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#infosec | Redditt: US-UK NHS ‘Sale’ Docs Leaked by Russia

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Documents allegedly revealing a secret post-Brexit US-UK trade deal were leaked online as part of a Russian influence campaign, Reddit has claimed.

The social site said it has banned 61 accounts and one subreddit following an investigation into the origin of the documents, which had been seized on by the opposition Labour Party as proof of a deal to ‘sell’ the NHS to US companies.

Those it found guilty of posting and sharing the documents are probably part of a Russian campaign dubbed “Secondary Infektion” that has already been attempting influence operations on Facebook, it claimed.

“In late October, an account u/gregoratior posted the leaked documents and later reposted by an additional account u/ostermaxnn. Additionally, we were able to find a pocket of accounts participating in vote manipulation on the original post. All of these accounts have the same shared pattern as the original Secondary Infektion group detected, causing us to believe that this was indeed tied to the original group,” explained Redditt in a post over the weekend.

“Outside of the post by u/gregoratior, none of these accounts or posts received much attention on the platform, and many of the posts were removed either by moderators or as part of normal content manipulation operations. The accounts posted in different regional subreddits, and in several different languages.”

The Secondary Infektion group is known for attempts to sow discord between NATO allies and in its mature OpSec capabilities, which help to keep its tracks covered.

If true, the incident would seem to echo attempts to influence the 2016 US Presidential election, when Russian hackers stole and leaked sensitive Democratic Party documents, to the detriment of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

However, these don’t seem to have had the same impact. Reports claim UK officials are currently investigating whether the documents were originally leaked or hacked.


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#cybersecurity | hacker | Hill warns lawmakers not to spread Ukraine election interference narrative pushed by Russia

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Just a day after the Trump administration’s former top Russian expert testifying in an impeachment hearing took GOP lawmakers to task for spreading “a fictional narrative” about Ukraine meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a new report revealed that senators and their aides recently were told by U.S. intelligence officials that the tale was part of a multiyear Russian disinformation campaign.

“The Russians have a particular vested interest
in putting Ukraine, Ukrainian leaders in a very bad light,” Fiona
Hill, a former White House adviser on Russia, said Thursday. “Based
on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear
to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign
against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did.
This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the
Russian security services themselves.”

Hill said the narrative could cause harm to the
U.S. and give Russia a foothold in next year’s election. “Right now,
Russia’s security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their
interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them,” Hill
said, asking lawmakers to avoid promoting “politically derivative falsehoods
that so clearly advance Russian interests” during the impeachment probe.

Her blunt assessment came nearly a week after other witnesses such as former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, National Security Council Director of European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland painted a picture of a president pressuring the new Ukraine president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for dirt on political rival Joe Biden by withholding aid.

President Trump and his Congressional supporters have repeatedly
raised the specter of Ukraine  interfering
in the 2016 election. But diplomats and officials testifying during the impeachment
hearings have dismissed that notion – and allegations that Biden while vice
president pressured Ukraine to dump a prosecutor to shield his son, Hunter, who
served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company – as false, citing an IC
assessment released in 2017 that pinned election interference on Russia.

who testified before the panel earlier in the week, referred to the tale as “a Russian narrative
that President Putin has promoted.” That’s what the intelligence community
recently told senators and their aides, detailing Russia’s long-term initiative
to finger Ukraine as the culprit behind 2016 election meddling by using a
network of intelligence officers and prominent Russians and Ukrainians to
spread disinformation to politicians and journalists, according to a Friday report
in the New York Times.

Earlier in the day the president and GOP lawmakers seemed to
double down on the Ukraine narrative with Trump telling the hosts of Fox &
Friends that Ukraine was hiding a server that the Democratic National Committee
(DNC) turned over to CrowdStrike, which the president incorrectly referred to as
a Ukrainian company. “They have the server, right, from the
DNC, Democratic National Committee,” said Trump. “They gave the server to
CrowdStrike or whatever it’s called, which is a country — which is a company
owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server. You
know, the FBI’s never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole
thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?”

The president also had referenced
a server and CrowdStrike in the July 25 phone call with Zelensky at the heart
of the impeachment hearings, presumably referring to the server that the
company examined as part of its investigation into Russia’s hack of the DNC during the run-up to the
2016 presidential election.

The intelligence community has been united in its assessment
that Russia was behind the DNC hack and a widespread influence campaign aimed
at benefiting the Trump campaign. And former Special Counsel Robert Mueller laid
out evidence of Russia’s initiative, indicting a number of people and
organizations, including 12 GRU officers, in the caper.

Mueller’s probe bore fruit again last week when a jury found longtime
Trump confidante and campaign adviser Roger Stone guilty on seven charges,
including of lying to Congress and obstruction regarding his communications
with the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.

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#deepweb | The Justice Department’s review of the Russia probe is reportedly now a criminal inquiry

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Investigate the investigators” is one of President Donald Trump’s favorite attack lines against the Russia probe into 2016 election interference.

And now at least one internal Justice Department review of the Russia investigation has morphed into a criminal inquiry. The New York Times reported late Thursday that John Durham, the prosecutor tapped by Attorney General Bill Barr to assess the Russia investigation, is pursuing a criminal inquiry, which will allow him to subpoena witnesses and convene a grand jury if necessary. Though what, exactly, that criminal inquiry is looking into remains unclear. The Washington Post also backed up this reporting on Thursday.

NBC News reported over the weekend that Barr had expanded the review, and that Durham is now interested in interviewing “a number of current and former intelligence officials involved in examining Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper.”

Justice Department officials told NBC News that Durham had found something “significant,” but did not specify what.

Durham’s review has been closely overseen by Barr, who’s long expressed skepticism about the origins of the Russia investigation that was later overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller.

In recent weeks, Barr has been globetrotting in an apparent effort to find proof of a conspiracy theory, pushed by Trump and some of his Republican allies, that the entire Russia inquiry started because of a plot by the Obama administration and/or Hillary Clinton to thwart Trump’s presidential campaign.

The expansion of the Justice Department review raises concerns that Barr is injecting politics into this inquiry and using the full weight of law enforcement to pursue right-wing talking points and discredit the special counsel’s probe — just as Trump is facing the threat of impeachment for pressuring Ukraine, including over the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Barr ordered this review of the Russia probe back in May, even though the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz was already pursuing a similar inquiry. The IG has a lot of powers, including to subpoena documents and witnesses, but he can’t charge people with crimes or even discipline individuals — though he can make recommendations to prosecutors.

The inspector general’s investigation has been ongoing since March 2018. According to the New York Times, Horowitz told Congress Thursday that they are wrapping up that investigation, but the public has been hearing that the IG is a few weeks from releasing his report since the spring.

It’s not clear whether Horowitz might have made a criminal referral to the Justice Department, but if and when the report is released, it might offer some clues as to what Barr and Durham are looking at.

Horowitz told Congress in September that he had shared information with Durham. “I have had communications with him, but it’s really — they’re a separate entity that he’s working on at the direction of the attorney general,” Horowitz said. “I’m obviously independent.”

All of which is to say Barr’s “investigation into the investigators” is still really opaque and somewhat alarming because the details are so fuzzy.

Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but it made clear that the Trump campaign welcomed the Kremlin’s efforts.

It also documented Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to benefit Trump, including its online propaganda campaign and its hacking of the Democrats, which led to multiple indictments. The findings have been backed up by the intelligence community and a GOP-led Senate panel.

Russia is at it again (along with China and Iran), so this latest news obviously raises concerns that it might muddle the central findings of the Russia investigation ahead of the 2020 elections.

But just because the review now appears to be a criminal inquiry doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything criminal to be found — or even if there is, that it will confirm the GOP’s talking points about the investigation. Still, Trump has long wanted to diminish the credibility of the Russia “witch hunt.” The question is whether the Justice Department is helping him do that.

What does this criminal investigation mean?

Barr tapped Durham in May to lead this other review of the Russia investigation. Though Barr picked Durham for the job, Barr has made it clear that he himself is also deeply involved — and deeply concerned about the origins of the Russia investigation and the actions the FBI took during the 2016 campaign.

“Government power was used to spy on American citizens,” Barr told the Wall Street Journal in May. “I can’t imagine any world where we wouldn’t take a look and make sure that was done properly.”

Barr’s “spying” reference is tangled up in a web of Republican conspiracy theories about the investigation and its origins in the summer of 2016. The first has to do with the so-called Steele dossier, a lengthy report compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. Steele’s dossier contained explosive allegations which the Mueller investigation didn’t bear out, so Republicans have been arguing that US intelligence inappropriately relied on this “phony” dossier.

That includes using the dossier in the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) warrant for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide with Russia contacts. Republicans believe that the FBI inappropriately relied on this information to surveil Page.

And finally, GOPers have cried foul about the use of confidential informants to talk to former Trump aide George Papadopoulos to find out what he knew about Russia’s efforts to hurt Hillary Clinton, after he spilled to an Australian diplomat that the Russians had political “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. The Australian diplomat tipped off US officials, which prompted the investigation in July 2016. (Yes, these are very complicated conspiracy theories, so if you need a more detailed refresher, read here and here.)

Horowitz, the inspector general, was already looking into these origins of the Russia investigation, which is why Barr’s decision to pursue his own probe was so unusual. And by all accounts, the attorney general has been personally involved, jet-setting to Italy (regarding a professor who met with Papadopoulos) and the UK (Christoper Steele) to get more information. They’ve also been talking to Australia. Oh, and Ukraine, because of a baseless conspiracy theory that Kyiv framed Russia for the hacking of the Democrats in 2016. (For more on the conspiracy world tour, read here.)

Foreign governments have rebuffed the US’s overtures so far. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte dismissed the idea Italy had any involvement in the opening of the Russia investigation. Australia defended its diplomat and dismissed allegations that he had acted inappropriately. And Ukraine, well, that’s now its own separate mess.

NBC News and the New York Times also report that Durham wants to speak to current and former intelligence officials, though he has not interviewed high-level folks in the Obama administration, such as former CIA director John Brennan or director of national intelligence James R. Clapper. But, according to the Times, in Durham’s interviews with other officials, he asked whether the CIA officials “might have somehow tricked the FBI into opening the Russia investigation.”

New York Times also reported over the weekend that Durham was looking into former FBI officials involved in the case, interviewing nearly two dozen current and former officials. Durham, however, has not interviewed some key players, including former FBI director James Comey and former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, both frequent targets of Trump.

Durham is also reportedly looking into FBI agent Peter Strzok, who opened the investigation after getting a tip from the Australian diplomat. Strzok, of course, was removed from the case after anti-Trump text messages between him and Department of Justice lawyer Lisa Page emerged in the investigation.

All of this information is coming in bits and pieces, which means there are a lot of unknowns about what Barr and Durham are looking into with this review. The big question here is whether Barr and Durham are going into this clear-eyed or are specifically looking for information to fit the narrative that’s been pushed by the president about rogue Trump-haters at the FBI and CIA who conspired to cook up an investigation into a presidential candidate.

The Russia investigation was a sprawling inquiry, and it was also unprecedented. It is possible that intelligence or law enforcement officials made missteps or acted inappropriately along the way. That’s what the inspector general, the independent watchdog, was supposed to investigate.

But the deep involvement of Barr — who’s made it clear from the start that he’s fine protecting the president — rightfully raises concerns about whether politics are at play here. Trump is enduring an impeachment battle that grows more damning by the day — but it would be quite a win if the Russia investigation was diminished, too.

Listen to Today, Explained

Top Ukraine ambassador William Taylor finally testified and it was a doozy.

Subscribe to Today, Explained wherever you get your podcasts, including: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and ART19.

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Congress #gets ‘Russia #election #hacking’ #briefing, still no #evidence

With political primaries already underway and the November midterm elections fast approaching, top national security officials briefed members of Congress on Tuesday about gaps in election security.

The Trump administration has been under pressure to take stronger steps to deter Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. campaigns. Officials say election systems remain vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Intelligence agencies say Russian operatives attempted to hack 21 electoral systems in states during the 2016 campaign, breaching one system. There’s no evidence any votes were affected.

“This is an issue that the administration takes seriously and is addressing with urgency,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said in a joint statement.

After the briefing, Nielsen was asked about intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow used social media, leaks of hacked emails and other tactics in 2016 in an attempt to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

“That the specific intent was to help President Trump win, I’m not aware of that, but I do generally have no reason to doubt any intelligence assessment.”

Moscow “aspired to help” Trump’s campaign, according to a public report issued by intelligence agencies in January 2017. The Senate Intelligence Committee reported this month that after a 14-month investigation, it agreed with that assessment.

The committee also issued a detailed report on Russian targeting of election infrastructure during the 2016 campaign.

Chris Megerian (c)2018 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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Here Are The #Clever Means #Russia Used To #Hack The #Energy #Industry

Last July, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security revealed that Russian hackers were behind cyber intrusions into the U.S. energy power grid. The intrusion illustrated the severe threat that hackers pose to our most critical industries – energy, finance, healthcare, manufacturing and transportation.

The DHS and FBI downplayed the danger in a joint statement: “There is no indication of a threat to public safety, as any potential impact appears to be limited to administrative and business networks.”

But that might not be the end of it. Russia may be laying the groundwork for more damaging hacks, on America as well as other nations, using new cyber weapons like CrashOverride and BlackEnergy 3.

In 2015, Russia tested this on the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. These tools were specifically developed to disrupt electric power grids and it blacked out 225,000 people in the Ukraine.

One might wonder what is Russia’s end game for this kind of attack. To hurt us financially? To show us how vulnerable we are? In preparation for a more sinister attack?

Is it to punish America for anti-Russian policies? The White House expelled 60 Russians from the United States this week, joining western allies in response to Russia’s poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain with what was a banned chemical weapon.

When DHS and FBI dissected the hackers’ tradecraft, it turned out to be very clever indeed. Mark Orlando, Chief Technology Officer for cyber services at Raytheon, broke down the particulars of why the new world of hacking works so well in America.

One of the attackers’ main strategies is to divide targets into two groups – intended targets which are the energy companies themselves, and staging targets like vendors, suppliers, even trade journals and industry websites.

Instead of going straight to the larger and better-protected targets, like a $60 billion energy company with a cyber security department, the hackers worked their way into the smaller and less secure companies’ networks like those that supply the big ones with smaller equipment. Or the local utilities that are partnered with them. Local regulators may also have good access.

There is even an Electric Utility Industry Sustainable Supply Chain Alliance that many of the large energy companies use.

When the hackers get into those systems, they use that access to gather intelligence and set traps for the larger company.

This targeting of the supply chain partners is brilliant. The manufacturer of natural gas turbines that supply a gas power plant would have great access to the plant’s systems and management, would probably have password access, and would not be questioned very hard.

‘It’s important to raise awareness,’ says Orlando. ‘These details, if taken by themselves, might not seem that impactful. When presented with the entire story, we can see it was part of a larger, sustained campaign, potentially causing a lot of damage.’

This is a long-term strategy that takes patience – just the kind of thing traditional espionage has perfected over the last century.

America seems to be getting the message. A recent survey from Raytheon and Ponemon showed that two-thirds of cyber security executives and chief information security officers in America, Europe and the Middle East believe cyber extortion, such as ransomware and data breaches, will increase in frequency and payout.

The traps themselves are pretty imaginative. Many are based in social media. No one would suspect a cute kitten video of hiding malware. But they do. And if your co-worker is a kitten-nut, they may not hesitate to download that video without thinking that it is a trap.

‘The weakness in cybersecurity are the users themselves, those that are not necessarily computer-savvy,’ says Quinn Mockler, a young cyber security researcher at Columbia Basin College in the Tri-Cities Washington near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. ‘People overall need better awareness of cyber security. Otherwise, we will be open to constant attack.’

In one example discussed by Orlando, the attackers found a harmless-looking photo on one company’s human resources site that contained valuable information – the manufacturer and model of a certain piece of control-systems equipment.

That provided critical information on how the plant runs and set up the next phase of the attack – spear phishing – which is the use of customized, highly deceptive emails designed to deliver malware. Using resumés, curricula vitae, policy documents and other common messages, the hackers made reference to these control systems creating plausible, well-informed emails likely to fool someone into opening a malware-laced attachment.

One was an invitation to a company New Year’s Eve party.

Another common method used to infiltrate is called a watering-hole attack which plants malicious code in a place the targets trust, then waits for them to come pick it up.

In the energy-sector attack, DHS and FBI found that watering holes included trade publications and informational websites that dealt with matters specific to the energy industry. The hackers corrupted those sites and altered them to contain malicious content. The targets saw no reason to suspect anything was wrong when they visited them.

‘It’s a low-complexity, low-effort, high-yield attack,’ Orlando says. ‘With relatively little effort, you can target lots and lots of users.’ The best defense, he says, is for a company to monitor its own networks for signs that a user may have unwittingly stumbled into a watering-hole.

Much of the malware in the energy-sector attack was designed to capture user credentials, or the digital identity of someone authorized to use a target network. Credential harvesting includes usernames and passwords, hashes or a computer’s digital signature, often stolen through tricking someone at a false login page for a familiar site.

The hackers’ spear phishing emails contained documents that ordered the target’s computer to retrieve data from a server – one the hackers either owned themselves, or had commandeered. Once the hackers had the target’s credentials, they could apply techniques to reveal the password in plain text.

Requiring multiple modes of authentication to sign in, such as a thumbprint or a security token code, is the best way to thwart this type of attack.

Hackers imitated login pages themselves, planting a link that redirected users to a page whose ‘username’ and ‘password’ fields fed credentials straight to them. Orlando notes, ‘If I can come into your environment using authorized credentials, detecting that just became exponentially more difficult.’

There are two main lessons from the power-grid hack, Orlando says. First, businesses should know that small hacking attempts like suspicious emails are often part of a larger campaign. Also, they should understand that truly cyber-secure businesses look beyond their own networks. Like tracking the spread of a new Flu virus.

‘Your network isn’t just your network. It’s your network, plus your trusted partners, plus your suppliers,’ he says. ‘If you’re not mitigating risk across the entire cyber ecosystem, you’re potentially missing a very large exposure to your business.’

Since smaller companies are the hacker’s first stop on the way to the bigger targets, Orlando recommends monitoring computer networks for unusual activity, installing security patches regularly, developing a response plan to disclose breaches and limit damage, and communicate up and down the supply chain on cyber security.

Data diodes, air gaps, field programmable gate arrays – all the sophisticated approaches to cyber security that the nuclear and defense industries use – eventually need to be part of everyone’s defense.

But as Orlando summed up, the daunting new reality in modern cyber security is that a company’s cyber defenses are only as strong as the defenses of everyone connected to it.


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New #Book Reveals How #Obama Team #Plotted #Cyberattacks Against #Russia in #2016

Source: National Cyber Security News

On March 13, a book titled “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump” will hit the shelves. Written by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, the book specifically focuses on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential elections.

In the summer of 2016, the Obama team prepared a plan for a large-scale cyber-operation against the Russian media, the country’s most influential businessmen and President Vladimir Putin personally, according to former White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel.

His remarks are included in “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” a book by Michael Isikoff’s and David Corn’s which is due to go on sale on March 13. Excerpts were released by Yahoo News earlier this week.

Daniel explained that the cyber-offensive against Moscow was co-authored by Celeste Wallander, the US National Security Council’s former chief Russia expert.

The plan stipulated that the National Security Agency (NSA) would conduct a number of cyberattacks to neutralize Russian websites and the Guccifer 2.0 hacker, who compromised the emails of the campaign headquarters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party’s National Committee.

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Olympic #Games #hackers tried to frame #Russia, #North Korea

Source: National Cyber Security News

When Olympic Destroyer hit the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, a quick list of suspects behind the attack surfaced.

Reports attributed the destructive attack to Russia and North Korea. In the malware, which was designed to wreak havoc on the Olympics IT system, there were lines of code that only North Korean hackers had used in the past.

But new research from Kaspersky Lab shows these codes were purposely left in there to throw researchers off their trail.

“Attackers are becoming smarter and they know that creating the ultimate false flag is the ultimate defense,” Vitaly Kamluk, director of Kaspersky’s global research and analysis team, said Thursday at the cybersecurity company’s conference in Cancun, Mexico.

Finding out who’s behind cyberattacks is essential for taking countermeasures, but it can be difficult for researchers to pinpoint the exact perpetrators. Just because WannaCry, a global ransomware attack from 2017, used the NSA’s hacking tools, doesn’t mean the US government was behind it, for example. It took about eight months before the White House was able to announce that Russia was behind “NotPetya,” calling it the “most destructive cyberattack in history.”

Researchers are still working to find out who was really behind the Olympic Destroyer attack, Kamluk said, but he noted that code from North Korea’s hacking unit Lazarus Group had been forged.

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Roger Stone plans to deny collusion, evidence of Russia hacking to Congress

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone plans to fiercely deny to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he had any contact, much less colluded, with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election, according to a prepared opening statement he shared with The Washington Post. Stone also plans to deny…

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CDU politician accuses Russia of hacking website

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

A senior politician of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lashed out at Russia after her website appeared to be hacked Sunday. Julia Klöckner, the leader of the CDU in the state of Rhineland Palatinate, said on Twitter: “Today a massive hacker attack on my homepage –…

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Why Russia Will Hack Again

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

The Trump presidency has been an endless, overwhelming swirl of scandal. Whether it’s using the presidency to promote his businesses, firing former FBI Director James Comey, providing support and comfort to neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia or pardoning a sheriff held in contempt of court, President Donald Trump has invited fresh…

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