Many opinions on Mueller statement on Russian interference investigation

Perhaps the most important comment from Robert Mueller, but largely lost in the noise:

And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments: That there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American.

Of course Donald Trump has an opinion on the Mueller statement.

And of course that totally misrepresents what Mueller said.

We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so.

We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to the Volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing department policy, a president can not be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited.

The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.

And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.

Here is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Full Statement

And a range of opinions:

Shame on Robert Mueller Alan Dershowitz, The Hill
True to Form, Mueller Delivers the Facts Frank Montoya, New York Daily News
Mr. Mueller, We Need to Hear More Robert De Niro, New York Times
Jim Comey & Robert Mueller: Two Peas in a Pod Julie Kelly, American Greatness

 

 

Russian influence in 2016 US election a social media facilitated democratic and social war

Foreign interference in a country’s election is a serious matter. A US Senate Intelligence Committee report details Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election using social media.

NY Times: Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans on Social Media

The Russian influence campaign on social media in the 2016 election made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans, used an array of tactics to try to suppress turnout among Democratic voters and unleashed a blizzard of activity on Instagram that rivaled or exceeded its posts on Facebook, according to a report produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The report adds new details to the portrait that has emerged over the last two years of the energy and imagination of the Russian effort to sway American opinion and divide the country, which the authors said continues to this day.

“Active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms,” says the report, produced by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Texas, along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research LLC. One continuing Russian campaign, for instance, seeks to influence opinion on Syria by promoting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president and a Russian ally in the brutal conflict there.

The New Knowledge report, which was obtained by The New York Times in advance of its scheduled release on Monday, is one of two commissioned by the Senate committee on a bipartisan basis. They are based largely on data about the Russian operations provided to the Senate by Facebook, Twitter and the other companies whose platforms were used.

The second report was written by the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University along with Graphika, a company that specializes in analyzing social media. The Washington Post first reported on the Oxford report on Sunday.

The Russian influence campaign in 2016 was run by a St. Petersburg company called the Internet Research Agency, owned by a businessman, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who is a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Mr. Prigozhin and a dozen of the company’s employees were indicted last February as part of the investigation of Russian interference by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

So it would seem that Mueller has been doing some important and successful investigations.

Both reports stress that the Internet Research Agency created social media accounts under fake names on virtually every available platform. A major goal was to support Donald Trump, first against his Republican rivals in the presidential race, then in the general election, and as president since his inauguration.

This wasn’t an anti-Democrat pro-Republican campaign of interference in the election, but also a pro-trump anti-Republican opponent campaign. So it started with interference in democratic selection processes of the Republican Party, and once that was successful it became an anti-Hillary Clinton and Anti-Democrat campaign.

US democracy was already in a poor state, dominated by monied interests, but it has now been trashed further by a foreign government.

And because some people got the election outcome the wanted they make excuses and ignore the serious nature of this interference.

The Russian campaign was the subject of Senate hearings last year and has been widely scrutinized by academic experts. The new reports largely confirm earlier findings: that the campaign was designed to attack Hillary Clinton, boost Mr. Trump and exacerbate existing divisions in American society.

The interference aims also included trying to divide and trash US society.

Questions still need to be answered about why Trump was aided in the candidate selection process and the presidential election. There are claims and indications that the Trump side saw financial and power rewards.

Did the Russians see a potential puppet whose strings they could pull to get US policies that favoured Russia? Or did they see an opportunity to diminish the power of the US by dividing their society? Possibly both.

The threats of nuclear war and the standoff of the Cold War are now history. Russia versus the United States has become a social media facilitated democratic and social war.

But Trump is president and that’s all that matters, the end justifies the means?

The problem with this is that the end is nigh, not done and dusted.

US House ‘Intelligence’ memo feud

The US ‘House Intelligence Committee’ is looking increasingly like an oxymoron as the memo feud continues.

On 2 February the White House declassifed and released the ‘Nunes meme’ on the Russian investigation, which was a controversial pro-Republican view.

After some opposition from the White House the House voted in favour of releasing a dissenting Democrat memo, which has just been made public (with security redactions). Immediately following that Republicans a point by point ‘refutation’.

About the only thing being enhanced in all of this is the mayhem and mess.

Full text of the ‘Shiff’ memo: Democrats’ response to the Nunes memo was just released

Vox: The Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo tears it apart

Washington Examiner: Devin Nunes shares ‘point by point’ refutation of Democratic memo

And of course President Trump has again claimed everything vindicates him and he has done nothing wrong. CNN: Trump calls Schiff a ‘bad guy,’ Democratic memo ‘a nothing’

President Donald Trump hit back at top House Intelligence Committee Democrat Adam Schiff in an interview Saturday night, dismissing a Democratic memo on FBI surveillance released earlier in the day as “a nothing.”

“He’ll leak all sorts of information. You know, he’s a bad guy,” Trump said Saturday in an interview on Fox News. “Certainly the memo was a nothing.”

Trump said the Democratic memo “really verifies” the GOP memo.

“A lot of bad things happened on the other side — not on this side but on the other side — and somebody should look into it because what they did is really fraudulent,” Trump said of Democrats.

Later in the interview, Trump argued that there was no collusion between him and Russia.

“I had no phone calls. No meetings. No nothing. There’s no collusion,” Trump said.

That doesn’t rule out possible actions by people working for Trump on his campaign team.

He continued, referring to Hillary Clinton, “I don’t want to sound braggadocious. I was a far better candidate. She was not a good candidate. She went to the wrong states.”

Trump continues to claim his election success was solely due to his modest brilliance as a candidate.

Some details in a convoluted shit fight here: Democratic rebuttal to GOP House Intelligence memo released

Democrats say their memo, spearheaded by ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was written as a rebuttal to provide greater context to a Republican memo that was released earlier this month, which outlines abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department against the Trump campaign, particularly in the write-up and approval of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications to spy on ex-Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

The Democratic memo says in its first page that “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”

It adds, “In fact, DOJ and the FBI would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.

A key point in the GOP memo, put together by Nunes and staff, claims Justice Department and FBI officials used “Trump dossier” author Christopher Steele was played an important role in the initial and all three renewal FISA applications to spy on Page. The dossier from Steele, an ex-British spy, is filled with salacious and unverified claims about President Trump’s ties to Russia. A crucial source of funding for the dossier, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, as well as Steele’s anti-Trump bias were also left out by the DOJ and FBI, the GOP memo alleged, addressing a major area of concern of Republicans and Trump supporters.

The Democratic memo makes the case the that agencies covered themselves appropriately.

“DOJ provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting,” the document says on page four about the FISA renewals.

The Russians don’t need to try to interfere in US democracy, the Americans are making enough of a mess of their own affairs without outside help.

US ‘intelligence’ is taking a hammering.

 

The Russian dirty trick allegations

Details from the Mueller report on what was allegedly done from Russia to disrupt the US elections.

Bloomberg: Mueller Shows How Russians Sowed Discord With Dirty Tricks

The sweeping conspiracy detailed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller exposes the sophistication of Russian efforts to undermine U.S. democracy using social media — and how vulnerable the U.S. remains to foreign intervention ahead of 2018 midterm elections.

In an indictment on Friday, Mueller outlined how scores of workers at a St. Petersburg, Russia, troll farm set out in 2014 to sow discord in the U.S. political system, ultimately by supporting Donald Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton.

Assuming fake American personas on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, they wrote provocative posts on divisive political issues, bought ads, coordinated with unwitting Trump campaign workers and paid U.S. activists to plan rallies.

In detailing the most sweeping foreign electoral interference in U.S. history, the indictment against 13 Russians and three companies takes the conspiracy to the door of Russian President Vladimir Putin — with allegations that the operations were largely financed by a Russian often referred to as “Putin’s cook.”

Mueller, who was appointed last May to investigate Russian meddling in the election, didn’t reveal any collusion by the Trump campaign. Rather, the 37-page indictment focuses on the information war, one strand of a many-pronged investigation by the special counsel’s office.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters the indictment doesn’t allege that the conduct altered the election’s outcome.

Starting around April 2014, the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency — a company widely reported to be a front for Russian government — had more than 80 employees dedicated to “spread[ing] distrust toward U.S. candidates and the political system in general.”

Their primary funding came through Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering, two of the co-defendants. By September 2016, prosecutors say, the agency was submitting a budget of more than $1.25 million a month that Concord paid through bank accounts of more than a dozen affiliates. Concord is headed by Yevgeniy Viktorivich Prigozhin, a Russian restaurateur and caterer known for hosting Putin’s state dinners with foreign dignitaries, prosecutors wrote.

“Americans are very impressionable people, they see what they want to see,” Prigozhin told RIA Novosti. “I have great respect for them. I’m not at all upset that I ended up on this list. If they want to see the devil – let them see it.”

Studying the politics and reach of various groups active on social media, the agency created hundreds of social-media accounts of people meant to look like U.S. “public opinion” leaders. One fake account, @TEN_GOP, attracted more than 100,000 online followers.

Members of the organization worked day and night shifts, circulating a list of U.S. holidays so they could tailor their posts accordingly.

“Specialists were instructed to post content that focused on ‘politics in the USA’ and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except [Bernie] Sanders and Trump — we support them.)’ ” according to the indictment.

Some of the Russians traveled to the U.S. to gather intelligence for the surreptitious campaign, according to the indictment. They used stolen U.S. identities, including fake drivers’ licenses, and contacted news media outlets to promote their activities. They used clandestine methods to communicate and gather information, employing special cameras, “drop phones” and “evacuation scenarios” to ensure security.

The Russian organization had settled on Trump as their favored candidate by at least April 2016 and began producing and purchasing ads promoting the reality-TV star to voters and “expressly opposing Clinton,” according to the indictment.

The social-media operation was sophisticated, with managers tracking the posters’ audience responses, likes and other metrics. Defendants and other senior managers, checking behind the posters, made sure the posts looked like they came from real U.S. posters.

“It is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” in future posts, the creator of a Facebook group called Secured Borders was told in mid-September 2016.

The indictment shows how the Russians’ fake accounts were intertwined with real political activism. One persona the Russians created: Matt Skiber who rallied online contacts via Facebook to help organize pro-Trump marches. A grass-roots activist in Texas wrote to Skiber account, recommending a focus on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.”

“This is what we’re organizing in FL,” the Skiber account responded to the Texas activist on Aug. 19, 2016. The Skiber account included a link to a Facebook page listing Florida rallies and asked the Texas-based activist to pass it to Tea Party members in Florida. The activist said he’d share the information.

More than 100 real U.S. persons made their way onto a list of social media contacts the Russians kept, according to prosecutors. The defendants’ internal list included the contacts’ names, political views and the activities the defendants had asked them to perform.

The effort went well beyond social media. The Russian effort included organizing rallies for Trump and paying Americans to participate in them or perform tasks at them. One American was paid to build a cage on a flatbed truck; another was paid to portray Clinton in a prison uniform.

Rallies were promoted with Facebook ads. Paid ads included this one on Oct. 19, 2016: “Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is.”

After the election, the group organized both pro- and anti-Trump rallies, including a “Trump is NOT my President” rally in New York the week after the election and one in Charlotte, North Carolina, the following week.

The defendants were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Mueller’s office said that none of the defendants was in custody.

Collusion with the Trump campaign is as yet unproven, is denied by Trump – see Trump on Twitter – but the investigation is ongoing.

The investigation into collusion is continuing, according to a person with knowledge of the probe. Grand jurors have already heard about others involved in the scheme, the indictment notes.

See also Trump: Russia succeeded ‘beyond their wildest dreams’ at sowing discord in America

This is pertinent to New Zealand because the same could be attempted here, either as an external or an internal operation. There is no suggestion that any international interference happened in our 2017 election, most attention was focussed on internal disruption due to dramatic the rise and fall of Metiria Turei and ther Greens, and the abdication of Andrew Little and the sudden elevation  of Jacinda Ardern.

I doubt that the Russians or Americans or Chinese care who of National or Labour run our government.

 

13 Russian nationals indicted for interfering in US elections

The FBI investigation into Russian interference in the US elections in 2016 has made a major move.

From Fox News: 13 Russian nationals indicted for interfering in US elections

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on Friday indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering in U.S. elections, a spokesman for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office said.

According to the special counsel, the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to hold a press conference Friday afternoon.

Reuters via Twitter:

U.S. says defendants’ operations included supporting ‘Trump… and disparaging Hillary Clinton,’ staging political rallies, buying political advertising while posing as grassroots U.S. groups

Defendants, in communicating with U.S.-based group, were advised to ‘focus their activities on ‘purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida’ – indictment.

During 2016 presidential campaign, Russian defendants spread derogatory information about Clinton, Rubio, Cruz and supported Sanders and Trump – court document

U.S. says Russian defendants paid one American to build a cage and a second American to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform

Reuters: U.S. grand jury indicts 13 Russian nationals, three entities in alleged election meddling

In a court document, the U.S. government said Russian entities began interfering in U.S. political processes, including the 2016 presidential election, as early as 2014.

Some of the defendants, posing as U.S. persons, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign, the indictment said.

Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. deputy attorney general, will make a law enforcement announcement at 1:15 p.m. (1815 GMT), the Justice Department said on Friday.

Rosenstein:

“The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system.”

“The stated goal: of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

The defendants allegedly conducted, what they called, information warfare against the United State.

They operated through a company that employed hundreds of employees, including recruitment of Americans. The campaigning staged rallies both before and after the 2016 election.

“They used stolen or fictitious American identities… The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans.”

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American knowingly participated”. “The Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.” The campaign went to great lengths to disguise who was behind it.

The special Counsel’s investigation is ongoing.

There is no indication in the indictment on any affect on the outcome of the 2016 election.

Russian interference in Us elections is longstanding and continues

CIA head Mike Pompeo says that Russia has tried to interfere in US elections for a long time and that continues. The investigations into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign, and separately Clinton’s campaign, in the 2016 election are ongoing.

Reuters: CIA’s Pompeo says Russia and others trying to undermine U.S. elections

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency said on Sunday that Russia and others are trying to undermine elections in the United States, the next major one being in November when Republicans will try to keep control of Congress.

Moscow denies any meddling in the 2016 elections to help Republican Trump win. U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any crimes were committed.

It goes further than criminal activity though. No country should be intefering in another country’s elections – something both Russia and the US have been guilty of for a long time.

Trump has at times suggested that he accepts the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia sought to interfere in the election but at other times has said he accepts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that Moscow meddled.

What Trump says at any time seems to depend on his mood at the time or what issue he is trying to promote or divert from.

Pompeo told CBS that the CIA had an important function as a part of the national security team to keep U.S. elections secure and democratic. “We are working diligently to do that. So we’re going to work against the Russians or any others who threaten that very outcome,” he said.

And CIA and FBI investigations should be independent of the President or of political parties.

Parallel to this: Senate’s Trump-Russia probe not close to ending

The Senate Intelligence Committee probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is nowhere near over, as lawmakers probe issues including a June 2016 meeting between top aides to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and a Russian lawyer, the panel’s top Democrat indicated on Friday.

Senator Mark Warner said committee staff have interviewed everyone at the meeting, where President Trump’s son Donald Jr. expected to be given derogatory information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, with the exception of “one or two individuals who are Russian.”

“But I feel very strongly that you can‘t, you could never conclude without the senators themselves being able to talk to the principals involved,” Warner said. “We have not gotten there yet.”

Warner, in an interview with Reuters, said the Senate investigation has made progress on several fronts.

It has, he said, “re-validated” a Jan. 6, 2017, U.S. intelligence assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 presidential election, with the goal of undermining Americans’ trust in their institutions and denigrating Clinton.

In an effort that has been “frustratingly slow,” Warner said, the investigation also prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to warn 21 U.S. states whose election systems were the subject of tampering attempts by Moscow.

Warner and fellow Democrats have worked closely with the Senate panel’s Republican chairman, Senator Richard Burr.

In the interview, Warner repeated a warning that he made in a Dec. 20 Senate floor speech that any move by Trump aimed at firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller would provoke a “constitutional crisis.”

Warner said his concern that Trump might take a step to dismiss Mueller was confirmed by news reports on Thursday detailing steps the president reportedly took to blunt the Russia investigation.

“Russia interference in elections is ‘warfare'”

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia used cyber-enabled means in an attempt to help President Donald Trump win the White House, an allegation the Kremlin has denied.

“We have to be so hard on this and we have to hold them accountable,” Haley said during a panel discussion with former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice held by the George W. Bush Institute in New York on Thursday.

“When a country can come interfere in another country’s elections that is warfare. It really is, because you’re making sure that the democracy shifts from what the people want,” she said. “This is their new weapon of choice and we have to get in front of it.”

That seems at odds with President Trump.

Despite mounting claims Trump calls Russian interference a hoax

The investigation of Russian interference in last year’s US election is claiming more evidence it happened, but Trump claims it is all a hoax.

This has been messed up more due to Hilary Clinton promoting her book and claiming she was hard done by.

The pinnacle of US politics is not a pretty sight.

CNN: Trump says this is all a hoax. Mueller, Congress and Facebook disagree

Special counsel Robert Mueller and three congressional committees are investigating Russian interference in the election, but President Trump is still telling his fans it’s a “hoax.”

Trump has used the “Russia hoax” label at least once a month since March. He said it again in a tweet on Friday — that scrutiny over Facebook ads from Russian-linked accounts was just part of the continuing “hoax.”

There is mounting evidence to the contrary. National security officials and congressional leaders agree that Russian meddling must be thoroughly investigated.

But the president continues to deny it.

“He has a very difficult time separating out the fact of the Russians affecting the election and the outcome,” David Sanger of The New York Times said on CNN’s “New Day.”

With a pair of tweets on Friday, Trump tried to turn the focus back to his opponent in the election. After calling Russia a hoax, he asked, “What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?”

Trump was echoing conservative commentators who say he won the election in spite of grossly unfair media coverage.

Hillary Clinton has been on a highly successful book tour for the past two weeks.

During the book tour, Clinton herself has sharply criticized the news media’s influence on the election. Her view is that the press went relatively easy on Trump, partly because they thought Clinton would win, which gave him a big advantage.

Trump has an opposite view. “The greatest influence over our election was the Fake News Media ‘screaming’ for Crooked Hillary Clinton,” he tweeted on Friday. “Next, she was a bad candidate!”

In effect he’s saying “look over there,” at media bias, “not over there,” at the mounting evidence that Russia tried to sway the election in his favor.

New leaks and revelations emerge every day about Russian meddling in the election. Some of the stories describe connections between Russians and people in Trump’s orbit.

Facebook’s role in inadvertently spreading Russian propaganda, some of it explicitly anti-Clinton, has come into focus this month. On Thursday, the company pledged to hand 3,000 Russia-linked ads over to Congress, and it announced a nine-point plan in response to election interference.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg clearly doesn’t think the talk of Russian interference is a “hoax.”

Fox News: Trump launches tweetstorm against Kim Jong Un, Rand Paul, ‘Russia hoax

Earlier this month, Facebook uncovered approximately $100,000 spread across approximately 3,000 ads in fraudulent ad spending across its platform tied to the 2016 presidential election. The “potentially politically-related ads” were bought from accounts with U.S. IP addresses, but the language was set to Russian, Facebook said.

While Trump accused the media of promoting Clinton, in her new book “What Happened,” Clinton blamed the media — and many other factors — for her loss.

The involvement of the media in the US election was complicated. It’s difficult to judge who they helped or hindered more. Trump wouldn’t have succeeded without them giving him so much attention – it’s unlikely he would have even been nominated if it wasn’t for his successful playing of the media, so it’s ridiculous that he now accuses the media of working against him.

Some media coverage certainly was negative (some of it was justified) but that probably helped Trump. And media support of Clinton probably worked against her campaign as much as for it.

But back to the Russian interference, surely it is very important that this is investigated properly, for the sake of the integrity of US democracy, as tainted as it is.

And it is improper of a president to trash an investigation into his campaign and into members of his campaign team.