Hillicon Valley: Trump escalates feud with intel critics | Tesla shares fall after troubling Musk interview | House panel considers subpoena for Twitter's Jack Dorsey | Why Turkish citizens are breaking their iPhones

Hillicon Valley: Trump escalates feud with intel critics | Tesla shares fall after troubling Musk interview | House panel considers subpoena for Twitter's Jack Dorsey | Why Turkish citizens are breaking their iPhones
© UPI Photo

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


TRUMP ESCALATES FEUD WITH INTEL CRITICS: 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's decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight 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 Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump MORE has escalated his feud with former intelligence officials.

The move was widely seen as an effort by Trump to retaliate against one of his most fervent critics and it has triggered concerns about whether others in the national security community will be affected. It is one that legal analysts say is unprecedented -- marking the first instance of a president unilaterally intervening in a security clearance case of a former, high-level official.


Experts agree that Trump, as commander in chief, is within his authority to make determinations regarding who has access to classified information. But Trump's decision triggered a debate on whether he crossed the line given the seemingly partisan nature of his move. It sparked a maelstrom of criticism from former intelligence officials and Democrats, who accused the president of seeking to silence his political foes.

Mark Zaid, a D.C.-based national security lawyer, said the decision could have a chilling effect on scores of individuals who need security clearances to perform their jobs. "It raises the concerns that if you are politically opposed to the president, your security clearance is in jeopardy," Zaid said. "They may now be stifled from voicing privately their political opinion."

Some Republicans offered support for Trump's move, however. There was also criticism of Brennan, who on social media and in cable television appearances has scorched the president with criticism.

"On the other hand, Brennan has routinely sought to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the current administration and someone engaged in that kind of behavior has no business having access to classified information," the former official said. "Now he gets the same level of access as any other campaign hack."

Read more from our deep dive here.


Trump's got the fuel, but will he ignite a fire?: President Trump on Friday said he is prepared to revoke the security clearance of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has come under fire from the president for his role in the Russia probe.

Asked if he will take away Ohr's clearance, Trump said he expects to do so "very quickly" while calling Ohr a "disgrace," just days after revoking Brennan's security clearances.

"I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace. I suspect I'll be taking it away very quickly," Trump told reporters on the South Lawn before leaving the White House for New York. "For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace."

Such a move would certainly inflame tensions between Trump and the national security establishment over the president's efforts to retaliate against former officials who have criticized him.

"I say it, I say it again: That whole situation is a rigged witch hunt," Trump said, referring to the special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Read more here.


Show of force: At least 13 former senior intelligence officials in a joint statement on Friday blasted President Trump for his decision to revoke former Brennan's security clearance -- and for his warnings that other former officials could meet the same fate.

"We all agree that the president's action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances -- and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech," they write, according to a copy of the statement obtained by The Hill.

Details on the letter here.


TESLA SHARES FALL 6 PERCENT AFTER EMOTIONAL NYT INTERVIEW: Tesla stocks dropped nearly 9 percent Friday following an interview with The New York Times in which CEO Elon Musk discussed his emotional state.

"This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career," he told the paper, adding that it had been "excruciating."

The article described Musk during the interview as "struggling to maintain his composure" and "fraying."

The interview follows a pattern of bizarre behavior from the billionaire. Last week, he revealed a push to take the company private in an unusual series of tweets that has reportedly prompted an SEC investigation.

In the first tweet, he said he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share and that he had secured funding. The figure was initially thought to be a reference to marijuana and it soon became apparent that there was no clear source of funding for the move.

Read more on Musk here.


EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE, EVERY STEP YOU TAKE: Google has revised language on its website to clarify that it continues to track users' whereabouts even after they have turned off their location settings.

The move came after an Associated Press investigation earlier this week found that the company's services such as Google Maps and the Google search engine record Android and iPhone users' locations without their permission.

"We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers," Google said in a statement reported by the AP on Thursday.

The statement contrasted an earlier statement sent to the outlet days ago, which insisted in part that that tech giant provided "clear descriptions" of their location-tracking tools.

Read more here.


HOUSE PANEL MAY SUBPOENA JACK DORSEY: A House committee is considering a subpoena to force Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify on a slew of issues including perceived bias against conservatives on the platform, according to a new report.

An unnamed House Energy and Commerce Committee source told Politico that staff with the committee raised the possibility during a tense meeting with Twitter representatives on Thursday, because the committee believes that the company has been "delaying" and "stonewalling" lawmakers' requests.

Conservatives are seeking Dorsey's testimony over concerns about whether the platform "shadowbans" conservatives by making their content harder to find on the platform.

"We do not shadowban according to political ideology or viewpoint or content, period," Dorsey said during an interview with Sean Hannity earlier this month.

Read more here.


WHEN YOU THINK YOU ONLY NEED ONE HAT, BUT THEN GO WITH TWO: Gen. Paul Nakasone, who leads both the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Cyber Command, reportedly told top Pentagon officials that he believes both organizations should remain under the same leader for at least two more years.

The Washington Post reported that Nakasone made the recommendation on Thursday, saying that the role of NSA director and commander of Cyber Command should continue under the dual hat arrangement, at least for now.

President Trump sparked a review of whether U.S. Cyber Command, the Pentagon's cyber warfare unit, should separate from the NSA given its growing significance after he boosted the cyber unit to a full combatant command last August.

When asked for comment, the NSA confirmed that Nakasone had submitted an assessment, but did not provide further details as to what the NSA chief had recommended regarding the arrangement.

"As NSA Director General Paul M. Nakasone has acknowledged publicly, NSA confirms that General Nakasone has completed his 90 Day assessment on the status of the dual hat arrangement. He provided this to the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their review," a spokesman for the NSA told The Hill.

We explain it all here.


PAUL PLUGS FOR TOP RUSSIANS: Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE (R-Ky.) says he will ask President Trump this weekend to lift sanctions against top Russian officials so they can visit the United States later this year. Paul said members of both bodies of Russia's legislature had agreed to come to the United States to continue talks after the GOP senator visited Moscow earlier this month.

"They have both agreed to come to Washington in the fall for further meetings. That's a good thing. The downside is the chairman of each of the committees is banned from coming to the United States because of sanctions," Paul told Fox News's Laura Ingraham.

Read more here.


"STUFF HAPPENS": Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm once known as Blackwater, is asserting that a meeting he had with an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin was "incidental," denying the existence of any back-channel communications with Russia.

Prince, who is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosStudents call on DeVos to offer free tampons, pads in schools to address 'period poverty' DeVos recovering from broken pelvis, hip socket after bicycle accident Student veterans deserve better than the DeVos agenda MORE, told NBC's Andrea Mitchell that he has had "no follow-up with them since then," referring to a meeting in January 2017 that took place days before then-president-elect Trump was sworn into office, and involved a Russian banker and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

"It was an incidental meeting," he said.

Prince has repeatedly denied that the meeting took part on behalf of the Trump administration or the U.S., but is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller's office over the meeting. Prince, in June, said he cooperated with Mueller's probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Details here.


MILITARY PILOTS TARGETED BY LASER BEAMS: U.S. military pilots flying in the Middle East are facing laser pointer attacks at a rate higher than the Pentagon has previously acknowledged, according to a report.

Officials at U.S. Air Forces Central Command in Qatar told The Wall Street Journal that military pilots in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have reported 350 attacks in the first seven months of 2018, a sharp increase from 400 attacks overall in 2017.

Such attacks had been declining in recent years, officials said, but are on the rise in 2018 and are linked to terrorist groups including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda.

Read more here.


MANAFORT TRIAL UPDATE: The jury in the tax and bank fraud trial against former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortWhite House braces for Mueller report Hillicon 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 Manafort to be sentenced for bank, tax fraud in Virginia on March 8 MORE failed to reach a verdict Friday after its second day of deliberations.

The jury had signaled in a note to Judge T.S. Ellis in the afternoon it would be going home for the weekend without a decision. The jury requested to be dismissed at 5 p.m. so one of it's 12 members could attend a previously scheduled event.

"I'm going to do that, maybe five minutes before," Ellis said Friday afternoon, shortly before dismissing the jurors.

Read more here.

How it played out: Outside the courtroom, Manafort's lead defense attorney Kevin Downing said he's pleased to see the jury is taking their time and that he thinks a long deliberation plays in his client's favor.

That's intimidating: The judge in the trial said Friday he's been threatened over the case. Judge T.S. Ellis III revealed the threats when he denied a request from media outlets to release the names and addresses of the jurors. The judge said he's not going to reveal the specifics of the threats he received. "I have the marshals' protection," he said. Read more here.


AND AN UPDATE ON ELECTION SECURITY LEGISLATION: The Senate Rules Committee has posted a new version of the Secure Elections Act, which the panel will markup this month.

Among its tenets, the new version of the bill would require the Homeland Security Secretary to develop a "template" for states who receive election security grants to follow when developing an incident response and communication plan for election cyber threats.

The Rules Committee has scheduled a business meeting to mark up the bill on Wednesday.

The bill, originally introduced by 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.) late last year, recently got a bipartisan companion in the House.


TURKISH CITIZENS TAKING IT OUT ON THEIR IPHONES: Turkish citizens are posting videos of themselves smashing or otherwise destroying iPhones this week amid the Trump administration's growing tensions with Turkey's government.

CBS News reports that Turks took to Twitter after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for a boycott on iPhones and other U.S. tech products in retaliation for U.S. sanctions on Turkey.

"We will impose a boycott on U.S. electronic products. If they have iPhones, there is Samsung on the other side, and we have our own Vestel here," he said in a speech on Tuesday. Read more here.


IN THIS WEEK'S "PUNKED!" EDITION: A parody website for Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence going to Colombia to demand Maduro step down Grenell: Push to decriminalize homosexuality 'wildly supported' by both parties Marc Short to return to White House as Pence’s chief of staff MORE resurfaced again, after being online for more than a year. It's return has already duped quite a few people into believing the vice president has been saying ... some pretty odd things.


A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: How we feel going into the weekend.



The House will still be in recess, but the Senate will be back next week! Will there be as many no-shows?



Google CEO defends China censorship push. (The Wall Street Journal)

Facebook's microtargeting gets scrutinized. (The New York Times)

'He's not unlike the president': How Elon Musk shapes Tesla coverage. (The Washington Post)

'Grand Theft Auto' publisher gets temporary injunction against cheat seller. (Motherboard)

Why can't Europe do tech? (Bloomberg Businessweek)