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|The Steele Dossier: Let Transparency Trump Politics|
President Donald Trump, concerned that investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections cast doubt over his legitimacy, has consistently dismissed and denigrated such probes. The decision by Dianne Feinstein, as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, to unilaterally release the transcript of closed testimony by Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson adds a measure of much-needed transparency in the still-unfolding investigations. A careful—and apolitical–reading of the more than 300 pages sheds light on the work of the political research firm and the credibility of revelations thus far.
The primary impetus for the nine hours of Senate staff questioning of Simpson was the so-called “Steele Dossier,” a series of raw intelligence reports collected by former British MI-6 officer Christopher Steele, many of which paint Trump and his organization in a highly negative light.
Unfortunately, partisan politics are overshadowing the content of the dossier and the veracity of Steele and Simpson. Information in the transcript contributes significantly to the public’s ability to understand Russia’s goals for the election, as well as the level of professionalism not only of Fusion GPS but also of Steele and, indeed, the FBI.
So it is difficult to ascribe anything but political calculation to Republican opposition to making the transcript public. A spokesperson for Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said the release “undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work and jeopardizes its ability to secure candid, voluntary testimony.” These complaints do not appear to be serious, given that the committee presumably could subpoena witnesses if it so desired. And in today’s leaky Washington, there is only an even chance that a transcript would remain confidential.
Simpson himself called for release of the transcript in a recent op-ed in The New York Times. Certainly no classified information was discussed, a valid reason often used to conduct closed hearings. Given all of this, Grassley’s opposition to the release of the transcript appears to be first and foremost a political decision, designed to keep Simpson’s comments out of the public eye.
Motivations for the Initial Research
Many believe the Democratic Party hired Fusion GPS to use Steele to get Russian dirt on Trump, and that this was a key goal from the outset. In fact, according to Simpson, his firm started its research on Trump the same way it did when researching anybody else, Republican or Democrat – using public sources.
The research “wasn’t really a Russia-focused investigation for the first half of it,” he told the committee staff. This is important because Simpson noted to the staffers that most of Fusion’s employees were former journalists, and as such, were used to conducting research using publicly available information.
It is also interesting that Simpson’s initial focus was on Trump’s business activities, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. As we will see in a moment, some of the business that caught Fusion’s attention was in Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union.
Simpson indicated that only when public records had been exhausted did he contact Steele, someone he had known for years, in an attempt to obtain additional information, especially in regard to Trump activities in and around Russia. Portions of what Fusion researchers uncovered led them to suspect Russia played a significant role in the Trump story – suspicions that later seemed to be validated by Steele’s work with his Russian sources.
A Long History of Questionable Business Deals
This is a theme that arose several times during Simpson’s questioning. The Fusion CEO indicated that his initial research focused on identifying links between Trump’s business empire and organized crime worldwide. While the research did turn up non-Russian activity (the Italian mob is mentioned, for example though without detail), Fusion began to find more and more Russia-centric organized crime connections.
Felix Sater, whom Simpson describes as having ties to Russian organized crime, was an example. Simpson said that Trump stated under oath at some point – Simpson didn’t specify the context) that he did not know Sater well. Simpson indicated that “this was not true,” and that Trump “continued to associate with [Sater] long after he learned of Felix’s organized crime ties.”
Trump had business dealings all over the world, and trying to track them proved difficult, Simpson said.
“We became interested in his (Trump’s) [Trump’s] overseas business dealings particularly because they were so opaque and seemed to involve … to say the least, colorful characters,” Simpson said.
As Fusion dug further into Trump’s deals in the former Soviet Union –Kazakhstan, Georgia and Azerbaijan, for example – Simpson became concerned.
“What came back was something … very different and obviously more alarming … which outlined a political conspiracy and a much broader set of issues than the ones we went looking for,” Simpson said. “Initially, we didn’t know what to do with this.”
Fusion’s research into the Trump businesses apparently revealed not only ties to Russian organized crime, but also possible darker intentions on the part of the Russian government. Now Fusion found itself unable to use public information, and so Simpson brought in Steele as a contractor to dig deeper, using the human intelligence techniques Steele had learned as an intelligence officer.
Simpson’s Trust of Steele
The Fusion CEO told the Senate staffers that he had known and worked with Steele for “eight or nine years,” and that, in a business where “a lot of people make stuff up and sell baloney,” Steele stood apart. Simpson made the common-sense business argument that good research and reporting, such as what Steele had provided in the past, made it more likely that Fusion and Steele would get additional business in the future.
Steele is “well-respected in his field, and, as I say, everyone I know who’s ever dealt with him thinks he’s quite good,” Simpson said. “That would include people from the U.S. government.”
So convinced was Fusion of Steele’s skills that Simpson believed Steele would be able to sort out what might be Russian disinformation, should one or more of Steele’s sources be under the control of the Russian government. Simpson reasoned that, given Steele’s long career as an intelligence officer focused on Russia, he would be able to identify false information provided by his Russian sources, and either omit them or include disclaimers in his reporting. This would be standard practice for any professional intelligence officer.
Reporting to the FBI … or Not
One of the more fascinating portions of the transcript describes Simpson and Steele wrestling with how to manage the information that began to flow in regarding the Trump organization’s cooperation with the Russian government. It is clear from the transcript that neither man was initially sure what to do with the bombshell information.
According to Simpson, it was Steele who first raised the issue of passing some of his information to the FBI, given Steele’s concerns that the Russians were attempting to influence the U.S. presidential elections. Simpson at first demurred, saying he needed to think about it. But Steele persisted, and when Steele said he had an old friend who was an FBI officer serving in Rome who could be used as a conduit, Simpson posed no objection to sharing the reporting with him.
“Let’s be clear,” Simpson also told the staffers, “this was not considered by me to be part of the work that we were doing … To me this was, like, you know, you’re driving in to work and you see something happen and you call 911.”
The transcripts reveal Simpson to be a convincing character, one whose firm had been hired over the years to do opposition research on both Republican and Democratic candidates. Fusion GPS’s modus operandi regarding such research seems consistent with Simpson’s journalistic roots and the skills he honed while working as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
On several occasions, Simpson highlighted the need to remain professionally and politically neutral when doing his job, not just because of the ethics of his work, but also because he (and his contractor Steele) understood that being an honest broker in his line of work would mean more clients would hire him in the future.
A question that isn’t answered in the hearing is what Steele told Simpson about who his Russian sources were, and how he obtained information from them. On multiple occasions, Simpson declined to answer questions about the sources in order to protect them; at one point, Simpson’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, pushed back at staffers’ questions on this by saying that one person in Russia had already died as a result of the release of the dossier.
Simpson was clearly focused on the reliability of Steele’s sources. But in the end, he put his trust in Steele’s expertise running Russian agents when he was an intelligence officer.
Much of the information discussed in the Simpson transcripts was already known. But in stark contrast to Trump and, apparently, Republicans on the committee, Simpson and Steele were so troubled by the information they collected that they decided to approach the FBI.
“I mean, for both of us, it was citizenship,” said Simpson. Perhaps citizenship is a concept worth remembering in the future when dealing with questions of Trump and Russia.
|Putins Trolls Are Targeting Trumps GOP CriticsEspecially John McCain|
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, its 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.comsites to the right of Breitbartthose 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 senators 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 senators 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 Trumps Russia connections. In May he called Russian President Vladimir Putin the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS. After special counsel Robert Muellers 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 hes battled his illness; he missed the end-of-the-year tax-bill vote, but he issued a statement in late December praising the administrations plan to supply Ukraine with anti-tank weapons to fight Russian separatist forces. McCains office hasnt 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 accountspart 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 Putins long-term goal of undermining democracies around the world, McCain said last fall. Putins 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 Hatchs 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 Wolffs Fire and Fury book, and Schafer cautioned that its 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. Its something were definitely going to be tracking over the next couple of months, Schafer says. Time will tell whether its 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.
McCains and Romneys 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 Kremlins ultimate goal is not necessarily to advance one party over anotherthough that can be a short-term means to the ultimate end. Moscows 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 Muellers team indicted former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the network shared stories deriding the tainted investigation and claiming Muellers investigation is dead. It goes back to the idea that theyre 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 Comeys 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 Democracys 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 USand he points out that Trumps 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, Trumps attacks on the agencies continuing in recent dayshave 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 cant have a situation where people say, Oh, you cant 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 dont 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 arent just pro-Trump, he says. As long as theyre fomenting division and chaos, they dont really care.
|Is there a GOP conspiracy to discredit the Trump-Russia investigation? – Washington Post|
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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate – Consortium News FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide – Chicago Tribune 9:21 AM 1/11/2018 Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks: FBI as he suspected it had been compromised Christopher … Continue reading“7:49 AM 1/12/2018 – The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate – Consortium News – Mike Novas 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 and US senators – Google Search 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 – … Continue reading““Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate…” – 9:28 AM 1/12/2018 – Russian trolls and US senators – Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks “
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|Clinton conspiracy theories crumble in Fusion GPS interview|
Tom Nichols, Opinion contributor Published 12:59 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2018 | Updated 6:41 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2018
A new testimony released by the Senate Judiciary Committee reveals some shocking information. Susana Victoria Perez (@susana_vp) has more. Buzz60
Protest poster at anti-Trump rally, New York City, June 3, 2017.(Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, Getty Images)
The transcript of the Senate intelligence committee’s interview with Fusion GPS director Glenn Simpsonis now in the public domain, put there by a frustrated Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the wake of ongoing Republican conspiracy theories about what Simpson did or did not tell the Senate.
Somehow, GOP critics of the Trump-Russia investigation have tried to put a positive spin on these materials, as if Simpson’s answers prove their point that the whole business is a witch hunt.
In fact, there are only two ways to read the Simpson interview: either it says nothing, or it has blown up months of carefully constructed conspiracy theorizing.
By now we’re all familiar with the “Steele dossier,” a raw — in every way — report from a British spy who was engaged by an opposition research firm called Fusion GPS. It makes sensational claims about years of Russian operations against President Donald Trump.
If not for Steele’s file, the GOP reasoning goes, the FBI would never have started down the path of investigating Trump, which would never have led to FBI Director James Comey approaching Trump about the file; absent this, Comey would never have been fired, there would be no Mueller probe, and all would be right with the world.
But what about Trump officials meeting with the Russians during the campaign? Indeed, in the telling of at least some Trump defenders, these were the result of orders issued from Clinton’s volcano lair for Fusion to lure Donald Trump Jr. and others into a room with shady Russians for meetings that were unwise — or even “treasonous,” if banished Trump advisor Steve Bannon is to be believed. Somehow, after all this slick tradecraft, Clinton’s people never saw it coming when the Russians betrayed them and hacked the DNC anyway.
Think about the size of the claim here: the Clinton campaign, which was convinced it was going to beat Trump in a landslide, funded an espionage-laden high-wire act with a firm whose clients included some unsavory Russians themselves, in which a highly experienced British spook got suckered by the Democrats into weaponizing some Russian disinformation. (Steele could outplay the Russians, but he couldn’t outplay Robby Mook?)
There are other variations on this theme, but central to all of them was the idea that without Fusion there would be nothing, and that we would know this if only we could know what Simpson said to the Senate investigators. But since the Senate intelligence committee wouldn’t release the transcript, we couldn’t know just how much Simpson had spilled his guts.
So now we know, and none of it supports the rickety Jenga pile of Republican conspiracy theories.
Instead of being the source of the FBI investigations, Simpson claimed that the FBI was already on to the Russians, not least because our Australian allies warned us that the Russians claimed to have dirt on Clinton, which they learned because George Papadopoulos, a Trump advisor, was bragging about it to an Australian diplomat.
Also, according to Simpson, Steele was so horrified by what he was finding that he contacted the FBIinstead of just reporting back to his Clintonian masters. Worse yet, Simpson describes Steele as finding the FBI so in the tank — not for Clinton, but for Trump — that Steele stopped cooperating with them.
Now, it’s possible that Simpson is a cool risk-taker who’s willing to lie to Senate investigators. If that’s the case, then we’ve learned nothing. If Simpson, as critics of his testimony insist, is that untrustworthy, then so be it, but that would mean that we do not know anything more today than we knew a week ago.
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But if Simpson is telling the truth in only two central contentions — that the FBI investigation predated Steele’s work, and that Steele was concerned about the FBI’s lean to Trump, rather than to Clinton — then his testimony unravels what was already a conspiracy theory of gigantic proportions.
The beauty of conspiracy theories, and the reason people find them irresistible, is that they are impervious to facts. If evidence emerges to support the theory, then the conspiracy is confirmed. If contrary evidence surfaces, it’s not really evidence — or it’s misinformation planted by the masters of the real conspiracy to hide their misdeeds. And if there’s no evidence at all, then the arid silence itself proves that the conspirators hid their tracks perfectly.
Both Republicans and Democrats seem determined to make all three of these logical errors in their war over the Trump presidency. But for now, the strange spinning of the Simpson interview as supporting the tangled Clinton-Fusion-Steele story puts critics of the Trump-Russian investigation in the lead for conspiracy theorizing’s gold medal — or perhaps one made of tin foil.
Tom Nichols, a Russia specialist and professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College, is the author of The Death of Expertise. The views expressed here are solely his own. Follow him on Twitter: @RadioFreeTom.
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|Fusion GPS co-founder: Dossier author feared Trump was being blackmailed|
Simpson told the committee in closed-door testimony in August — which was released publicly on Tuesday — that he did not know how the FBI would react when ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier, went to the bureau in July 2016.
“Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said he wanted to — he said he thought we were obligated to tell someone in government, in our government about this information,” Simpson said. “He thought from his perspective there was an issue — a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed.”
To date, no evidence has emerged that Trump was blackmailed.
Simpson also testified that Steele told him the FBI had similar intelligence from “an internal Trump campaign source” and that the FBI “believed Chris’ information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.”
A source close to Fusion GPS clarified that Simpson’s mention of an internal Trump campaign source actually refers to the Australian ambassador who contacted the FBI to pass on information that he received from then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
Feinstein issued the transcript of the 10-hour interview without the support of committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who had argued the committee needed to temporarily protect certain information while an investigation was ongoing.
Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy said that Feinstein released the transcript without consulting Grassley and suggested it could jeopardize the committee’s ability to interview future witnesses.
“Feinstein’s unilateral decision was made as the committee is still trying to secure testimony from other witnesses, including Jared Kushner,” Foy said in a statement. “Her action undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work and jeopardizes its ability to secure candid voluntary testimony relating to the independent recollections of future witnesses.”
The transcript is likely to provide Democrats a counterargument to the Republican charges that the dossier was a political document paid for by Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
In a statement, California’s senior senator said she was releasing the transcript with the support of the committee’s Democrats.
“After speaking with majority and minority committee staff for 10 hours, Glenn Simpson requested the transcript of his interview be released publicly. The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” said Feinstein. “The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
Fusion called for transcript’s release
In a statement, Fusion GPS said it “commends Sen. Feinstein for her courage. The transcript of Glenn Simpson’s lengthy responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning speaks for itself.”
Simpson’s firm paid Steele to compile the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia. Last week, Simpson and his fellow Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch
saying that Simpson’s testimony “walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter.” In the op-ed, they called for the transcripts of Simpson’s congressional testimony to be released.
“It’s time to share what our company told investigators,” they wrote.
During the August interview, however, Simpson’s attorney requested that the transcript “be kept confidential given the sensitivity of the matters discussed today.”
Last week, Grassley and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
, urging an investigation into whether Steele lied to federal investigators over his contacts with the media. The referral was issued without consulting Feinstein, who called it “clearly another effort to deflect attention” from the Russia investigation.
New details on Steele
The transcript sheds new light on the controversial Trump-Russia dossier, and its author, who previously helped the FBI with major investigations. The FBI even entered into a
, before the election, to reimburse some of the expenses for his Trump research.
For one, Simpson said he had full confidence in Steele’s work and found it to be credible. The Fusion GPS co-founder pushed back on Trump’s statements that the information in the dossier was “totally made-up” and “phony.”
“It’s political rhetoric to call the dossier ‘phony,'” Simpson said. “The memos are field reports of real interviews that Chris’s network conducted and there’s nothing phony about it. We can argue about what’s prudent and what’s not, but it’s not a fabrication.”
Simpson said he hired Steele to gather intelligence on Trump’s connections to Russia, but that he did not micro-manage Steele’s activities and did not edit any of the materials that Steele passed along.
They mainly communicated with Steele over the phone “on an encrypted line,” Simpson told the Senate investigators.
He also confirmed that the 35-page dossier that BuzzFeed published represents the full extent of Steele’s work for Fusion GPS. Ever since the memos were made public in January 2017, questions swirled around whether there were additional memos that hadn’t been released.
Research began as ‘broader look’
Simpson said the opposition research was not initially focused on Russia but rather began as a “broader look at (Trump’s) business career, his finances.” Simpson explained that Fusion GPS looked at everything from Trump’s golf courses to bankruptcies to tax bills, and collected lawsuits “from around the country and the world.”
“I’ll just stress that we weren’t looking for — at least it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind there was going to be anything involving the Russian government per se, at least not that I recall,” Simpson said.
Simpson described how in early 2016, the investigation looked into Trump’s business deals in Latin America as well as in former Soviet countries like Georgia and Azerbaijan, in addition to Russia.
“We gradually began to exhaust the public record, the open source about these topics in various places,” Simpson said. “As you, you know, sort of run short on public record or open-source information, you know, you need to get –if you still want to go deeper you need to get human-source.”
Simpson opposed Trump
According to the transcript, Simpson described his own personal views on Trump, saying he was “opposed” to the candidate.
“At some point probably early in 2016 I had reached a conclusion about Donald Trump as a businessman and his character and I was opposed to Donald Trump,” Simpson. “I’m not going to pretend that that wouldn’t have entered into my thinking. … I reached an opinion about Donald Trump and his suitability to be president of the United States and I was concerned about whether he was the best person for the job.”
Simpson cited Trump’s “character and competence” for why he was skeptical of the businessman, but said when his firm was looking into Trump, their priority was to look into “illicit activity.”
“The facts of these investigations are the facts and we don’t try to drive an investigation to any particular conclusion, certainly not based on our political views,” he said, according to the transcript. “So I think it would be, you know, not believable for me to tell you I didn’t reach, you know, views about Donald Trump’s integrity, but, you know, those were — those didn’t influence the research in terms of the findings.”
Dinner with Russian lawyer
In his testimony, Simpson described dinners he had with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya the night before and after she and others met with senior members of the Trump campaign at Trump Tower in June 2016.
In 2016, Simpson and Veselnitskaya met for dinner on June 8 in New York as part of a larger client dinner concerning a court case involving Prevezon — for which Veselnitskaya was in the US for a court appearance — and again on June 10 in Washington.
Prevezon Holdings is a Cyprus-based company owned by a Russian that was accused of being a front for a money-laundering operation from Russia into US real estate. Prevezon was ordered by a US court to pay a $5.9 million settlement in a civil lawsuit.
The Trump Tower meeting took place on June 9, 2016.
“I was at one end of the table talking to a woman about her biography on Simon Bolivar and she was at the other end with Rinat (Akhmetshin) and she doesn’t really speak much English. So, you know, fortunately I was not going to do a lot of entertaining,” Simpson said. Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist for Russian clients, was also in the Trump Tower meeting.
Simpson said he hasn’t spoken to anyone in the Trump Tower meeting about it since its revelation either.
Simpson did, however, say he and lawyers for the Russian company Prevezon at the law firm Baker & Hostetler “all exchanged mutual expressions of surprise,” about the campaign-time meeting.
Simpson maintains that his company’s research for Prevezon was separate from Steele’s work about Trump.
After Simpson declined to answer questions on sourcing, one of his lawyers interjected to say someone was killed because of the dossier, seemingly echoing speculation among Russia-watchers and conspiracy theorists that have seized on a
after the election.
“(Simpson) wants to be very careful to protect his sources,” Simpson attorney Joshua Levy said. “Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work.”
During the closed-door session, Levy did not identify the person who was killed. Despite Levy’s clear assertion that someone had been killed, a source close to the testimony told CNN on Tuesday that the comment did not refer to any specific killing. Instead, the source said, it referred to the mysterious string of Russian deaths after the 2016 election.
At least nine high-profile Russians died in the nine months after the election, including top diplomats overseas, a former Russian intelligence official that had close ties to figures mentioned in the dossier, and a security officer in the Russian consulate in New York. Some of the Russians appeared to die from natural causes, while others were murdered.
None of the deaths have been definitively linked to the dossier by the authorities.
This story has been updated.
CNN’s Evan Perez, Katelyn Polantz, Liz Stark, Caroline Kelly, Caroline Kenny, Daniella Diaz and Eli Watkins contributed to this story.
|Sen. Feinstein’s release of the Fusion GPS transcript gives us what we haven’t had much of under Trump: the truth|
|The DOJ and FBI Worked With Fusion GPS on Operation Trump …|
Following the released transcript of Fusion-GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Senator Dianne Feinstein, several …
|The Latest: EU presidency welcomes German political deal – Washington Post|
|Russian hackers are laying the groundwork to spy on the US Senate, cybersecurity firm says – Business Insider|
|German foreign minister demands aggressive assertion of great power interests|
By Christoph Vandreier
|Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate – Google Search|
|Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate – Google Search|
Consortium News–Jan 11, 2018
By Ray McGovern. Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate, thanks to the official release of unguarded text messages between loose-lipped FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and his garrulous girlfriend, FBI lawyer Lisa Page. (Ten illustrative texts from their exchange appear at the end of this article.).
|The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate Consortiumnews|
Special Report: In the Watergate era, liberals warned about U.S. intelligence agencies manipulating U.S. politics, but now Trump-hatred has blinded many of them to this danger becoming real, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern notes.
By Ray McGovern
Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate, thanks to the official release of unguarded text messages between loose-lipped FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and his garrulous girlfriend, FBI lawyer Lisa Page. (Ten illustrative texts from their exchange appear at the end of this article.)
Despite his former job as chief of the FBI’s counterintelligence section, Strzok had the naive notion that texting on FBI phones could not be traced. Strzok must have slept through “Security 101.” Or perhaps he was busy texting during that class. Girlfriend Page cannot be happy at being misled by his assurance that using office phones would be a secure way to conduct their affair(s).
It would have been unfortunate enough for Strzok and Page to have their adolescent-sounding texts merely exposed, revealing the reckless abandon of star-crossed lovers hiding (they thought) secrets from cuckolded spouses, office colleagues, and the rest of us. However, for the never-Trump plotters in the FBI, the official release of just a fraction (375) of almost 10,000 messages does incalculably more damage than that.
We suddenly have documentary proof that key elements of the U.S. intelligence community were trying to short-circuit the U.S. democratic process. And that puts in a new and dark context the year-long promotion of Russia-gate. It now appears that it was not the Russians trying to rig the outcome of the U.S. election, but leading officials of the U.S. intelligence community, shadowy characters sometimes called the Deep State.
More of the Strzok-Page texting dialogue is expected to be released. And the Department of Justice Inspector General reportedly has additional damaging texts from others on the team that Special Counsel Robert Mueller selected to help him investigate Russia-gate.
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.
But the main casualty is the FBI’s 18-month campaign to sabotage candidate-and-now-President Donald Trump by using the Obama administration’s Russia-gate intelligence “assessment,” electronic surveillance of dubious legality, and a salacious dossier that could never pass the smell test, while at the same time using equally dubious techniques to immunize Hillary Clinton and her closest advisers from crimes that include lying to the FBI and endangering secrets.
Ironically, the Strzok-Page texts provide something that the Russia-gate investigation has been sorely lacking: first-hand evidence of both corrupt intent and action. After months of breathless searching for “evidence” of Russian-Trump collusion designed to put Trump in the White House, what now exists is actual evidence that senior officials of the Obama administration colluded to keep Trump out of the White House – proof of what old-time gumshoes used to call “means, motive and opportunity.”
Even more unfortunately for Russia-gate enthusiasts, the FBI lovers’ correspondence provides factual evidence exposing much of the made-up “Resistance” narrative – the contrived storyline that The New York Times and much of the rest of the U.S. mainstream media deemed fit to print with little skepticism and few if any caveats, a scenario about brilliantly devious Russians that not only lacks actual evidence – relying on unverified hearsay and rumor – but doesn’t make sense on its face.
The Russia-gate narrative always hinged on the preposterous notion that Russian President Vladimir Putin foresaw years ago what no American political analyst considered even possible, the political ascendancy of Donald Trump. According to the narrative, the fortune-telling Putin then risked creating even worse tensions with a nuclear-armed America that would – by all odds – have been led by a vengeful President Hillary Clinton.
Besides this wildly improbable storyline, there were flat denials from WikiLeaks, which distributed the supposedly “hacked” Democratic emails, that the information came from Russia – and there was the curious inability of the National Security Agency to use its immense powers to supply any technical evidence to support the Russia-hack scenario.
The Trump Shock
But the shock of Trump’s election and the decision of many never-Trumpers to cast their lot with the Resistance led to a situation in which any prudent skepticism or demand for evidence was swept aside.
So, on Jan. 6, 2017, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released an evidence-free report that he said was compiled by “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and NSA, offering an “assessment” that Russia and President Putin were behind the release of the Democratic emails in a plot to help Trump win the presidency.
Despite the extraordinary gravity of the charge, even New York Times correspondent Scott Shane noted that proof was lacking. He wrote at the time: “What is missing from the [the Jan. 6] public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”
But the “assessment” served a useful purpose for the never-Trumpers: it applied an official imprimatur on the case for delegitimizing Trump’s election and even raised the long-shot hope that the Electoral College might reverse the outcome and possibly install a compromise candidate, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in the White House. Though the Powell ploy fizzled, the hope of somehow removing Trump from office continued to bubble, fueled by the growing hysteria around Russia-gate.
Virtually all skepticism about the evidence-free “assessment” was banned. For months, the Times and other newspapers of record repeated the lie that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies had concurred in the conclusion about the Russian “hack.” Even when that falsehood was belatedly acknowledged, the major news outlets just shifted the phrasing slightly to say that U.S. intelligence agencies had reached the Russian “hack” conclusion. Shane’s blunt initial recognition about the lack of proof disappeared from the mainstream media’s approved narrative of Russia-gate.
Doubts about the Russian “hack” or dissident suggestions that what we were witnessing was a “soft coup” were scoffed at by leading media commentators. Other warnings from veteran U.S. intelligence professionals about the weaknesses of the Russia-gate narrative and the danger of letting politicized intelligence overturn a constitutional election were also brushed aside in pursuit of the goal of removing Trump from the White House.
It didn’t even seem to matter when new Russia-gate disclosures conflicted with the original narrativethat Putin had somehow set Trump up as a Manchurian candidate. All normal journalistic skepticism was jettisoned. It was as if the Russia-gate advocates started with the conclusion that Trump must go and then made the facts fit into that mold, but anyone who noted the violations of normal investigative procedures was dismissed as a “Trump enabler” or a “Moscow stooge.”
The Text Evidence
But then came the FBI text messages, providing documentary evivdence that key FBI officials involved in the Russia-gate investigation were indeed deeply biased and out to get Trump, adding hard proof to Trump’s longstanding lament that he was the subject of a “witch hunt.”
Justified or not, Trump’s feeling of vindication could hardly be more dangerous — particularly at a time when the most urgent need is to drain some testosterone from the self-styled Stable-Genius-in-Chief and his martinet generals.
On the home front, Trump, his wealthy friends, and like-thinkers in Congress may now feel they have an even wider carte blanche to visit untold misery on the poor, the widow, the stranger and other vulnerable humans. That was always an underlying danger of the Resistance’s strategy to seize on whatever weapons were available – no matter how reckless or unfair – to “get Trump.”
Beyond that, Russia-gate has become so central to the Washington establishment’s storyline that there appears to be no room for second-thoughts or turning back. The momentum is such that some Democrats and the media never-Trumpers can’t stop stoking the smoke of Russia-gate and holding out hope against hope that it will somehow justify Trump’s impeachment.
Yet, the sordid process of using legal/investigative means to settle political scores further compromises the principle of the “rule of law” and integrity of journalism in the eyes of many Americans. After a year of Russia-gate, the “rule of law” and “pursuit of truth” appear to have been reduced to high-falutin’ phrases for political score-setttling, a process besmirched by Republicans in earlier pursuits of Democrats and now appearing to be a bipartisan method for punishing political rivals regardless of the lack of evidence.
Strzok and Page
Peter Strzok (pronounced “struck”) has an interesting pedigree with multiple tasks regarding both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. As the FBI’s chief of counterespionage during the investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a personal email server for classified information, Strzok reportedly changed the words “grossly negligent” (which could have triggered legal prosecution) to the far less serious “extremely careless” in FBI Director James Comey’s depiction of Clinton’s actions. This semantic shift cleared the way for Comey to conclude just 20 days before the Democratic National Convention began in July 2016, that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against Mrs. Clinton.
Then, as Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, Strzok led the FBI’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election of 2016. It is a safe bet that he took a strong hand in hand-picking the FBI contingent of analysts that joined “hand-picked” counterparts from CIA and NSA in preparing the evidence-free, Jan. 6, 2017 assessment accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of interfering in the election of 2016. (Although accepted in Establishment groupthink as revealed truth, that poor excuse for analysis reflected the apogee of intelligence politicization — rivaled only by the fraudulent intelligence on “weapons of mass destruction“ in Iraq 15 years ago.)
In June and July 2017 Strzok was the top FBI official working on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia, but was taken off that job when the Justice Department IG learned of the Strzok-Page text-message exchange and told Mueller.
There is no little irony in the fact that what did in the FBI sweathearts was their visceral disdain for Mr. Trump, their cheerleading-cum-kid-gloves treatment of Mrs. Clinton and her associates, their 1950-ish, James Clapperesque attitude toward Russians as “almost genetically driven” to evil, and their (Strzok/Page) elitist conviction that they know far better what is good for the country than regular American citizens, including those “deplorables” whom Clinton said made up half of Trump’s supporters.
But Strzok/Page had no idea that their hubris, elitism and scheming would be revealed in so tangible a way. Worst of all for them, the very thing that Strzok, in particular, worked so hard to achieve — the sabotaging of Trump and immunization of Mrs. Clinton and her closest advisers is now coming apart at the seams.
Congress: Oversee? or Overlook?
At this point, the $64 question is whether the various congressional oversight committees will remain ensconced in their customarily cozy role as “overlook” committees, or whether they will have the courage to attempt to carry out their Constitutional duty. The latter course would mean confronting a powerful Deep State and its large toolbox of well-practiced retaliatory techniques, including J. Edgar Hoover-style blackmail on steroids, enabled by electronic surveillance of just about everything and everyone. Yes, today’s technology permits blanket collection, and “Collect Everything” has become the motto.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, with almost four decades of membership in the House and Senate, openly warned incoming President Trump in January 2017 against criticizing the U.S. intelligence community because U.S. intelligence officials have “six ways from Sunday to get back at you” if you are “dumb” enough to take them on.
Thanks to the almost 10,000 text messages between Strzok and Page, only a small fraction of which were given to Congress four weeks ago, there is now real evidentiary meat on the bones of the suspicions that there indeed was a “deep-state coup” to “correct” the outcome of the 2016 election. We now know that the supposedly apolitical FBI officials had huge political axes to grind. The Strzok-Page exchanges drip with disdain for Trump and those deemed his smelly deplorable supporters. In one text message, Strzok expressed visceral contempt for those working-class Trump voters, writing on Aug. 26, 2016, “Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support. … it’s scary real down here.”
The texts even show Strzok warning of the need for an “insurance policy” to thwart Trump on the off-chance that his poll numbers closed in on those of Mrs. Clinton.
An Aug. 6, 2016 text message, for example, shows Page giving her knight in shining armor strong affirmation: “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace [Trump].” That text to Strzok includes a link to a David Brooks column in The New York Times, in which Brooks concludes with the clarion call: “There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame.”
Another text message shows that other senior government officials – alarmed at the possibility of a Trump presidency – joined the discussion. In an apparent reference to an August 2016 meeting with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Strzok wrote to Page on Aug. 15, 2016, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk.” Strzok added, “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event that you die before you’re 40.”
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says he will ask Strzok to explain the “insurance policy” when he calls him to testify. What seems already clear is that the celebrated “Steele Dossier” was part of the “insurance,” as was the evidence-less legend that Russia hacked the DNC’s and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails and gave them to WikiLeaks.
If congressional investigators have been paying attention, they already know what former weapons inspector Scott Ritter shared with Veteran intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) colleagues this week; namely, that Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson, who commissioned the Russia dossier using Democratic Party money, said he reached out to Steele after June 17, just three days before Steele’s first report was published, drawing on seven sources.
“There is a snowball’s chance in hell that this is raw intelligence gathered by Steele; rather he seems to have drawn on a single ‘trusted intermediary’ to gather unsubstantiated rumor already in existence.”
Another VIPS colleague, Phil Giraldi, writing out of his own experience in private sector consulting, added: “The fact that you do not control your sources frequently means that they will feed you what they think you want to hear. Since they are only doing it for money, the more lurid the details the better, as it increases the apparent value of the information. The private security firm in turn, which is also doing it for the money, will pass on the stories and even embroider them to keep the client happy and to encourage him to come back for more. When I read the Steele dossier it looked awfully familiar to me, like the scores of similar reports I had seen which combined bullshit with enough credible information to make the whole product look respectable.”
It is now widely known that the Democrats ponied up the “insurance premiums,” so to speak, for former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s “dossier” of lurid — but largely unproven — “intelligence” on Trump and the Russians. If, as many have concluded, the dossier was used to help justify a FISA warrant to snoop on the Trump campaign, those involved will be in deep kimchi, if congressional overseers do their job.
How, you might ask, could Strzok and associates undertake these extra-legal steps with such blithe disregard for the possible consequences should they be caught? The answer is easy; Mrs. Clinton was a shoo-in, remember? This was just extra insurance with no expectation of any “death benefit” ever coming into play — save for Trump’s electoral demise in November 2016. The attitude seemed to be that, if abuse of the FISA law should eventually be discovered — there would be little interest in a serious investigation by the editors of The New York Times and other anti-Trump publications and whatever troubles remained could be handled by President Hillary Clinton.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee of Judiciary on Crime and Terrorism, joined Sen. Grassley in signing the letter referring Christopher Steele to the Justice Department to investigate what appear to be false statements about the dossier. In signing, Graham noted the “many stop signs the Department of Justice ignored in its use of the dossier.” The signature of committee ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, however, was missing — an early sign that a highly partisan battle royale is in the offing. On Tuesday, Feinstein unilaterally released a voluminous transcript of Glenn Simpson’s earlier testimony and, as though on cue, Establishment pundits portrayed Steele as a good source and Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson as a victim.
The Donnybrook is now underway; the outcome uncertain.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army and CIA intelligence analyst for 30 years; prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan; and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Sample text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, released to Congress and the media on December 13, 2016
Strzok – God Hillary should win. 100,000,000-0.
Page – I know
Page – So look, you say we text on that phone when we talk about Hillary because it can’t be traced, you were just venting, bc you feel bad that you’re gone so much but that can’t be helped right now.
Strzok – And meanwhile, we have Black Lives Matter protestors, right now, chanting “no justice no peace” around DoJ and the White House…
Page – That’s awful.
Page – Have you read this? It’s really frightening. For Whites Sensing Decline, Donald Trump Unleashes Words of Resistance http://NYTI/ms/29WCu5!
Strzok – I have not. But I think it’s clear he’s capturing all the white, poor voters who the mainstream republicans abandoned in all but name in the quest for the almighty $$$
Page – Yeah, it’s not good.
Strzok – Poll Finds Emails Weighing on Hillary Clinton, Now Tied With Donald Trump http://nyti.ms/29RV5gf
Page – It is
Strzok – And hey. Congrats on a woman nominated for President in a major party! About damn time! Many many more returns of the day!!
Page – That’s cute. Thanks
Page – Jesus. You should read this. And Trump should go f himself. Moment in Convention Glare Shakes Up Khans American Life http://nyti.ms/2aHulE0
Strzok – God that’s a great article. Thanks for sharing. And F TRUMP.
Page – And maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace. To that end comma, read this:
Page – Trump Enablers Will Finally Have to Take A Stand http://nyti.ms/2aFakry
Strzok – Thanks. It’s absolutely true that we’re both very fortunate. And of course I’ll try and approach it that way. I just know it will be tough at times. I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps
Page – He’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!
Strzok – OMG did you hear what Trump just said?
Strzok – Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support…
Page – Yep. Out to lunch with (redacted) We both hate everyone and everything.
Page – Just riffing on the hot mess that is our country.
Strzok – Yeah…it’s scary real down here
Strzok: I am riled up. Trump is a f***ing idiot, is unable to provide a coherent answer.
Strzok – I CAN’T PULL AWAY, WHAT THE F**K HAPPENED TO OUR COUNTRY (redacted)??!?!
Page– I don’t know. But we’ll get it back. We’re America. We rock.
Strzok– Donald just said “bad hombres”
Strzok– Trump just said what the FBI did is disgraceful.
|Russian Trolls and US senators – Google Search|
Mother Jones–3 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 …
Federal Times–19 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 …
The Do’s and Don’ts of Fighting Russian Interference
Opinion–Bloomberg–21 hours ago
The Hill–14 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 …
CNNMoney–Jan 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.
UNIAN–Jan 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 …
The Times–Jan 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.
KOKI FOX 23–Jan 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 …
WIRED–Jan 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 …
Quartz–Jan 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 …
Washington Times–Jan 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|
Washington Post–Dec 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 …
More bomb than bombshell: Social media mock WaPo’s Alice …
International–RT–Dec 26, 2017
WIRED–Jan 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, …
Mother Jones–3 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.”.
<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 …
Chris Marshall: Russian trolls are trying to subvert our democracy
The Scotsman–Dec 19, 2017
|Putins Trolls – Google Search|
Mother Jones–3 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 …
ABC News–Dec 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 …
New York Times–Jan 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 …
Dems: Trump doing almost nothing to curb growing Russian meddling
In-Depth–CBS News–Jan 10, 2018
|Putins Trolls Are Targeting Trumps GOP CriticsEspecially John McCain Mother Jones|
Mother Jones illustration; W6/Getty
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|Putin’s Trolls Are Targeting Trump’s GOP CriticsEspecially John McCain – Mother Jones|
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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