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Tag: Russia

Russia, Iran Trying to Influence Presidential Election with Voter Information, FBI Warns

FBI Director Christopher Wray, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has warned that Russia and Iran have obtained voter information and are using it to sow division and chaos and undermine confidence in the upcoming election. 

The FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Security Director John Radcliffe said the two countries are trying to influence the presidential election. 

Iran has used the information to target American voters with emails demanding they vote for President Trump, the officials said, adding that there’s no evidence either country managed to alter election results or registration information.

“We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election,” Wray said during a news conference with Ratcliffe, The Washington Post reports. “When we see indications of foreign interference or federal election crimes, we’re going to aggressively investigate and work with our partners to quickly take appropriate action.”

Radcliffe said the voter data “can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy.”

U.S. Charges Six Russian Intelligence Officers with Hacking

GRU Emblem

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department on Monday indicted six Russian intelligence agency officers in connection with what prosecutors called some of the world’s most destructive cyber attacks.

The attacks targeted the Ukrainian power grid in 2016, the French elections in 2017 and the winter Olympics in 2018. 

A grand jury in Pittsburgh returned the seven-count indictment on Thursday, which includes charges for conspiracy, wire fraud, computer fraud, and aggravated identity theft. 

Those charged are officers within Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU, which is a military intelligence agency.

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement.  “Today the department has charged these Russian officers with conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group, including by unleashing the NotPetya malware.  No nation will recapture greatness while behaving in this way.”

U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady for the Western District of Pennsylvania said the charges are part of a two-year investigation.

“For more than two years we have worked tirelessly to expose these Russian GRU Officers who engaged in a global campaign of hacking, disruption and destabilization, representing the most destructive and costly cyber-attacks in history,” Brady said.  “The crimes committed by Russian government officials were against real victims who suffered real harm.  We have an obligation to hold accountable those who commit crimes – no matter where they reside and no matter for whom they work – in order to seek justice on behalf of these victims.” 

Comey Defends FBI’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Takes Aim at Barr

Former FBI James Comey in previous testimony, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Former FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday defended the bureau’s investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying it was “essential,” as Republicans dismissed the probe as politically motivated.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the Trump-Russia probe, Comey also took aim at Attorney General William Barr’s assertion that the investigation was unwarranted. 

Asked about Barr’s criticism that the FBI had sufficient evidence to launch an investigation, Comey responded that he had “no idea what on earth” he meant, The Washington Post reports.

“This was an investigation that was appropriately predicated and that had to be opened, and it was in the main, conducted in the right way,” Comey said, pointing out the dozens of people who were charged as a result of the investigation. “The notion that the attorney general believes that was an illegitimate endeavor to investigate mystifies me.”

Comey also suggested Barr was “acting like the personal lawyer for the president.”

“It ought to be a concern for all of us, because we need that institution, and we need that institution to be seen as separate from our tribal warfare,” Comey said.

Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, setting off the special counsel investigation. 

Comey acknowledged mistakes were made, particularly with the bureau’s controversial surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. 

“I’m not looking to shirk responsibility,” he said. “The director is responsible.”

At the beginning of the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., criticized the handling of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“This is not just an abuse of power against Mr. Page and the Trump campaign,” Graham said. “This is a system failure, and you could be next.”

An inspector general’s review of the FISA process found missteps, but concluded there was no political bias. 

Chad Wolf Faces Pointed Questions at Homeland Security Confirmation Hearing

Acting Homeland Security Director Chad Wolf testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf fielded pointed questions during his Senate confirmation Wednesday and denied a whistleblower’s allegations that he pressured employees to downplay Russian election interference.

Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Wolf called the whistleblower’s claims “patently false.”

In a written complaint in August, Brian Murphy, the former chief of intelligence at DHS, accused acting Wolf of directing him to suppress assessments on Russia and later withhold a report on Russian propaganda attacking Joe Biden’s mental health.

“It is patently false. It is a fabrication, completely,” Wolf told the committee.

Wolf said Murphy was reassigned to Homeland Security’s management division following news that his office collected intelligence on protesters and journalists in Portland. But in the complaint, Murphy said the real reason for his demotion was his raising concerns about the orders.

At the start of the hearing, Sen. Gar Peters, D-Mich., said, “Rhetoric and political ideology cannot drive intelligence reports, and it should not predetermine the actions of any federal department,” The Associated Press reports.

It’s not yet clear if Wolf has the votes to be confirmed.

Courts and the Government Accountability Office have both suggested Wolf is not legally qualified to hold the position because he was appointed through an invalid process.

Wolf is Trump’s fifth Homeland Security secretary. The last Senate-confirmed secretary was Kirstjen Nielsen, who was forced out in April 2019.

Trump, Angry over Wray’s Testimony about Russia And Antifa, Suggests He May Replace FBI Director

Christopher Wray (File photo)

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

President Trump lashed out at FBI Director Christopher Wray and even suggested he may consider replacing him after he testified about Russia meddling in the presidential election.

“I did not like his answers yesterday,” Trump told reporters Friday, referring to Wray’s testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee.

When asked if he may replace Wray, Trump responded, “We’re looking at a lot of different things.”

Wray told lawmakers that Russia continues to be “very active” in interfering with the election, primarily to “denigrate” Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“The intelligence community consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections,” Wray said while testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee.

Trump suggested China was a bigger threat.

“The big problem is China,” Trump said. “And we can have others also, and I’m not excluding anybody, but the big problem is China. And why he doesn’t want to say that, that certainly bothers me.”

Trump also did not like how Wray characterized “antifa,” which the FBI director said is “more of an ideology or a movement than an organization.” Trump disagreed.

“Antifa is bad — really bad,” Trump said.

Trump has a history of butting heads with appointees who contradict his political rhetoric.

Wray Warns of ‘Very Active’ Russian Campaign to Interfere with Presidential Election

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

FBI Director Christopher Wray warned lawmakers Thursday that Russia continues to be “very active” in meddling with the presidential election, primarily to “denigrate” Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“The intelligence community consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections,” Wray said while testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee.

He added, “We certainly have seen very active, very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020 … to both sow divisiveness and discord and … to denigrate Vice President Biden.”

Wray said Russians are using social media and other types of propaganda to wage the misinformation campaign, but so far there is no evidence of hacking emails and election systems.

The FBI director’s testimony predictably drew criticism from President Trump, who has been largely silent on Russian interference.

But Chris, you don’t see any activity from China, even though it is a FAR greater threat than Russia, Russia, Russia,” Trump tweeted. “They will both, plus others, be able to interfere in our 2020 Election with our totally vulnerable Unsolicited (Counterfeit?) Ballot Scam.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defied a subpoena to testify by failing to show up.

Watch Wray’s full testimony here.

Whistleblower Accuses DHS of Suppressing Reports on Russian Election Interference

Russian President Vladimir Putin

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A whistleblower says he and other Homeland Security analysts were ordered to downplay Russian election interference because it “made Trump look bad.”

In a written complaint, Brian Murphy, the Homeland Security official, accuses acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf of directing him to suppress assessments on Russia and later withhold a report on Russian propaganda attacking Joe Biden’s mental health, The New York Times reports.

The directives amounted to a national security threat, Murphy said.

Murphy also says Kenneth Cuccinelli II, the second in command at Homeland Security, directed him to water down threats of white supremacy to make them “appear less severe” and to add information on violent “left-wing” groups.

In August, Murphy was reassigned to Homeland Security’s management division following news that his office collected intelligence on protesters and journalists in Portland. But in the complaint, Murphy said the real reason for his demotion was his raising concerns about the orders.

“Mr. Murphy followed proper, lawful whistle-blower rules in reporting serious allegations of misconduct against D.H.S. leadership, particularly involving political distortion of intelligence analysis and retaliation,” Mark S. Zaid, Murphy’s lawyer, said in a statement.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are calling on Murphy to testify during a private session on Sept. 21.

“We will get to the bottom of this, expose any and all misconduct or corruption to the American people, and put a stop to the politicization of intelligence,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and chairman of the committee said.

Calling Murphy a “disgruntled former employee,” a White House spokeswoman said Murphy had “never sought to dictate the intelligence community’s focus on threats to the integrity of our elections or on any other topic.”

Homeland Security spokesman Alexei Woltornist also rejected the allegations.

“We flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy’s claim,” Woltornist said. “D.H.S. looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation, and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr. Murphy.”

Ex-FBI Agent Strzok Calls Trump a ‘Counterintelligence Threat’ in New Book

Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok, via EPA.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Peter Strzok, a former FBI agent who played a key role in the Russia-Trump investigation, described the president as a “counterintelligence threat” in a new memoir.

Strzok, who spent more than 20 years as a counterintelligence agent before he was removed from the special counsel team over disparaging texts about Trump in 2017, wrote in “Compromised” that he witnessed the president’s “willingness to accept political assistance from an opponent like Russia — and, it follows, his willingness to subvert everything America stands for,” The New York Times reports.

“That’s not patriotic,” Strzok wrote. “It’s the opposite.”

Strzok claimed Trump pressured the FBI to fire him in August 2018 and used the texts to whip up conspiracy theories. In August 2019, Strzok filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and FBI, claiming his termination was politically motivated.

“The reporting about my texts hadn’t only whipped Trump into a frenzy,” Strzok wrote. “It had also sent Republicans in Congress into a righteous peeve, giving them fodder for right-wing indignation that would eventually ferment into the deep-state fairy tale that would consume conservative media.”

In the book, which is set to be released Tuesday, Strzok defended the investigation into Trump’s campaign,

The bureau was “investigating a credible allegation of foreign intelligence activity to see where it led,” Strzok wrote. “It started with Russia, and it was always about Russia.”