Hillicon Valley: Manafort trial is Mueller's first courtroom test | Dem eyes options for tech crackdown | Activist publishes 11K Wikileaks Twitter messages | Trump, officials huddle on election security | How the 'Abolish ICE' hashtag caught fire

Hillicon Valley: Manafort trial is Mueller's first courtroom test | Dem eyes options for tech crackdown | Activist publishes 11K Wikileaks Twitter messages | Trump, officials huddle on election security | How the 'Abolish ICE' hashtag caught fire
© Getty Images/Greg Nash

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).


MANAFORT TRIAL IS FIRST COURTROOM TEST FOR MUELLER: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMake the special counsel report public for the sake of Americans Paul Manafort should not be sentenced to 20 years in prison Mueller recommends Manafort serve at least 19 years in prison MORE's criminal trial on bank and tax fraud charges begins Tuesday, marking an initial courtroom test for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's team of lawyers and investigators.

The trial promises to be an explosive affair, with Manafort facing allegations he laundered $30 million from work on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and then stashed money overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes.


It's the first trial stemming from Mueller's probe into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, but it will also be strangely separate from the Russia controversies that have shadowed President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE since the day he took office.

Judge T.S. Ellis, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, rejected Manafort's argument that the charges against him are outside the scope of Mueller's mandated Russia investigation, but he also warned lawyers against referencing collusion or other related matters that could prejudice the jurors, according to The New York Times.

Why this is a major test for the special counsel: If prosecutors secure a conviction -- even on just a few of the 18 counts against Manafort -- it will be seen as a preliminary victory for an investigation that has led to the indictment of 32 people, with more potentially on the way.

His witness list boasts some key players: Mueller is planning to call 35 witnesses. The list includes names ranging from Richard Gates, who was indicted alongside Manafort but pleaded guilty, to a Democratic operative Tad Devin, who served as Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bernie Sanders records announcement video ahead of possible 2020 bid Bill Maher to Dems: ‘Let’s not eat our own’ in 2020 MORE's (I-Vt.) chief strategist when he ran for president in 2016.

Read more here.


MEANWHILE, THE PRESIDENT AGAIN LASHED OUT AT MUELLER in series of tweets on Sunday, renewing accusations that the special counsel has "conflicts of interest" in his investigation of Russian interference and citing a previous business dispute between the two men.


WARNER HAS 20 IDEAS FOR CRACKING DOWN ON BIG TECH: On Monday, Axios published a policy memo from Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry MORE (D-Va.) outlining 20 different ways to crack down on internet platforms.

The options are designed to address the three most prominent concerns: the spread of disinformation, user privacy safeguards and market power.

"The size and reach of these platforms demand that we ensure proper oversight, transparency and effective management of technologies that in large measure undergird our social lives, our economy, and our politics," the paper says. "The hope is that the ideas enclosed here stir the pot and spark a wider discussion -- among policymakers, stakeholders, and civil society groups -- on the appropriate trajectory of technology policy in the coming years."

Nightmare scenario: One of the possibilities that's floated is to make internet platforms liable for the content that they host. Websites currently have broad legal protections from liability over content posted by third-party users. Warner's memo suggests that eliminating that immunity for things like defamation could make the platforms more responsive to user claims of abuse or misinformation. But the paper also notes the stiff resistance such a proposal would face from civil liberties groups.

Read more here.


Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE BACKS KAVANAUGH: GOP Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) on Monday said that he will support President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

"After meeting Judge Kavanaugh and reviewing his record, I have decided to support his nomination," Paul said in a statement.

Paul previously described himself as "honestly undecided."

The tech angle: Paul was widely considered a potential swing vote because of his positions on the Fourth Amendment and privacy right.

"I have expressed my concern over Judge Kavanaugh's record on warrantless bulk collection of data and how that might apply to very important privacy cases before the Supreme Court," Paul said on Monday.

He added he hoped Kavanaugh would be "more open" to protections on digital records and property in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that found, in most cases, law enforcement has to obtain a warrant in order to search and seize long-term cell phone records that would show a person's location.

Read more here.


SCOOP - HOUSE GOP WANTS COMEY: House Republicans are planning to seek an interview with former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMcCabe's 25th Amendment comments 'taken out of context,' spokeswoman says Ex-federal prosecutor: I would have 'owned' wearing a wire to record Trump Ex-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ MORE in September to discuss his decisionmaking during the 2016 election, The Hill has learned.

GOP members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees are expected to request Comey's testimony after lawmakers return from their four-week August recess, according to three lawmakers familiar with the matter.

The Judiciary and Oversight committees, which are leading a joint investigation into the FBI's investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bernie Sanders records announcement video ahead of possible 2020 bid Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants MORE's use of a private email server while she was secretary of State, are eager to press the former FBI chief on a series of decisions he made during the 2016 campaign and after President Trump fired him in May 2017.

The lawmakers -- one Democrat and two Republicans -- indicated that planning is still in the early stages, and an invitation has not yet been extended to Comey.

According to one of the two GOP lawmakers, the interview with the two committees would likely take place behind closed doors. "Comey is on the list of witnesses to bring in over the next eight weeks, but it will probably be for a deposition, not a public hearing," the lawmaker told The Hill.

The other Republican said that if Comey doesn't respond to an invitation to appear voluntarily, they would probably subpoena him.

The Democratic lawmaker said Republicans will likely make a push for Comey to appear in September, and that it would either be a closed-door interview or a joint hearing in public. A House Judiciary Committee aide confirmed that the panel intends to bring in Comey for an interview, but said no date has been set.

Context: Congressional Republicans have already interviewed several high-profile FBI employees, current and former, regarding the agency's actions leading up to the 2016 elections. Counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and former lawyer Lisa Page came under fire for sending text messages criticizing President Trump during the 2016 campaign. Both were interviewed by House lawmakers earlier this month.

Read more here.


ICYMI: TRUMP, TOP OFFICIALS HUDDLE ON ELECTION SECURITY: Trump on Friday met with members of the National Security Council about threats to U.S. elections.

Trump convened the meeting to "receive updates on the whole-of-government approach his Administration is implementing to safeguard our Nation's elections," according to a statement from the White House issued Friday evening.

A host of Cabinet officials attended the meeting, including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHeather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Overnight Defense: Trump to sign funding deal, declare national emergency | Shanahan says allies will be consulted on Afghanistan | Dem demands Khashoggi documents MORE, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump taps FEMA official to lead agency Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE, Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsEx-Trump official says intel community's testimony interfered in US-North Korea talks Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump MORE and John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser.

"The President has made it clear that his Administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from any nation state or other malicious actors," the White House said.

The meeting comes as Trump continues to weather scrutiny for his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump administration officials have insisted they are taking steps to protect future elections from foreign cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns. StillDemocrats in Congress have charged that they are not doing enough.

At Friday's meeting, the officials discussed threats to U.S. elections from "malign foreign actors," as well as efforts to help states secure their voting systems from cyber sabotage and federal efforts to "investigate, prosecute, and hold accountable those who illegally attempt to interfere in our political and electoral processes." The statement made no specific mention of Russia.

Read more here.


CASTING A WIDE NET: Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Bipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia MORE (D-N.H.) on Sunday warned of "widespread" phishing attacks against Senate offices and political parties across the country, revealing that her office had already notified authorities of one suspicious experience.

"There has been one situation that we have turned over to authorities to look into," Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"We're hearing that this is widespread with political parties across the country, as well as with members of the Senate."

Shaheen's comments came after Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government MORE (D-Mo.) confirmed last week that her Senate computer system had been targeted unsuccessfully by Russian hackers. The attempt was detected by Microsoft.


HOW 'ABOLISH ICE' WENT FROM MEME TO MOVEMENT: Calls to "Abolish ICE" began as an obscure Twitter hashtag created by liberal activists. It's now a movement supported by prominent progressive leaders and candidates in races across the country and the center of a heated debate in Democratic circles.

The viral campaign pushing for the elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is the latest example of how Twitter has become a tool for groups outside the mainstream to get their ideas in front of power brokers.

Writer and activist Sean McElwee, who is credited with creating the #AbolishICE hashtag, told The Hill that Twitter's platform and its reach created a unique opportunity to spread the idea.

"It is generally true that having a strong presence on Twitter will give it legs in the real world because people who influence real-world stuff are on Twitter," he said.

McElwee first tweeted it in February 2017 and keep advocating ending the agency to his over 70,000 followers.

The hashtag eventually caught on in far-left Twitter circles in memes, with Twitter users incorporating "Abolish ICE" into their display names and in other ways.

The framework had already been set by activists before the Twitter movement: "The demand is as old as ICE," Ana Maria Archilla the co-executive director of Center for Popular Democracy, told The Hill.

She said groups assumed it would take a long time before their position became politically acceptable.

But then surprisingly the #AbolishICE hashtag went viral on Twitter boosted in part by the Trump administration's controversial zero-tolerance policy that led to migrant children being separated from parents caught crossing the southern border.

This is how things always worked, just faster: Progressive policy has traditionally been driven by activists trying to push their party out of the center. The difference now is that activists pushing movements like Abolish ICE and Black Lives Matter are using social media to cut down the time it takes to get mainstream politicians to adopt their perspectives.

Read more here.


ACTIVIST PUBLISHES THOUSANDS OF WIKILEAKS MESSAGES: An activist has published 11,000 direct messages on Twitter between the Wikileaks account and a group of its supporters.

The direct messages were published by Emma Best on her own website. Her Twitter account states that she is a journalist on the East Coast. Best has been critical of Wikileaks and has advocated for government transparency.

Some of the direct messages were previously published, but this is the first time all of the direct messages have been posted.

The messages show that Wikileaks wanted the GOP to defeat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential elections.

"We believe it would be much better for the GOP to win," the Wikileaks account states to a supporter named "Emmy B" in one of the messages from 2015.

Read more here.


KEEP AN EYE ON THIS: A group of Senate Democrats are pushing to include election security funds in an appropriations bill moving through the upper chamber.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph Leahy‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire How the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal MORE (D-Vt.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, along with other Democratic cosponsors introduced an amendment to the "minibus" appropriations bill that would allocate an additional $250 million in election security grants to states, citing potential threats to upcoming elections.

"If you believe that Russia is fully intent on destabilizing our democracy yet again in November – as all of our national security and law enforcement officials do – then this amendment is a necessary step toward taking action to protect our democracy," Leahy said in a statement last week.

Congress already sent $380 million to states to replace outdated voting systems and make cybersecurity upgrades in a funding package approved earlier this year. However, Democrats say that's not enough.

But their odds aren't good: It's unlikely that this measure will pick up much bipartisan support. Republican lawmakers in the House blocked a similar attempt by their Democratic colleagues to increase election security funds earlier this month.


TWITTER TEAMS UP TO MEASURE THE HEALTH OF ITS PLATFORM: Twitter has selected two academic proposals to help measure the "conversational health" of its platform.

The company announced on Monday that it had selected the two measurement frameworks out of a pool of more than 230 proposals that had been submitted since Twitter began soliciting ideas to improve its platform in March.

One of the projects will study how echo chambers are formed around certain discussions and the problems that arise from them. The study was put forth by academics from Leiden University, Syracuse University, Delft University of Technology and Bocconi University.

The other study, proposed by professors at the University of Oxford and University of Amsterdam, will focus on the impact that intergroup dialogue on Twitter has on decreasing prejudice.

Will it improve anything though? That's the ultimate question. Twitter's problems aren't new and it's been trying to fix its platform for some time now. The company did recently boot a lot of fake accounts, a move that it paid a heavy price for on Wall Street, which has been worried about Twitter's ability to build its user base. Monday's moves could signal a desire to make meaningful changes to improve the platform. That could appeal to users and eventually Wall Street.

Read more here.


NEW ROLE FOR GOOGLE EXEC: Google has promoted its former top lawyer, Kent Walker, to be senior vice president of global affairs to oversee its policy, legal, "trust and safety" and corporate philanthropy teams.

Walker had previously served as the company's general counsel and senior vice president. His new role will have a broadened focus on matters like the future of work, artificial intelligence, and tech companies relationship with society, reports CNBC.

His general counsel successor has not been named.

In his new role, Walker will be more public facing, according to the report. He has already authored public blog posts, explaining Google's stances and giving updates on various issues regarding the company. Read more here.

Why Walker is so important to Google: The former top lawyer often penned public blog posts for the company. It looks like he'll still be a huge asset to Google.

Facebook isn't as lucky: Its general counsel, Colin Stretch, who testified before Congress alongside Walker, left the company last week.


A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: BIT(C)S for McDonalds? Nope, just burger BIT(E)S.


TIP OF THE DAYPastry dates keep the bromance alive.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: States are diligently preparing for midterm cyber threats.



Paul Manafort's criminal trial begins in Alexandria.

DHS is hosting a National Cybersecurity Summit in New York, with keynote remarks from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expected in the morning hours.



Mueller says Manafort earned more than $60M as consultant in Ukraine. (The Hill)

House GOP starts summer break on a note of friction. (The Hill)

Cracking down on Chinese tech could have adverse implications for building a 5G network. (CyberScoop)

Russian hackers are increasingly focusing on the U.S. electric grid. (The New York Times)

We don't know much about the FBI's foreign influence task force. (BuzzFeed)

Facebook's next challenge: Less data to target ads. (The Wall Street Journal)