Forensic News Roundup: GOP source has been a Russian agent for a decade

September 14, 2020 9:59 am By

GOP source is a Russian agent

The Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker, accusing him of being an “active Russian agent” who is part of Moscow’s interference in the 2020 campaign. Derkach has been actively promoting discredited anti-Biden materials for many months, including meeting with Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to hand over disinformation (picture).

Between May and July 2020, Derkach released edited audio tapes and other unsupported information with the intent to discredit U.S. officials, and he levied unsubstantiated allegations against U.S. and international political figures

These tapes were laundered through Giuliani to OANN, the Senate Homeland Security Committee (via Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson), Don Jr., and the president himself.

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) called out Sen. Johnson and Sen. Chuck Grassley (Chair of Senate Finance Cmte.) for collaborating with Derkach:

Derkach has been central in advancing the Russian disinformation that underpins Senate Republicans’ effort to smear Vice President Biden. For example, in April, the Republican chairmen of the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs and Finance Committees requested information about purported calls between Vice President Biden and Ukrainian officials. Then in May edited excerpts of those same calls involving Biden were leaked by Derkach and Andrii Telizhenko, the Senate Republicans’ star witness.

…Senate investigations should not parrot conspiracy theories pushed by Russian agents under U.S. sanctions, and Senate Republicans should immediately abandon this blatantly political effort.


DHS Whistleblower

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee released a whistleblower complaint made by former acting Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy. Chairman Adam Schiff released a statement saying the complaint “outlines grave and disturbing allegations that senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials improperly sought to politicize, manipulate, and censor intelligence in order to benefit President Trump politically.”

On Russia

Page 10: Mr. Murphy made several protected disclosures between March 2018 and August 2020 regarding a repeated pattern of abuse of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis and improper administration of an intelligence program related to Russian efforts to influence and undermine United States interests. The relevant officials at issue were Secretary Nielsen and Messrs. Wolf, Cuccinelli, Taylor, and Acting Deputy Director for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Kash Patel (“Mr. Patel”).

In May 2020, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Murphy to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.” Wolf told Murphy those instructions came directly from White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, according to Murphy, who said he refused to comply because “doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.”

In July 2020, DHS chief of staff John Gountanis intervened to stop publication of an intelligence bulletin warning about a Russian disinformation plot to “denigrate” the mental health of Joe Biden. On July 8, Murphy said, he met with Wolf, who told him that the intelligence notification should be “held” because it “made the President look bad.” After Murphy protested, Wolf excluded him from meetings about the notification, a draft of which was ultimately produced that Murphy felt minimized the actions of Russia.

The complaint details dozens of instances in which Murphy told his superiors about the abuses of power and political interference. The complaints either went nowhere or resulted in perceived retaliatory actions against Murphy. Many of these complaints were given to Kash Patel, former staffer to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who played a key role in a Republican effort to discredit Mueller’s and the FBI’s Russia probes.

  • Related: NSC’s top legislative affairs official, Virginia Boney, was removed and sent to the Commerce Department earlier this year because she kept pressing the White House to prioritize election security efforts — and specifically the threat posed by Russia. To date, there have been no traditional NSC Principals Committee meetings — with senior Cabinet officials and the president — on the subject of Russian interference this year.

On white supremacy

Page 14: During multiple meetings between the end of May 2020 and July 31, 2020, Mr. Murphy made protected disclosures to Messrs. Wolf and Cuccinelli regarding abuse of authority and improper administration of an intelligence program with respect to intelligence information on ANTIFA and “anarchist” groups operating throughout the United States.

Murphy alleges that Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli ordered him to modify intelligence assessments to make the threat of white supremacy “appear less severe” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups and Antifa. The reason given was “to ensure they matched up with the public comments by President Trump on the subject of ANTIFA and ‘anarchist’ groups.”

After Murphy refused to change a draft report warning of the threat posed by White supremacists, Wolf and Cuccinelli reportedly stopped the report from being finished.

On immigration and asylum

In Dec. 2019, Cuccinelli expressed frustration with intelligence reports detailing conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and accused “deep-state intelligence analysts” of compiling the information to undermine Trump’s objectives regarding asylum.

Page 9: The intelligence reports were designed to help asylum officers render better determinations regarding their legal standards… Mr. Murphy defended the work in the reports, but Mr. Cuccinelli stated he wanted changes to the information outlining high levels of corruption, violence, and poor economic conditions in the three respective countries…

Mr. Cuccinelli ordered Messrs. Murphy and [former I&A Under Secretary David] Glawe to identify the names of the “deep state” individuals who compiled the intelligence reports and to either fire or reassign them immediately.

Murphy also alleges that DHS gave false information to Congress last year about the numbers of suspected terrorists crossing the southern border. At the time, administration officials were repeating a 4,000 figure in an effort to justify the government shutdown over Trump’s border wall. The true number was actually six. A DHS spokeswoman pressured NBC to take down a story exposing the lie last year.

Response

Chairman Schiff has subpoenaed Murphy to testify before the Intelligence Cmte. on September 21. The Cmte. also seeks to interview high-level DHS officials including Matthew Hanna, chief of staff in Murphy’s former post at DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis; the office’s top official, Horace Jen; DHS chief of staff John Gountanis; and his deputy, Tyler Houlton.

The Senate Intelligence Cmte. issued a bipartisan request for all of the intelligence analyses that Murphy referenced in his complaint, as well as any notes and materials that fed into them. The House Homeland Security Cmte. issued a subpoena for testimony from Wolf at a hearing on Sept. 17, but DHS says that Wolf will not comply and offers Cuccinelli to testify instead. Also scheduled to be at the hearing: FBI Director Christopher Wray and Christopher Miller of the National Counterterrorism Center.


Russia still interfering

Facebook recently took down accounts and pages associated with a Russian influence operation posing as an independent news outlet. The operation published content described as “an attempt to build a left-wing audience and steer it away from Biden’s campaign, in the same way that the original IRA [Internet Research Agency] tried to depress progressive and minority support for Hillary Clinton in 2016.”

  • The same Russian operation tried and failed to infiltrate left-wing media outlets such as Jacobin, Truthout, and In These Times.

Bob Woodward reported that“the NSA and CIA have classified evidence the Russians had placed malware in the election registration systems of at least two Florida counties, St. Lucie and Washington. While there was no evidence the malware had been activated, Woodward writes, it was sophisticated and could erase voters in specific districts.”

  • Woodward’s book also notes that former director of national intelligence Dan Coats has “deep suspicions” that Russian President Vladimir Putin “had something” on President Trump, seeing “no other explanation” for the president’s behavior.

Microsoft alerted SKDKnickerbocker, one of Biden’s main election campaign advisory firms, that suspected Russian state-backed hackers had gone after the company with a failed phishing attack.


DOJ, politicization, and resignations

A top aide to Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, federal prosecutor Nora Dennehy, resigned from the Justice Department and Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. Dannehy reportedly resigned “at least partly out of concern” that Trump and AG Barr were exerting improper political pressure on the team to release results before the November election.

Several officials said expectations had been growing in the White House and Congress that Mr. Barr would make public, ahead of the election, some kind of interim report or list of findings from Mr. Durham before he completed the investigation. Mr. Barr had wanted Mr. Durham’s team to move quickly, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Trump has publicly expressed impatience with the Durham investigation, saying there should be more prosecutions and disclosures of information that would damage his political rivals. “Bill Barr has the chance to be the greatest of all time, but if he wants to be politically correct, he’ll be just another guy, because he knows all the answers, he knows what they have, and it goes right to Obama and it goes right to Biden,” Trump said (clip).

Last month, Barr predicted “significant developments in the probe before the election” (clip) and he indicated the DOJ would not respect an informal policy against taking investigative steps 60 days before Election Day. It was for this exact reason that the Trump administration claimed it fired former FBI Director James Comey.

On Tuesday’s Fox News, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows appeared to claim that he has seen documents—relevant to U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe of the origins of the Russia investigation—which implicate several Trump and Obama administration officials in potentially illegal conduct.

  • Further reading: “Dannehy Resignation Confirms Barr’s Intent to Use Durham Probe for Political Ends,” Just Security.

Two other DOJ officials resigned last week:

Prosecutor John Choi resigned from Trump’s law enforcement commission after expressing “serious” concerns that the intention of the commission was not to bridge the gap between communities of color and law enforcement.

Choi, a Democrat, said in his resignation letter that “it is now patently obvious … that this process had no intention of engaging in a thoughtful and open analysis, but was intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past, furthering failed tough-on-crime policies that led to our current mass incarceration crisis and fueling divisions between our communities and our police officers.”

Deputy Assistant AG David Morrell resigned on Friday, withdrawing from cases defending the government’s position on issues including the Census and the Portland protests.


The courts

A three-judge panel blocked the Trump administration from excluding undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census for apportionment. Trump’s order violates a statue saying apportionment must be based on everyone who is a resident of the United States.

District Judge Lucy Koh ordered the Trump admin. to produce internal documents connected to its sudden decision to end the 2020 Census count a month earlier. Two weeks ago, Koh temporarily blocked the bureau from winding down the count until a hearing set for Sept. 17.

Court-appointed adviser and retired judge John Gleeson slammed the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case against Michael Flynn, calling it a “corrupt and politically motivated favor.” A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Sept. 29.

“In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty — twice, before two different judges — and whose guilt is obvious,” Gleeson wrote.

“Yet that is exactly what has unfolded here,” he added.

A judge denied a bid to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Trump’s inaugural committee and the Trump Organization misused nonprofit funds to enrich the president’s family business. The suit, brought by Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine in January, alleges that the president’s inaugural committee was aware that it was being overcharged for services at Trump’s Washington hotel in 2017 and still spent over $1 million at the hotel.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced two settlements totaling $583,100 with Deutsche Bank to resolve investigations into violations of Ukraine-related sanctions. The resolution came as the bank hired “an old friend” of AG Barr to “help the bank navigate the political waters in Washington.”


Trump profiting

Federal spending records show that taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. At least $570,000 came as a result of the president’s travel.

In addition to the rentals at Mar-a-Lago, the documents show that the Trump Organization charged daily “resort fees” to Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Pence in Las Vegas and in another instance asked agents to pay a $1,300 “furniture removal charge” during a presidential visit to a Trump resort in Scotland.

Additionally, the Trump Organization has received at least $3.8 million in fees from GOP groups for headlining a political event at one of his properties.

Last month, the Trump Organization received approval for a new trademark in Argentina, the third one in the country. Last November, Trump may have altered U.S. foreign policy to assist his company in obtaining approval for the two previous trademarks. “Shortly after the trademark opposition period ended in April 2018, the Trump administration lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum in Argentina. Once the trademarks were officially granted to his company in November of last year, Trump announced that he would reinstate the tariffs.”

Somehow, Ivanka Trump’s fashion business is still making money despite being shutdown. According to her latest financial disclosures, “All operations of the business ceased on July 31, 2018.” Also according to her latest financial disclosures, she made at least six figures from the trust holding that business in 2019.

We – American taxpayers – footed the bill for “anti-scale fencing” along the perimeter of the White House this summer. The wall, ostensibly to protect Trump from protesters, cost over $1 million. Trump has a history of charging taxpayers for barriers around his properties, including $17,000 for fencing around Mar-a-Lago and $12,000 for “privacy fencing” around Trump International golf resort.


Immigration news

About 8,800 unaccompanied children have been quickly expelled from the United States along the Mexico border under a pandemic-related measure that effectively ended asylum. In total, the Trump administration has expelled more than 159,000 people since March.

ICE officers on the West Coast wanted to suppress Black Lives Matter protests in DC. But they aren’t allowed to travel on charter flights without detainees on board. So they brought some detainees with them. In the process, they fueled a massive, deadly COVID outbreak at the Virginia facility that infected over 300 detainees, killing one.

The Pentagon is restarting many domestic projects that were plundered by Trump for money to pay for his border wall. The decision to revive these domestic projects has provided cover for Republican senators who were criticized when their home states lost military construction projects to the president’s wall.


Miscellaneous

Corruption: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is bringing back his extravagant, taxpayer-funded “Madison Dinners.”

Corruption: Medicaid chief Seema Verma has charged taxpayers $6 million in less than two years for expensive consultants, organizers, and events. The Republican consultants were paid by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to work on Verma’s personal image, obtain profiles and coverage from friendly reporters, escort her during travel, write opinion articles, and even draft her Twitter posts.

Corruption: The Trump administration secretly withheld millions of dollars from a program for 9/11 first responders.

Corruption: “Ukraine gas company to add Rick Perry pick to board” and “Rick Perry’s Ukrainian Dream

Protests: Trump endorsed the extrajudicial killing of the suspect in a deadly Portland, Oregon, shooting. . “This guy was a violent criminal, and the US Marshals killed him,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. “And I will tell you something, that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution” (clip).

Protests: A witness claims that the Portland suspect, Michael Forest Reinoehl, was not armed and was shot by officers without any warning.

Rightwing: “QAnon fans spread fake claims about real fires in Oregon” and “’Do not take action yourselves’: Multnomah Co. Sheriff’s Office warns of illegal ‘checkpoints’ ”

Rightwing: Mark Zuckerberg says it’s “just wrong” to consider Facebook a right-wing echo chamber driven by conservative voices. But data from his own company shows that’s exactly what Facebook is.

Environment: David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Environment: How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled. Your plastic will not be recycled.

Environment: Trump’s Fire Sale of Public Lands for Oil and Gas Drillers: The Bureau of Land Management is rushing to auction off sites ahead of a potential Biden presidency.

World: The Iranian government is considering assassinating the US ambassador to South Africa in response to the killing earlier this year of Qassem Soleimani, according to highly classified intel reports. The plot against the ambassador, Lana Marks, is one of several options US officials believe Iran is considering for retaliation over Soleimani’s death.

  • Woodward reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham urged Trump not to assassinate Suleimani while on the golf course with the president. Graham warned Trump he would be raising the stakes from “playing $10 blackjack to $10,000-a-hand blackjack”. “This is over the top,” the senator said. “How about hitting someone a level below Suleimani, which would be much easier for everyone to absorb?”

World: Read some of the “love letters” Kim Jong Un sent to Trump.

World: Woodward also reported that Trump boasted that he protected Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder. “I saved his ass,” Trump said. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”



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