Trump praises aide amid White House abuse scandal

In this file photo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (L), White House chief of staff John Kelly (C) and ousted White House staff secretary Rob Porter look on. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Trump praises aide amid White House abuse scandal

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Friday praised an former aide accused of battery, amid a scandal that called into question the president’s judgment and tainted his chief of staff John Kelly and long-time aide Hope Hicks.
Allegations against ousted staff secretary Rob Porter prompted a litany of questions about the president’s recruitment and the ethics of the group of people running the world’s only superpower.
Porter — who denies abuse alleged and documented by two ex-wives, one of whom released a photo of herself with a black eye — worked at the heart of the White House throughout Trump’s administration, despite being denied full security clearance.
He only stepped down from his post Wednesday when the accusations became public.
Trump fueled the scandal Friday by praising Porter and suggesting he had a bright future.
“We certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump said in the Oval Office.
“He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him.”
“As you probably know he says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that.”
Chief of Staff John Kelly was aware of the allegations and also praised Porter’s conduct in the White House, maintaining “every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.”
Hicks, perhaps Trump’s most trusted aide, had helped craft the response to the scandal as White House communications director, despite being romantically involved with Porter.
“It’s alarming Rob Porter remained in an influential role” said Democratic Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster “even as revelations about his domestic abuse were apparently known among senior Trump staffers.”
“Photos of his battered ex-wife are deeply disturbing. We must know who knew what when.”
Trump was elected promising to bring “the best people” with him to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
In reality, he has struggled to hire high caliber staff, with many experienced Washington operatives keeping their distance.
“A lot of us could have done better,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters when asked about the situation — a rare statement of contrition from the Trump White House.
Shah refused to give details about when and how Chief of Staff Kelly in particular became aware of the claims.
“He became fully aware about these allegations yesterday,” said Shah. “I’m not going to get into the specifics, regarding who may have known what pieces of information.”
Shah also refused to give details on the involvement of Hicks — who was reportedly dating Porter — in shaping the White House response.
Until hours before the Harvard graduate left his post, the White House was praising him as an upstanding and integral member of staff.
“Rob Porter has been effective in his role as staff secretary. The president and chief of staff have full confidence in his abilities and his performance,” said press secretary Sarah Sanders.
In an interview with CNN, Porter’s ex-wife Jennifer Willoughby detailed allegations of abuse, saying that during her marriage she lived under a “low-grade constant terror of not knowing what I might do to set something off.”
Asked if she thought allegations against her ex-husband should have stopped him from working in the White House, Willoughby called it a “greater question... for society today.”
“Can we separate a man’s work from his private life?” she asked, calling it “concerning” that the central discussion had been “what did Rob contribute? What was his work?“
“As opposed to, you know, this is a troubled man with issues that needs help.”
Trump’s administration has been beset by scandal and staff departures.
Porter had been a rare staffer inside the White House who knew Washington, was widely respected and was seen as good at his job.


FBI warns Russians hacked hundreds of thousands of routers

Updated 25 May 2018
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FBI warns Russians hacked hundreds of thousands of routers

WASHINGTON: The FBI warned on Friday that Russian computer hackers had compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and could collect user information or shut down network traffic.
The US law enforcement agency urged the owners of many brands of routers to turn them off and on again and download updates from the manufacturer to protect themselves.
The warning followed a court order Wednesday that allowed the FBI to seize a website that the hackers planned to use to give instructions to the routers. Though that cut off malicious communications, it still left the routers infected, and Friday’s warning was aimed at cleaning up those machines.
Infections were detected in more than 50 countries, though the primary target for further actions was probably Ukraine, the site of many recent infections and a longtime cyberwarfare battleground.
In obtaining the court order, the Justice Department said the hackers involved were in a group called Sofacy that answered to the Russian government.
Sofacy, also known as APT28 and Fancy Bear, has been blamed for many of the most dramatic Russian hacks, including that of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
Earlier, Cisco Systems Inc. said the hacking campaign targeted devices from Belkin International’s Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear Inc, TP-Link and QNAP.
Cisco shared the technical details of its investigation with the US and Ukrainian governments. Western experts say Russia has conducted a series of attacks against companies in Ukraine for more than a year amid armed hostilities between the two countries, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and at least one electricity blackout.
The Kremlin on Thursday denied the Ukrainian government’s accusation that Russia was planning a cyberattack on Ukrainian state bodies and private companies ahead of the Champions League soccer final in Kiev on Saturday.
“The size and scope of the infrastructure by VPNFilter malware is significant,” the FBI said, adding that it is capable of rendering peoples’ routers “inoperable.”
It said the malware is hard to detect, due to encryption and other tactics.
The FBI urged people to reboot their devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and help identify infected devices.
People should also consider disabling remote-management settings, changing passwords and upgrading to the latest firmware.