly Russian ones. “GatewayPundit.com and TruePundit.com—sites to the right of Breitbart—those are our frequent flyers,” he says. “The Russians are latching onto hyperpartisan content.”

In September, McCain drew the trolls’ fire when he came out against the Graham-Grassley overhaul of the Affordable Care Act; the day after his statement against the bill, six of the top 10 trending topics on the dashboard reflected content attacking the senator. In December, the shared content took a more personal turn, aiming at the senator’s health, including a story from True Pundit carrying the headline, “As the Trump Dossier Scandal Grows and Implicates Him, McCain checks into Hospital.” The True Pundit story claimed: “This is not the fist [sic] time McCain has sought medical treatment after his role in recent anti-Trump scandals have heated up.” Another story promoted from the site quoted “Beltway insiders” as saying, “new demands to answer for his role in either underwriting or promoting the Trump phony dossier are stressing the Arizona senator’s fragile health.”

McCain has a long history of hard-line stances on Russia and he was an early advocate for a bipartisan commission to investigate Trump’s Russia connections. In May he called Russian President Vladimir Putin “the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS.” After special counsel Robert Mueller’s team indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in October, McCain said, “I told you months ago that this was a centipede and shoes would drop, and I guarantee you more shoes will drop.”

McCain has been out of the spotlight the past few weeks as he’s battled his illness; he missed the end-of-the-year tax-bill vote, but he issued a statement in late December praising the administration’s plan to supply Ukraine with anti-tank weapons to fight Russian separatist forces. McCain’s office hasn’t commented on the recent social-media attacks against the senator, but the Arizona senator has previously criticized Russian disinformation efforts and noted that he was targeted in some of the fake online advertisements purchased by Russian troll accounts—part of a broader social-media operation that sought to exploit racial divisions and attack U.S. foreign policy. “These Kremlin-backed advertisements are just one element of Vladimir Putin’s long-term goal of undermining democracies around the world,” McCain said last fall. “Putin’s Russia has no meaningful allies, so it seeks to sow dissent among us and divide us from each other.”

Another longtime Republican critic of both Russia and Trump was briefly targeted by the Hamilton-monitored Russian troll network in early January. Mitt Romney, a potential candidate to run for Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s seat this November, was the talk of the dashboard accounts on Jan. 2, after Hatch announced his retirement, and #neverromney registered as a trending hashtag on Hamilton the next day. But the accounts soon turned their attention to the fallout from Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury book, and Schafer cautioned that it’s too soon to say whether they will take an active interest in the Utah Senate race like they did in the Roy Moore Alabama Senate race. He said analysts look for multiple hashtags and urls on a topic to consider it an ongoing campaign. “It’s something we’re definitely going to be tracking over the next couple of months,” Schafer says. “Time will tell whether it’s a race they take a real interest in, or if Romney is just an occasional target that they drag out to curry favor with the pro-Trump crowd.”

Even back in the 2016 presidential primary season, Russian online smear campaigns were spotted attacking Republicans who opposed Trump, according to former FBI special agent Clint Watts, who told the New York Times that Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Lindsey Graham were all targets at the time.

McCain’s and Romney’s support for tough policies on Russia may make them obvious targets for trolls, but the co-directors of the Alliance for Securing Democracy emphasize that the influence campaign transcends party lines. In a recent issue of Democracy Journal, Laura Rosenberger and Jamie Fly wrote: “The Kremlin’s ultimate goal is not necessarily to advance one party over another—though that can be a short-term means to the ultimate end. Moscow’s attack on democracy is not focused solely on elections, but has a broader scope, and a larger target: the norms and institutions that underpin our very democratic system.”

In fact, the most prominent theme recently among the Russian-backed accounts is a growing campaign to discredit the Justice Department and FBI, Schafer says. These attacks increased from around 5% of links shared in September to about 15% of the links in December. The trolls push a “deep state” narrative to undermine the agencies, as well as attack Mueller and his Russia investigation directly. In early December after Mueller’s team indicted former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the network shared stories deriding the “tainted investigation” and claiming “Mueller’s investigation is dead.” “It goes back to the idea that they’re doing this to erode trust in our institutions,” Schafer says.

And in the first week of January, one top-shared story from True Pundit attempted to link a Costa Rican plane crash to former FBI Director James Comey, because the story claimed one of Comey’s former hedge-fund colleagues was killed in the crash. “The article has already kicked off conspiracy theories on sites like Reddit, where ‘citizen investigators’ have begun to piece together ‘coincidences,’” analysts wrote in the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s weekly newsletter. “This is the same formula used in the Seth Rich case, where a wild and unfounded claim was placed online, gained credence through posts and reposts on message boards, and was eventually adopted by more credible news sources.”

Former senior CIA official John Sipher says the FBI is a prime target for Russian influence campaigns because the agency directly threatens Kremlin intelligence operations in the US—and he points out that Trump’s own attacks on federal agencies make the trolls’ job easier. “The Russians know that public support for US security institutions is critical, and that President Trump’s attacks aim directly at that public support.”  Within the Republican Party, Trump’s attacks on the agencies – continuing in recent days – have widened divisions between conservative lawmakers who have piled on the criticism of Mueller and others who worry that the party, which has historically aligned itself with law-enforcement agencies, will be damaged by the offensive. “You can’t have a situation where people say, ‘Oh, you can’t trust the F.B.I.,’” New York Rep. Peter King recently told the New York Times. “That creates a spirit of anarchy.”

Left-leaning audiences have been targeted by Russian disinformation efforts, too: Fake “LGBT United” and “Blacktivist” Facebook pages were among the accounts shut down last year when it was revealed they were operated by the Internet Research Agency troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia. But campaigns aimed at liberal Twitter users don’t often show up in the Hamilton dashboard, which focuses on a coordinated network of accounts that put out 20,000 to 25,000 tweets a day tailored to a far-right, pro-Trump audience, Schafer says. “This is an alt-right audience targeted by the Russians that is being spoon-fed disinformation.”

Schafer says he and his colleagues are exploring how best to capture Kremlin influence campaigns that target a left-leaning audience on Twitter, and they hope to gain a better understanding of those efforts. “The Russian bots and trolls aren’t just pro-Trump,” he says. As long as they’re fomenting division and chaos, “they don’t really care.”

Putin’s Trolls Are Targeting Trump’s GOP CriticsEspecially John McCain – Mother Jones
 

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Putin’s Trolls Are Targeting Trump’s GOP Critics—Especially John McCain
Mother Jones
McCain has a long history of hard-line stances on Russia and he was an early advocate for a bipartisan commission to investigate Trump’s Russia connections. In May he called Russian President Vladimir Putin “the premier and most important threat, more 

The Early Edition: January 12, 2018
 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

IRAN

Trump is expected to announce today his decision to continue to waive sanctions on Iran as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, according to people familiar with the matter, Trump reached the decision after discussions with his national security team yesterday, meaning that the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (J.C.P.O.A.) would be kept in place for now. Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump is also expected to announce a deadline for Congress and European allies to improve the deal or it would lead U.S. withdrawing from the agreement and, according to sources, Trump has approved targeted sanctions against several Iranian government officials for corruption and human rights abuses. Mark Landler reports at the New York Times.

The Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters yesterday that he expects there will be more sanctions against Iran, these sanctions are likely related to targeted measures against Iranian individuals and entities rather than the major sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement. The BBC reports.

European diplomats yesterday called on Trump not to rip up the deal, the officials including the British, German, French foreign ministers and the E.U. foreign affairs chief met in Brussels with the Iranian foreign minister ahead of todays deadline for Trump to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran. Angela Dewan reports at CNN.

Unity is essential to preserve a deal that is working, that is making the world safer, that is preventing a nuclear arms race in the region, the E.U. foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said yesterday after talks with European officials. Brian Murphy reports at the Washington Post.

Trumps unpredictability could lead to him taking the U.S. closer to noncompliance with the nuclear deal, the collapse of the J.C.P.O.A. would create a crisis in U.S.-Europe relations as Europe strongly favors the agreement. Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Iran must stop its destabilizing activity in the region, the French President Emmanuel Macron said in a phone call with Trump yesterday, according to the White House. Reuters reports.

Keeping the nuclear deal would be in the economic interests of the Iranian protestors and, for the parties who negotiated the J.C.P.O.A., there are concerns that failing to renew the waivers would risk destroying the deal. The former British ambassador to the U.S., Peter Westmacott, writes at POLITICO Magazine.

The importance of the nuclear deal has been reinforced by the recent protests in Iran, the unrest was motivated by economic grievances and has shone a spotlight on the peoples dissatisfaction with Irans foreign policy, a U.S. decision to withdraw could offer Tehran the oxygen it needs to distract from popular demands. Ishaan Tharoor writes at the Washington Post.

The differing reactions of Sunni Muslim states to the recent unrest in Iran demonstrate reveal that the notion of a Sunni bloc to counter Irans influence in the Middle East is fanciful at best. Yaroslav Trofimov writes at the Wall Street Journal.

NORTH KOREA

I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un, President Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal yesterday, making the comments despite trading insults with the North Korean leader and the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Trump also suggested that he was open to diplomacy with North Korea. Michael C. Bender, Louise Radnofsky, Peter Nicholas and Rebecca Ballhaus report at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump refused to comment on whether he had directly spoken to Kim during the interview, a senior administration official also declined to comment on the matter when asked. Dan Merica reports at CNN.

Kim Jong-un is an absolutely competent and already mature politician, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday, adding that Kim has been calming the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The APreports.

Chinas customs agency said today that its trade with North Korea fell by 50 percent in December, the AP Reports.

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT

The House yesterday voted 256-164 to extend section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (F.I.S.A.) and voted down an amendment that required stronger privacy protections for Americans. The law which authorizes the National Security Agencys (N.S.A.) warrantless surveillance program is set to expire in January and a vote on the legislation will now go to the Senate, Byron Tau reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The bill approved by the House contains a requirement for a warrant if an F.B.I. agent wants to gain access to emails about a subject of an open criminal investigation and there is no national security aspect, however this provision is narrowly written and does not constitute much of a constraint on the surveillance program. The Senate seems unlikely to favor any major changes to the legislation and the bill is likely to pass, Charlie Savage, Eileen Sullivan and Nicholas Fandos report at the New York Times.

Within the space of two hours, Trump tweeted in favor of the F.I.S.A. extension and then tweeted that he was no longer in favor, the White House supported the bill and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan had to explain the differences between domestic and foreign surveillance in a phone call to the president after Trump mistakenly stated that F.I.S.A. had been used to warrant spying on his presidential campaign. Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey report at the Washington Post.

The vote extending section 702 constitutes a victory for sensible antiterror policy, the surveillance of foreigners who are abroad is crucial to foiling attacks on U.S. soil and there has been no evidence that officials have abused the surveillance program. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

TRUMP IMMIGRATION COMMENTS

Why should the U.S. accept immigrants from shithole countries like Haiti and African nations? President Trump remarked yesterday, according to people with knowledge of the conversation he had with members of Congress, which concerned a deal to give legal status to immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children (known as D.A.C.A.). Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Thomas Kaplan report at the New York Times.

A White House statement did not deny that the president made the remarks which have drawn widespread condemnation. The White House spokesperson Raj Shah said that certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump always fights for the American people, Lauren Gambino reports at the Guardian.

Trump claimed that he used tough language in a message posted on Twitter, but denied that he used the language reported. The BBC reports.

The African Union Commission is frankly alarmed at statements by the president of the United States when referring to migrants of African countries and others in such contemptuous terms, a spokesperson for the commissions chair said today, the U.N. Human Rights spokesperson called the remarks racist, and in El Salvador and Haiti the comments were greeted with dismay. Paul Schemm and Eli Rosenberg report at the Washington Post.

Haiti has formally requested that a U.S. official explain his comments, according to the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., Josh Delk reporting at the Hill.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

Republican efforts to block Democrats access to witnesses and documents as part of the House Intelligence Committees Russia investigation were set out by the top Democrat on the panel Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) yesterday, who contended that Republicans were also unwilling to press the members of Trumps campaign team who met with Russians at the Trump Tower in June 2016. Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.

The former member of special counsel Robert Muellers team, F.B.I. agent Peter Strzok, committed treason when he discussed an insurance policy against Trump in a text message, the president said in an interview yesterday. According to sources close to Strzok, the agents reference to an insurance policy was in relation to the F.B.I.s need to investigate the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Rebecca Ballhaus reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The accusations of alleged meddling leveled against our country are absolutely unfounded, the Kremlin spokesperson said yesterday in response to a report by U.S. Senate Democrats which detailed alleged Russian efforts to undermine Western democracies. Vladimir Isachenkov and Angela Charlton report at the AP.

The House Intelligence Committee is set to interview the former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon next week in a closed-door session, according to a source familiar with the matter, and the interview will focus on Bannons role in the Trump campaign rather than his time at the White House. Karen Freifeld and Patricia Zengerle report at Reuters.

Bannon has hired lawyers ahead of his appearance before the House Intelligence Committee, Betsy Woodruff, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report at The Daily Beast.

Trumps demand earlier this week that Republicans finally take control of the Russia investigation should send shivers down our spines, the Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday, stating that Republican lawmakers ought to shout down that kind of appeal. Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

It would be valuable for the presidents daughter and senior aide Ivanka Trump to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff said yesterday, Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.

SYRIA

The Syrian rebels yesterday launched a counteroffensive against pro-Syrian government forces advancing on the Idlib province, which is the largest territory held by the rebels, a statement by Free Syrian Army (F.S.A.) rebels said that they had set up a joint operations room and the al-Qaeda-linked Tahrir al-Sham alliance said that they had already made gains. Reuters reports.

The Turkish President Tayyip Reçep Erdogan yesterday called on the Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt Syrian attacks on the Idlib province if he wants peace negotiations to be successful, according to Turkish government sources. Reuters reports.

The State Department official David Satterfield suggested that U.S. troops would focus on Irans activities in Syria once the Islamic State group has been defeated, making the comments during an interview with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, to which the ranking member of the panel Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) responded that such a role had not been authorized by Congress. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 58 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between December 29, 2017 and January 4, 2018. [Central Command]

TRUMP LONDON VISIT

Trump said that he has canceled a planned trip to the U.K. next month to open the new U.S. embassy in London, saying in a Twitter post that President Obamas decision to move the embassy from its previous location in London was a bad deal and he did not want to cut ribbon. Louise Radnofsky, Felicia Schwartz and Jenny Gross report at the Wall Street Journal.

Trumps announcement demonstrates the increasingly strained ties in the normally close U.S.-U.K. relationship, his comments over the last year about terrorist attacks in London, criticisms of the London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and his decision to share a message from a far-right anti-Islam British group elicited widespread condemnation in Britain. Austin Ramzy reports at the New York Times.

SAUDI-IRAN RIVALRY

We cannot accept interference from anyone in Lebanese politics, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in an interview yesterday, calling on Iran and Saudi Arabia to have a relationship with Lebanon to be one that serves the national interests of Lebanon, and also saying that he was open to Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group playing a part in government a position that appears to be at odds with the approach taken by Saudi Arabia. Yaroslav Trofimov reports at the Wall Street Journal.

A U.N. report on Yemens civil war has detailed the extent to which Iran and Saudi Arabia have intervened in the conflict, the report which has not yet been published describes strong indications of Iran supplying arms to Yemens Houthi rebels and strongly criticizes airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition. Kareem Fahim reports at the Washington Post.

The war in Yemen has been perpetuated by the Saudi-Iran rivalry, Nasser al-Shakkaf and Andrew England explain at the Financial Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Pakistan has stopped sharing intelligence with U.S. from its sources on the ground near the border with Afghanistan, according to Pakistani officials, the decision has come shortly after the Trump administration decided to suspend around $2bn of military assistance to Pakistan. Farhan Bokhari, Katrina Manson and Kiran Stacey report at the Financial Times.

The Pentagon plans to bulk up military presence in Afghanistan by reallocating drones, military vehicles and other equipment, according to U.S. and military officials. Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold report at the Wall Street Journal.

The WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been granted Ecuadorean citizenship, Ecuador announced yesterday, a move that has further strained the relations with the U.K., and the British Foreign Office said in a statement that Assange must leave Ecuadors embassy in London to face justice. Maggy Ayala and Steven Erlanger report at the New York Times.

Those comments were not the position of the State Department, and you will never hear those words from this podium, the State Department Undersecretary Steve Goldstein told reporters yesterday in relation to baseless claims made a few years ago by the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands that there were no-go zones in the Netherlands due to the Islamic movement. Eli Rosenberg reports at the Washington Post.

Russia and the U.S. have been holding discussions about the 2010 U.S-Russia New S.T.A.R.T. nuclear arms reduction treaty, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday. The AP reports.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is establishing a team focusing on drug-trafficking carried out by the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group, a Justice Department statement said that the team would begin by assessing the evidence in existing investigations. Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.

Clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli troops have led to the deaths of two Palestinian teenagers, the BBC reports.

Turkey today warned its citizens about traveling to the U.S., stating that there were risks of terrorist attacks and arbitrary arrests of Turkish citizens. Al Jazeera reports.

Trumps comments during the presidential campaign that Guantánamo Bay should be loaded up with some bad dudes has prompted a group of lawyers to present a new legal petition on behalf of 11 detainees. Alex Daugherty reports at the Miami Herald.

The U.S. congratulated Libya for destroying the last remnants of its Qadhafi-era chemical weapons stockpile, the White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, also calling on Syria to fully dismantle its chemical weapons program. Reuters reports.

The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate – Consortium News
 

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The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate
Consortium News
Besides forcing the removal of Strzok and Page, the text exposures also sounded the death knell for the career of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, in whose office some of the plotting took place and who has already announced his plans to retire soon and more »
FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide
 

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Veteran Chicago police Sgt. Donald Markham was shot by someone else at point-blank range in his home in 2015 before the scene was staged to appear to be a suicide, a forensic pathologist hired by the FBI concluded in a report obtained Thursday by the Chicago Tribune.

The five-page report contradicts Cook County officials’ ruling that Markham had shot himself in September 2015 after a drunken argument with his wife, Dina, also a veteran Chicago cop. The report was part of a yearlong probe by the FBI, which began after questions were raised within the Chicago Police Department about Markham’s death.

The mystery deepened last May when Dina Markham, 47, was herself found dead, submerged in a bathtub in the couple’s home in the 5900 block of North Newark Avenue. Her death, ruled an accidental drowning by the Cook County medical examiner’s office, occurred before the FBI was able to interview her.

As part of its probe, the FBI hired forensic pathologist Scott Denton to review the autopsy reports and photos from the scene of Markham’s death. Denton, a former chief interim medical examiner for Cook County, works in a private capacity in downstate Bloomington.

Denton’s report — submitted to the FBI last February — found a number of troubling aspects about the scene that led him to conclude the shooting was, in fact, a homicide, or “death at the hands of another.” Among the clues, he said, were blood patterns indicating Markham’s arms were “lifted upward after death,” the strange placement of the gun “loosely in his right hand” and a lack of small abrasions or lacerations on his index finger that typically can be seen after someone fires a gun.

“The position of his body, the blood flow pattern on his face, the blood transfer pattern on his chin and left hand under his chin, and the moved and placed appearance of the gun in his right hand are all consistent with his body having been moved after death,” Denton wrote in the report, obtained by the Tribune from the medical examiner’s office through an open records request.

The medical examiner’s office, meanwhile, has doubled down on its original ruling that Donald Markham, 51, shot himself in his own bed that night, writing in a point-by-point refutation that the FBI expert offered “creative and descriptive scenarios” that were not grounded in science.

In her nine-page rebuttal report, also made public Thursday, Chief Medical Examiner Ponni Arunkumar wrote that Denton’s analyses of the blood spatter and position of Markham’s body ignored scientific literature that a body often continues to move — or even convulse — after suffering a gunshot wound to the head.

The position of the gun in Markham’s hand was consistent with a well-known textbook on gunshot wounds showing that suicide victims often grip guns in a different way than they would if they were shooting at a target, Arunkumar wrote.

And while Donald Markham apparently left no suicide note, Arunkumar said that “neighbors, friends, colleagues and family members” of the Markhams all gave interviews indicating that the couple argued frequently and that “during these arguments they would express statements about killing themselves.”

Last month, the FBI held an unusual meeting with officials at the medical examiner’s office, detailing the bureau’s findings that called into question the suicide ruling. A medical examiner’s office spokeswoman said the initial Markham death investigation was then put through a review by 10 other pathologists with its office, who all agreed with the original finding of suicide.

The Tribune reported Sunday that the FBI concluded its probe into Markham’s death after that meeting and that no federal charges would be sought.

But the case is far from over. Officers and detectives who were present at the scene of Donald Markham’s death have been interviewed by prosecutors with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office as part of a parallel investigation, the Tribune has reported. Also pending is a separate probe by Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who launched his own investigation early last year focusing on whether any city administrative rules or codes of conduct were violated.

Among the issues that could be problematic is why detectives waited to call the medical examiner’s office to report the death by the time they were already en route with Markham’s body. It is general practice for medical examiner investigators to go to crime scenes. And county ordinance requires that law enforcement seek permission from the medical examiner’s office before removing a body.

Another questionable decision made at the scene was the removal of a bloodstained mattress. Though Markham was transferred to the medical examiner wrapped in a bloody sheet from the bed, the mattress itself was disposed of that night by a Chicago Streets and Sanitation crew.

In her report, Arunkumar’s revealed that the FBI had also asked the medical examiner’s office to address the location of the spent shell casing from Markham’s .380-caliber Glock pistol, which was seen in crime scene photos on the bed near a blood-stained pillow.

Arunkumar responded that the location of the shell casing was “fully consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

She also took issue with Denton’s suggestion that Chicago police had influenced its findings by classifying the case early on as a suicide. If anyone was biased, Arunkumar said, it was Denton, who appeared to “backfill a justification for a determination of homicide as a manner of death when the evidence is simply not there.”

A spokesman for the Markham family, Jim Bastian, could not be reached for comment Thursday, but he told the Tribune in a statement last week that the family has believed all along that Donald Markham’s death was a tragic suicide.

Bastian acknowledged, however, that there appeared to be legitimate concerns about how Chicago police handled the investigation.

“It’s unfortunate because a lot of heartache could have been avoided,” he said.

Donald and Dina Markham had been out drinking at the Firewater Saloon in Edison Park until 1 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2015, according to statements Dina Markham gave to police. She said her husband blamed her for keeping them out so late and that a quarrel that began in the car continued as they arrived home, records show.

According to police reports, Dina Markham said she walked away from the house, and her husband eventually locked her out. About 15 minutes later, she returned to the home and was unable to get inside, according to the police reports. She then knocked on a window and asked one of her children to open the front door.

Once inside, she started searching for her car keys because she planned to sleep in her car, the report said. She entered their bedroom and saw her husband lying on his side in the bed, his back toward her. Markham said she started feeling around his pockets in search of the keys but felt moisture instead. Realizing it was blood, Markham called 911 just after 3 a.m.

On the calls, a distraught Markham begged operators to send help but was unable to answer questions about what happened.

“Please hurry!” she implored in her first 911 call. “He’s a PO (police officer). … There’s blood all over the bed.”

Officers found Donald Markham lying on the bed in the master bedroom suffering from a “contact” gunshot wound to his right temple, according to police and medical examiner’s office reports. Markham’s pistol was still in his right hand, with five bullets in the clip and one in the chamber, according to the reports.

Markham had gunshot residue on his hand, indicating he’d either fired or was close to the weapon when it was fired. Although Dina Markham was the one who reportedly found her husband’s body, her hands were never tested for gunshot residue, records show.

The medical examiner’s office did not conduct its own investigation at the scene because detectives didn’t contact the office about the death until almost 5:30 a.m., at least two hours after the incident. By then, Markham’s body was being transported to the morgue in a police wagon.

Two months later, on Nov. 13, 2015, Chicago police officially closed their investigation into Donald Markham’s death under the classification “non-criminal,” police reports showed.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

asweeney@chicagotribune.com

jgorner@chicagotribune.com

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FBI probe ends, but mysterious deaths of Chicago cop couple remain under investigation »

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911 calls released in off-duty cop’s death: ‘Please hurry! There’s blood all over the bed’ »

FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide – Chicago Tribune
 

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FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide
Chicago Tribune
Veteran Chicago police Sgt. Donald Markham was shot by someone else at point-blank range in his home in 2015 before the scene was staged to appear to be a suicide, a forensic pathologist hired by the FBI concluded in a report obtained Thursday by the 
FBI report: Mysterious Chicago cop death ‘is best certified as a homicide’Chicago Sun-Timesall 2 news articles »
9:21 AM 1/11/2018 Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks: FBI as he suspected it had been compromised
 

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Christopher Steele The impression by the professional intelligence officer of the closest allied service is the very serious issue and the very important matter. Investigate the FBI fully, thoroughly and deeply, if you want to understand the Trump Presidency and its origins, the Trump Russia Affair, and the history and the essence of the … Continue reading“9:21 AM 1/11/2018 – Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks: “FBI as he suspected it had been compromised”…”

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Dossier Author Targeted by Senators

New York Times20 hours ago
6): Instead of putting party over country in an attempt to discredit a government source and longtime intelligence ally in Christopher Steele, a former British agent, Senators Lindsey Graham and Charles Grassley would serve their judicial oversight roles and the American public better by working with their …

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Washington PostJan 9, 2018
5 referred Christopher Steele, the author of the “dossier” alleging ties between President Trump and Russia, for a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. The move is an unexpected twist in the saga over the document, which was gossiped about in journalistic circles during the 2016 presidential …

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How Fusion GPS co-founder is doubling down on ‘dodgy’ anti-Trump …

Washington Times12 hours ago
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Feud over Trump dossier intensifies with release of interview transcript

Washington PostJan 9, 2018
The Senate committee has been probing how the FBI handled allegations it received from a British ex-spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled a series of memorandums, later collected as a dossier, alleging that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin — a claim the president has repeatedly …
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Analysis: The quiet probe into Clinton email investigation could be a …

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Nearly a year later, Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s wide-ranging review of the FBI and Justice’s work in the politically-charged Clinton case now looms as a potential landmine for Russia special counsel Robert Mueller. For months, Horowitz’s investigation — which has amassed interviews with former …

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IG report on Clinton email case, document dump could hold new …

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Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz also is reviewing whether FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have recused himself from the probe early because of his family’s ties to the Democratic Party. (He did not do so until a week before the election.) Horowitz told lawmakers …

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DOJ inspector general says department did not consult him before …

Business InsiderDec 15, 2017
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz told House Judiciary Democrats in a letter on Friday that the department did not consult his office before releasing text messages that are currently under OIG investigation to the press. The texts from 2016 were exchanged between former agents on special counsel …
8:25 AM 1/11/2018 Saved Stories: Private investigator stopped cooperating with FBI as he suspected it had been compromised, his employer told committee Trump-Russia inquiry: transcript reveals ex-spy and FBIs cloak-and-dagger dance | US news | The Guardian
 

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Source: Trump-Russia inquiry: transcript reveals ex-spy and FBI’s cloak-and-dagger dance | US news | The Guardian  Private investigator stopped cooperating with FBI as he suspected it had been compromised, his employer told committee The transcript from the Fusion G.P.S. founders testimony raises questions about what the F.B.I. knew at the time and Steeles role in the … Continue reading“8:25 AM 1/11/2018 – Saved Stories: Private investigator stopped cooperating with FBI as he suspected it had been compromised, his employer told committee – Trump-Russia inquiry: transcript reveals ex-spy and FBI’s cloak-and-dagger dance | US news | The Guardian “

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The Hill’s 12:30 Report

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unilaterally released more than 300 pages of an interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, whose firm commissioned the controversial dossier on President Trump. The gist of what we learned: The dossier’s author, a former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele, said the FBI …

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The Early Edition: January 11, 2018

Just Security1 hour ago
The transcript from the Fusion G.P.S. founder’s testimony raises questions about what the F.B.I. knew at the time and Steele’s role in the investigation. Stephanie Kirchgaessner explains at the Guardian. Senior Democrats in the Senate have accused Republican of engaging in efforts to discredit the …
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Fusion GPS transcript undercuts GOP attack on Steele and FBI

Washington Post22 hours ago
The decision by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to release the transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee did more damage to Republicans on the committee than to President Trump. For starters, it debunked the position of Judiciary …
Fusion GPSFBI Had a Source in Trump’s Circle During Campaign
<a href=”http://Snopes.com” rel=”nofollow”>Snopes.com</a>Jan 9, 2018
Trump Russia Dossier: Fusion GPS Transcript, Glenn Simpson …
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Feud over Trump dossier intensifies with release of interview transcript

Washington PostJan 9, 2018
The political battle over the FBI and its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election intensified Tuesday with the release of an interview with the head of the firm behind a dossier of allegations against then-candidate Donald Trump. The transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson’s …

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Fusion GPS Founder’s Senate Judiciary Testimony Released

NPRJan 9, 2018
The former British intelligence officer who authored the infamous Russia dossier wanted to show it to the FBI because he was concerned that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was being “blackmailed.” Christopher Steele told the political research firm that hired him, Fusion GPS, that what he …
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Fusion GPS transcript undercuts GOP attack on Steele and FBI

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Grassley’s attempt to suppress the transcript comes in conjunction with his entirely inappropriate “referral” to the FBI to investigate Christopher Steele — someone the FBI had already met with, received information from and had an ongoing, respectful and cooperative relationship with. Simpson testified, “My …

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Retired FBI Agent: The Real Reason Trump’s Lawyers Don’t Want a …

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Some, as former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi has mused, speculate that an in-person interview could be employed to “push some buttons.” The Trump legal team would predictably counter with a request to submit written answers to proffered questions—a typical ploy to …
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FBI Task Force to Expose Russian Social Media Manipulation

Bloomberg15 hours ago
“We’ve been reluctant in some instances to share the amount of information of what we know about what’s happening,” said Jeffrey Tricoli, a top FBI official heading the task force. “You can’t stay with the same strategy if you think there needs to be changes. So going forward there’s going to be opportunities …

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FBI Hacker Says Apple Are ‘Jerks’ and ‘Evil Geniuses’ for Encrypting …

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On Wednesday, at the the International Conference on Cyber Security in Manhattan, FBI forensic expert Stephen Flatley lashed out at Apple, calling the company “jerks,” and “evil geniuses” for making his and his colleagues’ investigative work harder. For example, Flatley complained that Apple recently …

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Trump: ‘Did FBI use intel tool too influence the election’ for Hillary …

Washington Examiner1 hour ago
President Trump said Thursday that the Democratic Party used the Fusion GPS dossier to spy on his campaign in 2016, and asked if the FBI used that in an attempt to influence the election against him. “Disproven and paid for by Democrats ‘Dossier’ used to spy on Trump Campaign. Did FBI use Intel tool to …
The Early Edition: January 11, 2018
 

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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 KOREA

South Korean President Moon Jae-in admitted that there were policy differences with the U.S. in terms of their approach to the Pyongyang regime in a news conference yesterday, however he also expressed guarded optimism about the future of inter-Korean relations and praised President Trump for facilitating the talks which took place Tuesday. Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The current inter-Korean talks could naturally lead to talks between the United States and North Korea for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the White House said in a statement following President Trumps phone call with President Moon yesterday. Reuters reports.

Trump would be open to talks with North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances, Trump said in the phone call, according to the White House statement. Julian Borger and Justin McCurry report at the Guardian.

I hope you let them know that there will be absolutely no military action as long as inter-Korean talks are ongoing, Trump said, according to the South Korean governments statement on the phone call. Dan Merica reports at CNN.

The U.N. Security Council has welcomed the inter-Korean talks in a statement issued yesterday, which expressed hope that the discussions would open possibilities for confidence building and trust building on the Korean Peninsula. The AP reports.

It would be detrimental to U.S. interests for the U.S. to conduct airstrikes against North Korea, such a measure would risk lives and escalation could lead to a response from China. Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) write at Foreign Policy in response to an article by Edward Luttwak.

An investigation into a Chinese businesswoman represents a test for China, revealing how far it is willing to support U.S. efforts to put pressure on North Korea. The growth of Ma Xiaohongs commercial empire has been supported by trade with North Korea and American prosecutors charged her for helping North Korea to evade international sanctions, Steven lee Myers explains at the New York Times.

IRAN

Some of Trumps top advisers have urged the president to waive sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a senior administration official, Trump has privately expressed reluctance to waive the sanctions and he will seek to make a decision today following a meeting with national security aides. Steve Holland reports at Reuters.

President Trump is expected to continue to waive the sanctions ahead of tomorrows deadline, according to sources familiar with the deliberations, but Trump is likely to add that the waiver be coupled with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities. Matthew Lee and Josh Lederman report at the AP.

A decision to re-impose sanctions could be viewed as a U.S. violation of the 2015 agreement, and senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have recommended that Trump continue to waive the sanctions. Zachary Cohen, Elise Labott and Ted Barrett report at CNN.   

Irans Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has traveled to Brussels to meet with European Union officials and European foreign ministers to discuss the 2015 agreement, the E.U. has strongly supported the deal but the recent anti-government protests in Iran have complicated its position. Mehreen Khan reports at the Financial Times.

The German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said today that the U.S. was right to raise concerns about Irans ballistic program and its role in the Middle East, but those concerns are separate to the particular issue of the nuclear deal. Robin Emmott reports at Reuters.

The British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is set to meet with Zarif today, where he will discuss the nuclear deal and raise the issue of the recent protests in Iran. Anabelle Dickson reports at POLITICO.

There has been no agreement within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding legislation addressing what Trump deems to be issues with the nuclear deal, the panels top Democrat Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday, adding that there have been very positive discussions with the committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and they have an understanding of the framework of issues that need to be dealt with. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

President Trump declined to commit to being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 U.S. election, saying at a news conference yesterday that when you have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that youd even have an interview. Rebecca Ballhaus reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Ill speak to attorneys, Trump also said in response to the question about meeting with Mueller, adding well see what happens, his answer showing a change from his comments in June, where he said that he would be 100 percent willing to give a sworn statement to Mueller. Julie Hirschfield Davis and Nicholas Fandos report at the New York Times.

For 11 months, weve had this phony cloud over this administration, Trump added, saying that the allegations of collusion were a Democrat hoax and insisting that there has been no collusion. Jeremy Diamond reports at CNN.

Trump attacked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for her decision to release the transcript of the founder of the opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S.s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week, calling Feinstein Sneaky in a post on Twitter and urged Republicans to take control of the investigation. The Fusion G.P.S. founder Glenn Simpson hired the former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele to produce a dossier on Trumps connections to Russia, Josh Dawsey and Ed OKeefe report at the Washington Post.

The transcript from the Fusion G.P.S. founders testimony raises questions about what the F.B.I. knew at the time and Steeles role in the investigation. Stephanie Kirchgaessner explains at the Guardian.

Senior Democrats in the Senate have accused Republican of engaging in efforts to discredit the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, leading to break downs in the congressional investigations, and Republicans have accused Democrats of politicizing the inquiries. Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.

The cybercrime expert Ryan Dickey has been a member of Muellers team since November, according to a U.S. official, Dickeys role in the team suggests that the Mueller investigation may be focusing on computer hacking. Eric Geller reports at POLITICO.

The Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has filed a lawsuit against Trumps former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his aide Rick Gates, alleging that they misappropriated millions of dollars of his investments. Manafort and Gates have both pleaded not guilty to charges filed by Mueller as part of the Russia investigation in relation to their work while in Ukraine, Scott Patterson reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Russias threat to Western democracies has been revealed as a consequence of the investigations, report released by Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday has revealed the extent of the assault on democratic institutions and the Democrats warnings must be heeded. The New York Times editorial board writes.

The full Russian- Trump- F.B.I. record should be made public, the Wall Street Journal editorial boardwrites, arguing that there should be proper transparency, including the declassification of details relating to the F.B.I.s handling of the Steele dossier.

The possible ways that presidents lawyers are preparing Trump for an interview with Mueller are set out by Bradley P. Moss at POLITICO Magazine.

SYRIA

Syrian pro-government forces have advanced into the rebel-held Idlib province and reached a rebel-controlled air base yesterday. Bassem Mroue reports at the AP.

The offensive on Idlib has led to the displacement of around 100,000 Syrian civilians, according to the U.N., Idlib was designated a de-escalation zone under a Russia-, Iran- and Turkey-brokered deal, nevertheless Syrian forces have continued their advance and Turkey has called on Russia and Iran to pressure Syria to halt the offensive. The BBC reports.

At least 85 civilians have been killed since Dec. 31 in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near the capital of Damascus, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said yesterday, calling on all parties to respect international law. The U.N. News Centre reports.

The Turkish foreign ministry yesterday summoned the U.S. Embassys Charge dAffaires to express Turkeys discomfort with Washingtons support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, the Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia have received arms and training from the U.S., Al Jazeera reports.

The drones that recently attacked the Russian Hmeimim air base in Syria were launched from a rebel-held village in the Idlib province, the Russian defense ministry held Turkey accountable for the drone attack, which was in contravention of a cease-fire agreement. Liz Sly and Zakaria Zakaria report at the Washington Post.

Rebel attacks on Russian military outposts in Syria have raised questions about the ability of Syrian President Bashar al-Assads ability to consolidate gains and Russias ability to protect its assets. Vladimir Isachenkov reports at the AP.

Russias representative to the E.U. has called on European states to provide financial support to rebuild Syria, the comments highlight tensions faced by European countries who seek to stem the flow of Syrian refugees but do not want to boost the Assad regime. Michael Peel reports at the Financial Times.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 58 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between December 29, 2017 and January 4, 2018. [Central Command]

CUBA EMBASSY INCIDENTS

Canada has no plans to withdraw diplomats who have suffered symptoms at its embassy in Cuba, a senior Canadian government official said yesterday, U.S. diplomats and personnel also reported illnesses which some have alleged may have been caused by some sort of attack. Tracey Lindeman reports at the AP.

The Canadian government said yesterday that it had no idea what caused the mysterious illnesses, Canadian citizens reported similar symptoms to U.S. Embassy employees in Cuba. Abigail Williams and Tracy Connor report at NBC News.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

A criminal investigation has been opened by Egypt in relation to a New York Times article that described a covert effort by Egyptian intelligence to try and influence public opinion in favor of Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israels capital. Declan Walsh reports at the New York Times.

The Trump administrations reported decision to fund $125m in funds to the U.N.R.W.A. Palestinian aid agency marks an unprecedented change in policy, the administration should progress from this position by stating that U.N.R.W.A. has outlived its usefulness and that Palestinians are not refugees, following this, the administration should create a detailed plan to shift responsibility from U.N.R.W.A. to the Palestinian Authority. Alex Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky write at the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Punishing Pakistan pushes it towards Americas major adversaries, the Pakistan Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan said in an interview, warning that Pakistan would move closer to China in light of the U.S. decision last week to freeze military aid to Pakistan. Saeed Shah reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The House is set to vote today on legislation renewing the National Security Agencys (N.S.A.) warrantless surveillance program today, the House is also expected to vote on a bipartisan amendment that would be seen as a victory for privacy advocates. The votea on the legislation and amendment is likely to be close, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

A U.S. military investigation has been launched after video footage was released appearing to show a U.S. soldier violating the rules of engagement while serving in Afghanistan. Wesley Morgan reports at POLITICO.

The Islamic State group have two options should they decide to come up against the United States, our allies and partners: surrender or die! the Pentagons senior enlisted adviser Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell said in posts on social media yesterday. Dan Lamothe reports at the Washington Post.

The Islamic State affiliate in Egypts Sinai Peninsula have declared on the Palestinian Hamas group, Iyad Abuheweila and Isabel Kershner explain the significance of the declaration at the New York Times.

Chinas rise has been aided by a U.S. absence of leadership, Ishaan Tharoor provides an analysis at the Washington Post.

US Democrats Accuse Russia of ‘Targeting’ Balkans :: Balkan Insight
 

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A new report produced by US Democrats says Russia is aggressively targeting countries that have taken “tangible steps” to integrate with Western institutions like the EU or NATO in order to impede integration processes.
“Georgia, Ukraine, and Montenegro are the most recent cases in a long history of Russian aggression along the periphery that stretches back generations — and, as they have drawn closer to NATO and the EU, they have been the focus of arguably the most brazen Kremlin efforts to keep them from sliding across the finish line,” the report published on Wednesday said.

According to Gallup International Association’s “Global Leaders End of Year” survey, published on Wednesday, the most popular world leader among Serbs is Russian President Vladimir Putin (81 percent). According to the B92 report, Putin is followed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (61 percent), Merkel (38 percent), and Macron and US President Donald Trump (33 percent each).

It added that Russian interference in places like Serbia is less visibly aggressive and focuses more on “cultivating sympathetic elements of society to deter government efforts to integrate with the West”.
“In addition to disinformation and the co-opting of political forces, Russia employs energy resources as a weapon to gain leverage in these countries,” it said.
The Associated Press on Wednesday called the report the first from the US Congress to “comprehensively detail Russian efforts to undermine democracies since the 2016 [US] presidential election”.
AP said the report by Congressional Democrats warns of “deepening Russian interference throughout Europe” – but added that no Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee signed the report.
The document, published on the official website of the Senate, also noted Bulgaria among the “EU members where corruption or vulnerabilities in the rule of law provide openings to erode their bonds to European values and institutions”.
It said most Russian government funding is focused on post-Soviet “swing states” such as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia, while Kremlin-supported groups also operate in the Balkans, “especially Serbia and Bulgaria”.
The part of the report about Montenegro recalls the events from the 2016 election day when authorities claimed to have quashed a pro-Russian coup.
“Russian malign influence in Montenegro has long been present and intensified in 2016 in an effort to derail the country’s NATO bid,” it said.

“This renewed focus included propaganda, support for NGOs and political parties, and culminated in an alleged Russian effort to overthrow the government following the 2016 parliamentary election,” it added.
Among the recommendations for Montenegro, the report said the United States should recognize its commitment to enter NATO, and that this case should “serve as a wake-up call for other NATO and EU aspirants, especially in the Balkans”.
“The international community should not rest on its laurels now that Montenegro is a NATO member, but should actively help the government to bolster its defenses against other soft power tools in Russia’s asymmetric arsenal,” it said.
In the case of Serbia, the report warned that Russia’s “malign influence” manifests “itself through cultural ties, propaganda, energy, and an expanding defense relationship”.
It added: “Moscow also highlights deep roots between the countries through the Orthodox Church and a shared Slavic culture”.
Despite its close relationship with Moscow, it added, Serbia has made clear that its priority is joining the European Union.
“Serbia’s desire to maintain good relations with both the EU and Russia is reflective of public opinion, but may not be sustainable, as deeper integration may mean adopting EU decisions that run counter to Russian interests,” the report warned, and added that closer ties between Serbia and the EU could result in a surge in Russian influence in the country.
“The government of Serbia has done little to prepare for this eventuality and has taken few discernable actions to defend against Russian malign influence,” it complained.
The report also underlined the energy influence Russia has on Serbia, as it provides 40 per cent of the natural gas consumed in Serbia.
The report urged Serbia to “defend itself against Kremlin interference” and the United States to re-engage with resources and send “a clear message that it is willing to spend the time and effort necessary to support those who want a democratic future in Europe”.
On Bulgaria, report said that the country, “despite pressure, remains resilient”.
“With the dedication of more diplomatic attention and resources—particularly on energy diversification, addressing corruption, and building up the democratic rule of law – the United States will be in a position to help leaders within the Bulgarian government and civil society counter Russia’s asymmetric arsenal,” the report concluded.

US Democrats have accused Donald Trump’s election team of colluding with Russia to win the US presidential election and have fiecely opposed Trump’s call for the US to establish warmer ties to the Kremlin at last in their joint struggle against Islamist terrorists.

Chinas Stealthy Advance in Balkans Should Worry EU :: Balkan Insight
 

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comment11 Jan 182018-01-11 11:06:10

While Europe focuses on the threat of Russian penetration in Eastern Europe, it is neglecting the subtler dangers than come from China’s growing influence in the region.

Vesko Garcevic

BIRN

The region is still unaware of potential risks of dealing with China. Hence, it’s not whether or not to do business with China; the question is how to make yourself able to negotiate a fair deal.

When EU officials, including foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, refer to the Balkans as a new “chessboard where the big power game can be played”, Russia, not China, seems to be on their mind.

But, whether or not they wish to recognize it, China is becoming a powerful player in the strategic chess game in the Balkans.

Beijing’s “One Belt One Road” policy is already affecting the Balkans, and its presence is visible in almost every corner of the region.

The Republicans Fake Investigations – The New York Times
 

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Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.

We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

We suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip: Reportedly, ours are the only bank records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed.

We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.

We explained how, from our past journalistic work in Europe, we were deeply familiar with the political operative Paul Manafort’s coziness with Moscow and his financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

Finally, we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year — and the committees know it. They also know that these Russians were unaware of the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s work for us and were not sources for his reports.

Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?

What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.

We did not discuss that decision with our clients, or anyone else. Instead, we deferred to Mr. Steele, a trusted friend and intelligence professional with a long history of working with law enforcement. We did not speak to the F.B.I. and haven’t since.

After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary. We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power. We did not, however, share the dossier with BuzzFeed, which to our dismay published it last January.

We’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment.

It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.

Continue reading the main story

Fusion GPS Speaks | TrumP Россия
 

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1060x600-7763685d68b3f61401827c6db1372603Glenn Simpson

Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the two former Wall Street Journal reports who founded Fusion GPS, have broken their silence about their role in the Trump-Russia affair.

Simpson and Fritsch penned an opinion piece in today’s New York Times. The purpose of the opinion piece was to let the public know what they spent 21 hours explaining to three congressional committees.

Most of the piece rebuts the many rumors surrounding Fusion GPS, including one big one — former British spy Christopher Steele’s sources were not paid for the information that he compiled about Trump, including the scandalous watersports-in-Moscow story.  This is big because paying sources undermines their credibility.

Simpson and Fritsch note their “dismay” that Buzzfeed published the Steele dossier in January 2017. This bothers me because Fusion GPS was shopping Steele and this dossier to every major news outlet who would listen. I guess this is the Washington game, but washing your hands in dirty water is not how you stay clean.

For Trump-Russia investigators, they did offer up a few tidbits:

  • Simpson and Fritsch told investigators to look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Trump’s businesses.
  • In Manhattan,  Sunny Isles Beach, Florida; Toronto; and Panama, they found “widespread evidence” that Trump had worked with “dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering.”

There is a lot of information packed in to those few sentences.

Simpson and Fritsch also note, as we did recently here, that Trump’s allies in Congress have dug through their bank records to tarnish the firm and punish them for bringing light into the darkness of Trump’s Russia dealings.

One person who lit up after reading this piece was Bill Browder, Putin’s self-styled enemy No. 1 who was once his biggest fan. Here he is, borrowing from the Devin Nunes “attack the client” strategy, as he vented his anger on Twitter today:

The Steele dossier, unfortunately, is a distraction. It is raw intelligence, not evidence, and was never intended to be used in a court of law. In the public’s mind, however, it has been impossibly conflated with the legitimate investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

It does Browder no credit that he stokes this confusion and allows his hatred of Fusion GPS to become grist for conservative media outlets that seek to undermine the Mueller inquiry. (“The dossier is the foundation on which the case for Russiagate, including Mueller’s investigation, is built.”)

As Browder surely knows, since he’s paid for many an investigation himself, who hired Fusion GPS doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that if Fusion GPS didn’t dish up facts, it wouldn’t be in business. Period.

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Today’s Headlines and Commentary
 

mikenova shared this story from Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices.

President Donald Trump is expected to continue economic sanctions relief to Iran as part of the Iran nuclear deal, but he will impose new targeted sanctions on Iranian individuals and businesses for their involvement in Irans ballistic missile program and human rights abuses, the AP . Trump faces a deadline on Friday to extend or cancel sanctions relief for Irans central bank, which was lifted as part of the 2015 multilateral agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster have recommended that Trump extend the sanctions. The administration has not yet made a final decision. Maintaining the core sanctions relief while adding new targeted measures could allow the nuclear deal to remain in place while satisfying the administrations desire to put pressure on Iran.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein released the transcript of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpsons interview with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators about the Steele dossier, the Washington Post . Simpson spoke to the committee about Fusion GPS, the firm he co-founded, and its work on the dossier. Republicans have tried to discredit the Trump-Russia dossier as a politically-motivated document. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committees chairman, had refused to release the transcript. Simpson said in his testimony that the FBI believed some of the allegations Steele shared with its investigators about the Trump campaigns ties to Russia because of other intelligence already in the bureaus possession, including information related to a person in the Trump campaign.. That person is believed to be George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser who spoke to an Australian diplomatwhose government then relayed to the FBIinformation about Russian efforts to undermine the Clinton campaign. The testimony refutes GOP talking points that say the dossier served as the basis for opening the investigation into possible collusion with the Russian government.

Separately, Michael Cohen, an attorney and business partner of Trump, filed defamation lawsuits against Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier, Politico . The dossier discusses Cohens ties to Russia. BuzzFeeds editor said in an  in the New York Times that it was the right decision to publish the dossier.

Senate Democrats released a report saying Russia conducted a broad campaign to undermine democratic institutions in Western Europe and North America using military operations, cyber attacks, and disinformation over the past 20 years, the Wall Street Journal . The 200-page report from the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Russian President Vladimir Putins goal was to undermine the transatlantic alliance. It makes 30 policy recommendations, including freezing Russian finances linked to corruption, supporting democratic institutions abroad and levying new sanctions against Russia. Senate Republicans declined to join the report.

Tillerson is opening a State Department investigation into the mysterious attacks on U.S. personnel stationed at the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the New York Times . Senators told senior State Department officials that it should have opened the Accountability Review Board inquiry much earlier to look into the strange illnesses that afflicted U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba. The Cuban government has denied any responsibility for the incidents.

A bill to reauthorize surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act advanced to the House floor after the Rules Committee approved it in a 6-3 vote, Politico . The bill would renew Section 702, which is currently scheduled to expire on Jan. 19, for six more years. It is a combination of competing bills from the House intelligence and judiciary committees. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the measure is likely to pass both the House and Senate. Sen. Mark Warner, the top democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said the bill would receive support in the Senate.

The Islamic State called on its fighters to attack the militant organization Hamas, saying Hamas had betrayed Palestinians by refusing to release Palestinian extremists and by participating in Palestinian elections, the New York Times . A video released from the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State, which is currently fighting Egyptian security forces in the Sinai peninsula, showed Islamic State fighters denouncing Hamas. The feud between the militant organizations makes an already unstable situation near the Sinai-Gaza border even more hostile.

Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two Reuters journalists who have been detained in the country for more than a month with violating a law protecting state secrets, the Times . The journalists were investigating mass graves in areas where Myanmars military has carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims. They denied any wrongdoing. American and European diplomats in Myanmar called for the journalists release.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Mieke Eoyang, Ben Freeman and Benjamin Wittes  their analysis of polling data on government and national security matters from December 2017.

Samuel Estreicher  separation of powers issues with the Iran nuclear deal agreement.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck  a primer on the merits issues in ACLU v. Mattis.

J. Dana Stuster  the Middle East Ticker, covering the Iran protests, austerity for the royal family in Saudi Arabia and possible U.S. cuts to U.N. relief for Palestine.

Matthew Kahn  the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committees interview with Glenn Simpson.

Kahn  Lawfares resource page for documents related to FISA Section 702 reauthorization.

Kahn  the text of a speech FBI Director Christopher Wray gave on Jan. 9 about encryption and cyber security.

Vanessa Sauter  the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview between Alina Polyakova and Julia Ioffe about Ioffes recent piece on Putins goals.

Paul Rosenzweig  the context for the Trump administrations decision to end Temporary Protected Status for El Salvadorans.

 

 the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and  for additional commentary on these issues.  to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our  to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our .

A Jersey Shore doctor killed his wife after she threatened to expose the drug ring he ran, prosecutors say
 

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social media infiltration by russian intelligence – Google Search
 

mikenova shared this story from social media infiltration by russian intelligence – Google News.

Story image for social media infiltration by russian intelligence from NBCNews.com

Russian trolls went on attack during key election moments

<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>Dec 20, 2017
Thousands of Russian trolls targeted national events during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to infiltrate the online conversations of millions of Americans, …. but we knew there were underground networks to spread content that would undermine Hillary,” said Emmy Bengtson, former deputy social media …

Story image for social media infiltration by russian intelligence from CNN

CNN

Bess: From Russia with love … sort of

Bolivar Herald-Free Press42 minutes ago
Putin and his disciples have infiltrated numerous public and private institutions and made off with information sensitive to both our government and its citizens. They have exploited our free press, spread disinformation through social media, and have created online propaganda networks and websites.

Story image for social media infiltration by russian intelligence from Washington Post

What does Trump think Mueller will find?

Washington PostJan 4, 2018
Trump and his top advisers were distributors of the Russian social media propaganda, retweeting and distributing it widely. And much of this happened after Trump was briefed in July by top U.S. professional counterintelligence officers who warned him of a Russian effort to infiltrate the 2016 campaign.

Story image for social media infiltration by russian intelligence from The Atlantic

American Elections Remain Unprotected

The AtlanticDec 28, 2017
Two weeks before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified version of its report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It detailed the activities of a network of hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole documents from the Democrati

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