A very weird Friday News Dump in the ongoing Russian investigation of Trump, today we learned that the CIA was trying to buy information from a Russian seller who (thanks to Ed Snowden!) had possession of NSA cybersecurity tools. Instead, the Russian seller offered the CIA dirt on Trump, and they pulled the plug on the deal out of fear it was a setup.
After months of secret negotiations, a shadowy Russian bilked American spies out of $100,000 last year, promising to deliver stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons in a deal that he insisted would also include compromising material on President Trump, according to American and European intelligence officials.
The cash, delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September, was intended as the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to American officials, the Russian and communications reviewed by The New York Times. The theft of the secret hacking tools had been devastating to the N.S.A., and the agency was struggling to get a full inventory of what was missing.
Several American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian — who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals. He claimed the information would link the president and his associates to Russia. But instead of providing the hacking tools, the Russian produced unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data.
The United States intelligence officials said they cut off the deal because they were wary of being entangled in a Russian operation to create discord inside the American government. They were also fearful of political fallout in Washington if they were seen to be buying scurrilous information on the president.
The Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on the negotiations with the Russian seller. The N.S.A., which produced the bulk of the hacking tools that the Americans sought to recover, said only that “all N.S.A. employees have a lifetime obligation to protect classified information.”
The negotiations in Europe last year were described by American and European intelligence officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a clandestine operation, and the Russian. The United States officials worked through an intermediary — an American businessman based in Germany — to preserve deniability. There were meetings in provincial German towns where John le Carré set his early spy novels, and data handoffs in five-star Berlin hotels. American intelligence agencies spent months tracking the Russian’s flights to Berlin, his rendezvous with a mistress in Vienna and his trips home to St. Petersburg, the officials said.
The N.S.A. even used its official Twitter account nearly a dozen times to send coded messages to the Russian.
The episode ended earlier this year with American spies chasing the Russian out of Western Europe, warning him not to return if he valued his freedom, the American businessman said. The alleged Trump material was left with the American, who has secured it in Europe.
Good ol' fashioned spycraft, and nobody does it like the Russians. The real issue is though that the CIA and the NSA ra screaming from info on Trump. The setup excuse if convenient, the reality is that nobody wanted to be the guy who brought in dirt on a sitting chief executive, that's instant career death.
Information that harms Trump disappears.
President Trump blocked on Friday the release of a classified Democratic memo rebutting Republican claims that top federal law enforcement officials had abused their surveillance powers in spying on a former Trump campaign aide, raising the specter of a potential showdown with Congress.
Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s lawyer, said in a letter to the House Intelligence Committee that the memorandum “contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages.” He said the president would again consider the release of the memo to the public if the committee revised the memo to “mitigate the risks.”
Under the obscure rule invoked by the House Intelligence Committee to initiate the document’s release, the committee could choose to make those changes, or could decide whether to seek a vote of the full House of Representatives to try to override Mr. Trump’s decision.
Democrats are certain to be outraged by the action, given that last week the president declassified the contents of a rival Republican memo drafted by committee staff and drawn from the same underlying documents over the objections of his own Justice Department and F.B.I.
Mr. McGahn said Mr. Trump is “inclined to declassify” the Democratic memorandum and encouraged the committee to make the changes that he said the Department of Justice had identified as important for “national security and law enforcement interests.”
While many Republicans said their memo showed evidence of political bias present in the early stages of the Russia investigation, Mr. Trump went farther, claiming, incorrectly, that the Republican memo “totally vindicates” him from the investigation.
The full House can vote to release the memo. My guess it won't even get a vote. Down into the memory hole it goes, unless it's leaked, of course.