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Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 11:21 AM
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 11:23 AM
WASHINGTON — Rep. Mike Turner hinted Monday that the intelligence community may have inadvertently spied on President Donald Trump last year, wiretapping the conversations of those overseas only to find that those people were talking with Trump and his associates.
Hours after FBI Director James Comey confirmed he had “no information” confirming President Donald Trump’s tweets alleging that then-President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election, Turner questioned Adm. Mike Rogers, National Security Agency director and U.S. Cyber Command Commander and FBI director James Comey whether it was possible that the intelligence community picked up Trump’s conversations because of their surveillance with others.
“The reason why this is important is because intuitively we would all know the incoming administration would have conversations with those that the intelligence community may be collecting against either by making phone calls to them or receiving phone calls from them,” Turner said.
Rogers said that the agencies would “not automatically” stop recording those conversations if they discovered that the conversations involved Trump or a member of his team.
Turner also questioned whether former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper ever briefed Obama “concerning the possible inadvertent or incidental collection or interception by the U.S. intelligence community of any communication of members of the incoming Trump administration.”
“That’s not something I can comment on,” Comey said.
The exchange occurred during a rare open hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in which Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign and administration.
Earlier Comey said any wiretapping of Trump would have had to go through an application process and be approved by a judge. “No president could” order such surveillance unilaterally, he said.
“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said during a rare open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.
OTHER POLITICAL NEWS
Comey also said the investigation into connections between Russia and the Trump campaign will include an assessment of whether any crimes have been committed.
But he didn’t say who they were investigating, how they were conducting the investigation or provide other details, saying that such information is classified. Comey was authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm the investigation, saying that Justice had deemed the information in the public interest.
“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” he said.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., asked Comey and Rogers whether they had evidence that Russia had tampered with vote tallies in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states. Both witnesses said they had no evidence.
In their opening statements, both Nunes and ranking Democrat Adam Schiff of California dismissed Trump’s claims that Obama had wiretapped him, with Nunes saying there was “not physical wiretapping of Trump Tower,” and Schiff saying there was “no evidence whatsoever to support that slanderous claim.” Nunes, however, did not rule out “other methods of surveillance” being used on Trump or his associates.
Trump weighed in via Twitter throughout the day, encouraging Republicans to look into the leaking of classified information and saying “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign” and arguing “there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia.” He also weighed in via his “POTUS” Twitter account, posting clips underscoring his arguments that Russia did not weigh in.
Disparities between the parties became apparent early on, with Nunes focusing his attention on whether or not classified information had been leaked and Schiff questioning links between Trump aides and Russia.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., questioned whether reporters should be prosecuted for publishing classified information. “Is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to break a story?” he asked Comey. Comey replied that he didn’t think a reporter had been prosecuted for publishing classified information “during my lifetime.” Still, he admitted, the only way that the media would get classified information is if someone told them who shouldn’t have, he said.
Neither side dismissed the idea that Russia had tried to intervene in the electoral process, be it via hacking or sending out misinformation. Schiff said while it would be no crime for the Trump campaign to be in contact with the Russians, “if the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it aided or abetta Russia, not only would it be a serious crime, it would represent one of the most shocking betrayals of democracy in history. “
Schiff called for an independent commission, complementary of the committee’s and the intelligence agencies’ work that would be “completely removed from any political considerations.”
Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 4:01 AM
In the wake of a fresh round of indictments in the wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday and Sunday to repeatedly express his frustration with the probe, again proclaiming his innocence, attacking his critics, and demanding attention instead on actions of the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton.
“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” the President tweeted on Sunday morning – though Mr. Trump has been very slow to embrace the concept that Russia was at fault, as he derided the investigations into Russian interference in 2016.
“They are laughing their asses off in Moscow,” the President said on Twitter. “Get smart America!”
Those were just a sampling of a number of tweets from this weekend, as the President let off steam on a number of fronts.
The President even rebuked his own National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, over a point that Mr. Trump and his supporters have zeroed in on repeatedly – a lack of evidence that ties any Russian operation to the Trump Campaign.
“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians,” as the President again tried to switch the attention of the moment to questions that the GOP has raised about Hillary Clinton, the Steele Dossier, and the Democratic National Committee.
“The Fake News Media never fails,” the President wrote on Saturday, repeatedly making the argument that any Russian interference in 2016 did not tip the scales of the election in his favor.
“Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President,” the President added.
“The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” he tweeted.
Critics of the President noted what was missing in his Saturday and Sunday tweets about the Russia investigation was any pledge by Mr. Trump to implement tougher sanctions against Russia which were approved by the Congress, or to order tougher measures to stop any Russian meddling.
Last week, the nation’s top intelligence officials all agreed that Russia was going to try to repeat their 2016 effort in the 2018 election – asked by Democrats if there was any specific order from the President to focus on that threat, the intelligence chiefs only indicated that they were focused on the matter.
“Look, this is pretty simple,” said retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former head of the National Security Agency. “The Russians objective was to mess with our heads.”
“Based on his late PM – this AM joint Twitter meltdown, it’s safe to say “Trump” is having a nervous breakdown as Mueller’s walls close in,” said John Schindler, a former U.S. intelligence official who has been highly critical of the President’s statements on the Russia probe.
Late on Saturday night, the President also drew in the Russia investigation to criticize the FBI over the mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week.
” They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign,” the President said.
Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 12:13 PM
The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for President on Friday presented some of the first official government evidence of actions taken in the campaign, as a federal grand jury returned an indictment against 13 Russians and 3 Russian entities, alleging that they used social media to support President Donald Trump, and oppose Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The highly detailed 37 page indictment covered everything from social media ads taken out by the Russian ‘Internet Freedom Agency,’ to efforts to help with Trump rallies in Florida and other states – and even a post-election foray into anti-Trump events.
Here is some of what we learned on Friday:
1. Russian interference no longer a “hoax.” For months, President Trump has complained that the Russia investigation is a hoax. But now, the feds have laid out a highly detailed indictment, alleging that 13 Russians and 3 different Russian entities used social media to buy political ads against Hillary Clinton (“Ohio Wants Hillary 4 Prison”), and for Donald Trump (“Trump is our only hope for a better future!”), organized actual rallies to support Mr. Trump (“Florida Goes Trump”), and much more. “If you had any doubt that Russia meddled in our 2016 elections, this is your wake-up call,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). Back in September, the President derided the idea that Russian groups had bought social media ads in the 2016 campaign. “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook ,” he tweeted. But Friday, the President seemed to finally accept that there had been Russian interference.
2. Rosenstein takes the lead on new indictments. While Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is officially the boss of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Rosenstein has not participated in any of the earlier indictment or guilty plea announcements. But today, the ‘DAG’ was front and center at the Justice Department. He laid out the basics of the indictments of 13 Russians and described the outlines of the effort to meddle in the 2016 election. Rosenstein took only a few questions.
3. Trump – and his supporters – proclaim “NO COLLUSION.” On Twitter, and then in a statement issued by the White House on Friday afternoon, the President made clear that the latest indictments showed nothing in the way of collusion between Russians and his campaign. (The all-caps “NO COLLUSION” was in the White House statement.) But what was really said by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein? “Now, there is no allegation – in this indictment – that any American was a knowing particpant in this illegal activity,” Rosenstein said, as he used “in this indictment” several times.
4. No names revealed of who Russians contacted. As the indictment detailed efforts by the Russians to set up events for Trump supporters in Florida, there were contacts made with people on the Trump Campaign. The indictment doesn’t list the names of those who were contacted by the ‘email@example.com’ account – instead, they are referred to as “Campaign Official 1,” “Campaign Official 2” and so on. But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. Why not reveal who those people were? Is it really that big of a deal?
5. Mueller reveals some of his evidence. At one point in the indictment, the feds quote an email from one of the Russians, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, in which she said: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke).” While that jumps off the page of the indictment, it is also seems to send a message – that the FBI has a lot more information, from the social media accounts that were used by the Russians, to emails and more. Could some of this also be from intelligence efforts? We’ll see.
6. Hillary Clinton in a cage – Russian supported? In the indictment, it talks about how the Russians moved “to build a cage large enough to hold an actress depicting (Hillary) Clinton in a prison uniform. That jangled the memory of several reporters, who found stories about such a scene in Florida, during the 2016 campaign. And others remembered the Hillary-in-a-cage routine from other states.
7. After the election, the Russians play both sides. The indictment also revealed that after the election was over – and President Trump had been declared the victor – the Russians even went into the business of anti-Trump rallies in New York and Charlotte, North Carolina. “Trump is NOT my President,” was the rally in New York – while at the same time, the group was organizing an event to “support President-Elect Donald Trump.”
8. Another guilty plea as well for the Mueller probe. Minutes after the indictments against the 13 Russians was released, the Special Counsel also revealed a recent guilty plea, from February 2, of Richard Pinedo, from California. Pinedo was charged with “Identity Fraud,” which may be related to efforts by the Russians indicted on Friday to use American identities while engaging in their work on the 2016 Presidential election. It wasn’t exactly clear how Pinedo fits in, though it seems that he is the first American to be charged with directly helping the Russian operation to influence the 2016 campaign – but there is no evidence presented that he knew that was happening. Documents show Pinedo could face up to 15 years in prison.
Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:26 PM
Updated: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:26 PM
WASHINGTON — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Friday urged President Donald Trump to impose steep tariffs on China and other steel-producing countries, contending they are illegally dumping steel into U.S. markets.
In a 262-page report that was praised by many Ohio lawmakers, Ross charged that imported steel products are priced “substantially lower” than steel produced in the United States and declared that the United States is now the largest importer of steel in the world.
Ross urged the White House either to impose tariffs as high as 53 percent on China, Russia, South Korea and nine other steel producing countries or levy a 24-percent tariff on imported steel from any country.
“Excessive steel imports have adversely impacted the steel industry,” Ross wrote, adding that “numerous U.S. steel mill closures, a substantial decline in employment, lost domestic sales and market share, and marginal annual net income for U.S.-based steel companies illustrate the decline of the U.S. steel industry.”
The administration launched an investigation into steel dumping last year and Trump has 90 days to levy the tariffs. But new tariffs will harm consumers because they would pay higher prices for products which use steel, such as cars and trucks.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, praised Ross’s report, but said “Ohio steelworkers don’t need a report to tell them they are losing jobs to Chinese cheating.”
“More important than releasing the findings of this report is taking swift and tough action that provides real, long-lasting relief for our steel industry, which is facing an onslaught of imports as we wait for a decision,” Brown said.
Emily Benavides, a spokesman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Portman “looks forward to reviewing the Commerce Department’s recommendations.”
Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 8:27 AM
The office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced Friday that thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian groups had been charged with violating U.S. criminal laws for interfering with the 2016 election, detailing a string of efforts to help President Donald Trump’s campaign, and sew doubt about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences,” the indictment alleged, detailing efforts to buy political ads on social media.
The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. earlier today, charged that the group first went after multiple candidates for President, and then fine tuned their message.
“Defendants’ operation included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”
In a highly detailed 37 page indictment, the Special Counsel’s office described a series of efforts to organize rallies to help Mr. Trump in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York.
At one point, the indictment alleges that Russians posing as Americans, communicated directly with Trump Campaign staff officials about organizing efforts in Florida.
There was no evidence presented in the indictment that campaign officials knew they were getting help from a Russian group.