Hillicon Valley: Trump’s Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T’s latest 5G plans
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.
TRUMP DEMORALIZES HIS TEAM WITH RUSSIA MOVES: President Trump’s bungled effort to warm up to Russian President Vladimir Putin has driven a wedge between him and his own administration as it seeks to crack down on Moscow’s hostile activities.
Rank-and-file intelligence and national security officials feel demoralized by the president’s failure to publicly call out Putin for interfering in the 2016 election, according to sources inside and outside the federal government.
“It’s just another day in paradise,” said one former White House official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Russia narratives have been a daily ordeal for two years. Nobody knows what the president will do or say and nobody knows what they don’t know.”
One U.S. official who formerly worked as an intelligence analyst said the general attitude within government is that “it does damage to our reputation globally” when Trump refuses to acknowledge the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 contest. But the official said there is “strong faith that our intel folks will continue to do their job, regardless of the undermining.”
The dizzying and often contradictory array of statements from the president and White House have also posed a dilemma for handpicked aides and advisors who are hawkish on Russia: remain on board or resign.
Top national security officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, have publicly backed the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment on Russia’s involvement in the election since Trump cast doubt on it in Helsinki.
What is happening behind the scenes: There have been no resignations in response to Trump’s Russia meeting and people close to the administration predicted officials would rather air their concerns privately with the president than quit in protest. Two high-ranking members of the Trump administration, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reportedly urged the president to clean up the explosive comments he made at his press conference with Putin.
Read more of our coverage here.
SENATORS PUSH FOR VOTE ON RUSSIA SANCTIONS BILL: Two senators are stepping up their efforts to advance Russia sanctions legislation, asking key Senate committees to hold a hearing and then vote on a bill by early next month.
“The Senate has the opportunity to highlight to the American public the real threats that foreign interference in our future elections pose, and to act to deter future foreign interference and defend our country,” Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) wrote in a July 19 letter to top members of the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking committees.
The request for committee hearings and a subsequent vote comes after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he had asked the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations committees to hold hearings on Russia sanctions legislation that overwhelmingly cleared Congress last year, and to make recommendations for additional legislation if needed.
But Rubio and Van Hollen are asking the two panels to go a step further. Rubio and Van Hollen want both committees to hold a hearing before the Senate leaves town for a week-long break that starts Aug. 6. They also want the Banking Committee to vote on their legislation during the same time period.
Read more on this story by our colleague Jordain Carney.
CONGRESS DROPS EFFORT TO BLOCK ZTE DEAL: Lawmakers have reached an agreement to strip a provision from the must-pass defense policy bill that would have sunk President Trump’s deal to save Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, according to a congressional source.
Senators on Friday blasted the decision by members of a congressional conference committee to not include the upper chamber’s tougher language in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has not been released.
“By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump – and the Congressional Republicans who acted at his behest – have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners and the American worker and our national security the big losers,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) added in a separate tweet that lawmakers “had to cave” on ZTE in order to get tougher language on vetting foreign investments.
The provision Rubio is referring to seeks to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the interagency panel that assesses national security threats posed by significant investments in U.S. businesses by non-U.S. investors. The reforms are an effort to guard against China accessing sensitive technology.
“So chances that a #China controlled telecomm will not just stay in business, but do so here inside the U.S. sadly just went up,” Rubio said.
Read more here.
OBAMA, BUSH VETERANS DISMISS INTERPRETER SUBPOENA: Former officials from the Obama and George W. Bush administrations are pouring cold water on the idea that President Trump’s interpreter from the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin should appear before Congress.
While multiple former Obama officials say they understand the desire to talk to one of the only people in the room with Trump and Putin, several argued it would set a dangerous precedent.
“For the same reasons why we need to protect our own diplomats, there is a real concern about having translators be subject to subpoenas,” said David Mortlock, director of international economic affairs at the White House National Security Council (NSC) under Obama.
He acknowledged that there is “legitimate concern about what the president may have promised Vladimir Putin.” But he said subpoenaing an interpreter is a bridge too far, and would prevent presidents from speaking freely. “They’re at the center of diplomatic relationships and it raises concerns about whether you can truly have diplomatic communications,” he said.
Read more of our coverage here.
BETTER GET YOUR NUMBERS RIGHT: The head of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) cyber and critical infrastructure protection efforts said Friday that states must be “much more precise” in their election security funding requests to Congress.
“If a state needs money, they need to say what they need it for and what they need — and that is going to help inform and drive the conversation on the Hill,” Christopher Krebs, the undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), said at The Washington Post’s Cyber 202 Live event. “Rather than just say, ‘We need money, give us money,’ it’s, ‘We need X amount of money to address X threat and find out X amount of risk.”
His remarks come a day after House Republicans voted down a Democratic-led effort to include additional election security funding in a government-spending bill. Democrats accused their GOP colleagues of failing to take the necessary steps to secure election systems from future Russian meddling. The election security funding fight comes amid rising fears that Russian may seek to carry out another influence campaign in the U.S.
Read more here.
NO UKRAINE REFERENDUM: The White House said Friday that President Trump is “not considering supporting” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine. “The Administration is not considering supporting a referendum in the eastern Ukraine,” National Security Council spokesman Garret Marquis said in a statement.
Read more here.
ROSENSTEIN WARNS OF GROWING THREAT FROM FOREIGN INFLUENCE CAMPAIGNS: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday warned of the growing threat from Russian influence operations, as he unveiled a new report from the Justice Department about plans to notify the public about those kinds of foreign attacks.
“These actions are persistent, they’re pervasive, they are meant to undermine democracy on a daily basis – regardless of whether it is election time or not,” he said during remarks at the Aspen Security Forum.
Rosenstein, who is overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, described Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as “just one tree in a growing forest” of foreign influence operations.
He added that the Trump administration is doing “more now than ever” to combat cyber threats to U.S. citizens and elections.
Rosenstein used his remarks to introduce a new Department of Justice (DOJ) report that outlines various types of influence efforts affecting elections. It also lays out a framework for the Justice Department to follow when considering whether to publicly disclose foreign influence operations.
Read more here.
Careful, someone might be listening: The New York Times reports Michael Cohen secretly recorded Trump on making payments to an ex-Playboy model.
AT&T’S 5G STRIDES: AT&T on Friday said it will roll out 5G in three new cities by the end of 2018: Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Va., and Raleigh, N.C.
The announcement comes as telecommunications companies are putting more effort behind rolling out 5G wireless broadband. T-Mobile and Sprint in April announced plans to merge to better invest in a combined 5G network.
AT&T previously said Atlanta, Dallas and Waco, Texas would also have 5G by the end of the year. There will also be six more cities to be named.
Read more here.
APPLE WATCH, FITBIT TARIFF TROUBLES: Popular consumer electronics could become more expensive as a result of the latest U.S. tariffs imposed on Chinese goods.
According to government rulings on tariffs reviewed by Reuters, Apple watches, Fitbit fitness trackers and Sonos speakers are among the electronics assembled in China that could be affected.
While laptops and smartphones have largely dodged the impact of the tariffs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said a little-known subheading in the U.S. tariff code includes data transmission machines like fitness trackers and Bluetooth speakers, the news agency reported.
Read more here.
A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: A new argument for a name change?
AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Going forward, both parties should commit to a ‘Cyber Election Pledge.’
ON TAP NEXT WEEK:
The House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing on “cyber-securing” U.S. elections on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, where he’s expected to face a grilling over the Helsinki summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump. His testimony will come a week after Trump sparked intense, bipartisan backlash when he cast doubt on his intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, all while standing next to Putin at a joint press conference.
The Senate Intelligence committee will hold an open confirmation hearing on two top intelligence positions on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. The panel will consider the nominations of Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire to serve as director of the National Counterterrorism Center and Ellen McCarthy to serve as the assistant secretary of State for intelligence and research.
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
ITU and Global Cyber Alliance join forces to help countries prepare for and respond to cyber-threats.
Three FBI cyber officials are departing. (The Wall Street Journal)
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) says Trump is being ‘manipulated by Putin.’ (The New York Times)
After years of ‘crisis actor’ smears, Sandy Hook conspiracy targets ask Facebook for ‘seat at the table’. (NBC News)
Uber drivers are ’employees’ for unemployment purposes, N.Y. labor board says. (Ars Technica)
Facebook, Google and others unite to let you transfer data between apps. (TechCrunch)
Peter Thiel considers strategies to back Chinese startups (Bloomberg)
Officials say Iran has made preparations for extensive cyberattacks against the U.S. (NBC News)
Britain has concerns about Huawei. (Reuters)
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