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Archive for February, 2018

As Trump Escalates ‘Witch Hunt’ Rhetoric, No. 3 at Justice Department Steps Down

Rachel Brand is stepping down as third in command.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Rachel L. Brand, the third in command at the Justice Department and the first woman to serve as associate attorney general, plans to step down after nine months on the job as President Trump and his allies escalate their criticism of the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.

Brand was in the difficult position of being next in line for deputy attorney general, a post held by Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Trump and Russia investigation. Rosenstein has been a frequent target of attacks by the president and his allies because he is overseeing what Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.”

Democrats and others who support the investigation are worried Rosenstein will be replaced with a Trump ally who is willing to fire Mueller.

Brand, worked in appointed posts in the past three presidential administrations, will soon begin working in a top level position at Wal-Mart, the New York Times reports

Trump’s Bold Memo Snub Risks High-Stakes Standoff with Dems, Feds,

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump on Friday blocked the release of a classified, Democratic memo that counters a much-disputed, GOP-drafted document alleging the FBI and Justice Department had abused their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign aide.

White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote in a statement released Friday night that the Democratic memo would “create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests.”

Trump was “inclined to declassify” the memo, McGahn suggested, but not until sensitive passages were omitted.

Trump’s bold, contentious decision to block the rebuttal one week after cheerfully releasing the GOP memo sets the stage for a potentially volatile, high-stakes standoff that could have a lasting impact on the presidency, federal law enforcement and Americans’ faith in their leaders and institutions

Under an obscure rule, the House Intelligence Committee, which unanimously voted in favor of publicly disclosing the rebuttal on Monday, has the option of calling for a full House vote to override the decision.

It’s not yet clear whether enough Republicans would vote in favor of the memo’s release. Whatever the case, Trump, who declared last weekend that the GOP memo “totally vindicates” him, is losing support from his own party as he elevates the rhetoric against the FBI and DOJ, which are overseeing the special counsel investigation into Russia and Trump’s actions before and after he became president. 

Among the Republicans who publicly criticized the president for refusing to release the rebuttal was Justin Amash, of Michigan, who said the public has a right to examine both documents and draw their own conclusions.

I’ve read both memos,” Amash tweeted. “Neither one endangers national security. The American people deserve the opportunity to read both memos.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. D-Calif., said Trump’s refusal to release the Democrats’ memo indicates he “has something to hide.”

“The President’s decision to block the Democratic memo from release is part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the President,” she added. “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., accused Trump of obstructing justice by releasing one document and refusing to disclose another.

“Refusal to release Democratic response to #NunesMemo – evidence of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump happening in real time,” Blumenthal tweeted.

On Saturday, Trump defended his decision on the rebuttal, saying the memo is “very political” and “long.”

President Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning to defend his decision not to declassify a memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee in response to a GOP memo the president declassified for release last week. He called the Democrats’ memo “very political” and “long.” It is 10 pages, while the GOP memo is four pages.

Mr Trump also claimed Democrats knew their memo could not be released in its current form because it would reveal “sources and methods,” forcing the White House not to support its release.

Weekend Series on Crime History: Alan Dorfman, the Mafia’s Banker

How Special Counsel Probe of Russia Quickly to Trump’s Campaign, Administration

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

The special counsel investigation that began over growing evidence that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election quickly expanded to Donald Trump’s campaign and administration officials following mounting allegations of wrongdoing.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed by Trump’s Justice Department in May, soon after the president fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who told congressional committees that his termination was an act of retaliation for refusing Tump’s orders to end an investigation into a former campaign and administration official, Michael Flynn.

About a month after taking over the potentially landmark case, Mueller requested documents from the General Services Administration (GSA), which plays a key role during presidential transitions, CNN reports, citing newly released email records. 

Months before Mueller’s appointment, the bureau’s investigation appeared to be limited to Russia’s campaign to undermine the 2016 presidential election, according to newly released documents, which include emails between the FBI and GSA. The probe quickly expanded to encompass the president’s campaign and his new administration’s ties to Russa, resulting so far with the indictments of four former Trump aides.

“As a follow up to our request, we thought it best to send GSA an official preservation letter. Your staff has been extraordinarily responsive and we appreciate their patience with our (my) questions,” the agent wrote, according to the email obtained by CNN. GSA redacted the name of the FBI agent who sent the email.

The special counsel team demanded the preservation of communications, records and electronics involving 13 of Trump’s campaign officials, marking a significant development in the probe.

Unable to fire Mueller, Trump launched a smear campaign against the FBI and DOJ. alleging widespread anti-Trump sentiment in the top law enforcement agencies, which traditionally have been considered widely Republican.

Now that the special counsel investigation has reached the front steps of the White House, following increasing allegations that the president obstructed justice by trying to yield his influence to disrupt a probe that could determine Trump’s fate as president.

George W. Bush: ‘There’s pretty clear evidence’ That Russia Interfered in 2016 Election

Former President George W. Bush

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

Former President George W. Bush said Thursday “there’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled” in the 2016 presidential election, an apparent rebuke of President Trump and his refusal to accept the findings of his intelligence agencies.

“Whether [Russia] affected the outcome is another question,” Bush said at a conference in Abu Dhabi, the USA Today reported. “It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.”

While the former president never mentioned Trump by name, Bush pointedly and very publicly countered the president as he and his allies continue to attack the credibility of the FBI and Justice Department, the two departments overseeing the special counsel investigation into Russia’s campaign to undermine the presidential election.  

The White House didn’t immediately respond to Bush’s statements.

FBI Found No Evidence That Border Patrol Agent Was Murdered

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

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An exhaustive investigation into the mysterious death of a Border Patrol agent in West Texas in November uncovered no evidence of a “scuffle, altercation or attack,” countering hasty claims by President Trump and other conservatives that blamed rock-throwing immigrants.

An autopsy concluded Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez died of “blunt force trauma” to his head caused by an “undetermined manner of death.”

“To date none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack on November 18, 2017,” said the release from the El Paso office of Emmerson Buie, a special agent in charge.

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.”

Shortly after the incident, President Trump tweeted, “Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt. We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the incident “a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses.” Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the agents’ union, hastily concluded the agents were brutally beaten with rocks.

Russian Hackers Penetrated U.S. Election Systems in Coordinated Attacks Targeting 21 States

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

A brazen Russian campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election included coordinated cyber attacks targeting the election system in 21 states  and successfully penetrated, some of which were successfully penetrated

Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, told NBC News that Russian hackers gained access to voter registration rolls in several U.S. states ahead of the election. 

Manfra declined to identify the targeted states and said she’s forbidden from providing more details because a lot of the information is classified.

”We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.”

Jeh Johnson, who served as DHS secretary during the Trump campaign, said “2016 was a wake-up call and now it’s incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again.”

But Johnson said, many of the states have failed to take up no serious measures “to actually harden their cybersecurity.

Bannon Agrees to Mueller Interview, But May Face Contempt for Defying Congressional Subpoena

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is facing threats of contempt charges for defying a subpoena ordering him to testify before a House committee’s investigation of President Trump and Russia, plans to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller next week and answer all of his questions.

The former Breitbart News chief agreed last week to meet with Robert Mueller’s team and fully cooperate as part of a deal to avoid testifying before a grand jury.

But Bannon continues to defy a subpoena compelling him to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, prompting U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff on Tuesday to pledge to “enforce the subpoena on Bannon” by beginning contempt proceedings, The Hill reports

“Testifying before the special counsel does not obviate Mr. Bannon’s obligations under the subpoena issued by the committee. Should Bannon maintain his refusal to return and testify fully to all questions, the committee should begin contempt proceedings to compel his testimony,” Schiff said in a statement.

Schiff said Bannon’s attorney informed the committee that his client does not plan to testify during a committee hearing next week.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski also plans to skip out on the hearing.

“Neither Bannon nor Lewandowski have articulated legitimate grounds for refusing to appear and answer questions before Congress, and we fully expect them to return,” Schiff said.

Bannon, who resigned in August, is considered a key witness in the investigation because he was a close confident of Trump and played key roles in both the campaign and the presidential administration.

In an explosive book published last month, Bannon blasted the campaign’s handling of Russia and suggested the Mueller investigation will focus on money laundering. He also said it was “treasonous” for some in the Trump campaign, including the president’s son, to meet with a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016.