20 state AGs call on DOJ to appoint special prosecutor in Russia probe

20 state AGs call on DOJ to appoint special prosecutor in Russia probe
Twenty state attorneys general, all Democrats, are calling on the US Department of Justice to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

In a letter sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday, the attorneys general described Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey in the middle of his investigation “a violation of the public trust.”

“The residents of our states and the American people deserve a thorough investigation that makes clear the extent of Russian meddling, any collusion by Trump campaign officials, and any cover-up,” says the letter. “We urge you to appoint a special counsel immediately.”

The lead signer, Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, was joined by her colleagues from California, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Delaware and Minnesota.

Rosenstein authored the three-page memo recommending that Comey be fired, which was forwarded to the White House. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seconded the recommendation.

“As prosecutors committed to the rule of law, we urge you to consider the damage to our democratic system of any attempts by the administration to derail and delegitimize the investigation,” says the letter.

The Democratic state prosecutors forwarded the letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are conducting their own investigations into alleged Russian meddling.

Democratic lawmakers joined the state attorneys general in pressing for an independent prosecutor, arguing this would take politics out of the probe.

Six federal agencies have also been investigating Democrats’ claims of possible links and financial ties between the Kremlin and Trump’s associates, including his son in law Jared Kushner and advisers Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.

FBI investigates ‘Russian govt’s efforts to interfere in 2016 election’ – Comey (LIVE) https://on.rt.com/86aq 

Photo published for FBI & NSA chiefs testify in Congress on Trump, Russia, wiretapping — RT America

FBI & NSA chiefs testify in Congress on Trump, Russia, wiretapping — RT America

FBI and NSA directors are testifying before the House Select Committee on Intelligence concerning allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and President Donald Trump’s claims his…

rt.com

On March 20, 2017, Comey testified to the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation about Russian interference since July 2016, including looking into reports of collusion between Trump’s associates and Russia.

‘We have no information regarding the impact’ of Russian influence on Trump’s election, it ‘isn’t something that we looked at’ – Dir Comey

At the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on May 3, Comey said he did not have anything to say about the Russian investigation until it was over and would not comment on which Americans the FBI was looking into.

Six days later, the White House announced Comey’s dismissal citing recommendations from Sessions and his deputy Rosenstein.

In a memorandum to Sessions, Rosenstein wrote that over the past year, “the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice.”

READ MORE: Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

He said he could not defend “the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

“Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives,” the Deputy Attorney General added in the memo.

Comey’s July 2016 announcement that the probe into Clinton’s emails had concluded without prosecution was not the function of an FBI director but rather the DOJ, Rosenstein said, calling the press conference “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”

On Thursday, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that Rosenstein be appointed to take over the Russia investigation.

Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, Deputy Sanders calls Rosenstein a person “who sets the gold standard within the legal system.”

She also said that “I am not aware” of reports that he threatened to resign over the manner in which Comey’s dismissal was attributed in part to the memo he wrote.

‘An erosion of confidence’ – Sarah Huckabee Sanders on what led to Trump’s decision to fire FBI Dir. Comey.

But Sanders also said the Trump White House isn’t trying to quash the investigation and they didn’t plan to appoint a special prosecutor.

“Any investigation that was taking place on Monday is still taking place today,” she said.

President Trump called Comey, a “showboat” and a “grandstander” and told NBC in an interview on Thursday he had planned to fire him even if the Justice Department had not recommended it.

Trump said that Comey’s dismissal was not meant to send a message to the FBI to back off its Russia probe.

Days before he was fired by Trump, Comey requested more resources to pursue his investigation into Russia’s election meddling and the possible involvement of Trump associates, the New York Times reported citing anonymous US officials. The report fueled concerns that Trump was trying to undermine a probe that could threaten his presidency.

However, both the Department of Justice and the acting head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, have denied that Comey had made such a request.

“We don’t typically request resources for a particular case,” McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee, adding that the probe into alleged Russian interference is “adequately resourced.”

Russia ‘full-scope cyber actor’ that will remain ‘major threat’ to US ‒ intel director

Russia 'full-scope cyber actor' that will remain 'major threat' to US ‒ intel director
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has accused Russia of being a “full-scope cyber actor” that will remain a “major threat” to the US government. The DNI made the comments during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on global threats.

Coats was joined by several other heads of the intelligence community: CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo.

The panel discussed worldwide threats to the US, ranging from cybersecurity dangers by Russia, China, North Korea and Iran to international crises involving North Korea and terrorism.

“I understand that many people tuned in today are hopeful we’ll focus solely on the Russian investigation of their involvement in our elections. Let me disappoint everybody up front,” Chair Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) said in his opening statement. “While the committee certainly views Russian intervention in our elections as a significant threat, the purpose of today’s hearing is to review and highlight to the extent possible the ranges of threats that we face as a nation.”

Despite Burr’s intentions, much of the focus, especially from Democrats, was dominated by discussions of alleged Russian cyber penetration into the US and French presidential elections, as well as the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. McCabe took the place of former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired on Tuesday.

Russia is ‘greatest threat of any nation on Earth’ – FBI director https://on.rt.com/8apd 

‘Russian interference’

Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-Virginia) immediately began focusing on Russia, Comey’s firing and the FBI probe. He asked if the intel community’s late January assessment accurately characterized Russian interference in the 2016 election, to which the entire panel answered yes.

He also asked about the alleged Russian hacking in the French presidential election. On Tuesday, Rogers informed a different Senate committee that the US notified French officials that it had found evidence of Russian hacking. Warner wanted to know what the US is doing to prevent future Russian interference.

In his written testimony, Coats discussed how Russian interference has advanced.

“Moscow has a highly advanced offensive cyber program, and in recent years, the Kremlin has assumed a more aggressive cyber posture,” which “was evident in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 US election,” and that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the… data thefts and disclosures,” he wrote.

It has also spread elsewhere, including Montenegro and Ukraine, Coats told the senators, especially with its manipulation of social media. Russia is a “great threat to democratic process,” he said, accusing Moscow of seeking to “maintain control over Kiev and frustrating European integration” in 2017.

Pompeo also cited the importance of social media as a tool for Russian cyber interference, saying it presents a continuing threat.

“There’s nothing new, only the cost has been lowered,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied meddling in other countries’ elections and internal politics. Several members of the intelligence community have admitted that the alleged Russian interference in the US would have been about changing minds, but didn’t change physical votes.

Other cyber threats

Echoing Rogers’ testimony on cybersecurity in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, the panel discussed other countries ‒ specifically China, Iran and North Korea ‒ that are involved in cyber warfare and hacking.

“Our adversaries are becoming bolder, more capable and more adept at using cyberspace to threaten our interests and shape real-world outcomes,” said Coats. “And the number of adversaries grows as nation states, terrorist groups, criminal organizations and others continue to develop cyber capabilities.”

China is targeting both the US government and American companies, Coats said, but noted that the attacks have decreased since Washington and Beijing reached a “common understanding”on cyber spying in 2015. Tehran is making use of its high-tech capabilities, Coats said, outlining a 2013 Iranian hacking incident and a 2014 data-deletion attack. North Korea “previously conducted cyber-attacks against US commercial entities,” he said in his written testimony, citing the 2014 Sony hack, and “remains capable of launching disruptive or destructive cyber attacks to support its political objectives” against both the US and its allies.

Although Rogers noted on Monday that US Cyber Command, which he also heads, is “still trying to find a way forward” on creating a cybersecurity plan, Pompeo praised the Trump administration’s headway in the area.

“This administration has reentered the battlespace in places the previous administration was absent,” the CIA director said.

Coats, however, sided with Rogers, telling Senator John Lankford (R-Oklahoma): “All of us would agree we need a cyber doctrine.”

North Korea

Amid rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, Coats described North Korea as a “very significant, potentially existential” threat to the US, while Pompeo told Sen. Angus King (I-Maine): “We haven’t seen anything that would make any of us feel any better about this threat.”

However, the CIA director told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), “the Chinese have made efforts they have not made before” using trade, including restricting coal, but noted that Beijing can do more to pressure Pyongyang on its nuclear program. Coats agreed with that assessment, telling Feinstein that “interaction with the Chinese of late, we think, can play a significant role in terms of how we deal with this.”

China tests new missile near Korean peninsula https://on.rt.com/8b75 

Photo published for China tests new missile near Korean peninsula — RT News

China tests new missile near Korean peninsula — RT News

Beijing has tested a new missile close to the Korean peninsula amid heightened tensions in the region, after North Korea, South Korea, and the US recently conducted military drills in the area.

rt.com

On the reclusive country’s increased testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, Stewart of the DIA warned that, although North Korea hasn’t yet carried out a complete test of ICBM with a nuclear device, “they’re going to put those two together at some point.”

The panel declined to answer many of the senators’ questions on North Korea, preferring instead to reserve their responses for a second, closed hearing on Thursday afternoon.

War on Terror

Afghanistan, where the US “war on terrorism” began shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, is a major concern, Stewart told Burr. “Unless we change something, such as inserting US forces or NATO forces, that changes the balance of forces on the ground… the situation will continue to deteriorate” and all the gains of the past several years will be lost.

militants developing own social media platform, ‘its own part of the internet to run its agenda’ https://on.rt.com/8amo 

Referencing Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Coats said the terrorist group “will continue to be a threat to the US,” as it “maintains the intent and capability to direct, enable, assist, and inspire transnational attacks.”

“This threat will persist with many attacks happening with little or no warning,” he said.