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Published: Monday, September 25, 2017 @ 3:20 PM
— Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, used a personal email account to discuss official government business, despite his father-in-law’s criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for doing the same, according to multiple reports.
The email account was set up in December, Politico reported, noting that Kushner also uses an official White House email account. The news site was the first to report on Kushner’s use of private email.
“Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account,” Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said Sunday in a statement to Politico. “These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”
Trump, who faced Clinton last year in the race for the White House, criticized the former secretary of state numerous times for her use of private email, leading supporters on chants of “Lock her up” and insisting that her actions were illegal. The FBI determined last year that Clinton did not break the law, although then-FBI Director James Comey said that Clinton and her colleagues were "extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Politico reported that there were no indications that Kushner used his private email account to discuss sensitive or classified information.
An unidentified government official told The New York Times that “unlike in the Clinton case, Mr. Kushner had not set up a private server to house the personal email account. While Mrs. Clinton used her personal account exclusively, the official said that Mr. Kushner does use his government account.”
At a news briefing on Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that, to her knowledge, Kushner’s use of private email was “very limited.”
“White House counsel has instructed all White House staff to use their government email for government matters,” she said, adding that staff was “instructed on this one pretty regularly.”
Published: Sunday, July 15, 2018 @ 12:51 PM
Updated: Sunday, July 15, 2018 @ 12:51 PM
Ohio’s national parks could get more than $100 million in additional funding for much needed renovations if a proposal introduced in the U.S. Senate in June is eventually signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s Restore Our Parks Act would alleviate a $12-billion backlog of deferred maintenance at areas overseen by the National Park Service. The billions in repair jobs that have been put off because of a lack of funding includes parks in every state, according to a listing of deferred maintenance.
It makes sense to try to address park maintenance now before it worsens and in turn costs taxpayers even more to repair, Portman told this news organization.
“I have had a long time concern about this,” Portman said. “I just never thought it was fair to let the infrastructure around these parks deteriorate like they are.”
The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park at 16 S. Williams St., would get more than $1.8 million if the proposal becomes law, according to Portman’s office. Repairs to the building that houses The Wright Cycle Co. is one of the “highest priorities” on the National Park Service’s list of deferred maintenance, meaning it would almost certainly get funding if some form of the bill becomes law, Portman.
As introduced, the bill would cover the park’s entire deferred maintenance needs as of September 2017, according to documents from the National Park Service.
“Just in general terms, deferred maintenance covers HVAC systems, sidewalk repairs, roofing repairs,” said Kendell Thompson, new superintendent for Dayton’s historical park. “It’s stuff that just needs to be done as a part of a regular maintenance program. As projects are prioritized some will get funded and some will not.”
The William Howard Taft National Historic site in Cincinnati would get more than $2 million from Portman’s bill and the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, 75 minutes from Dayton, would receive more than $2.1 million from Portman’s bill.
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island would receive the most funding at $47.7 million. The 352-foot monument was established to commemorate the people who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
Ohio Cuyahoga Valley National Park would receive more than $45.8 million, the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument could get $1.9 million, the First Ladies National Historic Site may get $1.1 million and the James A. Garfield National Historic Site may be given nearly $719,000, according to Portman’s office.
Though there are still several legislative hoops for Portman’s parks bill to jump through, but the senator said he’s “hopeful” it’ll become law as it currently has the support of Democrats, Republicans and the White House.
Published: Saturday, July 14, 2018 @ 7:26 PM
A day after the Special Counsel looking into Russian interference in the 2016 elections returned a new series of indictments against specific Russian intelligence agents, and just before his first summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump on Saturday blamed the Obama Administration for not doing enough to stop Russia’s cyber meddling during his bid for the White House two years ago.
“The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration,” the President tweeted from Scotland, where he is spending the weekend at his Turnberry golf resort.
“Why didn’t Obama do something about it? Because he thought Crooked Hillary Clinton would win, that’s why,” the President added.
In his tweets about the indictments the past two days, Mr. Trump made no mention of his Monday summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland with the Russian leader, and gave no indication whether or not the issue of election interference would be on their agenda.
As for the indictments handed down on Friday by a federal grand jury, what exactly did we learn from the details, and what trails might they point to in terms of further investigation?
Let’s take a look:
1. A highly detailed trail of Russian intelligence involvement. For those who have complained about the lack of actual evidence of Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, this latest indictment showed just how much specific and highly detailed information is in the hands of federal investigators and U.S. Intelligence. The indictment not only names those Russian Intelligence (GRU) agents who were at the keyboard, but details how the information was gained by the GRU, and then ultimately spread into the public domain by a third party. “This is jaw-droppingly impressive forensic work,” said Thomas Rid, a Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Rid’s bottom line – the indictment was “historically unprecedented in scope, detail, and likely impact.” The former U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama had this to say:
2. Guccifer 2.0 was not some Romanian hacker. The latest indictment from Special Counsel Robert Mueller spells out what many experts had long figured about the persona of “Guccifer 2.0,” who handed out information from certain hacks of the DNC – that it was actually a Russian intelligence agent, posing as someone who wasn’t working for Moscow. Thomas Rid says, “the indictment doesn’t just show Guccifer 2 was managed by a specific GRU unit — it *reconstructs the internet searches made while some GRU officer was drafting the first post as Guccifer 2*.” It is obvious from the level of detail in the indictment that U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement have a lot of communications from inside the GRU on Guccifer 2.0, and how that group made contacts with certain U.S. persons, including one who was “in regular contact with the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.” At this point, there is no evidence any of those people in the U.S. who contacted Guccifer 2.0 knew who they were dealing with, but the indictment makes the case that the false Romanian cover was just a way for Moscow to deny Russian responsibility.
3. Candidate for Congress asks for help from Russian intelligence. Whether or not you knew that Guccifer 2.0 wasn’t really from Romania, the indictment makes clear that at least one person running for the Congress in 2016 – that person was not identified by name or party – got in touch with Guccifer 2.0, and asked for help against their opponent. “On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress,” the indictment states. “The Conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.” It would seem to make sense that since the Russians had information from inside the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the recipient of that information would have been a Republican – but that’s not fully detailed. It raises some interesting questions. Who was that candidate? Did that person get elected? Is he/she serving in the Congress right now? Is that person involved in questioning the Russia investigation?
4. Mueller: GRU responsible for the Podesta hack. In the emails leaked out by Wikileaks from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta before the 2016 elections, was the actual spear phishing email that was used to get Podesta to change his email password. The indictment says that Russian Intelligence agents – using the ID “john356gh” – put together a fake link in an email for Podesta, which did not go to Google, but instead to “GRU-created website.” That email was sent to Podesta on March 19, 2016, and around March 21, 2016, the indictment says two specific agents “stole the contents of (Podesta’s) email account, which consisted of over 50,000 emails.” The indictment says the same ‘john356gh’ account was used “to mask additional links included in spear phishing emails sent to numerous individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign,” all from the email, “firstname.lastname@example.org.” This was not a 400 pound guy sitting in his bedroom.
5. “Organization 1” is clearly Wikileaks. The latest indictment also further cements the evidence that Wikileaks worked with Russian intelligence operatives, helping them to release emails from top Clinton aide John Podesta, as well as others within the Democratic National Committee. The indictment does not specifically name “Wikileaks,” but instead refers to it as “Organization 1” – while detailing how that group released information on Podesta, and others. “In order to expand their interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Conspirators transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman of the Clinton Campaign to Organization 1.” The indictment says the GRU at one point sent a file with emails that was titled, “wk dnc link1.txt.gpg.” Since the indictment was issued on Friday, Wikileaks made no denial – instead posting a video on Twitter showing President Trump talking about Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign.
6. Mueller indicates Russian obtained Clinton campaign ‘analytics.’ One of the more interesting pieces of information in this new indictment is the revelation that Russian agents hacked into the cloud system used by the Hillary Clinton campaign, which “contained test applications related to the DNC’s analytics.” The term analytics would refer to voter data and other election information used by the campaign, as officials try to figure out what voter groups, or what areas to target in a campaign – in some cases, a road map for what the campaign might have been doing. The indictment does not indicate what was done with the information taken from the DNC computers – but it raises some interesting ‘what if’ type of questions on how that could have been put to use before Election Day.
7. Russian Intel targeted county election websites. Tucked into Friday’s indictment is also a charge that Russian Intelligence probed not just the computers of state election boards, but also down to the county level, checking on websites in Florida, Georgia, and Iowa. Florida was also targeted in a different way, as the GRU allegedly sent ‘over 100 spear phishing emails to organizations and personnel involved in elections in numerous Florida counties.’ Those emails, according to the charges, contained malware embedded into an attached Word document. The indictment did not indicate what the Russian units were after at the county level – but a typical Supervisor of Elections would have a lot of voter information in their computer systems, and also would be on the front lines of vote tabulation on Election night.
8. The person “in regular contact” with Trump Campaign. As mentioned above, the indictment says that members of Russian intelligence – under the cover of Guccifer 2.0 – exchanged messages with someone “who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.” The quick assumption of those following this story was that is Roger Stone, the one-time foreign policy adviser to the campaign, who was pushed aside before the elections in 2016, but has talked in the past about being in touch with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. At first, Stone rejected the assertion that the indictment might be referring to him and contacts with Wikileaks, but a few hours later on CNN, Stone acknowledged that was a possibility.
Published: Saturday, July 14, 2018 @ 11:25 AM
The former federal judge assigned to go through evidence seized in an April 9 raid on Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney for President Donald Trump, has now turned over a second large tranche of evidence to federal prosecutors, delivering another 883,634 items, bringing the total to over 2 million.
“A release of 883,634 items that were not designated Privileged, Partially Privileged or Highly Personal by the Plaintiff, Intervenors or Special Master was made to the Government today,” Special Master Barbara Jones wrote in a submission made late on Friday to a Federal Judge Kimba Wood.
Under an agreement involving federal prosecutors, Cohen, the President’s lawyers, and the Trump Organization, Jones has been weighing claims of attorney-client and personal privilege on the seized materials, determining what should be withheld from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.
Jones also made clear that additional evidence is likely to be handed over to prosecutors as well.
“The Special Master’s review of the remaining items is ongoing,” she wrote the court.
The surprise FBI raid on April 9 was executed after prosecutors told a federal magistrate in New York that Cohen was under investigation “for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings.”
It still is not clear if there are any direct links to President Trump involved in this investigation, though Cohen’s involvement in the payment of ‘hush money’ to porn star Stormy Daniels – shortly before the 2016 election – has raised questions about possible violations of federal campaign finance laws.
Earlier this month, Cohen hired a new lawyer – Lanny Davis – who was once a lawyer for President Bill Clinton, as Cohen made clear in an interview with ABC News that his loyalties to President Trump would only go so far.
“I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy,” Cohen told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview. “My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty, and always will.”
It’s not clear what the over 2 million items of evidence might include – as the information could contain anything from emails about picking up food for dinner to talking about a vacation – or, since Cohen evidently was seen as a ‘fixer’ for President Trump, there could be other items that draw closer scrutiny by investigators.
Cohen has not been charged with any crime at this point.
Cohen’s new lawyer, Davis, has already taken shots at President Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, making it very clear that Cohen and Mr. Trump are not on the same legal team at this point.
“Michael Cohen has said it’s time for him to speak the truth and put his family and Country first,” Davis said earlier this week. “I am glad to help him.”
Back when the raid on Cohen was announced, the President tweeted, “Attorney-Client privilege is dead!”
Published: Friday, July 13, 2018 @ 1:58 PM
Updated: Friday, July 13, 2018 @ 2:02 PM
— Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s office spent $14,120 on a seven-person, one-day chartered trip from Washington D.C. to Wilmington last year, a government watchdog found.
Price’s Washington, D.C.-Ohio flight cost about $10,000 more than the average commercial cost for the same travel, the department’s inspector general found.
By comparison, at today’s airfare rates, it would be cheaper to fly seven people on a week-long round trip from Dayton to Dubai next week (the Dayton Daily News found that trip available for $12,653), than to fly like Price and his staff did on a charter jet to the Wilmington Air Park. And that doesn’t consider the government-contracted rates available to federal employees.
Price, who resigned in September, visited the Alkermes pharmaceutical factory on April 26, 2017, to promote the Trump administration’s opioid agenda. The company produces the opioid treatment drug Vivitrol near the Wilmington Air Park.
The trip to Wilmington is one of 20 trips Price took that did not comply with federal requirements, the watchdog said.
“Overall, we determined that the use of chartered aircraft and identified noncompliance issues resulted in wast of federal funds totaling at least $341,000,” the inspector general’s report said.
A Health and Human Services deputy secretary told the Washington Post that “the work of an audit is to review compliance with procedures, not make legal conclusions. As a matter of law, none of the travel at issue was unauthorized.”
“HHS and this administration are dedicated to serving the American people and being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Eric Hargan said Friday in a statement to the Post. “In furtherance of this goal, the department has instituted the most rigorous controls on travel in the organization’s history.”
Price’s Wilmington trip was one of three where the lowest quote was not selected, nor was a justification written during the contracting process stating why the lowest bid was not chosen, the report said. The trip’s lowest quote was $12,425.
The watchdog found Price’s office said the plane listed on the lower quote did not adequately seat eight passengers.
“However, from our review, we determined the plane could sufficiently seat seven passengers, which was the number of passengers on the actual trip. As a result, we determined the plane listed on the lower quote was sufficient,” the report said.
The inspector general’s cost comparison found the average commercial price for Price’s trip to the area was about $3,682.
In 2017, the Dayton Daily News filed a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act seeking details from Health and Human Services about Price’s Wilmington trip. The request is “in process,” according to the department.
More local coverage: