The Justice Department’s inspector general has been scrutinizing the FBI’s use of information from the Steele dossier to conduct surveillance on President Donald Trump and his associates from his 2016 presidential campaign and will release his report as soon as next month, Politico reports.
IG Michael Horowitz has been examining the FBI for close to a year and is investigating whether the agency possibly abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in October 2016 when it pulled a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page based in part on information from Christopher Steele, a British ex-spy who claimed he was told by sources that Page and other Trump associates were working with Russians to help Trump win the election and boost Trump’s businesses.
The IG is reportedly focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the FBI, and the report “is going to try and deeply undermine Steele,” according to a source who spoke with Politico.
FISA allows U.S. agencies to secretly intercept a target’s communications with court approval.
Horowitz is also looking into whether FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who exchanged anti-Trump text messages while working on the Russia investigation, were guided by politics in their official actions.
Trump has long slammed the dossier as “phony” and a “con job.”
The dossier was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017, after the election.
Steele was being paid for his research by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was funded in part by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrives at his office in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
April 17, 2019
By David Morgan and Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats could move forward quickly – as early as Monday – with subpoenas to obtain Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report on Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 election, after Attorney General William Barr releases a version on Thursday that may have significant portions blacked out.
The release of the report will represent a milestone in Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency. Barr said he would hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m ET on Thursday to discuss the report, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017.
Trump, who went to Twitter to renew his attacks on the special counsel’s investigation and the FBI, told a radio interviewer that he may hold a news conference following Barr’s.
When the report is released, close attention will be given not only to potential new details on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and the question of whether the Republican president acted to impede the inquiry, but also on how much Barr elects to withhold.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted on April 3 to authorize its chairman, Jerrold Nadler, to issue subpoenas to the Justice Department to obtain Mueller’s unredacted report and all underlying evidence, as well as documents and testimony from five former Trump aides.
A source familiar with the matter said Nadler could issue subpoenas as early as Monday. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday would be too early for subpoenas unless the entire report were to be blacked out.
“Chairman Nadler has said that subpoenas could come very quickly if we do not receive the full, unredacted report with the underlying evidence from DOJ. We will have to see what comes out on Thursday,” committee spokesman Daniel Schwarz said in a statement, using an acronym for the Justice Department.
The department this week said the report would be released on Thursday to both Congress and the public, a day before the major religious holidays of Good Friday and Passover.
Barr, who has broad authority to decide how much of the report to release, has promised to be as transparent as possible, but told lawmakers he would redact four categories of content: secret grand jury information, intelligence-gathering sources and methods, information relating to active cases and information could affect the privacy of “peripheral third parties” who were not charged.
Barr is expected to testify on the Mueller report before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 and the House Judiciary Committee on May 2.
The redactions, to be color coded to reflect the reason they were omitted from the final report, have Democrats seeing red. They have expressed concern that Barr, a Trump appointee named after the president fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, could black out material to protect the president.
Mueller on March 22 submitted to Barr a nearly 400-page report on his 22-month investigation into whether the Trump campaign worked with Moscow to sway the election in his favor, and whether Trump committed obstruction of justice with actions to impede the inquiry.
In a letter to lawmakers two days later, Barr said Mueller did not find that members of Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia. Barr said he determined there was not enough evidence to establish that Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice, though Mueller did not exonerate Trump on obstruction.
Since then, Trump has set his sights on the FBI, and accused the Justice Department of improperly targeting his campaign. Last week, Barr told a U.S. Senate panel he believed “spying” did occur on Trump’s campaign, and he plans to investigate whether it was properly authorized.
A federal judge criticized Barr during a Tuesday hearing on a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding access to the Mueller report, according to media reports.
“The attorney general has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the public to be concerned about whether or not there is full transparency,” U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton was quoted as saying.
Walton said he could ask to review the full document after a redacted version is released, but denied a request by a media outlet, Buzzfeed News, to speed up the process.
(Reporting by David Morgan and Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)
Early livestream videos that broadcast the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were flagged for misinformation and showed viewers an article about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
BuzzFeed News reported Monday, as live footage of the fire first spread, YouTube’s automated systems recognized the live-streams as some sort of misinformation. That triggered a new feature on videos that tries to tamp down false reporting by showing facts.
In the case of the cathedral fire, an Encyclopedia Britannica article called “September 11 attacks” appeared in a grey bar underneath the video player. A snippet of the article was visible, along with a link to read the full text.
BuzzFeed claimed to have discovered at least three livestreams of the fire posted by major news outlets containing the disclaimer. YouTube was made aware of the abnormality and removed the alerts.
“These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call,” a YouTube spokesperson told BuzzFeed. “We are disabling these panels for livestreams related to the fire.”
There was no immediate word on what caused the fire at the cathedral, which was completed in 1345 after nearly 200 years of construction. It has been added to and renovated several times over the years.
More recently, a project was underway to shore up the cathedral’s roof. The fire caused the main spire and the roof to collapse, which left the intricate metal scaffolding standing in the middle.
As the fire continued to burn, however, the scaffolding appeared to be collapsing in itself.
Source: NewsMax America
House Republicans are reportedly warning drug companies that complying with a Democratic-led committee probe of drug prices could potentially hurt their stock prices.
GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina — leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus —sent letters to CEOs of 12 drug companies, implying leaks by House Oversight Committee head Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., could hurt the companies, BuzzFeed News reported.
Cummings requested information in January as part of a probe into how the industry sets prescription prices, the news outlet noted. But the conservative lawmakers warned what’s being sought is sensitive data “that would likely harm the competitiveness of your company if disclosed publicly.”
They accuse Cummings of “releasing cherry-picked excerpts from a highly sensitive closed-door interview” conducted in an investigation into White House security clearances. “This is not the first time he has released sensitive information unilaterally,” their letter states.
Cummings pushed back, saying about the top Republican on his committee: “Rep. Jordan is on the absolute wrong side here.”
“He would rather protect drug company ‘stock prices’ than the interests of the American people,” Cummings said in his statement, the news outlet reported.
Jordan’s office argued the letter doesn’t tell companies not to respond to Cummings’ requests, but encourages their cooperation with “responsible and legitimate” oversight, BuzzFeed News reported.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: The Snapchat app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration taken September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
April 4, 2019
By Angela Moon
(Reuters) – Snap Inc on Thursday launched a gaming platform within its Snapchat app featuring original and third-party games such as Zynga Inc’s Tiny Royale, aiming to keep existing users engaged longer and attract new ones.
Snap also announced a slew of fresh features and content for existing products, adding shows from Bunim/Murray Productions and BuzzFeed as well as augmented reality filters to include templates of landmarks.
Snap made the announcement at its first-ever Partner Summit in Los Angeles, unveiling features and content aimed at keeping its core base of 13-34-year-olds on its messaging platform longer even as overall user growth has stalled.
Snap faces fierce competition for users and advertisers from bigger and far better-financed rivals like Facebook Inc, whose namesake platform and Instagram photo-sharing app have successfully copied popular Snapchat features like Stories – a personal feed of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.
In 2018, Instagram had about 400 million daily active users on its version of Stories, more than twice Snapchat’s daily users.
Snap must also battle for user attention against newer rivals like TikTok, a short-form video app owned by Chinese tech company Bytedance.
The number of daily active users on Snapchat has held steady or fallen for the past several quarters, but the app is still wildly popular among young users.
Snapchat reaches 75 percent of 13-34 year olds and 90 percent of 13-24 year olds in the United States.
“We wanted to build something that makes us feel like we’re playing a board game with family over a long holiday weekend,” said Will Wu, director of Product at Snap told creators and developers at the one-day, invite-only event.
“Something that makes us feel like we’re sitting with friends, controllers in hand, looking at the same screen.”
The games include Snap’s flagship Bitmoji Party, Spry Fox’s Alphabear Hustle, ZeptoLab’s C.A.T.S. Drift Race, Game Closure’s Snake Squad, PikPok’s Zombie Rescue Squad and Zynga’s Tiny Royale, and can be played from Snapchat’s main “Chat” messaging feature.
Snap said the gaming platform will have non-skippable, six-second video ads, a relatively new format that helped the company’s revenue growth in the fourth quarter.
Snap also launched new augmented reality “lenses,” or filters that overlay video, including templates of landmarks like the Buckingham Palace in London, the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
As part of Snap’s push to expose more of its content outside of the platform, the company also launched “App Stories” with partners like Tinder which would allow users to update their dating profiles with Snapchat Stories.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editingby Meredith Mazzilli)
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at church, near High Wycombe, Britain March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
March 25, 2019
By Guy Faulconbridge and Kylie MacLellan
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May was under pressure on Monday to give a date for leaving office as the price to bring Brexit-supporting rebel lawmakers in her party behind her twice-defeated European Union divorce treaty.
At one of the most important junctures for the country in at least a generation, British politics was at fever pitch and, nearly three years since the 2016 referendum, it was still unclear how, when or if Brexit will ever take place.
With May humiliated and weakened, ministers lined up to insist she was still in charge and to deny a reported plot to demand she name a date to leave office at a cabinet meeting on Monday.
Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper said in a front page editorial that May must announce she will stand down as soon as her Brexit deal is approved and the United Kingdom has left the EU.
“Time’s up, Theresa,” the newspaper said on its front page. The newspaper said her one chance of getting the deal approved by parliament was to name a date for her departure.
May called rebel lawmakers including Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker to her Chequers residence on Sunday, Downing Street said, along with ministers David Lidington and Michael Gove.
The two ministers denied reports they were being lined up as a possible caretaker prime minister.
“The meeting discussed a range of issues, including whether there is sufficient support in the Commons to bring back a meaningful vote (for her deal) this week,” a spokesman said.
May was told by Brexiteers at the meeting that she must set out a timetable to leave office if she wants to get her deal ratified, Buzzfeed reporter Alex Wickham said on Twitter.
The Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, said some ministers were urging May to pivot to a no-deal Brexit as the only way to survive in power.
May’s deal was defeated by 149 votes on March 12 and by 230 votes on Jan. 15.
To get it passed, she must win over at least 75 MPs: dozens of rebels in her Conservative Party, some Labour MPs, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.
The Sunday Times reported 11 unidentified ministers agreed May should stand down, warning she has become a toxic and erratic figure whose judgment has “gone haywire”.
Brexit had been due to happen on March 29 before May secured a delay in talks with the EU.
Now a departure date of May 22 will apply if parliament passes May’s deal. If she fails, Britain will have until April 12 to offer a new plan or decide to leave without a treaty.
Some lawmakers have asked May to name her departure date as the price for supporting her deal.
Lawmakers are due on Monday to debate the government’s next steps on Brexit, including the delayed exit date. They have proposed changes, or amendments, including one which seeks to wrest control of the process from the government in order to hold votes on alternative ways forward.
Amendments are not legally binding, but do exert political pressure on May to change course.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton)
FILE PHOTO: Robert Mueller, as FBI director, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight on Capitol Hill in Washington June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
March 22, 2019
By Karen Freifeld and Nathan Layne
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election arrived for work each day, they placed their mobile phones in a locker outside of their office suite before entering.
Operating in secrecy in a nondescript glass-and-concrete office, the team of prosecutors and investigators since May 2017 has unearthed secrets that have led to bombshell charges against several of President Donald Trump’s aides, including his former national security adviser, campaign chairman and personal lawyer, who have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury.
To protect those secrets from prying ears, the whole of the office suite in southwest Washington was designated a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), U.S. spy speak for an area that has restrictions to ensure secret information stays secure.
One common restriction in SCIFs is to keep out smartphones and other electronic devices, which can be turned into covert listening devices or spy cameras. Visitors were also required to turn these over before entering.
The restrictions, while not surprising given the team was investigating whether a hostile foreign power tried to help Trump win the 2016 election and whether his campaign conspired in the effort, have not been previously reported.
Accounts of witnesses interviewed by the special counsel’s team, their lawyers and others familiar with the investigation reveal the lengths to which Mueller, a former FBI director, went to ensure his high-profile probe safeguarded its secrets.
In a city known for its leaks, Mueller pulled off a rare feat. He kept a tight lid on both his office and the evidence he was amassing in his highly sensitive investigation that has cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency. And he did it even as Trump relentlessly criticized him, calling the probe a “witch hunt” and the special counsel’s team “thugs.”
THE ADVISER AND THE DODGE CHARGER
When former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo agreed to an interview with Mueller in May 2018, he was told he would be picked up at the hotel where he was staying in Washington. On the lookout for a black government SUV, Caputo and his lawyer were surprised when an FBI agent drove up in his personal car, a white Dodge Charger.
“Then he drove us 15 blocks to their location and we went in through the garage so that nobody would see,” Caputo said in an interview.
Caputo was questioned about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Manafort’s aide Rick Gates and long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone. When the interview was over, Mueller’s team told him they would take him back to his hotel. Caputo said Mueller’s team was not happy with what he said next.
“I said I’m meeting a TV crew downstairs so I won’t need a ride,” Caputo said. “They weren’t upset that I was talking to the media, they were disturbed that I was doing it in (front of) the office.”
“They were concerned … that would put their agents and attorneys at risk,” Caputo said, adding that he agreed to meet the news crew at a different location nearby.
Former Trump campaign advisor Sam Nunberg said an FBI agent picked him up at the train station to take him to the office.
“You put your phone and any electronic devices and leave them in a compartment out front,” Nunberg added. “It was a very plain office.”
Nunberg said he went into a conference room with three tables, and prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, a member of Mueller’s team, came in with three FBI agents, one female and two males.
The office’s location was not publicly revealed but was discovered by journalists. Still, it has not been widely publicized. Mueller’s team has asked media outlets not to publish the exact location for security purposes.
“We are working in a secure location in Southwest DC,” Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, has said.
STAYING OUT OF THE NEWS
“In a town where everybody and their mother is trying to get on the front page, Bob Mueller was always trying to stay out of the news,” said Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department spokesman. “He wanted to be judged on actions, not press conferences.”
Corallo, who was briefly a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, was interviewed by Mueller’s team in February 2018.
Corallo and other witnesses summoned for interviews by Mueller’s team said they were picked up from their lawyers’ offices and taken to a secure parking garage in the building in southwest Washington.
The team’s office suite was anonymous with no plaque on the door to identify its occupants, said Washington lawyer A. Joseph Jay, who represented a witness he declined to identify.
More than once, Jay recalled, members of Mueller’s team expressed their commitment to confidentiality. “They made it clear on a number of occasions, ‘We don’t leak. You don’t have to worry about that with us.’”
“By keeping to their code of silence, they were professionals,” Jay said. “They weren’t reacting to the spin. They were doing their jobs. They spoke through a number of indictments. They spoke through a number of sentencing memos.”
Mueller has remained silent throughout the investigation and his office has issued only one statement. In that statement, issued this past January, spokesman Carr labeled as “not accurate” a BuzzFeed News account describing evidence collected by the special counsel that allegedly showed that Trump had directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal. BuzzFeed has stood by its story.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, himself a former federal prosecutor, also remarked on Mueller staying out of sight.
“Whenever we talk to them, they say, ‘We’ll take it to Bob.’ He’s like the Wizard of Oz,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani said although he was suspicious of leaks to the news media, he acknowledged he knew of none for sure from the special counsel’s team and that nothing he told Mueller’s office was leaked.
“Mueller doesn’t talk to us. I don’t know why he’d talk to the press,” the former New York mayor added.
Joseph Campbell, a former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division who worked at the agency when Mueller headed it, said the special counsel knows how to handle sensitive investigations and ignores the attacks on him.
“He went through 12 years starting with 9/11 of extremely critical and sensitive investigations around the world,” said Campbell, referring to the 2001 attacks on the United States. “This is right in his wheelhouse.”
“He is not affected by external criticism or speculation,” Campbell added.
Robert Litt, former general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said any leaks about the investigation appeared to have come from witnesses or their lawyers.
“There’s nothing he can do about that,” Litt said, referring to Mueller.
Litt said Mueller, the 74-year-old former U.S. Marine Corps officer and architect of the modern FBI, probably “cares little about the public perception of him.”
“He cares,” Litt said, “about doing the job right.”
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Nathan Layne; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham and Ross Colvin)
Former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the salacious dossier about President Donald Trump, admitted in a deposition that he used unverified sources for some of the information contained in the document.
CNN reported on a deposition Steele gave last summer, in which he said he used material gathered from CNN iReport stories. CNN iReport was a citizen journalist arm of the news network that relied on users submitting stories and multimedia content.
Steele admitted to using information he found via internet searches to compile information about Russian company Webzilla, its parent company XBT, and XBT CEO Aleksej Gubarev. The Steele dossier, which was first published by BuzzFeed in January 2017, claimed that Webzilla was working with the Russian government to help conduct cyber operations and interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Steele said during the deposition that he believed the content he read on CNN iReport had "some kind of CNN status. Albeit that it may be an independent person posting on the site."
When asked whether he knew the content on the site had no connection to CNN reporters, Steele replied, "I do not."
Reaction to Steele's admission has been swift. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted, "The author of the fake Russia dossier — paid for by Hillary and the DNC and used to launch the witch hunt against President @realDonaldTrump — now admits he relied on claims posted by a random person on a CNN site 'not edited, fact-checked or screened.'"
Trump himself weighed in as well, tweeting, "Report: Christopher Steele backed up his Democrat & Crooked Hillary paid for Fake & Unverified Dossier with information he got from “send in watchers” of low ratings CNN. This is the info that got us the Witch Hunt!"
Source: NewsMax Politics
The infamous dossier compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele was apparently right — and wrong — about Russian attempts to hack the Democratic Party leadership in 2016, The New York Times reported.
In a report unsealed in Miami on Thursday, a former FBI cyber expert found evidence suggesting Russian agents used cut-rate Internet service providers operated by entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev to start a hacking operation during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Times reported.
But a big difference between the report and the Steele dossier, the Times noted, is the report did not directly link Gubarev or his executives to the 2016 hacking, as was asserted in the Steele dossier.
"I have no evidence of them actually sitting behind a keyboard," the report's author and former FBI agent Anthony Ferrante noted in a deposition, the Times reported.
Gubarev has insisted neither he nor his businesses knowingly took part in the Russian hacking, and filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed, the first news organization to publish the Steele dossier when it became public in January 2017.
The report unsealed Thursday was commissioned by BuzzFeed to fend off Gubarev's suit, the Times reported. The lawsuit was dismissed in December when a court found BuzzFeed's decision to publish was legally protected.
Evan Fray-Witzer, a lawyer for Gubarev, told the Times hackers using a client's servers is hardly unique for a web-hosting company, or any tech company.
"You could say the same thing about Google's infrastructure and Amazon's infrastructure — and no one is accusing them of hacking anyone just because hackers used their infrastructure," he told the Times.
Source: NewsMax America
Mueller declares that BuzzFeed’s Report is #FakeNews and Trump agrees President Trump on Saturday stated he appreciates FBI special advice Robert Mueller releasing a statement disputing parts of a BuzzFeed report claiming Trump routed Michael Cohen to exist to Congress about the timing of discussions over a suggested Trump Tower job in Moscow. ” I […]