In late May, Qatari government websites were infiltrated by hackers as part of a plan orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates shortly before the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt announced they were cutting diplomatic ties with the country, U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post Sunday.
It is unclear if the UAE hacked the sites on its own or contracted the task out to someone else, the officials said. On May 24, a story appeared on the Qatar News Agency's website that included fake quotes attributed to Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, that were pro-Iran and Hamas. The government said it sent out alerts within 45 minutes saying this was a hoax and the website had been hacked, but a video was posted to the agency's YouTube channel later that day and similar messages appeared on the government's Twitter accounts; even after Qatar made its announcement, Saudi Arabian news agencies were reporting on al-Thani's alleged comments.
The officials told the Post that last week, information gathered by intelligence agencies was analyzed and confirmed that on May 23, senior members of UAE's government spoke about their hacking plan and how to make it happen. The hacking took place not long after President Trump's visit to the region, where he attended a counterterrorism meeting with leaders from across the Persian Gulf. After the fake comments were posted online, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt all announced they were breaking off relations with Qatar.
The UAE's ambassador to the United States told the Post its report was false and his country "had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article." He added that Qatar was "funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas" and "inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors." Catherine Garcia
This weekend in Salt Lake City, some of the world's youngest bike riders faced off during the 2017 Strider Cup World Championship.
Toddler balance bike racing is "the country's cutest sport," Strider Bikes said, and nearly 400 racers, from 18 months to five years old, participated in the championship. They came from all over the United States, plus 14 countries, including Japan, Australia, Thailand, Tahiti, and Sweden, taking on a 750-foot course filled with obstacles, water features, and ramps. This year, each division was won by a Japanese racer — Kaisei Nishimura won the 2-and-under class; Raito Kaneko finished first in the 3-year-old class; Taiga Kuwahara was on top for the 4-year-old class, and Waku Kunitate won the 5-year-old class.
There were also Special Needs Races, open to racers of all ages and abilities, with several Special Olympics teams involved. Mom Melissa Clark, whose 9-year-old twins Sara and Emma participated, said riding balance bikes helps them with their "balance, coordination, and confidence. They loved the race. It was so exciting and fun for them to do something like this." Catherine Garcia
Early Monday morning, White House senior adviser and President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, released an 11-page statement on his at least four known meetings with Russian officials last year, including a meeting he and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were invited to by Donald Trump Jr. with a Kremlin-linked lawyer offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton. In Kushner's letter and a subsequent statement he read outside the White House after testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, he denied any collusion with Russia and said he did not know of any collusion in the Trump campaign.
Specifically, Kushner said he had not known the reason for the meeting with the Russian lawyer, because he had been too busy with the campaign to read Don Jr.'s entire email — what NBC News' Kasie Hunt called "the chaos and sloppiness defense." On Fox News Monday afternoon, anchor Shep Smith did not seem convinced by that version of events.
"Okay, hang on," Smith told Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire. "There's an email, and at the top of that email, there's a subject line. ... Here it is, this is an email from Donald Trump Jr., sent on Wednesday, June 8, at noon or so. The subject line: 'Russia - Clinton - private and confidential.'" Kushner claims he did not read deep into the email, Smith said, "and we're to believe he didn't read the subject line." "That is the version he is saying," Lemire said. "Frankly, Paul Manafort has made a similar case."
"Everybody's sort of pointing at Don Jr., it seems like, all of a sudden," Smith noted. Lemire said that's "hitting on something very interesting," the idea that "there may be a moment, and it may be sooner than later, where the legal fortunes of Don. Jr. and Jared Kushner may be in conflict. It will be very interesting to see how they reconcile that." Kushner's statements concluded with the hope that he can now put this matter behind him, at least after he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. "I think that is unlikely, to say the least," Lemire said. "Yeah, that's not happening," Smith said, then moved on to the iffy future for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Watch. Peter Weber
Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, has been given a major task by President Trump — find the leakers inside the administration, and oust them — and he's working in overdrive, officials told The Washington Post Monday.
Scaramucci is meeting with all of the aides in the press department, learning about their roles and getting rid of those who aren't working hard enough to defend Trump, people with knowledge of the situation told the Post. A list has been circulating among Scaramucci's allies with the names of people who used to work for Reince Priebus, Trump's chief of staff, and Sean Spicer, his former press secretary, at the Republican National Committee, and they are in danger of being fired, the officials said. Scaramucci doesn't report to the chief of staff, as is tradition, but rather directly to Trump, the Post reports, and he has also made it known that he thinks some staffers are more concerned with their relationships with Priebus, rather than worried about defending Trump and his agenda.
Already, Trump thinks Scaramucci is doing a bang-up job compared with Spicer — in one of the most biting parts of the Post report, Scaramucci is described as being "almost family" to Trump, while Spicer was most definitely considered the help. Several aides told the Post they welcomed Scaramucci and were glad to see Spicer gone, as he was a bad manager, but others had sympathy, saying Spicer had an extremely difficult job trying to explain Trump to the outside world.
Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist, told the Post that until Trump and communications staffers are on the same page, there will be problems. "Unlike every other staffer, maybe Anthony Scaramucci will be able to persuade the president to stay on message, but I'll believe it when I see it." Catherine Garcia
President Trump's new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, grew up not too far from the Queens of Trump's childhood, which may explain a certain similarity in their hand gestures. Or, as The Daily Show suggested on Monday, Scaramucci may have studied up for his new job.
The Mooch did his homework. pic.twitter.com/Wku0DF2ovd
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) July 24, 2017
The identical gesticulation isn't Scaramucci's only qualification, Noah noted on Monday's Daily Show. He also declared his love and loyalty for Trump, trying to prove Trump's competitive bona fides by saying he has seen the president do a couple of dubious, sadly solitary athletic achievements. "Throwing a football at a tire isn't impressive — it's something that they literally show impotent men doing in Levitra commercials," Noah noted, with video evidence. Since Scaramucci will "be around for at least a month," he added wryly, we might as well get to know him.
Noah ran through Scaramucci's résumé — blue-collar Long Island upbringing, Harvard Law, Goldman Sachs, his own hedge fund — nicknamed his favorite Scaramucci gesture to the press (the "Mooch smooch"), ran through Scaramucci's previous criticisms of Trump, and questioned his definition of "full transparency," which includes telling everyone he is deleting his old tweets critical of Trump. "Now, some people may think it's odd for a man who believes in climate change, gun control, and abortion rights to go work for Donald Trump, but in a way, if you think about it, he's the perfect man for the job," Noah said. "Who could represent Donald Trump better than a guy willing to abandon all of his previous positions if it gets him into the White House?" (There's one mildly NSFW moment.) Watch below. Peter Weber
Trump accuses The Washington Post of fabricating facts about covert CIA program, being a 'lobbyist weapon'
During a late night Twitter session on Monday, President Trump appeared to confirm a Washington Post report that his administration ended a covert CIA program that armed moderate anti-government rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad...." Trump tweeted, referring to a story published by the Post last week about his decision to stop the program, handing a big win to Russia and Assad.
While he did not elaborate on how the Post allegedly "fabricated the facts," he did go on to share his conspiracy theory that the newspaper's owner, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is using the Post to bully politicians into not taxing the online retailer. "So many stories about me in the @washingtonpost are Fake News," he tweeted. "They are as bad as ratings challenged @CNN. Lobbyist for Amazon and taxes?" A few minutes later, he added, "Is Fake News Washington Post being used as a lobbyist weapon against Congress to keep Politicians from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly?"
Trump never said what triggered the tweets, but as Politico's Hadas Gold pointed out, if Trump turned on Fox News Monday night and caught Tucker Carlson's show, he would have heard the host discussing the Post report. Catherine Garcia
Pete Souza earned his badge in trolling on Monday night after he posted on his Instagram account a photo and caption squarely aimed at President Trump and the speech he gave at the Boy Scout Jamboree, touting his victory last November.
Souza was the chief official White House photographer for Presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, and has spent much of 2017 watching what Trump does, then posting a picture to his Instagram showing Obama doing the same thing, but, in Souza's opinion, better. On Monday night, after Trump got the crowd to boo Obama for not speaking in person at the Jamboree while he was president (he sent a video address in 2010), Souza quickly posted a picture of Obama meeting an adorable Cub Scout. "I can assure you, POTUS was not telling this Cub Scout and the Boy Scouts who followed about his electoral college victory," Souza captioned the photo.
Oof. Catherine Garcia
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will be back in the Senate on Tuesday, his office announced Monday.
McCain shared last week that he has been diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer, and was at home in Arizona, recovering from surgery. In a statement, his office said McCain "looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on important legislation, including health-care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea."
McCain had surgery on July 14 to remove a blood clot above his left eye, and "subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot," the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix said in a statement last week. The hospital said McCain and his family were discussing additional treatment options. Catherine Garcia