February 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


A second White House aide has resigned amid past domestic abuse allegations, which he denies (Washington Post, February 9, 2018)

The abrupt departure of speechwriter David Sorensen comes after his former wife claimed that he was violent and emotionally abusive during their turbulent two-and-a-half-year marriage -- allegations that he vehemently denied.

..is just a way to attack Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Analysis Refutes Criminal Referral of Christopher Steele (Senator Dianne Feinstein, February 9, 2018)

The following analysis rebuts a series of claims in the Grassley-Graham criminal referral:

1.      The criminal referral is not based on any allegation that Steele lied or misrepresented facts about Carter Page or what is included in the Steele dossier. In fact, neither provide any evidence that any of the information in Steele's dossier is wrong. Instead, the referral is limited to a single baseless allegation: that Steele lied about his contacts with the press.

2.      The criminal referral omits key facts. The Department of Justice has provided documents regarding its interactions with Mr. Steele to the Judiciary Committee both before and after the criminal referral was made. Despite this, the Majority did not modify the criminal referral and pressed forward with its original claims, which do not take into account the additional information provided after the initial January 4 referral.

Instead of providing a comprehensive analysis, the criminal referral selectively focuses on some facts while omitting others.

For example, the criminal referral includes incomplete and misleading allegations regarding an October 19, 2016, report that Mr. Steele received from a "friend of the Clintons."[1]

The criminal referral alleges that Mr. Steele was using this additional reporting from "the Clinton friend" as the basis for his own work - implying there was no independent investigative work done by Steele. The criminal referral fails to address the fact that 14 of the 17 memos in the Steele dossier published by Buzzfeed were created by Mr. Steele before this October 19 report. It would have been impossible for Mr. Steele to include information that he received in an October 19 report from "a friend of the Clintons" in his 14 earlier reports, which date back to June 20, 2016.

3.      The criminal referral fails to make a case that Christopher Steele lied to the FBI. The referral states that "it appears that either Mr. Steele lied to the FBI or the British court, or that the classified documents reviewed by the Committee contain materially false statements."[2] These allegations are made regarding Mr. Steele's interactions with the press and whether he lied about those interactions to the FBI.

18 U.S.C. § 1001, the legal authority cited by the criminal referral, provides that: "[W]hoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation" shall be punished accordingly.

·         Importantly, the criminal referral fails to identify when, if ever, Mr. Steele was asked about and provided a materially false statement about his press contacts.

·         Tellingly, it also fails to explain any circumstances which would have required Mr. Steele to seek the FBI's permission to speak to the press or to disclose if he had done so.

Rather, the criminal referral cites occasions where Mr. Steele spoke to the press at the end of September 2016. Specifically, it focuses on a Yahoo News article written by Michael Isikoff.

If Mr. Steele had been asked by the FBI about his contacts with Mr. Isikoff for this September article, and if he had spoken with this reporter, then he should have disclosed that fact.[3] But the criminal referral provides no evidence that Steele was ever asked about the Isikoff article, or if asked that he lied.

It is also important to note, that in October 2016, the FBI learned that Mr. Steele had disclosed "his relationship with the FBI" to a reporter, David Corn.[4] Because of this, the FBI then suspended its relationship with Mr. Steele and informed the FISA court of these developments in its renewal requests.[5]

·         The FBI made clear, however, that it still considered Steele's reporting to be reliable regardless of his contacts with the press.[6]

·         The FISA court granted three renewals after having been informed of Steele's contacts with the press.[7]

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Dozens of Trump officials still lack full security clearance (Jim Sciutto, Gloria Borger and Zachary Cohen, 2/09/18, CNN)

Thirty to 40 White House officials and administration political appointees are still operating without full security clearances, including senior adviser to President Donald Trump Jared Kushner and -- until recently -- White House staffer Rob Porter, according to a US official and a source familiar with the situation. [...]

[S]everal sources, including intelligence officials who have served previous Democratic and GOP administrations, describe the backlog as very unusual and make clear that the process should have been completed after a year in office.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


The facts behind Trump's repeated claim about Hillary Clinton's role in the Russian uranium deal (Michelle Ye Hee Lee, October 26, 2016, Washington Post)

The story starts with Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining financier and donor to the Clinton Foundation; Giustra's company, UrAsia; and Uranium One, a uranium mining company headquartered in Toronto.

In 2007, Giustra sold UrAsia to Uranium One, which was based in South Africa and chaired by his friend, Ian Telfer. Giustra said he sold his personal stake in the deal in fall 2007, shortly after the merger with Uranium One, in the midst of Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and before Clinton realized Barack Obama would win the nomination and she would become his secretary of state.

In 2009, Russia's nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, began buying shares in Uranium One as a part of a larger move to acquire mines around the world. Rosatom first bought a 17 percent share of Uranium One, which has holdings in the United States. In 2010, the Russians sought to increase their share to 51 percent. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the deal. In 2013, Russia assumed 100 percent ownership.

The deal gave Russia control of about 20 percent of U.S. uranium extraction capacity, according to a 2010 CNN article about the deal. In other words, Russia has rights to the uranium extracted at those sites, which represents 20 percent of the U.S. uranium production capacity.

The State Department was one of nine agencies comprising CFIUS, which vets potential national security impacts of transactions where a foreign government gains control of a U.S. company. It was established by Congress in 2007 after the controversy over the planned purchase of seaports by a company in United Arab Emirates. The other agencies were the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, Energy and Homeland Security, and two White House agencies (Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Office of Science and Technology Policy).

The CFIUS can approve a deal, but only the president can suspend or stop a transaction. If the committee can't come to a consensus, a member can recommend a suspension or prohibition of the deal, and the president makes the call.

Due to confidentiality laws, there are few details made public about the deal or about Clinton's role in it, factcheck.org found. The Clinton campaign said Clinton herself was not involved in the State Department's review and did not direct the department to take any position on the sale of Uranium One. Matters of the CFIUS did not rise to the level of the secretary, the campaign said.

Jose Fernandez, then-assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs, sat on the committee. Fernandez told the Times: "Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter." Fernandez did not respond to our requests for comment.

"Hillary's opposition [to the Uranium One deal] would have been enough under CFIUS rules to have the decision on the transaction kicked up to the president. That never happened," Schweizer wrote in "Clinton Cash."

At the time the sale was underway, the Obama administration was attempting to "reset" its relations with Russia, with Clinton leading the effort as secretary of state. But there is no evidence approval of the sale was connected to the reset policy. The national security concern that the United States faced when CFIUS considered the deal concerned American dependence on foreign uranium sources, the Times reported.

Yet the Uranium One deal was not on the radar of Michael McFaul, even though he was aware of many CFIUS cases in his role as the National Security Council's senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs from 2009 to 2012 (and as a prime architect of the administration's reset policy). McFaul, now senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, said Fernandez could not "dictate the outcome of any decision single-handedly," as he was one of nine members.

"Knowing how the CFIUS process works and how the bureaucracy at the State Department works, I cannot imagine that such an issue would be reviewed by the secretary of state. There is a hierarchy in place precisely to protect the secretary's time for only the most important of issues and meetings," McFaul said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


Marco Rubio Defends Democratic Colleague Over Misleading Fox News Report (Nick Visser, 2/09/18, Huffington Post)

[A]s the Fox News story eventually acknowledges, Waldman informed the intelligence committee about the messages months ago, and the communication appears to fall in line with Warner's duties on the intelligence committee.

Rubio pointed this out in his tweet Thursday.

"Sen. Warner fully disclosed this to the committee four months ago," he wrote on Twitter, with a link to the article. He continued to note that the text messages have had "zero impact on our work." [...]

Warner and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the intelligence committee, told Fox News in a joint statement that the pair had been working together "in a bipartisan way" from the beginning of the investigation and slammed the release of "incomplete information" as unacceptable.

Rubio has also been one of a handful of congressional Republicans to defend special counsel Robert Mueller as many of his colleagues have launched blistering attacks about Mueller's Russia investigation, including the president. In a December interview with Florida's News-Press, Rubio defended Mueller's reputation and said he believed the "best thing" would be for the investigation to be completed "as thoroughly and as completely as possible."

"From his reputation and everything I know about him, I remain convinced that when this is all said and done, Mueller is going to only pursue things that are true, and he will do it in a fair and balanced way," Rubio said.

The Trumpbots barely had time to try and pump this.
Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Devin Nunes is investigating me. Here's the truth. (Jonathan M. Winer February 8, 2018, Washington Post)

 In 2009, I met and became friends with Steele, after he retired from British government service focusing on Russia. Steele was providing business intelligence on the same kinds of issues I worked on at the time.

In 2013, I returned to the State Department at the request of Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whom I had previously served as Senate counsel. Over the years, Steele and I had discussed many matters relating to Russia. He asked me whether the State Department would like copies of new information as he developed it. I contacted Victoria Nuland, a career diplomat who was then assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, and shared with her several of Steele's reports. She told me they were useful and asked me to continue to send them. Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele's reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful. None of the reports related to U.S. politics or domestic U.S. matters, and the reports constituted a very small portion of the data set reviewed by State Department experts trying to make sense of events in Russia.

In the summer of 2016, Steele told me that he had learned of disturbing information regarding possible ties between Donald Trump, his campaign and senior Russian officials. [...]

In late September, I spoke with an old friend, Sidney Blumenthal, whom I met 30 years ago when I was investigating the Iran-contra affair for then-Sen. Kerry and Blumenthal was a reporter at The Post. At the time, Russian hacking was at the front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails of Blumenthal, who had a long association with Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been hacked in 2013 through a Russian server.

While talking about that hacking, Blumenthal and I discussed Steele's reports. He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature.

What struck me was how some of the material echoed Steele's but appeared to involve different sources.

On my own, I shared a copy of these notes with Steele, to ask for his professional reaction. He told me it was potentially "collateral" information. I asked him what that meant. He said that it was similar but separate from the information he had gathered from his sources. I agreed to let him keep a copy of the Shearer notes.

Given that I had not worked with Shearer and knew that he was not a professional intelligence officer, I did not mention or share his notes with anyone at the State Department. I did not expect them to be shared with anyone in the U.S. government.

But I learned later that Steele did share them -- with the FBI, after the FBI asked him to provide everything he had on allegations relating to Trump, his campaign and Russian interference in U.S. elections.

...is that to be anti-Putin is to be anti-Donald.


Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Anti-Semitic Soros Conspiracy Theory Posted by Notable Christian Zionist (Avichai Scher, 2/09/18, tHE fORWARD)

An official from Christians United for Israel posted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about George Soros, according to Jewish Currents.

Dumisani Washington, the diversity and outreach coordinator for Christians United for Israel, used his personal Facebook page to post a conspiracy theory about Soros that has been widely debunked but has become prominent recently as part of a wider demonization of Soros. The posts have been deleted at the request of Christians United for Israel.

The posts, apparently spurred by Soros's criticism of President Donald Trump, accused Soros of getting rich off of having been a Nazi collaborator, and trying to destabilize civilization. Washington groups Soros with Isis, North Korea, Globalists (a common anti-semitic dog whistle), feminists, and Iran as being "bitterly opposed to President Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM



THE UNITED STATES intelligence community has been conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen classified U.S. government documents from Russian operatives, according to sources familiar with the matter. The operation has also inadvertently yielded a cache of documents purporting to relate to Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Over the past year, American intelligence officials have opened a secret communications channel with the Russian operatives, who have been seeking to sell both Trump-related materials and documents stolen from the National Security Agency and obtained by Russian intelligence, according to people involved with the matter and other documentary evidence. The channel started developing in early 2017, when American and Russian intermediaries began meeting in Germany. Eventually, a Russian intermediary, apparently representing some elements of the Russian intelligence community, agreed to a deal to sell stolen NSA documents back to the U.S. while also seeking to include Trump-related materials in the package.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Sources: Chief of Staff John Kelly expressed to President Trump willingness to resign (JONATHAN KARL, CECILIA VEGA, JOHN SANTUCCI  Feb 9, 2018, ABC)

Several Trump confidantes reached by ABC News said the president is considering multiple names as possible Kelly replacements, among those, top economic adviser Gary Cohn, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney and Rep. Mark Meadows.

We'd need one heck of a lot more tiki torches...

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Pharma furious after being "blindsided" in budget deal (Caitlin Owens, Bob Herman, 2/09/18, Axios)

The pharmaceutical industry is livid about a surprise change to Medicare drug policy that was slipped into the Senate budget deal. The bill would close the Medicare Part D "donut hole" in 2019, a year earlier than previously scheduled, and force drug companies to shoulder most of the cost.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


California police worked with neo-Nazis to pursue 'anti-racist' activists, documents show : Officers expressed sympathy with white supremacists and sought their help to target counter-protesters after a violent 2016 rally, according to court documents (Sam Levin,  9 Feb 2018, The Guardian)

California police investigating a violent white nationalist event worked with white supremacists in an effort to identify counter-protesters and sought the prosecution of activists with "anti-racist" beliefs, court documents show.

The records, which also showed officers expressing sympathy with white supremacists and trying to protect a neo-Nazi organizer's identity, were included in a court briefing from three anti-fascist activists who were charged with felonies after protesting at a Sacramento rally. [...]

The TWP is "intimately allied with neo-Nazi and other hardline racist organizations" and "advocates for racially pure nations", according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its leaders have praised Trump, and the group claimed to bring more than 100 people to the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, where a counter-protester was killed.

In one phone call with Doug McCormack, identified by police as the TWP affiliate who acquired the permit for the Sacramento rally, CHP investigator Donovan Ayres warned him that police might have to release his name in response to a public records requests. The officer said he would try to protect McCormack.

"I'm gonna suggest that we hold that or redact your name or something until this gets resolved," Ayres told McCormack, adding that he didn't know who had requested records of the permit and noting, "If I did, I would tell you."

Ayres's reports noted that McCormack was armed at the rally with a knife.

The officer's write-up about an African American anti-fascist activist included a photo of him at the hospital after the rally and noted that he had been stabbed in the abdomen, chest and hand.

Ayres, however, treated the protester like a suspect in the investigation. The police investigator recommended the man be charged with 11 offenses, including disturbing the peace, conspiracy, assault, unlawful assembly and wearing a mask to evade police. [...]

Officers also worked with TWP member Derik Punneo to try to identify anti-fascist activists, recordings revealed. Officers interviewed Punneo in jail after he was arrested for an unrelated domestic violence charge. Audio recordings captured investigators saying they brought photos to show him, hoping he could help them identify anti-fascist activists.

The officers said, "We're pretty much going after them," and assured him: "We're looking at you as a victim."

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 PM


Breaking with tradition, Trump skips president's written intelligence report and relies on oral briefings (Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris and Greg Jaffe February 9, 2018, Washington Post)

For much of the past year, President Trump has declined to participate in a practice followed by the past seven of his predecessors: He rarely if ever reads the President's Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.

Trump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office rather than getting the full written document delivered to review separately each day, according to three people familiar with his briefings. 

Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump's preferred "style of learning," according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Of course, he'd be better informed if he just read the Times, Post & Journal, but he doesn't do that either. To be fair though, an accurate perception of reality might cause a psychic break.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM



The new budget deal, which Congress passed early Friday morning after a brief shutdown overnight, reinstates a tax on oil to help pay for spill clean-ups.

The nine cents-per-barrel tax on both domestic crude and imported petroleum products, which lapsed in December, generated $500 million a year, on average, in federal revenue and was the main source of funding for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM



Individuals with a history of beating up their romantic partners are not supposed to be allowed to obtain the top security clearance required for the job Porter was awarded. As White House staff secretary, Porter would go on to become one of the most quietly powerful men in President Donald Trump's administration, controlling the flow of information that landed on Trump's desk, according to media reports. Righthand man to Chief of Staff John Kelly, Rob Porter was thought of as above the fray of White House drama, a "master of discretion."

Doing that job without proper security clearances borders on impossible, said a former senior White House official who asked for anonymity to speak candidly about an internal matter, and Porter's temporary clearance should not have allowed him to view sensitive documents he would need to keep paper flowing. In at least one case, Porter requested documents but was refused, because he did not have clearance, according to the former White House official. The situation raises questions about whether the White House allowed Porter to handle highly classified information -- Porter's reported temporary clearance should not, for instance, have allowed him access to "top-secret" material.

At the time that Porter was denied the documents last summer, the source said, the reason for the lack of clearance -- the abuse allegations -- was known to White House officials.

Yet Porter remained in his position, operating on an interim clearance and accumulating more and more responsibilities even as high-level officials learned about his former partners' allegations of abuse.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


Kelly offers account of Porter exit that some White House aides consider untrue (Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey February 9, 2018, 

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Friday morning instructed senior staff to communicate a version of events about the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter that contradicts the Trump administration's previous accounts, according to two senior officials.

During a staff meeting, Kelly told those in attendance to say he took action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of learning abuse allegations from two ex-wives were credible, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions in such meetings are supposed to be confidential.

"He told the staff he took immediate and direct action," one of the officials said, adding that people after the meeting expressed disbelief with one another and felt his latest account was not true.

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


Trump Wishes Former Aide Well After Accusations Of Domestic Violence (Scott Horsley, 2/09/18, NPR)

"We wish him well," Trump told reporters during a hastily arranged photo opportunity in the Oval Office. [...]

"He says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that," Trump said.

The president used similar language in November to discuss charges of sexual misconduct against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

"He totally denies it," Trump said of Moore. "He says it didn't happen. And, you know, you have to listen to him."

Posted by orrinj at 3:38 PM


Why I Am Leaving the F.B.I. (JOSH CAMPBELL, FEB. 2, 2018, NY Times)

One of the greatest honors of my life was walking across the stage at the F.B.I. Academy and receiving my special agent badge from the director at the time, Robert Mueller. After 21 weeks of intensive training, my class swore an oath and became federal agents entrusted with the solemn duty of protecting Americans and upholding the Constitution.

After more than a decade of service, which included investigating terrorism, working to rescue kidnapping victims overseas and being special assistant to the director, I am reluctantly turning in my badge and leaving an organization I love. Why? So I can join the growing chorus of people who believe that the relentless attacks on the bureau undermine not just America's premier law enforcement agency but also the nation's security. My resignation is painful, but the alternative of remaining quiet while the bureau is tarnished for political gain is impossible.

A small number of my current and retired colleagues have said that we should simply keep our heads down until the storm passes. I say this with the greatest respect: They are wrong. If those who know the agency best remain silent, it will be defined by those with partisan agendas.

F.B.I. agents are dogged people who do not care about the direction of political winds. But to succeed in their work, they need public backing. Scorched-earth attacks from politicians with partisan goals now threaten that support, raising corrosive doubts about the integrity of the F.B.I. that could last for generations.

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 AM


How soaring U.S. oil exports to China are transforming the global oil game (Henning Gloystein, 2/09/18, Reuters) 

First, sharp drops in U.S. imports of crude oil eroded the biggest market that producers like OPEC had relied on for many years. Now, surging U.S. exports - largely banned by Washington until just two years ago - challenge the last region OPEC dominates: Asia.

U.S. oil shipments to China have surged, creating trade between the world's two biggest powers that until 2016 just did not exist, and helping Washington in its effort to reduce the nation's huge trade deficit with China.

The transformation is reflected in figures released in recent days that shows the U.S. now produces more oil than top exporter Saudi Arabia and means the Americans are likely to take over the No.1 producer spot from Russia by the end of the year.

The tradingest presidency ever.