Trump’s agenda at risk after series of controversies

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Tuesday that despite all the controversies surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency, the House still has to “pass meaningful legislation and get it to the president’s desk.”

Chaffetz, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, told NBC News that the government is “always full of crisis.”

Trump set forth an ambitious agenda from taking on the country’s health-care system and tax code, but his administration has been ensnared in a series of controversies.

“I am worried, concerned, that continual political drama will drain the energy away from real accomplishments,” Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said that it is “appropriate” for the House Oversight Committee to request the memo that was reportedly written by James Comey, the ousted FBI chief, and claimed that President Trump once asked him to end the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The White House sharply disputed the report, as Democrats seized on it as potential proof of “obstruction” of justice.

According to The New York Times the memo quoted Trump as saying he hoped Comey could “let this go” with regard to Flynn.

The Times said Comey wrote the memo shortly after an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 14, the day after Flynn resigned from the Trump administration. The paper acknowledged it had not seen a copy of the memo, but said a Comey associate read parts of it to a reporter over the phone.

The Senate has no legislation on its agenda this week — business is instead limited to three low-profile nominations. The House — fresh off an 11-day recess — is devoting the week to mostly symbolic, feel-good legislation designed to show support for law enforcement. Another 11-day recess, for Memorial Day this time, is just around the corner.

Separately, a small group of Senate Republicans is meeting in hopes of finding a way forward on keeping Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But that effort appears likely to take several weeks — with no guarantee of success.

“It’s hard to make things happen here, right? It’s really hard. I mean you’ve got all kinds of forces working against you,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “And so unless everybody’s aligned, everybody, throughout the White House and the Cabinet, it’s almost impossible. I think they’re all very aware of that and hopefully they’re going to move to address that.”

In the meantime, must-do legislation on the military, children’s health and a full slate of spending bills are all slipping behind schedule. Trump’s promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is dead in the water after being rejected during negotiations on a catchall spending bill — the only major bipartisan legislation to advance this year — and his promised $1 trillion infrastructure bill is still on the drawing board.

Trump’s tax plan is simply a set of talking points and for procedural reasons is on hold until health care is completed.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an administration that was so lacking is substantive proposals this late in the beginning of their term,” said No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland. “The tax bill is a one-page minimal suggestion of what might be considered. There is no jobs bill. There is no infrastructure bill.”

Work on a congressional budget measure — which is the linchpin to follow-up legislation to cut tax rates — is months behind schedule. The House and Senate Appropriations panels, typically a swarm of activity at this time of the year, seem stumped as they await marching orders.

Trump’s budget finally arrives next week, promising a balanced federal ledger within 10 years. But the Trump budget could complicate matters more, in large part because it calls for domestic cuts that lawmakers have no interest in. Trump doesn’t appear very interested in the budget — its release has been scheduled for when he’s out of the country — and its promise of balance rests on rosy assumptions of economic growth and a sweeping round of unrealistic cuts to programs like Medicaid.

The GOP-controlled Congress has had just a handful of legislative successes since it convened in January. The most significant bill, so far, was a long-delayed House health care measure that squeaked through earlier this month. The House bill polls poorly with voters, however, and faces a wholesale rewrite in the Senate.

So far, just a single piece of major legislation has advanced that required the votes of Democrats — a catchall $1.1 trillion spending bill opposed by more than 100 House Republicans. Beyond that, many of the bills Trump has signed into law were fast-track measures to rescind regulations issued by former President Barack Obama last year. The clock ran out on further repeals and this week, the biggest Senate vote is on confirming Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China.

“Well, we have nominations and we’ve repealed billions of dollars of regulations,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “Hopefully we’ll see some other action come to the floor.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Congressional Dems making early calls for Trump’s impeachment

Brooke Singman

That didn’t take long.

A small group of President Trump’s most outspoken critics has seized on the James Comey controversy to make a — very — early push for impeachment.

The latest call came from Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, who released a statement suggesting Comey’s ouster from atop the FBI was an obstruction of the investigation “of the president’s campaign ties to Russian influence in his 2016 presidential election.” He said Trump has committed acts that “amount to intimidation and obstruction.”

“Our mantra should be I.T.N—Impeach Trump Now,” Green wrote in an email, which included a line in red pushing those who received the email to “forward this email to others who may be interested.”

The White House has defended the decision to fire Comey. The president’s team last week cited a DOJ memo castigating his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, though Trump himself has since said he would have fired Comey regardless of any recommendation.

Most Democrats are fighting back by calling for a special prosecutor to probe Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, worried Comey’s firing was meant to blunt that investigation.

But a handful of Democrats want to go the distance, and are openly using the “I” word.

Green joined other Democratic lawmakers like Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has been discussing impeachment for months. Waters took to Twitter in April saying that she would “fight every day until he’s impeached.”

She later denied calling for impeachment, but on Thursday renewed her push during an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

“I’ve said all along that he will lead us to impeachment, and he’s doing just that,” Waters said on MSNBC. “We’re fiddling while Rome is burning. This president needs to be impeached.”

Waters has received her fair share of impeachment backlash from Trump supporters. Most recently, Waters was greeted by pro-Trump protesters before a town hall on Saturday, with some holding signs calling for her impeachment.

Others Democratic lawmakers who have brought up the topic of impeachment include Reps. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., who told a local news station last week that Democrats were “actually pretty close to considering impeachment,” and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., who said on local radio that if there was an “impeachment clock,” Comey’s ouster would have moved it an “hour closer.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., also joined the discussion, tweeting last week that “Impeachment will happen if a handful of Republicans in Congress join Dems to put country above party. Or in 2019 after Dems win the House.”

But one former Democratic lawmaker told Fox News that even suggesting impeachment is “dangerous” for the American people.

Dennis Kucinich, former Ohio congressman and a Fox News contributor, told Fox News on Tuesday that there was a “danger in engaging in compulsive opposition.”

Kucinich, who called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over the decision to go to war in Iraq, told Fox News that this is only an option “after exhausting a number of other options.”

“It is destructive to America to proceed with an impeachment at this stage of the presidency,” Kucinich said. “This is not the first thing you reach for, because when the first big move a party makes is towards impeachment, it’s very difficult for the American people to conclude that it is anything but a partisan issue.”

In order to impeach the president of the United States, the House of Representatives must have the support of the majority of members. At this point, no Republicans have voiced support, or even made the suggestion to begin the impeachment process.

While Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has said she is doing her “homework” on the issue, she also took a shot at the vice president suggesting he wouldn’t be much better.

“I will just say I understand the calls for impeachment, but what I am being cautious about and what I give you food for thought about is that if President Trump is impeached, the problems don’t go away, because then you have a Vice President Pence who becomes President Pence,” Gabbard said at a town hall last month.

Kucinich told Fox News that while he is aware of the extreme opposition to President Trump’s policies, Democrats should focus on their ability to impact policy, which could be “attractive” to Americans in 2018.

“It’s far better to offer alternatives to the policies of this president,” Kucinich said. “Otherwise, this is a grim partisan effort which inevitably will go nowhere.”

In the wake of a New York Times report on Tuesday evening suggesting that Mr. Trump asked Comey to end the probe into former National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn, former Republican Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., jumped on the bandwaggon suggesting the Trump family may not be in Washington for long.

Jolly tweeted: “Hope that private school tuition in Maryland this Fall for the POTUS family is refundable.”

 

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Israel Said to Be Source of Secret Intelligence Trump Gave to Russians

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President Trump escorting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel into the White House in February.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, according to a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to an episode that has renewed questions about how the White House handles sensitive intelligence.

Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and runs one of the most active espionage networks in the Middle East. Mr. Trump’s boasting about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries and raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the region.

Israeli officials would not confirm that they were the source of the information that Mr. Trump shared, which was about an Islamic State plot. In a statement emailed to The New York Times, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, reaffirmed that the two countries would maintain a close counterterrorism relationship.

“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Mr. Dermer said.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he had an “absolute right” to share information in the interest of fighting terrorism and called his meeting with the Russians “very, very successful” in a brief appearance later at the White House.

On Capitol Hill, reaction split along party lines, but even many Republicans indicated that they wanted the White House to show more discipline.

“There’s some alignments that need to take place over there, and I think they’re fully aware of that,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Just the decision-making processes and everybody being on the same page.”

In the meeting last week, Mr. Trump told Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, details about the Islamic State plot, including the city in Syria where the ally learned the information, the current official said. At least some of the details that the United States has about the Islamic State plot came from the Israelis, said the officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It was not clear whether the president or the other Americans in the meeting were aware of the sensitivity of what was shared. Only afterward, when notes on the discussion were circulated among National Security Council officials, was the information flagged as too sensitive to be shared, even among many American officials, the officials said.

Intelligence officials worried that Mr. Trump provided enough details to effectively expose the source of the information and the manner in which it had been collected.

Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, defended Mr. Trump’s move, saying the president made a spur-of-the-moment decision to tell the Russians what he knew and did not expose the source of the intelligence because he was not told where it came from.

Moreover, General McMaster said that by discussing the city where the information originated, the president had not given away secrets. “It was nothing that you would not know from open-source reporting in terms of a source of concern,” he said. “And it had all to do with operations that are already ongoing, had been made public for months.”

Two senior United States military officials said that Mr. Trump’s disclosures seemed to align with an increasing concern that militants responsible for such attacks were slipping out of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, and taking refuge in other cities under their control, such as Deir al-Zour and Mayadeen.

These officials said they had no specific knowledge of what Mr. Trump told the two senior Russian diplomats in the Oval Office last week, or how that related to a likely decision expected soon by the Homeland Security Department to expand its ban on carrying portable electronics. But the officials said the timing of the events seemed hardly a coincidence.

American and British authorities in March barred passengers from airports in 10 predominantly Muslim countries from carrying laptop computers, iPads and other devices larger than a cellphone aboard inbound flights to the United States after intelligence analysts concluded that the Islamic State was developing a type of bomb hidden in batteries. Homeland Security officials are considering whether to broaden the ban to include airports in Europe and possibly other places, American security officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Trump’s disclosure was also likely to fuel questions about the president’s relationship with Moscow at the same time that the F.B.I. and congressional committees are investigating whether his associates cooperated with Russian meddling in last year’s election. Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed such suspicions as false stories spread by Democrats to explain their election defeat, but his friendly approach toward President Vladimir V. Putin in spite of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and other actions has stirred controversy.

The timing of the episode also threatened to overshadow Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad as president. He is scheduled to leave on Friday for Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium.

In Israel, he was already likely to contend with Israeli officials rattled by the administration’s refusal to say outright that the Western Wall, one of the holiest prayer sites in Judaism, lies in Israel, and is not subject to territorial claims by the Palestinians. The wall is in Jerusalem — part of what is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary — and is considered one of the holiest sites in Islam. Both the Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital.

Now, the Americans and Israelis will have to contend with the serious breach of espionage etiquette. Israel had previously urged the United States to be careful about the handling of the intelligence that Mr. Trump discussed, the officials said.

Former officials said it was not uncommon for presidents to unintentionally say too much in meetings, and they said that in administrations from both parties, staff members typically established bright lines for their bosses to avoid crossing before such meetings.

“The Russians have the widest intelligence collection mechanism in the world outside of our own,” said John Sipher, a 28-year veteran of the C.I.A. who served in Moscow in the 1990s and later ran the agency’s Russia program for three years. “They can put together a good picture with just a few details. They can marry President Trump’s comments with their own intelligence, and intelligence from their allies. They can also deploy additional resources to find out details.”

Nonetheless, General McMaster said he was not concerned that information sharing among partner countries might stop.

“What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” General McMaster said at a White House briefing, seeking to play down the sensitivity of the information that Mr. Trump disclosed.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, declined to tell reporters whether the White House had reached out to the ally that provided the sensitive intelligence.

But General McMaster appeared to acknowledge that Thomas P. Bossert, the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and counterterrorism, had called the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency after the meeting with the Russian officials. Other officials have said that the spy agencies were contacted to help contain the damage from the leak to the Russians.

General McMaster would not confirm that Mr. Bossert made the calls but suggested that if he did, he was acting “maybe from an overabundance of caution.”

The episode could have far-reaching consequences, Democrats warned. Any country that shares intelligence with American officials “could decide it can’t trust the United States with information, or worse, that it can’t trust the president of the United States with information,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

“I have to hope that someone will counsel the president about just what it means to protect closely held information and why this is so dangerous, ultimately, to our national security,” Mr. Schiff said at a policy conference in Washington sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a liberal group.

Russia dismissed the reports. A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry denied that Mr. Trump had given classified information to Russian officials, and she denigrated American news reports of the disclosure as “fake.”

Sharing the United States’ own intelligence with Russia, much less information from a foreign ally, has long been a contentious issues in American national security circles. In fact, many Republicans strenuously objected last year when the Obama administration proposed sharing limited intelligence about Syria with Russia.

One of the Republicans was Mike Pompeo, the former congressman from Kansas who now runs the C.I.A. In an appearance last year on a podcast hosted by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official now best known for his anti-Muslim views, Mr. Pompeo said sharing intelligence with the Russians was a “dumb idea.”

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

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James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this month.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Continue reading the main story

Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Video

A Times Exclusive: Trump, Comey and the Russia Investigation

Michael S. Schmidt, a New York Times reporter, explains new revelations from a memo written by James B. Comey, the fired F.B.I. director. The memo showed that President Trump may have tried to halt the agency’s investigation into Michael T. Flynn.

By A.J. CHAVAR on Publish DateMay 16, 2017. . Watch in Times Video »

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

What Is Obstruction of Justice? An Often-Murky Crime, Explained

A look at what qualifies as obstructing justice, and whether the accusations against President Trump could fit in that definition.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: “I agree he is a good guy.”

Continue reading the main story

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

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The Events That Led to Comey’s Firing, and How the White House’s Story Changed

New disclosures on Tuesday allege that in February, President Trump asked James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to shut down an investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

OPEN GRAPHIC

Mr. Chaffetz’s letter, sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he demonstrated in pursuing Hillary Clinton to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s associates.

But since announcing in April that he will not seek re-election in 2018, Mr. Chaffetz has shown more interest in the Russia investigation, and held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.

Document: Representative Jason Chaffetz’s Letter to the F.B.I.

In testimony to the Senate last week, Mr. McCabe said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.” Mr. McCabe was referring to the broad investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation into Mr. Flynn is separate.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

THE DAY’S TOP POLITICAL NEWS

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last week. Trump administration officials have provided multiple, conflicting accounts of the reasoning behind Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Mr. Trump said in a television interview that one of the reasons was because he believed “this Russia thing” was a “made-up story.”

The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job after it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Despite the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, the investigation of Mr. Flynn has proceeded. In Virginia, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to Mr. Flynn. Part of the Flynn investigation is centered on his financial links to Russia and Turkey.

Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Five Contradictions in the White House’s Story About Comey’s Firing

The Trump administration has offered conflicting answers about how and why the F.B.I. director, James Comey, was fired.

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.

After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.

Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Comey’s recollection has been bolstered in the past by F.B.I. notes. In 2007, he told Congress about a now-famous showdown with senior White House officials over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The White House disputed Mr. Comey’s account, but the F.B.I. director at the time, Robert S. Mueller III, kept notes that backed up Mr. Comey’s story.

The White House has repeatedly crossed lines that other administrations have been reluctant to cross when discussing politically charged criminal investigations. Mr. Trump has disparaged the continuing F.B.I. investigation as a hoax and called for an inquiry into his political rivals. His representatives have taken the unusual step of declaring no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s associates.

The Oval Office meeting occurred a little over two weeks after Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Comey to the White House for a lengthy, one-on-one dinner at the residence. At that dinner, on Jan. 27, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey at least two times for a pledge of loyalty — which Mr. Comey declined, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Mr. Trump said that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

5395COMMENTS

After the meeting, Mr. Comey’s associates did not believe there was any way to corroborate Mr. Trump’s statements. But Mr. Trump’s suggestion last week that he was keeping tapes has made them wonder whether there are tapes that back up Mr. Comey’s account.

The Jan. 27 dinner came a day after White House officials learned that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. On Jan. 26, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, told the White House counsel about the interview, and said Mr. Flynn could be subject to blackmail by the Russians because they knew he had lied about the content of the calls.

What is ransomware?

Thousands of computers across the globe were hit by a ransom-demanding malware. DW explains what ransomware is and how to avoid becoming the next victim.

Symbolbild Kreditkartenbetrug Cyberkriminalität (imago)

A massive global cyberattack infected tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 countries by exploiting vulnerabilities believed to have been exposed in documents leaked from the US National Security Agency.

Friday’s attack used a type of malware known as ransomware to extort money from victims, including governments, companies and organizations.

Read: Spread of global cyberattack curbed — for now

DW explains what ransomware is and how to avoid becoming the next victim.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is malware that encrypts files on an infected computer or mobile device. The ransomware locks the computer and prevents users from accessing files, documents and pictures until payment is made.

Symbolbild Computerprobleme in Großbritannien (picture-alliance/AP Photo/@fendifille )Major organizations across England reported problems with their computer systems as a result of an apparent cyberattack

How does a computer get infected with ransomware?

Computers are typically infected when a user opens a link or email attachment from a malicious email message. Known as a phishing email, the message is often sent from an email account disguised to look like it is coming from a known or trustworthy entity. Hackers can also plant malware on websites.

Sometimes a user may not be immediately aware the computer is infected. Some types of ransomware, such as the one used on Friday, show a “lock screen” notifying the user their files have been encrypted and demanding payment to unlock the files.

How does payment and unlocking work?

The ransomware demands the user pay to have the files decrypted. Payment, often with the anonymous virtual currency Bitcoin, allows the user to access the files with an encryption key only known by the hacker. As in Friday’s attack, the payment can go up if it is not made within a short time frame.

If the payment is not made within a certain time period, the encryption key is destroyed and the files are lost forever.

Wiesbaden BKA Vorstellung Lagebericht Cybercrime 2015 Ransomware (DW/M. von Hein)A typical ransomware infection will show a message telling the victim to pay a ransom to decrypt files

Should you pay ransomware? 

Law enforcement agencies advise against paying ransom. They say payment encourages criminal hackers, and there is no guarantee that after payment access to files will be restored.

What can you do to protect yourself against ransomware?

Exercise caution before clicking on an email link from an unknown or potentially disguised source. Users should also install security updates on their computers and back up their files to avoid losing them in case of an attack.

Friday’s attack targeted a known vulnerability in the Windows operating system. Microsoft said it had released Windows updates to defend against the ransomware used in the attack, but not everyone installed them.

Microsoft releases protection for out-of-support products Windows XP, Windows 8, & Windows Server 2003: http://msft.social/VIIqP4 

Customer Guidance for WannaCrypt attacks

Microsoft solution available to protect additional products Today many of our customers around the world and the critical systems they depend on were victims of malicious “WannaCrypt” software….

blogs.technet.microsoft.com

Why are businesses vulnerable to ransomware?

Larger businesses, organizations and governments may not install security updates immediately because they have their own security measures in place. Hackers target businesses because they calculate that they are more likely to pay. Businesses may have sensitive data and do not want to disrupt operations. Restoring files may also be more expensive than paying the extortion fee.

How can you get files back?

Without paying the extortion payment it is very difficult to save the files. There are instances of hackers creating weak malware that is capable of being broken. In one case, a hacker regretted creating malware and published a master key for files to be decrypted. In another case, law enforcement seized a server with keys on it and shared it with victims.

Law enforcement agencies and computer security companies have keys to some ransomware to decrypt files, but with a growing number of different malware most ransomware cannot be decrypted.

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The fight for Germany begins here

Germany’s rust belt was once SPD heartland. But their poll numbers are tumbling ahead of regional elections, thwarting hopes to unseat Chancellor Merkel in September. DW’s Elizabeth Schumacher reports from Oberhausen.

Deutschland, Straße in Oberhausen (Imago/Ralph Peters)

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Schulz train stalls ahead of vital German election

The Social Democratic Party has once again fallen away in opinion polls ahead of a crucial state election in North Rhine-Westphalia. It’s a potential disaster for SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz. (12.05.2017)

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Cologne unites against fractured AfD

It’s not the Germany one usually sees or hears about – rusted, out-of-use factories, streets so full of potholes they are barely passable, high unemployment and poverty. But the Ruhr valley, the country’s former coal and steel country, has a significant role to play in Sunday’s regional elections in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).

The significance of the regional vote is twofold: First, this is the last major litmus test and chance for parties to gain momentum before federal elections in September. Secondly, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) are polling neck and neck (at about 30 percent) in what for decades has been the heart and soul of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

After the SPD suffered humiliating defeats in recent regional elections in Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein, this election is a major opportunity if they want the chancellorship back after twelve years of Merkel.

“As NRW goes, so goes the country,” Simone-Tatjana Stehr told DW. Stehr is hoping to represent the CDU from the Ruhr city of Oberhausen, a town of some 200,000 that has seen more than its fair share of lost perspectives, as factory jobs dried up over the decades.

CDU Wahlplakate - NRW Wahlkampf (DW/E. Schumacher)CDU candidate Simone-Tatjana Stehr: “People feel their concerns have not been addressed.”

Shades of Clinton, Brexit

For decades, the SPD could count on its reputation as the party of the working class to be certain of a clear majority in NRW. But last year, Oberhausen gained its first CDU mayor in 56 years, and many voters are tired of what they see as the SPD losing its soul.

“I am, very reluctantly, voting for the SPD,” voter Christopher, a native of Oberhausen, told DW one day before the election. “More for what they stood for in the past than anything else. Their campaign this year is without any real content. People here are interested in more jobs, better roads, better integration for refugees. Not social justice.”

According to Christopher, the SPD had “ruined a sure thing” by not taking clearer positions and by being overly confident, which he saw as eerily reminiscent of the Remain camp during the Brexit referendum and the US presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

party member Ori says “belongs to the SPD and should stay in the hands of the SPD.”

CDU ‘extremely optimistic’ despite voter apathy

Indeed, although downtown Oberhausen was filled with cheerful, though mostly elderly, faces – some voter apathy was also palpable. “None of the parties stand for anything distinctive anymore,” one retiree walking by said, as her husband nodded. Many said they still hadn’t chosen who to vote for.

Simone-Tatjana Stehr acknowledged this. “I’ve never heard of so many undecided voters around here. Some 30 or 40 percent at last count…but, they are at least interested. Asking questions, engaging.”

Stehr dismissed the idea that four years of the CDU-SPD “grand coalition” in Berlin has made the parties indistinguishable.

“We’ve jumped in the polls because we have a more concrete platform about what we want to change…education, unemployment, security, infrastructure,” the conservative politician said.

CDU Wahlplakate - NRW Wahlkampf (DW/E. Schumacher)The Ruhr valley has relatively high crime rates for western Germany. The CDU has made security a cornerstone of its platform.

As Stehr made her way through Oberhausen on Saturday, she and her team seemed positively giddy at their recent success. “Just a few weeks ago, we were ten points behind where we are now,” a member of the CDU youth wing said. The candidate herself said she was “extremely optimistic” about her chances.

As one self-described “lifelong CDU voter” put it to DW, “Five years of [SPD] Minister-President Hannelore Kraft’s government in this state and nothing here is better. No less unemployment. Teachers overwhelmed with 30 kids in a class. We need a change.”

SPD: Mistakes were made

The Oberhausen SPD was determined, however, not to be alarmed by slipping poll numbers. Candidate Sonja Bongers admitted to DW that “mistakes were made,” but that things would be different this time around.

Bongers conceded that the center-left had not focused, as it should have, on the unemployment and lack of perspective that plagues Oberhausen. “Three or four years ago, people were yelling at us in the streets, saying that the SPD was responsible for all their problems.”

“But now,” she added optimistically, “we have a new generation in power,” who will take back the city, the state and, hopefully, Berlin in September, by returning the party to its roots in the working class.

NRW Landtagswahl Broschuren, Postkarten und Stifte (DW/R. Staudenmaier )Bongers called the loss of city hall “a catastrophe”

The SPD does, however, have a powerful selling point in leader Hannelore Kraft, who remains more popular as a personality than perhaps her party in Oberhausen. One voter told DW she was voting SPD “just to help Kraft,” and many echoed her sentiment.

But for many of the region’s undecided, apathetic voters – who feel ignored by Berlin-centric politicians and fear that the country’s two major parties have become nearly identical by trying to please everyone – those concerns may indeed come to fruition. State premier Kraft has vowed that she would not rule in a coalition with the Left party. The Greens, who might not even make the five percent hurdle necessary to stay in parliament, have said they will refuse to govern with the libertarian Free Democrats (FDP), crushing any hope the CDU may have had of working with both of those parties to form a majority.

As for the far-right anti-immigrant AfD, they are polling at a reasonable 9 percent and recently held their national convention in NRW’s biggest city, Cologne. However, whoever those voters are, they seemed reluctant to admit their affiliation publicly:

Nobody in buying what right-wing is selling.”We’re attacked by left-wing fascists as radicals. People are scared to come near us.”

This means that, come Sunday, the SPD and CDU might have no choice but to follow Berlin’s lead and rule NRW in tandem, a crushing blow to any hope the Social Democrats may have of finally extricating the deeply ensconced Merkel from the chancellor’s seat.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Staudenmaier.

High fliers: Mega rich get their own private terminal at LAX (PHOTOS)

High fliers: Mega rich get their own private terminal at LAX (PHOTOS)
The ultra wealthy no longer have to mix with the ordinary folk at Los Angeles International Airport, thanks to a new $22 million private terminal that shows the rich really do live in a parallel world.

While ordinary passengers tackle ‘2,200 footsteps’ through the hustle and bustle of check-ins, baggage, and crowded TSA lines, members of the new Private Suite make a mere ‘70 steps’ from their car to the plane.

Oh, and they are “all peaceful footsteps,” according to the new service, operated by international security consultant, Gavin De Becker and associates.

The luxurious terminal is aimed at the very rich and famous and promises a paparazzi free journey for members who can instead enjoy their pre-flight time in their own private suite.

Each of the 13 suites come with its own bathroom, a well stocked food-service pantry, a two-person daybed, and a runway view of aircraft landing and taking off. There are menus of toys for children and prayer mats for Muslims.

There’s also a high end wardrobe on site in case of emergencies such as a wine stain or forecasted rain at your destination.

And when it’s time to board, VIP passengers are chauffeured across the tarmac directly to their aircraft.

Of course the execution of this hassle free process requires manpower – eight employees to be exact for each Private Suite member.

Their specific duties range from getting the member into the gated compound to escorting them through a private TSA screening and into a BMW.

Apparently, it’s one person’s sole job to wait at the jet-bridge in order to accompany members to the aircraft door.

The facility is the first of its kind in the US, according to the Guardian and looks like it might even meet the standards of US President Donald Trump who famously branded LAX as similar to a third world facility earlier this year.

READ MORE: Trump’s plane given water cannon salute at NY airport he slammed during campaign (VIDEO)

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[PIC] Roll out the red carpet! The Private Suite at LAX is now open! Members-only suite provides luxurious experience & more!

Of course money talks and in this case you will need to first pay down $7,500 a year for membership before parting with $2,700, for up to four people, each time you use the service, or $3,000 for international flights.

It’s possible for non-members to test out the service in a shared waiting-area suite for just $2,000.

De Becker told the Guardian that the new facility doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything and will generate $34 million for LAX over the next nine years, as it encourages the use of commercial flights rather than charter private jets.

1,200 people including lawyers, entertainment executives and media types have already signed up according to the LA Times.

READ MORE: Police forcibly remove passenger at behest of United Airlines in disturbing footage

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