Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller interviewed Sessions in Russia probe | Comey met investigators last year | Dems demand social media firms probe Russian bots | Missing FBI text messages anger Republicans

Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller interviewed Sessions in Russia probe | Comey met investigators last year | Dems demand social media firms probe Russian bots | Missing FBI text messages anger Republicans

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:

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--MUELLER INTERVIEWS SESSIONS: Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Department of Justice should step aside in the George Floyd case The Memo: Trump tweets cross into new territory Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate MORE was interviewed last week by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points 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 ComeyFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show Comey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests MORE and whether the president obstructed justice.

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--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.

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The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (Calif.), and the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGraham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter MORE (Calif.), sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers Twitter adds fact-checking labels to hundreds of tweets despite Trump attacks Pelosi says Zuckerberg comments are a 'disgrace' 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 Nunes Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers 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 BidenDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points Biden: 'We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us' 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 RubioSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Trump administration designates B of PPP funds for community lenders The Memo: Trump's Scarborough tweets unsettle his allies MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Democratic senators urge regulators to investigate Instacart over 'tip baiting' Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE (D-Md.) one week ago. To read more about it, click here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: 

Techies and celebs unite at Davos.

 

AN ACTION IN FOCUS: 

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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.

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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:

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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)