Trump repeats unproven claims of U.K. Intel spying

Donald Trump has repeated unproven and unverified accusations that British intelligence agencies spied on his election campaign, just a day after the UK confirmed he had been invited to London on a state visit to meet the Queen.

The tweet also prompted GCHQ to reiterate that the US president’s claims were “utterly ridiculous”, although the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, maintained that the “special relationship” remained intact.

Trump was apparently tweeting in response to an item on the conservative cable cable channel One America News Network, repeating an unproven conspiracy theory that originally dates back to 2017.

The president had tweeted that “Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson accuses United Kingdom Intelligence of helping Obama Administration Spy on the 2016 Trump Presidential Campaign,” and added: “WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!”

When asked about Trump’s tweet, GCHQ referred reporters to its previous denials. Giving an on-the-record statement in response to a politician is almost unheard of for the secretive agency, which is reluctant to get drawn into public disputes.

“The allegations that GCHQ was asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored,” the statement from the wire-tapping agency said.

Johnson was described as a “conservative conspiracy theorist” by the US media monitoring organisation Media Matters for America, which said he has made a series of untrue allegations about collusion, originally on the Russian television network RT.

On Tuesday, Britain confirmed that Trump had been invited to London for a state visit from 3 to 6 June – just before events to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day – including dinner at Buckingham Palace.

Hailing the visit, Theresa May said the UK and US had “a deep and enduring partnership”. The prime minister addedthat the trip would be an opportunity “to strengthen our already close relationship in areas such as trade, investment, security and defence”.

Trump has been on the offensive for several days after a long-awaited special report from special counsel Robert Mueller said there was no evidence that he had conspired with Russia in pursuit of the presidency. But Mueller also concluded he could not reach a verdict on whether the president illegally obstructed justice.

Meanwhile, Hunt tweeted a picture of the bust of Winston Churchill in the US president’s Oval Office, in an attempt to reassert the so-called UK-US special relationship.

The British minister was doing so after Gérard Araud, the outgoing French ambassador in Washington, said British influence in the US capital was now negligible, partly due to the UK’s preoccupation with Brexit.

Araud told the Financial Times: “The UK has vanished. The British ambassador told me – and I loved it – that every time the British military is meeting the American military, the Americans are talking about the French.”

Hunt tweeted back to Araud: “I am sure you enjoyed making hay with the UK’s temporary Brexit travails but until there is a French president’s bust in the Oval Office we will not take any lessons in having good relations with Washington.”

[The Guardian]

Trump retweets hit list suggesting he’s going after Obama, Biden, Brennan, Clapper the Democratic Party and more

On Monday, President Donald Trump retweeted a ‘hit list’ from Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a conservative self-styled watchdog group.

Fitton tweeted a list out with Democrats name who believed have abused President Donald Trump.

People on the list included Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton.

[Raw Story]

Rush Limbaugh Denies He Influences Trump. Hours Later, Trump Quotes Him in Coup-Touting Tweet.

On Sunday, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh denied he had influence over President Donald Trump.

Calling it a false narrative spread in the media, Limbaugh said this to Fox’s Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday: “If these people in the media, Chris, really thought that I was telling Trump what to do and when, they’d be calling me, they’d be asking me about it, they’d want to get down to the dirty details.”

He added: “People don’t really believe what they’re saying about this…It’s just another effort to continue to try to diminish the president, diminish Trump, as somebody who doesn’t know what he’s doing, can’t do it without guidance from the so-called wacko right.”

Yet, hours later, Trump tweeted out this, quoting Limbaugh’s claim of a “silent coup” against the president:

[Mediaite]

Trump revives charge Obama spied on his campaign

President Donald Trump is reviving his unverified claims President Barack Obama spied on his campaign and touting the words of a conservative Fox News host who also claims there’s now a precedent for presidents to use the government to spy on political rivals.

Trump, in a series of early morning tweets, quoted Tucker Carlson, who claimed on his show Tuesday night that President Obama had spied on Trump’s campaign and later argued the ‘lunatics on the left’ created a model that future presidents could follow.

‘The Obama people did something that’s never been done…They spied on a rival presidential campaign. Would it be OK if Trump did it next? I am losing faith that our system is on the level. I’m beginning to think it is rotten & corrupt. Scary stuff Obama did.’ @TuckerCarlson DOJ’ Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning.

His ‘DOJ’ might have been an indication the tweet was meant for the Department of Justice, who he has heavily criticized for not reining in the investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 election and for not probing rival Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s looking into Russia’s role in the presidential contest – and whether or not Trump obstructed that investigation – remains on going.

Trump was quoting Carlson, a conservative pundit who as seen as one of the president’s staunchest defenders.

Carlson, in a conservation with Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist on his Fox show Tuesday night said: ‘The Obama people did something that’s never been done that I’m aware of, they spied on a rival presidential campaign and that’s okay with you. But would it be okay if the Trump did that to the next guy?’

He went on to argue there was now a precedent for presidents to use the government to spy on rival political campaigns.

‘What’s the next election is going to be like?’ he asked attorney Richard Goodstein, who was also a guest on his show. ‘I don’t want the Trump Administration to spy on rival campaigns, but you and the lunatics on the left have created a precedent that will allow them to, and future presidents to do that. I don’t want to live in that country, that’s all I’m saying.’

There has been no proof Obama spied on the Trump campaign. The FBI was investigating the campaign’s ties to Russia during the 2016 election, which Trump argues is evidence of a ‘deep red state’ conspiracy to keep him out of the White House.

In May, Trump demanded the Justice Department investigate his allegation that the Obama administration’s FBI ‘infiltrated or surveilled’ his 2016 campaign.

The agency directed its Office of Inspector General y to formally probe those claims, an investigation that remains ongoing.

Trump’s demand came after multiple reports that the FBI had sent an informant to speak with campaign advisers about matters related to possible Russia ties, which the president has used to claim Obama was spying on him.

Some reports named Stefan Halper, an American professor at Cambridge University, as the FBI informant who met with Trump campaign aidesCarter Page and George Papadopoulos.

Both aides were suspected of dealing with the Russians.

Halper also reportedly met with a third Trump campaign official, Sam Clovis, to whom he reportedly expressed interest in helping the president’s campaign.

The use of an information is common FBI practice in criminal investigations but there is no public evidence that Halper was an FBI informant, and official sources have refused to comment on the subject. Halper has not given any comment on the issue.

Papadopoulos revealed in a plea agreement to having been told by an apparent Russian agent that Vladimir Putin government had access to a raft of hacked Clinton emails before this was made public. He has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Page, meanwhile, was under surveillance by the FBI at the time he met with the FBI informant.

Trump and his allies claim that FBI surveillance of Page was a done through a tainted FISA warrant that relied on the unverified Christopher Steele dossier, paid for by a law firm with ties to Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

The dossier claimed the Russians had information on Trump that it could use for blackmail, which the president has denied.

Last month, documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request showed federal agents relied on more information than the Steele dossier to obtain the warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

But Trump on Tuesday morning quoted Carlson making another charge – that Clinton and the DNC paid for information from the Russians to use against the American government, likely in a reference to the Steele dossier.

‘Hillary Clinton and the DNC paid for information from the Russian government to use against her government – there’s no doubt about that!’ @TuckerCarlson,’ Trump wrote.

Carlson, on his Fox show Tuesday night told attorney Richard Goodstein:  ‘The Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for information from the Russian government to use against their opponent. There is no debate about that.’

[Daily Mail]

Trump’s FISA tweets throw Washington into chaos

President Donald Trump’s sunrise tweet casting aspersions on the domestic surveillance program his own intelligence officials have called essential set off a thunderclap of concern in Washington — and underscored the pitfalls of the President’s morning television tweet-alongs.

Phones at the White House began ringing almost immediately after Trump wrote at 7:33 a.m. ET that the FISA program up for reauthorization in the House on Thursday may have been used to “badly surveil” his campaign.

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on US soil.

Ultimately, the measure passed handily. But not until after a 101-minute long scramble to clean up the President’s position ahead of the midday vote, which Republican leaders had been eying with optimism after spending weeks rounding up votes and batting down demands from the conservative and libertarian elements of their conference.

“(Chief of staff John) Kelly’s phone was ringing off the hook,” said one senior Republican official close to intelligence matters on Capitol Hill.

“No one could believe it,” another Republican supportive of the FISA reauthorization said.

[CNN]

Reality

Trump was simply responding to a segment of Fox and Friends, a TV show he retweets regularly.

It’s Official, Devin Nunez Made Up Rice Unmasking Controversy

Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) on Friday told CNN claims that Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, improperly unmasked individuals within Donald Trump’s campaign were “created by Devin Nunes,” the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The unmasking thing was all created by Devin Nunes, and I’ll wait to go through our full evaluation to see if there was anything improper that happened,” Burr said. ”But clearly there were individuals unmasked. Some of that became public which it’s not supposed to, and our business is to understand that, and explain it.”

Burr’s comments come as Rice met privately with the committee on Friday in their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Rice was roped into the probe after Nunes held a hastily-organized press conference in March alleging the names of Trump officials were illegally unmasked by Obama’s national security adviser.

Nunes’ press conference seemed to give credence to Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the campaign. The News Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reports the White House put out an “all-points bulletin” to “find something” that would substantiate the president’s charge. Rice has maintained she did not do anything improper involving “unmasking” Trump officials.

“Ambassador Rice met voluntarily with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today as part of the committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election,” Erin Pelton, a spokesperson for Rice, said. “Ambassador Rice appreciates the Committee’s efforts to examine Russia’s efforts to interfere, which violated one of the core foundations of American democracy.”

Burr told CNN the committee intends to interview officials in both the Trump and Obama administrations.

“I think we’re interested in any folks that were in the last administration that had some hand in what we did or did not do in response to Russian meddling in our elections,” Burr said. “I won’t get into when they’re coming or what the extent of the list is, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ve had everybody that was involved in decision-making at the last administration on our list, and they’re periodically coming. Some have been in. Some still have yet to come in.”

[Raw Story]

 

Trump: ‘Big story’ is unmasking, surveillance during Obama administration

President Trump on Thursday turned his attention to “unmasking and surveillance” in the Obama administration, calling it the “big story.”

“The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama Administration,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Trump’s comments come after the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday issued seven new subpoenas in its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Three of the subpoenas focus on allegations of improper “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Those three subpoenas went to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and are related to questions — primarily from Republicans — about how the names of Trump associates were un-redacted and distributed in classified Obama administration reports during the transition period.

Republicans have signaled they see unmasking as the key to investigating the source of media leaks damaging to the Trump administration.

Trump and his aides have often railed against the leaking of information to the media and Trump has blasted the Russia probe as a “witch hunt.”

[The Hill]

 

 

Trump Kicks Reporter Out of Oval Office After Wiretapping Questions

President Trump cut off an Oval Office interview with CBS anchor John Dickerson and gestured for him to leave the room when Dickerson repeatedly asked about the president’s unfounded wiretapping claims.

Trump signaled that he still believes, as he tweeted on March 4, that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”

Obama aides, intelligence community officials and some prominent Republican lawmakers have all disputed the claim. And the president has provided no evidence to back it up.

But when Trump brought it up during an interview taping on Saturday, and Dickerson followed up, Trump said, “I think our side’s been proven very strongly and everybody’s talking about it and frankly, it should be discussed.”

Trump added, “We should find out what the hell is going on.”

When Dickerson pressed him, Trump said: “You can take it any way — you can take it any way you want.”

Dickerson: “I’m asking you because you don’t want it to be fake news. I want to hear it from President Trump.”

Trump: “You don’t have to ask me. You don’t have to ask me.”

Dickerson: “Why not?”

Trump: “Because I have my own opinions, you can have your own opinions.”

Dickerson: “But I want to know your opinions. You’re the president of the United States.”

Trump: “That’s enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.”

The president walked away from Dickerson and sat down at his Oval Office desk.

The abrupt end to the tough interview was in marked contrast to some of the smoother interviews Trump has had recently. Media critics have pointed out his preference for friendlier outlets, like conservative-themed shows on Fox News.

Afterward, CBS anchor Gayle King remarked on the awkwardness of the abrupt ending: “Well, he was done with that conversation.”

King asked Dickerson if he was escorted out of the Oval Office.

“I think it was pretty clear that I was to escort myself out, or I would be escorted out — I would be moved along,” he said. “It was time for our conversation to be over.”

Later in the day on Saturday, however, Dickerson still traveled with the president as planned to a 100th-day rally in Pennsylvania.

The network’s morning show, “CBS This Morning,” was broadcast from the White House on Monday.

Several administration officials were interviewed live on the program, including Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump.

(h/t CNN)

Media

CBS

FBI Monitored Former Trump Campaign Adviser Carter Page on Russia

The FBI obtained a warrant to monitor President Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser, Carter Page, last summer on suspicions he knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, The Washington Post is reporting.

The FBI and Justice Department obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor the communications of Page, who has called himself a junior member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team, as part of their investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, the newspaper says, citing unnamed law enforcement and other US officials.

The FBI and Justice Department obtained the warrant after convincing a FISA judge there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign government (Russia), the report says. The warrant presents the strongest information to date that the FBI had reason to believe a Trump adviser was in touch with Moscow and met with foreign operatives during Trump’s presidential campaign.

FBI Director James Comey has acknowledged that an investigation was opened last year into Russia’s efforts to influence the election and the question of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin. But Comey stopped short of naming anyone working for the campaign who may have been involved.

CNN is working to confirm The Washington Post’s story.

Page, however, called the FISA warrant “unjustified” in a statement to CNN’s Manu Raju.

“There have been various reports [about FISA documents and FBI surveillance of him],” Page said. “But I was so happy to hear that further confirmation is now being revealed. It shows how low the Clinton/Obama regime went to destroy our democracy and suppress dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy. It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those FISA requests are more fully disclosed over time, including potentially the Dodgy Dossier — a document that clearly is false evidence, which could represent yet another potential crime.”

Page was referring to a leaked dossier of unverified information compiled by a former British intelligence official for Trump’s political opponents. Then-President-elect Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier before Trump’s inauguration, CNN reported.

When asked in March of last year to list members of his foreign policy team in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump included “Carter Page, PhD.”

Page has said he sent policy memos to the campaign and participated in conference calls as well as gatherings that included Trump, but also said he never personally briefed Trump or was in “small meetings” with him during the election. But Trump said at a White House news conference in February that he doesn’t think he ever met Page.

“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him,” Trump said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don’t think I ever met him. Now, it’s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don’t think I ever met him.”

Page told CNN he had never shaken Trump’s hand and that by saying he had met with Trump, he had meant meetings in the “Russian sense,” which he said meant he had attended rallies Trump spoke at.

In recent interviews, Page described himself as a “junior member” of Trump’s foreign policy team, and has denied working on any Russia-related policies for the campaign. He also said in February that he is still in contact with some people in the Trump orbit.

(h/t CNN)

Reality

A lot of right-wing news media and Carter Page himself have declared this revelation to be some sort of vindication, that finally there is some proof that Obama wiretapped Donald Trump at Trump Tower during the election.

But first, this is none of those things.

And most importantly, Page should not be excited over this news because you don’t get slapped with a FISA warrant unless the court thinks you could be the agent of a foreign power. U.S. officials convinced a FISA court judge during the presidential campaign that there is probable cause that Page was “knowingly” working as an agent of a foreign government while advising Trump.

Classified Docs Contradict Nunes Surveillance Claims, GOP and Dem Sources Say

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN.

Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a “massive story.”

However, over the last week, several members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees have reviewed intelligence reports related to those requests at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as “normal and appropriate” for officials who serve in that role to the president.

And another source said there’s “absolutely” no smoking gun in the reports, urging the White House to declassify them to make clear there was nothing alarming in the documents.

Still, some members of Congress continue to have concerns about the justification given for the unmasking requests and the standards for the intelligence community to grant such requests, which reveal the private data of US persons mentioned in intelligence reports based on routine intelligence collection aimed at foreign nationals.

Such collection regularly targets officials and nationals from Russia, Taiwan, Israel and other countries.

The lawmakers’ assessment comes after Trump, in a New York Times interview last week, accused Rice of breaking the law.

Trump has not revealed which intelligence reports he is relying on to make his charge that Rice may have acted illegally.

“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Trump said. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world.” He also called it “truly one of the big stories of our time.”

Asked by the Times if he believed Rice’s actions were criminal Trump responded, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”

Sebastian Gorka, a Trump foreign policy aide, cast Rice’s actions as worse than the Watergate scandal that felled President Richard Nixon in an interview with pro-Trump Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“Losing 14 minutes of audiotape in comparison to this is a little spat in the sandbox in the kindergarten,” Gorka said.

Rice defended her actions last week on MSNBC, saying her requests were “absolutely not for any political purposes, to spy, or anything.”

“There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a US person was referred to — name not provided, just a US person — and sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information as to who the US official was,” Rice said.

“The notion that some people are trying to suggest, is that by asking for the identity of a person is leaking it, is unequivocally false,” she said. “There is no connection between unmasking and leaking.”

Rice is among the list of witnesses that House and Senate Intelligence officials want to interview as part of its probe into Russian attempts to meddle with the US elections.

House Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are near agreement on the list of witnesses to interview, with the GOP mostly focusing on people who may have leaked classified information and the Democrats hoping to question Trump associates who may have ties to Russia.

But the House review has been thrown into turmoil after Nunes last month expressed alarm about the unmasking of US persons, including Trump advisors, caught up in incidental collection. He reviewed the documents on White House grounds with the help of White House officials, despite House Speaker Paul Ryan saying Nunes informed him that the information came from a “whistleblower.”

Critics said Nunes appeared to be giving political cover to Trump in the aftermath of the president’s unsubstantiated tweet last month that Obama ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower to spy on him during the campaign.

Nunes’ office has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Nunes last week abruptly recused himself temporarily from the Russia investigation as the House Ethics Committee announced it is investigating whether he revealed classified materials, but he is still serving as chairman of the panel.

(h/t CNN)

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