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Jerry Dunleavy

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Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing legislation aimed at denying visas to foreigners who have engaged in espionage or intellectual property theft against the United States.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced the Protecting America from Spies Act on Tuesday with a particular focus on China, a country against which the Trump administration is turning up the pressure on several fronts. Hartzler introduced her version of the bill last month while Cruz dropped his in the evening on Tuesday.

Their goal is to empower the State Department to ensure that any espionage and illicit tech-transfer activity makes one ineligible for entry into the U.S. To do so, the Republicans aim to update the Immigration and Naturalization Act because, under current law, spies from China or elsewhere who are expelled from the U.S. are still allowed to then reapply for visas to regain entry.

The text of the legislation, first obtained by the Washington Examiner, would also make the spouses and children of those engaged in spying or trade theft within the past five years inadmissible to the U.S.

“It is past time to stop known Chinese spies from coming back into our country,” Hartzler said in a statement. Current laws only allow individuals to be denied entry if the consular officer has knowledge of future espionage plans. Our country needs to be protected so known bad actors are not allowed to steal from us again. I thank my House colleagues for joining me in this effort, and Senators Cruz, Rubio, Tillis, and Loeffler for introducing the Senate companion bill.”

At least four Chinese military members have been charged by the Justice Department in recent weeks for concealing their ties to China’s military and thus committing visa fraud while acting as students or researchers at U.S. universities.

“These members of China’s People Liberation Army applied for research visas while hiding their true affiliation with the PLA,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said last week. “This is another part of the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to take advantage of our open society and exploit academic institutions.”

John Brown, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, said that “in interviews with members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in over 25 cities across the U.S., the FBI uncovered a concerted effort to hide their true affiliation to take advantage of the United States and the American people.”

The text of the new legislation says that “any alien is inadmissible who … engages, has engaged, or will engage in any activity in violation of any law of the United States relating to espionage or sabotage … [or] in violation or evasion of any law prohibiting the export from the United States of goods, technology, or sensitive information.”

“For too long China and our competitors have been using non-traditional forms of espionage against our country without any consequences,” Cruz said. “The State Department’s recent closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston due to the Communist Chinese Party actively engaging in espionage and intellectual property theft was an important step, but more needs to be done. That’s why today my colleagues and I are introducing legislation to strengthen our laws and protect our national security by ensuring that any individuals who attempt to spy or steal from the United States and their family members are denied access to our country.”

Last week, the Justice Department accused two Chinese hackers, assisted by the Chinese government’s Ministry of State Security, of seeking to steal coronavirus research and engaging in a 10-year global cybercampaign stealing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of information.

The Justice Department’s China Initiative aims to combat both Chinese espionage and its Thousand Talents Program, suspected of being geared toward stealing research, and the U.S. has arrested and charged a number of scientists, including Harvard’s chemistry department chairman, Charles Lieber. The agency charged Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in a global racketeering scheme earlier this year.

In June, the Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE as “national security threats” while the Pentagon named Huawei as one of 20 Chinese companies operating in the U.S. with direct ties to the Chinese government’s People’s Liberation Army.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have all given speeches in recent weeks warning of the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Source: Washington Examiner: GOP legislation aims to deny visas to Chinese spies and their families

In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr refused to commit to holding off on releasing a report by U.S. Attorney John Durham until after the 2020 election.

Hours into a grueling public event, in which Democrats repeatedly cut off their star witness much to the chagrin of Republicans present, Barr rejected the notion that the release of the federal prosecutor’s findings from his criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation before the November contest would amount to a violation of Justice Department policy or election interference.

“Under oath, do you commit to not releasing any report by Mr. Durham before the November election?” Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Florida Democrat, asked the attorney general.

“No,” Barr replied. When asked again, he repeated, “No. I will be very careful.”

During cross-talk between Mucarsel-Powell and Barr, the Florida Democrat claimed the attorney general was saying, “you won’t go by Justice Department policy that you won’t interfere in any political investigations before the election.” Barr reiterated, “We’re not going to interfere — in fact, I’ve made it clear that we’re not going to tolerate interference.”

Mucarsel-Powell shot back, “But under oath, you’re saying that you do not commit to not releasing a report by Durham?”

Barr insisted, “Any report will be, in my judgment, not one that is covered by the policy and would disrupt the election.” He added: “I’ve already made it clear that neither candidate is under investigation.”

Barr has said that he expects “developments” and a public report from Durham by the end of the summer. The top federal prosecutor in Connecticut is investigating misconduct by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials in an inquiry that has been much hyped by Republicans and derided by Democrats as an effort to tar President Trump’s political enemies.

Just as Barr’s critics fear an “October Surprise,” timing is also a mounting concern for the president’s allies who say Durham’s work will likely get buried should Trump lose his bid for reelection.

The Justice Department has guidance related to “election year sensitivities,” although it is not clear that releasing Durham’s findings would violate the policy.

Three prior attorneys general — George W. Bush’s attorney general, Michael Mukasey, in March 2008, and Obama’s attorneys general Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch in March 2012 and April 2016, respectively — all released similar memos related to conducting investigations and handing down indictments related to political candidates close to an election.

“Simply put, politics must play no role in the decisions of federal investigators or prosecutors regarding any investigations or criminal charges,” the Mukasey, Holder, and Lynch memos all stated. “Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party. Such a purpose is inconsistent with the Department’s mission and with the Principles of Federal Prosecution.”

In February, Barr released his own memo, which added new details to the DOJ’s election-minded policies.

“The Department has long recognized that it must exercise particular care regarding sensitive investigations and prosecutions that relate to political candidates, campaigns, and other politically sensitive individuals and organizations — especially in an election year,” Barr’s memo stated. “As we enter the 2020 election year, the Department remains committed to ensuring that this fall’s elections are conducted in a fair manner that is free from inappropriate influences.”

The new details in Barr’s memo deal mainly with the opening of investigations into candidates for president and their campaigns, with these investigations needing the approval of the attorney general. But Durham’s investigation has been ongoing for well over a year, long before former Vice President Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Barr has said neither Obama nor Biden is under criminal investigation.

“Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime,” Barr said during a press conference in May. “Now, as to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man.”

In the preceding month, Barr told conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt during a radio interview that the November election would not affect the timing of Durham’s report.

Hewitt said there are DOJ guidelines related to announcing either indictments or the end of an investigation close to an election because of the influence it might have on who wins, noting these rules factored into then-FBI Director James Comey’s statement in July 2016 declaring that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information but that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring an indictment against her.

Barr said Election Day was not going to be a factor for when Durham releases his report, or, he added, for when the prosecutor might press charges.

“I think, in its core, the idea is, you don’t go after candidates,” Barr said. “You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But, you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category.”

In December, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz noted “the so-called ’60-Day Rule’ under which prosecutors avoid public disclosure of investigative steps related to electoral matters or the return of indictments against a candidate for office within 60 days of a primary or general election.” The independent watchdog noted that “the 60-Day Rule is not written or described in any Department policy,” although it is a “general practice that informs Department decisions.”

Robert Mueller’s special counsel report, released in April 2019, said the Russians interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” but it “did not establish” any criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Durham and his team are examining everything from the lead-up to the genesis of Crossfire Hurricane in the summer of 2016 through Mueller’s appointment and beyond.

Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Source: Washington Examiner: Barr: 2020 election won’t delay report from John Durham

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., says there are unreleased transcripts of recorded conversations between FBI informants and former Trump campaign associate George Papadopoulos that “has the potential to be a game changer.”

In a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo on Sunday, the former House Oversight Committee chairman said when the FBI listens in on phone calls or sends in an informant wearing a wire then “there’s a transcript of that” and that “one in particular has the potential to actually persuade people.”

In laying out a series of questions about the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into President Trump’s campaign and the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the operation, Gowdy listed a series of questions he thinks need to be answered, including: “Where are the transcripts, if any exist, between the informants and the telephone calls to George Papadopoulos?”

During special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to and was sentenced to 14 days in jail for lying to the FBI about his conversations with London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, who allegedly told Papadopoulos that the Russians had damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 election. Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor who was working with the FBI as an informant, and Azra Turk, a woman posing as Halper’s assistant and using an alias, met with Papadopoulos in 2016 during the presidential campaign.

Republican lawmakers who have seen the relevant documents believe exculpatory evidence related to Papadopoulos was not included in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“If the bureau is going to send an informant in it’s going to be wired and if the bureau is monitoring telephone calls there’s a transcript of that,” Gowdy said. “And some of us have been fortunate enough to know whether or not those transcripts exist. But they haven’t been made public.”

Gowdy said one still-secret transcript could be a bombshell. “I think one in particular is going, it has the potential to actually persuade people. Very little on this Russia probe, I’m afraid, is going to persuade people who hate Trump or love Trump. But there is some information in these transcripts that I think has the potential to be a game changer, if it’s ever made public,” he said.

Gowdy agreed with Bartiromo’s suggestion that the FBI had concealed relevant details about Papadopoulos from the FISA court, echoing the concerns that Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, has been expressing for months. “Yeah, John Ratcliffe is rightfully exercised over the obligations the government has to tell the whole truth to a court when you are speaking permission to spy or do surveillance on an American,” Gowdy said. “And part of that includes the responsibility of providing exculpatory information or information that tends to show the person did not do something wrong.”

“If you have exculpatory information and you don’t share it with the court, that ain’t good.” Gowdy added. “I’ve seen it, Johnny has seen it, I’d love for your viewers to see it.”

The Justice Department’s presentations to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have been roundly criticized by Republicans, especially the FBI’s reliance on the dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, who was being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC through Fusion GPS via the Perkins Coie law firm. Republicans say the FBI did not verify the dossier before using it and that the bureau hid key facts from the court, while Democrats have defended the FBI’s actions.

In October 2018, Ratcliffe said he had seen all of these documents and calling for Trump to declassify them. “I can tell you, as a former federal prosecutor, my opinion is that declassifying them wouldn’t expose any national security information, wouldn’t expose any sources and methods,” Ratcliffe said. “It would expose certain folks at the Obama Justice Department and FBI and their actions and their actions taken to conceal material facts from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

“The underlying pretext to the entire Trump-Russia investigation, is this idea that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign associate, had a conversation with an Australian diplomat about getting Hillary Clinton’s e-mails from the Russians,” Ratcliffe continued. “Hypothetically, if the Department of Justice and the FBI has another piece of evidence that directly refutes, that directly contradicts that, what you would expect is for the Department of Justice to present both sides of the coin to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to evaluate the weight and sufficiency of that evidence.”

But that’s not what happened, Raticliffe said. “Instead, what happened here was, Department of Justice and FBI officials in the Obama administration in October of 2016 only presented to the court the evidence that made the government’s case to get a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate.”

“Declassification would corroborate what I just related to you,” Ratcliffe claimed.

Trump partially declassified the hundreds of pages of FISA documents related to Page in July 2018. Now that the Mueller investigation has concluded, and as Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s FISA abuse probe is reaching its end, Trump may begin to declassify more information.

In April, Sean Hannity asked Trump whether he would fully declassify the FISA applications, relevant Gang of Eight material, summaries (302s) of interviews with witnesses, and more. Trump said he would. “I’m glad I waited because I thought that maybe they would obstruct if I did it early and I think I was right. So I’m glad I waited,” Trump said. “Now the attorney general can take a very strong look at whatever it is. But it will be declassified and more than what you just mentioned.”

Trump has been promising action like this for nearly a year now. On Sept. 17, 2018, the White House said that “the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.” And Trump also ordered the public release of “all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.”

But he backed away a few days later. “I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents. They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release,” Trump tweeted. “Therefore, the Inspector General has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me — and everyone!”

Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Source: Washington Examiner: Trey Gowdy: FBI withheld ‘game changer’ transcript material from FISA Court

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