How the Trump administration’s secret efforts to ease Russia sanctions fell short — CNN analyst blows up at ex-CIA chief for blaming Kushner’s Russian back-channel on Obama — Turkish Government Conspiracy Theory: Gulen Tied to CIA, Other ‘Intelligence Agencies’ — C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance
In the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers fought an intense, behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming officials to normalize relations with Russia, according to multiple sources familiar with the events.
Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials, almost as soon as they took office, tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.
These efforts to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election alarmed some State Department officials, who immediately began lobbying congressional leaders to quickly pass legislation to block the move, the sources said.
“There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions,” said Dan Fried, a veteran State Department official who served as chief U.S. coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February. He said in the first few weeks of the administration, he received several “panicky” calls from U.S. government officials who told him they had been directed to develop a sanctions-lifting package and imploring him, “Please, my God, can’t you stop this?”
Fried said he grew so concerned that he contacted Capitol Hill allies — including Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking minority member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — to urge them to move quickly to pass legislation that would “codify” the sanctions in place, making it difficult for President Trump to remove them.
CNN’s Phil Mudd on Tuesday ripped into R. James Woolsey Jr. on Tuesday after the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency claimed the real issue involving the Russia invitation are leaks coming from the White House
Woolsey said the Obama administration was “extremely uncooperative” with the Trump transition team. Host Don Lemon pushed back on that point, noting even Trump officials touted his predecessor’s help.
“I know they said that, but the story indicated the Obama administration was taking the names and information of private citizens … and giving them to people in the Obama White House,” Woolsey said.
Lemon argued the Trump administration only “recently” found out about the unmasking of certain Trump officials, arguing they were unaware of those reports when Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to establish a backchannel line of communication with the Kremlin.
Woolsey insisted Trump transition officials likely felt “bad vibrations” from the Obama administration’s nonexistent surveillance.
Turkish government agencies are competing with each other to most ardently accuse Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of sowing chaos throughout Turkey’s infrastructure.
The latest salvo in the contest comes from the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), which released a report this week claiming Gulen has forged ties with “intelligence agencies” that include the CIA.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported Tuesday that the MIT published a new report concluding that “the spying techniques used by Gülenists in collecting intelligence through illegal wiretapping and other secret means suggest they were operating with the cooperation of multiple secret services under strong foreign support.” Hurriyet notes that the MIT failed to positively identify any specific agencies that are conspiring with Gulen’s Hizmet movement (or, as Turkey calls it, the Fethullah Terrorist Organization – FETO), but insinuates that the CIA and Israeli officials are among the conspirators.
The newspaper also mentions “Germany, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and some other European countries” as prime suspects, most on the same list of countries Erdogan condemned for not allowing rallies supporting him during this year’s national referendum on establishing a presidential system.
The report uses the fact that that former CIA officials Graham Fuller and George Fides “provided references to the self-exiled Islamic scholar” in their books as a sign that the CIA supports Gulen. It also reportedly mentions Gulen’s support for Israel during the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident as a sign that the government of Israel supports Gulen, despite the lack of concrete ties between Gulen’s movement and Israel.
Now the official, Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign.
Mr. D’Andrea’s new role is one of a number of moves inside the spy agency that signal a more muscular approach to covert operations under the leadership of Mike Pompeo, the conservative Republican and former congressman, the officials said. The agency also recently named a new chief of counterterrorism, who has begun pushing for greater latitude to strike militants.
Iran has been one of the hardest targets for the C.I.A. The agency has extremely limited access to the country — no American embassy is open to provide diplomatic cover — and Iran’s intelligence services have spent nearly four decades trying to counter American espionage and covert operations.
INTEL TODAY DIARY — June 3 2017