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CIA director alerted FBI to pattern of contacts between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates

The CIA alerted the FBI to a troubling pattern of contacts between Russian officials and associates of the Trump campaign last year, former agency director John Brennan testified on Tuesday, shedding new light on the origin of a criminal probe that now reaches into the White House. In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Brennan said he became increasingly concerned that Trump associates were being manipulated by Russian intelligence services as part of a broader covert influence campaign that sought to disrupt the election and deliver the presidency to Trump.

I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons, Brennan said, adding that he did not see proof of collusion before he left office on January 20, but felt as though the FBI investigation was certainly well-founded and needed to look into those issues. Brennan s remarks represent the most detailed public accounting to date of his tenure as CIA director during the alleged Russian assault on the U.S. presidential race, and the agency s role in triggering an FBI probe that Trump has sought to contain.

[Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence[1]]

Team Trump s ties to Russian interests

It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process, Brennan said at one point, one of several moments in which his words seemed aimed squarely at the president.

Trump has refused to fully accept the unanimous conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies[2] that Russia stole thousands of sensitive e-mails, orchestrated online dumps of damaging information, and employed fake news and other means to upend the 2016 race. GOP lawmakers spent much of Tuesday s hearing trying to get Brennan to concede that he had no conclusive evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Brennan acknowledged that he still had unresolved questions about the purpose of those contacts when he stepped down as CIA director in January. But, I know what the Russians try to do, Brennan said. They try to suborn individuals and they try to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.

Brennan refused to name any of the U.S. individuals who were apparently detected communicating with Russian officials. The FBI investigation, which began last July, has scrutinized Trump associates including Paul Manafort, Trump s former campaign manager, Carter Page, who was once listed as a foreign policy adviser to Trump, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn who was forced to resign after misleading statements about his contacts with the Russian ambassador were exposed[3]. The probe has intensified in recent weeks and identified a current White House official[4] as a significant person of interest. Because Russia uses intermediaries and other measures to disguise its hand, many times, [U.S. individuals] do not know that the individual they are interacting with is a Russian, Brennan said.

(Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

He added that Russian agencies routinely seek to gather compromising information, or kompromat, to coerce treason from U.S. officials who do not even realize they are on that path until it gets too late. The remark appeared to be in reference to Flynn. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday they will consider interim steps to compel Flynn to hand over documents related to its Russia, short of citing him for contempt, after he refused to comply with a subpoena. Brennan was also asked about Trump s disclosure of highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting this month. Brennan said that the CIA at times provided tips about terrorist plots to the Kremlin, but he indicated that Trump violated key protocols.

Sensitive information should only be passed through intelligence services, not divulged to foreign ministers or ambassadors, Brennan said. Referring to the information revealed by Trump, Brennan said it had neither gone through the proper channels nor did the originating agency have the opportunity to clear language for it. Brennan was a key figure in the Obama administration s handling of Russian election interference. As alarm grew, Brennan held classified meetings with top congressional officials in the fall to impress upon them the unprecedented nature of Moscow s interference. Later, Brennan was among the top officials who briefed then-President-elect Trump on the scale of Russia s intervention, and its assessed goal of helping Trump win.

[FBI in agreement with CIA that Russia aimed to help Trump win White House[5]]

On Tuesday, Brennan testified that he was the first to confront a senior member of the Russian government on the matter, using an August phone conversation with the head of Russia s security service, the FSB, to warn that the meddling would backfire and damage the country s relationship with the United States. Brennan said he told FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov that American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election and that such activity would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement in relations with the United States. Bortnikov, twice denied that Russia was waging such a campaign, according to Brennan, but said he would carry the message to Russian President Vladi mir Putin.

[Political chaos in Washington is a return on investment for Moscow[6]]

I believe I was the first U.S. official to brace Russia on this matter, Brennan said.

The Obama administration went on to issue statements publicly accusing Moscow of election meddling, and in December announced punitive measures including the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States. Despite those warnings and efforts at retaliation, Brennan said that Russia was likely not dissuaded from attempting similar interference operations in the future. The former CIA chief is the latest senior Obama administration official to appear publicly before Congress in hearings that have often produced damaging headlines for Trump.

Earlier this month, former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified that she expected White House officials to take action [7] after warning that Flynn had misled administration officials about his contacts with Russia. At that same hearing, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said that Moscow s leaders must be congratulating themselves for having exceeded their wildest expectations with a minimal expenditure of resource, a reference not only to the outcome of the 2016 race but also to the chaos that has characterized the early months of the Trump administration. Brennan has feuded publicly with Trump over the president s treatment of intelligence agencies. In January, he lashed out at Trump[8] for comparing U.S. spy agencies to Nazi secret police.

Brennan was particularly offended by Trump s remarks during a speech at CIA headquarters on the day after he was inaugurated. Trump used the CIA s Memorial Wall a collection of engraved stars marking the lives of agency operatives killed in the line of duty to launch a rambling speech in which he bragged about his election victory.

Brennan called the appearance despicable and said that Trump should be ashamed.

Read more:

Trump angrily calls Russia investigation a witch hunt, and denies charges of collusion[9]

Justice Department ethics experts clear Mueller to lead Russia probe[10]

Comey prepared extensively for his conversations with Trump[11]

References

  1. ^ www.washingtonpost.com (www.washingtonpost.com)
  2. ^ the unanimous conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies (www.washingtonpost.com)
  3. ^ esign after misleading statements about his contacts with the Russian ambassador were exposed (www.washingtonpost.com)
  4. ^ intensified in recent weeks and identified a current White House official (www.washingtonpost.com)
  5. ^ www.washingtonpost.com (www.washingtonpost.com)
  6. ^ www.washingtonpost.com (www.washingtonpost.com)
  7. ^ testified that she expected White House officials to take action (www.washingtonpost.com)
  8. ^ he lashed out at Trump (www.washingtonpost.com)
  9. ^ www.washingtonpost.com (www.washingtonpost.com)
  10. ^ www.washingtonpost.com (www.washingtonpost.com)
  11. ^ www.washingtonpost.com (www.washingtonpost.com)

Gunmen try, and fail, to rob a DC medical marijuana dispensary

Gunshots were fired but no one was injured Sunday morning in an attempted robbery of a D.C. medical marijuana dispensary, police said. D.C. police responded to the sound of gunfire in the 6900 block of Blair Road Northwest at about 10:30 a.m. Wil Manlapaz, commander of the police department s Fourth District, wrote to neighbors early Sunday afternoon, announcing on a community email group that the commotion was an attempted robbery of the Takoma Wellness Center.

Two suspects were involved, Manlapaz said. The center is one of only three authorized medical marijuana dispensaries in the nation s capital. It was started by Jeffrey Kahn, a rabbi, who has become a fixture in lobbying for less restrictive marijuana laws in D.C.

References

  1. ^ www.washingtonpost.com (www.washingtonpost.com)

Much of the state continues to dig out as rounds of severe weather rumble through Oklahoma

Emergency services continue to be the story in Green Country and throughout the state after another round of severe weather rumbled through many communities, one of the hardest hit this week, Muskogee. According to Oklahoma Emergency Management officials, an American Red Cross shelter remains open in Muskogee for residents displaced by the storms this week. The shelter is located at the Muskogee First Baptist Church at 111 S. 7th Street. There were 10 guests at the shelter Friday evening. Elsewhere, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chainsaw teams are in Elk City to assist with large debris removal from Tuesday s tornado. Residents in areas affected by recent severe weather who need assistance from chainsaw teams may contact them by visiting www.okdisasterhelp.org.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports 71 injuries have been treated by area hospitals as a result of storms occurring Thursday afternoon through Saturday morning. Tuesday s storms resulted in the following injuries and fatality:
– 1 fatality as confirmed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
– 4 injuries were treated at area hospitals, as reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reports the following highways are impacted due to high water or flooding:

– Cherokee County – SH-80 is closed five miles south of SH-51 between Hulbert and Fort Gibson
– McIntosh County – SH-9 is closed between the Indian Nations Turnpike and SH-52
– Pittsburg County – US-270 one half mile west of the Indian Nations Turnpike; SH-63 from Haileyville west to Bache Rd.
– Atoka County – SH-131 6 miles west of US-69; SH-31 west of McAlester from the industrial park to Haywood
– Okfuskee County – SH-48 is closed one mile south of I-40 at the Canadian River bridge
– Johnston County – SH-4A a half mile north of Milburn
– Cotton County – SH-5B near Temple

To check CURRENT ROAD CONDITIONS in Oklahoma, call ODOT’s ROAD CONDITIONS HOTLINE at 844-4OK-HWYS (844-465-4997) or go to www.okroads.org. For turnpike information, call the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority at 877-403-7623 or go to www.pikepass.com.SEVERE WEATHER IMPACTS STATE

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas and are coordinating with agencies and organizations including the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Oklahoma Insurance Department, National Weather Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief and the Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. A State of Emergency remains in effect for all 77 Oklahoma counties due to severe storms, flooding, straight-line winds, tornadoes, and snow that began April 29. Under the Executive Order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions. The declaration may be extended for an additional 30 days if needed.

The Emergency Price Stabilization Act remains in effect for all 77 counties, after the governor declared a state of emergency on April 29, which prevents price gouging in situations such as this. There is prohibition of more than 10 percent increase for the price of goods and services after a state of emergency has been declared. The act is in effect throughout the state of emergency and for 30 days after it has ended. Additionally, the act remains in effect for another 180 days for charges for repairs, remodeling and construction. Individuals who suspect price gouging should contact the attorney general s Consumer Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029. For Oklahoma residents seeking non-emergency disaster or health and human service information, please contact your local 2-1-1. Services are available 24 hours a day by dialing 2-1-1 from your home or cellular telephone. Please only call 911 for emergencies.

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