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John McCain says US has no strategy to deal with Russian cyber warfare

In audio obtained by the Guardian, McCain says it is the one aspect of our confrontation where adversaries are ahead

John McCain warned that the Trump administration is unprepared to deal with Russian attempts to influence elections in France and European countries in the coming months.

In audio obtained by the Guardian of the 2008 presidential nominee speaking at the congressional retreat in Philadelphia, the Arizona senator said we dont have a policy and we dont have a strategy for Russian cyber warfare. He said it is the one aspect of our confrontation where I believe our adversaries are ahead of us, adding it is a hell of a lot of easier to offense in cyber than defense.

France is holding its first round of presidential elections in April and far right nationalist Marine Le Pen is leading in opinion polls. Le Pens party, the National Front, is currently facing scrutiny over its ties to Russian banks and she has insisted that Russias occupation of Crimea was legitimate. The 2014 invasion of Crimea drew international condemnation and led to international sanctions against Russia.

McCain, who stated matter of factly that we do know the Russians were trying to influence the outcome of our election, also warned that he didnt know what Trumps policy was towards Russia. The hawkish McCain described Putin as a KGB criminal and suggested Ronald Reagans approach to Russia of peace through strength was the appropriate template today.

McCain broadly took a pessimistic view of foreign affairs in 2017. I could make a coherent, cogent argument that the world is more dangerous than any time in the last 70 years, said MCain, who chairs the Senate armed services committee. There are pressures on the new world order that was established in 1947 and 1948, the likes of which we have never seen.

He told attendees he believed President Trump will probably be tested by one or more of these forces around the world, whether it be North Koreans, Iranians, the Chinese or the Russians and expressed his hope that all of his colleagues will support a response which is proportionate and will also tell Vladimir Putin, the ayatollahs and the Chinese that there is a new team in town.

McCain though was full of praise for many of Trumps cabinet picks. He told colleagues the national security team that president Trump has assembled is as strong or better than any Ive ever seen. He had particular praise for newly confirmed secretary of defense James Mattis. Im not sure if one person can have a profound effect but if anyone can have a profound effect it is General Mattis, said McCain.

He also seemed to welcome Mike Flynn, Trumps controversial selection for national security adviser. What a nice change from Susan Rice to General Flynn, McCain said of the transition from Obamas adviser to Trumps selection.

McCain is notably not close to Trump. The president mocked the Arizona senator in 2015 for being a prisoner of war, saying hes a war hero because he was captured? I like people who werent captured, and McCain only backed Trump after the real estate developer became the GOP nominee.

However, he has been enthusiastic about many of Trumps cabinet choices in foreign policy and offered the White House crucial support in advancing the nomination of state department nominee Rex Tillerson.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/27/john-mccain-says-us-has-no-strategy-to-deal-with-russian-cyber-warfare


FBI chief given dossier by John McCain alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts

Russian intelligence alleged to have compromising material on Trump, say unverified reports drawn up by western ex-counter-intelligence official

Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey, last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself.

The material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trumps relationship with Moscow. They were drawn up by a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant.

The Guardian has not been able to confirm the veracity of the documents contents, and the Trump team has consistently denied any hidden contacts with the Russian government.

Trumps transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but late on Tuesday, Trump tweeted: FAKE NEWS A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT! He made no direct reference to the allegations.

An official in the US administration who spoke to the Guardian described the source who wrote the intelligence report as consistently reliable, meticulous and well-informed, with a reputation for having extensive Russian contacts.

Some of the reports which are dated from 20 June to 20 October last year also proved to be prescient, predicting events that happened after they were sent.

One report, dated June 2016, claims that the Kremlin has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years, with the aim of encouraging splits and divisions in western alliance.

It claims that Trump had declined various sweetener real estate deals offered him in Russia especially in developments linked to the 2018 World Cup finals but that he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.

Most explosively, the report alleges: FSB has compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him. The president-elect has not responded to the allegations.

CNN reported on Tuesday that the FBI was still investigating the credibility of the documents but added that the intelligence chiefs had included a summary of the material in a secret briefing on Russian interference in the election delivered last week to Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

The emergence of the documents is potentially explosive, 10 days before Trumps inauguration and on the eve of his first planned press conference since July last year.

Despite glowing references from US and foreign officials who have worked with the source, there are some errors in the reports. One describes the Moscow suburb of Barvikha as reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates, but although it is a very expensive neighbourhood, there are no restrictions on who can own property there. The document also misspells the name of a Russian banking corporation.

The FBI does not normally make any comment on ongoing counter-intelligence investigations but was under increasing pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to act before the inauguration, particularly because of Comeys announcement of a continuing investigation into Hillary Clintons email server 11 days before the election, which many of her supporters believe cost her the presidency.

The reports were initially commissioned as opposition research during the presidential campaign, but its author was sufficiently alarmed by what he discovered to send a copy to the FBI. It is unclear who within the organisation they reached and what action the bureau took. The former Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, has lambasted Comey for publicising investigations into Hillary Clintons private server, while allegedly sitting on explosive material on Trumps ties to Russia.

Another Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, questioned Comey insistently at a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Tuesday on whether the FBI was pursuing leads on Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

Has the FBI investigated these reported relationships? Wyden asked.

Comey replied: I would never comment on investigations in a public forum.

The Guardian can confirm that the documents reached the top of the FBI by December. Senator John McCain, who was informed about the existence of the documents separately by an intermediary from a western allied state, dispatched an emissary overseas to meet the source and then decided to present the material to Comey in a one-on-one meeting on 9 December, according to a source aware of the meeting. The documents, which were first reported on last year by Mother Jones, are also in the hands of officials in the White House.

McCain is not thought to have made a judgment on the reliability of the documents but was sufficiently impressed by the sources credentials to feel obliged to pass them to the FBI.

The Senate armed services committee, which Senator McCain chairs, launched an inquiry last week into Russian cyber-attacks during the election.

McCain was reluctant to get involved, according to a colleague, for fear the issue would be dismissed as a personal grudge against Trump. He pushed instead for the creation of a special Senate committee to look into connections between campaign staff and Moscow, but the proposal was blocked by the Republican leadership.

McCain told the NBC programme Meet the Press on Sunday: I would like to see a select committee. Apparently that is not in agreement by our leadership. So we will move forward with the armed services committee and Im sure foreign relations and intelligence committee will as well.

But the senator added: It is possible if enough information comes out, that that decision could be reversed. I still think its the best way to attack the issue.

Asked on the same programme on whether an investigation was ongoing into campaign links to Moscow, Senator Lyndsey Graham, another conservative Republican said: I believe that its happening.

According to the report passed to Comey, Russian intelligence allegedly gathered compromising material during Trumps stay in Moscow in November 2013, when he was in the city to host the Miss Universe pageant.

Another report, dated 19 July last year said that Carter Page, a businessman named by Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers, had held a secret meeting that month with Igor Sechin, head of the Rosneft state-owned oil company and a long-serving lieutenant of Vladimir Putin. Page also allegedly met Igor Divyekin, an internal affairs official with a background in intelligence, who is said to have warned Page that Moscow had kompromat (compromising material) on Trump.

Two months later, allegations of Pages meetings surfaced in the US media, attributed to intelligence sources, along with reports that he had been under FBI scrutiny.

Page, a vociferous supporter of the Kremlin line, was in Moscow in July to make a speech decrying western policy towards Russia. At the time he declined to say whether he had been in contact with Russian officials, but in September he rejected the reports as garbage.

The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.

A month after Trumps surprise election victory, Page was back in Moscow saying he was meeting with business leaders and thought leaders, dismissing the FBI investigation as a witch-hunt and suggesting the Russian hacking of the Democratic Party alleged by US intelligence agencies, could be a false flag operation to incriminate Moscow.

Another of the reports compiled by the former western counter-intelligence official in July said that members of Trumps team, which was led by campaign manager Paul Manafort (a former consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine), had knowledge of the DNC hacking operation, and in return had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/Nato defence commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine.

A few days later, Trump raised the possibility that his administration might recognise Russias annexation of Crimea and openly called on Moscow to hack Hillary Clintons emails.

In August, officials from the Trump campaign intervened in the drafting of the Republican party platform, specifically to remove a call for lethal assistance to Ukraine for its battle against Moscow-backed eastern rebels.

Manafort stepped down in August as campaign manager and the campaign steadily distanced itself from Page. However, Trumps praise of Putin and defence of Moscows actions in Ukraine and Syria remained one of the few constants in his campaign talking points.

Manafort has denied secret links with Moscow calling the allegation an outrageous smear being driven by Harry Reid and the Clinton campaign.

Since then, Trump has consistently cast doubt on Russian culpability for hacking the Democratic National Committee, defying a consensus of 17 national intelligence agencies. After Obama deported 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for Moscows intervention, Trump praised Putin for not carrying out tit-for-tat deportations of US diplomats. I always knew he was very smart, he tweeted.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment after the CNN report.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/10/fbi-chief-given-dossier-by-john-mccain-alleging-secret-trump-russia-contacts


Rob Delaney raises almost $70,000 against former pro-Trump Republicans

The actor will donate to Democratic campaigns against GOP politicians, including John McCain, who withdrew support for Trump over misconduct allegations

Comedian Rob Delaney has raised tens of thousands of dollars in a bid to oust Republicans who tried to distance themselves from Donald Trump following his recent scandals.

Delaney, star of the TV show Catastrophe, established a fund on ActBlue, a fundraising site for the Democratic party, to raise money for opponents of Republicans who retracted their endorsement from Donald Trump in the past week after a recording of Trump making lewd remarks during an Access Hollywood appearance about groping women surfaced.

The fund has raised $68,294 from 1,176 donors in the four days since its launch.

Thats what it took for you to disavow him? Delaney said in a blogpost announcing the fund titled No Getting Off the Train. Since Im not a total moron, I know that what really happened is that it finally became clear to anyone who knows how elections work that Trump was definitely going to lose.

So the same drive for self-preservation that led these turd balls to endorse him in the first place, he continued, has compelled them to pull the ripcord when Access Hollywood revealed their pussy tape and gave them the opportunity to pretend they care about women or something.

rob delaney (@robdelaney)

#MAGA Please read, RT & punish defectors! https://t.co/lqpeqhrWMs #MakeAmericaGreatAgain pic.twitter.com/PwjowAH64D

October 9, 2016

The list includes more than a dozen names and the money will be distributed evenly among their opponents. Some Republican heavyweights are featured on the list such as former presidential nominee John McCain, who revoked his endorsement on Sunday, and New Jersey congressman Scott Garrett, who originally said Mike Pence would make a better nominee after the video was released but later added he would still vote for Trump.

Delaney is vocal about politics and, while he voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary campaign, he said he will be voting for Hillary Clinton for her policy on healthcare and her potential supreme court justice picks.

He has encouraged his 1.4 million Twitter followers to donate and has also called on Trump and his supporters to pledge to the campaign.

rob delaney (@robdelaney)

.@realDonaldTrump Sir, I made a fund to help defeat Republicans who are un-endorsing you! Please RT! https://t.co/lqpeqhrWMs

October 9, 2016

Several celebrities have chimed in to express their disdain towards Trump and have encouraged voters to register and ensure that the real estate mogul does not win the election. A litany of stars including Scarlett Johansson, James Franco, Julianne Moore and Don Cheadle, among others, released a video saying Mark Ruffalo also in the video would appear naked in his next movie if people registered to vote.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/13/rob-delaney-fundraising-donald-trump-republicans


Trump isn’t backing Paul Ryan, John McCain

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump is declining to endorse a pair of Republican heavyweights — House Speaker Paul Ryan and former presidential nominee John McCain — in their primary fights, another sign of the fractures within the party.

Ryan and McCain face long-shot challengers in their respective primary races in Wisconsin and Arizona. Yet their party’s presidential nominee would not bless them in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday.
    “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet,” Trump said of Ryan.
    As for McCain — a former naval aviator who was shot down and tortured during the Vietnam War — Trump said he has “never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets.”
    Trump’s public reprimanding of two of his party’s most senior officials is a reminder that two weeks after the Republican National Convention, his party is far from unified. Both Ryan and McCain have endorsed Trump — with Ryan spending significant political capital to do so — yet Trump has not taken kindly to the criticisms launched by GOP elders.
    Ryan faces Paul Nehlen in Wisconsin next week. Trump’s phrasing — “I’m not quite there yet” — echoes comments Ryan made to CNN’s Jake Tapper in May when he said he wasn’t yet ready to back his party’s standard-bearer.
    Trump claimed in the Post interview that Ryan had sought his endorsement, which he was only giving “very serious consideration.” Zack Roday, a Ryan campaign spokesman, quickly pushed back against Trump’s claim, saying, “Neither Speaker Ryan nor anyone on his team has ever asked for Donald Trump’s endorsement. And we are confident in a victory next week regardless.”
    A message left by CNN with the office of McCain, who faces a challenge from his right at the end of the month from former state Sen. Kelli Ward, was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
    But McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, who has been critical of Trump in the past, simply tweeted, “Character. Matters.”

    Tough criticism for Trump

    Both Ryan and McCain in recent days have sharply criticized Trump over his latest controversy, his disparaging remarks about the Muslim parents of Humayun Khan, a US Army captain who died in the Iraq War.
    Ryan reiterated Sunday that he rejects Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslim travel to the US after Trump took heat for criticizing Khan’s parents.
    McCain in particular was harsh, saying Trump did not have an “unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”
    The Arizona senator is meeting with Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, for a pre-scheduled meeting in Arizona on Tuesday.
    Trump previewed some hostility toward Ryan in a tweet praising Nehlen on Monday after the businessman praised Trump and recently tweeted articles and comments supporting the GOP nominee.
    “Thanks to @pnehlen for your kind words, very much appreciated,” Trump tweeted.
    In the Post interview, Trump also criticized New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is in a tough re-election battle and hit Trump over his remarks against the Khan family. She is supporting Trump’s candidacy but hastried to distance herself from him, claiming that she is not “endorsing” him.
    “I call it like I see it and I’m always going to stand up for our military families and what’s best for the people of New Hampshire,” she tweeted after Trump’s remarks were published.
    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a longtime Trump critic, rushed to the defense of Ryan, McCain and Ayotte, tweeting that they are “great leaders” who are “critical to holding our conservative majorities” in Congress.
    President Barack Obama on Tuesday challenged Republicans over their support for their presidential nominee given his often-controversial rhetoric on the trail.
    “What does this say about your party that this is your standard-bearer?” Obama asked of GOP leaders in remarks made at a White House news conference. “This isn’t a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily and weekly where they are distancing themselves from statements he’s making. There has to be a point at which you say, ‘This is not somebody I can support for president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party.’ “
    Obama said that denunciations from Republicans of Trump’s remarks “ring hollow” without an accompanying withdrawal of support.

    Could imperil Trump’s support on Capitol Hill

    One Republican congressman predicted that Trump’s criticisms would backfire and harm the nominee rather than Ryan, given the speaker’s support among House Republicans, many of whom are lukewarm about backing the controversial real estate mogul. The congressman, who has endorsed Trump but asked not to be identified in order to speak freely, said supporting Trump is now more difficult given his criticism of the Khan family.
    Asked how Trump would work with Ryan on Capitol Hill if both men were to be elected without Trump endorsing the House speaker, campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday that she would expect congressional Republicans to support the will of the people.
    “Well, (Trump) would hope that any elected official, based upon the election, would understand that the policies that Donald Trump has been putting out — considering he would have defied all odds, not just at the primary but in a general election as well — and they would work to represent their people,” Pierson said. “That’s what this government is about. We are a republic, not a democracy. Sometimes people forget that.”
    As for Ayotte, who has been under fire from New Hampshire Democrats for being too close to Trump, state Republican Party committeeman Tom Rath said Trump attacking her “is a gift.”
    “Her numbers here are far better than his,” Rath said, adding, “Independence is prized highly here and Trump just validated Kelly’s authenticity on that.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/02/politics/donald-trump-paul-ryan-john-mccain-endorse-primaries/index.html


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