Friday, February 9, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

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.

The General Needs To Go

Now that Steve Bannon is gone, the job of Donald Trump's enabler-in-chief has fallen to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.  As Vox's Dylan Matthews reminds us, there are several reasons why Kelly should have been booted from the job months ago.

I can’t tell you the exact moment it became clear that retired Gen. John F. Kelly had to resign his position as White House chief of staff.

Perhaps it was in October, when he lied and smeared Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Kelly claimed that during a dedication ceremony for a new FBI office in Miami, a ceremony where he and others were focused on the heroism of the two slain FBI agents after whom the office was named, Wilson “stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building.”

Video of the event confirmed that Kelly was lying — Wilson didn’t take credit for getting the funding. She graciously extended credit to her colleagues, including Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Díaz-Balart, and devoted much of her speech to honoring the two agents for whom the office was named. Kelly was lying to smear her for criticizing President Trump — indeed, for criticizing Trump’s treatment of a war widow.

Compounding the issue was White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters it was ”highly inappropriate” to call Kelly on his lies — because he’s a retired general. It was a shocking statement, one that undermined norms of civilian control of and oversight over the military. Kelly should have at least told the press he disagreed with Sanders, that he does not believe he is above scrutiny because of his military record. He did not.

Or maybe his time was up when he praised Robert E. Lee, who committed treason to defend the institution of slavery and the subjugation of black Americans, as an “honorable” man and blamed the Civil War on a “lack of compromise.” Or perhaps it was when he decried some DREAMers who failed to secure protection from deportation (in some cases because they feared that if they told the federal government they were undocumented, they could be deported) as “too lazy to get off their asses.” It was a shocking insult to more than a million Americans, who have lived here almost all their lives and contributed time and again to their communities and their nation.

But it became extremely, abundantly clear that Kelly had to go when he went to bat for White House staff secretary Rob Porter

Let's be perfectly clear about the Porter story: neither Rob Porter nor John Kelly are the victims here. Porter's ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and  Jennifer Willoughby, were beaten, terrorized, abused, and irreparably harmed by this monster.  They came forward to stop this brutish lout from being involved in our nation's executive branch.

John Kelly knew about it for months and promoted Porter anyway, as did White House Chief Legal Counsel Don McGahn.

Kelly knew all of this. Both Holderness and Willoughby were interviewed by the FBI in January 2017 as part of the hiring process for Porter, and White House counsel Don McGahn learned of the allegations the same month. McGahn took no action, nor did he take any action when the ex-girlfriend contacted him in November. The FBI told the White House about the abuse in June 2017, and by the fall it was clear the allegations were preventing Porter from getting a security clearance.

“When McGahn informed Kelly this fall about the reason for the security clearance holdup, he agreed that Porter should remain and said he was surprised to learn that the 40-year-old had ex-wives,” the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and Beth Reinhard report. “Kelly handed Porter more responsibilities to control the flow of information to the president.”

A few weeks ago, Kelly was informed by the FBI that they were recommending that Porter be denied full security clearance, and recommended the same about a number of other White House aides who, like Porter, had been working on interim clearances. “The White House chief-of-staff told confidants in recent weeks that he had decided to fire anyone who had been denied a clearance — but had yet to act on that plan before the Porter allegations were first reported this week,” Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports.

After all that, and even after the scandal broke in the news media, Kelly was still pushing within the White House to keep Porter on board. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported that Kelly wanted Porter to “stay and fight.” Publicly, while Kelly said he was “shocked by the new allegations” and proclaimed, “There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” he reiterated, “I believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.” When the scandal broke, he told the Daily Mail that Porter was “a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Again, these allegations against Porter were known from day one.  Not only was Porter hired, he was promoted to a sensitive position like White House Staff Secretary where he could read classified information without a security clearance.

And just think, there's dozens of other Trump staffers who should have security clearance but do not.

Just to top it all off, Porter was dating another member of Trump's staff, Hope Hicks. He was her boss.  And guess who Trump blames for this mess?

Hope Hicks. 

All of these clowns need to go, starting with Trump.

Budget Buster Blues

Well, if there was still any doubt out there that 2009-2017 was simply one long GOP exercise in punishing America for daring to elect a black president twice after Republicans simply forgot what all their complaints about the deficit and national debt were with a tax bill that will add $1.5 trillion in debt when we couldn't afford a jobs bill or a bridge bill or you know anything when Obama was in charge, this morning's budget bill proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The budget deal lawmakers have agreed to would increase discretionary spending above and beyond repeal of the sequester and the caps set in law under the Budget Control Act, in addition to a Christmas list of other items they desire. This deal comes with a hefty price tag of $320 billion over ten years according to the Congressional Budget Office, despite the fact that most of the deal is only temporary. It would push the deficit in 2019 clearly above $1 trillion to $1.2 trillion.

That $320 billion mostly reflects near-term costs, however. If temporary provisions in the bill were made permanent, the ultimate cost could increase to $1.7 trillion, or $2.1 trillion including interest, and increase debt to 105 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2027. Coming on the heels of the $1.5 trillion tax cut in December, this deal would be another huge blow to fiscal responsibility.

The largest expense in the budget deal is a plan to increase defense caps by $165 billion over two years and non-defense discretionary caps by $131 billion. But the legislation also allocates $89 billion of new budget authority on disaster relief and includes additional spending and tax cuts by repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), extending tax measures that expired at the end of 2016, and funding community health centers.

These $419 billion of increases are offset by just $100 billion of spending cuts, with a third coming from extending the sequester on mandatory spending for an extra two years beyond 2025; another third from various changes and reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs; and the rest from selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, extending various customs and visa fees, and further limiting Federal Reserve remittances.

GOP think tanks are appalled.  They shouldn't be.  Dick Chaney famously said "Deficits don't matter" as long as the guy in charge isn't Obama.

We can afford trillion-dollar deficits as long as the money is going to corporations and the richest 0.1% I guess.


Related Posts with Thumbnails