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December 2017


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for December, 2017

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Young, Tipsy Trump Adviser Was Improbable Trigger for Russia Investigation

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, via LinkedIn.

By Steve Neavling

A young, tipsy and boastful adviser to the Trump campaign was the improbable spark that ignited the widening federal probe of allegations that the president and his campaign team may have conspired with Russia to steal the November 2016 election from Hillary Clinton. 

It began in an upscale London bar in May 2016, when George Papadopoulos, a 28-year-old political newcomer and foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, bragged to a top Australian diplomat that Russia had political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to a new bombshell New York Times story.

The report reveals that Russia’s campaign to undermine the presidential election was far more aggressive than previously known – and that some high-ranking members of Trump’s campaign were complicit in a foreign adversary’s brazen attack on American democracy.

The bold, reckless disclosure by Papadopoulos came two months before the public found out about about embarrassing, politically damaging emails that had been illegally hacked from the Democratic National Committee.

So when Wikileaks dumped nearly 20,000 emails online in July, Australian officials tipped off their American counterparts about the meeting with Papadopoulos, an energy consultant whose only political experience was a two-month stint working on the presidential campaign of Ben Carson.

The prospect that Russia was hacking the campaign of a presidential candidate and the discovery that a member of Trump’s campaign appeared to have inside information and secret channels with the Kremlin prompted the FBI to launch a closely guarded investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. 

Despite repeated claims by Trump and his conservative allies, the federal investigation was not set off by the salacious, disputed dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. Instead, the probe was triggered by valuable information shared by one of American’s closest intelligence agencies. 

Now Papadopoulos is cooperating with the special counsel team after pleading guilty in October to lying to the FBI about the secret meeting with Mifsud.

Trump and his allies have sought to diminish Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, suggesting he was a low-level campaign volunteer or a “coffee boy.”

Interviews and documents obtained by the New York Times reveal that Papadopoulos, in fact, was an influential member of the campaign who  “played a critical role in this drama” and helped “reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known.”

The first indication that the Trump administration was aware of Clinton’s emails came in April 2016, when Papadopoulos met at a London bar with Joseph Mifsurd, a Maltese professor with powerful Moscow contacts who include the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the meeting, Mifsud informed Papadopoulos that the Kremlin had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails. 

What’s unclear is how many people in the Trump campaign knew about the “dirt.”

About two months after the Mifsud meeting, Trump urged Russia to hack Clinton’s emails during a news conference in Florida. Just weeks later, just after Trump won the Republican nomination in July 2016, top FBI officials warned both presidential candidates that Russia likely would try to infiltrate their campaigns. Top FBI officials requested that both candidates  notify the bureau of any suspected hacking, but Trump’s campaign never came forward with information.

In May 2016, then-CIA Director John Brennan alerted Congress that intelligence officials were increasingly worried about connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. In the meantime, the FBI was quietly debating how to approach the allegations without tipping off Trump officials or creating the appearance that President Obama’s administration was meddling in the election.

That Papadopoulos, a 20-something political newcomer with virtually no knowledge of Russian issues, could become the impetus of an investigation involving the sitting president and a former Cold War adversary is nothing short of astonishing. Then again, nothing about Trump’s campaign has been conventional or without drama.

In early 2016, Trump’s roller-roaster campaign, desperate to build a foreign policy team, sought out Papadopoulos, who was ambitious and quickly took a leading role in trying to improve relations with Russia and arrange a meeting between Trump and President Vladimir Putin. At one point, Trump turned to the head of his campaign’s foreign policy team, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, for advice on a Putin meeting.

Sessions, who is now Trump’s attorney general, failed to disclose the discussion during a Congressional committee hearing earlier this year, saying he had forgotten about it. But Sessions eventually said he advised against a Trump-Putin meeting, at least partly because he believed Papadopoulos was in over his head and could hurt the campaign.

Whatever the case, Papadopoulos continued to create ties with Russia, setting up meetings with Moscow officials and keeping top campaign officials in the loop.

After the Times story was posted, Trump tweeted:

Weekend Series on Crime: Wildlife Smuggling is the Next Drug Trade

Joe Rannazzisi, Retired DEA Official, Named Fed of The Year for 2017

Joe Rannazzisi (Photo grab from 60 Minutes)

By Allan Lengel

For the first time since the awards were given in 2008, a former, rather than current federal law enforcement official has been named Fed of the Year.

Joe Rannazzisi, a retired DEA deputy assistant administrator with a law degree and a pharmacy degree, has been named Fed of the Year for 2017, the result of his persistent and ongoing crusade against dangerous opioids and his criticism of Congress for protecting manufacturers.

As head of the Office of Diversion Control for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he led the crusade to clamp down on doctors, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and distributors.

He was aggressive, resulting in some of the biggest companies paying huge fines for failing to report suspicious orders. Not everyone was pleased.

He clashed with Congress, which he felt wasn’t being tough enough on drug companies. Some Congress members came after him, and in 2015, under pressure, he retired.

But that didn’t stop him from speaking out.

In October, he appeared in the Washington Post and on “60 Minutes” to tell his story how the DEA’s war on opioids got derailed by pressure from Congress and the drug industry.

He’s also a consultant for a team of lawyers suing the opioid industry.

His efforts in the battle against the opioid epidemic, particularly in light of the powerful opposition on Capitol Hill and from the drug industry, makes him worthy of the award, which is based on outstanding public service.

Previous recipients of the Fed of the Year award include: Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008):   Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010);  Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011); John G. Perren, who was assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate (2012); David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Los Angeles (2013);  Loretta Lynch, who was U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time (2014); John “Jack” Riley,  the DEA’s acting deputy administrator (2015) and D.C.  U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips (2016).


Trump Contradicts GOP Lawmakers Who Claim Mueller Is Biased, Unfair

President Trump, via White House.

By Steve Neavling

President Trump contradicted some Republican lawmakers and other conservatives who have tried to discredit the special counsel investigation over the past month, saying he believes Robert Mueller will treat him “fairly.”

Still, Trump told the New York Times that the investigation has galvanized his base and prompted some “great congressmen” to begin “pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is.” 

The president said he doesn’t plan to fire Mueller, whom Trump expects will conclude he did nothing wrong.

“There is no collusion,” Trump said. “And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.”

Check Out ICE’s Top Photos of 2017

By Steve Neavling

Immigration and Customs Enforcement posted its “Top Images of 2017,” offering an inside look into an agency responsible for combating human trafficking, illegal immigration and other crimes.

ICE also posted the agency’s favorite story of the year.

Here are some of the photos:

Special Agent Alexandra DeArmas of the HSI Newark Rapid Response Team delivers water in Barrio Campanella, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.

A member of the ICE Honor Guard places a rose above the name of a fallen ICE officer. The members of the Honor Guard walk around the entire National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., and lay roses at every fallen ICE officer’s name.

An ERO deportation officer checks fingerprints using a mobile biometric software application in Long Island, N.Y., during Operation Raging Bull, a federal law enforcement operation targeting MS-13.

Ingmar Guandique, a known MS-13 gang member, is removed to his native El Salvador by ERO deportation officers.

HSI Special Readiness Team sharp shooters keep a keen eye out to assist federal, state and local law enforcement officials in maintaining public safety during Super Bowl 51 in Houston, Texas.

Another Record Year for Number of Firearms Confiscated at U.S. Airports

Guns seized by the TSA.

By Steve Neavling

More firearms were confiscated at U.S. airports than any previous year, exceeding a record set last year.

Security officers discovered 3,888 firearms as of Christmas eve and may reach 4,000 by the end of the year, the Los Angeles Times reports

That’s compared to the previous record of 3,391 in 2016.

The number of confiscated firearms has risen every year since at least 2011, when about 1,200 guns were found.

The airports with the most firearms seized are Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

A majority of the seized guns were found on carry-on bags, while others were found in potted plants and stuffed animals.

Travelers caught trying to bring a gun onto a plane face a civil fine ranging from $330 to $13,000 and could be turned over to local police in the event that gun laws are violated.

Gun laws vary by state.

Hunter Prevented from Shipping Dead Cougar in Luggage on Airplane

McCarran International Airport, via Facebook.

By Steve Neavling

A hunter’s plans to send a dead cougar home in his luggage on an airplane from Las Vegas hit a snag.

A TSA agent found the carcass just before 10 p.m. Monday at McCarran International Airport, the Associated Press reports

Agents held the man at the airport until they could confirm that a Utah State Fish and Game tag on the cougar was legitimate.

The man, whose identity has not been released, shipped the cougar home, but not on the airplane. TSA officials declined to say where the courage was headed.

Airport spokeswoman Melissa Nunnery said it’s not a crime to transport legally possessed carcasses, but she added that airlines have the authority to transport certain items.