Saturday, March 24, 2018

Last Call For Iran Into Donald, Con't

On Friday, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein announced that nine Iranians have been indicted for hacking into US government agencies and multiple university systems and making off with tons of information in a multi-year operation funded by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

The United States on Friday announced criminal charges and sanctions against nine Iranians and an Iranian company for attempting to hack into hundreds of universities worldwide, dozens of companies and parts of the U.S. government, including its main energy regulator, on behalf of Tehran’s government.

The cyber attacks, beginning in at least 2013, pilfered more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from 144 U.S. universities and 176 universities in 21 other countries, the U.S. Department of Justice said, describing the conspiracy as one of the largest state-sponsored hacking sprees prosecuted.
The U.S. Treasury Department said that it was placing sanctions on the nine accused individuals and the Mabna Institute, a company described by U.S. prosecutors as designed to help Iranian research organizations steal information.

“These defendants are now fugitives of justice,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a press conference. Rosenstein said they may face extradition in more than 100 countries if they travel outside of Iran. 
The hackers were not accused of being directly employed by Iran’s government. They were instead charged with criminal conduct waged primarily through the Mabna Institute on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite military force assigned to defend Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy from internal and external threats.

There was no immediate response to the charges and sanctions in Iran’s state-run media. 
Hackers targeted email accounts of more than 100,000 professors worldwide and compromised about 8,000 of them, prosecutors said. Hackers also targeted the U.S. Labor Department, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the United Nations and the computer systems of the U.S. states Hawaii and Indiana, prosecutors said. 
Friday’s actions are part of an effort by senior cyber security officials at the White House and across the U.S. government to blame foreign countries for malicious hacks.

Three observations here about this story:

1) If Rod Rosenstein wanted cover from Trump's capricious ire, "indicting Iranian hackers in a major operation that started under Obama's watch" is about as high on the list as he could have gone, short of actually firing Mueller.  In a real way, Rosenstein's announcement may have saved his job.  For now.

2) With this coming the day after John Bolton's Mustache was announced as the next National Security Adviser, let's recall that the Trump regime's latest nuclear posture review included the desire to use military action, up to and including the deployment of "strategic weapons", in response to cyber attacks by nation states.  Rosenstein conceivably just gave these asshole a pretext for war.  Maybe nuclear war.  Hell, I don't know.

3) But the DoJ investigating Iran's Revolutionary Guard's money trail is a double-bladed sword for Trump and he knows it. Last March's revelations that Ivanka Trump was involved heavily in a failed Trump Tower project in Baku, Azerbaijan that was really a money laundering front for the RG suddenly takes on a whole new level of importance, especially after this announcement.  And of course, Robert Mueller knows what Rosenstein knows.

It's a complex and complicated subject, but the upshot is that while this was coming for a long time, the timing and method of the announcement was totally up to Rosenstein on this.  There's a lot behind the scenes here, and we'll find out  at some point.

De Blasio De Criminal?

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is now facing serious corruption allegations that came faster than, well, a New York minute.

A Long Island restaurateur testified under oath on Thursday that he steered tens of thousands of dollars to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political campaigns in return for favorable treatment by the city. 
It was the first time that the restaurateur, Harendra Singh, has publicly detailed his efforts to use campaign contributions — as much as $80,000 raised from others, and much more personally by using “straw donors” to skirt contribution limits — to gain better terms during lease negotiations for one of his restaurants. 
Mr. Singh also suggested for the first time that Mr. de Blasio not only knew of the illegal arrangement, but that the mayor encouraged it and actively helped the restaurateur. 
“He made many phone calls,” Mr. Singh said of the mayor. “His office was working very hard, from his deputy mayor to his assistant to his intergovernmental affairs person. Everyone was working.”
Mr. Singh was testifying as a cooperating witness in the corruption trial of Edward Mangano, the former Nassau County executive, and John Venditto, the former Town of Oyster Bay supervisor, both of whom Mr. Singh has pleaded guilty to bribing.

Mr. Singh said that he and the mayor often discussed the lease and the donations in the same conversations. 
And on two occasions, the restaurateur testified, Mr. de Blasio requested contributions for himself or political allies and, when told that Mr. Singh had already met the limit, said: “Listen, I don’t want to know. Just do what you have to do.
The Mangano/Venditto case has been a thorn in de Blasio's side for a while now.  But Singh's testimony makes things much harder for the mayor.  The issue now is that de Blasio may now be called to testify in the case, and if that happens, all bets are off.

We'll see, but if I were you I'd cross the guy off any 2020 short lists.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

In what should be the least surprising development in the ongoing investigation into Russian inference in the 2016 election, Spencer Ackerman and the Daily Beast are reporting that hacker Guccifer 2.0, the source behind the hacking of the DNC emails who gift-wrapped them for delivery to WikiLeaks, was an actual Russian GRU intelligence officer.

Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft. 
That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team. 
While it’s unclear what Mueller plans to do with Guccifer, his last round of indictments charged 13 Russians tied to the Internet Research Agency troll farm with a conspiracy “for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” It was Mueller’s first move establishing Russian interference in the election within a criminal context, but it stopped short of directly implicating the Putin regime. 
Mueller’s office declined to comment for this story. But the attribution of Guccifer 2.0 as an officer of Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency would cross the Kremlin threshold—and move the investigation closer to Trump himself.

There was zero doubt that Russia was behind the DNC hack, all of our intelligence agencies said so.  But now we know it was the GRU, Russia's equivalent of the CIA, that was running the show.  And that means there's no longer any question that the Trumpies were working with the Russians to go after Hillary.

Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone admitted being in touch with Guccifer over Twitter’s direct messaging service. And in August 2016, Stone published an article on the pro-Trump-friendly Breitbart News calling on his political opponents to “Stop Blaming Russia” for the hack. “I have some news for Hillary and Democrats—I think I’ve got the real culprit,” he wrote. “It doesn’t seem to be the Russians that hacked the DNC, but instead a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0.”

Roger Stone is in real trouble, guys.  And here's why:

“Almost immediately various cyber security companies and individuals were skeptical of Guccifer 2.0 and the backstory that he had generated for himself,” said Kyle Ehmke, an intelligence researcher at the cyber security firm ThreatConnect. “We started seeing these inconsistencies that led back to the idea that he was created hastily… by the individual or individuals that affected the DNC compromise.” 
Proving that link definitively was harder. Ehmke led an investigation at ThreatConnect that tried to track down Guccifer from the metadata in his emails. But the trail always ended at the same data center in France. Ehmke eventually uncovered that Guccifer was connecting through an anonymizing service called Elite VPN, a virtual private networking service that had an exit point in France but was headquartered in Russia. 
But on one occasion, The Daily Beast has learned, Guccifer failed to activate the VPN client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company, according to a source familiar with the government’s Guccifer investigation. Twitter and WordPress were Guccifer 2.0’s favored outlets. Neither company would comment for this story, and Guccifer did not respond to a direct message on Twitter. 
Working off the IP address, U.S. investigators identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow. (The Daily Beast’s sources did not disclose which particular officer worked as Guccifer.)

This is as big as it gets, guys.  The Trumpies have been denying that the Russians were behind the DNC hack for 18 months now, and that's been a lie since the word go.  They worked to wreck Hillary's chances, and they worked with both Roger Stone and Julian Assange to do it.

But remember, the House Intelligence Committee closed their investigation because there was no evidence of Russian interference.

Mueller has all of this, guys.  It's going to be brutal.

The Blue Wave Rises

With the success of Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, Democrats are now going for broke trying to put as many House districts in play, and that includes the one across the river here in Cincy as the race between Democrat Aftab Pureval and GOP Rep. Steve Chabot in OH-1 is now a prime pickup opportunity for Team Blue. The Enquirer's Jason Williams:

Washington Democrats have officially signaled they view Cincinnati's Aftab Pureval as a top-tier congressional candidate. 
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Thursday it has made Pureval's battle against long-time incumbent Steve Chabot in Ohio's 1st Congressional District the organization's top targeted race in the Buckeye State – and one of its highest priorities nationally. 
The DCCC has decided to make 33 races nationwide its top priority, with Pureval's being the only one targeted in Ohio. 
“Aftab Pureval has already proven he can win tough races when he became the first Democratic Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in more than 100 years," DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a Congressman from New Mexico, said in a statement. "With a strong base of local support, innovative ideas and a dedication to working for the people of Southwest Ohio, Aftab is poised to defeat yet another establishment Republican incumbent.” 
What it means: The DCCC will deploy resources to help Pureval, the former Procter & Gamble attorney running his first congressional campaign. That means Washington will provide fundraising support and assist the campaign in recruiting staff and volunteers. The DCCC will determine in the fall whether it will ratchet up its support for Pureval by pouring in its own money and deploying staffers to Ohio. 
Why this happened: Pureval had to raise a certain amount of money to trigger the DCCC's full involvement. His campaign has not disclosed what he's raised overall since jumping into the race in late January. But he quickly showed in his 2016 race against longtime Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler that Pureval can raise big money.

In the first 24 hours after launching his congressional campaign, Pureval raised $130,000 – more than Chabot brought in during the entire fourth quarter of 2017.

And I know I trash the DCCC regularly because they have this terrible habit of picking garbage primary candidates to back and then leaving races entirely to the GOP when those garbage candidates can't even get past the primary. 

And yeah, eight years ago they left Democrat Steve Dreihaus out to dry in 2010 and surrendered the district to the GOP.  Now they come crawling back for the opportunity to knock off Chabot.  Ben Ray Lujan is even a bigger meathead than the previous DCCC chairs, Steve Israel and Chris Van Hollen.

But if the stars have aligned here for the DCCC to back Pureval against Chabot, then I'll take it.  Pureval, so far, seems like a pretty solid guy, certainly better than the anti-choice dipstick Chabot.

We'll see if the blue wave comes through Cincy or not, but the DCCC at least is putting down the money that it will.
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