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Mueller investigators said Roger Stone orchestrated hundreds of fake Facebook accounts in political influence scheme – CNN

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The disclosure came as the Justice Department on Tuesday made public dozens of search warrants from its investigation into Stone, after CNN and other news organizations sued for access to the files.
Stone’s assistant, interviewed voluntarily by former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, said that, as part of his work for Stone, he bought “a couple hundred fake Facebook accounts” and that bloggers working for Stone sought to build what looked like real Facebook accounts to push information about the 2016 Russian hack of the Democrats, a search warrant unsealed on Tuesday stated.
In 2016, Stone had wanted to push WikiLeaks content online that could help then-candidate Donald Trump, including content from stolen emails from accounts belonging to John Podesta, the then-campaign chairman of Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton, the warrant alleged. The warrant that mentioned the fake accounts sought data from Facebook for three accounts, two of which were registered to the handle “rogerstone.”
Top Roger Stone prosecutor says resignation was the 'most painful' experience of his career
At least one of the suspected Stone accounts was used from October 2016 to March 2017 to buy advertisements to push stories related to Russia and WikiLeaks, according to the warrant. Some social media messages from the accounts rebutted that the Russians were behind the online pseudonym Guccifer 2.0, which the US intelligence community has said was operated by Russian intelligence to disseminate hacked materials aimed at damaging Clinton’s campaign.
The ads allegedly purchased shared messages on Facebook such as: “Roger Stone talked about WikiLeaks, Donald Trump, … ” and “Stone Rebuts Charge of Russian Collusion” and “ROGER STONE – NO consensus that Guccifer 2.0 is a … ”
Stone said in a statement Tuesday that the newly released documents showed “baseless over-reach of the Mueller witch hunt” and exonerated him from any accusations of “Russian collusion, Wikileaks collaboration and the receipt and dissemination of stolen e-mails.” He has not yet begun serving his sentence of 40 months in prison and has been publicly advocating for a pardon from Trump.
“Although there are private communications contained in the warrants, they prove no crime. I have no trepidation about their release,” Stone said Tuesday. “There is, to this day, no evidence that I had or knew about the source or content of the Wikileaks disclosures prior to their public release.”
The newly released documents offer a more detailed version than was previously known of how Mueller and other federal investigators aggressively collected evidence about Stone, a close Trump friend and political adviser, by traversing the country for access to his digital data before charging him with obstruction and other crimes.
The warrants, taken on the whole, give a portrait of Stone’s extensive digital life.
For instance, Stone, under the threat of prosecution, allegedly moved his home computer data to a private server.
Stone was so afraid of being hacked or being tracked by the government in spring 2018 that he moved data from his home computers to a private server, an assistant voluntarily told prosecutors, according to one warrant application.
“Stone was concerned with his business and work if his computers were seized and he did not have access to them, and he wanted to be able to continue to work, write, and get the word out in that event,” the court document said.
His wife had also sent a text in March 2018 that said he was moving to use the server “because of his issues with government agencies.” He was arrested in January 2019, and Mueller had clearly been pursuing him for months.
Stone had been paying about $500 a month for a server, according to his assistant.
Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering. He was also investigated for hacking, wire fraud, conspiracy and illegal foreign campaign contributions, according to the warrants, but he was never charged with any of those crimes.
According to prosecutors, Stone discussed with his contacts trying to coordinate with WikiLeaks about its releases of hacked emails, and he was in touch with a Twitter persona operated by Russian hackers. Mueller didn’t accuse anyone of illegally working with the Kremlin.
The warrants released Tuesday highlighted just how extensively Stone discussed the WikiLeaks drops in 2016. The warrants also noted that, in their searches, “Stone in fact communicated via private direct messaging with WikiLeaks during the Campaign” despite him claiming publicly he had not.
Stone was also in contact with WikiLeaks the following year. One warrant mentioned messages between Stone and WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who since then has been indicted in the US for computer crime and is facing extradition from the United Kingdom.
On June 4, 2017, a month after Mueller’s appointment to investigate Russian influence in the election and coordination with the Trump campaign, Stone messaged Assange on Twitter, the warrant said.
“If the US government moves on you I will bring down the entire house of cards. With the trumped- up sexual assault charges dropped I don’t know of any crime you need to be pardoned for,” Stone wrote.
Six days later, Stone messaged WikiLeaks, writing, “I am doing everything possible to address the issues at the highest level of Government. Fed treatment of you and WikiLeaks is an outrage. Must be circumspect in this forum as experience demonstrates it is monitored.”
Much about the Stone investigation is still redacted in the Mueller report. That’s because the report was released before Stone went to trial last year, so the Justice Department redacted almost everything about him in the 448-page report.
The documents released Tuesday but still have some redactions of their own, which were made to protect third parties, financial information and details of other pending criminal investigations.
This story has been updated with additional information from the warrants.

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Politics This Morning: Canada slowing COVID-19 infection rate, but threat remains as restrictions ease, says Tam – The Hill Times

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Good Friday morning,

Fresh figures from federal public health officials showed that Quebec and Ontario account for more than 90 per cent of the country’s COVID-19 caseload. The latest projections, released yesterday, suggested that Canada could see between 97,990 to 107,454 cases by June 15.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said while Canada has made progress in curbing the infection rate and controlling the spread of the epidemic, the threat hasn’t fully abated, as there is still no vaccine for the virus.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Jane Philpott has been tapped by Ontario to advise it in its efforts to collect racial and socioeconomic data during the pandemic. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Philpott said her job will be to bring together “huge amounts of information” that have been siloed. Such data, she said, will be useful in improving the government’s research efforts and response to medical care. Her position is unpaid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opted not to comment on the release of a video that shows an RCMP officer hitting an Inuit man with his truck in Kinngait. The chief superintendent of the Nunavut RCMP has called for an investigation into the incident. According to the Globe, the victim was arrested for public intoxication, but was not charged. Mr. Trudeau reiterated comments he made earlier this week, acknowledging the existence of systemic racism amid the ongoing protests against police violence, triggered in the wake of George Floyd‘s death.

As anti-racism and police brutality protests show no signs of waning, one activist and some Parliamentarians said that there’s growing recognition that it’s time to go beyond long-overdue “piecemeal reforms.” 

Independent Senator Rosemary Moodie observed the protests, which are colliding with a deadly pandemic that’s disproportionately affecting racialized communities, are drawing out more allies. “Every race is out there on the streets, supporting the concerns of what’s happening,” Sen. Moodie said.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, who immigrated to Canada as a refugee from Somalia, told Toronto Star that the process for addressing systemic racism in Canada starts with amplifying the “voices of those who feel that sting of discrimination of racism as part of their lived reality,” who can define the scale of the issue. He said there’s also work to be done at the community level, by empowering groups who are front-line responders when incidents occur.

Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said the government delayed the rollout of COVID funding for seniors to prevent fraud, which has been an issue flagged public servants in the processing of cheques through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program. The top-up in financial assistance to vulnerable seniors will arrive the week of July 6. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough sought to assure MPs the government intends to pore over cases where fraud might have occurred.

In scheduled events, the House Indigenous Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear from First Nations Tax Commission and the Inuit Business Council, among others, at 11 a.m. Happening simultaneously is the Government Operations Committee meeting, where industry officials and Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Canada are slated to testify. The Industry Committee, meanwhile, is holding a hearing at 2 p.m. Witnesses include the Montreal Port Authority and Spartan Bioscience Inc.

The Hill Times

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Politics Podcast: What History Can And Can’t Teach Us About Today’s Protests – FiveThirtyEight

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It’s easy to compare today’s anti-police-violence protests to the protests of the 1960s, but those comparisons don’t paint a full picture. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, history professor Yohuru Williams joins Perry Bacon Jr. and Galen Druke to discuss which parallels are apt, how today’s protests are different, and what that says about where the movement is headed.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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The House's green surface bill runs into politics – Politico

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Presented by Freight Rail Works

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With help from Tanya Snyder and Brianna Gurciullo

Editor’s Note: Morning Transportation is a free version of POLITICO Pro Transportation’s morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.

Quick Fix

— The House’s ambitious surface transportation bill released this week is already running into some problems, with some industry groups and Republicans crying foul over what they called a “partisan” process.

— Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao stuck by the agency’s hands-off approach to regulating air travel during the pandemic in an interview with POLITICO.

— As part of an escalating row with China over airline access, DOT said it will ban Chinese flights from the U.S. later this month.

IT’S THURSDAY: Thanks for tuning in to POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Get in touch with tips, feedback or song lyric suggestions at [email protected] or @samjmintz.

“Cruisin’ down 11th / Glance to my right, the passenger seat’s unoccupied / Here’s how I know that we had nothin.’”

LISTEN HERE: Follow MT’s playlist on Spotify. What better way to start your day than with songs (picked by us and readers) about roads, railways, rivers and runways.

Surface Transportation

LET THE SURFACE CIRCUS BEGIN: House Democrats’ climate-focused surface transportation reauthorization got skewered on Wednesday by Republicans and some industry groups, including those representing the rail industry and state transportation departments. GOP lawmakers accused House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio of shutting out Republicans and unveiling a partisan bill that has an “extreme” environmental agenda. Some turned to the Senate’s version of the bill, which included a climate title for the first time but holds more modest goals than DeFazio’s proposal to discourage states from building new highways and include climate impacts in transportation plans.

Two weeks to work it out: DeFazio told reporters that Republicans left “very little room” for engagement on climate issues and Democrats crafted the bill according to their own priorities — and that they’d likely have no problem passing it in the House even without Republican votes. But before the July 1 floor vote comes the June 17 markup, and DeFazio said he scheduled a two-week window between the release of the bill text and the markup to make time for amendments and other input from Republicans. Tanya Snyder has all the details for Pros.

Guinea pig: The transportation bill markup will be a trial run for new House rules that allow the legislative process to go forward remotely, as our Connor O’Brien observed. He notes that the surface vote will happen before the defense authorization bill, and that T&I is a bigger committee than Armed Services.

Aviation

NOT OUR JOB: Chao hit back at criticism over how her agency has handled regulating pandemic measures for airlines, calling questions about masks and social distancing “labor management” issues. “When the federal government gets involved, we tend to be much more heavy handed,” Chao said on Wednesday, while noting that her agency continues to “monitor” the situation.

Her comments, made during a virtual interview with POLITICO Playbook, earned a strong reaction from labor unions and workplace safety advocates. David Michaels, who was head of OSHA during the Obama administration, called it an “abdication of duty.” Labor unions for flight attendants and pilots, which have called for DOT to make health guidelines mandatory, were mad, too. “There’s a difference between heavy handed and just washing your hands of this critical responsibility,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, calling DOT an “outlier” on safety.

An example of the patchwork: Delta Air Lines on Wednesday said it would keep preventing customers from picking middle seats and extend caps on seating through the end of September. “On routes where increasing customer demand is driving flight loads closer to our caps, we will look for opportunities to upsize to a larger aircraft type or add more flying,” the carrier said.

DOT FINALIZES SERVICE EXEMPTIONS: DOT issued a notice late Wednesday easing airlines’ service requirements that are a condition of receiving CARES Act aid. The final order, which is unchanged from a previously published preliminary order, says carriers can suspend service to either 5 percent of the points they cover, or five points, whichever is greater. “The Department believes that the process we are finalizing here strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of communities to maintain at least minimal access to the national air transportation system during the public health emergency, and the needs of carriers to conserve financial resources to weather this time of unprecedented loss of demand,” the agency wrote.

EYE FOR AN EYE: DOT announced on Wednesday that it plans to stop Chinese passenger carriers from flying into or out of the U.S. this month because China hadn’t taken steps to give Delta and United Airlines the OK to resume service to the country.

Move gets results: Shortly after, China said in a statement that it will ease its restrictions on foreign airlines flying into the country, according to Reuters. “Qualifying foreign carriers currently barred from operating flights to mainland China will be allowed once-per-week flights into a city of their choosing starting on June 8,” the story says. The number of flights can increase if no passengers on the incoming flights test positive for three weeks.

The DOT restriction, which would hit four Chinese airlines, is set to go into effect June 16. As our Brianna Gurciullo reports, DOT said its move would “restore a competitive balance and fair and equal opportunity among U.S. and Chinese air carriers in the scheduled passenger service marketplace.” The agency says its “overriding goal” is for airlines from both countries to “be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights.”

Calling all China watchers: The trajectory of the U.S.-China relationship will determine whether this century is judged a bright or a dismal one. POLITICO’s David Wertime is launching a new China newsletter that will be worth the read.

THE LOW LOWS: Airline fuel consumption hit its lowest point in at least 20 years in April, according to the new numbers from DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. There were 447 million gallons of fuel consumed that month, down from 1.5 billion the year before, a 70 percent drop.

FOR THE RECORD: After the New York Times reported this week that TSA officers had been “called out of the airports to help protect federal property” amid protests in the D.C. area over the death of George Floyd while in police custody, the agency made clear that those employees weren’t security screeners but rather law enforcement officers. “@TSA officers who interact with and screen passengers and their baggage at airports every day did not participate in responding to #BlackLivesMatter protests. Airport TSA officers are not law enforcement officials,” agency spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said in a tweet.

Around the Agencies

GOVERNING FROM HOME: In the interview with POLITICO, Chao also noted that while she expects the transportation world to return to normal relatively soon, there could be long-term changes to employers like hers that could stick around. “We’re going to see trends develop in telework,” Chao said. “Do we really need a building for 5,500 people [the size of DOT’s headquarters] when more and more people are feeling more comfortable teleworking … and video conferencing?”

The Autobahn

— “Pakistani aviation authority says PIA pilot ignored air traffic control.” Reuters.

— “Full rollout for contactless payments in NYC subways delayed until December.” The Verge.

— “Former UAW president pleads guilty to embezzlement, racketeering charges.” Wall Street Journal.

— “VRE seating is now every other window seat.” WTOP.

— “Air Canada retires last Boeing 767 after 37 years.” The Points Guy.

The Countdown

DOT appropriations run out in 118 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 1,214 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 118 days.

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