The Daily 202: Foreign intelligence agencies might be using your anti-virus software against you
With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Several worrisome stories popped overnight that underscore the growing vulnerability of the United States to hacking and cyberespionage by foreign governments, specifically Russia and North Korea.
— Russian government hackers could use the anti-virus software sold by Kaspersky Lab to search the contents of any computer using it, the New York Times reported. The software, installed on more than 400 million people’s computers and employed by roughly two dozen American government agencies, can reportedly be turned into “a sort of Google search for sensitive information.”
“It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies: Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs,” Nicole Perlroth and Scott Shane report. “Israeli intelligence officers informed the N.S.A. that in the course of their Kaspersky hack, they uncovered evidence that Russian government hackers were using Kaspersky’s access to aggressively scan for American government classified programs, and pulling any findings back to Russian intelligence systems. They provided their N.S.A. counterparts with solid evidence of the Kremlin campaign in the form of screenshots and other documentation…”
“More than 60 percent … of the company’s $633 million in annual sales come from customers in the United States and Western Europe. … Among them have been nearly two dozen American government agencies — including the State Department, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Justice Department, Treasury Department and the Army, Navy and Air Force …
“The N.S.A. bans its analysts from using Kaspersky antivirus at the agency, in large part because the agency has exploited antivirus software for its own foreign hacking operations and knows the same technique is used by its adversaries. ‘Antivirus is the ultimate back door,’ Blake Darché, a former N.S.A. operator and co-founder of Area 1 Security. ‘It provides consistent, reliable and remote access that can be used for any purpose…’”
— Our Ellen Nakashima confirms that the Israelis tipped off the NSA that the Russians had stolen U.S. hacking tools and has some additional backstory: “[A]n investigation by the agency revealed that the tools were in the possession of the Russian government. … In the 2015 case, investigators at the NSA examining how the Russians obtained the material eventually narrowed their search to an employee in the agency’s elite Tailored Access Operations division … The employee was using Kaspersky anti-virus software on his home computer … The employee, whose name has not been made public and is under investigation by federal prosecutors, did not intend to pass the material to a foreign adversary.”
Kaspersky Labs was founded in 1997 by Eugene Kaspersky, a decade after he had graduated from a KGB-supported cryptography school and had worked in Russian military intelligence agencies. The company has previously touted this part of his background in promotional materials.
The firm denies having “inappropriate” ties to the Russian government, as well as any role in the hacks. “Kaspersky Lab is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight,” it said in a statement last night.
But the company’s data is routed through Russian Internet service providers that are subject to Russian government surveillance. Ellen quotes two experts explaining how implausible it is that Vladimir Putin’s regime would not get access to the information:
- “Andrei Soldatov, a Russian surveillance expert and author of ‘The Red Web,’ said, ‘I would be very, very skeptical’ of the claim that the government cannot read the firm’s data: As an entity that deals with encrypted information, Kaspersky must obtain a license from the FSB, the country’s powerful security service … which ‘means your company is completely transparent’ to the FSB.”
- Steven Hall, who ran the CIA’s Russia operations for 30 years, said the firm is likely beholden to the Kremlin: “He said that Kaspersky’s line of work is of particular interest to … Putin and that because of the way things work in Russia, Eugene Kaspersky ‘knows he’s at the mercy of Putin.’”
— The U.S. government is belatedly mobilizing to contain the Kaspersky threat before it’s too late.
- The Department of Homeland Security instructed federal civilian agencies last month to identify Kaspersky Lab software on their networks and remove it.
- The General Services Administration, which is the federal agency in charge of purchasing, removed Kaspersky from its list of approved vendors in July.
- The FBI has notified major companies, including in the energy and financial sectors, about the risks of using Kaspersky software over at least the past two years, Ellen reports: “The briefings have elaborated on the risks of espionage, sabotage and supply-chain attacks that could be enabled through use of the software.”
- The National Intelligence Council also just completed a classified report that it shared with NATO allies concluding that the FSB had “probable access” to Kaspersky customer databases and source code. Moscow could use this to launch debilitating cyberattacks against American and European networks in the event of war.
— A red flag: Local and state government agencies from Oregon to Connecticut are widely using the software and may be oblivious that it’s a Trojan horse. (Jack Gillum and Aaron Davis reported this summer on some of the places that rely on Kaspersky.)
— Expect more clamoring on the Hill for congressional action to counter this incursion.
— Another front in Moscow’s cyberwar against the U.S.: Oxford University has uncovered evidence that Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook. (Read Craig Timberg’s story. See the full report.)
— In another chilling development, North Korean hackers apparently stole a huge trove of classified U.S. and South Korean military documents last year, including a plan to “decapitate” the leadership in Pyongyang in the event of war. Anna Fifield reports that Lee Cheol-hee, a member of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party who sits on the parliamentary national defense committee, said that North Korean hackers broke into the Defense Integrated Data Center last September to steal secret files, including American and South Korean “operational plans” for wartime action. That is the main headquarters of South Korea’s defense network.
- “According to Lee, the stolen documents included OPLAN 5015, a plan drafted two years ago for dealing with full-blown war with North Korea … He said the cache also included OPLAN 3100, outlining the military response to infiltration by North Korean commandos or another local provocation, as well as a contingency plan in case of a sudden change in North Korea. … As Kim Jong Un has accelerated his nuclear weapons program and aimed increasingly bellicose threats at the allies, those plans have been updated to include ‘beheading operations’ — strikes designed to take out North Korea’s leaders.
- “Yonhap News Agency, citing Lee, reported that the hackers took 235 gigabytes of military documents and that almost 80 percent of the stolen documents have not yet been identified.
- “The documents also included reports on key South Korean and U.S. military personnel, the minutes of meetings about South Korean-U.S. military drills, and data on military installations and power plants in South Korea, reported the Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper.
One of the many reasons that the hack is problematic: “North Korea was potentially behind phony evacuation messages sent via cellphones and social media to military families and defense personnel in South Korea last month. That incident opens the possibility that last year’s breach may have led to the harvest of personal information used for the notifications.” Fake evacuation orders could sow chaos during a conflict.
— Meanwhile, the cybersecurity company FireEye says in a new report to private clients that hackers linked to North Korea recently targeted U.S. electric power companies with spearphishing emails, NBC News reports: “The emails used fake invitations to a fundraiser to target victims … A victim who downloaded the invitation attached to the email would also be downloading malware into his or her computer network … There is no evidence that the hacking attempts were successful … ‘This is a signal that North Korea is a player in the cyber-intrusion field and it is growing in its ability to hurt us,’ said C. Frank Figliuzzi, a former chief of counterintelligence at the FBI.”
— World War III watch: The Japanese defense minister said yesterday that Trump might take military action against North Korea as soon as next month. “I think President Trump will judge in the middle of November how effective pressure and other efforts have been,” Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Tokyo. “If there have been no changes from North Korea, it’s possible that the U.S. will take severe measures.” The White House put out a statement last night saying that Trump was briefed on his North Korea options by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
— Here at home, the Justice Department is signaling plans to become more aggressive in trying to secure access to encrypted information from technology companies. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said yesterday in a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis that the needs of law enforcement can outweigh personal privacy when crimes need to be prevented and solved. “Warrant-proof encryption is a serious problem,” Rosenstein said. “The public bears the cost. When investigations of violent criminal organizations come to a halt because we cannot access a phone, even with a court order, lives may be lost. When child molesters can operate anonymously over the Internet, children may be exploited. When terrorists can communicate covertly without fear of detention, chaos may follow.”
“Rosenstein did not offer policy proposals or specific steps Justice Department officials will take to combat what law enforcement refers to as ‘going dark.’ But he strongly criticized technology companies and said the government’s efforts to engage with them has not been successful,” Sari Horwitz reports. “Rosenstein highlighted the February 2016 case in San Bernardino, Calif., when the FBI obtained the iPhone used by a terrorist who shot and killed 14 people and injured 22 others. The data on the iPhone was encrypted, and the government sought Apple’s assistance to find out whether there was evidence of other attack plans. The Obama administration went to court to obtain an order requiring Apple to help, and Apple said it would appeal the order. The FBI was eventually able to access the data on the phone without Apple’s assistance, by enlisting the help of professional hackers.”
“But the problem persists,” Rosenstein said. “Today, thousands of seized devices sit in storage, impervious to search warrants. Over the past year, the FBI was unable to access about 7,500 mobile devices submitted to its computer analysis and response team, even though there was legal authority to do so. … Technology companies almost certainly will not develop responsible encryption if left to their own devices. They are in the business of selling products and making money. … We are in the business of preventing crime and saving lives.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— The president reportedly requested a nearly tenfold increase in America’s nuclear arsenal during a July meeting with national security officials. NBC News’s Courtney Kube, Kristen Welker, Carol E. Lee and Savannah Guthrie report: “Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve. … In interviews, [officials] told NBC News that no such expansion is planned. … Some officials present said they did not take Trump’s desire for more nuclear weapons to be literally instructing the military to increase the actual numbers. … Two officials present said that at multiple points in the discussion, the president expressed a desire not just for more nuclear weapons, but for additional U.S. troops and military equipment.”
REALITY CHECK: “Any increase in America’s nuclear arsenal would not only break with decades of U.S. nuclear doctrine but also violate international disarmament treaties signed by every president since Ronald Reagan. Nonproliferation experts warned that such a move could set off a global arms race.”
— A series of deadly, fast-moving wildfires continued to ravage Northern California on Tuesday — killing at least 15 people and burning through more than 120,000 acres as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze. Breena Kerr, Alissa Greenberg, Lea Donosky and Scott Wilson report: “The fast-moving fires swept through densely populated neighborhoods, causing some residents to flee from their homes in the middle of the night as smoke filled their rooms[.] … One couple had to jump into their pool as flames rushed across their land, taking occasional gasps for air as flames lapped at their backs. Officials said that 180 people are missing and they expect the death toll to rise.”
In some areas, the scene is dystopian: “[In] Healdsburg, a quaint town known to tourists for its wine tasting, food and antiques … smoke as thick as fog shielded the sky. On the hillside, houses burned unattended with stretched-thin firefighters busy elsewhere. … [Meanwhile], the fulcrum of the blaze remained here in Sonoma County and neighboring Napa, where a combined 52,000 acres had burned by Tuesday afternoon. Of the 15 people killed, nine died in the Tubbs fire, as the blaze in Sonoma County is known.” “These folks have lost everything. When you look at the destruction, it’s literally like it exploded,” Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said Tuesday.
— The U.S. men’s national soccer team failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup. Steven Goff reports: “A U.S. squad that had qualified for soccer’s global spectacle every four years since last missing out in 1986 will watch the Russian-hosted tournament from home. All it needed to do was defeat or tie last-place Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night. Instead, the Americans played a shameful first half and lost, 2-1, before a few thousand observers in a lonely little stadium 25 miles from [Trinidad and Tobago’s] capital.”
GET SMART FAST:
- The Navy announced that it has relieved the commanding officer and the executive officer of the USS John McCain following a “preventable” collision in August that resulted in the deaths of 10 sailors. (Andrew deGrandpre)
- The House unveiled a bill last night proposing $36.5 billion in hurricane and wildfire relief, as requested by the administration. (Bloomberg)
- The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to a now-expired version of Trump’s travel ban last night, writing in a one-paragraph order that the appeal no longer presents a “live case or controversy,” and asked that the lower-court rulings be erased. (Robert Barnes)
- The Supreme Court declined to review the conviction of a Guantánamo detainee and former top aide to Osama bin Laden based on the argument that the legal proceedings exceeded the authority of a military tribunal. (Robert Barnes)
- Sen Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said that he would not run for president in 2020. “I am not running for president. I am running for re-election to the Senate,” Murphy told CBS News.
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) plans to announce Friday whether she will run for governor. If she does, the Senate would lose one of its last remaining moderates and a very competitive race would ensue to replace her. (Reuters)
- Twitter reversed a decision to block Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) from paying to promote a video on the social media platform, just one day after it said the ad was “inflammatory” and violated its guidelines by referencing “baby body parts.” (Politico)
- Two U.S. bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula alongside two South Korean military planes. The display was a show of force as the Trump administration weighs its options against Kim Jong Un. (Reuters)
- Catalonia’s regional president stopped short of declaring independence from Spain in a long-awaited speech, assuaging fears of anti-separatists as he instead called for further dialogue. The move comes after Madrid refused to recognize the legality of Catalonia’s referendum and dispatched police throughout the region to thwart residents from participating. (Pamela Rolfe and James McAuley)
- Israel approved building plans for thousands of additional Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a move considered illegal by many nations — and one that some say has been spurred by the Trump administration’s increasingly accommodating stance toward the construction projects. (Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash)
- A black man who was brutally beaten during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville is now facing a felony charge, after two of his assailants — who were captured on video striking him repeatedly with a metal pipe and wooden boards — claimed he instigated the attack. (Derek Hawkins and Ian Shapira)
- Turkey sentenced a veteran Wall Street Journal reporter to more than two years in prison on terrorism charges stemming from a 2015 article about the country’s ongoing war with Kurdish militants. The court’s verdict — which the Journal slammed Tuesday as “wildly inappropriate” — comes as U.S.-Turkish relations continue to boil after the arrest of a consulate employee in Istanbul. (Kareem Fahim)
- Italy’s supreme court ruled that a murderer should have a reduced sentence for killing his child — because his son was adopted. (Anna Momigliano)
HARVEY WEINSTEIN ALLEGATIONS EXPLODE:
— More shocking accounts of predatory behavior emerged yesterday against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in two bombshell pieces:
“Three women … told me that Weinstein raped them,” Ronan Farrow (Mia’s son) writes for the New Yorker. “Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015 and made public here for the first time, Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is ‘used to.’ … Sixteen former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies told me that they witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein’s films and in the workplace[.] … All sixteen said that the behavior was widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company.”
— The New York Times’s Jodi Kantor and Rachel Abrams spoke with several additional women, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, who described harassment and assaults stretching back decades: “When [Paltrow] was 22 years old, she got a role that would take her from actress to star: [Weinstein] hired her for the lead in the Jane Austen adaptation ‘Emma.’ Before shooting began, he summoned her to his suite at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a work meeting that began uneventfully. It ended with Mr. Weinstein placing his hands on her and suggesting they head to the bedroom for massages, she said. She refused his advances, she said, and confided in Brad Pitt, her boyfriend at the time. Mr. Pitt confronted Mr. Weinstein, and soon after, the producer warned her not to tell anyone else about his come-on. ‘I thought he was going to fire me,’ she said.”
— The board of Weinstein’s company said in a statement that it was “shocked and dismayed” by the revelations and that it would assist “in all criminal or other investigations.” (The Hollywood Reporter)
— Weinstein’s wife, the designer Georgina Chapman, announced that she is leaving her husband. “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” Chapman said in a statement to People. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.” (People)
— The DCCC said it would donate all of its Weinstein contributions to a group dedicated to ending domestic violence. The House Democrats’ campaign arm confirmed that, since 1993, Weinstein has donated $23,225, all of which will now be donated to Futures Without Violence. (Ed O’Keefe)
— The D-trip’s move followed days of intense pressure from outside groups, including an ad from the NRCC calling for the funds to be given away. (Mike DeBonis)
— Reporters also spent the past several days trying to get Hillary Clinton to respond to the stories about Weinstein, who hosted a major fundraiser for her last year. Under fire for her silence, the former Democratic nominee finally released this short statement:
Statement from Secretary Clinton on Harvey Weinstein: pic.twitter.com/L1l2wl9l0I
— Nick Merrill (@NickMerrill) October 10, 2017
— Malia Obama, 19, interned at the Weinstein Company’s New York City office earlier this year. Yesterday her father weighed in:
Obama: “Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned & held accountable, regardless of wealth or status” pic.twitter.com/Htw4WXlBZO
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 10, 2017
(Imagine how angry you’d be as a parent if your daughter had interned for the guy described in the aforementioned stories.)
This, from the MSNBC host, kinda sums up where we’re at:
Kinda wonder if Hollywood is staring down the beginning of a Catholic Church-style explosion of buried secrets….
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 10, 2017
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— Carter Page told the Senate Intelligence Committee he would plead the Fifth if called to testify as part of its ongoing Russia investigation, Politico’s Ali Watkins reports: “Page came under fire last year after reports emerged that he had met with high-level associates of [Vladimir Putin] in Moscow in 2016. While Page denied those meetings occurred, the Trump campaign distanced itself from the adviser … saying that Page and Trump had never met. Though Page’s resistance to testify may delay his appearance before the panel, [top lawmakers on the panel] have threatened to compel any official or Trump-connected figure who tries to evade the committee, including through the use of subpoenas . . .
— House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has signed off on subpoenas for the firm that produced the infamous Trump dossier. CNN’s Evan Perez, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report: “The subpoenas … were issued Oct. 4, demanding documents and testimony later this month and early November.”
Infighting: Nunes is still apparently playing an active role in the investigation even after stepping down from leading it from it earlier this year following a visit to the White House to review intelligence documents. The probe’s new lead, Rep. K. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.), confirmed he asked for the most recent subpoenas. “A Democratic committee source said ‘the subpoenas were issued unilaterally by the majority, without the minority’s agreement and despite good faith engagement thus far by the witnesses on the potential terms for voluntary cooperation.’”
— Some of Trump’s longtime friends and supporters are urging him to go on the attack against Robert Mueller, breaking with White House advisers and lawyers who have urged cooperation. The AP’s Tom LoBianco and Eric Tucker report: “The struggle between supporters of the legal team’s steady, cooperative approach, and the band of Trump loyalists who yearn for a fight, comes as the Mueller probe begins lapping at the door of the Oval Office. … In private, Trump remains relatively calm for now, but that doesn’t mean he thinks the Russia probe is legitimate, and he could return to fighting Mueller at any moment, according to a group of about 15 Trump allies, advisers and former campaign aides. … The president still periodically flashes his anger … in a private dinner with social conservatives last month, Trump expressed frustration over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal, which helped pave the road to Mueller’s appointment.”
— A report by the Brookings Institution concludes that Trump “likely obstructed justice” by firing James Comey and could be legitimately impeached for it. CNBC’s Jeff Cox reports: “The liberal-leaning think tank released a 108-page report on the issue Tuesday. In the analysis, Brookings concludes that even though Trump had the authority to fire Comey, he could not do so if the intention was to get in the way of an ongoing investigation. … The analysis concludes that if [Mueller] comes to the same conclusion, legitimate articles of impeachment could be drawn up.” Read the report.
— One veteran of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, Vitali Shkliarov, is now advising an opposition movement in Russia. Andrew Roth reports: “Alongside Max Katz, the coalition’s campaign manager, Shkliarov helped develop a political clearinghouse to usher prospective candidates through the onerous Russian registration process, providing training and financial, logistical and legal support. The effort helped register close to 1,000 opposition candidates, many of them political novices. Even more surprisingly, 267 were elected, including to 11 out of 12 seats in the central Moscow district where Russian President Vladimir Putin votes. They are still in the minority, Shkliarov said, but a sign that change in Russia can come from the bottom up.”
TRUMP VS. CORKER:
— Trump escalated his personal attacks against Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday, ridiculing his height and suggesting he had somehow been “conned” by his participation in a New York Times interview. “In labeling Mr. Corker ‘liddle,’ the president was evidently returning to a theme,” Peter Baker writes in the Times. “He considered Mr. Corker for secretary of state during the transition after last year’s election but was reported to have told associates that Mr. Corker, at 5-foot-7, was too short to be the nation’s top diplomat. Instead, Mr. Trump picked [Rex Tillerson], who is several inches taller but whose own relationship with the president has deteriorated to the point that he was said to have called Mr. Trump a ‘moron.’”
The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
— Paul Kane tells us why Corker’s GOP colleagues aren’t publicly coming to his defense: they’re trying to “avoid alienating Trump’s base ahead of the 2018 midterm elections — and to keep some hope alive that they can achieve a legislative victory before the end of the year.”
The feud has had an impact, however, by “leaving the entire Republican caucus in something resembling institutional paralysis, unsure of what to do or how to do it, but doing it in sync with nearly identically bland statements of nothingness. A case in point is Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who drew the unlucky straw of being in charge Tuesday of overseeing a brief pro forma session of the Senate while the rest of his colleagues were away for a recess. ‘I’m supportive of both of them. I’d like to see it stop,’ Blunt said … [Pressed by a reporter] about which one needs to take the first step, Blunt ducked the issue. ‘I think I’ve said all I need to say,’ he said, then dodged one more question and got into his car.”
— Michael Kranish has a new piece out this morning on Trump loyalist Thomas Barrack, who recommended Trump hire Paul Manafort and has now become an outside adviser on Gulf policy: “Few people are closer to Trump than Barrack, his friend for three decades. Barrack helped rescue Trump’s real estate empire years ago. He was the top fundraiser for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He turned down a Cabinet offer, preferring to be an outside adviser, although his name is still mentioned as a potential White House chief of staff should Trump decide to choose a new one. Above all, Barrack has remained unfailingly loyal to Trump, who he sees as a shrewd politician. But even as he remained a close friend and frequent confidant, Barrack has also been disappointed by aspects of Trump’s performance. Barrack, in interviews with The Washington Post, said he has been ‘shocked’ and ‘stunned’ by some of the president’s rhetoric and inflammatory tweets. … ‘In my opinion, he’s better than this. … I tell him all the time: I don’t like the rhetoric.’”
— Trump’s suggestion in a Forbes interview that he and Rex Tillerson take IQ tests was dismissed by the White House as “a joke and nothing more than that.” Philip Rucker reports: “‘The president certainly never implied that the secretary of state was not incredibly intelligent,’ Sanders said in Tuesday afternoon’s news briefing. She added that Trump has ‘100 percent confidence’ in Tillerson and admonished reporters for taking the president’s comment so seriously. ‘Maybe you guys should get a sense of humor and try it sometime,’ she quipped.”
— The new Office of Government Ethics director sent a two-page letter to agency heads urging them to respect ethical standards as multiple members of Trump’s Cabinet face inquiries over their travel practices. Lisa Rein and Tom Hamburger report: “In his Oct. 5 memo, [acting director David] Apol called it ‘essential to the success of our republic that citizens can trust that your decisions and decisions made by your agency are motivated by the public good and not by personal interests.’ The letter amounted to the most public admonishment of Trump administration officials to date by Apol, whose predecessor, Walter M. Shaub Jr., clashed frequently with the White House.”
— Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke attended at least two additional political fundraisers while on official business. Politico’s Esther Whieldon and Ben Lefebvre report: The appearances include “a weekend ski getaway less than three weeks after he was sworn in that donors paid up to $3,000 to attend[.] … Zinke attended a mid-March fundraiser at a ski resort in Big Sky, Montana, organized by committees affiliated with Republican Sen. Steve Daines[.] … And in May, Zinke briefly stopped by a fundraiser for GOP Rep. Don Young at a steakhouse in Anchorage, Alaska[.]”
— Newly obtained emails reveal that Steve Bannon expressed displeasure with the selection of Mike Pence as Trump’s vice president. BuzzFeed News’s Joseph Bernstein and Henry J. Gomez report: “The email exchange during Bannon’s first stint as executive chairman of Breitbart is of new relevance as Bannon … rolls out his plan for a wide-ranging attack against establishment Republicans in 2018. And it reveals that Bannon regarded the Pence pick as something of a deal with the devil necessary to bolster Trump’s standing in the GOP. … ‘This is the price we pay for cruzbots and #nevertrump movement,’ Bannon [wrote]. ‘An unfortunate necessity…very.’”
THE PUERTO RICO PROBLEM:
— Trump tweeted out a video Sunday meant to convey how effectively the federal government has responded to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. But the clip was edited to downplay the contributions of local citizens. Jenna Johnson reports: “Had the road-clearing clip continued for 15 seconds, the president’s millions of Twitter followers would have heard the fire chief praise the people of Puerto Rico for successfully clearing many roads before the federal government arrived. … The 8-minute-48-second video provides the kind of narrow, positive view of relief efforts in Puerto Rico that the president has been trying to convey amid the humanitarian crisis there[.] … There are many more federal workers and military members featured than Puerto Ricans in need of aid, and there is no mention of the fact that 84 percent of the island is still without power and more than one-third of residents do not have access to clean drinking water.”