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Tag: Russia

What to Expect from Mueller’s Testimony Before Congress This Week

Special counsel Robert Mueller Mueller.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Robert Mueller, the special counsel who investigated Russian election interference, will testify before two U.S. House committees on Wednesday.

Mueller reluctantly agreed to testify after Democrats issued a subpoena.

So what should Americans expect?

Democrats are hoping Mueller’s testimony will provide new and compelling evidence against Trump. Republicans plan to excoriate Mueller over what they consider FBI bias against the president.

If history is any indication, Mueller will be factual, dispassionate and nonpartisan.

Mueller has already said that everything he knows about the investigation is inside his 448-page report. So it’s unlikely Democrats will get dramatic, new testimony.

Mueller has repeatedly said he found no evidence that Trump colluded with Russia. But Mueller’s report makes clear that Trump may have obstructed justice and that the special counsel did not pursue charges against the president because of the Justice Department’s position that sitting presidents cannot be indicted.

On Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on Face the Nation that he plans make clear to Americans that there’s “a pretty damning set of facts that involve a presidential campaign in a close race welcoming help from a hostile foreign power.”

“Who better to bring them to life than the man who did the investigation himself?” Schiff asked.

Sen. Schumer Calls on FBI to Investigate FaceApp over National Security ‘Concerns’

FaceApp

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged the FBI to investigate the popular, Russian-developed FaceApp over “concerns” that it “could pose national security and privacy risks for millions of US citizens.”

“FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of US citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign government,” Schumer wrote in a letter to the FBI and Federal Trade Commission.

He added, “Russia remains a significant counterintelligence threat.”

The app, which was the most popular free app in the Apple Store this week, provides a photo filter that transforms features of any face, like making users look younger or older.

Schumer called on the FBI to assess whether the data and images used by the app could find “its way into the hands of the Russian government.”

“It would be deeply troubling if the sensitive personal information of U.S. citizens was provided to a hostile foreign power actively engaged in cyber hostilities against the United States,” Schumer wrote.

The FaceApp’s terms of service grants the company permission to use people’s voice, name and photos for commercial purposes, even after it’s deleted.

‘More Than 10,000 spies’ Roam Washington D.C. for Secrets, And They’re Hard to Identify

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Among the civil servants, business people, diplomats, tourists and law enforcement officials in Washington D.C. are “more than 10,000 spies,” according to the International Spy Museum.

Although the actual numbers are in debate, the FBI agrees the city is flush with spies.

“It’s unprecedented — the threat from our foreign adversaries, specifically China on the economic espionage and the espionage front,” Brian Dugan, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, told WTOP for a three-part series on espionage.

The spies come from all over, and they’re increasingly using technology in an attempt to steal secrets. After all, Washington D.C. is home to more than 175 foreign embassies, chanceries, residences and diplomatic missions. Then there are tens of thousands of international students, and an “untold number of business people with links to foreign intelligence services,” WTOP reported.

“A spy is nondescript. A spy is going to be someone that’s going to be a student in school, a visiting professor, your neighbor. It could be a colleague or someone that shares the soccer field with you,” Dugan said.

Highly skilled spies are trained to become virtually invisible to unsuspecting people, and they’re elusive to even the most trained spy hunters.

Among the most troublesome spies are Russians.

“The Russians are hyper focused on the United States,” John Sipher, a retired CIA official. “They see us as their main adversary, the main enemy. All the elements of state power — whether it be their diplomatic service or intelligence services or police services — are focused on the United States.”
Robert Baer, who was a covert operative for the CIA for decades, said it’s not easy identifying a spy.

“Everybody in the espionage business is working undercover,” Baer said. “So if they’re in Washington, they’re either in an embassy or they’re a businessman and you can’t tell them apart because they never acknowledge what they’re doing. And they’re good, so they leave no trace of their communications.”

One reason spies are becoming so common is they have a lot of people from which to recruit, Dugan said.

“There’s a large population in retirement or getting close to retirement,” Dugan said. “The baby boomers are all leaving and that population is looking for post-government jobs”

He added, “Of course there’s always going to be moments that we’re going to have people decide to cooperate with the enemy.”

Newly Unsealed Court Documents Reveal Suspicious Ties Between Cohen And Russian-Linked Firm

Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Trump.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and so-called fixer Michael Cohen exchanged hundreds of phone calls and text messages with a Russian-linked firm beginning on Election Day in 2016, according to newly unsealed court documents obtained by several news outlets.

The FBI also discovered that Cohen, who is now serving a three-year prison sentence, received $500,000 for consulting work from Columbus Nova, which is connected to the influential Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. The company’s CEO Andrew Intrater introduced Cohen to Vekselberg. Vekselberg and Intrater are cousins and business associates.

After the FBI began investigating what appeared to be suspicious emails and bank transfers from Cohen’s accounts, special counsel Robert Mueller followed up with search warrants between July and November 2017 to determine whether the exchanges violated any laws, including wire fraud and money laundering.

The new records also reveal that Cohen received more than $280,000 from Trump since February 2017.

The revelations are important because they show how early Mueller and the FBI were aware of suspicious activity involving Cohen.

Report: Steve Bannon Urged FBI Officials in 2017 to Put ‘Differences’ with Trump Behind Them

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s decision to ask then-FBI Director James Comey to pledge loyalty to his presidency was one of the primary reasons special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed.

But it turns out, Trump wasn’t the only White House official to engage with the FBI as it investigated Russia’s role in the presidential election.

A day after Trump asked for Comey’s loyalty in April 2017, then-White House strategist Steve Bannon asked two top FBI officials to put their “differences” with Trump’s administration behind them, according to The Guardian, which cited “people familiar with the matter.”

Bannon’s discussion was with then-Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe and Bill Priestap, who was then serving as the bureau’s assistant director of counter-intelligence.

According to The Guardian, McCabe documented Bannon’s remarks in a memo obtained by Mueller’s team. Bannon also was questioned about the discussions.

But for reasons that remain unclear, Mueller’s final report never mentioned Bannon’s meetings with the top FBI officials.

Legal analysts said it “was highly unusual for a senior White House official to make such remarks to the FBI officials, especially at a time when the White House was facing scrutiny,” The Guardian reported.

Richard Painter, former White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, said the remarks were “reckless” because it could appear that Bannon was pressuring the FBI officials.

“This is the type of conduct that risks obstruction charges. You do not make public comments, you do not contact the FBI or anyone at the DoJ about a pending investigation, and the reason is that those types of contacts can be seen as obstruction of justice,” Painter said. “When you say ‘we are all on the same team’, well, what does that mean?”

FBI Sent Investigator to Question Trump Aide about Russia’s Involvement

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, via LinkedIn.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI in 2016 sent an undercover investigator masquerading as a research assistant to meet with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos as part of a counterintelligence investigation into the campaign’s ties to Russia, The New York Times reports.

The meeting happened at a London pub after Papadopoulos suggested to an Austrian diplomat that the campaign had “received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton,” according to Robert Mueller’s report.

Ultimately, the operation “yielded no fruitful information,” The Times reports.

The operation shows how far the FBI was willing to go to determine whether Trump’s campaign was working with Russia in its attempts to interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The newly discovered information gives Trump and his supporters fuel to claim the FBI improperly “spied” on him to derail his campaign. Whether the counterintelligence probe was improper is the subject of an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

Last month, Attorney General William Barr said he believes “spying did occur.”
The Trump campaign released the following statement:

“There is a word for this in the English language: Spying. Democrats and their media friends have expressed horror at the term, but there is no other way to describe it: The FBI spied on the Trump campaign in 2016. For two years, Democrats and their allies in the media have lied to the American people about the Russia collusion hoax, when all along the real scandal was the Obama Administration using the Justice Department to spy on a political adversary’s campaign. As President Trump has said, it is high time to investigate the investigators.”

FBI Believes Russian Hackers Penetrated At Least One Florida County’s Computers

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI concluded Russian hackers breached “at least one” Florida county government as part of an operation to infiltrate the state’s computer systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The findings were revealed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which was released Thursday.

Mueller reported that Russia’s military intelligence agency was able to “gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government.”

Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, or GRU, attempted to breach other counties’ systems in Florda by sending spearphishing emails to more than 120 email accounts operated by Florida county election officials.

“We understand the FBI believes the operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government,” Mueller’s report states.

The report did not indicate whether any of Florida’s election results were compromised. Mueller said the FBI and Homeland Security were investigating the incidents.

Florida is a key swing state in presidential elections.

Mueller’s Russia Report to Be Made Public Any Day. Here’s What to Expect

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Attorney General William Barr is expected to release to Congress a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s election meddling this week.

President Trump and his allies have applauded Barr’s summary of the report, which suggested that Mueller’s nearly two year investigation was unable to establish that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

The summary also indicated that Mueller’s team failed to prove that Trump obstructed the investigation, but the probe did not “exonerate” the president.

So what can we expect from the full document?

Mueller’s 400-page report most likely lays out the factual findings and legal analysis of the investigation, which resulted in numerous convictions.

Democrats also are skeptical of Barr’s conclusion because he has long been opposed to the special counsel investigation and was hired by Trump. The full report will show whether Barr’s summary left out anything damaging to the president.

But how much of the report is made public is an open question. Barr has repeatedly said he’s working with Mueller’s team to redact information that could compromise sources and other ongoing investigations.

Ticklethewire.com will provide details of the report once it becomes public.