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Archive for June, 2017

Trump’s Son-in-Law Kushner Is Subject of Special Counsel’s Russia Probe

Jared Kushner. Photo by Lori Berkowitz Photography, via Wikipedia

Jared Kushner. Photo by Lori Berkowitz Photography, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s son-in-law and key aide Jared Kushner is the subject of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Washington Post reported that Kushner’s business dealings have cast suspicions around the political newcomer who has become an integral part of Trump’s administration.   

Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick, suggested the inquiry is just “standard practice.”

“We do not know what this report refers to,” Jamie Gorelick, Kushner’s attorney, said in a statement to CNN. “It would be standard practice for the special counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to Russia. Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about Russia-related matters. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Kushner is expected to be the latest high-profile member of Trump’s administration to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, though no date has been selected yet.

CNN reported in March that Kushner met secretly with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the same official that Attorney General Jeff Sessions eventually acknowledged he met with at least two times during the presidential campaign. CNN also reported last month that Kushner may have tried to create a secret channel of communications between Trump’s transition team and top Russian officials, including Kislyak. 

Sessions failed to disclose his meetings with Kislyak, but later acknowledged that he had met with the ambassador twice. During a Senate hearing this week, Sessions said it’s possible he met a third time with the ambassador at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C., but the attorney general insisted under oath that he couldn’t recall.

Vast Majority of Americans Suspicious of Trump’s Ties to Russia

President Trump, via White House

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A vast majority of Americans suspect President Trump tried to impede the federal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Republican’s campaign, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll

Only 22% of Americans support Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as the FBI director.

The survey comes after Comey’s closely watched testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, when he said he believed he was fired for failing to drop the investigation.

The poll found that 68% of Americans are at least moderately concerned that Trump or his campaign team coordinated with Russia to meddle in the election. About half expressed serious concern. Only about a third indicated they’re unconcerned.

Along partisan lines, the numbers are much different. Asked about their level of concern over ties with Russia, 62% of Republicans said they’re not very concerned or not at all concerned. Four in five Democrats disapprove of Trump firing Comey.

Other Stories of Interest

Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Expands to Obstruction of Justice Probe

Robert Mueller, via FBI

Robert Mueller, via FBI

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign to interfere with the 2016 election has expanded to include a probe into whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.

Just days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9 in the midst of the bureau’s Russia probe, federal authorities began investigating whether the president terminated Comey over concerns of the probe.

The Washington Post, citing officials, reported that Mueller plans to examine whether the termination amounted to obstruction of justice. 

To dig deeper, Mueller also scheduled interviews as early as this week with Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett. 

After Trump originally said Comey was fired for his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation, the president later conceded: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

At a Senate hearing last week, Comey said he believed Trump fired him for refusing to end the Russia investigation and a related probe into former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired, in some way, to change — or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

A spokesman for Trump’s personal attorney lambasted the FBI, but not on the substance of the allegations.

“The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz.

FBI Investigates Anti-Trump Gunman Who Shot 4 People at Virginia Ballpark

James T. Hodgkinson was killed by police after he shot four people at a congressional baseball game. Photo via Facebook.

James T. Hodgkinson was killed by police after he shot four people at a congressional baseball game. Photo via Facebook.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has taken over the investigation of a 66-year-old gunman who opened fire at a congressional baseball team, shooting four people including high-ranking Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who was in critical condition Wednesday night.

James T. Hodgkinson, a harsh critic of President Trump, was killed in a gun battle with police.

The FBI is investigating the background of shooter, his associates, social media activity and potential motivations.

According to the New York Times, Hodgkinson was living out of his van in the Northern Virginia suburbs and often posted venomous criticisms of Trump on Facebook. 

In the meantime, the ATF is tracing the history of the rifle and handgun used in the attack.

Dale Walsh, a friend of Hodgkinson, said the man was vibrant and positive when he was younger.

“He wasn’t evil,” Walsh said. “I guess he was tired of the politics.”

Senate Judiciary Committee to Probe Political Influence of FBI Investigations

Sen. Chuck Grassley

Sen. Chuck Grassley

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to investigate attempts to influence FBI investigations under the Trump and Obama administrations.

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called for the congressional probe to explore why President Trump really fired former FBI Director James Comey’s firing and whether anyone in Obama’s administration tried to influence the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Grassley’s call for a wide-ranging investigation comes in response to Democrats requesting to investigate whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey, Politico reports. 

“The Judiciary Committee has an obligation to fully investigate any alleged improper partisan interference in law enforcement investigations,” Grassley wrote to his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. “It is my view that fully investigating the facts, circumstances, and rationale for Mr. Comey’s removal will provide us the opportunity to do that on a cooperative, bipartisan basis.”

Grassley believes an investigation into the handling of Clinton’s use of a private email service is called for after Comey testified last week that he was concerned the Justice Department “could not credibly complete the investigation and decline prosecution without grievous damage to the American people’s confidence in the justice system.”

ICE Recently Arrested Nearly 200 Iraqi Immigrants Who Face Grave Dangers Returning Home

ICE agents, via ICE.

ICE agents, via ICE.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

ICE arrested 114 Iraqi immigrants with criminal records in metro Detroit over the weekend, stoking concerns that the detainees will face hostility and even death by returning to their former country.

The mass detainment that targeted the U.S.’ largest population of Chaldeans, who are Iraqi Christians, contradicts President Trump’s previous pledge to protect Christians from hostility in the Middle East.

In March 2016, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that ISIS was committing “genocide” against Christians in Iraq.

But ICE defended the arrests of Iraqi immigrants, claiming they have criminal pasts and pose security threats.

“The operation in this region was specifically conducted to address the very real public safety threat represented by the criminal aliens arrested,” Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Detroit, said in a statement. “The vast majority of those arrested in the Detroit metropolitan area have very serious felony convictions, multiple felony convictions in many cases. I applaud the efforts of the law enforcement personnel who, day in and day out, put their lives on the line to protect this community.”

ICE also arrested 85 other Iraqi nationals outside of Michigan, according to the immigration enforcement agency.

In all, 1,444 Iraqi nationals have received final orders for removal.

The “overwhelming majority” of the 1999 Iraqi immigrants recently detained nationwide “had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses,” ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls told the Detroit Free Press

Attorneys are scrambling to fight for the immigrants to prevent their removal.

ICE insisted the detainees “pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”

“These arrests are consistent with the routine, targeted enforcement action carried out by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations on a daily basis. All enforcement activities are conducted with the same level of professionalism and respect that ICE officers exhibit every day.”

Sessions’ Explanation for Dodging Some Questions Raises Red Flags

AG Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

AG Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Attorney General Jeff Sessions often refused to answer questions from lawmakers on Tuesday, claiming that he does not have to disclose private deliberations involving the president.

But analysts are questioning whether Sessions’ use of executive privilege was appropriate and just an excuse to avoid answering tough questions.

For example, Sessions declined to say whether he was aware of the White House discussing future pardons if anyone in the Trump circle is charged with colluding with Russia to undermine the presidential election.

“You’re impeding this investigation by refusing to answer questions,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, told Sessions during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday. “I think your silence speaks volumes.”

Sessions acknowledged that Trump has not asserted executive privilege and that the attorney general has no authority to claim it.

“It’s my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer,” Sessions said.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Cornell Law School professor Jens David Ohlin said Sessions did not provide an adequate reason to refuse to answer questions. 

“His justification for refusing to answer the questions was completely incoherent. He claimed executive privilege but then denied that he had done so,” Ohlin said. “It made no sense whatsoever. He’s basically trying to have his cake and eat it, too: claim executive privilege but then pretend that he didn’t. His position has no basis in law, common sense, or logic.”

Congressional Democrats to Sue Trump over Foreign Payments to His Businesses

US CapitolBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress are planning to file a federal lawsuit today accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by accepting money from foreign governments for his business empire.

The suit alleges Trump violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause, who prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments without congressional consent, the New York Times reports. 

At least 184 members of Congress have already signed the draft complaint, as of Tuesday evening.

Among the allegations is that Trump is profiting from foreign diplomats who stay in his hotels.

“The founders ensured that federal officeholders would not decide for themselves whether particular emoluments were likely to compromise their own independence or lead them to put personal interest over national interest,” the lawsuit states. “An officeholder, in short, should not be the sole judge of his own integrity.”

It is the third such lawsuit alleging that Trump is using his leadership position to profit from foreign governments.