2018年7月31日 星期二

News Alert: Majority of Americans in poll say FBI showed bias in Trump, Clinton probes

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Poll: Majority of Americans say FBI showed bias in Trump, Clinton probes
A majority of Americans believe the FBI exhibited political bias in its handling of its high-profile investigations involving President Trump and his 2016 Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton, according to a new poll.

The survey of 1,058 registered voters conducted by the HarrisX polling company found that 62 percent of Americans believe that the FBI was biased in its handling of the high-profile investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of State.

A similar percentage of Americans, 59 percent, said they believed the FBI also suffered from bias in the Trump probe, but more believed the president was hurt by that bias.
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On The Money: Trump waves off political risk from shutdown | Senate GOP, Dems get deal on major spending bill | Regulator to offer banking charters to financial tech firms | What to know from day one of Manafort trial

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Happy Tuesday and welcome back to On The Moneyslightly cheaper than a jacket a made out of ostrich. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

See something I missed? Let me know at slane@thehill.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.

Write us with tips, suggestions and news: slane@thehill.com, vneedham@thehill.com, njagoda@thehill.com and nelis@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane, @VickofTheHill, @NJagoda and @NivElis.


THE BIG DEAL: President Trump said Tuesday that he doesn't care about the political ramifications of shutting down the government over funding for his border wall as GOP leaders try to downplay his threats.

"I don't care what the political ramifications are, our immigration laws and border security have been a complete and total disaster for decades, and there is no way that the Democrats will allow it to be fixed without a Government Shutdown," Trump tweeted.

"A Government Shutdown is a very small price to pay for a safe and Prosperous America!" he added.

Trump since Friday has repeatedly threatened to veto government funding legislation unless lawmakers increase funding for his long-sought wall along the southern border. The House fiscal 2019 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security includes $5 billion for the wall, which Trump insists isn't nearly enough.

Lawmakers will have 19 days to pass government funding legislation when the House returns from recess in September. Republican leaders are eager to avoid a shutdown less than two months before the midterm elections, which they'd prefer to be a referendum on the economy.

Over in the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he has reached a deal with Democrats to move a major spending package next month that would fund the Pentagon, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Labor, reports The Hill's Alexander Bolton. McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) have agreed to keep poison-pill policy riders out of Senate appropriations bills so they can move on time and not get delayed by partisan fights.

But Trump has marched with House conservatives who want Congress to follow through on border wall funding and fulfill a promise to the president's base.

GOP aides told The Hill's Scott Wong and Juliegrace Brufke that they did not know whether Trump confidants Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the two leaders of the conservative Freedom Caucus, were privately encouraging Trump to threaten a shutdown.

But Trump's message is consistent with their pledge to stop GOP leaders from punting a fight over funding the border wall and other Trump priorities until after Election Day.



Regulator moves ahead with bank charters for fintechs: The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced Tuesday that it would now consider bank charter applications from financial technology companies seeking approval to operate nationwide.

Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting said his agency will accept applications from online-only lenders, mortgage and loan servicers, and payment platforms to receive special-purpose federal bank charters. The OCC said companies that take and hold deposits from customers would not be eligible for the charter.

A federal charter would allow approved financial technology companies, known as fintechs, to operate throughout the country without seeking permission from each state. A fintech chartered as a national bank would avoid a costly state-by-state approval process, but would be subjected to federal banking regulations and inspections from the OCC.

Otting said the OCC's decision is intended to "provide more choices to consumers and businesses, and creates greater opportunity for companies that want to provide banking services in America." I've got more on the announcement here.


How it will work:

  • The OCC said charter recipients would be held to capital, liquidity and financial inclusion standards akin to those imposed on banks.
  • Chartered fintechs would also be required to submit plans for how they'd handle severe financial stress or be dismantled upon failure.
  • Newly chartered fintechs would face stricter initial oversight from the OCC, similar to the heightened federal scrutiny new banks receive.


What comes next: Lots of legal challenges, probably. The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and New York Department of Financial Services sued the OCC over its plan to explore charters for fintechs. Their case was dismissed in December 2017 because the OCC had not yet decided to offer the charters.

Both regulatory agencies panned Otting's decision to offer fintech charters and said it would pose immense risks to the U.S. financial system.

"Let us not forget that the last time the OCC pre-empted state consumer protection laws in a sweeping manner -- in the early 2000s -- predatory lenders were let off the hook and contributed to the largest number of home foreclosures since the Great Depression," said CSBS president and CEO John Ryan.

The OCC's decision comes almost two years after the agency announced it would explore offering charters to fintechs, and hours after the Treasury Department recommended it do so in a Tuesday report. 

The Treasury suggested dozens of ways that regulators and Congress could bolster the growth of financial technology platforms, while strengthening privacy safeguards amid cyber breaches.

The report encouraged the OCC to move forward with a special purpose charter that would give fintechs a license to operate nationally under the same standards as banks. Treasury said the charter could "provide a federal approach to reducing regulatory fragmentation and supporting beneficial business models."

You can read more about the Treasury report's recommendations here.

Companies could have paid workers more if they diverted stock buybacks: Publicly traded companies in the restaurant, retail and food manufacturing industries could have paid their workers thousands of dollars more if they had used the money they spent on stock buybacks on wages instead, according to a report released Tuesday.

"Stock buybacks greatly benefit corporate executives (who hold stock-based compensation) and market speculators, but they leave companies with fewer resources available to invest in workers and future growth," the left-leaning Roosevelt Institute and National Employment Law Project (NELP) wrote in a joint report.

The report looked at publicly available data from 2015 to 2017, prior to the Republicans' tax cuts taking effect, but it comes as stock buybacks have increased further following the tax law's passage.

Democrats and Republicans have sparred over whether companies' share repurchases are beneficial. The Hill's Naomi Jagoda breaks down the debate here.


Prosecution says Manafort opened more than 30 bank accounts overseas: Prosecutors argued Tuesday that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort opened more than 30 overseas bank accounts to try and hide his earnings from lobbying work in Ukraine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said in his opening statement in Manafort's trial in Virginia, which began Tuesday, that the former Trump associated opened more than 30 bank accounts in three foreign countries. The accounts were used to hold the more than $60 million Manafort earned doing pro-Russian lobbying in Ukraine.

Asonye argued that the government will be able to prove that Manafort did not report the entirety of his income as part of an effort to build an extravagant lifestyle. 

"There's nothing wrong with being successful or rich, but when you sign a federal tax return you swear you have reported all your income," Asonye said.

Can't get enough on the Manafort trial? Our Lydia Wheeler was there in Arlington, Va. and has the recap on day one.


MARKET CHECK: Reuters: "U.S. stocks rebounded on Tuesday, boosted by gains in industrial shares following reports of renewed trade negotiations between the United States and China.

"The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 108.36 points, or 0.43 percent, to 25,415.19, the S&P 500 gained 13.69 points, or 0.49 percent, to 2,816.29 and the Nasdaq Composite added 41.79 points, or 0.55 percent, to 7,671.79."



  • The Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Labor announced an agreement Tuesday to work together in cracking down on companies that "discriminate" against U.S. workers by hiring foreign workers.
  • A new study that puts an astronomical price tag on a Medicare-for-all proposal has prompted mockery from conservatives and defensive cries from liberals.
  • President Trump ripped conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch one day after the political network formed by the billionaire brothers said it would not support a Republican Senate candidate in North Dakota.
  • The Senate on Tuesday cleared a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program hours before funding for the program is set to expire.
  • AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who has previously praised tariffs implemented by President Trump, told CBS News that he believes those measures have gone too far.
  • The Chinese government has said that its economy "faces some new problems and new challenges" from mounting global trade tensions, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Business groups at war with Trump over trade and immigration say they're taking steps to rebuild the political center -- including taking fresh looks at moderate Democrats, according to Politico.



  • Former Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman attempts to solve the "wage puzzle."
  • Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending released a survey Tuesday showing that roughly 80 percent of voters polled are concerned about the Trump administration's impact on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
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Hillicon Valley: Facebook reveals influence campaign ahead of midterms | Dems quickly suspect Russia | Pence voices support for intel community | Dems push for review of facial recognition tech | DHS center to protect critical infrastructure

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Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland).


FACEBOOK FINDS EVIDENCE OF NEW CAMPAIGN TO INFLUENCE MIDTERM ELECTIONS: Facebook revealed Tuesday that it has found evidence of a coordinated political influence campaign making use dozens of fake accounts and pages on its platform in advance of the November midterm elections.

The social media company announced that it has removed 32 pages and accounts across Facebook and Instagram involved in "inauthentic behavior." Facebook is reportedly working with the FBI on the matter. 

Facebook told lawmakers in a series of briefings this week that it had discovered the influence campaign as it watched for election interference efforts, The New York Times reported. 

The company told Congress that the efforts could have been conducted by Russia, but that it has not been able to confirm this. "We're still in the very early stages of our investigation and don't have all the facts -- including who may be behind this," Facebook said in a post on Tuesday.

"But we are sharing what we know today given the connection between these bad actors and protests that are planned in Washington next week. We will update this post with more details when we have them, or if the facts we have change," it added. 

The company said that "whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past."

The Kremlin-linked IRA was responsible for a significant amount of election interference efforts in 2016. The group successfully organized events intended to sow discord among the public, including an anti-Trump event attended by thousands in New York City.

In the briefings this week, Facebook also said that it had found attempts to manipulate its platform after the elections, including around the time of the Unite The Right white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last summer and in regard to the #AbolishICE hashtag, in line with previous Russian efforts to not just influence the election, but fan the flames of tension around social issues in the U.S.

We have more here.


What top Senate Intel lawmakers are saying:

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.): "I'm not sure that this will be the last finding that they come with."

Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.): "Today's disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation."

Read more here.


What House Intel's top Democrat is saying:

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: "Today's announcement from Facebook demonstrates what we've long feared: that malicious foreign actors bearing the hallmarks of previously-identified Russian influence campaigns continue to abuse and weaponize social media platforms to influence the U.S. electorate."

Read more here.


NEW HOMELAND SECURITY UNIT: The Department of Homeland Security is forming a new center to better protect U.S. critical assets -- from financial institutions to the energy grid -- from cyber and physical threats.  Officials announced the creation of the National Risk Management Center at a cybersecurity summit in New York on Tuesday.

Why? Its establishment comes amid heightened fears of cyber threats to the U.S. energy sector and after officials revealed a broad campaign by Russian hackers to breach organizations involved in powering the U.S. electric grid.  

The new center's goal will be to bolster coordination between the federal government and private sector companies -- which own and operate the vast majority of critical assets -- and to improve the protection of critical infrastructure from potential threats, according to a document outlining its mission.

Homeland Security has long taken the lead on engaging with private companies to protect organizations across more than a dozen critical sectors -- including chemical, manufacturing, nuclear, water and transportation. Some in the private sector have criticized the federal government for being too slow to share information on potential threats, or not sharing enough.

The Homeland Security document said the "joint center" would "provide a centralized home for collaborative, sector-specific and cross-sector risk management efforts to better protect critical infrastructure."

The new hub will go beyond information sharing, and will work with the private sector to develop a "collaborative risk management strategy" to help better secure critical assets.

The center's mission is guided by the "risk-based" approach that focuses on protecting U.S. systems that, if sabotaged, would have devastating or cascading consequences. More details here.


PENCE BACKS 'UNAMBIGUOUS' INTEL ASSESSMENT ON RUSSIA: Vice President Pence on Tuesday called Russia out for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, describing foreign interference efforts as an "affront to our democracy" that will not be tolerated.

Pence's fierce endorsement of the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion about Russian interference came two weeks after President Trump cast doubt on the judgment alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin following a meeting in Helsinki -- remarks he later sought to walk back.

"While other nations certainly possess the capability, the fact is, Russia meddled in our 2016 elections. That is the unambiguous judgment of the intelligence community and as the president said, we accept the intelligence community's conclusion," Pence said during an address at a Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity summit in New York.

"Russia's goal was to sow discord and division and to weaken the American people's faith in our democracy. And, while no actual votes were changed, any attempt to interfere in our elections is an affront to our democracy and it will not be allowed," Pence continued.

His big message: Trump is taking action to protect upcoming elections: Pence highlighted a variety of actions the Trump administration is taking to protect future elections from threats. He pointed to the FBI's decision to stand up a foreign influence task force and Homeland Security's efforts to work with states to ensure their election systems are secure from malicious actors. Pence that those efforts came from direct orders from President Trump.

Read more here.


WATCHDOG PRESSED TO REVIEW POLICE USE OF FACIAL RECOGNITION TECH: A group of Democrats in the House and Senate want the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to probe how law enforcement agencies have begun to use newly available facial recognition software. 

In a letter, four senators, as well as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote that the federal government needs to study whether adequate oversight is being performed for public and private use of the technology.

"Given the recent advances in commercial facial recognition technology -- and its expanded use by state, local, and federal law enforcement, particularly the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- we ask that you investigate and evaluate the facial recognition industry and its government use," the lawmakers wrote.


STILL WAITING:  Former CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday that he has not heard from the White House in the week since it threatened to revoke security clearances from him and other former intelligence officials who have been critical of President Trump.

"I have heard nothing other than what has come out from the White House spokesperson," Brennan said on MSNBC.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last week that Trump is considering taking away security clearances for Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

More on Brennan's comments here.


MANAFORT GOES TO COURT:  Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was in court Tuesday for the opening day of his criminal trial on bank and fraud charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort appeared at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va. wearing a black business suit. His wife sat behind him in the courtroom. At one point, Manafort ran his fingers through his graying hair and gave the jury pool a quick, close-lipped smile.

Opening arguments are slated to begin Tuesday afternoon following the final selection of jury members. Tuesday morning was spent narrowing the pool of 65 jurors down to 12 members and four alternates.

The 18 counts facing Manafort include allegedly laundering $30 million from work on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and hiding money overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes. In addition to jury selection, Tuesday morning included a hearing regarding a motion to block Ukraine-related documents from being introduced as evidence at the trial.

More on Manafort's appearance here.

Attorneys gave their opening statements Tuesday in Manafort's trial, with the defense saying the real culprit is his longtime business associate Rick Gates.

"Gates had his hand in the cookie jar," defense attorney Thomas Zehnle said during his 30-minute opening argument. He said that Gates was handling the financial operations, "and little did Paul Manafort know that Gates was lining his own pockets."

But the he prosecution said the government can prove that Manafort collected more than $60 million from his work for Ukrainian officials, and didn't report all of the income.

"There's nothing wrong with being successful or rich, but when you sign a federal tax return you swear you have reported all your income," Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said during his opening statement.

Our Lydia Wheeler was there for the trial. More on opening arguments and day one of the trial from her here.


A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: Who are you wearing?


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: The tech revolution hasn't revolutionized economic growth



The Department of Justice and FBI are expected to "announce arrests and indictments in a major international cyber investigation," at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Stay tuned.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will have an open hearing at 9:30 a.m. where third-party social media experts will testify on foreign influence operations and their use of social media platforms. GOOD TIMING. This hearing comes one day after the Facebook news about a new disinformation campaign.



Treasury highlights ways to bolster financial tech companies. (The Hill)

Nielsen responds to new Facebook election report: 'This threat is very real.' (The Hill)

An Iowa hospital warned 1.4 million patients that their personal information may have been accessed. (Des Moines Register)

Trump nominates a candidate for a top IT post at the Department of Veterans Affairs. (FedScoop)

A bipartisan pair of senators has introduced legislation to bolster Homeland Security's cyber incident response teams.

Yale University says that Social Security numbers were accessed in a data breach. (NBC Connecticut)

FTC warns of government imposter scams. (NextGov)

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