Welcome to OVERNIGHT CYBERSECURITY, your daily rundown of the biggest news in the world of hacking and data privacy. We're here to connect the dots as leaders in government, policy and industry try to counter the rise in cyber threats. What lies ahead for Congress, the administration and the latest company under siege? Whether you're a consumer, a techie or a D.C. lifer, we're here to give you ...
THE BIG STORIES:
--MUELLER INTERVIEWS SESSIONS: Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE was interviewed last week by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE's team as part of the Justice Department's investigation into Russian election meddling. The Justice Department confirmed a report in The New York Times that Sessions was questioned for several hours. It is the first time that Mueller's team has interviewed a member of President TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE's Cabinet. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March, despite criticism from Trump. It was reported earlier this month that Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to block Sessions from recusing himself, but the attorney general refused. It is likely that Mueller questioned Sessions about Trump's firing of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump draws attention with admission he 'fired Comey' Countering the ongoing Republican delusion How Biden should sell his infrastructure bill MORE and whether the president obstructed justice.
To read the rest of our piece, click here.
--AND REPORTEDLY INTERVIEWED COMEY LAST YEAR: Comey was reportedly interviewed last year as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the interview with Comey included discussion of the memos he wrote about his interactions with President Trump. Trump fired Comey last May. The move helped trigger events leading to Mueller's probe into Russian election interference, which is looking at links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Comey last year testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump had asked for his loyalty during a January dinner at the White House. He also testified that Trump pressured him during an Oval Office meeting in February to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump has denied both claims and attacked Comey, calling him a leaker. Flynn pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to the FBI. He is now cooperating with Mueller's investigation.
To read the rest of our piece, click here.
A FEW CAPITOL HILL UPDATES:
--TOP DEMS DEMAND SOCIAL MEDIA FIRMS INVESTIGATE RUSSIAN BOTS: Top-ranking Democrats in the House and the Senate are calling on Twitter and Facebook to launch investigations of potential Russian-linked accounts that are pushing for the release of a controversial congressional memo.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth Jan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back MORE (Calif.), and the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBiden administration seeks review of Trump-era approval of water pipeline What's that you smell in the Supreme Court? New variant raises questions about air travel mandates MORE (Calif.), sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergSenators to grill Instagram chief over platform's effect on children Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for 0B Hillicon Valley — Amazon draws COVID scrutiny MORE and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking that they "provide a public report to Congress and the American public by January 26" on the matter.
Facebook and Twitter confirmed receipt of the letter.
"Twitter is committed to addressing malicious activity on our platform, and we take any assertions of such activity very seriously. We look forward to working closely with Senator Feinstein and Congressman Schiff to address their questions," a Twitter spokesperson said.
The memo in question was drafted by House Intelligence Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOn The Money — Schumer, McConnell clear path to debt deal Nunes resignation sets off GOP scramble on Ways and Means The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - New vaccine mandate in NYC; Biden-Putin showdown MORE (R-Calif.) and is believed by some Republicans to show political bias in the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) probe of potential links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
To read the rest of our piece, click here.
--BIDEN BACKS ELECTION INTERFERENCE BILL: Former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE on Tuesday expressed support for a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate that is aimed at deterring future foreign interference in U.S. elections.
Biden voiced support for the "Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act" during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday.
"I think it is an appropriate step. I'm sure there are consequences that could flow that are ones we did not anticipate, but I cannot--I do not believe the failure--doing that equals the failure to take these steps in terms of our interests. And so I would--were I in the Senate, I'd be supporting that legislation," Biden said when asked specifically about the bill.
The bill was introduced by Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio calls on Airbnb to delist some properties in China's Xinjiang region Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China GOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenReal relief from high gas prices Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama MORE (D-Md.) one week ago. To read more about it, click here.
A LIGHTER CLICK:
AN ACTION IN FOCUS:
STATE SETS UP CUBA 'INTERNET TASK FORCE': The State Department announced Tuesday that it will convene a Cuba Internet Task Force to promote the free flow of information in Cuba.
"The Department of State is convening a Cuba Internet Task Force composed of U.S. government and non-governmental representatives to promote the free and unregulated flow of information in Cuba," the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday morning. "The task force will examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access and independent media in Cuba."
The task force was set up in response to a presidential memorandum signed last June. The State Department said that the first public meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 7, in Washington.
WHAT'S IN THE SPOTLIGHT:
FBI TEXT MESSAGES: Federal investigators are demanding answers from the FBI over missing text messages between agents accused of anti-Trump bias, leaving the nation's premier law enforcement agency scrambling to defend its reputation amid an explosion of criticism from the White House, Congress and conservative media.
The DOJ has opened an investigation into how the FBI "failed to preserve" text messages sent between Peter Strzok, the FBI's top counterintelligence officer, and Lisa Page, a senior FBI lawyer.
The FBI informed the DOJ's inspector general this week that the data was not retained because of "misconfiguration issues" related to software upgrades on the bureau's phone devices.
President Trump on Tuesday called the revelation "one of the biggest stories in a long time," while White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the development "absolutely outrageous."
"It looks like there could have been some really inappropriate and possibly illegal behavior," Sanders said at Tuesday's press briefing.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to leave "no stone unturned" in finding the missing messages. GOP lawmakers are calling for a second special counsel to investigate and have floated the possibility of issuing a subpoena to the bureau's cell carrier.
To read more from our piece, click here.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Links from our blog, The Hill, and around the Web.
FBI chief moves to fill key posts. (The Hill)
Facebook exec to retire, help Dems in midterms. (The Hill)
Dem presses Homeland Security for update on Kaspersky ban. (The Hill)
Tech giants spent record sums on lobbying in 2017. (The Hill)
CIA director: Trump grasps intelligence at same level as 25-year veteran. (The Hill)
OP-ED: Better cybersecurity is critical to protecting future elections. (The Hill)
OP-ED: After 'foreign surveillance' law, Congress must demand answers from intel community. (The Hill)
Intel does not want customers to implement patches for Spectre, Meltdown. (CyberScoop)
A case study of how Russia's propaganda, influence campaigns work. (Atlantic Council)
British cyber official warns major cyberattack is a matter of 'when, not if.' (The Guardian)