Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback

Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback
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Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland).

 

TRUMP TRIES TO QUELL RUSSIA FUROR: President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE on Tuesday sought to quell criticism of his extraordinary remarks at a press conference a day earlier with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he accepts the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Trump also claimed he misspoke on election meddling during his meeting with Putin, saying he meant to say that he sees no reason why Russia would not be responsible.

On Monday, asked if he believed Russia meddled in the election, Trump said: "I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be."

Trump said Tuesday he should have said, "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia."

But the president also muddled the walk-back by saying that "other people" also could have been involved in the meddling, a statement similar to remarks he has made in the past casting doubt on Moscow's involvement.

"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," Trump said, reading from a prepared statement before a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House.

Then, in an unscripted moment, the president added: "Could be other people also. A lot of people out there."

More here.

 

HOW IT'S PLAYING: The top Senate Intelligence Democrat is not buying any of it.

"I give these comments about 24 hours before he once again slams the investigation, before he once again sided with authoritarians like Vladimir Putin," Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring Warner questions health care groups on cybersecurity Cohen to testify before Senate Intel on Tuesday MORE (D-Va.) told CNN.

 

MORE ON THE RUSSIA CONTROVERSY.

Trump says he accepts US intel on Russia -- then adds it 'could be other people also'

Trump printout of Putin comments includes handwritten 'there was no collusion'

House conservatives criticize media, not Trump, for Putin furor

Obama appears to rebuke Trump in Mandela lecture

Ryan: Trump's conference with Putin not treasonous

Resolution rebuking Trump over Putin ruled out of order by House

 

SPARKS FLY AT SOCIAL MEDIA HEARING: Lawmakers clashed Tuesday at a contentious hearing over claims that social media platforms and tech companies are biased against conservative viewpoints.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee said the hearing addressed a serious issue. But Democrats said the hearing, coming one day after President Trump dismissed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was a waste of time.

"This committee has oversight of the Department of Justice," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). "Our president also disparaged the Department of Justice. Are we having a hearing on that? No."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the panel's top Democrat, tried to end the hearing early by introducing a motion to end discussion of alleged bias and instead move to an executive session on Russian election interference.

The largely symbolic motion was voted down 12-10.

At the hearing: All three companies said during the hearing that they had seen evidence of Russian election interference on their platforms.

Republicans were undeterred: They pressed ahead with the hearing over how platforms handle conservative content, grilling three Silicon Valley executives: Facebook's head of global policy, Monika Bickert; Twitter's senior policy strategist, Nick Pickles; and YouTube's head of policy, Juniper Downs.

The trouble with hoaxes, in two acts: Lawmakers brought up Facebook's issues with hoax sites but from two radically different sides. Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinGaming executive calls Justice Department's opinion on Wire Act 'perplexing' Trump's acting attorney general tells Democrat his time is up in testy hearing Dems accused of MeToo hypocrisy in Virginia MORE (D-Md.) pressed Facebook on why it didn't boot Infowars from its platform and wondered what it would take, to which Monika Bickert replied, it "depends."

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Steve King spins GOP punishment into political weapon Steve King asks for Congressional Record correction over white supremacist quote MORE (R-Iowa) brought up Gateway Pundit, a far-right site that has pushed hoax stories, but instead wondered why its analytics had decreased on Facebook.

We have more from the contentious hearing here.

And click here for more on Democrats' efforts to end the hearing.

 

BILL TO REVIVE NET NEUTRALITY GETS HOUSE REPUBLICAN SUPPORTER: A bill that would reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules has won its first House GOP supporter -- who is also one of the most vulnerable Republicans in this fall's midterms.

Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Gardner, Portman endorse Trump for 2020 MORE (R-Colo.) announced on Tuesday that he would be signing a discharge petition to bring the Congressional Review Act (CRA) bill up for a floor vote. He also revealed his own bill to codify the principles of net neutrality into law.

"While my bill moves through the Congress, I am taking an 'all of the above' approach by simultaneously signing the discharge petition on the CRA, and introducing my bill," Coffman said in a statement.

Coffman faces a tough reelection race in a district won by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring 4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report MORE in the 2016 presidential race. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss-up, and Democrats have made noise about seeking to bring out young voters over the issue of net neutrality.

CRA bills allow Congress, with a simple majority in each chamber and the president's signature, to overturn recent agency actions. The net neutrality CRA bill passed the Senate with three Republican votes earlier this year.

Coffman's new bill, the 21st Century Internet Act, would restore prohibitions on internet service providers blocking, throttling or prioritizing web content, according to a fact sheet put out by his office.

Read more here.

 

CAUSE FOR CONCERN? A major U.S. voting machine manufacturer revealed that it installed remote-access software on some election management systems that it sold in the early 2000s, according to a letter released by a Democratic senator on Tuesday.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules | Chamber launching ad blitz against Trump drug plan | Google offers help to dispose of opioids Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules after 18,000 lose coverage in Arkansas Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes MORE's (D-Ore.) office released an April 5 letter from Election Systems & Software (ES&S) making the disclosure.

It comes amid sustained scrutiny over the security of U.S. election systems following Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In the letter to Wyden that was first reported by Motherboard and obtained by The Hill, ES&S said that it "provided pcAnywhere remote connection software on the EMS workstation to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006." The software was installed on voting management systems, ES&S said, to help with troubleshooting.

State and local election officials use these management systems to administer elections. In some cases, they hold software used to program digital voting machines. The systems are also used to tabulate final results of the voting process. ES&S also insisted in the letter that remote access software was never installed on any actual vote-tallying devices.  

The company said that it discontinued the use of the software in 2007, after the U.S. Election Assistance Commission issued new guidelines requiring that voting management systems be not be connected to an outside network.

Read more of our story here.

 

'SECURE ELECTIONS ACT' PICKS UP STEAM: Bipartisan legislation aimed at securing state voting infrastructure from cyberattack picked up two notable cosponsors on Tuesday in Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senator: Trump thinks funding deal is 'thin gruel' Lawmakers put Pentagon's cyber in their sights Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans MORE (R-S.D.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson2020 party politics in Puerto Rico There is no winning without Latinos as part of your coalition Dem 2020 candidates court Puerto Rico as long nomination contest looms MORE (D-Fla.), the leaders of the House Armed Services cyber subcommittee. Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHarris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees GOP senator calls Omar's apology 'entirely appropriate' MORE (R-Okla.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHarry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run MORE (D-Minn.) are spearheading the bill, which also garnered support from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

 

WHO'S IN THE SPOTLIGHT? MEET THE TECH GURU IMPROVING THE DNC'S CYBERSECURITY: When Raffi Krikorian joined the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as chief technology officer, the party was still reeling from its devastating loss in 2016 -- and the stunning cyberattacks that resulted in high-level officials' emails being embarrassingly leaked online.

Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, the party's chairman, brought Krikorian on to overhaul the DNC's technology tools and cybersecurity efforts. His resume, which is starkly different than the average political hire, includes former high-level tech positions at Uber and Twitter.

In his first year at the DNC, Krikorian has brought his Silicon Valley skills to bear in the political world, laser-focused on beefing up the security know-how of the party's staff.

"A lot of what we are trying to do is institute a culture change," Krikorian told The Hill in a recent interview. "How do you get people to report things, how do you get people to be questioning."

The move to politics from an engineering role at Uber's self-driving car arm was something Krikorian had been mulling for a while. He says he was approached about leadership positions at the U.S. Digital Service during the Obama administration and on former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign tech team.

But he said the trigger was the 2016 election.

"When the election was over, I was just like, crap," Krikorian said. "Maybe I could have been part of it earlier, I don't know."

More from our profile of Krikorian here.

 

SINCLAIR DEFIANT AFTER FCC SETBACK: Sinclair Broadcast Group is sticking by its proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media despite a major setback for the deal at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

On Monday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who has been a reliable ally for Sinclair since taking over the agency, announced that he had "serious concerns" with the deal's legality and proposed sending it before an administrative law judge -- a process that's usually a deal-killer for such mergers.

But Sinclair came out with a defiant statement Monday night saying that it remains committed to the deal.

"We are prepared to resolve any perceived issues and look forward to finalizing our acquisition of Tribune Media," Ronn Torossian, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

"The proposed merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media will create numerous public interest benefits and help move the broadcast industry forward at a time when it is facing unprecedented challenges. We look forward to working with regulators to make the merger a reality."

Read more here.

 

NOT A PRIME DAY DEAL: Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules | Chamber launching ad blitz against Trump drug plan | Google offers help to dispose of opioids Ilhan Omar defends 2012 tweet: 'I don't know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans' States scramble to fill void left by federal shutdown MORE (D-Minn.) is demanding answers from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos after a report found that the company has been profiting off of white-supremacist merchandise sold on the site.

In a letter sent to Bezos on Tuesday during the internet giant's "Prime Day" promotion, Ellison accused Amazon of not doing enough to stop the sale of products that promote hate speech.

"For a company with a policy prohibiting the sale of 'products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views,' there appear to be a disturbing number of groups with hateful, racist, and violent agendas making money using Amazon's platform," Ellison wrote.

Last week, a report released by the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy found that white supremacist and Nazi merchandise was widely available on Amazon, including in the form of children's clothing and toys. Read more here.

 

IN OTHER PRIME DAY HEADACHES FOR AMAZON: Shoppers looking to cash in on Amazon's Prime Day faced website glitches that prevented them from completing their purchases on Monday.

Many shoppers had issues on the site at the start of Prime Day, which provides additional discounts and deals for Amazon Prime members. This year's Prime Day began on Monday at 3 p.m., and will continue through the end of the day Tuesday.

Read more here.

 

TWITTER SUSPENDED 58 MILLION ACCOUNTS IN THREE MONTHS: Twitter suspended at least 58 million accounts in the last quarter of 2017 according to numbers reviewed by the Associated Press.

The new figure comes after the company confirmed that it separately booted another 70 million fake accounts from its platform between May and June.

Twitter has been aggressively cracking down on fake accounts that have long plagued its platform. Analysts have speculated that Twitter in the past has been reluctant to kick off such users out of fear of hurting its user growth numbers.

The companies stock initially took a brief hit after news of its move to remove accounts.

Twitter's willingness to ramp up enforcement might be influenced by its rising financial fortunes. Wall Street had downplayed the stock for years, but the company has been gaining favor with investors as it moves to significantly raise users and interaction.

Read more here.

 

ICYMI: House Republicans grilled former FBI lawyer Lisa Page behind closed doors on Monday as they sought to make the case that bias influenced the bureau's investigations of President Trump and Hillary Clinton. BUT, President Trump's wild press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin largely overshadowed her appearance. Read more about Page here.

 

ON TAP:

Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, the wife of former Trump campaign aide George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosWhite House braces for Mueller report Justice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Mueller probe figures use fame to pay bills MORE, says she plans to testify Wednesday before Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. Democrats on the panel have vowed to continue to interview witnesses, despite Republicans washing their hands of anything related to the Russia probe. While timing is still TBD, we will be sure to keep you posted on any developments.

The House Commerce consumer protection subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing for the FTC at 9:15 a.m.

The House Agriculture Committee is holding a hearing on cryptocurrencies at 10 a.m.

A similar hearing organized by the House Financial Services Committee will dig into digital currencies at 2 p.m.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is hosting an event on digitalization in the industrial sector at 10:30 a.m.

FBI Director Christopher Wray will deliver an address on cyberterrorism and counterintelligence at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday evening at 7:15 p.m. ET.

 

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THIS NEXT WEEK: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall Dems demand briefing, intel on North Korea nuclear talks Pompeo: US will not share information with countries using Huawei systems MORE will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week, where he's expected to face a grilling over the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump. Pompeo will publicly testify before the committee on July 25, a GOP aide confirmed to The Hill.

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: We need a list of options.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON:

Dominant internet platforms must disrupt themselves.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Your public venmo transactions are easy to hack. (Daniel Gorelick blog)

NSA, Cyber Command quietly coordinate efforts to counter potential Russian meddling. (Washington Post)

Egypt passes a law allowing regulation of social media users. (BBC)

Meet "the SIM hackers." (Motherboard)

San Francisco to vote on new tax on big businesses to help homeless. (The Hill)

Amazon's battle with socialists in Seattle (The Ringer)

Republicans are lining up to support the 'DETER' act. (Miami Herald)