Thursday, January 12, 2017

News Reviews and Opinions: The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point 12/01/17 2...

News Reviews and Opinions: The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point 12/01/17 2...: Obama says he is "forever bonded" with "brother" Biden  Senate committee votes 24 to 3 on bill that would let Jam...

A lot of pain, for Mr. Trump and others...| The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point: If Donald Trump really is compromised, we need immediate action, not media overreach - RS

FBI director briefed Trump on dossier: reports

As Trump Berates News Media, a New Strategy Is Needed to Cover Him - The New York Times 

M.N.: A suggestion, half-facetious, half-serious: just ignore his pressies (and himself too), do not attend them at all. Do not give him any press, neither good nor bad. This "conspiracy of silence" might be more efficient in dealing with this boor than anything else. 

Trump's Cabinet nominees keep contradicting him

Washington Post-6 minutes ago
Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees, in their first round of confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, have one after another contradicted the ...

If Donald Trump really is compromised, we need immediate action, not media overreach
By Matt Taibbi

The only solution is an immediate unveiling of all the facts and an urgent public investigation.

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What kind of threat does Russia pose to the U.S.? - YouTube

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Published on Jan 12, 2017
President-elect Trump has said he would like to improve relations with Russia. But his choice for defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, views Russia as America’s number one threat. What’s the reality of the White House-Kremlin dynamic? Steve Inskeep discusses with Evelyn Farkas, a former Defense Department official, and Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Mike Pompeo - Google Search

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Story image for Mike Pompeo from USA TODAY

Mike Pompeo, Trump's choice for CIA director, faces Senate

USA TODAY-6 hours ago
WASHINGTON — Mike Pompeo, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to lead the CIA, faces a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation ...
Trump's Pick for the CIA Wants a Holy War
In-Depth-Slate Magazine-39 minutes ago

WATCH LIVE: Rep. Mike Pompeo confirmation hearing - YouTube

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Started streaming 3 minutes ago

WATCH: Donald Trump's first press conference as president-elect - YouTube

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Streamed live 6 hours ago

These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia - BuzzFeed News

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Drew Angerer / Getty Images

trump press conference - Google Search

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Trump Addresses Russia, Ethics Concerns in Wide-Ranging Press ...

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>-1 hour ago
President-elect Donald Trump held his first press conference in nearly six months on Wednesday, lambasting the circulation of unverified ...
Highlights from Trump's press conference
In-Depth-Politico-2 hours ago

News Reviews and Opinions: Yesterday (1.10.17) Senate Hearing is a lesson in democracy for Russian leaders.

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Yesterday (1.10.17) Senate Hearing is a lesson in democracy for Russian leaders. "Our [American] democracy is not at risk" (Sen. Burr), the Russian pseudo-democracy, in fact, a dictatorship, is.

trump buzzfeed - Google Search

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Story image for trump buzzfeed from Politico

TrumpBuzzFeed is a 'failing pile of garbage'

Politico-4 hours ago
BuzzFeed, the media outlet which published a 35-page unverified intelligence report alleging that Donald Trump's presidential campaign ...
These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia
Highly Cited-BuzzFeed News-22 hours ago

James Mattis - Google Search

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Story image for james mattis from New York Times

James Mattis Strikes Far Harsher Tone Than Trump on Russia

New York Times-2 hours ago
Donald Trump's nominee for defense secretary, retired General James N. Mattis, answered questions on national security on Thursday during ...

The U.S. and Global Security Review: Mr. Pompeo: Healthy, balanced, of a good character, very smart, affable, likable, diplomatic, a uniter, can be determined and aggressive when it is needed - a good man and a good choice

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Mr. Pompeo: Healthy, balanced, of a good character, very smart, affable, likable, diplomatic, a uniter, can be determined and aggressive when it is needed - a good man and a good choice. 

Central Intelligence Agency Director Confirmation Hearing - 1.12.17 

Image result for Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo 

He can say, like 


Rest, rest, perturbèd spirit!—So, gentlemen,
With all my love I do commend me to you,
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together,
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray. 

O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together.
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The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point

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Have we ever been less sure about the truth of an urgent news story?
Three days into the "Russian dossier" scandal, which history will remember by a far more colorful name, we still have no clue what we're dealing with. We're either learning the outlines of the most extraordinary compromise to date of an incoming American president by a foreign power, or we're watching an unparalleled libel and media overreach.
The tale was first made public by David Corn at Mother Jones a week before the presidential election. Corn's October 31st article was entitled, "A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump."
Corn, with whom I spoke Wednesday, had documents back in October containing explosive accusations of Trump sex romps and other serious blackmailable behavior. But he chose not to publish them, because he couldn't confirm those details.
Corn says now he was also concerned that running the documents might lead to damage to/outing of some sources. (Hang on to that thought.)
Corn ultimately focused on the elements he could confirm: that a dossier asserting that Russians had a file of compromising information on Trump had been prepared by a veteran intelligence source, one with enough standing in Washington that the FBI chose to investigate the claims.
There are some who would quibble even with printing that much. But in the context of this election season, which saw awesome publishing excesses on all sides, Corn showed restraint.
"Even Donald Trump deserves journalistic fairness. Not that he would grant the same to anyone else," Corn explains, noting the president-elect's enthusiasm in pushing unverified stories like the birther lunacy.
This Tuesday, Corn's story was blown up to massive dimensions. First, CNN did a version of the story that really just updated Corn's reporting, explaining that intelligence officials had briefed both Trump and Obama on the dossier's existence. They left out the smarmy details, however.
The CNN story seemed to spur clickbait king BuzzFeed into action. The site's editor, Ben Smith, issued a perhaps unprecedented product disclaimer along with an explosive piece, which finally published the documents Corn and CNN had held back.
In a letter to colleagues he later shared on Twitter, Smith all but showed readers the 10-foot pole he was deploying to try to keep the allegations at a distance, even as he nudged them into public.
"As we noted in our story, there is serious reason to doubt the allegations," he wrote, referring to a series of errors in the dossier that raised questions overall about its factual basis.
But Smith repeated what BuzzFeed’s Ken Bensinger, Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs said in the story: "Americans can make up their own minds about [the] allegations." BuzzFeed put them all out there, Smith said, because that "reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017."
Smith's move was questioned almost immediately by traditional media critics like Erik Wemple of the Washington Post (a paper that has dabbled in questionable material of its own during this political season) and the Poynter Institute. Both wondered at the precedent of publishing material you not only don't know to be true, but actively know to be wrong in places.
But by the time those criticisms ran, it didn't matter. The story had by then ping-ponged back into legacy media, gaining more momentum.
The New York Times was now running "Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him." This tale included a summary of the dossier's contents, including allegations of the existence of a "sex tape."
By Tuesday evening, Trump himself appeared to answer the story on Twitter. "FAKE NEWS," he wrote. "TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"
BuzzFeed quickly highlighted Trump's apparent denial, which completed the snowball effect – a big story rolled into a bigger one by the addition of denials and more miles traveled through the news cycle.
These tricks and machinations give this story the appearance of fake news even if it turns out not to be. The slipshod way that all of this has been whipped up into media frenzy may end up undermining a more sober effort to get to the truth of the situation.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal ran a story Wednesday identifying by name the ex-spy who was the source of the story, seeming to confirm Corn's concerns on that score. The paper used a highly unusual attribution, citing "sources familiar with the matter," which could mean just about anything.
The BuzzFeed dump came on the heels of last week's release of a head-scratching "declassified report" from the U.S. intelligence community on Russian hacking. This confusing document also made bold assessments based on little to no obvious evidence.
In addition to asserting that Russia had been behind the hack of the DNC emails – a highly specific claim that at least seems to be backed by some evidence, and buttressed by private analyses – the CIA, NSA and FBI also concluded that the hacking campaign was ordered by Vladimir Putin with the specific aim of aiding Donald Trump.
But the report said almost nothing about how the agencies came to these conclusions. See the deconstruction by Masha Gessen, certainly no friend of either Putin or Trump, if you care to see how much of a bulochka ne s chem (nothingburger) the intelligence agencies' efforts in this direction were.
I had to stop reading at one point when I realized that broadcasts by the state media outlet Russia Today about "anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health" were seriously being offered up as evidence of anti-American conspiracy.
An incredible seven of the report's 25 pages concern RT's reporting choices. As Gessen notes, two more pages are blank, while "four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report," making overall for a very thin gruel.
The report also unironically listed quotes in support of Trump by extremist loon Vladimir Zhirinovsky as evidence of the attitudes of the Russian state.
I've met Zhirinovsky. He's the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog of Russian nationalism. He once told me Russia would invade Boston (I had told him I was from Boston) and re-seize Alaska.
Nobody who knows anything about Russia would include Zhirinovsky's ravings as evidence of anything. Assuming the intelligence agencies also know this, we have to wonder what the hell is going on.
The secret services either know far more than they're letting on, or they're using all this fluff and nonsense to try to sell the public on a conspiracy story they themselves can't quite prove. Either possibility is crazy to contemplate.
Nothing in the behavior of officials like Director of National Intelligence James Clapper or FBI chief James Comey has offered any clarity to the situation. Both appear determined keep taking the fork in the road all the way to inauguration.
Comey, who infamously alerted the public to the existence of an investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails 11 days before the election, spent the day of the BuzzFeed disclosures insisting before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he couldn't "confirm or deny a pending investigation."
And Clapper Wednesday night sent a groveling apologia to Trump essentially washing his hands of the BuzzFeed documents, explaining that they were "not an intelligence community product."
Nonetheless Clapper didn't exactly defuse the situation when he told Trump the intelligence community "has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable." The DNI seemed at once to be trying to reassure Trump (who immediately, and characteristically, misreported that Clapper had denounced the kompromat tales as a "false and fictitious report") while also leaving open the possibility that the president-elect was still guilty.
These wishy-washy statements come even as news leaks steadily accumulate asserting the intelligence community's supposed confidence that a Trump-Putin plot did indeed take place.
Comey's demurrals notwithstanding, it's now known that the Justice Department before the election repeatedly sought secret FISA warrants to investigate two Russian banks and a series of Trump associates.
We now know they got the warrant to investigate the Russian banks in October. As a result, there's suddenly quite justifiable outrage that Comey decided to reveal details of his Clinton email investigation and not news of this other inquiry right before the election.
But the more immediate problem is, why is Comey still holding back now? What is he waiting for?
Meanwhile, Ynet in Israel is reporting that Israeli intelligence officials are deciding not to share intelligence with the incoming Trump administration. The report indicates they came to this conclusion after a recent meeting with American intelligence officials, who told them the Russians have "leverages of pressure" to use against Trump.
This is an extraordinary story. If our intelligence community really believes this, then playtime is over.
No more Clapper-style hedging or waffling. If Israel gets to hear why they think Trump is compromised, how is the American public not also so entitled?
But if all they have are unverifiable rumors, they can't do this, not even to Donald Trump.
The only solution is an immediate unveiling of all the facts and an urgent public investigation. A half-assed whispering campaign a week and a half from a Trump presidency, with BuzzFeed at the center of the action, isn't going to cut it. We need to know what the likes of Clapper and Comey know, and we need it all now, before it's too late.
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Washington Watch: A troubling troika- Trump, Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu - Opinion

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Donald Trump takes office next week under a cloud – made in Moscow.
His strident denials that Russian hacking of Democratic emails had anything to do with his election were demolished by the unanimous conclusion of investigations by 17 American intelligence agencies.

Their report fueled new concerns over Trump’s campaign statements that he trusted Russian President Vladimir Putin more than the president of the United States and the contacts between his campaign and the Russians.
David Corn, writing in Mother Jones, said a former Western intelligence officer familiar with Russian operations told him “the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump.” More recently, “there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.”
Corn doesn’t provide many details or identify his source, but Trump had several people in his campaign with Russian ties, including one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page and political consultant Roger Stone.
Trump saw in Putin a partner in his campaign to denigrate Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. He spoke often about repairing relations with Russia and avoided criticizing Putin.
The Kremlin considered Clinton “a tough and uncompromising adversary,” according to Russian journalists, while Trump was seen as malleable. He was susceptible to flattery, had business ties to Russia and kept repeating – and exaggerating – compliments Putin paid him. He came to be known as Putin’s poodle.
Putin, who mourns the collapse of the Soviet Union, wants to Make Russia Great Again and restore its superpower status. He sees in Trump an inexperienced and unprepared American leader who can help make that possible by not challenging him the way Clinton would.
Trump and Putin’s desire to be rid of Obama and defeat Clinton was enthusiastically shared by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The prime minister had feuded with Obama since Day One, notably over the American president’s focus on settlements and launching serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, who identified with the Republicans, saw in Trump a candidate who didn’t give a hoot about peace talks, settlement construction or the Palestinians.
Trump also had the backing of Netanyahu’s billionaire benefactor, Sheldon Adelson, and had close Orthodox Jewish advisers.
Netanyahu had already been courting Putin. His calls and visits to Moscow were a way of poking a finger in Obama’s eye. He even talked about a realignment of alliances but that was meaningless. Who else would give Israel over $3 billion a year with no strings? Even with strings? Putin wants to replace the United States as the dominant foreign power in the region. Netanyahu may like playing the Russians against the Americans, but it won’t work. Right now he’s apoplectic because Obama did not veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning his settlements policy. That was a one-off; Obama had vetoed every other resolution Israel opposed – all of which, by the way, Putin voted for, including the latest.
And speaking of UN votes, Netanyahu ordered the Israeli UN delegation to skip a vote calling for gathering evidence of war crimes by the Assad regime in Syria. You’d think Israel, of all countries, would want to see genocide prosecuted, especially when it is going on right next door, but after a call from Putin Netanyahu took a walk.
Good relations with Russia are important for Israel, with more than a million Russian immigrants. More critically, Putin’s army is next door in Syria slaughtering tens of thousands, and Israel wants to make sure that conflict does not spill across its borders. All three countries may have a common enemy in Islamic State, but that doesn’t change the fact that Israel’s greatest threats – Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – are Russian allies.
The troika of leaders each had something the others wanted and understood the principle of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Putin was helping Trump by hacking into the Democrats and Clinton and distributing the pilfered documents through Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, which has a long history of publishing purloined American diplomatic cables.
That had made him a mortal enemy of the American Right – Trump once wanted him to face a “death penalty” – until his Russian-provided trove was targeting Clinton.
Fox News’s Sean Hannity, the classic useful idiot, interviewed Assange in London last week, and returned declaring the WikiLeaker truthfully told him the Russians were not involved in the hacking, despite the evidence gathered by the US intelligence community.
What Assange really said was he his source was not a “state player.” He’s been consistently evasive about his informants and this semi-denial suited Trump, who – intentionally or stupidly – chose to believe him over the CIA, DIA, NSC and the rest of the alphabet soup of spooks.
The intelligence agencies findings that the hacking had been an intentional effort to swing the election to Trump – which it clearly was – was seen by Trump as an attempt to delegitimize his election. His victory will forever be in doubt for millions of Americans. Not because he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes but because of the heavy Russian thumbs on the scales. It will be a stain on American democracy.
The Russian cyber attack on the American election left Trump’s election victory and his presidency “tainted beyond redemption,” wrote New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow.
It was a 21st century version of Richard Nixon’s Watergate break-in. Except this time instead of a domestic felony with the perps going to the slammer, it is an act of war by a foreign power.
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U.S. intelligence officials reportedly warn Israeli counterparts against sharing info with Trump administration - Israel News

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Israeli intelligence officials are concerned that the exposure of classified information to their American counterparts under a Trump administration could lead to their being leaked to Russia and onward to Iran, investigative journalist Ronen Bergman reported by Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot on Thursday.
>> Get all updates on Trump and Israel: Download our App, sign up to Breaking News Alerts, and Subscribe >>
The intelligence concerns, which have been discussed in closed forums recently, are based on suspicions of unreported ties between President-elect Donald Trump, or his associates, and the government of Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
As Russian intelligence is associated with intelligence officials in Tehran, highly classified information, such as Israel's clandestine methods of operation and intelligence sources, could potentially reach Iran. Such information has been shared with the United States in the past.
American intelligence officials expressed despair at the election of Trump during a recent meeting with their Israeli counterparts, Bergman reported. They said that they believed that Putin had “leverages of pressure” over Trump, though they did not elaborate. The American media reported on Wednesday that Russia has embarrassing intelligence about the president-elect.
According to Bergman, the American intelligence officials implied that Israel should “be careful” when transferring intelligence information to the White House and the National Security Council (NSC) following Trump's inauguration – at least until it is clear that Trump does not have inappropriate connections with Russia.
Cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. intelligence communities has intensified over the past two decades, with most of the joint operations directed, according to reports, against Iran. Hezbollah and Hamas were also intelligence targets. An official agreement in 2008 for comprehensive cooperation, including the exposure of sources and methods of action, reportedly led to impressive results, including the disruption of the Iranian nuclear program.
President Barack Obama put an end to offensive activity against Iran in 2013, at the start of secret talks between the U.S, and Iran over a nuclear agreement. However, the exposure of Israeli intelligence to the U.S. continued.
American officials are convinced that whistleblower Edward Snowden handed over intelligence to Moscow – in return for which he received political asylum – and that some of it was handed over to Tehran, in the context of Putin’s policy of increasing Iranian dependence on Moscow.
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Obama Intel Officials Used ‘Russia Blackmail’ Claims to Warn Israel About Trusting Trump

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The alleged blackmail information that U.S. officials reportedly warned Israel about seems to be in part referencing details contained in a debunked document of mysterious origin purporting to be an intelligence report alleging that Russia collected compromising videos and information on Trump.
In the report, investigative journalist Ronen Bergman writes of a meeting that took place “recently between Israeli and American intelligence officials (the date of the meeting is not mentioned to protect the sources of the report).”
Continued Bergman:
During the meeting, according to the Israelis who participated in it, their American colleagues voiced despair over Trump’s election, as he often lashes out at the American intelligence community. The American officials also told the Israelis that the National Security Agency (NSA) had “highly credible information” that Russia’s intelligence agencies, the FSB and GRU, were responsible for hacking the Democratic Party (DNC) servers during the elections and leaking sensitive information to WikiLeaks, which hurt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The American officials further added that they believed Russian President Vladimir Putin had “leverages of pressure” over Trump – but did not elaborate. They were apparently referring to what was published Wednesday about embarrassing information collected by the Russian intelligence in a bid to blackmail the president-elect.
The Americans implied that their Israeli colleagues should “be careful” as of January 20, Trump’s inauguration date, when transferring intelligence information to the White House and to the National Security Council (NSC), which is subject to the president. According to the Israelis who were present in the meeting, the Americans recommended that until it is made clear that Trump is not inappropriately connected to Russia and is not being extorted – Israel should avoid revealing sensitive sources to administration officials for fear the information would reach the Iranians.
BuzzFeed on Tuesday published the un-redacted document claiming Russia had collected blackmail information on Trump, including videos of the president-elect in compromising positions.
“The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors,” a BuzzFeed sub-headline cautioned.
Contacted by Breitbart Jerusalem, Bergman said that according to his sources, the meeting between U.S. and Israeli officials took place before the publication of the dossier on Tuesday and that the dossier wasn’t specifically mentioned to the Israelis, only the charge that Russian President Vladimir Putin has some sort of unspecified “leverage” over Trump.
Bergman said that after the dossier was published, he contacted his sources again and they told him that they themselves were speculating that the “leverage” claim could have in part referred to the dossier.  Bergman is the author of a forthcoming book on the history of the Mossad set to be published later this year by Random House.
BuzzFeed’s publication of the document prompted a flurry of news media reports drawing attention to the salacious and unproven details. CNN fanned the flames by reporting that “classified documents” presented to President Obama and Trump included “allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information” on Trump, the news network claimed, citing “multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings.”
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported the author of the dossier was Christopher Steele, who serves as a director at the London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., which has refused to comment on the reports of the document’s origin.
In October, Mother Jones reported on the contents of the dossier, writing the information was produced by a former Western intelligence officer who was assigned to the task for the purpose of an “opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client critical of the celebrity mogul.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement yesterday that he had called Trump that day to tell him that the intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
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Ynetnews News - US intel sources warn Israel against sharing secrets with Trump administrati...

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Israeli intelligence officials fear that top-secret information that has been exposed to the United States will be leaked to Russia—and from Russia to its close ally, Iran.

As Trump Berates News Media, a New Strategy Is Needed to Cover Him - The New York Times

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FBI director briefed Trump on dossier: reports | TheHill

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FBI director briefed Trump on dossier: reports

israel russia - Google Search

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Story image for israel russia from Breitbart News

Report: Obama Intel Officials Used 'Russia Blackmail' Claims to ...

Breitbart News-6 hours ago
TEL AVIV – U.S. intelligence officials warned their Israeli counterparts not to trust President-elect Donald Trump with intelligence secrets, citing ...
Washington Watch: A troubling troika- Trump, Putin, Netanyahu
Opinion-Jerusalem Post Israel News-Jan 11, 2017
The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point
In-Depth-<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>-2 hours ago