Comey calls impending terrorist diaspora from ISIS territory the "ghost of Christmas future"

By DOJ Producer Matt Dean

Speaking this morning at a national security summit at UT Austin, FBI Director Comey repeated his concerns over a "terrorist diaspora" that he believes will occur once ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria is "crushed" by coalition forces. 

He said that he expects these individuals to flow outward largely to Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and North Africa.

Labeling the impending phenomenon the "ghost of Christmas future," Comey used his remarks to urge government leaders and intelligence officials in Western Europe to "break down the barriers" in the EU and share intelligence and critical information in an effort to crack down on the terrorism threat. He did not make any references to Wednesday's attack in London. 

Comey compared Europe's need to unite on security issues to the United States' national security 180 that followed the 9/11 attacks. He described Western Europe as FBI's front lines in preventing those individuals from committing violence outside of the so-called caliphate.

In speaking to trend shifts the FBI has seen domestically with ISIS followers, Comey said that the foreign traveller issue that peaked during the summer of 2015 "hit the floor" in 2016 and has since stayed there. While ISIS's capacity to direct people to travel to the caliphate has dropped, the FBI chief called the ability of terrorists to use social media and the internet to inspire and enable individuals toward violence a "lingering phenomenon."

Comey said that the FBI currently has in the area of 1,000 open homegrown terrorism cases in the U.S. trying to determine where people are on the spectrum of "consuming poison and acting on that poison." 

Speaking to the difficult nature of the current threat environment, the Director said these consumers of ISIS propaganda are people "of all backgrounds." Comey said that FBI's terrorism-related cases have spanned the age range of roughly 15-60, adding that there is no one particular "hot spot" in the U.S. for extremist activity because a lot of the recruitment and inspiration continues to happen online. 

Notably, Comey acknowledged instances where individuals who had prior contact with the FBI went on to carry out attacks in the U.S. Specifically, he mentioned Orlando Pulse Nightclub attacker Omar Mateen and the fact that the Bureau had already done a months long investigation on him that "produced nothing to incapacitate him on." 

Comey said that he personally reviewed the case file and called the work a "quality investigation," adding that he believes Mateen radicalized closer to the actual attack. 

Asked during the Q&A portion of the event whether his public statements on the findings of the Clinton email investigation had any bearing on his decision Monday to publicly acknowledge the existence of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russian officials, Comey playfully said "I'm not gonna talk about it." 

American man and wife among victims of London terror attack

 

Melissa & Kurt Cochran were victims in the London terror attack on March 22, 2017.   They were among the first hit by the vehicle on the Westminster bridge.  Kurt was killed in the attack and his wife, Melissa, was seriously injured. She is currently being treated at a hospital in London. 

The couple was in Europe celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Wednesday was to be the last day of the trip following a visit to see Melissa's parents who are serving as missionaries in the London LDS temple.

Melissa's brother, Clint Payne, issued a family statement through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

"Our family is heartbroken to learn of the death of our brother- and son-in-law, Kurt W. Cochran, who was a victim of Wednesday's terrorist attack in London. Kurt was a good man and a loving husband to our sister and daughter, Melissa. They were in Europe to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, and were scheduled to return to the United States on Thursday. Melissa also received serious injuries in the attack, and is being cared for in the hospital. We express our gratitude to the emergency and medical personnel who have cared for them and ask for your prayers on behalf of Melissa and our family. Kurt will be greatly missed, and we ask for privacy as our family mourns and as Melissa recovers from her injuries."

Melissa & Kurt are self-employed, having built a recording studio business from the ground up over the last 10 years.  During that time they donated their recording and sound skills to the Summerfest celebration in Bountiful, Utah, to local school productions, and many other worthy causes. 



Melissa's family is seeing funds to help cover her regular monthly expenses and loss of income.  This fund is administered by her brother who is the family spokesman in this tragedy. He will deliver the funds to her.

For more on how you can help please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/melissaandkurt

 

NUNES/TRUMP: The search for a "smoking gun" at NSA

By James Rosen

Capitol Hill sources tell Fox News that the classified intelligence that Chairman Nunes has seen and only vaguely described in his public appearances over the past twenty-four hours came to him from multiple sources; corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that had been known to the chairman even before the president’s now-famous tweets of March 4; and leaves no doubt that the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on the president-elect.

The key to the last conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the documentary trails leaves no other conceivable purpose for the unmasking to have been done other than for its fruits to be used selectively against Mr. Trump.

The FBI has not been responsive to the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents, but the National Security Agency is expected to produce documents to the committee by tomorrow (Friday). The NSA document production is expected to provide more than that which Chairman Nunes has been describing, including what one source described as a potential “smoking gun” establishing the spying. The materials will take time to be assessed properly, with the result that congressional investigators and attorneys won’t have a solid handle on their contents, and their implications, until early next week or mid-week.

Because Nunes’s intelligence came from multiple sources over a span of weeks, and he has not shared the actual materials with his colleagues, he will be the only committee member in a position to know whether NSA has turned over some or all of the intelligence he is citing. However, Fox News is told that Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff has been briefed on the basic contents of Nunes’s intelligence, so he can no longer truthfully state that he has no idea what Nunes is talking about.

Fox News is further advised that CIA Director Mike Pompeo is sympathetic to the effort to determine, with documentary evidence, the extent of Obama administration spying on the Trump team, if any, in its final days.

 

Krauthammer: Healthcare repeal failure would "damage" Trump

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer told viewers on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that should the healthcare reform bill fail in the US House of Representatives tomorrow, "It would certainly really damage the Trump presidency."

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have been arm-twisting members of the Republican party for support of the The American Health Care Act, the legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. Some conservative and moderate GOP members reject the bill citing its failure to lower premiums.

Twenty hours is a long time in politics for picking up five to seven votes for passage, Krauthammer remains optimistic that Trump's party will come through,   "When you have the fate of the presidency and the fate of the speakership hanging on the vote, it's hard to see that in the end that his own party is going to repudiate them." 

Krauthammer: “The storyline now is that the President was wrong”

Charles Krauthammer told viewers Monday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that when it comes to President Trump’s allegations via Twitter about wiretapping by President Obama, “the storyline now is that the President was wrong.”

His comments come after FBI Director James Comey and NSA Chief Michael Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee today regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. Comey said he has “no information to support” Trump’s wiretapping allegations.

“His own FBI director is saying it and speaking on behalf of all the Department of Justice which is Trump’s own department of Justice which makes Spicer look ridiculous,” Krauthammer said. “Because it’s his own department saying the president is wrong. But that’s the price of doing this kind of tweeting.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Considers Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

By Jake Ryan

President Trump’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today to provide an open testimony on his long road to fill the vacant seat of the late Antonin Scalia.

Judge Neil Gorsuch – who is currently a Judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals – intently listened as all 11 Republicans and nine Democrats of the committee laid out the case for and against him becoming the next SCOTUS Justice.

Democrats claim Neil Gorsuch should never have been brought in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee because former President Obama’s replacement, Chief Justice Merrick Garland of the 13th Circuit, was denied the opportunity for a hearing.

Much of Monday’s opening statements by Democrats referenced the lack of consideration by Senate Republicans for Nominee Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch is set for a long week, Tuesday and Wednesday will be reserved for at least 50 minutes of questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee members and Thursday will conclude with a witness panel speaking for or against Gorsuch.

To be the next Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Neil Gorsuch will need all 52 Republicans and eight Democrats for a total of 60 votes. Although, Senate Republicans can perform the “nuclear option,” which would change Senate rules to confirm a Supreme Court nominee with a simple majority of 51.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck E. Grassley (R-Iowa), vows to refer Neil Gorsuch to the full Senate by April 3.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Senate will “confirm him before the April recess.”

Judge Neil Gorsuch attended Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and obtained his Ph.D. in Law from University College, Oxford, and received the highest rating of “well-qualified” by the American Bar Association. 

Comey, Rogers Testify to House Intelligence Committee

By Jake Smith

FBI Director James Comey and NSA Chief Michael Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee today regarding Russian interference into the 2016 election and President Trump’s accusations of “wiretapping” of Trump Tower by the Obama Administration.

In a rare circumstance, Director Comey confirmed an on-going investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election – “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI -- as part of our counterintelligence mission -- is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

Comey said the investigation “includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

President Trump took to Twitter this morning to say, “James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!” James Clapper is the former Director of National Intelligence under President Barack Obama.

The United States 17 intelligence agencies agree that the Russian government – directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin – interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump.

Although, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes says there is currently no evidence of collusion by the Russian government and the Trump campaign and he “doubts any evidence exists.”

Chairman Nunes pushed Admiral Rogers on whether the Russian interference could have affected vote tallies in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, or Ohio. Rogers answered “no” to the Russians being able to interfere in vote tallies in any of those states.

The FBI head says he has “no information” to support the claim by President Trump that wiretapping of Trump Towers took place during the election.

Comey told the Committee, “With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.”

Chairman Nunes said in his opening statement, “we know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it is still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

This hearing was just the beginning of long political and legal battles of the Russian interference into the 2016 election and the allegation of surveillance of Trump Tower. 

Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch Ready for His Confirmation Hearings

By Bill Mears

In an isolated area of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex, Judge Neil Gorsuch has spent the past few days being put through the rhetorical ringer. For hours on end, he sits alone at a table, peppered with questions about his personal and professional record, all in an effort to see if he will crack under the pressure.

The informal, but intrusive prep sessions are known as "murder boards"  for their intensity, designed to simulate what the 49-year-old nominee to the Supreme Court might face next week in his Senate confirmation hearings.

"He's a home run, he's smooth, he's going to go through great," said Thomas Dupree, a former Bush Deputy Assistant Attorney General, "The [opposing] senators will take their shots, "but I think he's close to a lock."

The stakes are enormous, not only for the nominee but also for the man who selected him from a list of 21 possibles announced during the presidential campaign. Aides say President Trump hopes a successful confirmation will build momentum for his separate political agenda.

 In the broader realm, filling the seat left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia will ensure the high court remains a shaky right-leaning majority. And having that fifth conservative vote will help guide the administration as it makes strategic decisions about which high-profile issues to pursue in court-- like immigration, the environment, transgender rights, and expanded executive authority.

"It's important Democrats and Republicans not roll over on this pick," said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center.  "The American people want their justices to be an independent check even to the President nominating you, to follow the Constitution, not their own political values."

But liberal advocacy groups have all but abandoned efforts to defeat Gorsuch through public opinion, with scant paid issue advertising. Many progressives lament Democratic senators have been distracted by other ideological fights.

The justices themselves hope the arrival of Gorsuch will end what court sources say has been a tense 13-month period since Scalia's sudden passing. The current 4-4 ideological divide has kept the court off its internal workplace rhythms-- operating in something of  a judicial vacuum, reluctant to tackle those hot-button issues that would lead to precedent-setting impact.

A Record to Match      

A Fox News analysis of Gorsuch's record on and off the bench-- including some 3,000 rulings he has been involved with-- reveals a solid, predictable conservative record, in many ways mirroring Scalia's approach to constitutional and statutory interpretation. And the Colorado native's flair for colorful opinion writing is much in the mold of Scalia, whose sharp pen and wicked wit delighted conservatives

The issues he has confronted vary widely-- from libel, capital punishment, regulatory enforcement, and tax subsidies. But the overall articulate message remains consistent:  less is more when it comes to interpreting the rule of law.

--"Ours is not supposed to be the government of the 'Hunger Games' with power centralized in one district," he wrote in 2015, with an oft-used reference to pop culture, "but a government of diffused and divided power, the better to prevent its abuse."

--Federal worker protections strive "to prevent employers from callously denying reasonable accommodations that permit otherwise qualified disabled persons to work, not to turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work," he wrote in a 2014 opinion, displaying sympathy for a Kansas woman undergoing cancer treatment, but nevertheless denying her discrimination claim.

Perhaps his highest profile case was the 2013 concurrence supporting the right of for-profit, secular institutions (and individuals too, he argued) to oppose the Obama's administration mandate to provide contraceptives to their workers. Gorsuch affirmed his past ardent commitment to religious freedom against claims of government "intrusion."

In the so-called "Hobby Lobby" case, the judge concluded, "For some, religion provides an essential source of guidance both about what constitutes wrongful conduct and the degree to which those who assist others in committing wrongful conduct themselves bear moral culpability."

Gorsuch later supported the right of religious non-profits, like Catholic charities, to also challenge the contraceptive coverage mandate. The Supreme Court later partially vindicated Gorsuch's views on both cases.

Sometimes, the judge's conservative bona fides collide, as in the case of a notorious Wyoming inmate.  Andrew Yellowbear, a Native American who murdered his daughter, wanted to use an existing sweat lodge in the prison facility as part of his religious tradition.

Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion that under a federal law,  the inmate deserved that right, striking down the state's discretionary correctional policy. It was a setback for law-and-order supporters.

"While those convicted of crime in our society lawfully forfeit a great many civil liberties," he concluded, "Congress has instructed that the sincere exercise of religion should not be among them-- at least in the absence of a compelling reason. In this record we can find no reason like that."

In his questionnaire to lawmakers, the nominee said none of his own written opinions were ever reversed by the Supreme Court.

One of Gorsuch's off-the-bench remarks is generating some concern, a 2005 opinion piece in "National Journal," written shortly before he donned the judicial robes.

"American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom," he wrote, "relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education. This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary."

And Gorsuch's 2006 book "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia" has both worried and encouraged some fellow conservatives, His conclusion that the doctor-approved procedure was "essentially a right to consensual homicide" might be used by as a red flag by abortion rights activists and death penalty opponents as a parallel argument, even though Gorsuch made clear in the book it should not .           

Zeroing In

Party sources say Democratic senators will focus much of their attention on seeking Gorsuch's views on abortion, since he has not ruled directly on the right to the procedure.

 "I will not support any candidate who intends to turn back the clock on civil rights, including women's reproductive rights and LGBT equality," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who has not said whether she would ultimately vote for  Gorsuch.

Other areas of Democratic interest:

-- Separation of powers, and whether Gorsuch would be an independent voice to strike down excesses in Trump's executive authority, including the president's revised order banning travel for immigrants from certain countries.

-- Voting rights and campaign finance reform, specifically whether the nominee thinks current unlimited corporate donations to PACs are permissible.  

 -- Workers rights, and whether challenges over pay equity, pension benefits, job discrimination claims, and family and medical leave.

 Some progressives have actually urged Democrats not to ask any questions at the hearings, as a dramatic rebuff for Republicans refusing to give President's Obama's high court nominee-- Judge Merrick Garland-- a hearing or vote.

And they demand a filibuster to prevent Gorsuch from ever getting a floor vote.

Bitter feelings linger. "This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), "and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the Court."    

Backdoor Grilling

Along with his courtesy visits to more than 70 members of the Senate who will decide his fate, Gorsuch has prepared for the spotlight by reviewing his own record, and enduring those closely-guarded mock hearings.

The private rehearsals are coordinated by the White House Counsel's Office, and include more than a dozen participants-- government lawyers, conservative academics, and some of his former law clerks. The goal is to anticipate every possible line of questioning and danger zone-- to give measured answers but not reveal too much. 

Sources say Gorsuch has settled in being himself, avoiding unscripted responses that might provide the televised "soundbite" to derail what has so far been a flawless confirmation journey. Administration officials are privately confident he will shine in the hearings.

Republicans point to Gorsuch's unanimous 2006 confirmation to his appeals court seat as a template to blunt any efforts to filibuster this time. Sources expect him to repeat  in the upcoming hearings what he said 11 years ago, about the kind of judge he considered unacceptable: "Someone who is not willing to listen with an open mind to the arguments of counsel, to his colleagues, to precedent."

 

 

 

Schumer on Trump 2005 tax return: ‘Where’s he getting this money from?’

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Wednesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that the leaked release of a document from President Trump’s 2005 tax return is wholly insufficient to answering questions about the president’s business interests.

“It’s two pages of one year. What happened over ten years? There might have been a year he was good,” he said, “But much more importantly, where’s he getting all this money from? The key question here is are there Russian sources, and might those have affected or will affect President Trump?”

Schumer went on to say that Trump’s behavior toward Russian president Vladimir Putin has been “much softer” than that of other Republican politicians.

“The question is why? When he makes a deal with Russia, whatever it is, you don’t want anyone suspecting it’s done because he has hotels there,” he said.  

US officials tell Fox News Russian spy ship is back

By Lucas Tomlinson

The Russian spy ship first spotted off the Delaware coast last month is back.

US officials tell Fox News, the Russian spy ship Victor Leonov has returned to waters off the east coast of the United States after a brief stop for fuel and resupply in Havana last week.

The ship has been spotted by US intelligence approximately 20 nautical miles (23 miles) southeast of a US Navy submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia heading north, according to the officials.

The U.S. Navy’s Atlantic fleet of ballistic missile submarines are based in Kings Bay.

The Russian spy ship has remained in international waters, according to officials.

US territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from shore

The Russian spy ship last patrolled off the east coast of the United States two years ago.  The Victor Leonov departed from Russia’s northern fleet based in the Barents Sea near Norway in early January.

At one point last month, the Russian spy ship ventured as far north as 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut, home to another US Navy submarine base. 

In a White House press conference last month, President Donald Trump weighed in on the story first reported by Fox News.

“Hey, the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water.  Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it's so great.  That's not great.  That's not great.  I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a tweet the day before Trump’s comments that Russia was trying to “expand influence.”

“Russia is acting like it has a permission slip to expand influence, test limits of reach. Questions are obvious: does it, and if so, why?”

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