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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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Voter databases and software systems in an overwhelming number of states—39 to be exact—were targeted by Russian cyberattacks over the summer and fall of 2016, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.

That number, and Bloomberg’s revelation that hackers attempted to delete or alter voter data in Illinois and successfully accessed a campaign finance database in another state, indicates that Russia’s election interference was even more vigorous than has previously been reported.

It builds on a NSA document leaked to The Intercept and made public last week that offered hard evidence that Russian meddling involved not only the strategic hacking and distribution of campaign communications, but efforts to interfere with America’s election infrastructure.

Three people that Bloomberg describes as having “direct knowledge” of the federal Russia probe said that the hackers gained access to software intended for poll workers to use on Election Day as well as to Illinois’ entire state voter database.

They did not alter vote tallies, however, as various intelligence officials have testified in congressional hearings. One anonymous U.S. official posited to Bloomberg that this was because Russia only accessed American voting systems months before an Election Day, lacking the time needed to master a complex network that varies between thousands of local jurisdictions.

Former President Barack Obama attempted to intervene last October, according to Bloomberg, using the so-called “red phone” secure messaging channel established between Russia and the U.S. to deescalate the threat of cyberattacks.

Putin said only that he would look into the matter, and has categorically denied that the Russian government took any steps to interfere in the U.S. election. He allowed earlier this month that “patriotic individuals” could have carried out cyberattacks independently.

U.S. intelligence officials have cautioned that Russian interference continues, and that the 2018 and 2020 elections could very well be compromised by their efforts.

“They will be back,” former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Tuesday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election will be public, according to the panel’s bipartisan chairs.

There was some uncertainty about whether the hearing would be open or closed, but Sessions apparently requested it “be public,” according to the Justice Department.

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James Comey testified Thursday that he was “stunned” by requests President Donald Trump made to curtail federal investigations related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and thought the President’s remarks were of investigative interest— and it seems other senior FBI officials agree.

Though the ousted FBI director did not go as far as accusing Trump of attempting to obstruct justice, Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee offered the clearest indication yet that the President may already be under scrutiny for exactly that.

Part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s job is to “sort that out,” Comey said, dismissing questions from the assembled senators on whether he personally believed Trump obstructed justice. His testimony made the case for why he felt “sure” that Mueller would look into the multiple one-on-one conversations that Trump requested of his then-FBI director.

Comey says Trump asked him to quash the FBI’s investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn in one Feb. 14 exchange in the Oval Office. In a March 30 phone call, Comey says Trump requested that he lift the “cloud” that the Russia probe was casting over his administration.

“I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the President was an effort to obstruct,” Comey said of the Feb. 14 meeting. “I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that’s an offense.”

Importantly, Comey noted that Trump asked other senior officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, to clear the room before initiating the conversation about the Flynn probe. He noted those officials hesitated before complying.

“Why did he kick everybody out of the Oval Office?” Comey said. “That, to me as an investigator, is a very significant fact.”

Senior FBI officials briefed on that conversation said it was “of investigative interest” to determine the intent of Trump’s statements about Flynn, Comey testified.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe made similar remarks in separate testimony before the committee on Wednesday, telling Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) that it was “accurate” to assume that Comey’s private conversations with Trump either already are or are “likely to become part of a criminal investigation.”

These loaded comments apparently did not trouble Trump’s legal team or his defenders on Capitol Hill, who insisted that Comey’s testimony actually vindicated the President. They noted that, as Trump previously said, Comey confirmed that he informed Trump on three separate occasions that the President was not the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.

Republican lawmakers, the White House and Trump’s own family members also argued that the President was merely looking out for the interest of Flynn, a longtime adviser, and never explicitly ordered Comey to end any investigation. Those defenders neglected to mention that Comey testified that a senior FBI official cautioned him against telling Trump he was not a part of the federal investigation, because that person believed that “inevitably his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope.”

Whether Trump requested or ordered that Comey drop the investigation into Flynn is an irrelevant semantic distinction. As Comey testified, Trump asked him to swear “loyalty” and repeatedly brought up the status of his job in their conversations, leaving the former FBI director with the impression that his continued tenure at the bureau was “contingent upon how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty.”

He did not comply with Trump’s requests and was fired only four months into Trump’s term. By the President’s own admission, Comey was dismissed because of the “Russia thing.”

“I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted,” Comey testified. “That is a very big deal.”

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Former FBI Director James Comey’s characteristically measured testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee communicated one fact clearly: he doesn’t think much of the current President of the United States.

Over and over during his three-hour-long appearance, Comey painted Donald Trump as a free-wheeling, habitually untruthful commander-in-chief with little respect for the independence of the FBI.

Trump himself has taken gleeful potshots at Comey, tweeting in the days after he removed Comey as FBI director that he had “lost the confidence” of both Republicans and Democrats and denigrated the “spirit and prestige of the FBI.” He also reportedly told senior Russian officials that Comey was “crazy, a real nut job,” who was insistent on pursuing an investigation into their interference in the 2016 election.

Now a private citizen, and knowing the eyes of Americans all over the country were on his testimony, Comey made his own personal views on Trump explicit.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ oversight of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election had become “problematic” before he voluntarily recused himself, fired FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday.

The tantalizingly vague statement, based on facts Comey said he could not discuss in an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested that FBI leadership knew weeks before Sessions’ recusal that he would have to step down.

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Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn is the subject of an “open criminal investigation” stemming from his contacts with Russian officials, fired FBI director James Comey testified Thursday.

In a feverishly-anticipated hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey confirmed under oath that Flynn was in “legal jeopardy” and that the FBI investigation of him was specifically focused on his contacts with Kremlin operatives. News articles previously reported that the FBI opened an investigation into Flynn’s work as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the Trump administration’s transition to the White House.

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Fired FBI Director James Comey will confirm news reports that President Donald Trump privately asked him to swear “loyalty” and to put an end to the bureau’s investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn when he testifies Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to his prepared remarks.

The committee released a copy of Comey’s prepared opening statement nearly 20 hours ahead of his feverishly-anticipated appearance. In those prepared remarks, Comey recounts in painstaking detail five of the nine one-on-one conversations that he says he had with Trump before he was abruptly fired in early May.

Comey will testify that he told the President on three separate occasions that he was not personally targeted by the federal counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Trump has publicly claimed as much.

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The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday scolded four senior intelligence officials for refusing to answer questions about conversations with or about President Donald Trump that had been reported the press.

In remarkable closing remarks, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told the assembled intelligence officials to “take a message back to the administration” about what they were permitted to say in public and to lawmakers.

“At no time should you be in a position where you come to Congress without an answer,” Burr said sternly. “It may be in a different format, but the requirements of our oversight duties and your agencies demand it.”

Throughout the almost three-hour hearing, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, NSA Director Mike Rogers and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein repeatedly stonewalled senators. McCabe would not comment on reports about Trump’s private conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey, while Coats and Rogers sidestepped questions about whether Trump asked them to downplay or intervene in the federal Russia investigation.

McCabe said that he did not want to step on the toes of the special counsel investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference, allowing that Trump and Comey’s discussions may fall under Robert Mueller’s purview. That answer was insufficient for senators from both sides of the aisle, who pushed back in testy exchanges.

Burr said explicitly charged that all four witnesses offered inadequate responses.

“You’re in positions whereby you’re required to keep this committee fully and currently informed of intelligence activities,” he said.

The North Carolina Republican invoked the “Gang of Eight notification briefing,” an option used to brief the eight most senior Senate and House members on intelligence matters not “appropriate” to share with the full committee or in open session, as a way these officials could provide straight answers.

“Congressional oversight of the intelligence activities of our government is necessary and it must be robust,” Burr said.

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Private conversations between President Donald Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey could be part of the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to the bureau’s acting head.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe confirmed that such discussions either already are, or are likely to become, part of a criminal investigation in his Wednesday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“It seems to me that what you say is either that is part of a criminal investigation or likely to become part of a criminal investigation—the conversation between the President of the United States and Mr. Comey—and, therefore, you cannot properly comment on that,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said to McCabe. “Is that accurate?”

“That’s accurate, sir,” McCabe replied.

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Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Wednesday that he believes any conversations he had with his predecessor, James Comey, about President Donald Trump may fall under the purview of a special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked McCabe during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing whether Comey ever told him that Trump asked the former FBI director to swear loyalty to him, as the New York Times has reported. McCabe declined to answer.

“I think those [conversations] fall within the scope of issues investigated by the special counsel and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on those today,” he replied when pressed further.

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