Ryan Lucas

Warner Says ‘Great, Great Deal of Smoke’ on Russia

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday that he will not jump to conclusions in the panel’s investigation into Russian election meddling, but said “so far there is a great, great deal of smoke.”

The remarks from Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner came at the opening of the committee’s hearing on Russian intelligence operations to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. The panel is conducting an investigation into Moscow’s meddling, including possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Comey Confirms FBI Investigating Trump Campaign Ties to Russia
FBI director says he has no information to support Trump’s Obama wiretap claims

FBI Director James Comey said Monday for the first time that the bureau is conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, including any ties between the 2016 campaign of now-President Donald Trump and Moscow.

As for Trump’s tweets that President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower, Comey said, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

Under Pressure, Sessions Recuses Himself From Campaign Inquiries
AG says he reached decision after meeting with DOJ ethics officials

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday recused himself from any investigation related to the 2016 U.S. election, including into alleged ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. 

Sessions’ announcement comes less than 24 hours after The Washington Post reported that the former Alabama senator spoke twice during the presidential campaign with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. Sessions, who served as a senior Trump adviser during the campaign, did not disclose those meetings at his confirmation hearing, despite being asked whether he had any contacts with Russian officials.

Senate Panel to Probe Links Between Russia, Political Campaigns
Burr and Warner statement says committee will ‘follow the intelligence wherever it leads’

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into Russian intelligence operations against the United States will investigate any possible links between Russia and American political campaigns, the panel said Friday.

The bipartisan investigation will also include a review of the American intelligence agencies’ assessment of what they say was Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including cyberattacks and other so-called active measures.

Ep. 36: Spooked by Russia
The Week Ahead

CQ Roll Call’s intelligence reporter Ryan Lucas separates fact from fiction on all the Russia-related reports that have thrown the nation’s capital into a tizzy. 

Pompeo, DeVos, Ross Confirmation Hearings Delayed
3 Trump nominees still due to testify on Thursday

Updated 5:45 p.m. The Senate Intelligence Committee has pushed back the confirmation hearing for CIA Director-designee Mike Pompeo from Wednesday to Thursday — one of a series of delays or postponements affecting the crowded confirmation schedule.

The Intelligence panel did not provide a reason for the change, but the hearing for President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to the lead the CIA was one of five originally scheduled for Wednesday. It will now join two other confirmation hearings planned for Thursday, including another key national security post — Defense secretary.

Intelligence Officials Say Putin Ordered Campaign to Help Trump
Activities demonstrated a ’significant escalation in directness’

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. presidential election to undermine confidence in American democracy, smear Hillary Clinton and, eventually, to help lift Donald Trump to victory, according to a declassified report from U.S. intelligence agencies.

The document, based on information and analysis from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency, spells out the U.S. spy agencies’ conclusions on what they say was Russia’s wide-ranging venture to interfere in the American vote.

Russian Hacking Report Due Next Week
Obama ordered unclassified version last month

Congress will be briefed next week on the intelligence community’s report detailing Russian cyberattacks during the 2016 election, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said Thursday.

An unclassified version of the report, which President Barack Obama ordered the nation’s spy agencies to draw up last month, will be released to the public as well, Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Trump’s Dispute With CIA Puts Pompeo in a Bind
Director-designee must convince boss that agency’s analysis is valuable

In the extraordinary public dispute between Donald Trump and the CIA, one man finds himself in a particularly tricky position: the president-elect’s nominee to lead the agency, Rep. Mike Pompeo.

The tea party Republican from Kansas, who is expected to win Senate confirmation, will have to repair a relationship between Trump and the CIA that has been battered by the president-elect’s repeated disparagement of the agency’s capabilities and competence.

Reviving Torture Under Trump Would Be Tricky but Not Impossible
President-elect has favorable views about Bush-era harsh interrogation methods

With a soft southern drawl and a neatly trimmed salt-white beard, the architect of the CIA’s torture program captivated his audience with stories of personally waterboarding al-Qaida operatives at secret prisons and interrogating 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Obama Orders ‘Full Review’ of Russian Hacking
Probe won't be limited to 2016 election cycle

President Barack Obama has directed the intelligence community to conduct a “full review” of Russian hacking efforts during the U.S. presidential campaign, a senior administration official said Friday, amid growing calls from Congress for greater public clarity on the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the elections.

White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa O. Monaco said Obama expects the report to be finished before he leaves office on Jan. 20. It will be shared with Congress, she said, but it is unclear whether it will be made available to the public.

Rights Group Urges Civilian Protections During Mosul Campaign
Amnesty International raises possibility of war crimes

As U.S.-backed Iraqi forces open their offensive for the northern city of Mosul, an international rights group warned Tuesday that civilians fleeing Islamic State-held territory face potential violence from government troops and allied militias who it says have tortured, detained and killed people escaping militant-controlled areas in the past.

In a new 70-page report, Amnesty International documents what it describes as war crimes committed by Iraqi forces and militiamen against civilians uprooted by previous military operations. The rights group raises the possibility of similar abuses on an even greater scale during the operation to capture the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, a majority Sunni city where an estimated 1 million civilians are believed to be trapped.

Recent Breaches Raise Fears of Voting System Hacks
'Best Practices' considered for state and local election officials

In an already topsy-turvy presidential campaign, the recent breaches of Democratic Party computer networks have fueled fears about potential foreign meddling and raised questions about how secure the electronic systems that record and tally votes across the country are from sophisticated hackers.  

For years, computer security experts have warned that electronic voting is vulnerable to hacking that could alter vote tallies and theoretically swing an election. The intrusions that compromised the Democratic National Committee and the House Democrats’ fundraising campaigns’ systems — both of which cybersecurity experts have blamed on groups linked to Russian intelligence agencies — have only heightened those concerns.  

Ep. 19: Is Russia Trying to Manipulate the US Elections?
The Week Ahead

The alleged hacking of Democratic party computer systems by Russian interests pose a dilemma for U.S. officials tasked with looking for the source of the infiltration and coming up with a response. CQ Roll Call’s national security reporter Ryan Lucas, political editor David Hawking and managing editor Adriel Bettelheim unravel the web of intrigue. #CozyBear #FancyBear  

Show Notes:

Democrats Deride Trump's Foreign Policy Credentials
Republican nominee battered over Russia emails remarks

President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders on Wednesday delivered a scathing assessment of Donald Trump’s national security and foreign policy qualifications, portraying him as an erratic blowhard who embraces dictators and disparages America’s allies.  

The barrage from speakers including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former CIA Director Leon Panetta aimed to cast doubt on the Republican nominee’s credentials to serve as commander in chief. It came just hours after Trump invited Russia to find and release Hillary Clinton's emails — a statement that appeared to encourage Moscow to meddle in U.S. politics and raised further questions about the tycoon’s judgment.  

Congress Publishes Long-Secret Chapter of 9/11 Report
So-called "28 pages" explored alleged Saudi links to 9/11 hijackers

After 14 years, Congress on Friday lifted the veil of secrecy that has shrouded a long-classified chapter of a congressional investigation into the 9/11 attacks, publishing the so-called "28 pages" that explore alleged Saudi links to the hijackers.  

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released the document Friday afternoon after a unanimous vote to do so. Congress received a redacted version of the chapter earlier in the day from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  

Release of Secret 9/11 Files Imminent, Lawmakers Say
Final decision rests with congressional leadership

Senior lawmakers say a secret chapter of a congressional investigation into the 9/11 attacks that has been locked away in a Capitol vault for 14 years — the so-called 28 pages that probe possible Saudi connections to the hijackers — will be released in the coming days.  

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Sen. Richard M. Burr  of North Carolina, told Roll Call that the document would likely be made public by the end of the week. The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam B. Schiff  of California, said the release was “fairly imminent.”  

US Looks to Clamp Down on Hezbollah Funding
Legislation authorizes sanctions on banks knowingly doing business with group

In the long-running cat-and-mouse game between the U.S. government and Hezbollah, Washington is bringing to bear its latest tool to crack down on what American officials say is the Lebanese militant group’s globe-straddling illicit financing network.

The Obama administration’s newest instrument is the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (PL 114-102), which authorizes U.S. sanctions on financial institutions that knowingly do business with Hezbollah or individuals acting on the group’s behalf.

CIA: Anti-ISIS Efforts Have Not Reduced Group's Global Reach
Militant group planning more attacks like Paris and Brussels

CIA Director John O. Brennan said Thursday the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State has dealt the extremist group battlefield loses and chipped away at its finances, but he cautioned that coalition efforts have not diminished the group’s global reach or its ability to carry out terrorist attacks.  

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brennan also warned that the Islamic State is trying to deploy operatives to carry out more attacks in the West like the recent ones in Paris and Brussels. He said the terrorist group is exploring way of slipping its fighters into European countries, including in refugee flows and smuggling routes.  

House to Vote Thursday on Counterterrorism Bills
Leaders aim to select measures with best chance of passing both chambers

The House will repackage at least three counterterrorism bills that have already passed into one piece of standalone legislation to be voted on this week following the deadly rampage at an Orlando nightclub, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday.  

The California Republican said the exact number of bills that will be folded into one is still under discussion as House leaders work with the Senate to determine which measures have the best chance of passage in both chambers. The vote will take place Thursday, he said.