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Tag: Russia

Trump Distorts IG’s Conclusions And Then Blasts FBI Director Wray for Backing Report

FBI Director Christopher Wray and John Glover. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

President Trump ripped into FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday morning, presumably for backing the inspector general’s conclusion that the bureau didn’t improperly open its investigation into the Trump campaign.

“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” Trump tweeted. “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”

Trump’s criticism is as baffling as it is predictable. Inspector General Michael Horowitz clearly contradicted Trump’s conspiracy theory that his campaign was subjected to “a major SPY scandal,” as he tweeted in May 2018.

Horowitz’s report concluded that the FBI’s investigation was justified and unbiased, albeit plagued with a series of missteps. The report also found that the FBI did not improperly open its investigation into the Trump campaign.

Wray issued a lengthy response to the repot, saying he fully accepts the “findings and embraces the need for thoughtful, meaningful remedial action.”

Trump’s attempts to distort the report’s findings didn’t sway many on Twitter.

DOJ Watchdog Report Set for Release Today, Dismisses Trump’s Claims of FBI Spying

IG Michael Horowitz, via DoJ.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is set to announce today that top FBI and DOJ officials did not illegally spy on Trump’s campaign in 2016, delivering a blow to one of the president’s most repeated and unfounded conspiracy theories.

The report examined the investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia and found that the FBI had sufficient evidence to open the probe ahead of the 2016 election, according to several media accounts.

Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s inspector general, concluded that the FBI did not improperly launch the investigation, dismissing Trump’s wild claims that the bureau turned rogue in an effort to smear his campaign.

The report, however, is expected to document mistakes by some FBI and DOJ officials. But none of the missteps changed the course of the investigation, the report is to conclude.

Nevertheless, Trump likely will seize on the missteps to bolster his unproven claims.

FBI Did Not Spy on Trump’s Campaign, DOJ Inspector General Found

President Trump and AG William Barr, via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

President Trump has repeatedly claimed that the FBI turned rogue and spied on his campaign in 2016 in what he said was “perhaps the biggest scandal in the history of our country.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the FBI infiltrated Trump’s campaign or launched a politically motivated investigation to undermine his candidacy, according to The New York Times and NBC News.

The findings are in a draft copy of an inspector general report that is due out on Dec. 9 as part of a larger examination of the Russia investigation.

The inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, also undercuts claims that the FBI’s pursuit of a secret wiretap on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, was politically motivated.

In April, Attorney General William Barr told a Senate committee that he suspected “spying did occur.” A few days later, Trump insisted, “There was absolutely spying into my campaign.”

But in May, FBI Director Christopher Wray took issue with the characterization that the bureau was “spying” on Trump’s campaign, saying, “I don’t think I personally have any evidence of that sort.”

Russian Spies Penetrated FBI Communications in Brazen Counterintelligence Operation

Russian leader Vladimir Putin

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Russia’s unprecedented campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election appeared to be the primary reason why the Obama administration forced out three dozen Russian diplomats from the U.S. at the end of his term.

But something more sinister was going on.

Russian spies were using two rural East Coast estates to carry out a brazen counterintelligence operation that targeted FBI communications, Yahoo News reports, citing former U.S. officials.

Russians managed to decrypt what was believed to be secure types of communications, enabling spies to tap into surveillance used by elite FBI teams. The FBI’s ability to track spies on U.S. soil was hampered, and the bureau and CIA even stopped contacting some of their Russian assets.

The counterintelligence operation was so successful that some U.S. officials feared a Russian mole had penetrated U.S. intelligence agencies.

“It was a very broad effort to try and penetrate our most sensitive operations,” a former senior CIA official said.

Despite the discovery, President Trump continues to brag about his good relationship with Russia and has never divulged the severity of the country’s counterintelligence just before he took office.

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.