The FBI probe and parallel congressional investigations into alleged Russian political meddling, and whether any Trump campaign officials colluded with the Kremlin, have dogged his young presidency.
The search for a new FBI director is beginning on May 13, with four possible candidates being interviewed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Image source Flickr
In yesterday’s daily briefing, Sean Spicer refused to comment on questions about whether President Trump had been making surreptitious recordings in the White House.
Donald Trump tweeted hours earlier that James Comey had “better hope there are no tapes” of their conversations.
Sean Spicer denied the tweet was a threat.
“The president has nothing further to add on that,” he told reporters repeatedly when pressed about the post.
“The tweet speaks for itself.”
However, James Comey believes “if there is a tape, there is nothing he is worried about”, a source told CNN.
Donald Trump’s comments provoked fresh comparisons between his administration and that of disgraced President Richard Nixon, who famously recorded conversations, speeding his downfall during the Watergate scandal.
The top Democrats on the House judiciary and oversight committees wrote to the White House on May 12 demanding copies of any recordings.
John Conyers and Elijah Cummings’ letter noted “it is a crime to intimidate or threaten any potential witness with the intent to influence, delay or prevent their official testimony”.
James Comey has declined an invitation to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 16.
President Trump told NBC News that James Comey requested the one-on-one dinner, but the former FBI director reportedly maintains it was the president who invited him.
James Comey had said he was “uneasy” before the dinner, according to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
James Clapper told MSNBC on May 12 that he had spoken to James Comey before the White House meal.
The FBI chief had confided he was concerned it might compromise his Trump-Russia inquiry, said James Clapper.
President Trump has said James Comey told him three times he was not a target of the FBI inquiry, fuelling accusations the president was interfering in the investigation.
Still chafing at media coverage of the firing, President Trump tweeted on May 12: “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future <<press briefings>> and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”
Sean Spicer said the president was a “little dismayed” that his press team’s attempts to give out information were being turned into a “game of gotcha” by the media.
President Trump doubled down in an interview with Fox News by threatening to hold the press briefings only once a fortnight, with himself at the podium.
“Unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself, we don’t have them,” he said.
“I think it’s a good idea. First of all, you have a level of hostility that’s incredible and it’s very unfair.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has announced he already submitted his letter of resignation.
General James Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee that “it felt pretty good”.
He had been expected to step aside, as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to appoint his own officials.
Analysts believe that James Clapper is sending a signal to the Trump administration that they must now speed up the transition.
President-elect Donald Trump has denied that his transition team is in turmoil, despite having only filled two postings so far.
One of Donald Trump’s close advisers, Kellyanne Conway, told reporters at Trump Tower in New York that announcements would be made before or after Thanksgiving, which is one week away.
James Clapper will remain in post until President Barack Obama leaves office.
“I submitted my letter of resignation last night which felt pretty good. I’ve got 64 days left,” he said.
Committee members jokingly asked him to stay for four more years.
James Clapper has authority over 17 different agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the (Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
More than 107,000 employees report to James Clapper with a combined budget of over $52 billion.
In a profile published by Wired magazine only hours before James Clapper’s announcement, he said that he never questioned the morality of his profession.
In his role, James Clapper has often been in the position of defending the National Security Agency (NSA), just one of the covert agencies that his office oversees.
NSA’s image was badly damaged after Edward Snowden revealed how they collect information on American citizens.
During a 2013 congressional hearing, James Clapper was asked: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?”
“No, sir,” he replied.
“It does not?” the incredulous senator responded.
“Not wittingly,” James Clapper said.
“There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
On November 17, James Clapper was asked if Donald Trump will open up a rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but answered that he does not predict a “significant change in Russian behavior”.
James Clapper, 75, has served in the job for six years after previously working for the US Air Force and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
According to US intelligence chief James Clapper, North Korea has restarted a plutonium production reactor that could provide a stockpile for nuclear weapons.
James Clapper also said North Korea had taken steps towards making an intercontinental ballistic missile system.
His announcement comes days after North Korea launched a long-range rocket, which critics say is a test of banned missile technology.
In September 2015, Pyongyang said its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon had resumed normal operations.
The reactor there has been the source of plutonium for its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test on January 6, 2016.
“We assess that North Korea has followed through on its announcement by expanding its Yongbyon enrichment facility and restarting the plutonium production reactor,” James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We further assess that North Korea has been operating the reactor long enough so that it could begin to recover plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel within a matter of weeks to months.”
According to James Clapper, Pyongyang was also committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile “capable of posing a direct threat to the United States”.
James Clapper said it had publicly displayed a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system and had taken “initial steps toward fielding this system, although the system has not been flight-tested”.
Experts have said that, when fully operational, the Yongbyon reactor could make one nuclear bomb’s worth of plutonium per year. About 4kg of plutonium is needed in order to make a bomb that would explode with a force of 20 kilotons.
Pyongyang has pledged several times to stop operations at Yongbyon and even destroyed the cooling tower in 2008 as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal.
In March 2013, following a row with the US and with new UN sanctions over a third nuclear test, it vowed to restart all facilities at Yongbyon.
Six-nation talks involving South Korea, the US, China, Japan and Russia aimed at ending the North’s nuclear programme have been stalled since 2009.
North Korea says it has made a device small enough to fit a nuclear warhead on to a missile, which it could launch at its enemies. However, US officials have cast doubt on the claim.
The CIA has decided to withdraw its staff from the US embassy in China after data stolen from government computers could expose its agents, the Washington Post reports.
In April, data about some 21 million federal employees was stolen in a massive attack on the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Security companies have blamed Chinese state hackers for the attack.
Removing the CIA staff was “precautionary”, agency officials told the Washington Post.
The CIA declined to comment directly on the matter.
Information about CIA staff was not in the massive cache of files stolen from OPM computers, but other records about background checks carried out by the State Department on employees were copied in the raid.
The CIA fears that by comparing the list of those who have been checked with the roster of known embassy personnel could help the Chinese expose its intelligence workers.
Those working at the embassy but not checked by the State Department were CIA agents, said the newspaper, citing “unnamed officials”.
The danger that trawling through the data would expose intelligence agents was also raised by CIA Director James Clapper during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
James Clapper said the breach had “potentially very serious implications” for the intelligence community by identifying its agents in other countries.
“This is a gift that’s going to keep on giving for years,” he told the Senate committee looking into the cyber-threats facing the US and the steps the nation took to combat them.
James Clapper added the US itself engaged in the types of cyber-attacks China had been accused of.
According to intelligence chief James Clapper, China is the “leading suspect” in the massive hack of a US government agency holding the personnel records of millions of Americans,.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is the highest-ranking US official to publicly implicate Beijing since news of the data breach emerged.
China always dismissed suggestions that it was behind the hacking.
The statement comes after three days of high-level talks in which China and the US agreed to a “code of conduct”.
At a conference in Washington DC, James Clapper said: “China remains the leading suspects.”
“The US government continues to investigate” he added, according to his office.
At the Washington talks where cyber security was a top priority, Secretary of State John Kerry said there was a need to work with China to develop a “code of conduct” on state behavior in cyberspace – Chinese representatives had agreed with these conclusions.
“It’s something that we agreed needs to be addressed and hopefully it can be addressed soon,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said on June 25.
China has said any suggestion that it was behind the hacking is “irresponsible and unscientific”.
North Korea has released detained US citizens Matthew Todd Miller and Kenneth Bae.
Matthew Todd Miller and Kenneth Bae are now on their way home.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper travelled to North Korea and is accompanying the men back, the US has confirmed.
A third US citizen, Jeffrey Fowle, was freed last month and no Americans are now being held in North Korea.
President Barack Obama said he was “grateful” for their safe return.
He said it was “a wonderful day” for the men and their families.
The US had accused North Korea of using its citizens as pawns in a diplomatic game. Pyongyang denies the accusations.
James Clapper travelled to North Korea for direct talks with the authorities.
North Korea has released detained US citizens Matthew Todd Miller and Kenneth Bae
Barack Obama said: “I appreciate the director doing a great job on what was obviously a challenging mission.”
The US department of state said in a statement that it “welcomes the release of US citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller from the DPRK [North Korea], where they have been held for two years and seven months, respectively”.
It added: “The United States has long called on DPRK authorities to release these individuals on humanitarian grounds. We join their families and friends in welcoming them home.”
One US official told Associated Press news agency that nothing was offered in return for the releases.
The official said that the releases had not changed the US view of North Korea’s nuclear program and that the North should show a serious commitment to denuclearization and improved human rights.
The US thanked Sweden, which serves as the US protecting power in North Korea, for its efforts in the releases.
Matthew Todd Miller, 24, had been sentenced to six years’ hard labor in September for what North Korean state media described as “hostile acts”.
He had been in custody since April 10 when, according to North Korean sources, he destroyed his tourist visa and demanded asylum.
Kenneth Bae, 42, had been arrested in November 2012 as he entered the north-eastern port city of Rason, a special economic zone near North Korea’s border with China.
He has been described as both a tour operator and Christian missionary. North Korea said he used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government.
Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in May 2013.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has decided to declassify more information on the National Security Agency (NSA) spying, showing it started in October 2001
On Saturday, James Clapper declassified more documents that outline how the NSA was first authorized to start collecting bulk phone and Internet records in the hunt for al-Qaeda terrorists and how a court eventually gained oversight of the program.
The declassification came after the Justice Department complied with a federal court order to release its previous legal arguments for keeping the programs secret.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper showed the NSA spying started in October 2001
James Clapper explained in a statement Saturday that President George W. Bush first authorized the spying in October 2001, as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, just after the September 11 attacks. President Bush disclosed the program in 2005. The Terrorist Surveillance Program – which had to be extended every 30-60 days by presidential order – eventually was replaced by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law that requires a secret court to approve the bulk collection.
He also released federal court documents from successive intelligence directors arguing to keep the programs secret, after a California judge this fall ordered the administration to declassify whatever details already had been revealed as part of the White House’s campaign to justify the NSA surveillance.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden first made the surveillance programs public in leaks to the media.
Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked documents on US surveillance programmes, has defended himself in an online chat, the Guardian reports.
Edward Snowden, 29, said US officials had destroyed any possibility of a fair trial by labelling him a traitor.
The former CIA contractor also denied suggestions he was a Chinese agent and repeated his claim that intelligence analysts could wiretap any phone call or email.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has denied such allegations.
James Clapper has said the kind of data that can be accessed, and who can access it, is severely limited.
But in the online chat, Edward Snowden said such restrictions were easily circumvented.
Edward Snowden took to live web chat to defend leaking NSA secrets
He acknowledged that the US internet surveillance programme did have a filter that was meant to exclude American citizens.
But he added: “The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the <<widest allowable aperture>>, and can be stripped out at any time.”
Edward Snowden said he had decided to speak out after observing “a continuing litany of lies” from senior officials to Congress.
“The US government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason,” Edward Snowden wrote.
Two influential members of the US Congress last week accused him of betraying his country.
Of claims that he was working for Chinese intelligence, Edward Snowden said: “This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public.”
Edward Snowden added that he had no intention of going back to the US or turning himself in.
“The US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me,” he said.
James Clapper, director of US National Intelligence, has strongly defended government surveillance programmes after revelations of phone records being collected and internet servers being tapped.
Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper said disclosure of a secret court document on phone record collection threatened “irreversible harm”.
Revelations of an alleged programme to tap into servers of nine internet firms were “reprehensible”, he said.
Internet firms deny giving government agents access to their servers.
The director of US national intelligence issued a strong-worded statement late on Thursday, after the UK’s Guardian newspapersaid a secret court order had required phone company Verizon to hand over its records to the National Security Agency (NSA) on an “ongoing daily basis”.
That report was followed by revelations in both the Washington Post and Guardian that US agencies tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms to track people in a programme known as Prism.
The reports about Prism will raise fresh questions about how far the US government should encroach on citizens’ privacy in the interests of national security.
The NSA confirmed that it had been secretly collecting millions of phone records. But James R. Clapper said the “unauthorized disclosure… threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation”.
The article omitted “key information” about the use of the records “to prevent terrorist attacks and the numerous safeguards that protect privacy and civil liberties”.
He said reports about Prism contained “numerous inaccuracies”. While admitting the government collected communications from internet firms, he said the policy only targets “non-US persons”.
Prism was reportedly developed in 2007 out of a programme of domestic surveillance without warrants that was set up by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks.
Prism reportedly does not collect user data, but is able to pull out material that matches a set of search terms.
James Clapper, director of US National Intelligence, has strongly defended government surveillance programmes after revelations of phone records being collected and internet servers being tapped
James Clapper said the communications-collection programme was “designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-US persons located outside the United States”.
“It cannot be used to intentionally target any US citizen, any other US person, or anyone located within the United States,” he added.
James Clapper said the programme, under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was recently reauthorized by Congress after hearings and debate.
“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats,” he added.
But while US citizens were not intended to be the targets of surveillance, the Washington Post says large quantities of content from Americans are nevertheless screened in order to track or learn more about the target.
The data gathered through Prism has grown to become a major contributor to the president’s daily briefing and accounts for almost one in seven intelligence reports, it adds.
The Washington Post named the nine companies participating in the programme as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.
Microsoft said in a statement that it only turned over customer data when given a legally binding order, and only complied with orders for specific accounts.
“If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it,” Microsoft said.
Meanwhile, Yahoo, Apple and Facebook said they did not give the government direct access to their servers.
In a statement, Google said: “Google does not have a <<back door>> for the government to access private user data.”
On Wednesday, it emerged that the NSA was collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans, after the Guardian published a secret order for the Verizon phone company to hand over its records.
A senior congressman, House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers, told reporters that collecting Americans’ phone records was legal, authorized by Congress and had not been abused by the Obama administration.
He also said it had prevented a “significant” attack on the US “within the past few years”, but declined to offer more information.
The order requires Verizon – one of the largest phone companies in the US – to disclose to the NSA the metadata of all calls it processes, both domestic and international, in which at least one party is in the US.
Such metadata includes telephone numbers, calling card numbers, the serial numbers of phones used and the time and duration of calls. It does not include the content of a call or the callers’ addresses or financial information.
The CIA has opened an investigation into the conduct of its former director David Petraeus, who resigned last week citing an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell.
A CIA spokesman says the inquiry by the agency’s inspector general would see if there are any lessons to be learned.
Paula Broadwell, 40, was found to have classified information, but both she and General David Petraeus deny it came from him.
David Petraeus will testify on Friday on Capitol Hill about September’s deadly attack on the US consulate in Libya.
The CIA said in a statement on Thursday: “At the CIA we are constantly reviewing our performance. If there are lessons to be learned from this case we’ll use them to improve.
“But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves; an investigation is exploratory and doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome.”
In his first interview since resigning, David Petraeus told CNN on Thursday he had not given any classified information to his former lover.
He also said he quit because of the affair, not the assault two months ago on the consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead.
The CIA has opened an investigation into the conduct of its former director David Petraeus, who resigned last week citing an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell
David Petraeus will be questioned by lawmakers behind closed doors on Friday about that attack, which has been the focus of Republican claims that the Obama administration misled the American people.
Meanwhile, intelligence officials continued on Thursday to defend their handling of the investigation into David Petraeus’ affair.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and acting CIA Director Michael Morell appeared before the House intelligence committee.
Dutch Ruppersberger, the panel’s top Democrat, said after the hearing that he was satisfied with the FBI’s investigation.
He said the agency was right not to have notified political leaders sooner, because of rules set up post-Watergate to prevent meddling in criminal investigations.
But another committee member, Representative Adam Schiff, also a Democrat, said “there’s a lot of information we need … with respect to the facts about the allegations against General Petraeus”.
At a press conference in New Orleans, US Attorney General Eric Holder was also asked why the justice department did not inform the White House or lawmakers earlier about the investigation.
Eric Holder said: “As we went through the investigation and looked at the facts and tried to examine them as they developed, we felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist.”
The scandal was discovered when FBI officials looked into harassing emails, allegedly from Paula Broadwell, that were sent to a Florida socialite who is a family friend of the Petraeuses.
The inquiry has also ensnared the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen.
John Allen is under investigation for sending what officials describe as “flirtatious” emails to the Tampa hostess, Jill Kelley.
Adultery is illegal under military law, but General John Allen denies wrongdoing.