New York Times
Not long after the early 2017 publication of a notorious dossier about President Trump jolted Washington, an expert in Russian politics told the F.B.I. he had been one of its key sources, drawing on his contacts to deliver information that would make up some of the most salacious and unproven assertions in the document.
The F.B.I. had approached the expert, a man named Igor Danchenko, as it vetted the dossier’s claims. He agreed to tell investigators what he knew with an important condition, people familiar with the matter said — that the F.B.I. keep his identity secret so he could protect himself, his sources and his family and friends in Russia.
But his hope of remaining anonymous evaporated last week after Attorney General William P. Barr directed the F.B.I. to declassify a redacted report about its three-day interview of Mr. Danchenko in 2017 and hand it over to Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Graham promptly made the interview summary public while calling the entire Russia investigation “corrupt.”
The report blacked out Mr. Danchenko’s name and other identifying information. But within two days, a post on a newly created blog entitled “I Found the Primary Subsource” identified him, citing clues left visible in the F.B.I. document. A pseudonymous Twitter account created in May then promoted the existence of the blog. And the next day, RT, the Kremlin-owned, English-language news and propaganda outlet, published an article amplifying Mr. Danchenko’s identification.
The decision by Justice Department and F.B.I. leaders to divulge such a report was highly unusual and created the risk it would help identify a person who had confidentially provided information to agents, even if officials did not intend to provide such a road map. The move comes at a time when Mr. Barr, who is to testify before lawmakers on Tuesday, has repeatedly been accused of abusing his powers to help Mr. Trump politically.
Former law enforcement officials said the outing will make it harder for F.B.I. agents to gain the trust of people they need to cooperate in future and unrelated investigations.
July 25, 2020
In the middle of a devastating pandemic and a searing economic crisis, the White House has an urgent question for its colleagues across the administration: Are you loyal enough to President Donald Trump?
The White House’s presidential personnel office is conducting one-on-one interviews with health officials and hundreds of other political appointees across federal agencies, an exercise some of the subjects have called “loyalty tests” to root out threats of leaks and other potentially subversive acts just months before the presidential election, according to interviews with 15 current and former senior administration officials.
The interviews are being arranged with officials across a wide range of departments including Health and Human Services, Defense, Treasury, Labor and Commerce and include the top tier of Trump aides: Senate-confirmed appointees. Officials are expected to detail their career goals and thoughts on current policies, said more than a dozen people across the administration with knowledge of the meetings. […]
The interview process, along with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ ongoing hunt for leakers, shows how the White House — less than four months before the presidential election — remains consumed by loyalty and optics despite urgent policy problems such as a raging coronavirus pandemic, nationwide worries about reopening schools and historically high unemployment. This week’s White House drama over Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease doctor, highlighted the persistent internal concern about whether government officials are in line with Trump’s preferred policy approaches — such as the president’s desire to downplay the latest coronavirus surges.
The reinterviewing exercise is being led by Johnny McEntee, a 30-year-old who’s been a Trump aide since the 2016 campaign and was installed earlier this year as chief of the White House personnel office and is responsible for filling thousands or jobs across the federal agencies.
The interviews can take the form of general questions, such as an appointee’s career goals, but can also veer into territory meant to test a person’s perceived loyalty, like asking for the appointee’s thoughts on the U.S. relationship with China or probing questions about why an appointee was chosen for his or her current job. Interviewers have also asked people to give examples of ways they are supporting the administration.
July 16, 2020
The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send all Covid-19 patient information to a central database in Washington beginning on Wednesday. The move has alarmed health experts who fear the data will be politicized or withheld from the public.
The new instructions were posted recently in a little-noticed document on the Department of Health and Human Services website. From now on, the department — not the C.D.C. — will collect daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, the number of available beds and ventilators, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.
Officials say the change will streamline data gathering and assist the White House coronavirus task force in allocating scarce supplies like personal protective gear and remdesivir, the first drug shown to be effective against the virus. But the Health and Human Services database that will receive new information is not open to the public, which could affect the work of scores of researchers, modelers and health officials who rely on C.D.C. data to make projections and crucial decisions.
“Historically, C.D.C. has been the place where public health data has been sent, and this raises questions about not just access for researchers but access for reporters, access for the public to try to better understand what is happening with the outbreak,” said Jen Kates, the director of global health and H.I.V. policy with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
“How will the data be protected?” she asked. “Will there be transparency, will there be access, and what is the role of the C.D.C. in understanding the data?”
News of the change came as a shock at the C.D.C., according to two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. Michael R. Caputo, a Health and Human Services spokesman, called the C.D.C.’s system inadequate and said the two systems would be linked. The C.D.C. would continue to make data public, he said.
July 14, 2020
New York Times
American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account, which was among the evidence that supported their conclusion that Russia covertly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, according to three officials familiar with the intelligence.
Though the United States has accused Russia of providing general support to the Taliban before, analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program that detainees described during interrogations. Investigators also identified by name numerous Afghans in a network linked to the suspected Russian operation, the officials said — including, two of them added, a man believed to have served as an intermediary for distributing some of the funds and who is now thought to be in Russia.
The intercepts bolstered the findings gleaned from the interrogations, helping reduce an earlier disagreement among intelligence analysts and agencies over the reliability of the detainees. The disclosures further undercut White House officials’ claim that the intelligence was too uncertain to brief President Trump. In fact, the information was provided to him in his daily written brief in late February, two officials have said.
June 30, 2020