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Trump Criticizes National Security Adviser for Saying Evidence Against Russia Is ‘Incontrovertible’

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump criticized his national security adviser’s assertion that it is now “incontrovertible” that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

H.R. McCaster “forgot today that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians,” Trump tweeted Sunday.

On Saturday, McCaster addressed the indictments against Russians accused of mounting a disinformation campaign to help Trump win the election.   

“As you can see with the F.B.I. indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain, whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute,” McCaster said to an international audience at the Munich Security Conference.

The comments contradicted Trump’s repeated assertion that Russian interference was “ a hoax” perpetuated by the “fake media.”

But McCaster didn’t back down, using forceful language to describe the sweeping, 37-page indictment.

“The United States will expose and act against those who use cyberspace, social media and other means to advance campaigns of disinformation, subversion and espionage,” McMaster said.

Moments before McCaster took the stage, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the indictments as “just blabber.”

Other Stories of Interest

Thirteen Russians Charged with Interfering in Election to Help Trump Win

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian organizations have been criminally charged Friday on allegations of interfering in the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump win.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to undermine the election, announced a grand jury in Washington D.C. has indicted the Russian nationals and organizations.

The sweeping, 37-page indictment alleges the Russian operation “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”

They are accused of using social media to pose as Americans by operating bogus social media accounts, buying advertisements and even staging political rallies. The indictment alleges they stole the identity of real Americans to wage a propaganda campaign on social media and built computer systems in the U.S. to conceal Russia’s participation.

Trump has dismissed his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Russia interfered in the election.

FBI Admits It Ignored Warning about School Shooter’s Desire to Kill

Photo via FBI

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI admitted today that it failed to act on a warning in January that suspected mass killer Nikolas Cruz was armed and may carry out a school shooting, the first indication that federal authorities missed an opportunity to prevent the attack on a Florida high school.

The tipster, who was close to Cruz, informed the FBI that Cruz had a “desire to kill people” and there was “the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” the bureau acknowledged in a statement.

The FBI said the information wasn’t acted on and should have been assessed and forward to the bureau’s field office.

“We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received,” the bureau said. “The information was not provided to the F.B.I. Miami field office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”

The bureau also was tipped off in September of a YouTube comment from a user named Nikolas Cruze who boasted that he was “going to be a professional school shooter.”

The FBI is reviewing how it handled the tip, but acknowledged that agents never tracked down Cruz to interview him.

Former Trump Aide Finalizing Plea Deal with Special Counsel Mueller

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates is nearing plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, CNN reports

Gates and his longtime business partner Paul Manafort were indicted in October on 12 counts involving money laundering, conspiracy against the U.S. and tax fraud. They pleaded not guilty.

Gates has been negotiating a plead deal for nearly a month with the special counsel team investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

If Gates enters a plea deal, he would become the third known former Trump aide to cooperate in the rapidly evolving investigation. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulo pleaded guilty late last year to making false statements to federal investigators in exchange for cooperating with the prosecutors.

Mueller’s team is planning to file new tax-related charges against Gates and Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman.

The charges stem from work Manafort and Gates did with Ukrainian politicians who are allies with Russia. They are accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars from the work through U.S. and foreign companies and bank accounts.

Manafort, who is under house arrest and faces up to 15 years in prison, has pledged to fight the charges and even sued Mueller and the Justice Department, claiming the special counsel probe overreached its authority.

It’s not yet clear what information Gates is offering to prosecutors.

FBI Reviewing How It Handled Tip Months Ago about Florida School Shooter

Nikolas Cruz via instagram

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI is reviewing how it handled a tip months ago about a YouTube user named Nikolas Cruz who boasted he was “going to be a professional school shooter.” 

The name is the same as the shooter who opened fire with an AR-15 on Wednesday at a Florida high school, killing at least 17 people.

Ben Bennight, a bail bondsman, said he flagged the comment on YouTube in September and emailed a screenshot to the FBI, who paid him a visit and asked whether he knew the commenter.

The FBI told the New York Times it reviewed databases and conducted open-source checks and is now trying to determine what steps were taken to identify the commenter.

“There was no particular information about the particular time, location or further identifiers about the person who posted the comment,” Rob Lasky, the F.B.I. special agent in charge in Miami, said. “No additional information was found to positively identify the person who posted this comment. There was no connection found to South Florida.”

The FBI said it’s options were limited because of scant information that would have made it difficult to obtain a grand jury subpoena to identify the YouTube user.

“I hope he would have been interviewed by the F.B.I. or referred to the local police assuming he was identified,” said Eugene Casey, a veteran former F.B.I. agent. “I would have done my best to identify the individual who made the threat, but he could have posted it to YouTube from a public computer in a library or somewhere else.”

FBI Obtained Photos of Alleged Abuse by Rob Porter More Than a Year Ago

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI obtained photos of alleged abuse at the hands of former White House aide Rob Porter just a week after President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

The revelations, first reported by CNN, raise more questions about when the White House learned of allegations that Porter abused his two ex-wives. 

The Trump administration has maintained that it was unaware of the allegations until recently, but the FBI has contradicted those claims, saying it provided the White House with reports on Porter in March, July, November and January.

The photos obtained by the FBI show Porter’s ex-wife Colbie Holderness with a black eye she said Porter gave her in 2005.

The allegations, also supported by a police report, prevented Porter from getting a security clearance.

National security expert Mark Zaid said it “isn’t reasonable” that the White House first learned of the abuse allegations in news reports last week, when Porter resigned.

“I would be surprised that if in their partial report in March, the FBI either didn’t include the photo or, at a minimum, reference they had photographic evidence of the domestic assault,” he said.

Senate Confirms John Demers to Head DOJ’s National Security Division

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Senate on Thursday confirmed John Demers to head the Justice Department’s national security division after a Republican senator lifted a hold on his confirmation over a dispute on marijuana.

Demers, an attorney for Boeing and former member of the Justice Department’s national security division team, is set to become assistant attorney general for national security.

“John Demers was on the leadership team at the creation of the National Security Division, which today plays a crucial role in protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

“I am grateful to the Senate for confirming John and I look forward to his return to the department, where his significant experience in both the private sector and public service will most certainly benefit the American people.”

The confirmation was made possible after Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado lifted a hold on the nomination over a dispute with Sessions’ zealous crackdown on marijuana, even in states that legalized pot.

“I have decided to lift my holds on the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, United States Attorneys, and United States Marshals as an act of good faith,” Gardner said in a statement. “My holds on all other DOJ nominees will remain in place as discussions continue.”

Other Stories of Interest

Bannon Met Several Times This Week with Special Counsel Investigating Trump, Russia

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met several times this week with the special counsel team investigating President Trump and his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.

The former Breitbart news chief, who continued today to defy a subpoena to testify before a House committee about the Russia and Trump probe, was interviewed for about 20 hours by the team led by Robert Mueller, NBC News reports

Details of the interview are unclear, but Bannon is considered a key witness in the investigation because he was a close confident of Trump and played key roles in both the campaign and the presidential administration.

In an explosive book published last month, Bannon blasted the campaign’s handling of Russia and suggested the Mueller investigation will focus on money laundering. He also said it was “treasonous” for some in the Trump campaign, including the president’s son, to meet with a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016.

Bannon, who resigned in August, is facing contempt charges for continuing to refuse to answer questions by the House Intelligence Committee.

CNN reports that Bannon met briefly with the committee today and told the panel he had been instructed by the Trump administration to invoke executive privilege.