Hillicon Valley: Senate votes to save net neutrality | Senate panel breaks with House, says Russia favored Trump in 2016 | Latest from Cambridge Analytica whistleblower | Lawmakers push back on helping Chinese tech giant

Hillicon Valley: Senate votes to save net neutrality | Senate panel breaks with House, says Russia favored Trump in 2016 | Latest from Cambridge Analytica whistleblower | Lawmakers push back on helping Chinese tech giant
© Greg Nash

The Cyber and Tech overnights have joined forces to give you Hillicon Valley, The Hill's new comprehensive newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

 

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) and Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers); and the tech team, Ali Breland (@alibreland) and Harper Neidig (@hneidig), on Twitter. Contact us with scoops, tips, comments, jokes about the Cavs.

 

SENATE VOTES TO SAVE NET NEUTRALITY (AND WHY IT'S NOT BACK YET): The Senate on Wednesday voted to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality rules, passing a bill that has little chance of advancing in the House but offers net neutrality supporters and Democrats a political rallying point for the midterm elections.

Democrats were able to force Wednesday's vote using an obscure legislative tool known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). CRA bills allow Congress, with a majority vote in each chamber and the president's signature, to overturn recent agency moves.

Three Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and John Kennedy (La.) -- joined the 49 Senate Democrats to pass the bill 52-47.

They argue that without the net neutrality regulations, which require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally, companies such as Verizon and Comcast will be free to discriminate against certain content or boost their partner websites.

What's next: The bill will have a much harder time in the House, where Democrats would need 25 Republicans to cross the aisle in order to bring it up for a vote.

Why Republicans are not happy: They probably don't sense a threat in the CRA but it makes their lives harder. Democrats want to use the vote as a tool to put pressure on Republicans in the midterms. As Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Dems rip Trump DOJ nominee who represented Russian bank The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Expensive and brutal: Inside the Supreme Court fight ahead MORE (D-Hawaii) has repeatedly said, the CRA vote forces lawmakers to go on the record as for or against net neutrality.

Critics are already hitting back. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenDominant internet platforms must disrupt themselves Hammond pardons raise fears of emboldened anti-government extremists Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump fly home on Pence donor's private jet MORE (R-Ore.) blasted the CRA measure as a grandstanding maneuver that gets in the way of a bipartisan net neutrality fix. And broadband providers are also jumping into the fight, with AT&T also criticizing the maneuver.

What we still don't know... Will it pay off for Dems? Voters strongly back net neutrality according to polls. But Dems still haven't made it into a potent midterm political issue.

Click here for our breakdown of today's vote and what's next.

 

SENATE PANEL SAYS RUSSIA SOUGHT TO HELP TRUMP: Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that they agree with the intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and sought to help President TrumpDonald John TrumpIran claims it rejected Trump meeting requests 8 times ESPY host jokes Putin was as happy after Trump summit as Ovechkin winning Stanley Cup Russian ambassador: Trump made ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin MORE win the White House.

"We see no reason to dispute the conclusions," Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrCongress should build upon the ABLE Act, giving more Americans with disabilities access to financial tools Christine Todd Whitman: Trump should step down over Putin press conference GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki MORE (R-N.C.) said in a statement. "There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections."

As part of its investigation into Russian meddling, the committee has for several months been reviewing the January 2017 assessment compiled by top U.S. intelligence officials.

The assessment found that Russia sought to interfere in the election for three reasons: to undermine U.S. democracy, to damage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState Dept: Russia’s allegations about American citizens ‘absolutely absurd’ Trump on possible sit-down with Mueller: 'I've always wanted to do an interview' Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE and to help Trump win the White House.

On Wednesday, committee lawmakers met behind closed doors with former top intelligence officials who played a major role in compiling the assessment. In a joint statement following that meeting, Burr and Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Overnight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart MORE (D-Va.) signaled their agreement with the findings.

"After a thorough review, our staff concluded that the [intelligence community assessment] conclusions were accurate and on point," Warner said. "The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton."

Why it's significant: Their statement represents a break with the Republican-led House investigation, which did not support the conclusion that Russia sought to help Trump win.

Click here for more on the Senate panel's conclusions. 

 

JUDICIARY TRANSCRIPTS OFFER DETAILED ACCOUNT OF TRUMP TOWER MEETING: Thousands of pages of interview transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday offered the most detailed account to date of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDNC claims Secret Service blocked attempt to deliver lawsuit against Kushner Secret Service spent nearly 0,000 on protection for Trump's sons during overseas trips Government paid K to Trump company for Scotland stay MORE, and a Russian lawyer who has since admitted to being an "informant" to Moscow.

The documents show a constellation of efforts over several years by two powerful Russian real estate developers, Aras and Emin Agalarov, to arrange meetings and provide assistance to Trump.

The Agalarovs' outreach efforts culminated in setting up the 2016 meeting with Trump Jr. on the promise to the president's eldest son that it would deliver political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

What we don't know: While the documents reveal the willingness of the Trump campaign to accept the Agalarovs' help when it was convenient, they do not show the extent to which Trump himself was aware of the meeting's stated purpose.

What we learned: Trump Jr. testified that he "never discussed [the meeting] with [Trump] at all," and that he did not know if anyone else did. He said he chose not to involve his father in the drafting of his first, misleading statement about the nature of the meeting because "I didn't want to bring him into something that he had nothing to do with."

But the release of the transcripts is unlikely to bring consensus on or off Capitol Hill about what happened, however.

To read more of our coverage, click here and here.

 

BREAKING - FTC TAPS LAWYER WHO REPRESENTED FACEBOOK, EQUIFAX AS CONSUMER PROTECTION CHIEF: The GOP-controlled Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has tapped as its consumer protection chief an industry lawyer who has represented companies like Facebook and Equifax, both of which are under investigation by the agency for mishandling user data.

Andrew Smith was named bureau chief Wednesday after a 3-2 party-line vote among the among the agency's commissioners.

Sparks fly: FTC Chairman Joseph Simons blasted the Democrats for their no votes.

We have the latest here.

 

LATEST ON ZTE... MORE LAWMAKERS VOICE CONCERNS: Lawmakers from both parties raised concerns about President Trump's effort to aid Chinese firm ZTE during a hearing on telecommunications and national security on Wednesday.

The hearing, organized by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, came days after Trump wrote on Twitter that he had directed federal officials to get ZTE "back into business, fast" after the phone manufacturer was forced to shut down major operations as a result of U.S. penalties.

Straight from the lawmakers:

--Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerSatellite images raise alarms about North Korean nukes Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks ‘Stingray’ spying prompts fears about surveillance MORE (R-Ill.) said he was "concerned" by Trump's comment, suggesting that it signaled a "loosening up" on ZTE following the penalties issued last month.

"I was very surprised and, frankly, concerned by the president's comments recently, in fact, showing somehow a loosening up of that concern with ZTE," Kinzinger said Wednesday. "I hope they were comments that were misinterpreted or at least there is some other thought given to that."

--Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneTop Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments FCC passes controversial rule changing how it handles consumer complaints Overnight Health Care: Dem demands details on Trump-Pfizer pricing deal | Why both sides agree nominee could shift high court to right on abortion | DEA gets more powers to limit opioid production MORE (D-N.J.) said that Trump's tweet "muddled his own foreign policy."

--And Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooLawmakers split over how to expand rural broadband Hillicon Valley: Senate votes to save net neutrality | Senate panel breaks with House, says Russia favored Trump in 2016 | Latest from Cambridge Analytica whistleblower | Lawmakers push back on helping Chinese tech giant Overnight Finance: House panel to take up bill toughening review of foreign deals | Trump acknowledges Cohen payment on disclosure form | Officials set for new round of China trade talks MORE (D-Calif.) suggested that the committee should send a formal, bipartisan letter to the administration on the matter to signal to Trump that "this is not the way to go."

"I'm not saying this to be political. This is a national security issue and Republicans and Democrats have taken both at this committee, at the House Intelligence Committee, for years have weighed relative to these companies and the national security threat," Eshoo said. "I don't know what's happening. I think the Secretary of Commerce certainly did the right thing. We should do this on a bipartisan basis."

Background: The Commerce Department announced in April that it would bar American firms from selling products to ZTE, accusing the company of violating sanctions on Iran. ZTE is currently fighting the ban.

We've got more on the hearing here.

 

WHISTLEBLOWER ON THE HILL: The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower who revealed that the company improperly obtained data from 87 million Facebook users told lawmakers on Wednesday that he had been contacted by the FBI and Department of Justice.

Christopher Wylie told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he is cooperating with both agencies in their investigations.

His disclosure earlier this year about Cambridge Analytica, which worked with President Trump's 2016 campaign, sparked outrage from lawmakers and the public over Facebook's policies on user data.

Wylie told senators that Trump's campaign manager, Stephen Bannon, a Cambridge Analytica founder and board member, saw the British research firm as a potential "weapon" in the "culture war" he wanted to fight.

Read more on his testimony here. 

Also, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's top Democrat is calling for the panel to subpoena the defunct consulting firm Cambridge Analytica for documents related to its participation in President Trump's 2016 campaign.

 

BILL WOULD SAVE TOP CYBER JOB: A pair of Democratic lawmakers are introducing a bill that would save the top cybersecurity role at the White House after the Trump administration announced Tuesday it plans to eliminate the position.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinHillicon Valley: New fears over Chinese espionage | T-Mobile, Sprint execs to testify on B merger | Cyber firm denies hacking back on China | Salesforce workers criticize border patrol contract New fears over Chinese espionage grip Washington Spotlight falls on Russian threat to undersea cables MORE (D-R.I.) on Tuesday evening, would establish a high-level cyber advisory position within the Executive Office of the President.

The move comes after a National Security Council (NSC) official confirmed to The Hill that the administration decided to eliminate the position of cybersecurity coordinator.

Politico, which first reported the decision Tuesday, said the move was part of an effort to "streamline authority" for senior directors who lead teams within the NSC.

Lieu called the decision "outrageous, especially given that we're facing more hostile threats from foreign adversaries than ever before."

"This move impedes our country's strategic efforts to counter cybersecurity threats against our country," Lieu said. "Fortunately, our bill will fill in those holes in government cybersecurity oversight by creating a National Office for Cyberspace in the White House."

"It is an enormous step backwards to deemphasize the importance of this growing domain within the White House," Langevin added in a statement Tuesday.

We have more on the Dem effort here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: The SEC made a fake cryptocurrency as a hilarious joke. 

 

QUICK HITS:

Jigsaw, a company owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, is offering free cybersecurity protection to U.S.-based political organizations.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board against AT&T and Nexstar Media Group after the companies failed to provide information on how they planned to use their savings from the Republican tax law.

Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergZuckerberg: ‘I absolutely didn't intend to defend’ Holocaust deniers Hillicon Valley: EU hits Google with record B fine | Trump tries to clarify Russia remarks | Sinclair changing deal to win over FCC | Election security bill gets traction | Robocall firm exposed voter data Zuckerberg says he won't ban Holocaust deniers from Facebook if they're not 'intentionally getting it wrong' MORE has formally accepted the European Parliament's invitation to testify over his company's data privacy practices.

Whole Foods Market is rolling out deep discounts for Amazon Prime members, the company announced on Wednesday

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The chairs of the FTC and FCC will testify during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on their agencies' budget requests. The hearing is at 10 a.m.

The House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on securing American identities and the future of the Social Security number.  

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing on promoting data security in schools.

House lawmakers will be briefed by administration officials behind closed doors on election security at 5 p.m.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Jack Dorsey is all in on cryptocurrency. (Bloomberg)

A new report finds increase in cyber threats to the healthcare sector. (Rapid7)

A hacker with alleged ties to 'The Dark Overlord' has been arrested in Serbia. (CyberScoop)

More and more companies are willing to take a loss before they make a profit. (The New York Times)

FBI Director Christopher Wray is 'deeply concerned' about foreign firms like ZTE. (Politico)

Wired's new feature profile on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, possibly "the most reviled man on the internet." (Wired)

Buying an army of Facebook profiles (BuzzFeed)