Philip Ewing

Philip Ewing is NPR's national security editor. He helps direct coverage of the military, the intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and other topics for the radio and online. Ewing joined the network in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously he served as managing editor of Military.com and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

Updated at 1:33 p.m. ET

Republicans pummeled the FBI and Justice Department on Wednesday as they continued painting its special counsel, Robert Mueller, as the boss of a partisan fishing expedition rife with Democratic sympathizers that is out to get President Trump.

But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resisted the fishing expedition narrative and told the House Judiciary Committee that Mueller is not off inside a locked room hidden from his view, but instead is consulting with him about the directions his team wants to travel.

This week In the Russia investigations: Downshift from strategic war to knife fight, top G-Men on his back foot as lawmakers engage in oversight, Trump Jr. clammed up in Congress.

Now, a knife fight

Not long ago, this saga was about Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's surveying the battlefield like a general and with one swift coup — getting Michael Flynn to turn state's evidence — changing the whole strategic picture.

Sanctions on Russia were to be "ripped up" early in the Trump administration, then-national security adviser Mike Flynn said on Inauguration Day, according to new information released Wednesday.

The new details suggest that President Trump and his aides not only were amenable to new negotiations with Russia about its bilateral relationship with the U.S — despite its attack on the 2016 presidential election — but had concluded by the time they took office that they would definitely void existing sanctions.

Updated at 4:08 p.m. ET

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly subpoenaed Trump family financial records from the German financial giant Deutsche Bank, a move that could signal a major new direction for his inquiry.

Updated 11:34 a.m. ET

This week in the Russia investigations: Flynn makes a deal ... What other dominoes could fall? ... Donald Trump Jr. has another date on Capitol Hill.

The missing middle act

Donald Trump's campaign was frenzied and frantic, people at the top have said — descriptions that could be highly consequential for the White House and to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

For former campaign officials who've come into the administration, the descriptions of their work last year are meant not only to strengthen their denials regarding collusion with the Russian government in attacking the election, but also to emphasize how much of a miracle it was they made it through.

Last week in the Russia Investigations: The feds sitting down with White House aides. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stays the course. And will DOJ special counsel Robert Mueller give a "toothless" old law new fangs?

Knock, knock: It's the feds

White House officials are expecting some unusual guests in the short workweek before Thanksgiving: investigators from the FBI.

Last week in the Russia investigations: More pressure on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, more details about Russia's personal outreach to Trump campaign aides and more questions about Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russians last year

More questions for Jeff Sessions

The bad news for Attorney General Jeff Sessions: He is due back on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to talk about the Russia imbroglio, this time before the House Judiciary Committee.

The good news for Sessions: He'll be before the House Judiciary Committee.

The White House says it is playing ball with Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, but some administration supporters in Congress want him out of a job.

A small number of House and Senate Republicans are at work building a storyline about Mueller that would oblige him to at least give up his role in the Russia imbroglio and, at most, become subject to investigation himself.

Last week in the Russia investigations: Mueller removes all doubt, the imbroglio apparently costs a man a government job and lots of talk — but no silver bullet — on digital interference.


Mueller time

How many more thunderbolts has Zeus in his quiver? Where might the next one strike? Who does the angry lightning-hurler have in his sights — and who will be spared?

A former Trump campaign official has withdrawn from consideration for a job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture after being pulled into the imbroglio over Russia's interference efforts against the U.S. in the 2016 presidential race.

Sam Clovis said on Thursday that he would not go forward in trying to become the USDA's undersecretary for research, education and economics.

There appears to be no quick patch for the malware afflicting America's political life.

Over the course of three congressional hearings Tuesday and Wednesday, lawmakers fulminated, Big Tech witnesses were chastened but no decisive action appears to be in store to stop a foreign power from harnessing digital platforms to try to shape the information environment inside the United States.

Nearly a year after Election Day, Americans have the clearest picture yet about the extent of the influence campaign Russia ran against the United States in 2016.

The operation had a clandestine side and an overt side, and aspects that moved from one into the other. It involved a number of Russian government intelligence officers and cyber-operatives within Russia, as well as at least a few operatives working in the West.

And, according to at least one former top U.S. spymaster, it went better than its authors could have possibly imagined.

Black leaders have condemned the Russian efforts in the 2016 election cycle that apparently sought to divide African-Americans both from whites and from each other, but nothing about those efforts is new.

Russian and Soviet influence-mongers have spent decades pressing as hard as they can on the most painful areas of the American body politic, from the days of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the current era of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Last week in the Russia investigations: Washington, D.C., gears up for the big show; Trump campaign data firm's guru tried to link up with WikiLeaks; and Clinton, DNC helped pay for infamous dossier on Trump.

Get Ready For The Big Show

After weeks of buildups, letdowns, surprises, scoops and headlines, this is it: Three central players in the world of Big Tech are set to face off across the witness table this week from members of Congress.

Nations waged campaigns of influence against each other for centuries before Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and nothing is likely to stop them anytime soon.

Congress could mandate more "disclosure" for foreigners buying ads on U.S. social networks, but that wouldn't stop the ads from being sold, nor would it address the covert part of the Russians' playbook — the cyberattacks, snooping and dumping of embarrassing information.

Updated Oct. 25 at 1:42 p.m. EDT

Twitter has promised more disclosure about its advertisements as members of Congress put the big social networks under a microscope in investigating Russian interference in U.S. politics.

The San Francisco-based microblogging service said Tuesday that it plans to unveil an "industry-leading transparency center" through which it will "offer everyone visibility into who is advertising on Twitter, details behind those ads" and tools through which users can respond.

Last week in the Russia investigations: Reports are growing about Russian-linked interference beyond the Web and in real life, three senators pitch a bill to tackle digital active measures and Big Tech says it'll play ball in Capitol Hill's big show on Nov. 1.

Influence-mongering in real life

Accounts are piling up in which Russian influence-mongers evidently did more than interfere with Americans online last year — they also did so in person.

This week in the Russia investigations: Facebook hits Washington with a P.R. blitz, the imbroglio sucks in more tech giants and the White House weighs how nicely — or rudely — to treat Robert Mueller.

Sandberg leans in to damage control mode

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is a billionaire titan of Big Tech who looks down on the world from the peak of empire — but she tried to sound as contrite as she could this week in Washington.

Shortly before Election Day last year, some helpful-looking posts began popping up on Twitter: No need to stand in line or even leave home, they said — just vote by text!

The messages, some of which appeared to come from Hillary Clinton's campaign, had versions in Spanish, with gay pride flags and other permutations. They were also 100 percent false.

Where did they come from?

This week in the Russia investigations: A progress report — sort of — from the Senate Intelligence Committee; Robert Mueller meets the author of the dossier; and Donald Trump Jr. may have a date on Capitol Hill.

Russian hackers stole top secret cybertools from a National Security Agency contractor in yet another embarrassing compromise for U.S. spy agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The NSA contractor is believed to have taken highly sensitive official software home to a personal computer in 2015. His machine was running a Russian security program made by Kaspersky Labs, which can be exploited by Russia's intelligence agencies, the Journal reported.

Updated at 2:57 p.m. ET

The question remains "open" as to whether any Americans colluded with the Russian influencemongers who interfered with the 2016 presidential election, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday.

Updated at 2:17 p.m. ET, Oct. 3

Facebook said on Monday it has given Congress thousands of ads linked with Russian influence operations in the United States and is tightening its policies to make such interference more difficult.

"Many [of the ads] appear to amplify racial and social divisions," it said.

The social media giant confirmed that it discovered the ad sales earlier this year and gave copies to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Last week in the Russia investigations: Washington gears up for the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Twitter gets its turn in the barrel and states learn at last about the extent of last year's attack.

D.C. waits to hear from Burr and Warner

Before we take a look back at the past week in the Russia imbroglio, a look ahead: The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday.

The presidential election is long past, but online attacks aimed at shaping the U.S. information environment have kept right on coming.

This week brought a slate of fresh examples of ways in which users — some of them demonstrably Russian, others not — continue to try to use Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to jam a crowbar into existing American political divisions and wrench them further apart.

Last week in the Russia imbroglio: Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, got some bad news; members of Congress put social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, under the interrogation lights; and with all these many lawyers now running around — the meter is running too.

Much more below.

Story updated at 6:05 p.m. ET

Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn may have lobbied on behalf of a vast foreign deal to build a fleet of nuclear reactors across the Middle East as he was serving as national security adviser, according to new documents out Wednesday.

Two top House Democrats questioned Flynn's use of his office in a letter they sent to business leaders with whom Flynn worked on the project.

Congress is back in Washington, D.C., this week to tackle a to-do list so packed it unfurls all the way down to the Anacostia River.

Lawmakers aren't only expected to focus on taxes, the budget, the debt ceiling and other such priorities. They also could begin paying attention to the potential threats against elections next year or in 2020.

Current and former intelligence officials warn that 2016's election won't have been an isolated incident; Russian or other foreign mischief-makers could return and interfere again.

A heartsick surface Navy is vowing to find answers after a series of incidents that could make the peacetime Western Pacific deadlier for U.S. troops this year than Afghanistan.

The Navy began, as it often does, with accountability: On Wednesday, it fired the three-star admiral whose command in the Western Pacific suffered at least four big accidents this year, two of which may have killed a combined 17 sailors.

An officer aboard the destroyer USS Stethem also was lost overboard near the Philippines on Aug. 1.

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