Tag Archives: nsa

Top Intel Official Won’t Deny Reports That Trump Pressured Him to Push Back on FBI Investigation

Mother Jones

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Tuesday refused to tell Senators whether President Donald Trump had asked him to push back against against the FBI investigation into potential links between Trump’s associates and Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, an allegation that was reported by the Washington Post Monday night.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked about the accuracy of Post‘s report that Trump had asked Coats and NSA director Michael Rogers to “publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.” According to the Post’s sources, both Coats and Rogers felt Trump’s request was “inappropriate” and refused to comply. Coats declined to answer McCain’s question.

“As the president’s principal intelligence adviser, I’m fortunate to be able and need to spend a significant amount of time with the president discussing national security interests and intelligence,” said Coats. “As it relates to those interests, we discuss a number of topics on a very regular basis. I have always believed that given the nature of my position and the information which we share, it’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that. So on this topic, as well as other topics, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize discussions and conversations with the president.”

Trump’s alleged request to Coats and Rogers came after then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed publicly on March 20 that the FBI was investigating possible links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government, and whether any coordination between them existed during the 2016 campaign.

According to the Post, an internal NSA memo written by a “senior NSA official” documented Trump’s request at the time he made it. Of course, that memo wouldn’t be the only time a senior intelligence official apparently documented an inappropriate request made by Trump regarding the Russia investigation. As the New York Times revealed last week, Comey wrote a series of memos documenting his communications with Trump, including one in which he apparently wrote that Trump had asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

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Top Intel Official Won’t Deny Reports That Trump Pressured Him to Push Back on FBI Investigation

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McMaster: Trump’s Blabbing Was "Wholly Appropriate"

Mother Jones

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National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster at a press briefing this morning: President Trump didn’t reveal anything wrong to the Russians. “It was wholly appropriate to that conversation.”

So there you have it. McMaster refuses to say if the information Trump shared with the Russian foreign minister was classified; whether it came from a foreign partner; whether it had been shared with anyone else; whether it referred to a specific city; whether his own office was in touch this morning with the NSA and CIA about this; or whether anyone has spoken with the foreign partner about what happened. He’ll say only that it was “appropriate” over and over and over.

But at the very end of his Q&A, McMaster (accidentally?) says Trump hadn’t even been briefed on the source of the information he shared. He had no idea where it came from.

McMaster is going to regret saying this. He basically said that Trump blabbed about this stuff even though he had no idea how sensitive it was. And why didn’t he know? McMaster scurried off the stage before anyone could ask, but the best guess is that Trump refuses to read even the bullet points in the one-page intelligence briefings he insists on. So he had no idea just how sensitive this stuff was.

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McMaster: Trump’s Blabbing Was "Wholly Appropriate"

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Susan Rice Did Nothing Wrong, Part the Millionth

Mother Jones

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I missed this a couple of days ago, but Nancy LeTourneau alerts me to a recent CNN report about Susan Rice’s requests to “unmask” the names of individuals in intelligence reports that she received when she was Obama’s National Security Advisor. This was all part of the great Devin Nunes fiasco, where he went to the White House to read the reports, came back to Capitol Hill to hold a press conference, and then rushed back to the White House to tell President Trump all about it. But there’s no there there:

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal….Over the last week, several members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees have reviewed intelligence reports related to those requests at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as “normal and appropriate” for officials who serve in that role to the president.

Fine. Susan Rice did nothing wrong. It’s not as if we didn’t know that already, but it’s nice to see it confirmed. Rice must be getting really tired of being a handy Republican punching bag.

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Susan Rice Did Nothing Wrong, Part the Millionth

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Trump: Obama Tapped My Phone, He’s a Sick Guy

Mother Jones

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It’s Saturday. I figured I’d sleep in and eat breakfast before I checked in on the news. After all, how much can happen on a Saturday morn—

Oh FFS. Fine. Let’s hear the evidence:

Then, just to show how serious this is, an hour later Trump tweets about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “pathetic” ratings on Celebrity Apprentice. Then it’s off to the golf course.

So what’s going on? Did Obama really tapp Trump Tower during the sacred election process? I hope so! If he did, it would mean a judge had found probable cause that Trump had committed a crime of some kind.

Alternatively, it could mean that the FBI or the NSA was listening to a foreign phone call and Trump was on the other end. That would be great too.

Or, of course, Trump might be full of shit. Sadly, this is the most likely possibility. But you never know. Maybe there’s some real dirt here and Trump is trying to get ahead of it. When it leaks, he’ll try to convince everyone that the real issue is all the illegal leaks. Or the Nixonian/McCarthyite use of wiretaps. Or the fact that Obama is a sleaze, which is guaranteed to excite the base.

In any case, our next White House press briefing should be interesting, don’t you think?

UPDATE: Hmmph. Breitbart News ran a story yesterday summarizing a Mark Levin radio show that outlined a bunch of stuff that’s already been reported, including the fact that a FISA warrant was obtained to monitor the communications of some Trump aides:

In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.

Is that it? The Washington Post reports that the Breitbart story “has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff.” How boring.

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Trump: Obama Tapped My Phone, He’s a Sick Guy

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Can Trump Ever Be Convinced That Russia Is Behind Election Meddling?

Mother Jones

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President-elect Donald Trump met on Friday with the heads of several US intelligence agencies for a personal briefing about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 president election. But it’s still unclear whether Trump believes what he was apparently told—or what it would take to convince him to accept the government’s findings that Moscow hacked Democratic targets to help Trump win the election.

After the briefing, Trump issued a statement noting that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee.” But he did not say he accepts the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow did so during the 2016 campaign and was behind the leaking of Democratic emails through WikiLeaks and other sites. Trump did insist that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.” Given that Trump repeatedly cited the WikiLeaks material during the campaign, his claim that Russian hacking had no effect on the election is hard to prove.

The meeting comes a day after several top intelligence officials briefed a Senate committee on the matter. Hours after the Senate hearing, the Washington Post reported that US intelligence officials claim to have identified people who passed stolen Democratic emails and other materials to WikiLeaks and that intercepted communications between senior Russian government officials revealed Vladimir Putin’s regime had celebrated Trump’s victory. Several other media outlets later confirmed the Post‘s account.

Trump tweeted that reporters were given access to the materials because of “Politics!” and later questioned how the government could be confident in its conclusions, pointing to a report that the Democratic National Committee blocked or delayed access to its servers, according to the FBI. (The DNC and others noted that it was not necessary or customary for FBI investigators to access the servers in order to investigate the hack.) On Friday, Trump tweeted that he was “asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing.”

On Friday morning, before his briefing, Trump told the New York Times that the intense focus on Russian hacking is “a political witch hunt” led by people embarrassed that Trump won in November.

“Making this about the election and not the subversion of a foreign government is beyond disturbing,” a former CIA official tells Mother Jones. “This isn’t about politics; it’s about espionage. He needs to get his head wrapped around the fact that he will be the target the moment he steps into office as POTUS.”

The Trump transition team and Hope Hicks, his campaign spokeswoman, did not respond to a request for comment. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has complained this week that reporters have gone too far in declaring Russia the culprit.

But security researchers say there is plenty of information in the public domain to conclude that the Russian government was involved in the hacks. That involvement was first reported by the Washington Post in June and has since been bolstered by several formal government announcements. The most recent government report, issued jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on December 29, offered a basic outline of the US government’s conclusions and explained some of the technical evidence that led the US intelligence community to pin the blame on Russia.

“The evidence is airtight,” says Dave Aitel, a former NSA research scientist who now runs a security research firm. “I don’t know anyone in the industry that takes the doubts seriously. Within the industry, it’s not a question.”

Matt Tait, a security researcher and former information security specialist for the Government Communications Headquarters, the United Kingdom’s version of the National Security Agency, said the information that’s been presented so far by the US government and private security research firms who have investigated the hacks supports the case against the Russians.

“The public evidence for this hack is unusual in how compelling it is compared with almost all other breaches, and that to people who are motivated and technical enough to go through it properly, it provides a solid case even without access to the secret sources and methods used by the U.S. Intelligence Community,” Tait writes in an email to Mother Jones.

“There is additional information that the IC could provide,” he adds, “but frankly, for people who are not persuaded by the evidence that is currently public, I suspect there is no quantity of additional evidence that the IC could release that will be persuasive to those people.”

But Jeffrey Carr, a private information security researcher, believes there needs to be more independent vetting of the intelligence community’s conclusions. “I want to see a chain of verifiable evidence available for peer review that is internally consistent, that is not dependent solely upon technical evidence, and that brings us to reasonable certainty as defined by international law,” he wrote on Medium this month.

Still, it’s not clear that anything would convince Trump to accept Russia’s role in the hacks. “Based on the already overwhelming public evidence, what—short of a video of Putin himself at the keyboard—could change Trump’s mind?” former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey tweeted Friday morning. Her next tweet: “Trump isn’t actually interested in being persuaded by evidence. His only question is whether he can maintain plausible deniability.”

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Can Trump Ever Be Convinced That Russia Is Behind Election Meddling?

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