British investigators believe that current or former agents of the Russian military intelligence service G.R.U. were likely behind the nerve attack agent that poisoned an ex-spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, this spring, The New York Times reports.
On Friday, the Department of Justice indicted 12 G.R.U. officers, accusing them of hacking internal documents from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Three current and former U.S. and British officials told the Times that British intelligence is very close to identifying the people they think carried out the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in March, although they have not entirely ruled out another Russian intelligence agency being involved.
Skripal was in the G.R.U. for nearly 15 years, spending some of the time as a spy for M16, Britain's foreign intelligence service. He was arrested in 2004 and pleaded guilty to espionage, but was released in 2010 as part of a spy swap, moving to England. G.R.U. is known for doling out harsh punishment to traitors, but Russia has denied any involvement in the attack. Catherine Garcia
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told people close to him that President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, shared with him the names of Saudis who were disloyal to him, and also told the crown prince of Abu Dhabi he has Kushner "in his pocket," current and former White House and government officials told The Intercept.
Before his security clearance was downgraded, Kushner read with interest the President's Daily Brief, filled with classified intelligence, and after Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin from the crown prince position last June, the briefing contained information on the situation and names of royal family members opposed to his move, three people told The Intercept. In October, Kushner made an unannounced visit to Riyadh, during which he stayed up late "planning strategy" with the crown prince, The Washington Post reported at the time; a week later, Mohammed bin Salman launched what he called an anti-corruption crackdown, detaining hundreds of Saudi royals and businessmen.
One person told The Intercept it's likely the crown prince would be able to get the names of his critics without Kushner's help, and he could have told people he received the information from Kushner so it would look like the Trump administration backed his actions. A spokesperson for Kushner's lawyer told The Intercept Kushner did not discuss any names with the crown prince. Catherine Garcia
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster may be on his way back to the military. NBC News reported Thursday that Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are arranging a plan to move McMaster out of his White House role and into a "graceful landing" in the Pentagon.
The alleged machinations come as McMaster's relationship with President Trump has frayed. Earlier this month, Trump publicly disagreed with McMaster's assessment of the evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election; after McMaster said that the evidence that Russians had intended to interfere was "incontrovertible," the president tweeted that his national security adviser "forgot to say the results ... were not impacted or changed." McMaster has additionally raised some eyebrows for getting involved in political matters while technically still an active-duty member of the Army.
Citing "five people familiar with the discussions," NBC News reported that Mattis and Kelly are seeking to replace McMaster with Stephen Biegun, currently the vice president of international government affairs for the Ford Motor Company. McMaster would be moved into either another three-star Army post — his current ranking — or perhaps even promoted to be a four-star general.
CNN reported last week that McMaster may be on his way out, a story White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed by saying Trump "still has confidence in" McMaster. The White House did not respond to NBC News' requests for comment. Read more about McMaster's possible exit here. Kimberly Alters
New details about the death of the founder of the Russian state-sponsored media company RT have raised more questions than they have answered. Mikhail Lesin's death — from blunt force injuries to the head, neck, torso, and extremities — was blamed on drunken falls after he was found dead in his hotel room in November 2015. The heavily-redacted Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department report, though, makes no mention of "the blunt force injuries that killed Lesin — or even about him falling down, which is how he is supposed to have died," BuzzFeed News reports.
Two intelligence agents additionally told BuzzFeed News that Lesin's death was on the eve of his interview with the Department of Justice about RT. What's more, the security disc from the hallway outside Lesin's room was "defective," and the police refused to answer if they ever managed to review the footage of "that crucial period between when Lesin was last seen and when he was found dead."
The night before his death, Lenin also reportedly had Secret Service agents posted outside of his bedroom to make sure he wouldn't leave. It is "unclear why the U.S .government's elite security force — which protects the president, vice president, and foreign dignitaries — would have intervened to have him watched," BuzzFeed News writes. The Secret Service, on the other hand, said Lesin "has never been a protectee." Read BuzzFeed News' entire investigation here. Jeva Lange
Employees of the Russian consulate in San Francisco used a fireplace to burn unknown items Friday, causing the building to emit black smoke from its chimney.
— Justin Sullivan (@sullyfoto) September 1, 2017
When local firefighters showed up to investigate, presuming an emergency because the temperature outside was in the 90s, consulate staff turned them away and explained the smoke came from intentional fireplace use. The fire happened while consulate staff emptied the building in response to a White House order to vacate by Saturday in connection to rising tensions between Moscow and Washington.
U.S. agents are expected to search the facility Saturday and have already "search[ed] apartments in San Francisco used by Russian diplomats and their families," Politico reports, quoting Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Bonnie Kristian
Police in a London borough are investigating the alleged poisoning of an 18-year-old tennis player who became sick during the junior tournament at Wimbledon and had to drop out of her quarterfinal match.
The Merton Metropolitan Police Service told ABC News that Gabriella Taylor of Great Britain is still recovering, and they believe that if she was poisoned, it took place July 1-10. They are treating this as a case of poisoning with intent to endanger life or cause grievous bodily harm, police said, but they are unsure where or when she ingested the poison. The Associated Press reports that Taylor fell ill with leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can spread when a person touches water or soil contaminated with urine from infected cattle, rats, pigs, and dogs. Public Health England says this is a fairly uncommon condition, with just 71 confirmed cases in England and Wales in 2015.
On July 7, Taylor withdrew from her match against an American opponent, and tweeted she "could've got far in this slam if it wasn't for this virus." On July 11, she tweeted that she spent the past four days in intensive care "suffering from an unknown cause." Leptospirosis typically causes flu-like symptoms, but patients can experience internal bleeding and organ failure. Taylor tweeted on Wednesday that she is back on the tennis court and "taking it step by step." Catherine Garcia
Zaur Dadayev, a suspect in the February murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, told a prisoners' rights group that he was forced to confess by investigators.
Dadayev once served as deputy commander of the north interior ministry battalion in Chechnya, and a judge said he confessed to the killing. He was allegedly motivated by anger over what he perceived as anti-Muslim statements by Nemtsov, according to Russia's Rosebalt news agency, citing unidentified law enforcement sources.
However, The Guardian reports, journalist Yeva Merkachyova says Dadayev told her and other members of the monitoring group that he was placed in shackles for two days with a bag over his head, and was told if he confessed, his friend Ruslan Yusupov would be released. "I thought that I would save him, and they would take me to Moscow alive," Dadayev reportedly said. "Otherwise what happened to Shavanov would have happened to me." Beslan Shavanov, another suspect, was killed when police officers tried to apprehend him in the Chechen capital of Grozny over the weekend. Officials say he threw a grenade at officers and then blew himself up with a second grenade. Catherine Garcia
Anna Duritskaya, the girlfriend of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, is now in hiding in her native Ukraine.
The 23-year-old actress and model is the only known witness to the murder of Nemtsov on Friday. Duritskaya did not attend his funeral on Tuesday, and fled to the Ukraine just hours after his burial, the Los Angeles Times reports. She has erased her social media profiles and is not answering calls to her cell phone.
In the hours before she was told she could leave Russia, Duritskaya held a Skype interview with the Ukrainian television channel Dozhd, and said she was under "virtual house arrest" after the incident. She was interrogated for three days, and said she told investigators over and over that she did not see the killer and only saw that the getaway car was a light color. Duritskaya also suggested that investigators were trying to make it look like Nemtsov was killed during a "crime of passion" committed by an unknown romantic rival, the Times reports. Catherine Garcia