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Archive for March, 2018

FBI’s McCabe Makes Final Pitch Against Termination Days Before Planned Retirement

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifies before Congress.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe met with senior Justice Department officials on Thursday to make a final pitch for why he should not be fired just days before he has been planning to retire with full retirement benefits.

The decision whether to fire McCabe ahead of his planned Sunday retirement ultimately belongs to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Disciplinary officials at the FBI are recommending McCabe’s termination, which would jeopardize pension benefits that he has been accumulating since joining the bureau in 1996.

A yet-to-be-released inspector general report claims McCabe leaked records to a Wall Street Journal reporter to raise questions about the handling of the Clinton Foundation investigation. He’s also accused of misleading investigators with the inspect general’s office about the leak.

McCabe has drawn frequent criticism from Trump, who claims the one-time acting FBI director was part of a “witch hunt” to remove the president from office.

McCabe has denied any wrongdoing and spent several hours making the case to top DOJ officials about why he should not be fired.

GSA to Investigate Trump’s Abrupt Change of Plans for New FBI HQ

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

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The General Services Administration’s inspector general is investigating President Trump’s abrupt change in plans for a new FBI headquarters.

“My office will review GSA’s decision-making process for the revised FBI Headquarters Consolidation project,” GSA Inspector General Carol Ochoa wrote in a letter to Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, on Tuesday. “The scope of our review will include whether the revised plan properly accounts for the full costs and security requirements of the project.”

Connolly, a leading Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, requested the investigation to determine why the president abandoned a decade-long plan to move the headquarters to a consolidated campus in Washington D.C.’s suburbs.

Trump’s new plan calls for demolishing the current headquarters, which is cramped and outdated, and replace it with a new building.

Connolly and other lawmakers said the GSA has failed to give an adequate explanation for the sudden change in plans.

Russian Hackers Accused of Attacking U.S. Power Plants, Other Critical Infrastructure

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Top U.S. intelligence officials have accused Russian hackers of waging a widespread attack against America’s nuclear power system, air transportation facilities, water processing plants and other critical infrastructure components.

The FBI and Homeland Security said the Russian government is behind a multi-stage intrusion campaign” involving cyber attacks designed to compromise the country’s electric grid, as well as “commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors,” according to a report released Thursday.

The new report is alarming because it shows Russia is capable of infiltrating and compromising infrastructure that is critical to millions of Americans. “In some cases, information posted to company websites, especially information that may appear to be innocuous, may contain operationally sensitive information,” the report reads. “As an example, the threat actors downloaded a small photo from a publicly accessible human resources page. The image, when expanded, was a high-resolution photo that displayed control systems equipment models and status information in the background.”

Also on Thursday, the U.S. government announced new sanctions against Russia following the indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign to help get Donald Trump elected.

President Trump’s Business Empire Targeted in Special Counsel Probe of Russian Interference

Trump Tower in New York City.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The special counsel team investigating Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business documents, some of which are related to Russia, the New York Times first reported Thursday.

The subpoena is the first known legal action taken against one of Trump’s businesses as part of a quickly evolving investigation that began with the appointment of Robert Mueller, a former FBI boss, and has so far netted more than 100 combined charges against 19 people and three companies.

The probe now has three major focuses: Did Trump’s campaign collude with Russia to undermine the presidential election? Did the president or his advisers obstruct justice to interfere with the investigation? And did Trump or any of his family members reach international business deals made in exchange for favors from the White House?

The news comes less than a week after Republicans on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee concluded there was no evidence of collusion with Russia, even though lawmakers failed to interview key witnesses who have been charged and are cooperating with Mueller. Trump boasted that the conclusion, made without any feedback from Democrats, was proof he did nothing wrong. 

The Trump Organization said it began cooperating with special counsel in July 2017 and has nothing to hide.

“Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel, and is responding to their requests,” said Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization. “This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”

Trump continues to  denounce the investigation as a fruitless “witch hunt” by top intelligence officials who want him out of the White House.

Manafort Seeks Dismissal of Charges, Arguing Mueller Overstepped His Authority

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is facing up to 305 years in prison, urged a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss the charges against him because they exceed the legal authority of the special counsel appointed to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a motion to dismiss the charges, Manafort’s attorneys argued the alleged crimes predate Manafort’s involvement in the Trump campaign and therefore fall outside of the jurisdiction of special counsel Robert Mueller.

His attorneys contend Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein overstepped his authority by giving Mueller permission to prosecute any unrelated crimes that are discovered during the investigation of Russia.

“It is a blank check the special counsel has cashed, repeatedly,” Manafort’s filing read.

Manafort made a similar argument for a separate batch of charges file against him by the special counsel team.

Unless Manafort strikes a deal with prosecutors, the former high-paid political consultant is on track to become the first person to be tried in connection with Robert Mueller’s investigation

Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates, is among three former Trump aides who have pleaded guilty to assortment of charges and have agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team of prosecutors. Gates, who also served on Trump’s campaign, is expected to provide information about crimes he said he and Manafort committed as business partners.

Gates and Manafort were both charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, tax fraud and money laundering stemming from lobbying and consulting work related to Ukrainian politicians who are strong allies of Russia.

Columnist: Trump’s Pledge to Build 2,000-Mile Border Wall Is Pure Theater’

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s visit to California to inspect prototypes for a border wall was “pure theater” by a “performance artist.”

So wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman, who argues Trump won’t come close to fulfilling his campaign pledge to build an impenetrable, 2,000-mile wall along the border and get Mexico to pay for it.

The length of the wall has already been cut in half – to 1,000 miles with large gaps.

“The cost would be enormous,” Chapman wrote. “An internal report by the Department of Homeland Security put the price at $21.6 billion. A study by the Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee calculaIted it at $70 billion, not counting maintenance.That’s more than $200 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — and zero dollars for every man, woman and child in Mexico.”

Chapman said Trump’s claim that the wall would be “99%” effective “is enough to make a lizard laugh.”

The Congressional Research Service concluded the “primary fence” but in San Diego “by itself, did not have a discernible impact on the influx of unauthorized aliens coming across the border in San Diego.”

The Coast Guard also reported that 95% of drugs smuggled from Mexico to the U.S. come in container ships or other boats. And when there is a fence, drug dealers dig a tunnel to cross.

FBI Officials Recommend Officially Firing Ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifies before Congress.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The FBI, which has taken a beating in the public relations arena in recent times, got some more damaging news on Wednesday.

Officials within the FBI have recommended that the agency’s embattled former deputy director, Andy McCabe, be fired just days before he is set to officially leave government, ABC News reports, citing  a source with knowledge of the recommendation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will make the final decision. McCabe was not a favorite, by any means, of the White House, which could influence Session’s decision.

Trump is not well regarded among a number of FBI agents, and James Comey, who was fired as director, didn’t care for the president while he held the top FBI job.

Sources tell ABC that McCabe never intentionally misled investigators and did his best to accurately address investigators’ questions.

The recommendation from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility came after an internal report by the Justice Department’s inspector general accused the FBI veteran of misleading investigators looking into an array of matters connected to the 2016 presidential campaign, the source said, according to ABC News.

If fired, McCabe worries that he could lose his full pension, the station reports.

In January, FBI Director Christopher Wray pressured McCabe to quit in advance of an inspector general report examining the agency,  CBS News reported.

McCabe is due to retired on March 18.

 

Neighbor Provides Surveillance Video of Third Package Explosion in Austin

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI has surveillance footage of what authorities believe is the third package bomb to explode in Austin, Texas, since March 2.

After the third blast critically injured a 75-year-old woman around noon on Monday, a neighbor turned over surveillance video to the FBI.

Richard Rodriguez, who lives one block from the third package explosion, said he hopes the surveillance will help investigators track down the suspect.

“If it was my grandmother I would want them to help, so that’s why I did it,” Rodriguez told Fox 7. “If it does, that’s great but if not, hopefully it leads to at least some clue…a car or person walking or something. But, I hope they, you know, find somebody because it just wasn’t right.”

Police believe the package was placed on the front doorsteps of the elderly woman’s home. The bomb detonated when she picks it up, causing serious injuries.

Each of the first two package bombs killed the person who tried to open it.

Police believe the same person or people are behind the package attacks.

The FBI and ATF are assisting local police.