6:36 AM 12/3/2017 – Defense forum in Simi Valley: Two CIA directors spar over President Trump’s tweets

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Two CIA directors spar over President Trump’s tweets – Los Angeles Times
 

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Two CIA directors spar over President Trump’s tweets
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CIA chief Pompeo says he warned Iran’s Soleimani over Iraq aggression
 

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December 2, 2017 / 11:38 PM / Updated 4 hours ago

CIA chief Pompeo says he warned Iran’s Soleimani over Iraq aggression

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (Reuters) – U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he sent a letter to Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and Iranian leaders expressing concern regarding Iran’s increasingly threatening behavior in Iraq.

Speaking during a panel at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in Southern California, Pompeo said he sent the letter after the senior Iranian military commander had indicated that forces under his control might attack U.S. forces in Iraq. He did not specify the date.

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“What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold he and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control,” Pompeo told the panel.

“We wanted to make sure he and the leadership in Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear.”

Soleimani, who is the commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, refused to open the letter, according to Pompeo, who took over the CIA in January.

Iranian media earlier quoted Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying an unnamed CIA contact had tried to give a letter to Soleimani when he was in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal in November during the fighting against Islamic State.

“I will not take your letter nor read it and I have nothing to say to these people,” Golpayegani quoted Soleimani as saying, according to the semi-official news agency Fars.

Reuters reported in October that Soleimani had repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw from the oil city of Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed fighters, and had traveled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region to meet Kurdish leaders.

The presence of Soleimani on the frontlines highlights Tehran’s heavy sway over policy in Iraq, and comes as Shi‘ite Iran seeks to win a proxy war in the Middle East with its regional rival and U.S. ally, Sunni Saudi Arabia.

A U.S.-led coalition has been fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and is often in proximity to Iran-allied militia fighting Isis there.

“You need to only look to the past few weeks and the efforts of the Iranians to exert influence now in Northern Iraq in addition to other places in Iraq to see that Iranian efforts to be the hegemonic power throughout the Middle East continues to increase,” Pompeo said.

The CIA chief said Saudi Arabia had grown more willing to share intelligence with other Middle Eastern nations regarding Iran and Islamist extremism.

The Israeli government said last month that Israel had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia amid common concerns over Iran, a first disclosure by a senior official from either country of long-rumoured secret dealings.

“We’ve seen them work with the Israelis to push back against terrorism throughout the Middle East, to the extent we can continue to develop those relationships and work alongside them – the Gulf states and broader Middle East will likely be more secure,” said Pompeo.

Writing by Michelle Price in WASHINGTON, additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mary Milliken and Michael Perry

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FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Thursday that adversarial governments are more often collaborating with criminals to carryout cyber attacks against the United States.

Wray said the indictment of a Canadian national who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to helping Russian spies hack into Yahoo email accounts reflect “one of the more dangerous, emerging threats” facing the United States today, known in the intelligence community as a “blended threat.”

“We are seeing an emergence of that kind of collaboration,” Wray testified before the House Homeland Security Committee, noting that until recently governments and criminals worked separately. “Now there’s this collusion, if you will, that’s occurring on a number of instances like mercenaries being used to commit cyber attacks.”

The Justice Department announced charges in March against Karim Baratov, a 22-year-old Canadian citizen, and three other men, including two officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, for their involvement in the 2014 hack into Yahoo that affected 500 million accounts.

U.S. law enforcement officials said Baratov, who they dubbed a “hacker-for-hire,” acknowledged breaking into email accounts and selling the passwords to an agent of the FSB, a Russian intelligence agency.

The individuals targeted included Russian officials, a European diplomat, a former economic minister from a neighboring country, and a prominent banker.

The case confirmed longstanding suspicions that Russia’s government hires non-government hackers and uses its spy services to facilitate criminal activity in addition to conducting espionage.

Wray, who President Donald Trump handpicked to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey in June, said Russia is attempting to assert its dominance in the world by relying on asymmetric warfare to “damage and weaken” the United States

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Inside the secretive nerve center of the Mueller investigation – The Washington Post
 

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Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has already interviewed two dozen current and former Trump aides, according to people familiar with the investigation. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

A white sedan whisked a man into the loading dock of a glass and concrete building in a drab office district in Southwest Washington. Security guards quickly waved the vehicle inside, then pushed a button that closed the garage door and shielded the guest’s arrival from public view.

With his stealth morning arrival Thursday, White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II became the latest in a string of high-level witnesses to enter the secretive nerve center of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Twenty hours later, Mueller and his team emerged into public view to rattle Washington with the dramatic announcement that former national security adviser Michael Flynn would plead guilty to lying to the FBI.

The ensnaring of Flynn, the second former aide to President Trump to cooperate with the inquiry, serves as the latest indication that Mueller’s operation is rapidly pursuing an expansive mission, drilling deeper into Trump’s inner circle.

In the past two months, Mueller and his deputies have received private debriefs from two dozen current and former Trump advisers, each of whom has made the trek to the special counsel’s secure office suite.

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The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips discusses what likely caused Michael Flynn to flip on his old boss.

The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips talks about what likely caused President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, to flip on his old boss and cooperate with the Mueller investigation. (Jason Aldag, Amber Phillips/The Washington Post)

Once inside, most witnesses are seated in a windowless conference room where two- and three-person teams of FBI agents and prosecutors rotate in and out, pressing them for answers.

Among the topics that have been of keen interest to investigators: how foreign government officials and their emissaries contacted Trump officials, as well as the actions and interplay of Flynn and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.

Often listening in is the special counsel himself, a sphinx-like presence who sits quietly along the wall for portions of key interviews.

This picture of Mueller’s operation — drawn from descriptions of witnesses, lawyers and others briefed on the interviews — provides a rare look inside the high-stakes investigation that could implicate Trump’s circle and determine the future of his presidency.

The locked-down nature of the probe has left both the witnesses and the public scrutinizing every move of the special counsel for meaning, without any certainty about the full scope of his investigation.

Trump and his lawyers have expressed confidence that Mueller will swiftly conclude his examination of the White House, perhaps even by the year’s end. Trump’s Democratic opponents hope the investigation will uncover more crimes and ultimately force the president’s removal from office.

Meanwhile, some witnesses who have been interviewed came away with the impression that the probe is unfolding and far from over.

“When they were questioning me, it seemed like they were still trying to get a feel of the basic landscape of the place,” said one witness who was questioned in late October for several hours and, like others, requested anonymity to describe the confidential sessions. “I didn’t get the sense they had anything incriminating on the president. Nor were they anywhere close to done.”

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment, citing the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation.

White House lawyer Ty Cobb said he believes the probe’s focus on Trump’s White House is wrapping up, noting that all White House staffer interviews will be completed by the end of next week.

“At the end of the interviews, it would be reasonable to expect that it would not take long to bring this to conclusion,” Cobb said. “I commend the Office of Special Counsel for their acknowledged hard work on behalf of the country, to undertake this serious responsibility, and to perform it in an expedited but deliberate, thorough way.”

At least two dozen people who traveled in Trump’s orbit in 2016 and 2017 — on the campaign trail, in his transition operation and then in the White House — have been questioned in the past 10 weeks, according to people familiar with the interviews.

The most high profile is Kushner, who met with Mueller’s team in November, as well as former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer. Former foreign policy adviser J.D. Gordon has also been interviewed.

White House communications director Hope Hicks was scheduled to sit down with Mueller’s team a few days before Thanksgiving. Mueller’s team has also indicated plans to interview senior associate White House counsel James Burnham and policy adviser Stephen Miller.

McGahn, who was interviewed by Mueller’s prosecutors for a full day Thursday, was scheduled to return Friday to complete his interview. However, the special counsel postponed the session as a courtesy to allow McGahn to help the White House manage the response to Flynn’s plea, a person familiar with the interview said.

Cobb declined to say which White House aides remain to be interviewed.

Several people who worked shoulder to shoulder with Flynn have also been interviewed by Mueller’s operation. That includes retired Gen. Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff to the National Security Council, as well as several people who worked with Flynn Intel Group, a now-shuttered private consulting firm.

Mueller’s group has also inquired whether Flynn recommended specific foreign meetings to senior aides, including Kushner. Investigators were particularly interested in how certain foreign officials got on Kushner’s calendar and the discussions that Flynn and Kushner had about those encounters, according to people familiar with the questions.

During the transition, Kushner and Flynn met with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. At the early December meeting, Kushner suggested establishing a secure communications line between Trump officials and the Kremlin at a Russian diplomatic facility, according to U.S. officials who reviewed intelligence reports describing Kislyak’s account.

Kushner has said that Kislyak sought the secure line as a way for Russian generals to communicate to the incoming administration about U.S. policy on Syria.

Trump’s son-in-law has also been identified by people familiar with his role as the “very senior member” of the transition team who directed Flynn in December to reach out to Kislyak and lobby him about a U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements, according to new court filings.

The volume of questions about Kushner in their interviews surprised some witnesses.

“I remember specifically being asked about Jared a number of times,” said one witness.

Another witness said agents and prosecutors repeatedly asked him about Trump’s decision-making during the May weekend he decided to fire FBI Director James B. Comey. Prosecutors inquired whether Kushner had pushed the president to jettison Comey, according to two people familiar with the interview.

Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell declined to comment on what the president’s son-in-law discussed at his November session with Mueller. “Mr. Kushner has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so,” he said.

Two administration officials said that it would be natural for investigators to ask a lot of questions about Kushner, whom Trump put in charge of communicating with foreign officials, adding that such inquiries do not indicate he is a target.

The special counsel has continued to make ongoing requests for records from associates of the Trump campaign, according to two people familiar with the requests. The campaign associates aren’t expected to finish producing these documents by the end of the year. Mueller’s team is also newly scrutinizing an Alexandria-based office and advisers who worked there on foreign policy for the campaign.

In the past several weeks, Mueller’s operation has reached out to new witnesses in Trump’s circle, telling them they may be asked to come in for an interview. One person who was recently contacted said it is hard to find a lawyer available for advice on how to interact with the special counsel because so many Trump aides have already hired attorneys.

“It was kind of a pain,” the person said. “It’s hard to find a lawyer who wasn’t already conflicted out.”

People who have gone before Mueller’s team describe polite but detailed and intense grillings that at times have lasted all day and involved more than a dozen investigators. Spicer, for example, was in the office from about 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. for his fall session. Mueller’s team has recommended nearby lunch spots, but many witnesses have food brought in for fear of being spotted if they go outside.

Mueller has attended some interviews, introducing himself to witnesses when he enters and then sitting along the wall. Sometimes he is joined by his deputy, longtime friend and law partner James Quarles, a former Watergate prosecutor who is the main point of contact for the White House.

Investigators bring large binders filled with emails and documents into the interview room. One witness described the ricochet of questions that followed each time an agent passed them a copy of an email they had been copied on: “Do you remember this email? How does the White House work? How does the transition work? Who was taking the lead on foreign contacts? How did that work? Who was involved in this decision? Who was there that weekend?”

Some witnesses were introduced to so many federal agents and lawyers that they later lamented that they had largely forgotten many of their names by the time one team left the room and a new team entered.

“They say, ‘Hey, we’re not trying to be rude, but people are going to come in and out a lot,’ ” one witness explained about the teams. “They kind of cycle in and out of the room.”

One contingent of investigators is focused on whether Trump tried to obstruct justice and head off the investigation into Russian meddling by firing Comey in May. Prosecutors Brandon Van Grack and Jeannie Rhee have been involved in matters related to Flynn.

Yet another team is led by the former head of the Justice Department’s fraud prosecutions, Andrew Weissman, and foreign bribery expert Greg Andres. Those investigators queried lobbyists from some of the most powerful lobby shops in town about their interactions with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign adviser Rick Gates.

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Mueller’s team charged Manafort and Gates last month with engaging in a conspiracy to hide millions of dollars in hidden foreign accounts and secretly creating an elaborate cover story to conceal their lobbying work for a former Ukrainian president and his pro-Russia political party. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Lawyers familiar with prosecutors’ questions about Manafort said they expect several more charges to come from this portion of the case.

People familiar with the Mueller team said they convey a sense of calm that is unsettling.

“These guys are confident, impressive, pretty friendly — joking a little, even,” one lawyer said. When prosecutors strike that kind of tone, he said, defense lawyers tend to think: “Uh oh, my guy is in a heap of trouble.”

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

Inside the secretive nerve center of the Mueller investigation – Washington Post
 

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Inside the secretive nerve center of the Mueller investigation
Washington Post
A white sedan whisked a man into the loading dock of a glass and concrete building in a drab office district in Southwest Washington. Security guards quickly waved the vehicle inside, then pushed a button that closed the garage door and shielded the 
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Trump Says ‘Absolutely No Collusion’ With Russia After Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty
 

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The former national security adviser may testify that a senior member of Trump’s transition team told him to contact Russia about an upcoming United Nations vote.

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He helped lead the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information on her private email account, and then played a major role in the investigation into links between President Trump’s campaign and Russia. But Mr. Strzok was 
NYT: Mueller Pulled Top FBI Agent After Anti-Trump Texts SurfaceNewsmaxall 311 news articles »

Mike Flynn – Google News: Trump says Michael Flynn’s actions during transition were ‘lawful’ and ‘there was nothing to hide’ – CNBC
 

mikenova shared this story from 1. Trump Investigation – Mike Flynn from mikenova (9 sites).


CNBC
Trump says Michael Flynn’s actions during transition were ‘lawful’ and ‘there was nothing to hide’
CNBC
Earlier, Trump told reporters that there was “no collusion” with Russia, in spite of Flynn entering a guilty plea on Friday. The former White House official confessed to lying to the FBI about discussions he held with a Russian ambassador. However 
Trump was reportedly told to stay away from Twitter after Mike Flynn’s plea deal was revealedAOL
Donald Trump Says He ‘Had to Fire’ Michael Flynn Because He LiedTIME
Trump finally responds to the Mike Flynn bombshell and his comments couldn’t be more clearTheBlaze.com
Washington Examiner –Fox News
all 311 news articles »

 Mike Flynn – Google News

Top FBI official assigned to Mueller’s Russia probe said to have been removed after sending anti-Trump texts – Washington Post
 

mikenova shared this story from Elections 2016 Investigation – Google News.


USA TODAY
Top FBI official assigned to Mueller’s Russia probe said to have been removed after sending anti-Trump texts
Washington Post
The former top FBI official assigned to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election was taken off that job this past summer after his bosses discovered he and another member of Mueller’s team had exchanged 
Mueller Removed Top FBI Agent Over Possible Anti-Trump TextsNew York Times
Flynn plea raises questions on how Trump could reactCNN
FBI agent assigned to Russia investigation removed after anti-Trump textsUSA TODAY
The Spokesman-Review –Fox News –Newsmax
all 331 news articles »
FBI removed agent from Russia probe for anti-Trump messages – The Daily Freeman
 

mikenova shared this story from Trump FBI file – Google News.

FBI removed agent from Russia probe for anti-Trump messages
The Daily Freeman
FBI removed agent from Russia probe for anti-Trump messages. In this file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill in Washington. As Congress returns from its and more »

Lisa Page and Peter Strzok – Google Search
 

mikenova shared this story from Lisa Page and Peter Strzok – Google News.

Story image for Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from Washington Post

Top FBI official assigned to Mueller’s Russia probe said to have …

Washington Post1 hour ago
Peter Strzok, as deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, was a key player in the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to do … During the Clinton investigation, Strzok was involved in a romantic relationship with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who worked for Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, …

Media image for Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from Business Insider

Business Insider

Media image for Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from The Hill

The Hill

Media image for Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from USA TODAY

USA TODAY

Media image for Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from Fox News

Fox News

Media image for Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from Townhall

Townhall

Media image for Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from CBS News

CBS News

Story image for Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from CBS News

Special counsel attorney departs for FBI

CBS NewsSep 28, 2017
Lisa Page, an attorney who was part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, has left, the special … Peter Strzok, who was chief of the FBI counterespionage unit that was involved in overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private …

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