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The press conference centered around menacing emails that had been sent to Democratic voters warning them to vote for Trump “or we will come after you.”

Ratcliffe attributed the emails to Iran but said they were “designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump,” raising immediate questions about how threatening Democrats to vote for Trump could be aimed at damaging the president’s re-election bid — and how the intelligence community had made that determination within 24 hours of the messages.

Ractliffe also contrasted Iran’s actions with those of Russia, adding, “although we have not seen the same actions from Russia, we are aware that they have obtained some voter information just as they did in 2016.”

Ratcliffe, who has come under fire from Democrats since his confirmation in May, had decided on his own earlier on in the day to hold the press conference about the spoofed emails, the officials said. The FBI and CISA joined in on the briefing so that the warning about Iranian and Russian interference in the presidential election would be seen as independent and apolitical.

Journalists were given a roughly 30-minute warning about a forthcoming “election security” announcement. The seven-minute briefing, during which the officials didn’t take any questions, was hastily arranged and rushed, officials said, to avoid conflicting with a rally Trump was scheduled to give that night.

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The unusual announcement prompted days of leaks and counterleaks over whether Iran or Russia represented the greater election threat, and set off a fresh round of criticism from Democratic lawmakers.

It wasn’t the first time Ratcliffe has raised hackles on Capitol Hill: He received bipartisan criticism last month when he declassified a Russian intelligence assessment that was previously rejected by Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee as being potential Russian disinformation. He also scaled back election security briefings to lawmakers over the summer because of leaks, prompting outrage from Democrats. And earlier this month he appeared to reveal that the FBI was investigating a matter related to Joe Biden’s son Hunter in remarks that some law enforcement veterans deemed inappropriate.

Last week’s briefing about Iran and Russia was meant to be a kind of victory lap — government analysts and private sector investigators had been able to attribute the influence operation to Iranian hackers within a matter of hours, whereas it usually takes months for investigators to confidently determine the origins of a foreign cyberattack. The attribution was aided by a series of clumsy mistakes the hackers made, Krebs told reporters in a separate briefing last week.

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In their intimidating emails, the Iranian hackers had posed as the Proud Boys, a far-right group that gained national notoriety at last month’s first presidential debate when Trump, asked to denounce white supremacists, instead told the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by.”

That is another area where Ratcliffe went off script, the officials said: He omitted any references to the Proud Boys during last week’s briefing, even though the group was named in his prepared remarks.

A senior intelligence official said that Ratcliffe’s remarks were being edited “until mere moments before he went on stage” and that “the broad strokes were shared with agencies who had equities in the press conference to make sure everyone was on the same page.”

Officials at the FBI and CISA referred questions to ODNI. DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Literally no one is disputing the 100 percent factual accuracy of the DNI’s remarks,” said Amanda Schoch, the assistant DNI for strategic communications. “The rest of this is just pointless process noise, most of which is inaccurate or taken out of context.”

Schoch noted an Aug. 7 statement by Bill Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

Evanina said the intelligence community had assessed that Iran “seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections.”

“What the DNI made clear last week is that Iran is executing activities to influence the U.S. election,” Schoch said. “The [intelligence community] has not changed our assessment on Iran’s intent.”


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Joe Biden administration defends its decision not to sanction Saudi Crown Prince

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The Biden administration defended its decision not to sanction Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally for his role in the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as the White House confirmed no more actions against the kingdom are imminent.

“The United States has not historically sanctioned the leaders of countries where we have diplomatic relations or even some where we don’t have diplomatic relations,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Behind the scenes there are a range of diplomatic conversations.”

Despite President Joe Biden’s comment Friday in an interview with Univision that “we’re going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday” — and a similar statement from at the White House on Saturday — the administration said it isn’t planning steps beyond the limited sanctions already announced against some Saudi officials.

“The recalibration of relations with Saudi Arabia began on January 20th and it’s ongoing,” the White House said in a statement. “The Administration took a wide range of new actions on Friday. The President is referring to the fact that on Monday, the State Department will provide more details and elaborate on those announcements, not new announcements.”

Psaki, in a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the administration has been “crystal clear at every level” about recalibrating the relationship with Saudi Arabia and about it’s plan to “turn the page from the last four years.”

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On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced what he called a new “Khashoggi Ban” policy, barring U.S. visas for 76 Saudi individuals who the U.S. said had threatened dissidents abroad.

That action came after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified version of an intelligence report that the Trump administration had withheld from the public. “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the intelligence agencies found.

Democratic lawmakers ramped up their calls for Biden to do more to hold the Saudi crown prince personally responsible. Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Fox that sanctions on Prince Mohammed should be considered “if we don’t see a change in behavior.”

The crown prince has said he accepts symbolic responsibility for the killing as the country’s de facto ruler. Saudi officials have said the murder was carried out by rogue agents who have since been prosecuted.

On Friday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said the government “completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.
(Livemint)

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Donald Trump

GOP Senator: Trump’s Not Going to be 2024 Republican Nominee

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Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) urged his fellow Republicans to move past former President Donald Trump on Sunday, predicting that due to the damage Trump has done to the GOP, he likely won’t be the party’s presidential nominee in 2024.

Hours before Trump was set to deliver his first post-White House speech at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Cassidy appeared on CNN’s State of the Union to discuss the current state of the Republican Party and Trump’s place in it.

The Louisiana lawmaker, who was one of seven GOP senators to vote to convict Trump during the ex-president’s second impeachment trial earlier this month, called on the GOP to make issues and policy front and center in the coming elections.

“We’ve got to win in two years, we’ve got to win in four years,” Cassidy told host Dana Bash. “If we do that, we’ll do that by speaking to those issues important to the American people, and there’s a lot of issues important to them right now, not by putting one person on a pedestal and making that one person our focal point.”

Bash, meanwhile, noted that Trump’s influence on the party is not diminishing, despite his impeachment for allegedly inciting an insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol. Pointing out that Trump’s face was literally “embronzed” at CPAC and top Republicans are flying down to meet the former president, the CNN host asked how the GOP can move forward with Trump still in the spotlight.

“CPAC is not the entirety of the Republican Party,” he replied. “That’s number one. Number two, political organizations and campaigns are about winning. Over the last four years, we lost the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the presidency. That has not happened in a single four years under a president since Herbert Hoover. If we plan to win in 2022 and 2024, we have to listen to the voters.”

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Asked whether he was personally faulting Trump for the GOP losing control of Congress, Cassidy demurred somewhat, insisting again that Republicans need to speak to policy solutions. At the same time, he did say that if they “idolize one person, we will lose.”

Noting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—who was highly critical of Trump’s role in the insurrection—has come out and said he will back Trump if he runs in 2024, Bash then pressed Cassidy on whether he feels Trump is fit to be president again.

“I don’t think—one, he’ll be 78 years old—but I don’t think he’ll be our nominee for the reasons I’ve said,” Cassidy responded. “Over the last four years, we’ve lost the House, the Senate, and the presidency. Political campaigns are about winning.”

“That’s a theoretical that I don’t think will come to pass,” he concluded. “I don’t mean to duck, but the truth is you could ask me [about] a lot of people, if they are fit. Point is, I don’t think he’ll be our nominee.”
(Fox News

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Donald Trump

New Republican group promises to have ‘Trump shaking in his boots’ over his future

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Appearing on MSNBC early Sunday morning, a former member of Donald Trump’s administration teased the announcement of a newly formed group of Republicans and ex-Republicans whose goal is to make sure that the ex-president will never be a viable candidate for office again.

Speaking with hosts Kendis Gibson and Lindsey Reiser, former Homeland Security official Miles Taylor noted the current CPAC conference in Florida where the president is expected to get hero’s welcome from the far-right attendees and said it is important that traditional Republicans push back on Trump’s re-entry into the public square after losing re-election in November.

“I want to give you a number: 50 percent,” Taylor began. “Donald Trump can’t get to 50 percent. We just saw this in the most recent election, he cannot win elections. We’ve got to be able to, in the Republican Party, have someone who is a standard-bearer that can get us over 50 percent to win elections. He can’t, he lost in spectacular fashion in this election and that’s why I think it’s entirely inappropriate for us to continue to put him forward as the leader of this party. it’s a mistake that’s going the cause the GOP to lose elections in the future and it’s time to move on from Donald Trump.”

Pressed on his future plans to oppose Trump, Taylor first said, “There are a lot of people in the party ready to move beyond Donald Trump. In fact, most of us realize he is much better at golfing than governing which is really saying a lot if you know anything about Donald Trump’s golf game,” before adding, “Donald Trump lost, not because more Democrats came out. Donald Trump lost because his own voters defected from him.”

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“I’m happy to share with you today a little bit of a tease,” he added. ” I can’t give you all the information, but we’re about to make an announcement in the very near future that’s going to make Donald Trump have the worst heartburn he’s had in the post-presidency. We’re going to be channeling this movement to challenge him to create an insurgency within and without the GOP to drive forward towards a better center-right political movement than Donald Trump can put together. It’s something he’s going to have to contend with.”

Pressed for more details he added, “You’re aware of the fact that we’ve been having conversations with very prominent people in the GOP and ex-Republicans about where we go beyond Trump, how do we move beyond Trump. You’re going to hear from us in the month of March about what’s coming next.”

“What’s coming next is going to make Donald Trump fear for his ability to continue to be a standard-bearer of this party,” he continued. “We are going to channel this movement, rally people together in the center, bring the Republican Party back from crazy to rational as best we can, and Trump should be shaking in his boots.”
(Raw Story)

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