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Archive for February, 2018

Secret Service Joins Probe of White Powder Scare Involving Trump Jr.’s Wife

Donald Trump Jr., via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Secret Service has launched an investigation into an unidentified white powder that Venessa Tump, the wife of Donald Trump Jr., came into contact with while opening a piece of mail.

Venessa Trump  and two other people who may have been exposed were taken to a New York hospital, where they later learned the substance was non-hazardous, Reuters reports.

“The substance had arrived by mail and it was addressed to Donald Trump Jr.,” said New York Police Department spokesman Carlos Nieves.

The Secret Service and other agencies have taken white powder seriously since 2001, when anthrax-laced envelopes were sent to media outlets and U.S. lawmakers, killing five people. 

Most cases since then have been hoaxes.

Authorities said the packages had a Boston postmark, but law enforcement officials have declined to discuss it.

“Thankful that Vanessa & my children are safe and unharmed after the incredibly scary situation that occurred this morning,” Trump Jr. said on Twitter. “Truly disgusting that certain individuals choose to express their opposing views with such disturbing behavior.”

Trump Scraps Plans to Build FBI Headquarters in Suburbs, Offers $2B for Rebuilding in D.C.

The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington D.C., named after J. Edgar Hoover.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump scrapped a long-delayed plan to build a new FBI headquarters outside of Washington D.C. in favor of rebuilding at the current site.

Trump’s proposal calls for more than $2 billion for the building project, which must be approved by Congress.

The FBI submitted a report to the Senate on a “nationally focused consolidation strategy for FBI headquarters,” which recommends a new building on the site of the current one, which has become cramped and outdated

“The FBI believes this proposed consolidation strategy enhances mission resiliency, continuity of operations, and will provide the Bureau with the agility necessary to meet future needs,” the agency said.

The funding request is tucked inside the president’s 218 infrastructure plan.

BuzzFeed Hires Former Top FBI Official to Track Down Authenticity of So-Called Steele Dossier

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

BuzzFeed has hired a former top FBI and White House cybersecurity expert to lead a team trying to verify parts of the controversial, disputed Steele dossier that suggested Russia had compromising information on President Trump.

Anthony Ferrante, who now works at FTI Consulting, a Washington-based advisory firm, has worked on the investigation for about six months, traveling around the globe to obtain more information on the veracity of the dossier, Foreign Policy reports.

BuzzFeed was the first news organization to publish the dossier, which alleged there were ties between Trump and Russia.

The story prompted a lawsuit against BuzzFeed, which is scurrying to defend the report, which was funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Trump dismissed the dossier as fiction, suggesting it’s another example of federal law enforcement’s campaign to bring down the president.

Sessions Lashes Out at GOP Senator Over Marijuana Policy Dispute

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

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has compared marijuana to heroin, blamed pot for spikes in violence and declared that “good people don’t smoke it,” lashed out at a senator from Colorado over a controversial pot policy.

“Too often, we’ve seen bad judgements, even politics enter into the work that we do,” Sessions said in a speech at a National Sheriffs’ Association meeting, according to Forbes. “We’re trying to confirm a number of important component heads at the Department of Justice.  It’s just getting to be frustrating, I’ve gotta tell you. Our nominee to the National Security Division — the anti-terrorism division — was approved unanimously in the committee. But because right now one senator’s concerns over unrelated issues — like reversing federal law against marijuana — we can’t even get a vote.”

Sessions was referring to Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who has prevented the attorney general’s Justice Department nominees from being confirmed as part of a protest over Sessions’ decision to revoke an Obama-era policy that encouraged federal prosecutors to respect state laws on marijuana. Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level because the government stopped funding research to determine whether cannabis has medicinal benefits. 

Gardner said he voted to confirm Sessions’ nomination as attorney general because the former senator pledged not to make marijuana a major issue for the Justice Department.

“I have not changed my decision to hold these nominations until we have a commitment that lives up to what I believe was given to me prior to the confirmation,” Gardner said.

Other Stories of Interest

Top DOJ Official Steps Down to Avoid Prospect of Overseeing Special Counsel Probe

Rachel Brand is stepping down as third in command.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Fearing she would be tapped to oversee the special counsel investigation of Donald Trump and Russia, the Justice Department’s third in command decided to step down and avoid the president’s escalating attacks on the DOJ and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, who is taking a job as an executive at Walmart, was already frustrated with mounting, unfilled vacancies under the Trump administration, according to multiple people close to Brand, NBC News reports

Since Brand was next in line to oversee the widening special investigation, she became increasingly worried when President Trump began publicly criticizing the DOJ’s second in command, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

In May, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Kremlin had any ties with Trump’s campaign. Since then, Rosenstein has been the target of Trump’s relentless criticism in what has become a campaign to undermine confidence in the department overseeing the investigation.

While announcing her departure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation, called Brand a “lawyer’s lawyer.”

Brand said in a statement, “I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here.”

Fiancé Still Awaits Answers in Border Patrol Agent’s Mysterious Death

Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez was found dead at the bottom of a ravine in west Texas.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The man Angela Ochoa was about to marry was unconscious in an El Paso hospital bed, riddled with cuts and bruises.

Her fiancé Rogelio Martinez had been working a late shift as a Border Patrol agent about 120 miles east of their home in El Paso. That’s all she knew because no one at the hospital would talk to her about had happened.

Later that day, Martinez died, and still Ochoa was given no information about on what caused the fatal injuries.   

“We were just hoping we would have answers,” Ochoa told the El Paso Times

The next day, President Trump seemed to have answers that Ochoa didn’t.

“Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt,” Trump tweeted. “We will see out and bring justice to those responsible. We will, and must, build the wall.”

But justice never came, and in the next couple of days, a team of local and federal law enforcement officers cast doubt on Trump’s tweet.

Nearly three months laster,  following more than 650 interviews, Ochoa was given an autopsy report last week that indicated there was no evidence of a  “scuffle, altercation or attack.” 

According to the autopsy, Martinez died of “blunt force trauma” to his head caused by an “undetermined manner of death.”

Now all Ochoa wants are answers. She’s frustrated and angry.

Federal officials said they are still investigating the case and believe Martinez may have been killed in a car crash.

Martinez and his partner Stephen “Michael” Garland were responding to unknown activity on the night of Nov. 18 near Van Horn, a Texas town near the Mexico border and about 110 miles southeast of El Paso. Garland was seriously injured but has no memory of what happened. According to the FBI, Garland told a dispatcher, “We ran into a culvert.”

Garland was seriously injured and has no memory of what happened.

Ochoa said Martinez “had a big heart.”

He really enjoyed spending time with the kids they would catch … kids that lived the hard life outside of this country. He enjoyed getting to know them,” she added.

Watergate Reporter Bernstein: No Modern President Has Lied As Often As Trump

Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein on CNN.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who helped expose the Watergate scandal under President Nixon, is skeptical that Donald Trump will agree to an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller because of the president’s “compulsive, continual lying.”

“I think many of us will believe it when we see him sit down with Mueller. Look, we have no reason to believe almost anything that [Trump] says. What is so extraordinary about him and his presidency is the incessant, compulsive, continual lying,” Bernstein said on CNN

“We’ve never had a president who lies like this, certainly in the modern era. Even Nixon,” he added.

Bernstein’s comments follow news that Mueller, who is investigating Trump, his campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, wants a sit-down interview with Trump, who boasted two weeks ago that he has nothing to hide and will answer questions under oath.

But White House officials, including his attorneys, are urging the president to avoid the interview because they fear he will lie and be charged with perjury.

Trump has not yet made a final decision on the interview, which has not been scheduled yet.

Congressional Democrats to Meet with FBI Today Over Rebuttal Memo

Rep. Adam Schiff.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Democrats are refusing to give up on their fight to publicly release a classified report that rebuts a much-disputed, Republican-drafted memo alleging the FBI and Justice Department had abused their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign aide.

Today, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which drafted the report, said the panel is meeting with the FBI to hear its concerns about releasing the 10-page document and its advice on passages to redact.

“We’re going to sit down with the FBI and go through any concerns that they have,” Schiff said in a CBS interview. “And any legitimate concerns over sources and methods, we will redact.”

Trump insists he declined to release the report because it would “create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests.”

Schiff countered that Trump blocked the memo because it “undermines his claim of vindication” from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation that has evolved to include claims that the president obstructed justice by trying to interfere with the probe.

Schiff said the Democratic memo, which draws its information from classified reports, defended the surveillance request, saying investigators “followed all of the correct procedures.”

Under obscure committee rules, Democrats have three options: resubmit the document after the FBI’s concerns are addressed, urge the Republican-controlled House to override Trump’s refusal to publicize the report or let the issue go.