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Archive for January, 2018

Bannon Slams Trump, Campaign for Relationship with Russia

Former top aide to President Trump, Steve Bannon.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump’s long-time ally and former White House chief adviser Steve Bannon slammed the president, his family and top campaign aides over their relationship with Russia and said the special counsel investigation may reveal some serious, sloppy crimes.

The snarky, candid and explosive remarks were revealed in excerpts of the forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” a scathing account based on more than 200 interviews with the president and his administration.

Donald Trump Jr. and his dad, President Trump, via Twitter

Bannon, who also served as chief executive of Trump’s presidential election, said it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for Trump’s son Donald Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort to meet with a Russian lawyer at the Trump Tower during the 2016 election. 

Just hours after the Guardian posted the story about Bannon’s comments Wednesday, Trump blasted his former confidant, saying he “lost his mind” and had “very little to do with our historic victory.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” Trump said in a combative statement. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”

Trump’s dismissive comments and suggestions that Bannon is lying contradict fawning statements the president made about his former top adviser when he was forced out of the White House after seven months and returned to the right-wing Breitbart News.

In an interview with the book’s author, Michael Wolff, Bannon described some of Trump’s top campaign aides as naive, unethical and clumsy, seemingly unaware of the repercussions of meeting with a Russian attorney who pledged to provide documents that would “incriminate” Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Bannon said he was dumbfounded.

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon even suggested Trump was aware of the Trump Tower meeting.

“The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

Bannon, who previously criticized the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey, said he doesn’t expect a conclusion to the special counsel investigation anytime soon. He added that the probe into alleged collision with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering, saying, “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Since Robert Mueller was appointed in May to lead the Russia-Trump investigation, four members of Trump’s inner circle have been indicted – and two have already pleaded guilty and plan to cooperate with the special counsel’s team.

Bannon’s surprising candor undermines claims by Trump and his conservative allies that the investigation is a “witch hunt” perpetuated by a biased FBI bent on destroying the president. 

Bannon used a hurricane metaphor to describe the mood in the White House: “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.”

Trump’s Choice for ICE Leader Suggests Criminal Charges against Sanctuary Cities

ICE official, via ICE.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Leaders of so-called sanctuary cities should be criminally charged and held “personally accountable” for shielding illegal immigrants from deportation, said President Trump’s choice to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan suggested in an interview with Fox News that places like California are putting “politics ahead of safety.”

“We gotta take [sanctuary cities] to court, and we gotta start charging some of these politicians with crimes,” Homan said.

Claiming “more citizens are going to die because of these policies,” Homan said the Justice Department must hold some politicians “personally accountable.”

Human said he plans to send in federal agents to protect residents in cities and states that refuse to work with ICE on immigration issues.

Fusion GPS Fires Back at Trump Allies over Salacious Dossier

U.S. Capitol

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Fusion GPS, the research firm that funded the salacious and unsubstantiated “Steele dossier,” fired back at President Trump and his conservative allies, saying they are spinning “mendacious conspiracy theories” to distract from the substance of a serious special counsel probe.

Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, two former Wall Street Journal reporters who co-founded Fusion GPS in 2011, wrote a New York Times op-ed headlined “The Republicans’ Fake Investigations” to respond to increasing criticism from Trump supporters.

Saying Republicans have distorted details of the firm’s congressional testimony, the Fusion co-founders urged lawmakers to release testimony transcripts “so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most, important, what happened to our democracy.”

Trump supporters and some conservative lawmakers are trying to discredit the Russia-Trump investigation by claiming the probe was triggered by the controversial dossier.

“As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.”

In a bombshell New York Times report over the weekend, the newspaper revealed that the impetus for the investigation was actually an Australian diplomat who revealed that a Trump aide admitted he knew Russia had political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Congressional Republicans: New Evidence Shows Clinton Probe Was Rigged

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Key congressional Republicans reviewing the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email server said they found evidence that the bureau’s top officials protected the former secretary of state from criminal charges.

Those Republicans say they have received written evidence and other information that reveal some FBI investigators believed Clinton broke some laws when she and her top aides used an insecure private email server to transmit classified information, the Hill reports

During a closed-door briefing on Dec. 21, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the House Judiciary Committee that he discovered the investigation and the decision on whether to file charges belonged to a small group in Washington D.C.’s headquarters, not the field office leaders who typically handle the outcome of  federal probes.

Among the evidence are FBI documents that indicate the voluminous amounts of classified information that was passed through Clinton’s insecure server amount to crime. Investigators also said a key witness admitted making false statements, which is a crime identical to the ones filed against some of Trump’s former campaign officials.

Some committee Republicans said the new discoveries suggest the top levels of the FBI protected Clinton from prosecution.

“This was an effort to pre-bake the cake, pre-bake the outcome,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a House Judiciary Committee member who attended the McCabe briefing before the holidays. “Hillary Clinton obviously benefited from people taking actions to ensure she wasn’t held accountable.”

Legal Expert: Why Trump Won’t Be Able to Stop Mueller Probe

President Trump, via White House.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Fears that President Trump will orchestrate the termination of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether the Republican’s campaign colluded with Russia, are likely overblown, argues Jack Goldsmith, co-founder of Lawfare and Harvard Law School professor.

I believe that what we learned in 2017 should give us confidence in 2018 that Trump will not be able to terminate the Mueller investigation,” Goldsmith wrote

Goldsmith points out that the Justice Department “took the proper steps despite the allegiance that political appointees typically feel toward the president who appointed them.”

They did so because they are embedded in and charged with running an institution with rules and norms that they feel personal and professional responsibility to abide by and uphold,” he added.

Yet despite Trump’s rhetorical crusade against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and fired FBI Director James Comey, the investigation has continued unimpeded.

“In short, the political appointees in the Justice Department who are connected to the Mueller investigation have shown that they follow the rules and norms of the department despite the president’s wishes otherwise,” Goldsmith argued.

Even if Rosenstein gave into political pressure, he’d have trouble justifying kicking Mueller to the curb because he either has to show the special counsel’s proposed steps were “inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices” or that Mueller participated in “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.”

To do that, Rosenstein would need to explain his actions to Congress, which has been unwilling so far to intervene, save for a few conservative Republicans.

Trump’s has other options, but they too would be difficult to pull off. For example, Trump could fire Rosenstein, but he’d have trouble finding a Senate-confirmed official, as required by law, finding a replacement who interfere in the investigation.

Border Patrol Agent Hospitalized After Being Struck with Large Rock

Border marker, via Border Patrol.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Border Patrol agent crashed his all-terrain vehicle after he was struck in the chest by a grapefruit-size rock about 20 miles southwest Otay Mesa, Calif.

The agent, who has not yet been identified, was traveling about 20 mph when he was assaulted, the Los Angeles Times reports

When the agent called for help, his colleagues arrived and spotted hat they believed was a group of people trying to enter the country illegally. The agents dispersed the group with tear gas and notified Mexican authorities, who assisted.

The injured agent, who is now on administrative leave, was released from the hospital Sunday with severe bruises to his chest.

“This is an all-too-common occurrence.” Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott said in a statement. “The safety and well-being of our agents remains our top priority, and we will work diligently with our law enforcement partners to bring the assailant to justice.”

TSA Failures Undermine Passenger Safety on Airplanes

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

From missing weapons carried onto commercial aircraft by travelers to poor vetting and training of airport screeners, the TSA is failing in its mission “in many ways” to keep flyers safe, argues The Hill opinion contributor Martin Schwartz.

For one, the Homeland Security Inspector General found that TSA missed 95% of weapons carried onto airplanes by undercover investigators.

Since the agency is failing to prevent many travelers from carrying forbidden items onto airplanes, the TSA announced it plans to increase highly intrusive personal frisks of passengers.

The TSA also has failed to fully deploy the nearly foolproof full-body scanners.

The agency’s high-level supervisors also have been fired for poor performance, which trickles down to the rank and file.

This comes at a time when a record number of travelers are caught with weapons, especially firearms.

“For an agency that must deal with the public every day at transit facilities, and that has existed for well over a decade, this is an inexcusable record of failure,” Schwartz wrote. “It strongly suggests that the TSA should be abolished, with its duties turned over to well-trained airline, ship or railroad personnel working under the direct supervision of specialized law enforcement professionals, namely officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).”

Trump Accuses ‘Deep State’ DOJ of Ignoring Clinton Aide Huma Abedin

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s attacks on his intelligence agencies continued Tuesday morning when he suggested the Justice Department is part of the “deep state” that “must finally act” to jail Huma Abedin, a top Hillary Clinton aide.

“Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others,” Trump tweeted.

Huma Abedin, via Wikipedia

Trump’s “deep state” comment suggests the Justice Department is composed of powerful interests working to undermine him.

Trump appears to be referring to reports that Abedin forwarded e-mails from her Yahoo account that included passwords to government systems. Millions of Yahoo accounts were hacked.