Surveillance

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called for a new special counsel at a Monday press conference that would look into the FBI and DOJ to see what led to the Russia investigation into President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Graham said he plans to ask Attorney General William Barr to set up a new special counsel to look into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant process, saying he would like someone similar to special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the investigation.

“Was it a ruse to get into the Trump campaign?” Graham said at the press conference. “I don’t know but I’m going to try to find out.”

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham delivers remarks about Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh during a mark up hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Graham said he did not know what the timeline of the second special counsel would be, but that he would be in touch with Barr to determine the next steps.

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  • Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign or any Trump associates conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
  • That finding deals a heavy blow to Democrats and some in the media who have pushed at least seven different theories of collusion over the past two-plus years.
  • Many of those theories derived from the infamous Steele dossier.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller put a nail in the coffin for the numerous conspiracy theories that the Trump campaign worked with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election.

Over the past two years, at least seven main theories of collusion have appeared in the press and through the infamous Steele dossier.

Former Trump associates Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone were all alleged at various points to have colluded with Russia. The infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was also alleged to be where collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia occurred.

And then there was the case of Peter Smith, the late GOP operative who allegedly worked with hackers to track down Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.

The theories percolated in the media, often stoked by Democrats like California Rep. Adam Schiff, who said he saw “more than circumstantial evidence” of collusion.

But Mueller dispelled those theories in a report of his 22-month investigation.

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller wrote, according to Attorney General William Barr. (RELATED: Justice Department Details Mueller’s Conclusions: No Collusion)

Mueller found no evidence that Trump, his associates, or other Americans worked with Russians to release emails through WikiLeaks. He also found no evidence that Trump associates helped the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company that planted disinformation on American social media networks.

Here are those seven conspiracy theories.

Carter Page

The Steele dossier alleges that Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser, took part in a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between the Trump campaign and Russian leadership. According to former British spy Christopher Steele, Page was working under the direction of Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman, to carry out the conspiracy.

“The reason for using WikiLeaks was ‘plausible deniability’ and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of TRUMP and senior members of his campaign team,” alleged Steele in a memo in late July 2016.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, speaks to the media after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee is conducting an investigation into Russia's tampering in the 2016 election. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, speaks in November 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In exchange for the help, Trump’s team agreed to side with Russia on the Ukraine issue.

According to Steele’s Aug. 10, 2016 memo, Page had “conceived and promoted” the idea of releasing stolen DNC emails through WikiLeaks in order to swing Democrats away from Hillary Clinton and towards Bernie Sanders.

Steele also claimed that Page met in Moscow with two Kremlin insiders, Igor Sechin and Igor Diveykin, in early July 2016. Diveykin is alleged in the dossier to have told Page about blackmail material on both Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Page has vehemently denied the allegations from the dossier, which the FBI used to obtain four surveillance warrants against the former Trump aide.

Page was not charged in the Mueller investigation.

George Papadopoulos

The FBI’s initial collusion theory involved Papadopoulos, a 32-year-old energy consultant.

On July 31, 2016, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Papadopoulos based on a tip the bureau had received from the Australian government.

Alexander Downer, the Australian High Commissioner to the U.K., had claimed that during a May 10, 2016, meeting in London, Papadopoulos told him that Russia had information on Hillary Clinton that it planned to release later in the campaign.

Papadopoulos said that two weeks before that meeting, he had breakfast in London with another diplomat, Joseph Mifsud, who told him that the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands” of her emails.

Papadopoulos insists that he did not tell anyone on the campaign about Mifsud’s remarks and that he did not view, handle or disseminate Clinton emails.

He pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2017, to lying to the FBI about the extent of his contacts with Mifsud, but he was never charged with a more serious crime.

He served a 14-day prison term and is releasing a book Tuesday.

Michael Cohen

The former Trump lawyer is accused in the dossier of visiting Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin officials for the purposes of paying off hackers.

“The agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the CLINTON campaign,” reads Steele’s Dec. 13, 2016, memo.

The dossier’s allegations against Cohen were viewed as some of the strongest claims of collusion that have surfaced during Russia gate.

Cohen has vehemently denied the claims since BuzzFeed published the dossier. On Feb. 27, after he had been sentenced in the special counsel’s probe to three years in prison, Cohen testified that he has never been to Prague.

The testimony was seen as a knockout blow for the dossier’s credibility. Mueller’s findings seemingly ended all debate on the matter.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Dec. 12 on charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, illegal campaign contributions and making false statements to Congress.

Paul Manafort

In addition to being linked in the dossier to Carter Page, the former Trump campaign chairman was found to have sent cryptic emails during the campaign referencing Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who was locked in a business dispute with Manafort.

The special counsel also focused Manafort’s role in sending polling data during the campaign to two Russian oligarchs.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in an email to an associate on July 7, 2016, The Washington Post has reported.

In April 2016, shortly after he joined the Trump team, Manafort asked the same associate in an email how he could use his new position to “get whole.”

The email has widely been interpreted as Manafort suggesting that he would use his job on the Trump campaign to settle his debts with Deripaska.

But little came of Manafort’s links to Deripaska. Manafort was convicted in federal court in Virginia on Aug. 21, 2018, on charges related to his Ukraine consulting work. He cooperated with the special counsel after pleading guilty on Sept. 14, 2018, to working as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine.

The special counsel’s office hinted at times that prosecutors had evidence that dealt with the core issues of the investigation, but they never presented the evidence during court hearings.

Manafort was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison on March 13.

Trump Tower

Democrats have seized on a June 9, 2016, meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians as the strongest verifiable evidence of collusion to emerge during the Russia saga.

Trump Jr. accepted the meeting after receiving an email on June 3, 2016, from Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who worked for Russian pop star Emin Agalarov.

In the email, Goldstone said that Agalarov’s billionaire father had met with Russia’s “Crown prosecutor” and wanted to offer the Trump campaign “with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very helpful to your father.”

Trump Jr. accepted, writing: “If it is what you say I love it.”

Donald Trump, Jr. greets supporters at campaign stop for Republican senate nominee Patrick Morrisey and Republican candidate for the House of Representatives Carol Miller ahead of the 2018 midterm elections at Phillips Machine Service in Beckley, West Virginia, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Donald Trump, Jr. greets supporters in Beckley, West Virginia, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Goldstone responded to say that a “Russian government attorney” would fly to the U.S. for the meeting.

Trump Jr. attended the meeting with Manafort and Jared Kushner. Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya attended along with Goldstone and several other Russians.

All attendees have claimed that the meeting was a waste of time and that no information regarding the campaign was exchanged.

Veselnitskaya provided the campaign with a short memo containing research compiled by Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that, ironically, commissioned the Steele dossier. Veselnitskaya was working at the time with Fusion GPS on an investigation of Bill Browder, a London-based financier who spearheaded the Magnitsky Act, a sanctions law opposed by the Kremlin.

Mueller investigated the Trump Tower meeting. Goldstone and other attendees appeared before Mueller’s grand jury.

Goldstone responded to Mueller’s finding of no collusion in a message to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“After 2 years, Robert Mueller has delivered his report, stating there was no collusion in the 2016 Presidential election,” Goldstone said. “That includes my email to Donald Trump Jr. and the subsequent Trump Tower meeting … which as I have stated from the beginning, had nothing to do with collusion.”

Veselnitskaya was indicted by prosecutors in Manhattan related to her work against Bill Browder. No other Trump Tower attendees other than Manafort were charged by the special counsel.

Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi

One theory of collusion that emerged over the past year was that Trump confidant Stone and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi were linked to WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors keyed in on Stone because of tweets he sent and remarks he made in August 2016 that suggested he had inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release emails stolen from Democrats.

Stone said in interviews that he had communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. On Aug. 21, 2016, he tweeted that it would “soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”

Stone has insisted that he had no direct contact with WikiLeaks or Assange. He also claims that he did not know that WikiLeaks would release Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails in October 2016.

Roger Stone at Politicon at Pasadena Convention Center on July 29, 2017 in California. (John Sciulli/Getty Images)

Instead, he’s maintained that he received tips about the timing and seriousness of the email releases from Randy Credico, a left-wing activist who is friends with a WikiLeaks attorney.

Stone released text messages that showed Credico providing information about the timing of the email releases.

Corsi was a focus because of emails he sent in August 2016 in which he suggested he had inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans.

“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” Corsi wrote in the Aug. 2, 2016, email to Stone, seemingly referring to Assange, who lives under asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

“One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”

“Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC.”

Corsi was offered a plea deal by the special counsel but says he rejected it. Prosecutors wanted him to plead guilty to making false statements about exchanging WikiLeaks-related emails with Stone.

Corsi said he deduced on his own that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails and that he had no contact with anyone affiliated with the group.

Stone was indicted by the special counsel on Jan. 24, but not on charges related to conspiracy with Russia or WikiLeaks. He was instead charged with making false statements to the House Intelligence Committee regarding his discussions about WikiLeaks with associates and Trump campaign officials.

Peter Smith

One of the more bizarre collusion conspiracy theories involved Peter Smith, a GOP donor and political operative who lived in Chicago.

The Wall Street Journal first reported in June 2017 that Smith worked with numerous conservative operatives and hackers to obtain the 30,000 emails that Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server.

The conspiracy theory came to encompass close Trump associates, including Michael Flynn. Smith wrote in correspondence that he had been in contact with Flynn regarding the effort to hunt down Clinton’s emails.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Mueller was asking witnesses about the Smith operation. The story festered in the media, with follow-up reporting from BuzzFeed.

Smith died by suicide on May 14, 2017.

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  • Carter Page is speaking out for the first time in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s finding that nobody on the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election.
  • Page was Prime Suspect #1 in the government’s collusion investigation. He was a target of illegal government leaks to the media.
  • But Page said he was “not even slightly” worried he would face indictments by Mueller.

Carter Page insists he was never worried about being indicted in the special counsel’s probe, which ended on Sunday with more of a whimper than a bang.

“Not even slightly,” the former Trump campaign adviser insisted to The Daily Caller News Foundation on Sunday when asked if he ever expected to be charged in the investigation.

“That’s why I laughed at this stuff all along,” he said.

Page, 47, was at one point in time a major focus of the Russia investigation, which was led by special counsel Robert Mueller and played out in the media.

In a letter to Congress, Attorney General William Barr said Mueller found no evidence that President Donald Trump, Trump associates or members of his campaign conspired with Russia to sow disinformation or release emails stolen from Democrats. (RELATED: Mueller Finds No Collusion)

The letter exonerates Trump. It also exonerates Page, who was a volunteer national security adviser for Trump’s team.

Page was one of four initial targets of that counterintelligence investigation, which was formally opened by the FBI on July 31, 2016. Dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, the investigation started with George Papadopoulos, another young Trump aide who joined the campaign at the same time as Page.

During the probe, Page faced perhaps the most intrusive media and government scrutiny other than Trump himself. He faced it all without the base of support enjoyed by Trump, or his financial means.

Page was placed under government surveillance, was targeted by at least one FBI informant, and was the subject of a series of leaks by government officials to the media. He was also the target of public ridicule, allegations that he was a Russian agent and the death threats that accompanied such an explosive charge. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Cambridge Prof With CIA, MI6 Ties Met With Trump Campaign Adviser During Campaign, Beyond)

FBI Director Robert Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a oversight hearing on Capitol Hill Dec.14, 2011 in Washington, D.C.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Page, a Naval Academy graduate, dispels the idea that he’s a victim.

He says Trump was the true target and that he was collateral damage.

Page has said he had interactions over the years with the FBI and CIA, largely because of his work in Moscow, where he worked as a consultant during the 2000s. He landed back on the U.S. government’s radar just after he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former FBI Director James Comey and other U.S. officials discussed Page after he joined Trump’s team. The FBI deployed a longtime informant, Stefan Halper, to make contact with Page in July 2016.

The pair met at an event held at Cambridge University on July 11-12, 2016 where the upcoming U.S. election was the topic of discussion. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was in attendance, as was Sir Richard Dearlove, a former chief of MI6.

Halper, a colleague of Dearlove at Cambridge, approached Page at the conference, and the pair remained in contact through September 2017, the same month the FBI’s fourth and final Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant expired.

It is still unclear what information the FISA warrants and Halper recovered from Page. But Page’s absence on the roster of indictees in the Mueller investigation suggests they didn’t find much.

The FBI appears to have applied for the first FISA against Page in September 2016, around a month before obtaining the warrant on Oct. 21, 2016.

Applications that have been declassified and released show the Steele dossier was a major component of the investigation. Compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by Democrats, the dossier makes several serious allegations against Page, all of which he denies.

Steele claimed in his 35-page report that Page worked with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to conspire with the Russians. It was also Page’s idea to release emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee through WikiLeaks, Steele’s sources said.

The dossier also alleges that Page met with two sanctioned Kremlin insiders, Igor Sechin and Igor Diveykin, during a trip to Moscow he made just before his Cambridge visit. During an alleged conversation with Sechin, the dossier says that Page offered to lobby against Russian sanctions in exchange for a brokerage stake on a deal involving Rosneft, the Russian oil giant.

Steele, a former MI6 officer, shared those allegations with reporters, including Michael Isikoff at Yahoo! News. On Sept. 23, 2016, Isikoff published an article laying out the claims about Page. It would later be revealed that Isikoff was one of a handful of reporters who Steele met with at the behest of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm hired by the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Trump.

Republicans in Congress have investigated the FBI’s applications for the FISA warrants. They say that bureau officials withheld key evidence from FISA Court judges regarding the provenance of the Steele dossier, which remains unverified.

That investigation is expected to intensify now that Mueller has closed his investigation. Page is among those supporting the probe.

Page was also targeted with a series of damaging media leaks that he believes were tied to his decision to speak out publicly about the dossier’s allegations. His first television appearance was with PBS’s Judy Woodruff on Feb. 15, 2017, a month after the dossier was published by BuzzFeed.

Fusion GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson listens as his lawyer, Joshua Levy, speaks to members of the media following a meeting with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee in the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill on October 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Fusion GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson on Capitol Hill on Oct. 16, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

On April 3, 2017, a story broke in BuzzFeed that Page was targeted for recruitment in 2013 by two Russian spies. Page was not accused of wrongdoing in the case. One of the Russian spies was recorded calling Page an “idiot.” Nevertheless, Page’s contacts with Russian operatives fit into the prevailing narrative that he had illicit ties to Russia. James Wolfe, a senior staffer for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has since been identified as leaking information to BuzzFeed for the report. He pleaded guilty to lying about contacts with the BuzzFeed reporter, who he was dating at the time.

A bigger bombshell landed a week after the BuzzFeed report.

On April 11, 2017, The Washington Post broke the news that Page was the target of a FISA application. In order to be targeted with that type of surveillance, the FBI and Justice Department would have had to present probable cause that Page was working clandestinely as an agent of Russia.

The source for that leak of classified information has yet to be identified.

“I think it’s all interrelated, right?” Page said when asked whether the leaks were a response to his media appearances. “It’s all retribution.”

The Washington Post leak had its intended effect, Page argues.

The argument at the time was that if the FBI felt that Page was a Russian agent, then surely he must have been. That thesis has since come under scrutiny as it became clear the FBI relied heavily on the Democrat-funded dossier to meet that probable cause standard.

Even Halper, the FBI-CIA informant, hinted to Page that collusion was a non-starter.

“It seems attention has shifted a bit from the ‘collusion’ investigation to the ‘contretempts’ [sic] within the White House,” Halper wrote in a July 28, 2017 email to Page.

“I must assume this gives you some relief,” he continued, urging Page to “be in touch when you have the time. Would be great to catch up.”

Twenty-six months after its publication, none of the major allegations in the dossier have been verified. There is strong reason to doubt many of its claims.

Michael Cohen, the former Trump fixer, has denied one of the dossier’s most serious collusion allegations under oath. On Feb. 27, he told Congress that he has never visited Prague, which is where the dossier claims Cohen visited in August 2016 to pay off Russia-linked hackers.

The dossier has other inaccurate information about Cohen. The source who provided information to Steele was also an intermediary for allegations about Page.

Page is vague when asked about his dealings with the FBI and the Mueller team. He has recently — albeit reluctantly — acknowledged he testified to Mueller’s grand jury on Nov. 1, 2017. He told TheDCNF that he was informed that he was not a target of the investigation.

“I was never even asked any question which comes anywhere near the zone of illegality. Not by a long shot,” he said.

He hinted he was informed during the course of the investigation that he was not a target. Federal prosecutors place individuals involved in investigations into three separate categories: witness, subject and target.

Page made an analogy to salsa: “mild, medium or hot.”

“I was the mildest of the mild,” he said.

Page concedes that if he has one regret, it’s not speaking out forcefully against allegations that began trickling into the press about him in the run-up to the 2016 election. He said if he had not been so easy-going in the face of allegations he was a Russian agent, he could have avoided further surveillance and media attention.

“If I had fought about the witch hunt earlier, all of this stuff wouldn’t have transpired,” he said, noting his relative obscurity made him an easy target for investigators, in the media and in government.

“It’s a lot easier to paint a picture on a blank slate,” he added.

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FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing the U.S. House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing the U.S. House Intelligence Committee on his investigation of potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

March 25, 2019

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded that nobody associated with President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or knowingly coordinated” with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr says he does not see enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.

But that does not necessarily mean Trump is in the clear – he still faces multiple investigations into his business and other aspects of his political campaign, and Democrats are launching a wave of probes from Capitol Hill.

Following are some possible next steps as Washington continues to wrestle over Russia’s role in the election, the conduct of Mueller’s investigation and other aspects of the Trump-Russia saga.

HOW MUCH OF MUELLER’S REPORT CAN BE MADE PUBLIC?

Barr said he wants to release as much of Mueller’s report as he can, as long as it does not undermine legal proceedings that should be kept secret, such as grand jury interviews, or interfere with other ongoing investigations. He is now going through the report to determine what can be released.

Democrats are pressing Barr to release the entire report so they can draw their own conclusions. If he does not do so, expect a protracted tug-of-war that could end up in court.

THE QUESTION OF OBSTRUCTION

Foremost on Democrats’ minds is whether Trump obstructed justice by interfering with Mueller’s probe and other investigations.

Barr says he did not, but he adds that Mueller presented evidence on both sides of the question. Democrats will press for access to Mueller’s full report – as well as the underlying evidence he collected over the course of an investigation that interviewed 500 witnesses and issued more than 2,800 subpoenas.

The Democratic chairs of six House of Representatives committees said on Friday they expected that evidence to be turned over on request to their panels, which cover everything from taxes to banking.

The House Judiciary Committee is also expected to continue its own investigation into alleged obstruction of justice after requesting documents from 81 people and organizations several weeks ago.

TRUMP’S ALLIES SAY IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON – OR MAYBE NOT

The Russia probe has dogged Trump’s presidency from his first months in office. Trump allies say it is now time to move on and focus on substantive issues like trade and the economy.

But some of Trump’s biggest supporters on Capitol Hill do not want to put the issue to rest just yet.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican, has said he wants to investigate whether top officials at the Justice Department discussed forcing Trump from office, and is pressing the FBI to hand over documents relating to their surveillance of Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser on Trump’s election team.

BARR ON THE HILL

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, said he planned to ask Barr to testify before his committee to explain why he thought Trump should not be charged with obstruction of justice.

Many Democrats are already suspicious of Barr’s views on the issue. As a private lawyer, Barr wrote an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department last year arguing that Mueller’s obstruction inquiry was “fatally misconceived” and saying that presidents have “all-encompassing” authority over law enforcement investigations, even those that relate to him directly.

Barr’s views of presidential power are relevant not only when it comes to obstruction of justice but other issues like how much the administration is required to cooperate with congressional investigators – which will be a key issue over the next two years.

Barr faced pointed questions from Democrats during his January confirmation hearing. Any session devoted to obstruction of justice and presidential powers could be much more contentious.

MUELLER SPEAKS?

Mueller has not spoken publicly over the course of the 22-month investigation, but that might change now that his work is done.

Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff have said they may try to get him to testify in front of Congress. The questioning might be relatively polite – as a former FBI director and decorated Vietnam War veteran, Mueller is one of the most respected people in Washington.

But his testimony may not be that revealing. Mueller has cultivated a reputation as a scrupulous prosecutor, and he may not be willing to discuss evidence or reach conclusions not contained in his report. Also, as special prosecutor, he is required to defer to Barr as to what can be disclosed to the public.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Ross Colvin and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

Charles Kolb | Deputy Assistant to George H.W. Bush

If only Christopher Hitchens were still alive!

The Vanity Fair and former Nation journalist died of esophageal cancer at age 62 in December 2011. He would have a field day with today’s strange new world: the 2016 election, the Clintons (whom he detested), Trump’s presidential antics, Brexit (born a Brit, Hitchens became an American citizen), social media, artificial intelligence, and the 2020 presidential candidates.

Hitch was a great debunker. His irreverence was exceeded only by his intelligence, his eclectic reading, and his remarkable memory. He seemed to know just about everything, and his book titles trumpeted his strong verdicts. Bill Clinton was skewered in “No One Left to Lie To,” and his slim, scathing volume about Mother Teresa was titled “The Missionary Position.” There was, however, one unassailable Hitchens Hero: novelist and essayist George Orwell.

Hitchens’s 2002 book, “Why Orwell Matters,” is worth reading today. Hitchens praised Orwell as a relentless champion of liberty and equality whose vision embraced “a society of free and equal human beings.” Orwell despised communism and fascism, and his novels “Animal Farm” (1946) and “Nineteen Eighty-Four”(1949) warned about the danger of “Big Brother” governments that adopt authoritarian tactics against the governed.

Orwell never knew the Internet, but he surely would have been concerned about how social media platforms operate, with business models heavily reliant on algorithms that maximize profits by freely mining individual data at the expense of privacy. And that’s the problem: a Faustian bargain that says “give us your personal data in exchange for free services.” Governments now justify enhanced surveillance in exchange for enhanced security. As Hitchens wrote, Orwell believed deeply that “there should be no utilitarian tradeoff between freedom and security.”

To her credit, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recognizes the dangers described by Orwell, and that is why she pledges to break up the big data-driven tech companies if she becomes president. Warren is not alone. The pushback is already starting: the European Union has adopted internet rules (the General Data Protection Regulation) that strengthen individual privacy, is pursuing vigorous antitrust enforcement, and has levied substantial fines against Facebook and Google. We can expect continued congressional hearings that will examine these firms’ business practices, their privacy protections, and their profits.

Hitchens probably would have panned Warren’s fake populism (“I’m a gonna get me a beer”) and her ludicrous Cherokee-heritage claims (“my papaw had high cheekbones”). But the irreverent journalist and the consumer-oriented senator probably would have agreed on curbing social media platforms, enforcing antitrust laws, and forcing changes to existing business models that mine “free data” while offering inadequate privacy guarantees. Warren deserves credit for pressing these issues.

Machines governed by algorithms (mathematical problem-solving formulas that impose a set of rules designed to seek, identify, and capture patterns) now impact increasing aspects of contemporary life. This development is not inherently bad. Algorithms drive a significant portion of daily stock-market trading. Driverless cars use algorithms to process information faster than human brains. Algorithms now fly planes and track our Internet activity, including our daily movements based on our cellphone locations.

Edward Snowden’s massive data dump revealed that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress when he told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) that the government was not collecting personal data on American citizens. The government was scooping up everything it could find and relying on algorithms to search that information for potential terrorist threats.

When algorithms become linked with the brave new emerging world of artificial intelligence, however, there is the potential for both good (health care, fraud prevention, driverless cars, airport facial recognition) and bad (China’s plans to use AI for political monitoring through a “social credit system” that tracks citizens and bolsters Communist one-party political control).

Along with Hitchens and Orwell, Elizabeth Warren worries about tradeoffs between freedom and security. We need to tame the use of algorithms and make them work for us, not against us. What makes us human is our personal interaction with other humans, not with machines.

“Orwellian” is now applied to situations involving official government deception, extensive secret surveillance, and evading reality through lies and misleading information. George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens are no longer with us, so we need crusaders like Elizabeth Warren (and others) to ensure that our world remains governed by humans and not by machines responding to impersonal mathematical formulas.

Charles Kolb served as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy in the Bush White House from 1990-92.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Source: The Daily Caller

Democrats are pressing for full disclosure of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation and vowing to use subpoena powers and other legal means if necessary to get it.

Attorney General William Barr was expected to release his first summary of Mueller's findings on Sunday, people familiar with the process said, on what lawmakers anticipated could be a day of reckoning in the two-year probe into President Donald Trump and Russian efforts to elect him. Since receiving the report Friday, Barr has been deciding how much of it Congress and the public will see.

Democrats are on a hair trigger over the prospect that some information may be withheld.

"I suspect that we'll find those words of transparency to prove hollow, that in fact they will fight to make sure that Congress doesn't get this underlying evidence," Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said on ABC's "This Week."

His plan: Ask for information and if that's denied, "subpoena. If subpoenas are denied, we will haul people before the Congress. And yes, we will prosecute in court as necessary to get this information."

At his resort in Florida, Trump stirred from an unusual, nearly two-day silence on Twitter with the anodyne tweet Sunday morning: "Good Morning, Have a Great Day!" Then followed up: "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"

Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Democrats won't be willing to wait long for the Justice Department to hand over full information on the probe into whether Trump's 2016 campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election and whether the president later sought to obstruct the investigation.

"It won't be months," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Asked if he still believes Trump obstructed justice, he indicated there has been obstruction but "whether it's criminal is another question."

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and oversaw much of his work, analyzed the report on Saturday, laboring to condense it into a summary letter of main conclusions.

The Russia investigation has shadowed Trump for nearly two years and has ensnared his family and close advisers. And no matter the findings in Mueller's report, the probe already has illuminated Russia's assault on the American political system, painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.

Barr has said he wants to release as much as he can under the law. That decision will require him to weigh the Justice Department's longstanding protocol of not releasing negative information about people who aren't indicted against the extraordinary public interest in a criminal investigation into the president and his campaign.

Democrats are citing the department's recent precedent of norm-breaking disclosures, including during the Clinton email investigation, to argue that they're entitled to Mueller's entire report and the underlying evidence he collected.

Even with the details still under wraps, Friday's end to the 22-month probe without additional indictments by Mueller was welcome news to some in Trump's orbit who had feared a final round of charges could target more Trump associates or members of the president's family.

The White House sought to keep its distance, saying Sunday it had not been briefed on the report. Trump, who has relentlessly criticized Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt," went golfing Saturday and was uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter. Not so one of his guests, musician Kid Rock, who posted a picture with the president and the tweet, "Another great day on the links!" He added: "What a great man, so down to earth and so fun to be with!!"

The conclusion of Mueller's investigation does not remove legal peril for the president.

He faces a separate Justice Department investigation in New York into hush money payments during the campaign to two women who say they had sex with him years before the election. He's also been implicated in a potential campaign finance violation by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who says Trump asked him to arrange the transactions. Federal prosecutors, also in New York, have been investigating foreign contributions made to the president's inaugural committee.

As for Mueller, absent the report's details it was not known whether he concluded the campaign colluded with the Kremlin to tip the election in favor of the celebrity businessman. A Justice Department official did confirm that Mueller was not recommending any further indictments, meaning the investigation had ended without any public charges of a criminal conspiracy, or of obstruction of justice by the president.

In a letter to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the congressional judiciary committees, Barr noted on Friday that the department had not denied any request from Mueller, something Barr would have been required to disclose to ensure there was no political interference. Trump was never interviewed in person by Mueller's team, but submitted answers to questions in writing.

In a conference call Saturday about next steps, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a warning for his fellow Democrats, some of whom have pinned high political hopes on Mueller's findings: "Once we get the principal conclusions of the report, I think it's entirely possible that that will be a good day for the president and his core supporters."

A number of Trump associates and family members have been dogged by speculation of possible wrongdoing. Among them are Donald Trump Jr., who helped arrange a Trump Tower meeting at the height of the 2016 campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was interviewed at least twice by Mueller's prosecutors.

All told, Mueller charged 34 people, including the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and three Russian companies. Twenty-five Russians were indicted on charges related to election interference, accused either of hacking Democratic email accounts during the campaign or of orchestrating a social media campaign that spread disinformation on the internet.

Five Trump aides pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Mueller and a sixth, longtime confidant Roger Stone, is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to Congress and engaged in witness tampering.

Peter Carr, spokesman for the special counsel, said Saturday that the case of former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates will be handed off to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Gates was a key cooperator in Mueller's probe and court papers show he continues to help with several other federal investigations.

Justice Department legal opinions have held that sitting presidents may not be indicted. But many Democrats say Trump should not be immune from a public accounting of his behavior. Though the department typically does not disclose negative information about people who are not indicted, officials have at times broken from that protocol.

Former FBI Director James Comey famously held a July 2016 news conference in which he criticized Clinton as "extremely careless" in her use of a private email server but said the FBI would not recommend charges. The Justice Department also took the extraordinary step of making available to lawmakers the details of a secret surveillance warrant obtained on a Trump campaign aide in the early days of the Russia probe.

Source: NewsMax

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Sunday he wants to "see all" of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Trump campaign collusion, including what was behind the FBI’s "extraordinary use of government surveillance power."

In an interview on NBC News’ "Meet the Press," Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said "we want to learn as much as we possible can that’s allowed and permissible" under Justice Department policy and "of course, the law."

"I want to see all of it, what was the underlying criminal predicate for the entire investigation," he said. "Let's see the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] investigations because this is an extraordinary use of government surveillance power…. Show us what those were."

"Let's see all of that and put all of that out there so we can pass judgment about how the investigation was conducted or at least the predicate for the investigation was conducted during the Obama years," he added.

According to Rubio, the completion of the the Mueller report now also means the intel committee can question people that it has wanted to interview for its own probe.

"The end means there should nobody out there, and there shouldn't be anyone out there that we shouldn't be allowed to interview … There's no reason for anyone to not talk to us," he said.

Related Stories:

Source: NewsMax

Mason Thibault | Contributor

Are you interested in upgrading your home security? Staying hyper-connected for your security needs is the new norm, and LaView, a California based company is looking to set a new standard for premium home security.

LaView’s new ONE Link system features fantastic tech and specs for getting the job done, including HD 1080P wire-free battery cameras with easy magnetic mounting for flexible 360° angling and seamless portability. It is also very easy to use as the system comes with a Smart Station that plugs directly into the user’s router and employs a single-button synching process to connect all the wireless security cameras.

Why take a chance on home security? With LaViews ONE link, your entire security camera system can stay connected for up to six months without need for recharging!

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Why pay hundreds of dollars per camera that require constant maintenance or replacement? LaView’s OneLink system is cost effective and includes an entire WiFI ecosystem for home security 

Over the past year, LaView has developed the ONE Series – its collection of smart home- friendly, WiFi camera solutions. This series of DIY units is designed to address the one-off surveillance needs of their clients, while integrating into a single app. The ONE Link fits perfectly into this range of wireless home security cameras, promoting versatility and ease with its Smart Station.

The Smart Station is the brains of the operation for the ONE Link. Single-button synching with each wireless outdoor camera creates a secure ecosystem of WiFi coverage that doesn’t require users to reenter network credentials when connecting and disconnecting the cameras. Plus, linking via the Smart Station increases the wireless security cameras’ already long-lasting 3- month standby life to an unprecedented 6-month battery life per single charge.

The flexibility goes even further with multiple storage options. Each camera in the ONE Link system is equipped with an onboard micro SD slot that supports up to 128GB of data. That makes for easy, free recording and instant physical access to the HD footage. If local storage doesn’t suit the user, they can take advantage of LaView’s affordable cloud service for expanded data capacity and encrypted security. Or, users can choose both options to guarantee the safety and accessibility of their footage.

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The ONE Link is all about giving users the freedom to change their minds. Magnetic mounting plates screw into any surface for simple installation, custom 360° angling and easy mobility. Users can place the wireless security cameras indoors, outdoors or take them on-the-go for coverage during a family vacation. Mobile versatility is a big focus for LaView as they continue to develop their ONE Series solutions. These wireless home security cameras let users have their security, their way, with the Smart Station as the link between them and the future of smart home surveillance.

Have a suggestion for a cool product or great deal that you think Daily Caller readers need to know about? Email the Daily Dealer at [email protected].

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams
FILE PHOTO: NFL Football – Super Bowl LIII – New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams – Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. – February 3, 2019. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft before the match. REUTERS/Mike Segar

March 23, 2019

The attorney of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is firing back against law-enforcement officials in South Florida.

William Burck, who represents Kraft, issued a statement to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Friday evening. Kraft is facing misdemeanor charges of soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor in Jupiter, Fla., but he has pleaded not guilty.

“There was no human trafficking and law enforcement knows it,” Burck told Schefter, who posted the quote on his Twitter account. “The video and the traffic stop were illegal and law enforcement just doesn’t want to admit it.

“The state attorney needs to step up and do the right thing and investigate how the evidence in this case was obtained.”

Kraft and 24 other men accused in the case were offered the opportunity to have their charges dropped if they performed 100 hours of community service, took a class on the dangers of prostitution, were tested for sexually transmitted diseases and paid a fine, according to the New York Times.

Instead, Kraft is prepared to fight the charges.

William Snyder, the sheriff of Martin County, Fla., said he expected surveillance video of Kraft’s alleged illegal activities to be released before long.

“I do think ultimately they are probably going to get released,” Snyder said during an interview with CNBC.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twelve days after being named special counsel to investigate Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Robert Mueller delivered a speech to his granddaughter’s high school graduating class at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts.

In this rare public appearance in May 2017, Mueller did not bring up President Donald Trump or the investigation, but offered a clear message stressing the importance of honesty and integrity.

“You could be smart, aggressive, articulate, indeed persuasive, but if you are not honest, your reputation will suffer,” Mueller said. “And once lost, a good reputation can never, ever be regained. The saying goes: If you have integrity, nothing else matters, and if you do not have integrity, nothing else matters.”

On Friday, Mueller handed in the long-awaited report on his investigation.

Mueller, a 74-year-old decorated Vietnam War veteran and former FBI director known for his tough, no-nonsense leadership style, has faced unremitting attacks by Trump on his integrity as the Republican president has tried to discredit the investigation and the special counsel himself. Trump declined to sit for an interview with the special counsel’s team.

Mueller has remained silent about the inquiry but has spoken loudly through court filings and the indictments of 34 people, including several key Trump aides as well as Russian intelligence officers and three Russian companies.

Mueller, a longtime Republican, was named by the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, Rod Rosenstein, to take over the Russia investigation after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, whose agency had led the probe. Mueller has looked into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and whether the president has unlawfully tried to obstruct the investigation.

Trump, facing political peril from the inquiry, has used Twitter, campaign-style speeches and comments to news media to assail Mueller, accusing him of running a politically motivated, “rigged witch hunt;” going “rogue;” surrounding himself with “thugs” and having conflicts of interest.

“It’s all a big hoax,” Trump said on Friday.

Mueller has been a fixture in American law enforcement for decades and is considered the architect of the modern FBI, serving as its director from 2001 to 2013. He was first appointed to the post by Republican President George W. Bush, then his appointment was extended by Bush’s successor, Democrat Barack Obama.

Mueller took over as Federal Bureau of Investigation director a week before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants that killed about 3,000 people. By the time Mueller left the position, his tenure was exceeded only by J. Edgar Hoover’s 48-year stint.

‘BOBBY THREE STICKS’

Mueller was known by some as “Bobby Three Sticks” because of his full name – Robert Mueller III – a moniker that belies his formal bearing and sober approach to law enforcement.

He was credited with transforming the premier U.S. law enforcement agency after Congress and an independent government commission determined the FBI and CIA had failed to share information before the Sept. 11 attacks that could have helped prevent them. Mueller revamped the FBI into an agency centered on protecting national security in addition to law enforcement, putting more resources into counterterrorism investigations and improving cooperation with other U.S. agencies.

He put his career on the line in 2004 when he and Comey, then the deputy attorney general, threatened to resign when White House officials sought to reauthorize a domestic eavesdropping program that the Justice Department had deemed unconstitutional. The two rushed to a Washington hospital and prevented top Bush aides from persuading an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft, recovering from gall bladder surgery, to reauthorize the surveillance program.

Comey succeeded Mueller as FBI director in 2013.

After graduating from Princeton University, Mueller served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, leading a rifle platoon and receiving commendations including the Bronze Star. His became a federal prosecutor in 1976 and remained in public service until his FBI retirement, with the exception of a couple of short stints with law firms.

He became a U.S. assistant attorney general in 1991 and was a key player on high-profile federal prosecutions such as the 1992 convictions of former Panamanian leader Manuel Antonio Noriega and New York Mafia boss John Gotti and the investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Mueller’s Russia investigation already has yielded a series of guilty pleas and a conviction in the only trial held to date.

Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight charges and pleaded guilty to two others, receiving a 7-1/2-year prison sentence. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign aides Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos have entered guilty pleas. Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges.

The big question is whether Mueller will present evidence of criminal conduct by Trump himself. Such findings could prompt the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to begin the congressional impeachment process laid out in the U.S. Constitution for removing a president from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

While Trump has hammered away at Mueller, others have defended the special counsel’s integrity, including some formerly associated with the president such as former White House attorney Ty Cobb.

“I think,” Cobb said in an ABC News podcast interview, “Bob Mueller is an American hero.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

Audrey Conklin | Reporter

China’s communist government has been steadily trying to eradicate a Muslim ethnic group in the ancient city of Urumqui for several years, though the impact hasn’t been completely visible until now.

While the West has only known about this crisis in Urumqui for several years because of the area’s strict government security, China is making steady progress with its destruction of a once-vibrant community, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Nearly 13 million Turcik Muslims — the majority of whom are Uighur Muslims — make up the northwestern territory of Xinjiang, China, where Urumqui is located. Turcik Muslims have appeared in recorded Chinese history since the third century A.D.

In the city of Urumqi specifically, Uighurs make up about 13 percent of the total population. In 2017, however, the total population of the city fell 15 percent, from 2.6 million to 2.2 million.

The government has already succeeded in forcing about 1 million Uighur people into internment camps that they’ve dubbed “boarding schools” or “re-education camps” in an effort to suppress their religious beliefs, which Chinese officials say will stay unless Uighurs give up Islam. In more recent developments, the government is destroying homes, businesses and general Uighur existence in the area. (RELATED: China Strongly Implies Muslim Internment Camps Will Never Go Away)

“When plans for Urumqi’s urban overhaul were announced in 2017, the party-controlled Xinjiang Daily said the government would offer compensation to residents forced to move, and planned new residential districts ‘designed with full consideration of the customs and convenience of all ethnic groups,’” The Journal explains.

An ethnic Uighur women reads a newspaper on display on a notice board in the city of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region/ REUTERS/David Gray

An ethnic Uighur women reads a newspaper on display on a notice board in the city of Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region/ REUTERS/David Gray

While there were about 400 active mosques in Uighur in 2015, there are now only bare-boned remnants of places of worship. Traditional Uighur restaurants and food stands have closed; Uighur language books have been removed from stores; signs written in the Uighur language have been replaced by Chinese characters; homes have been destroyed as Uighur communities are forced out of the area. And as these places disappear, they are replaced by stores and restaurants meant to appeal to Chinese tourists.

The government has allocated billions to Urumqi for infrastructure spending. In 2017, fixed assets exceeded $30 billion to invest in infrastructure, factories and other building (or rebuilding) plans for the city. In 2018, Urumqi spent $10 billion to destroy the city’s increasingly abandoned outskirts.

And those Uighur people who are still living outside of internment camps organized by the government have been subject to massively invasive digital surveillance. (RELATED: Uighur Muslim Woman Recalls Torture In Chinese Government Internment Camp: ‘I Thought I Would Rather Die’)

As The Journal explains, “It is nearly impossible to move about the region without feeling the unrelenting gaze of the government. Citizens and visitors alike must run a daily gauntlet of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras and machines scanning their ID cards, faces, eyeballs and sometimes entire bodies.”

The Chinese government justifies its massive crackdown on this specific population of citizens as a way to keep China unified and safe from radical Islamic terrorism.

A recent TIME magazine article says China has arrested nearly 13,000 people it describes as terrorists in Xinjiang.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Domestic state media reports and government documents do talk about the [detainment] camps. They explain that these camps are necessary to cure the minds of Turkic Muslims who have an ‘ideological illness.’”

Source: The Daily Caller

  • Text messages show that a Justice Department official had “continued concerns” about the FBI’s applications to obtain FISA warrants on Carter Page.
  • In Oct. 2016, Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer at the time, suggested Stuart Evans, the DOJ official who handles FISA applications, was concerned about the “possible bias” of an informant used to obtain the warrants.
  • Lisa Page’s text message likely refers to Christopher Steele, the former British spy whose dossier was used to obtain the Carter Page FISAs.

A top Justice Department official had “continued concerns” about the “possible bias” of an FBI source used to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

That’s according to text messages former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and her boss, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, exchanged Oct. 12, 2016.

Nine days after the exchange, which Fox News first reported, the FBI successfully obtained the first of four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Carter Page. The bureau relied heavily on unverified information from a confidential informant, Christopher Steele, to obtain the warrants.

In the texts, Lisa Page suggested Stuart Evans, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence, had concerns about the bias of a confidential human source (CHS) used for the FISA application, which she refers to as “the package.” (RELATED: FBI Had Only ‘Medium Confidence’ In Steele Dossier)

“[Office of Intelligence] now has a robust explanation re any possible bias of the chs in the package,” Lisa Page wrote McCabe.

“Don’t know what the holdup is now, other than Stu’s continued concerns. Strong operational need to have in place before Monday if at all possible, which means to ct [sic] tomorrow,” she continued.

As head of the Office of Intelligence, Evans was in charge of handling FISA applications for the Justice Department.

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page arrives for her House Judiciary Committee deposition (REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Steele, a former MI6 officer, compiled a series of memos about then-candidate Donald Trump and his campaign associates on behalf of Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that worked in 2016 for the Clinton campaign and DNC.

Republican lawmakers have accused the FBI of failing to provide all of the details about Steele and Fusion GPS to the FISA Court judges who approved the Carter Page warrants. Democrats’ funding for the dossier is not addressed in the FISA applications. Steele’s comments to Justice Department official Bruce Ohr that he was “desperate” to see Trump lose the election are also not included in the applications.

Republicans have also asserted the FBI had not verified Steele’s claims about Carter Page before using the information in the FISA applications.

Ohr told Congress in an Aug. 28, 2018, interview that he told the FBI at least a month before the FISA applications were submitted about Steele’s comments on Trump.

He said he informed the FBI because Steele’s bias could affect his credibility as an FBI informant.

“So there’s a possibility of bias, and that would affect the credibility of this confidential human source or the information you got from them?” Republican North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows asked Ohr.

“Yes,” replied Ohr, whose wife worked as a contractor for Fusion GPS.

“I provided information to the FBI when I thought Christopher Steele was, as I said, desperate that Trump not be elected. So, yes, of course, I provided that to the FBI,” Ohr added.

In her texts with McCabe, Lisa Page suggested the bureau would have to exert pressure on DOJ’s Evans to push through the Carter Page FISA application.

“I communicated you and boss’s green light to Stu earlier, and just sent an email to Stu asking where things stood. This might take a high-level push,” she wrote.

Carter Page, an energy consultant, has vehemently denied the allegations about him found in the Steele dossier. In the report, Steele alleges Page was the Trump campaign’s liaison to the Kremlin, that he came up with the idea to release DNC emails through WikiLeaks, and that he offered to relax sanctions against Russia in exchange for a brokerage stake in a multi-billion dollar deal involving Rosneft, the Russian oil giant.

Page, who has testified before special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury, has not been accused of any crimes.

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Source: The Daily Caller

  • In congressional testimony in 2018, former FBI general counsel James Baker said that the bureau was aware that the founder of Fusion GPS was shopping the infamous dossier around Washington, D.C., prior to the 2016 election.
  • Baker also said that his friend, the liberal reporter David Corn, was “anxious” to provide him with the dossier, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC.
  • Baker’s testimony reveals new details about the full court press to put the unverified dossier onto the FBI’s radar.

James Baker, the former general counsel for the FBI, told Congress last October that the bureau was aware that the founder of Fusion GPS was spreading the Steele dossier “to a lot of different” people in government and the media in an effort to “elevate” the document’s profile.

Baker also told lawmakers in his Oct. 3, 2018 testimony that his longtime friend, the liberal reporter David Corn, was “anxious” to provide him with the dossier.

Baker’s testimony, which was first detailed by The Wall Street Journal and has been confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation, sheds new light on what the FBI knew about efforts before the election to spread the dossier, which was written by former British spy Christopher Steele and financed by the Clinton campaign and DNC.

Republicans have criticized the FBI for failing to disclose those efforts in applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser who is a major target of the Steele report. Some GOP lawmakers have asserted that the FBI should have been leery of Steele and Fusion’s opposition research of Trump. (RELATED: FBI’s Former Top Lawyer Acknowledged ‘Unusual Steps’ In Early Days Of Russia Probe)

Fusion GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson listens as his lawyer, Joshua Levy, speaks to members of the media following a meeting with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee in the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill on October 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Fusion GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson listens as his lawyer, Joshua Levy, speaks to members of the media following a meeting with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee in the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill on October 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Page has vehemently denied Steele’s allegations that he served as the Trump team’s backchannel to the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign.

As has been previously reported, Simpson served as a PR man of sorts for the dossier, setting up meetings with reporters from numerous news outlets in an effort to get Steele’s reporting into the media bloodstream.

Both Steele and Simpson were also in contact with U.S. government officials, including the Justice Department’s Bruce Ohr and the State Department’s Jonathan Winer. Steele shared some of his findings with both officials, as well as his FBI handler, Michael Gaeta.

In his testimony, Baker said that the FBI was aware of Simpson’s full court press on the Steele report.

“My understanding at the time was that Simpson was going around Washington giving this out to a lot of different people and trying to elevate its profile,” said Baker.

He also said that the FBI was aware of “various copies of the dossier floating around Washington.”

Baker also addressed his interactions with Corn, the reporter at Mother Jones who published a report on Oct. 31, 2016 that quoted Steele.

“I know that David was anxious to get this into the hands of FBI. And being the person at the FBI that he knew the best, he wanted to give it to me,” Baker testified.

The FBI severed ties with Steele after Corn’s report on the grounds that the former spy improperly revealed that he was a confidential source for the bureau.

Corn’s contact with Baker has been previously reported. The journalist has said that nothing improper occurred and that he shared the dossier with Baker after the election in hopes of authenticating the document.

“I tried the FBI again after the election. On my own accord, I shared a copy of the dossier with the FBI in order to see if the bureau would authenticate the documents and now comment on them. Once again, it would not,” Corn told The Hill in July 2018.

Corn also said it was “inaccurate” to describe him as a source for the FBI.

“I was merely doing what a journalist does: trying to get more information on a story I was pursuing.”

The effort to spread the dossier far and wide appears to have picked up steam after Trump’s election win.

David Kramer, an associate of late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, said in a deposition in December 2017 that he provided the dossier to a dozen journalists, including one at BuzzFeed News, which published the report on Jan. 10, 2017. (RELATED: John McCain Associate Had Contact With A Dozen Reporters Regarding Dossier)

Steele asked him to meet with BuzzFeed reporter Ken Bensinger and CNN’s Carl Bernstein, according to Kramer.

Kramer also met with Corn in early December 2016. He said that Corn was inquiring about a meeting that McCain planned to have with then-FBI Director James Comey. Kramer said that he was unsure how Corn found out about the meeting.

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Source: The Daily Caller

President Donald Trump maintained his attacks on John McCain on Wednesday, accusing the late Republican Arizona senator of putting him in “jeopardy” with the FBI by giving the salacious and unverified Steele dossier to James Comey in late 2016.

At a speech in Ohio, Trump also faulted McCain for not contacting him after receiving the dossier, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never liked him much,” Trump said of McCain, who passed away Aug. 25, 2018, after a battle with cancer.

“But there are certain reasons for it,” Trump continued.

“John McCain received the fake and phony dossier. You hear about the dossier? It was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton. And John McCain got it. He got it. And what did he do? He didn’t call me. He turned it over to the FBI hoping to put me in jeopardy.” (RELATED: John McCain Associate Had Contact With A Dozen Reporters About Dossier)

“That’s not the nicest thing to do,” Trump added, while also criticizing McCain for voting against a Republican-led effort to repeal Obamacare.

Trump ramped up his attacks on McCain in the wake of court documents that revealed details about the Republican lawmaker’s handling of the dossier, which was authored by former British spy Christopher Steele. Trump’s comments have drawn rebuke from some Republicans, including Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, who called the remarks “deplorable.”

McCain and an associate, David Kramer, were first told about Steele’s report Nov. 18, 2016. At McCain’s direction, Kramer to travel to London to meet with Steele, a former MI6 officer.

Kramer obtained a copy of the report and provided it to McCain. McCain met with Comey at FBI headquarters Dec. 9, 2016. He long claimed he had no idea whether the allegations in the dossier were accurate, but he said the FBI should investigate. Unknown to McCain at the time, the FBI had already obtained Steele’s report through several other channels.

Kramer, a former State Department official, speculated in a Dec. 13, 2017, deposition that Steele and Fusion GPS chose McCain so a Republican, rather than a Democrat, could present the dossier to Comey.

“I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack,” Kramer said in a deposition in a court case involving BuzzFeed, which was sued for publishing the dossier.

The FBI took seriously Steele’s report. Investigators relied heavily on the document to obtain four surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The dossier is also the source of salacious allegations that have hung over the Trump administration since BuzzFeed published Steele’s document Jan. 10, 2017. Steele alleges in his first memo of the dossier that the Russian government has a videotape from 2013 of Trump with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room. According to Steele’s sources, the Kremlin has used the tape to blackmail Trump.

But more than two years after its publication, the dossier’s most serious allegations about Trump and his associates remain unverified. Serious doubt has been cast on other claims made in the Steele’s report, including that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to pay off Russian hackers.

Cohen, who has since fallen out with Trump, testified under oath Feb. 27 that he never visited Prague.

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft arrives for the 89th Academy Awards Oscars Vanity Fair Party in Beverly Hills
FILE PHOTO: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft arrives for the 89th Academy Awards Oscars Vanity Fair Party in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

March 20, 2019

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will reject a conditional plea deal offered by Florida prosecutors on charges of soliciting prostitution, sources told CNN on Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday afternoon that prosecutors offered to defer prosecution for Kraft and the two dozen other men arrested in the case, but any defendant who accepts the offer must admit that there is enough evidence to lead to a conviction at trial.

Additionally, any defendant who accepts the deal must complete an education course about prostitution, perform 100 hours of community service, be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and pay court costs, according to the Journal.

Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, told CNN the offer was standard for first-time offenders, and that none of the people charged had accepted as of Wednesday morning.

Kraft entered a not guilty plea after being charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a day spa in Jupiter, Fla. The 77-year-old billionaire is alleged to have twice visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in January and received sex acts in exchange for money.

Jupiter police have said Kraft was caught on surveillance video on both occasions, Jan. 19 and Jan. 20.

Kraft is scheduled to be arraigned March 28 in Palm Beach County, Fla.

The charges came in a police sting that law enforcement said was aimed at stopping human trafficking through massage parlors in Florida.

If Kraft chooses to go to trial and is convicted, he could receive one year in jail, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. Edmondson told CNN, however, that those misdemeanor charges generally result in no more than a 60-day sentence in county jail.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

David Sirota — who joined the presidential campaign of Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders this week as a top communications aide and speechwriter — once wrote an opinion piece that was headlined “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon Bomber is a white American.”

Sirota wrote the article for the liberal outlet Salon in April 2013 in the wake of a terrorist attack at the annual Boston marathon race, and flatly stated that “white male privilege” was a heavy factor in whomever got blamed for the killing.

A jury sentenced Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death in May 2015. Three people died in the attack and hundreds more were injured. Tsarnaev, a Muslim, said the attack was politically motivated.

Sirota’s desire for it to be otherwise is just the latest skeleton to emerge from the writer’s literary closet this week, as he joins Sanders’ in “properly explaining” Democratic Socialism to Americans. (RELATED: Bernie Sanders’ New Speechwriter Lauded The ‘Economic Miracle’ Of Venezuelan Socialism)

FILE PHOTO: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during an event to introduce the "Medicare for All Act of 2017" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during an event to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Sept. 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

The author and speechwriter contended:

The dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks … This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.

Sirota quickly transitioned from an abstract conception of “white privilege” to the “undeniable and pervasive double standards” in American society that “will almost certainly dictate what kind of governmental, political and societal response we see in the coming weeks.” (RELATED: Mark Steyn: Beto O’Rourke ‘A Parody Of Rich White Privilege)

Christopher Nzenwa wipes his eyes after praying over a memorial to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. (Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Christopher Nzenwa wipes his eyes after praying over a memorial to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. (Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

His ultimate point is that America is supposedly so white and so racist that “if the bomber ends up being a white anti-government extremist, white privilege will likely mean the attack is portrayed as just an isolated incident.”

But if the bomber was not white, Sirota predicted a significant backlash.

“It will probably be much different if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world. As we know from our own history, when those kind of individuals break laws in such a high-profile way.”

Source: The Daily Caller

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter

A Virginia student accused of sexual misconduct said Fairfax County Public Schools treated male students “disproportionately harsher” than female students in sexual harassment cases.

The 18-year-old male student, referred to as “John Doe” in the lawsuit, said the district violated his free speech, due process rights and did not investigate the situation properly. Doe was suspended and sent to a different school, according to the lawsuit given to The Daily Caller News Foundation by attorney Jesse Binnall.

A Robinson Secondary School female accused two male students of sexual harassment after her buttocks were allegedly slapped in December 2018. Surveillance video reportedly showed Doe did not hit the female student, according to the lawsuit.

Doe befriended the female student who was new to the school.

“Doe and Student A had classes together and would see each other at school outside of class,” the lawsuit said. “Doe flirted with Student A, which included friendly conversations, putting his arm around her and playfully poking her in class. Student A did not reject these overtures. In fact, she would often seek out Doe’s company and return his flirtations.”

The lawsuit claims the female student “colluded” with her friends to make false statements and the assistant principal was allegedly “seeking evidence that was inculpatory and ignored exculpatory evidence,” according to the lawsuit.

Binnall told TheDCNF one of the witnesses changed her story.

“If a male student and female student are both engaged in mutual sexual contact or touching on school grounds, it is common for the male student to be punished and for the female student not to be punished, based on gender,” the lawsuit said.

Pictured is a hand on a shoulder. SHUTTERSTOCK/Andrey_Popov

Pictured is a hand on a shoulder. SHUTTERSTOCK/Andrey_Popov

Doe’s punishment could affect his college wrestling scholarship and entry to a “prestigious” university unless his record gets cleaned by a judge, The Washington Post reported Sunday. A hearing is expected March 22. (RELATED: Education Department’s Budget Proposal Includes First Ever Teacher Voucher Program)

“He was never given a fair shot to make his case to prove that he was innocent in a school district that doesn’t even have a presumption of innocence,” Binnall said to TheDCNF.

John Torre, a spokesman for FCPS, would not comment on the specifics of the case to WaPo, but said the school district “thoroughly investigates all allegations of Title IX violations and takes action, where appropriate.”

Title IX does not allow sex-based discrimination to education programs receiving federal funding. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed sweeping changes to Title IX to clarify students’ rights and schools’ legal obligations in November 2018.

FCPS is dealing with two other federal lawsuits over mishandling of sexual allegation cases, according to WaPo.

The district is the 10th largest in the U.S. and serves more than 187,000 students.

Robinson Secondary principal Matt Eline could not provide comment on the case.

FCPS did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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A Justice Department official who worked on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s case is leaving the special counsel’s office, a spokesman for Robert Mueller said Monday.

“Zainab Ahmad has concluded her detail with the Special Counsel’s Office but will continue to represent the office on specific pending matters that were assigned to her during her detail,” special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement, first reported by Yahoo! News.

Ahmad’s departure is the latest signal that Mueller’s probe is nearing its end. Carr confirmed Thursday that Andrew Weissmann, the high-profile Mueller prosecutor who handled cases against Paul Manafort, is planning to leave the team. (RELATED: Mueller’s ‘Pit Bull’ Is Leaving, Signaling Investigation Is Nearly Over)

Ahmad, a counterterrorism prosecutor, is one of the Mueller team members to sign Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI regarding his contacts with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn departs after a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Flynn has cooperated with several investigations as part of his plea agreement. He is expected to testify later in 2019 in a trial against his former business partner, Bijan Kian. Kian was indicted on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey.

Ahmad and Weissmann recently came under scrutiny over their interactions during the 2016 campaign with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

It recently emerged that Ohr testified to Congress on Aug. 28, 2018, that he briefed Ahmed, Weissmann and FBI officials in September 2016 about his interactions with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the anti-Trump dossier.

Ohr, who served as a back-channel between Steele and the FBI, said he told the Justice Department and FBI officials Steele’s reporting on the Trump campaign was unverified and needed further investigation. Nevertheless, the FBI relied heavily on the dossier’s allegations to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

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Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

  • Police arrested 24-year-old Anthony A. Comello Saturday after matching his fingerprints and an image of his face to the scene of Frank Cali’s murder.
  • Detectives are still investigating the crime but said it is possible Comello may have murdered Cali after Cali told him to stay away from a female relative.
  • Comello, who was arrested in New Jersey, is expected to return to Staten Island for his arraignment on murder charges. 

New York police arrested a 24-year-old man Saturday suspected of killing Gambino crime family leader Frank Cali, potentially over a love interest.

Police arrested Anthony A. Comello, who lives with his parents, at a home in Brick Township, New Jersey, after identifying him from surveillance camera footage that showed him pulling up to Cali’s home in a pickup truck, conversing with Cali at his front door, then returning to his car and firing a gun at Cali 12 times.

Investigators said the motive for the killing remains unclear, but that it is possible Comello may have shot Cali, 53, in anger after Cali told him to stay away from a female relative in whom Comello was romantically interested. (RELATED: Gambino Crime Boss Frank Cali Killed Outside His Home)

“Let me reiterate: This is far from over. We are at the beginning stages of this investigation,” Dermot F. Shea, New York City Police Department chief of detectives, said at a Saturday news conference, according to The New York Times.

Investigators initially thought the killing on March 13 to be a Mafia-style hit on Cali, but surveillance footage of the shooting showed it was far less sophisticated and does not appear to be the beginning of a conflict within or between mafia families. The investigation is ongoing.

“Was he acting alone? Was he acting for other people? What was the motive? I simply, standing here in front of you, do not have all the answers,” Shea added.

Police believe Comello drove a pickup truck to Cali’s home then backed it into Cali’s Cadillac Escalade and thereby knocked off its license plate. Comello then walked up to the front door of Cali’s home and rang the doorbell, allowing a surveillance camera to capture an image of his face. Cali answered and the two talked for approximately a minute — a conversation the surveillance camera also recorded. Cali then took the license plate, walked over to his car and placed it in the back.

That’s when the shooter drew a 9-millimeter pistol and fired at the crime family leader, striking him 10 times. Detectives matched Comello’s fingerprints to those found on the car license plate that the shooter handed to Cali, though they have not yet located the weapon.

Nieghbors of Comello’s parents in the Eltingville area of Staten Island in New York said that news of Comello’s suspected involvement in the killing shocked them.

“I would never imagine he could have done this. I was shocked,” neighbor Victor Ujeck told The NYT.

Didar Janid, who knew Comello for approximately eight years and works at a deli near Comello’s parents’ home, also said Comello didn’t appear to be a threat.

“He was a little bit aggressive, a little loud,” Janid said, adding: “I didn’t see nothing abnormal when I saw him. I can’t think even that he could be doing this.”

Comello did, however, exhibit behavior at a federal courthouse in recent years that prompted the United States Marshals Service to detain him and to ask NYPD’s Intelligence Division to see if Comello had any record of making threats of terrorism, according to two law enforcement officials. Comello had no criminal history at the time.

Comello is expected to return to Staten Island to be arraigned on murder charges.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

A German soldier holds NATO flag during a ceremony to welcome the German battalion being deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO deterrence measures against Russia in Rukla
FILE PHOTO – A German soldier holds NATO flag during a ceremony to welcome the German battalion being deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO deterrence measures against Russia in Rukla, Lithuania February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

March 18, 2019

By Andrea Shalal

BERLIN (Reuters) – NATO is to receive the first of five Northrop Grumman high-altitude drones in the third quarter after years of delays, giving the alliance its own spy drones for the first time, the German government told lawmakers.

Thomas Silberhorn, state secretary in the German Defence Ministry, said the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) drone would be delivered to an air base in Sigonella, Italy, followed by four additional systems, including drones and ground stations built by Airbus, later in the year.

NATO plans to use the aircraft, a derivative of Northrop’s Global Hawk drone, to carry out missions ranging from protection of ground troops to border control and counter-terrorism. The drones will be able to fly for up to 30 hours at a time in all weather, providing near real-time surveillance data.

Northrop first won the contract for the AGS system from NATO in May, 2012, with delivery of the first aircraft slated for 52 months later. However, technical issues and flight test delays have delayed the program, Silberhorn said.

Andrej Hunko, a member of the radical Left opposition party, called for Germany to scrap its participation in the program, warning of spiraling costs and the risk that it could escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“The drones are closely linked to a new form of warfare,” he said. “They stand for an arms race that will see existing surveillance and spy systems replaced with new platforms.”

Silberhorn, in a previously unreported response to a parliamentary query from Hunko, said NATO had capped the cost of the program at 1.3 billion euros ($1.47 billion) in 2007.

Germany, which is funding about a third of system, scrapped plans to buy its own Global Hawk drones amid spiraling costs and certification problems, and is now negotiating with Northrop to buy several of its newer model Triton surveillance drones.

Fifteen NATO countries, led by the United States, will pay for the AGS system, but all 29 alliance nations are due to participate in its long-term support.

Germany has sent 76 soldiers to Sigonella to operate the surveillance system and analyze its findings, Silberhorn said. He said a total of 132 German soldiers would eventually be assigned to AGS, of whom 122 would be stationed in Sigonella.

NATO officials had no immediate comment on the program status or whether Northrop faced penalties for the delayed delivery.

No comment was available from Northrop.

(1 euro = $1.1336)

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, editing by Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron greets Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta as they address a news conference after touring the Nairobi Central Railway in Nairobi
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron greets Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta as they address a news conference after touring the Nairobi Central Railway in Nairobi, Kenya March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By John Irish

NAIROBI (Reuters) – On a trip to East Africa last week, a beaming French President Emmanuel Macron was driven through the grounds of the Kenyan president’s official residence in a locally assembled Peugeot 3008 car.

Two days earlier, he toured churches hewn into the rock in Ethiopia. On a visit last year, he went to a Nigerian nightclub.

Macron, 41, is trying to recast the style of France’s engagement in Africa, where it was once a colonial power, hoping that building warmer cultural and personal ties will help boost business, trade and investment.

He signed contracts worth about 2 billion euros ($2.27 billion) while in Kenya, whereas British Prime Minister Theresa May did not conclude any on a similar trip last August.

A consortium led by Vinci secured a 30-year concession worth 1.6 billion euros to operate a highway linking the Kenyan capital and Mau Summit in western Kenya. Renewables firm Voltalia sealed a 70-million-euro contract for a solar power plant and an Airbus-led consortium won a 200 million euro deal for coastal and maritime surveillance.

But Macron’s four-day tour of Kenya, Ethiopia and former colony Djibouti showed how big a battle France faces in Africa, where China, Turkey and others have moved in quickly and aggressively, and competition is fierce from African countries.

In 2017, French exports to Kenya, a former British colony, were about $200 million — about half Uganda’s exports to its neighbor. China exported $3.8 billion, making it Kenya’s biggest trading partner.

The personal touch is vital when competing with China, French officials say.

“We’ve always used that form of diplomacy to implant ourselves,” said a French diplomat in the region. “But it becomes all the more important when facing China, because it differentiates us from their contract-oriented, low-cost, low-interest model of doing business.”

TOUGH TASK

Trade figures across the continent show how tough the task ahead is for France, the world’s sixth largest economy.

From 2000 to 2017, the portion of all French exports that went to Africa halved from 11 percent to 5.5 percent. The main competition has come from Chinese goods, particularly in French-speaking West Africa.

Since coming to office in May 2017, Macron, who spent several months as a diplomatic intern in Nigeria in the early 2000s, has visited 16 African states, with two visits each to Mali and Morocco.

He has focused mainly on long-running relationships in French-speaking Africa, particularly the Sahel, where the responsibilities of the 4,500 French troops deployed there include fighting Islamic State. But he also has sought to build ties with Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Last week’s trip was a chance for Macron to show that “for too long we treated these East African countries like Banana Republics and they don’t like that,” said a former French envoy.

“They have resources, financial means and growth. “I’m not convinced that what is seen as ‘our Africa’ (France’s former colonies) can offer the business opportunities we have elsewhere on the continent.”

France is now seeking more targeted investments in specific sectors. The national development agency pours about 5 billion euros a year into Africa yet that barely scratches the surface alongside the cheap loans, big infrastructure investments and financing by China.

“It’s not easy to develop these economic links,” said Francois Gualme of the French Institute of International Relations, who worked for France’s development agency. “There’s a political presence, but the economic presence remains small.”

“FRANCE MUST COME BACK”

In Ethiopia, Macron said he wanted a new economic relationship, but Beijing has also been forging economic ties with Addis Ababa. China rebuilt, and financed through a multi-billion dollar loan, the rail link between the Ethiopian capital and Djibouti that was constructed by the French in 1917.

There are many signs of China’s presence, including Chinese laborers building skyscrapers or greetings of “Ni Hao” from children. Some Ethiopians resent the Chinese influence and hark back to when French and European influence was felt more widely.

Near the old French railway terminus in Addis Ababa, a group of former rail employees sat chatting in French at the Railway Workers’ Club in between games of petanque.

“You are from Paris, this is all from Paris,” said one who gave his name only as Getachew. “France must come back.”

That sentiment was expressed elsewhere in Ethiopia, where France has said it will share its expertise to develop tourism and rebuild the landlocked country’s navy.

“China is bad for us,” said Wonde, a 30-year-old taxi driver. “They bring China here — workers, food, women — and leave nothing for the Ethiopians.”

But the small group of business leaders that accompanied Macron on his trip showed few signs of cashing in on this sentiment. The delegation included the chief executive of telecoms group Orange, which wants to position itself in Ethiopia before the state telecoms operator is privatized, but its prospects are no clearer after the trip.

Diplomats and members of the delegation said the potential is great in Ethiopia, a country of 100 million people, but complained about slow and excessive bureaucracy.

“There’s the political will from the prime minister, but the administration doesn’t necessarily agree with everything that’s being done,” said one French executive. “It will take time to clear the bureaucratic hurdles.”

PROSPECTS IN KENYA

In Kenya, an economy with a long record of enterprise and a British-style bureaucracy, the prospects appear brighter.

Automaker Peugeot assembles two models in the country and a range of French companies — from Vinci to water and waste utility Veolia, energy firm Total and electricity group EDF — are vying for opportunities in the East African country.

But French businesses account for just 1.4 percent of the total market share in Kenya, and France ranks only 17th among trading partners in the region’s most dynamic economy.

“The relationship is not so much unbalanced between our two countries,” Macron said alongside Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. “It is worse — it is weak to poor.

Macron said France should develop manufacturing projects based in Kenya. Kenyatta appeared to welcome that but did not respond directly when asked what France could offer that China and other countries could not.

There was, at least, success during the trip for a smaller business. Christophe Passelande, chief executive of Malteries Soufflet, said his barley malting company broke ground on a vast new plant on the outskirts of Nairobi he hopes will tap into Kenya’s large and growing beer market.

“When it comes to malting, the important actors are not Chinese,” Passelande told Reuters. “Our industry has real French know-how, and because of that we’re here first.”

But there is no sign that France is about to catch up with China in Ethiopia.

Asked whether France was a preferable partner to China, an Ethiopian businessman accustomed to working with the Chinese said: “Why would we want to put all our eggs in one basket?”

(Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier and Richard Lough; Editing by Luke Baker and Timothy Heritage)

Source: OANN

  • More than 15 journalists, several U.S. government officials and multiple lawmakers were shown or given the Steele dossier during the 2016 presidential campaign or shortly after.
  • Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele disseminated the dossier far and wide in an apparent attempt to insert the document’s salacious allegations into the media.
  • Newly unsealed court filings show how widespread this effort was.

Court documents released last week in a lawsuit involving the Steele dossier revealed new details about the campaign to disseminate the infamous anti-Trump report to the press and within the U.S. government.

Much was already known about Fusion GPS and dossier author Christopher Steele’s efforts to seed the dossier with reporters and government officials. Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson orchestrated several meetings between Steele and Washington, D.C.-based journalists prior to the 2016 election. It has also been widely reported that Steele and Simpson met with government officials in an attempt to ensure that Steele’s unverified findings landed on the government’s radar.

A deposition given by David Kramer, a longtime associate of former Sen. John McCain, shed light on even more contacts with reporters and government officials. Kramer’s Dec. 13, 2017 deposition was released on March 14 along with a batch of other documents from a dossier-related lawsuit against BuzzFeed News.

By giving the dossier to government officials, Fusion GPS and Steele were able to create news hooks for journalists to write stories airing the dossier’s unverified allegations.

That was the case with Yahoo! News, Mother Jones, CNN and BuzzFeed News, all of which published stories not about the underlying claims made in the dossier, but about the fact that the document was being handled by U.S. government officials.

Here are all of the contacts that Steele, Simpson and Kramer had with government officials and the press.

Fusion GPS and Steele’s contacts with US government officials

Simpson and Steele, a former MI6 officer, made contact with two separate government officials during the campaign to disseminate the dossier.

Steele met with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and his wife, a Fusion GPS contractor named Nellie Ohr, on July 30, 2016 to provide some of the information he had gathered in his investigation.

Simpson reached out and met Bruce Ohr on Aug. 22, 2016. Bruce Ohr told Congress on Aug. 28, 2018 that Simpson told him of possible intermediaries between the Trump campaign and Kremlin. Simpson and Bruce Ohr met against on Dec. 10, 2016. During that encounter, Bruce Ohr says Simpson handed him a memory stick with what he believes was a copy of the dossier. (RELATED: Details Emerge About Trump Dossier Firm’s Media Outreach Campaign)

Steele met with Jonathan Winer, a State Department official with close ties to former Secretary of State John Kerry, during summer 2016. He told Winer about the information he had gathered, and Winer wrote a two-page summary to give to others at the State Department.

Fusion GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson listens as his lawyer, Joshua Levy, speaks to members of the media following a meeting with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee in the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill on October 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson is pictured. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Simpson reached out to Winer between Sept. 19-22, 2016. In an email, Simpson requested an urgent phone call with Winer. It would later be reported that Winer was a source for Michael Isikoff, the Yahoo! News reporter who wrote the first article laying out the dossier’s allegations against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The FBI relied heavily on the dossier to obtain four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Page.

Winer did not just receive intelligence from Steele. He also provided the retired spy with dirt gathered by two longtime Hillary Clinton allies, Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer. Blumenthal gave Winer a copy of a report written by Shearer that contained allegations similar to Steele’s dossier. Winer gave that report to Steele, who passed it to the FBI.

Simpson and Steele contact reporters

Simpson contacted several top national security reporters beginning in summer 2016 to arrange meetings with Steele. He also reportedly tipped ABC News reporter Brian Ross off to a Belarus-born businessman who is believed to be a major source for the dossier.

According to the book “Russian Roulette,” Simpson told Ross about Sergei Millian, an obscure businessman who had claimed in one interview that he had links to Trumpworld. During an on-camera interview with Millian on July 29, 2016, Ross asked Millian several questions that mirror allegations made in the dossier.

Simpson also set up meetings in mid-September 2016 between Steele and several other reporters, including Yahoo’s Isikoff, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman, and Steven Lee Meyer and Eric Lichtblau at The New York Times.

Steele spoke in October 2016 with David Corn, a reporter at Mother Jones who published a dossier-based story on Oct. 31, 2016. Corn provided a copy of the dossier to James Baker, who then served as FBI’s general counsel. Corn hoped that Baker would reveal whether the FBI was investigating the dossier’s claims, but Baker told Congress he did not provide any information to the reporter.

Baker would also meet with Michael Sussmann, an attorney at Perkins Coie, the firm that hired Fusion GPS on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. Sussmann provided Baker with information relevant to the Trump-Russia probe but not from the dossier.

He provided similar information to Slate’s Franklin Foer and reporters at The New York Times. Both outlets reported stories about possible links between the servers of the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Russian bank that is identified in the dossier. The allegation of communication between the two servers remains unverified and has been heavily disputed.

Dossier used as ‘hook’ for multiple news articles

In the case of the Isikoff piece, the news hook was that the U.S. government was looking into the allegations from the Steele dossier about Page. From there, Isikoff was able to lay out what the dossier claimed about the former Trump campaign aide, regardless of whether the allegations were true.

The FBI cited Isikoff’s article in its applications for surveillance warrants against Page, a former Trump campaign adviser who is accused in the dossier of being the Trump team’s conduit to the Kremlin.

The dossier itself was published based on a series of news hooks.

CNN reported on Jan. 10, 2017 that former President Barack Obama and then-President-elect Donald Trump had been briefed on portions of the dossier on Jan. 6, 2017. CNN reported the briefing took place, and that Trump had been told about specific allegations that Russia might use as blackmail material against him.

BuzzFeed followed up an hour later, using the CNN report as a hook to publish the dossier in full.

The FBI itself sought to capitalize on the publication of the dossier, according to text messages that have been made public.

Peter Strzok, the counterintelligence official who led the Trump-Russia probe, texted FBI lawyer Lisa Page following CNN’s report, saying: “Hey let me know when you can talk. We’re discussing whether, now that this is out, we use it as a pretext to go interview some people.”

Prior to that, the FBI had conducted its investigation into the Trump campaign in secret. Few if any Trump associates were interviewed prior to Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.

FBI agents showed up on Jan. 27, 2017 to interview George Papadopoulos at his home in Chicago. The agents initially asked Papadopoulos about Millian, an alleged dossier source who initiated contact with Papadopoulos on July 15, 2017.

Simpson and Steele use McCain to get to Comey

Kramer first learned of the dossier on Nov. 18, 2016, at the Halifax Security Forum. Sir Andrew Wood, an informal adviser to Steele’s company, told Kramer about the document and suggested sharing it with McCain. (RELATED: John McCain Associate Had Contact With A Dozen Reporters About Dossier)

Kramer flew to London on Nov. 28, 2016 to meet with Steele. The two made arrangements there for Kramer to obtain a physical copy of the report from Simpson.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, speaks to reporters as he arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Oct. 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

After Kramer obtained the document, he shared it with numerous journalists, some at the direction of Steele.

According to his deposition, Kramer provided a copy of the dossier or previewed it to the following reporters: Julian Borger from The Guardian; Corn from Mother Jones; Ross and Matthew Mosk from ABC News; Peter Stone from McClatchy; Fred Hiatt, Hamburger and Helderman from The Washington Post; Bob Little from NPR; Alan Cullison from The Wall Street Journal; Carl Bernstein from CNN and Ken Bensinger from BuzzFeed.

Kramer said in his deposition that Corn and Borger were looking to use McCain’s meeting with former FBI Director James Comey as a news hook to continue publishing on the Steele report. He said the two journalists had somehow learned that McCain was going to meet with Comey.

Kramer also said that Steele wanted him to meet with BuzzFeed’s Bensinger and CNN’s Bernstein. He met with Bensinger on Dec. 28, 2016, where the reporter photographed the dossier. Kramer met with Bernstein days later, on Jan. 3 or Jan. 4, 2017.

The dossier also somehow made its way to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Former Sen. Harry Reid is believed to have obtained some of the information in August 2016. He wrote a letter to Comey on Aug. 25, 2016 regarding information about possible ties between Trump associates and Russian operatives. Comey met one-on-one with former CIA Director John Brennan.

Kramer also provided a copy of the dossier to Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger and the chief of staff of former House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Other State Department contacts

Winer wasn’t the only State Department official who obtained Steele’s information.

Kramer said in his deposition that McCain asked him to meet with Victoria Nuland, who served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Kramer also met with Celeste Wallander, who served as senior director for Russia and Eurasia issues on the National Security Council.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland speaks during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Kramer said McCain wanted to meet with the two officials as part of “due diligence” before meeting with Comey.

Nuland had several encounters with the document and Steele beginning in July 2016. Nuland was who approved FBI agent Michael Gaeta to meet with Steele in Rome on July 5, 2016. Gaeta and Steele had worked together years earlier on an investigation into bribery in FIFA, the international soccer organization.

Nuland was also contacted by Winer regarding Steele’s information. According to both Nuland and Winer, she suggested the information be passed to the FBI. Nuland testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2018 that Steele visited the State Department in October 2016.

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Nur Bekri, Chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, attends a news conference in Beijing
Nur Bekri, Chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, attends a news conference during the annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), in Beijing March 7, 2010. Picture taken March 7, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee

March 16, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Saturday it would prosecute Nur Bekri, one of the highest-ranking Uighur officials in the country, over allegations of graft and corruption during his time as governor of Xinjiang province.

The decision comes after authorities launched an investigation in September into Bekri, who as governor between 2008-2014 held the second-highest position of power in the region behind party secretary.

Bekri, who until December was director of China’s National Energy Administration, could not be reached for comment.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement that Bekri obstructed the investigations and did not tell the truth during the probe.

It said the investigation had found that he took advantage of his position to obtain “a huge amount of wealth”, either directly or through relatives. He also allegedly demanded the provision of luxury sedans and chauffeur services to his family members, and received bribes.

Bekri “led an extravagant life, was morally corrupt, and used his power for sex,” the statement alleged.

His prosecution comes as the Chinese government ramps up surveillance and suppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, a group it has long considered prone to dangerous religious extremism.

Researchers estimate that as many as 1.5 million Uighurs are in detention centers, where they are subject to political indoctrination programs.

The Chinese government has tried to counter this, saying the Uighurs are being sent to vocational training centers.

Bouts of ethnic violence took place over the course of Bekri’s tenure between the Uighurs in Xinjiang and the Han Chinese national ethnic majority that led to the deaths of hundreds of people.

As governor, Bekri supported policies that restricted religious practices of the Muslim Uighurs, who make up a majority of the overall Uighur population.

He was also a proponent of educating Xinjiang’s Turkic-speaking school children in Mandarin.

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

Source: OANN

Scott Morefield | Reporter

General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had harsh words for Google’s relationship with China during a Thursday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“The work that Google is doing in China is … indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Dunford told committee members during the defense budget hearing.

“Look, we’re the good guys. And the values that we represent, and the system that we represent is the one that will allow you, and has allowed you, to thrive,” he said in a paraphrase of how he describes the situation to “industry partners.”

Dunford characterized the work Google and other companies do in China as having “indirect benefit” before going even further.

We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit. And frankly, ‘indirect’ may be not a full characterization of the way it really is. It’s more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.

Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, a vocal opponent of some Big Tech practices, tweeted video of Dunford’s statement, calling it a “must watch video.” (RELATED: Half As Many Google Employees Protested Building Chinese Surveillance Tech As Protested Pentagon Project)

“We are in a struggle with the Chinese government over whether or not they’re going to become a regional or maybe global hegemon with values very different from ours, certainly values that do not favor freedom in the world, and we have an American company that does not want to do work with our Defense Department, which is one thing, but they’re happy to help the Chinese … military, at least indirectly,” said Hawley. “I think that’s just extraordinary.”

When asked by CNN, a Google spokesperson “declined to address Dunford’s comments that the company’s work was benefiting the Chinese military,” but did issue a statement to the network on work it does do with the Pentagon.

“We deeply respect the US military and we are working with them to solve problems in areas like cybersecurity, logistics, transportation and planning,” the spokesperson told CNN.

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Source: The Daily Caller

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans
FILE PHOTO: Oct 8, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt (27) runs with the ball as Houston Texans inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) defends during the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

March 15, 2019

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt was suspended for the first eight games of the 2018 season.

Hunt was on the commissioner’s exempt list since Nov. 30 during the NFL’s investigation into a physical altercation captured by an Ohio hotel surveillance system in which Hunt shoved to the ground and kicked a woman.

Hunt’s agent, Dan Saffron, said there will be no appeal in a released statement in response to the announcement of the discipline.

“PFS Agency stands behind our client, Kareem Hunt, in his decision to accept the suspension handed down by the NFL today,” Saffron said.

The NFL said in a statement Hunt’s ban is the result of two separate incidents.

“Kareem Hunt of the Cleveland Browns was notified today that he has been suspended without pay for the Browns’ first eight regular season games for violations of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in connection with physical altercations at his residence in Cleveland last February and at a resort in Ohio last June. Hunt was placed on the Commissioner Exempt list on November 30 and was released by his former club, the Kansas City Chiefs, that same day. The findings followed a detailed investigation by the NFL, which included reviewing available law enforcement records, video and electronic communications, interviews with numerous witnesses, and multiple interviews with Hunt.

“Hunt has advised the league office that he accepts responsibility for his conduct and the discipline that has been imposed. He has committed to take advantage of available resources to help him grow personally and as a member of the Cleveland community, and to live up to his obligations as an NFL player. The eight-game suspension will take effect as of the final roster reduction on August 31. Hunt will be eligible to play in the Browns’ ninth regular season game.”

When the video surfaced, Hunt was released by the Chiefs. The Browns signed Hunt to a one-year contract in February after general manager John Dorsey — who drafted Hunt as GM of the Chiefs — and owner Jimmy Haslam reviewed the situation and discussed appropriate steps toward contrition with Hunt.

“We had done our research,” Dorsey said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We thought at the appropriate time with all the information we did have, how truly remorseful he was and … knowing when he comes here there are no guarantees, he’s going to earn your respect with his actions. Right now, I feel very comfortable with the signing.

“Deep down, if you really sit down and engage with him, he has a really good heart. The act he did last year — it was egregious. We all know that. … He’s showing through his actions, not his words, how remorseful he is.”

Hunt is not permitted to be with the Browns during the suspension, but can participate in training camp and preseason games.

ESPN reported Hunt will forfeit $303,529 of his $645,000 base salary. He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in March 2019.

“He’s got a lot of work to do,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said in Indianapolis, “between now and when that second chance comes. Right now, our job is to support Kareem and help him grow as a person.”

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

Military honour guards attend a flag-lowering ceremony at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei
Military honour guards attend a flag-lowering ceremony at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

March 15, 2019

By James Pomfret and Yimou Lee

HONG KONG/TAIPEI (Reuters) – As Beijing grows wary of pro-independence groups seeking to forge closer ties in Hong Kong and Taiwan, activists say they are coming under increased surveillance and harassment from pro-China media outlets and unofficial “operatives.”

Visits to Taiwan in January by several Hong Kong activists including Tony Chung generated heavy coverage by two pro-China newspapers, including detailed reports of their movements and meetings.

The coverage prompted Taiwan to investigate the activities of the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao newspapers on “national security” grounds.

The government found that the papers committed “unlawful” acts, including invasive surveillance, and spread “fake news.” Officials said journalists from those papers would be banned from traveling to Taiwan for up to three years if the media outlets did not provide a “reasonable explanation” for their activities there.

A Reuters examination of both papers’ articles show that at least 25 people linked to anti-China and independence causes have been the subject of intense coverage, including covert photography and the reporting of personal details, in Taiwan during the past three years.

Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Such papers, which typically take a pro-Beijing stance, would be expected to pay close attention to activists pursuing causes that upset the Chinese government.

But activists say their coverage stretches into the realm of harassment, including surveillance on overseas trips, and publishing details of their private lives, including homes, work and daily movements.

“It’s obvious that there’s intervention from outside forces with an aim to intimidate people,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng told Reuters, referring to the coverage from the pro-China papers.

The coverage raised concerns about the activities of “Chinese and Hong Kong intelligence operatives” on the island, Chiu added, including people working for pro-China media outlets.

Activists have also been physically attacked during trips to Taiwan.

In July 2018, two Taiwanese were convicted of assaulting Hong Kong activists meeting with independence advocates in Taiwan. Three Hong Kong men were later named in Taiwanese media coverage as helping facilitate the attack.

“I was followed until I almost left the airport,” Andy Chan, one of the Hong Kong activists, said of his time in Taiwan. “There are operatives for China everywhere.”

BEIJING WORRIED

China considers Hong Kong and Taiwan to be inalienable parts of its territory, and has branded pro-independence activists on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as “separatists.”

In an annual report to the U.S. Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted in November that since president Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, Beijing has feared “collusion between ‘separatist forces’ in Taiwan and Hong Kong.”

“Beijing is trying everything in its power to prevent this,” said a security source in the Taiwan government, who declined to be named given the sensitivity of the issue.

The source and a second Taiwanese security official involved in national security say China has been quietly ramping up the number of intelligence operatives in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Wu Jieh-min, a Taiwan scholar who has researched civil movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan, says he was barred from entering Hong Kong for an academic conference in late 2016.

Beijing is “very worried about the exchange of ideas. If the ideas of civil society are not hindered, their power will be greatly enhanced,” said Wu, a research fellow with the government-backed Academia Sinica.

Wu noted that mass, protracted protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2014 that railed against Chinese interference were a catalyst for deepening activist ties on both sides.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office and main representative body in Hong Kong, the Liaison Office, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Wen Wei Po has also paid close attention to foreigners in contact with Hong Kong activists.

In December, Wen Wei Pao reporters and photographers covered the daily activities of Kevin Carrico, an Australia-based political scientist, during a visit to Hong Kong in which he met with independence advocates, and featured him on the front page.

“I was a little creeped out by the fact that the article discussed my presentation. There were only 15 people there,” he said of a private meeting in the basement of a Hong Kong building.

He said there had been “a real escalation of Beijing’s political operations in Hong Kong.”

HOTEL ATTACK

Activists in Hong Kong and Taiwan describe an increase in unknown individuals shadowing their meetings and events, sometimes taking photographs or recording their conversations.

In some cases activists have been attacked, and the assailants identified.

Two Taiwanese, Zhang Xiuye and Jhang Jhih-min, were found guilty last July of a 2016 assault on two Hong Kong independence activists, Andy Chan and Jason Chow, at a Taipei hotel.

Zhang and Jhang were convicted of defamation and fined T$6,000 ($195) and T$8,000 ($260) respectively; Jhang was also found guilty of “intimidating and endangering the safety” of Chan.

Zhang and Jhang were among at least eight people who beat Chan and Chow and called them China “traitors” at the Caesar Park Hotel, according to Taipei court documents.

Chan told Reuters he was at the hotel to meet with Ouyang Jin, a journalist with a little-known Hong Kong publication called Pacific Magazine.

Zhang is a senior member of the Chinese Concentric Patriotism Party, which advocates unification of China and Taiwan, according to the group’s website.

“It was purely an accident” that they ran into Chan at the hotel, Zhang told Reuters.

($1 = 7.8484 Hong Kong dollars)

($1 = 30.7550 Taiwan dollars)

(Additional reporting by Jessie Pang in Hong Kong and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham pledged Thursday that he will hold hearings to get to the bottom of whether the FBI misled surveillance court judges by using the Steele dossier to obtain spy warrants against a former Trump campaign adviser.

“I promise, everybody in the country, that in the Senate, we’re going to have hearings about the FISA process,” Graham said at a Heritage Foundation event.

Graham, a Republican, has focused on how the FBI handled the dossier, which was written by Christopher Steele, a former British spy who investigated President Donald Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC.

The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s dossier to obtain four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.

In the dossier, Steele alleged that Page met with Kremlin insiders during the 2016 campaign. Steele also accused Page of working with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to conspire with Russians. (RELATED: Lindsey Graham Reboots FISA Abuse Investigation With Expansive Document Request)

WATCH: 

Page has vehemently denied the claims, saying that he did not meet with the two Kremlin insiders Steele claims he met.

Graham and other Republicans have argued that the FBI failed to disclose Steele’s political motivations to the FISA judges. The FISA applications noted that Steele was working on behalf of someone who opposed Trump’s candidacy, but they did not identify the Clinton campaign and DNC as the former British spy’s clients.

Steele, a former MI6 official, was hired by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was hired by the Clinton campaign and DNC’s law firm, Perkins Coie.

“Did the court adequately know the source of the document? Without the document, could you have gotten the warrant?” Graham asked rhetorically at Thursday’s event.

“This is a very big deal,” he added.

Republicans have also pointed to congressional testimony from Bruce Ohr, the Justice Department official who served as Steele’s back channel to the FBI. Ohr told lawmakers in an Aug. 28, 2018 interview that Steele told him in September 2016, a month before the first FISA was granted, that he was “desperate” that Trump not win the election.

Ohr said that he told FBI and Justice Department officials about Steele’s remarks, but Republicans have noted that those remarks are not included in the Page FISA applications.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of that the best we can. And we’ll do other stuff, too,” said Graham.

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Actor Jussie Smollett arrives to attend a hearing the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago
Actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Court Building after attending a hearing on whether cameras will be allowed in future proceedings of his trial on felony charges, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

March 14, 2019

CHICAGO (Reuters) – “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is due to appear in court in Chicago on Thursday to face charges in a 16-count indictment accusing him of falsely reporting to police that he was the victim of a hate-crime assault.

In an indictment returned by a grand jury last Thursday, Smollett, 36, who is black, openly gay and plays a gay musician on Fox’s hip-hop drama, was charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct alleging he gave false accounts of an attack on him to police investigators.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Smollett was previously charged last month with felony disorderly conduct for making a false report after he told police he was attacked in January by masked supporters of President Donald Trump who beat him, slung a noose round his neck and poured a liquid chemical on him while shouting racist and homophobic slurs.

Detectives investigated the incident as a hate crime but local news outlets cited police sources saying it was believed to be a hoax.

The Chicago Police Department is investigating how information about the alleged attack was anonymously leaked to journalists.

Fox cut Smollett’s character in “Empire” after he was arrested.

Smollett wrote a $3,500 check to two brothers and gave them $100 to buy the rope, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps used in the supposed Jan. 29 attack, according to prosecutors.

Police said Smollett hoped the incident would advance his career and secure him a higher salary.

Police initially arrested the brothers on Feb. 13, after they were recognized from surveillance footage from near the scene of the alleged attack. One had appeared with Smollett on “Empire,” police and their lawyer said. Prosecutors said one had supplied Smollett with “designer drugs” in the past.

The brothers confessed to the plot, police said. They became cooperating witnesses and were released without charges.

After the alleged attack, Smollett received support on social media, including from celebrities and Democratic presidential candidates. Others were skeptical of the incident, which Smollett said occurred at around 2 a.m. on a city street during one of the coldest weeks in recent history.

In a “Good Morning America” interview last month, Smollett said he was angry some people questioned his story and suggested racial bias may be behind the disbelief.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

French President Emmanuel Macron flanked by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta address a news conference after touring the Nairobi Central Railway in Nairobi,
French President Emmanuel Macron flanked by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta address a news conference after touring the Nairobi Central Railway in Nairobi, Kenya March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

March 14, 2019

By John Irish

NAIROBI (Reuters) – French firms signed contracts in Kenya worth some 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion) during a visit on Thursday by President Emmanuel Macron, who wants to deepen France’s economic ties with Anglophobe East Africa.

Macron’s visit to Nairobi is the first by a French president since Kenya won independence from Britain in 1963 and follows stopovers in Ethiopia and Djibouti – all countries where China has moved in aggressively and presents stiff competition.

At a ceremony with Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta, a consortium led by Vinci secured a 30-year concession worth 1.6 billion euros to operate a highway linking the Kenyan capital and Mau Summit in western Kenya.

Renewables firm Voltalia sealed a 70 million euro contract for a solar power plant while an Airbus-led consortium won a 200 million euro deal for coastal and maritime surveillance. Total is finalizing terms on a second solar plant.

“In Kenya there is an economic opportunity and it’s within the president’s strategy in France to look at not just Francophone Africa, but Anglophone Africa too,” said a French presidential source.

During a four-day trip to East Africa, Macron has vaunted France’s soft power in culture and education and its military know-how to woo deeper partnerships.

Kenya is east Africa’s most advanced economy with a liberal business environment and entrepreneurial culture. French businesses however account for just a 1.4 percent market share.

French exports to Kenya in 2017 amounted to between $170 million and $225.80 million, while China, Kenya’s number one trading partner, exported goods worth $3.8 billion.

“France has supported Kenya for several years in development projects … but we are not sufficiently economically and industrially,” Macron said on Wednesday night in a news conference with Kenyatta.

France also faces competition from other European allies, including Britain which is seeking to revive its trade relationship with its former colony as it prepares to leave the European Union.

Kenyatta, who took Macron for a drive around the grounds of State House in a Kenyan-assembled Peugeot car, said he hoped France would become a more important trading partner.

(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Richard Lough)

Source: OANN

Shredded documents of the former East German Ministry for State Security (MfS), known as the Stasi, are pictured at the central archives office in Berlin
Shredded documents of the former East German Ministry for State Security (MfS), known as the Stasi, are pictured at the central archives office in Berlin, Germany, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

March 13, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany is to merge the 111 kilometers (69 miles) of files meticulously collected by the loathed Communist East German secret police with its national archive to help preserve them and ensure they remain accessible, above all to victims.

The Ministry of State Security, or Stasi, was one of the most repressive police organizations in the world, infiltrating almost every aspect of life in East Germany. Over four decades, it used torture, intimidation and informants to crush dissent.

In the three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germans have been able to apply for access to their personal files. In a painful process, many have uncovered a web of betrayal, discovering that friends, colleagues, spouses and even children had snooped on them.

On Wednesday, the head of the state-run Stasi files agency said it would in future be put under the auspices of the Federal Archive. The move will allow it to tap the national body’s expertise, technology and resources to preserve the “monument of a surveillance state”.

“In these times it is more important than ever to have a discourse about history to sharpen our senses to today’s challenges and strengthen awareness of freedom and human rights,” said Roland Jahn, head of the Stasi files agency.

He added, however, that Germany had a duty to show justice to the victims of the Communist dictatorship and the Ministry for State Security.

“Above all, these documents were and are for people who suffered under repression, to help them find out about their fate,” he said, stressing it would remain a priority to ensure the documents are accessible to people.

Last year, the archive received 45,000 requests to look at the files, down from some 87,000 a decade earlier. Interest from media and researchers remains high, said Jahn.

The Stasi had some 91,000 full-time staff at the time East Germany collapsed and a network of around 200,000 informants who spied on friends, colleagues and relatives.

In addition to the 111 kilometers of files, the authority has 15,000 sacks of shredded files that the Stasi attempted to destroy before its headquarters were ransacked in January 1990.

The exact timing of the move is still to be decided, but media have reported it is likely to take place in the next couple of years, and Germany’s Bundestag Lower House of Parliament has to give its approval.

(Reporting by Swantje Stein, Reuters Television; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

Source: OANN

Bob Barr | Former Congressman (R-GA)

The chemical DNA — or as it is more scientifically but less-commonly known, deoxyribonucleic acid — was first discovered in 1869 by a Swiss chemist. Now, 150 years later, DNA has become for government what the dog is to man — its “best friend.”

Government in 2019 is working feverishly to take full advantage of the power of this chemical that is the basis for human genetics, as a means to surveil its citizens; Arizona is the latest example. Legislation proposed by Republican state Sen. David Livingston would create a statewide DNA database to track anyone who applies for a position that involves fingerprinting — including parent school volunteers, teachers, real estate agents and foster parents. The DNA could be shared with virtually any other government agency in the country.

To add insult to injury, the applicant would have to pay Arizona $250 for the privilege.  In a sense, Arizona is simply following a fast-growing trend of genetic curiosity.

What once was available only to highly trained scientists working in massive research facilities is now available to virtually anyone with $50 to spend. In 2017 alone, some 12 million DNA “test kits” were sold to individuals; mostly in the United States. The key questions asked by privacy experts — but far too infrequently by purchasers of DNA test kits — are: What happens to all that extremely revealing and personal information gleaned from testing one’s saliva?  Where is it data-based?  For how long is it maintained? And who has access to it?

The primary database of DNA information maintained by the federal government, under the watchful eye of the FBI, is “CODIS” (short-hand for Combined DNA Index System); but CODIS is far from the only such repository. Numerous other DNA databases are maintained by federal, state and local government agencies (not limited only to those with law enforcement responsibilities). In addition to the many government DNA databases, there are a number of commercial storehouses, owned and controlled by companies such as Ancestry.com.

The sharing of information between all these entities — government-to-government, company-to-government, government-to-company, and company-to-company — is little understood by the private citizen, and subject to little effective regulatory control. Even when the collection of DNA is mandated by statute, as has been the case for persons arrested for felony offenses in California for the past decade, there is no effective recourse for expunging such information even if the person is never convicted of the offense or is found not guilty.

While Uncle Sam has lagged behind California in mandating the collection of DNA samples from individuals within its custody, it is racing to catch up. Two years ago, for example, the Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law the “Rapid DNA Act of 2017.” The legislation attracted little attention and almost no opposition.

The reason for legislation such as the Rapid DNA Act winning such easy passage is due and least in part to the fact there are important and positive reasons for law enforcement agencies to maintain and have access to a secure and properly-maintained database of DNA information on criminal offenders. The information in a person’s DNA can assist greatly in solving major crimes.

What often is overlooked, however, is that an individual’s DNA information reveals not only the donor’s basic identifying characteristics such as eye and hair color as well as sex and race; but information about their relatives, their health, their propensity for certain diseases, and much more.

In the hands of unscrupulous marketeers, for example, a person’s DNA is the Holy Grail of consumer information; in the aggregate, worth untold millions. For government, which operates according to the universal law that it can never have too much information on those within its jurisdiction, DNA databases can become a tool with which to identify and segregate population groups; and not always to the benefit of the individuals.

It is one thing, of course, if individuals voluntarily give up the secrets of their DNA for the benefit of learning who their “ancestors” might have been. It is quite another concern, however, when the government forces you to give up that information. And it is in this regard that lawmakers in Arizona have opened a new and deeply disturbing chapter in DNA collection.

While today the Arizona proposal is at the extreme of government DNA intrusions, if the trajectory of DNA power grabs in the past decade is any indication, it will soon, and unfortunately, become the norm.

Bob Barr (@BobBarr) represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He currently serves as president and CEO of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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