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Mueller Will Never Indict Trump |The Republican News

Paul Rosenzweig
Donald Trump and Robert Mueller           © Catalyst Images Donald Trump and Robert Mueller
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author on behalf of our content partner and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft 

The latest revelations about President Trump have, once again excited the interest of the public, leading to speculation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may have amassed sufficient evidence to charge the president with obstruction of justice. Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller (which happened last June, but is only now being publicly reported) is, under this line of thinking, the final straw.

Color me deeply skeptical.

Mueller will not indict Trump for obstruction of justice or for any other crime.  Period. Full stop. End of story. Speculations to the contrary are just fantasy.

He won’t do it for the good and sufficient reason that the Department of Justice has a long-standing legal opinion that sitting presidents may not be indicted. First issued in 1973 during the Nixon era, the policy was reaffirmed in 2000, during the Clinton era. These rules bind all Department of Justice employees and Mueller, in the end, is a Department of Justice employee. More to the point, if we know anything about Mueller, we think we know that he follows the rules—all of them. Even the ones that restrict him in ways he would prefer they not. And if he were to choose not to follow the rules, that, in turn, would be a reasonable justification for firing him. So … the special counsel will not indict the president.

What can Mueller do if he finds evidence of criminality involving the president?  He can and will (as authorized by Department of Justice regulations) file a report on his findings with the attorney general (or, since Attorney General Sessions is, in this case, recused, with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein). Rosenstein will then be faced with the important decision of whether and how to make that report public—whether to convey it to Congress or not; whether to release it publicly or not. The regulations are so vague (they say only that he “may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions”) that they, in effect, give Rosenstein plenary discretion to do whatever he thinks is in the best interest of the country.

US President Donald Trump            © Catalyst Images US President Donald Trump

So, every time you read about the threat to fire Mueller, remember this—the critical actor in most future scenarios is not Mueller, but Rosenstein. Knowing Rosenstein personally, I have high confidence that he will make what he thinks is the best decision for the country—the same may not be true of his replacement (or of the replacement attorney general, should Sessions be fired). That, of course, is why the highly dubious “secret memo” prepared by House Republicans reportedly targets Rosenstein—even though he is a Trump appointee who advocated firing Comey, Trump supporters fear he will follow the rule of law.

But what of the substance of the obstruction charge? Are pundits right that the case against Trump is becoming stronger—even if as a legal matter the president may not be charged?

Collateral cases, like those involving obstruction and perjury, are ones that involve derivative offenses, not the principal charges under investigation. Proving them often turns on proof of intent. You have to show that the defendant acted with the purpose of obstructing an investigation. That means these cases tend to rise or fall on the strength of the case proving the underlying crime. It matters very much to juries and the public that we know exactly what it is that a defendant is covering up. If we don’t think it matters that much (as many in America seem to have concluded when confronted with President Clinton’s sexual conduct) or that it hasn’t been proven, then the cover up is often forgiven.

 In the Trump investigation, we have yet to determine whether the campaign was involved in an underlying crime of electoral manipulation involving Russia, much less how the broader American public thinks of it.  Many, like me, see strong evidence of Russian interference in the American election system and good evidence (though less strong) that some in the Trump campaign willingly accepted this and sought to take advantage of it. But candor compels the recognition that evidence of President Trump’s personal involvement is much thinner than, say, that of his son-in-law and other campaign staff.

Indeed, in many ways, the sheer numerosity and blatantness of the president’s interventions suggests that he really is sincere in thinking that he did nothing wrong. Were he truly concerned about the criminality of his former actions he might well have been more cautious in so openly attempting to subvert the investigation. Unless and until stronger evidence of the president’s personal involvement in contacts with Russian influence peddlers is developed, the derivative obstruction case will remain substantively problematic as well.

 All of which brings us to a final thought, admittedly far more speculative that what has gone before. Something concerns the president. That is clear. If it is not the alleged collusion with Russia, then what is it?

Wisps of information in the wind suggest a far different, deeper concern. The president’s finances have always been suspect. Some have thought them resting on shaky foundations. Ongoing investigations have looked to his banking and investments as well as those of his closest family. Several of the special counsel’s prosecutorial hires specialize in money laundering cases—an odd specialty for an election fraud/computer hacking case (which, basically, is what the Russia investigation amounts to). Perhaps, just perhaps, it is that investigation that has motivated the President’s response.

Special counsel Robert Mueller departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. Mueller’s team of investigators has recently questioned a former British spy who compiled a dossier of allegations about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)© Catalyst Images Special counsel Robert Mueller departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. Mueller’s team of investigators has recently questioned a former British spy who compiled a…

 

Donald Trump and Robert Mueller

But even here one should not repose too much hope in the Mueller investigation. Mueller will not indict the president, even for money laundering. The resolution of the current American crisis is going to be political, not criminal. The future lies with Congress and, ultimately, the electorate, not with prosecutors and the courts.      (The Atlantic)

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Firing Mueller “Would Be The End” Of The Trump Presidency – Lindsey Graham

Emily Stewart
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is taking a hard line on the Russia investigation and the president’s seeming inability to stay out of it.On Sunday, Grham warned that Firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Russia scandal, would be the end of the Donald Trump presidency — adding that everyone surrounding the president knows it.

“It’s pretty clear to me that everybody in the White House knows it would be the end of President Trump’s presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller,” Graham told ABC’s Martha Raddatz in an appearance on This Week on Sunday.The remarks come amid revelations that Trump ordered Mueller’s firing last June, reported by the New York Times this week and subsequently confirmed by other outlets, including the Washington Post and CNN. Top White House lawyer Don McGahn threatened to quit instead of going through with the president’s order, which apparently stopped the president from going through with it. The report provides another example of President Trump’s attempts to interfere with ongoing investigations — a pattern of behavior that has put him under scrutiny for potential obstruction of justice.

US President Donald Trump              © Catalyst Images US President Donald Trump

Graham said he didn’t know whether the stories about Trump’s order to fire Mueller or McGahn’s threat to quit stopping him were true, despite them being confirmed by multiple reputable news outlets (and, oddly enough, by Sean Hannity), but said he believes Mueller should look into it. “We’re not just going to say it’s fake news and move on. Mueller is the best person to look at it,” he said. He clarified he sees no evidence Trump wants to fire Mueller now.

Graham was among a group of both Republican and Democratic senators last summer to introduce legislation seeking to block Trump from firing Mueller. He co-sponsored a bill with Democratic Senator Cory booker (D-NJ). A similar measure was introduced by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE) around the same time.

On Sunday, Graham said he’d be “glad to pass it tomorrow” but clarified that he thinks “it would be good to have legislation protecting all special counsels.” He also called for a special counsel to probe the Department of Justice and the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the early stages of the Russian investigation — seemingly toeing a line in an attempt not to anger the president or other Republicans.

US President Donald Trump                   © Catalyst Images US President Donald Trump

Many lawmakers remain lukewarm on Trump potentially firing Mueller

Graham largely stands alone in the GOP in the forcefulness of his rhetoric on the Russia investigation and his commitment to protecting Mueller.

In an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper on Sunday, Republican Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said it “probably wouldn’t hurt” to pass one of the proposed bills to block the president from firing Mueller. Collins, widely considered one of the party’s most moderate lawmakers, said enshrining that protection in law isn’t a bad idea. “There are some constitutional issues with those bills, but it would certainly not hurt to put that extra safeguard in place, given the latest stories,” she said.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) disagreed, saying he still just can’t see why such legislation would be necessary. “I don’t think there’s a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller,” he said In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. “So we’re raising an issue that’s not.”

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is up for reelection in 2018 and is one of the party’s more moderate members, told NBC’s Todd on Sunday that Trump’s order to fire Mueller was probably just “New York talk” — sort of taking a line from Trump’s “locker room talk” excuse over the Access Hollywood tape. When pressed on the assertion by Todd, he went on to discuss Trump’s business record and explain that that’s probably why Trump thought it would be a good idea to cut Mueller. “You have a person who’s the president of the United States that has been totally in control of his life, personally and professionally,” he said. “Now all of a sudden he’s understanding there’s equal branches and there’s equal powers.” Manchin said if Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the person who actually has the authority to fire Mueller, that’s when he’d start to worry.

Whether Trump firing Mueller would actually lead to any consequences is, at the very least, unclear — Republican lawmakers aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to really go after the president. Their latest comments on the matter aren’t exactly heartening. (Vox.com)

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Russia Demands Return Of Diplomatic Property From U.S |The Republican News

 Russia is demanding the immediate return of diplomatic properties seized by the Obama administration after claims Moscow hacked the US election.
The Kremlin has accused the United States of setting conditions on the return of the compounds in New York and Maryland.

Former president Barack Obama ordered their seizure in December as well as the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.

Russia has vehemently denied any involvement in election hacking.

Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov will meet US undersecretary of state Thomas Shannon to try to thrash out a solution on Monday.

His boss, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, was also reported as saying on a visit to Belarus that “anti-Russian feeling” in the United States meant it was not certain that Moscow and Washington could agree on key global issues.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We consider it absolutely unacceptable to place conditions on the return of diplomatic property, we consider that it must be returned without any conditions and talking.”

President Putin and President Trump met at a summit in Hamburg last week© Reuters President Putin and President Trump met at a summit in Hamburg last week

President Vladimir Putin raised the issue with Donald Trump when they met for the first time at the G20 summit in Hamburg this month.

Mr Obama said he was ordering the ban due to US intelligence reports of Russian hacking and an alleged influence campaign to sway the US presidential election in Mr Trump’s favour.

He said Moscow was using the compounds for “intelligence-related purposes”.

The Russian President held off from retaliating at the time and said he would wait to see how Mr Trump reacted after he came into the White House.

However, hopes that Mr Trump will soon act on his campaign pledges to boost relations have faded as any ties to Moscow have become toxic.

The White House has faced a maelstrom of US investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Russia is intensifying its threats that it could now retaliate by blocking a country house and a storage facility used by the US Embassy in Moscow.

Mr Lavrov said last week: “If Washington decides not to solve this issue, we will have to take counter actions.”

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova complained that the US was also refusing to issue visas for Russian diplomats to replace those expelled. (Sky News)

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House Inquiry Turns Attention To Trump Campaign Worker With Russian Ties

 

By MAGGIE HABERMAN
Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, in 2010. Mr. Caputo did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President Vladimir V. Putin.© Yana Paskova for The New York Times Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, in 2010. Mr. Caputo did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President…

 

Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, has been asked by the House committee investigating Russian election meddling to submit to a voluntary interview and to provide any documents he may have that are related to the inquiry.The House Intelligence Committee, which is examining possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, made its request in a letter on May 9. Mr. Caputo, who lives near Buffalo and spent six months on the Trump team, worked in Russia during the 1990s and came to know Kremlin officials. He also did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President Vladimir V. Putin.

Mr. Caputo has strongly denied that there was any collusion between him or anyone else on the campaign and Russian officials. He has also accused the committee of smearing him.

A Democratic member of the panel, Representative Jackie Speier of California, raised Mr. Caputo’s name during the March 20 hearing where James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, testified on Russia’s interference in the election. She noted Mr. Caputo’s work for Gazprom, and the fact that he met his second wife, who is Ukrainian, while working in 2007 on a parliamentary election in Kiev.

Mr. Caputo is the latest in a string of Trump campaign officials who have been approached by the committee. He is a protégé of Roger J. Stone Jr., one of President Trump’s longest-serving advisers and one of the people who has been a focus of investigators’ interest. Mr. Stone has also denied having any contact with Russian officials.

The panel’s letter asked Mr. Caputo to “produce documents and other materials to the committee and participate in a voluntary transcribed interview at the committee’s offices,” according to a copy obtained by The New York Times.

It asked for “any documents, records, electronically stored information including email, communication, recordings, data and tangible things” that could “reasonably lead to the discovery of any facts within the investigation’s publicly announced parameters.”

The committee said it wanted to discuss with Mr. Caputo a number of topics, “including Russian cyberactivities directed against the 2016 U.S. election, potential links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns, the U.S. government’s response to these Russian active measures, and related leaks of classified information.”

Mr. Caputo has denounced the allegations for months on social media, and said he tried to contact Ms. Speier the day after she mentioned him and his wife in the hearing.

In a written response to the committee, Mr. Caputo, who said he plans to comply with its request, said, “At no time during this period did I have any contact with Russian government officials or employees.” He said he did not discuss Russia with anyone else on the campaign, including Mr. Trump, during his employment from November 2015 to June 2016.

“The only time the president and I talked about Russia was in 2013, when he simply asked me in passing what it was like to live there in the context of a dinner conversation,” he wrote.           (The New York Times)

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Yates: Alarm About Russian Blackmail Led To Warning On Flynn (Video)

 

By ERIC TUCKER and EILEEN SULLIVAN
Video by TIME

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates told Congress Monday she bluntly warned the Trump White House in January that new National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed” by the Russians because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Moscow’s ambassador in Washington.

The testimony from Yates, an Obama administration holdover fired soon after for other reasons, marked her first public comments about the concerns she raised and filled in basic details about the chain of events that led to Flynn’s ouster.

Her testimony, coupled with the revelation hours earlier that President Barack Obama himself had warned Trump against hiring Flynn shortly after the November election, made clear that alarms about Flynn had reached the highest levels of the U.S. government months before. Flynn had been an adviser to Donald Trump and an outspoken supporter of his presidential candidacy in the 2016 campaign.

Yates, appearing before a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the election, described discussions with Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn in which she warned that Flynn apparently had misled the administration about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

White House officials had insisted that Flynn had not discussed U.S.-imposed sanctions with Kislyak during the presidential transition period, but asked Flynn to resign after news reports indicated he had lied about the nature of the calls.

“We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, in part because the vice president was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed that Gen. Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians,” Yates said.

“To state the obvious,” she added later, “you don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.”

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, right, and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, prepare to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing: "Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)© The Associated Press Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, right, and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, prepare to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on…

 

Yates’ questioning by a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the presidential election was just one portion of a politically charged day that began with combative tweets from Trump and continued with disclosures from Obama administration officials about a private Oval Office conversation between Obama and his successor.

Republican senators in the hearing repeatedly pressed Yates on an unrelated matter — her refusal to defend the Trump administration’s travel ban — and whether she was responsible for leaking classified information. She said she was not.

Trump shouldered into the conversation early in the morning, tweeting that it was the Obama administration, not he, that had given Lt. Gen. Flynn “the highest security clearance” when he worked at the Pentagon. Trump made no mention of the fact that Flynn had been fired from his high position by the Obama administration in 2014.

Yates filled in new details of the events of Jan. 26, describing contacting McGahn in the morning and telling him she had something sensitive to discuss in person. Later that day, at the White House, she told him there was an alarming discrepancy between how Trump officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, were characterizing Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak and what intelligence officials knew to be true based on recordings of those calls.

The pair spoke several times over the next two days, with McGahn asking Yates how Flynn had fared during an interview with the FBI earlier that week — she did not answer — and why it was the business of the Justice Department if White House officials had misled each other. Flynn’s forced February resignation followed media reports that he had discussed U.S.-imposed sanctions on Russia with Ambassador Kislyak, which was contrary to the public representations of the Trump White House.

Yates herself, a longtime federal prosecutor, was fired by Trump on Jan. 30 after refusing to defend his travel ban. James Clapper, director of national intelligence under President Obama, testified as well on Monday. He retired when Trump took office.

Separately on Monday, former Obama officials said he had raised general concerns about Flynn with Trump and had told the incoming president there were better people for the national security post. Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said in response that if Obama “was seriously concerned” about Flynn’s connections to Russia or other foreign countries, he should have withheld Flynn’s security clearance. Flynn served under Obama as defense intelligence chief before Obama dismissed him.

Trump repeatedly has said he has no ties to Russia and isn’t aware of any involvement by his aides in any Russian interference in the election. He’s dismissed FBI and congressional investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to the election meddling as a “hoax” driven by Democrats bitter over losing the White House.

The Associated Press reported last week that one sign taken as a warning by Obama officials about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak was a request by a member of Trump’s own transition team made to national security officials in the Obama White House for the classified CIA profile of Kislyak. The AP interviewed a host of former U.S. officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive national security information.

Yates’ warning about Flynn in January capped weeks of building concern among top Obama officials, former officials told the AP. Obama himself that month told one of his closest advisers that the FBI, which by then had been investigating Trump associates’ possible ties to Russia for about six months, seemed particularly focused on Flynn.

Yates, a longtime federal prosecutor and Obama administration holdover, had been scheduled to appear in March before the House intelligence committee, but that hearing was canceled.

The subcommittee meeting Monday is one of multiple congressional probes into the Russia interference, along with House and Senate intelligence panels. All the committees are led by Republicans.          (AP)

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Pelosi Responds To Trump Over Photo Of Her With Russian Ambassador: Wasn’t ‘Secret’ Meeting

Josh Feldman

 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has responded to President Trump‘s tweet taking a shot at her for a photo of her with the Russian ambassador at the center of the Jeff Sessions controversy.

Because Sessions did not disclose his meetings during his confirmation hearing, Pelosi and a whole host of other Democrats have called this week for the attorney general’s resignation. Trump today has accused both Pelosi and Chuck Schumer of hypocrisy:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/837722869106880517/photo/1

Then he further responded with this:

Photo published for Photo contradicts Pelosi's statement about not meeting Kislyak

This is how Pelosi has responded:

.@realDonaldTrump doesn’t know difference between official mtg photographed by press & closed secret mtg his AG lied about under oath. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/837770149767827456 

For the record, Pelosi had initially said earlier today that she had not met with the ambassador, but after Politico uncovered the photo, a spokesman said this:

Asked to square Pelosi’s comments with the photo of the meeting, a spokesman said Pelosi simply meant she never had a solo meeting with Kislyak.

“Of course, that’s what she meant,” said the spokesman, Drew Hammill. “She has never had a private one-on-one with him.”

pelosi                                    © Provided by Mediaite, LLC Pelosi

(Mediaite)

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The Scandal Over Mike Flynn’s Secret Talks With Russians, Explained

 

Zack Beauchamp
© Provided by Vox.com  

Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, may be in a lot of trouble. Late Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that Flynn had called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29, the same day that Obama had slapped new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its hack of the US election. The conversation covered the sanctions, and according to two officials suggested that the Trump administration would be rolling back the sanctions in the future.

That would mean Flynn had been actively trying to undermine Obama administration policy while not yet in office — a big, questionably legal no-no. Indeed, the FBI is currently investigating the content of the Flynn calls.

The Trump administration repeatedly and publicly denied that Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about sanctions, even enlisting Vice President Mike Pence to back him up in the media. Flynn himself told the Post on Wednesday that he hadn’t talked about sanctions. But the Post spoke to nine former and current US officials with knowledge of the call, which was actually recorded by US intelligence agencies (as all such high-level calls to the Russian ambassador are). Subsequent reporting from otheroutlets backed the Post up.

On Thursday, Flynn, through his spokesman, backed away from the denial. The spokesman said Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

All of which means that it’s very likely that Flynn lied about the content of his talks with the Russian ambassador. That leaves two big outstanding questions:

  1. Did Flynn lie to Pence about sanctions, or did Pence knowingly lie to the American public?
  2. Did Flynn lie to FBI investigators, too?

The answers could help determine whether Flynn keeps his job — and, potentially, whether he faces criminal charges.

Why the new report is such a problem

Questions about Flynn’s relationship with Russia go all the way back to the campaign, where he served as one of Trump’s top national security staffers. Flynn has spoken very positively about the prospect of partnering with Putin’s regime to fight terrorism and repeatedly appeared on Russia’s English-language propaganda outlet, RT. Flynn was so in with RT that he had been paid to give a speech at its tenth anniversary dinner in Moscow — where he sat at the head table with Putin himself.

So when Obama imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the election hack, the widespread expectation was that Flynn would work to roll them back once in office. But attempting to undermine them before taking power — on literally the day they were imposed — was something else. It could, arguably, violate the Logan Act, a law which prohibits people outside the executive branch from making foreign policy on behalf of the US administration (though no one has ever been prosecuted under this act).

The first public report of the call came on January 12, in a column by the Washington Post’s columnist David Ignatius. Follow-ups came swiftly, with administration sources saying the two men had spoken multiple times on the 29th but that they hadn’t discussed sanctions.

That rang hollow to many close observers of the Kremlin, who noted that just one day later Putin announced that he would not retaliate against the US for the sanctions. That was a sharp break with Putin’s normal policy of hitting back hard for any slight, real or perceived. It makes a lot more sense if Putin had just gotten assurances from the next national security adviser that the sanctions would soon go away.

The Trump administration denied that the call was about the sanctions. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that call had grown out of an exchange of holiday greetings on December 25th — a questionable story given that this year’s Russian Orthodox Christmas was actually on January 9, 2017.

On January 15, the White House rolled out a heavyweight: Vice President Pence went on Fox and CBS’ widely watched Sunday talk shows to sell the Christmas-not-sanctions story.

“It was initiated when on Christmas Day, he had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in [a Russian] airline crash that took place” at the time, Pence said during a January 15 appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation. “It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation, they did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

The general outlines of the administration’s story meandered and wavered in some weird ways, as Just Security’s Kate Brannen documents in depth. But one on issue, the Trump team had maintained a clear line: Flynn had not spoken about sanctions with Kislyak on December 29th.

Initially, this seemed tenable. On January 23, the Washington Post (which clearly owns this story) reported that the FBI counterintelligence agents had been investigating Flynn’s phone calls in late December but hadn’t found any evidence of illegal contact with Russia after an initial scan of the calls.

“The FBI in late December reviewed intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador to the United States and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn — national security adviser to then-President-elect Trump — but has not found any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government,” the Post explained.

It looked like Phonecallgate might die.

The new Post report, though, does more than simply bring the story back to life. It goes even further, using a large number of sources to paint a picture of an administration where the national security adviser either knowingly lied to the vice president about the content of his conversations with Kislyak (leading Pence to unintentionally relay false information to the American public) or one in which Pence himself deliberately lied.

“All [nine] officials said ­Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit,” the Post’s Greg Miller, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima write. “Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.”

The quality and quantity of the sourcing was so persuasive that even Flynn, who stuck to the old Trump line when the Post reporters first contacted him, eventually had to back down. Moreover, the Post reported, the FBI counterintelligence probe into Flynn’s call is still active.

While the FBI was very unlikely to prosecute Flynn under the Logan Act, lying to FBI investigators is a whole different kettle of fish. If FBI agents had asked him, specifically, about the content of the calls, and he denied speaking to Kislyak about sanctions in the way he had publicly, then he could be (to use a technical legal phrase) in big trouble.

Pence isn’t waiting for the FBI to finish its worth to seemingly throw Flynn under the bus. Three administration sources told CNN’s Elizabeth Landers on Friday that Flynn had not informed Pence that he had spoken about sanctions when he appeared on TV. “It’s a problem,” one of Landers’ sources said.

This is exactly what one would do if one was getting ready to fire Flynn — to pin this mess on him entirely as a way of immunizing the broader administration from the charge of deceiving the American people. Reportedly, Flynn was reportedly already in trouble with the Trump team, on both personal and professional grounds, even before this started.

Flynn “has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor,” the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush write. He “has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque NSC transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team.”

Does this mean Flynn will be fired? No, absolutely not. Flynn is a longtime Trump partisan, and Trump values loyalty greatly.

It does, though, mean that he might want to start polishing his resume. As Chris Christie learned during the transition, Trump is perfectly happy to toss a loyalist to the wolves if they get ensnared in a scandal that shows little sign of going away. And that’s exactly where Flynn is now.

Vox.com

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Russian Charged With Treason Worked In Office Linked To Election Hacking

By ANDREW E. KRAMER
General View of the Headquarters of the Federal Security Service Building in Moscow© Chirikov/EPA/REX/Shutterstock/Rex Images General View of the Headquarters of the Federal Security Service Building in Moscow

MOSCOW — The authorities in Moscow are prosecuting at least one cybersecurity expert for treason, a prominent Russian criminal defense lawyer confirmed on Friday, while a Russian newspaper reported that the case is linked to hacking during the United States presidential election.
While surely touching a nerve in American politics, the developments in Moscow left a still muddled picture of what, exactly, a series of arrests by the security services here signifies.
But the virtually simultaneous appearance of at least four prominent news reports on the hacking and several related arrests, citing numerous anonymous sources, suggests that the normally opaque Russian government intends to reveal more information about the matter, though it is unclear why.
In the waning weeks of the Obama administration, American federal intelligence agencies released a report asserting the Russian government had hacked into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, John D. Podesta, stealing and releasing to WikiLeaks emails intended to damage Mrs. Clinton and help President Trump win the election.
But the unclassified version of the report offered only thin corroborating information, many independent analysts have said. The treason arrests in Moscow hint at a possible human intelligence source in at least one hacking episode, the intrusion into state electoral boards in Arizona and Illinois.
The confirmation by the Russian lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, in written answers to questions from The New York Times, was the closest so far to a formal acknowledgment that the Russian government has detained suspected spies within the cyberbranch of its Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the main successor to the K.G.B.
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Mr. Pavlov declined to identify his client or elaborate on the reason for the indictment for “betraying the state,” punishable by up to 20 years in a penal colony.
Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, first reported Wednesday on what the Russian news media are calling a purge of the cyberbranch of the F.S.B. that was conducted in early December.
It reported that the Directorate for Internal Security, the agency’s internal affairs bureau, arrested Sergei Mikhailov, a deputy director of the Center for Information Security, the agency’s cybersecurity arm, and Ruslan Stoyanov, a senior researcher at a prominent cybersecurity company, Kaspersky Lab.
Novaya Gazeta, a respected Russian opposition newspaper, reported Friday that the internal investigation led to two other arrests, and that all of the detentions were related to American investigations into Russian hacking during the election.
The newspaper’s report, based on unnamed sources, said the F.S.B. began the internal investigation after news media reports that a United States cybersecurity company, ThreatConnect, had linked the election hacking to a Siberian server company. That company, King Servers, was otherwise used largely for criminal and marginal cyberactivities, such as distributing pornography and counterfeit goods, by the admission of its owner.
The report said the investigation led to Mr. Mikhailov, a senior officer involved in tracking criminal cyberactivity in Russia.
Both Novaya Gazeta, an outlet for the liberal opposition, and Tsargrad, a hard-line nationalist publication, reported that the F.S.B. made a brutal show of his arrest.
Agents arrested Mr. Mikhailov with a theatrical touch, placing a bag over his head in the midst of a congress of senior intelligence agency officers in Moscow and leading him from the room, the two publications reported.
“The arrest was certainly colorful,” Tsargrad’s report said. “Mikhailov was led from the congress of F.S.B. colleagues with a bag on his head.”
Still, the fragmentary information about the arrests seemed, as is so often the case here, little more than shadows cast on a wall of real, unseen events taking place out of public view.
The hints suggested to some analysts that the Russian government may be signaling that it might, however indirectly through a treason trial, reveal details of election hacking, which have the potential of damaging the administration of Mr. Trump.
“They are suggesting it is true, and furthermore, they can prove as much,” Kenneth Geers, a former cyberanalyst with the Department of Defense and an authority on Russian signals intelligence tradecraft, said of the Russians possibly revealing details of their own operation.
“They could increase the pressure on Trump in the United States by suggesting he is an illegitimate president,” Mr. Geers said, by simply verifying parts of what United States intelligence has already asserted that Russia did. “That would seem to put tremendous pressure on the White House.”
Another, somewhat counterintuitive suggestion is that by documenting its role in the electoral hacks, the Kremlin could serve its foreign policy interests by underscoring the extent and power of its reach in the world. The Russian Foreign Ministry has denied any role in the hacking.
ThreatConnect, the cybersecurity company that released the report about King Servers, said its analysis was based on information published by the F.B.I.
The investigation into King Servers began after the hacking of state electoral board computers in Arizona and Illinois from June until August of last year. The F.B.I. published eight internet addresses used in those attacks.
ThreatConnect then identified six of the eight addresses as originating from servers in Dronten, the Netherlands, owned by King Servers and run by Vladimir M. Fomenko, a 26-year-old living in a remote town in Siberia near the border with Mongolia. In an interview in September, Mr. Fomenko denied any role in the electoral hacking, but conceded clients who had rented his servers may have used them for that purpose.
ThreatConnect declined to comment after the arrests in Moscow.
Deepening the sense of intrigue in Moscow, Tsargrad, the nationalist publication, and RBC, a respected business newspaper, identified on Friday a third suspect, Dmitry Dokuchayev. Described as a former hacker going by the pseudonym Forb who was recruited by the F.S.B., Mr. Dokuchayev had agreed to work in the Center for Information Security to avoid arrest for credit card fraud, a rampant crime in Russia.
RBC also reported an alternative theory about the entire counterintelligence investigation, saying it began after a hacking group, Shaltai Boltai, or Humpty Dumpty, stole the emails of a senior Russian official a year ago.
That investigation of email theft led to Mr. Dokuchayev, the former hacker turned F.S.B. employee, the newspaper said, in a version that would seem unrelated to the United States election hacking.
In a 2004 interview with Vedomosti newspaper, apparently before his reported recruitment by the F.S.B., Mr. Dokuchayev openly described himself as a hacker, believing that “information should be free” and calling his “crowning achievement” the hacking of an unspecified United States government website.   (The New York Times)

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