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Archive for March, 2018

Records Reveal Geek Squads’ Relationship with FBI Is Deeper Than Previously Reported

Best Buy, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI has paid Best Buy’s Geek Squad employees to act as informants for a decade, much longer than previously reported.

Records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveal that the FBI has been working with Geek Squad employees since at least 2008. 

The FBI declined to say whether it has similar relationship with other electronics repair companies.

The records raise serious questions about whether the relationship between the bureau and Geek Squad employees violate the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures.

At issue is whether the FBI’s payments to the employees for turning over child pornography prompted Geek Squad workers to search computers beyond what was required to make repairs.

The bureau paid at least “eight FBI informants at Geek Squad City” between $500 and $1,000 each for helping disclose child pornography.

Obstruction Case Against Trump Strengthens After He Asked Witnesses about Interviews

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump questioned two key witnesses in the special counsel probe about discussions they had with investigators, ignoring his attorneys’ advice to avoid conversations that could be considered obstruction of justice.

The New York Times reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is aware of the conversations as his team investigates growing evidence that Trump interfered in the  Russia probe.

One of those conversations was with White House counsel Don McGhan, whom Trump reportedly urged to issue a statement denying the president had asked him to  order Mueller’s dismissal. But McGhan pressed back and reminded Trump that he had asked him to order Mueller’s termination.

In another conversation, Trump grilled his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, about his interview with Mueller’s team.

Those conversations were revealed to Mueller in interviews with witnesses who considered the interactions as troublesome.

The interactions are likely to be used as further evidence that the president obstructed justice – an allegation first leveled against Trump after he fired then-FBI Director James Comey.

Mueller Probes Growing Evidence of Back-Channel Between Trump, Russia

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Special counsel Robert Mueller is honing in on a secret meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian official shortly before the president’s inauguration in what increasingly looks like an effort to create a back-channel between the Kremlin and the incoming White House administration, according to a new report.

The meeting on a small island off the eastern coast of Africa was between Erik Prince, the founder of the private military contractor Blackwater USA, and an official with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Washington Post reports.

The information came from a witness who told Mueller’s team that the meeting was intended to establish future relations between Washington and Moscow.

In testimony before Congress, Prince, who’s the younger brother of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, denied attending the meeting as a representative of the Trump administration, insisting the meet-up was part of his role as a businessman.

George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman, helped organize the meeting and shared that information during testimony before a grand jury gathering evidence as part of Mueller’s probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump continues to deny ties to the Kremlin, suggesting that allegations of collisions are a “hoax” and “witch hunt” perpetuated by Democrats and others who want to bring the president down.

Republicans Call for New Special Counsel to Probe FBI’s Surveillance of Trump Aide

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in November 2017.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Two prominent House Republicans are urging Attorney General Sessions to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether the FBI improperly obtained a warrant to spy on former Trump aide Carter Page.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy pressured Sessions in a letter to appoint a special counsel to review Republican allegations that the FBI misled a federal judge to obtain a surveillance warrant for Page, a suspected Russian agent.

“We think this is a very serious matter regarding conduct by the FBI and by some in the Department of Justice that calls for the appointment of a special counsel who will have subpoena and prosecutorial powers,” Goodlatte told reporters in his Capitol office, Politico reports.

Democrats blasted the request as a diversion.

“These are blatant attempts to distract from and undermine the credibility of Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. “Where there is no crime, there is no criminal investigation for a second special counsel to manage.”

The House Intelligence Committee released a confidential, Republican-drafted memo last month, alleging abuse by the FBI. Democrats later disclosed a rebuttal memo, saying the bureau acted appropriately.

Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Broadens to Influence-Peddling by Foreign Governments

Special counsel Robert Mueller. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates with close ties to various associates of President Trump, is cooperating with prosecutors and testified before a grand jury last week as part of the evolving special counsel investigation of Russia’s role in the  2016 presidential election.

Nadar’s cooperation comes at a critical time for special counsel Robert Mueller, who has expanded his investigation beyond Russia’s election interference and now appears to be examining whether foreign governments funneled money to the Trump campaign to influence the president’s policies, the New York Times reports. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/06/us/politics/george-nader-special-counsel-mueller-cooperating-seychelles.html

Nader, a frequent White House visitor and a Lebanese-American businessman who served as an adviser to the UAE’s ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, was stopped and questioned by FBI investigators after landing at Washington Dulles International Airport in January. Nader was in the U.S. to meet with Trump and his associates as part of a celebration of the president’s first year in office at Mars-a-Lago, the president’s Florida getaway estate.

Mueller’s team has questioned potential witnesses about allegations that Nader helped funnel money from the UAE to Trump’s presidential campaign to buy political influence. Foreign entities are barred from making donations to political candidates in the U.S.

Lawmakers: FBI Lacks Strategy to Handle Tips After Blunder over Fla. School Shooter

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Acting FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich acknowledged to members of Congress on Tuesday that the bureau failed to properly follow up on two warning calls about the former student who gunned down 17 students and teachers at a Florida school on Valentine’s Day.

Lawmakers left the private briefing feeling frustrated and disappointed, saying the bureau’s response offered little to no new information, and the FBI still has no strategy or plan to correct future mistakes.

Nikolas Cruz via instagram

The meeting “raised more questions than it answered,” U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., tweeted after the closed-door briefing in Washington. “We should have more answers 20 days after the shooting. This was clearly a major failure and Americans deserve swift accountability and reform.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said the lack 0f new information makes it difficult for lawmakers to understand what went wrong and how the bureau could avoid similar blunders.

“A very specific lead was given to the FBI, and they just botched it,” Krishnamoorthi said upon leaving the meeting, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. “Right now we have to find out why that happened. Most important for me is: How do we prevent this from happening again, and how do we actively figure out who is on the verge of committing a similar school shooting or any other act of terror like this?”

The first tip came in September from a Mississippi man, who alerted the FBI to a YouTube user named “nikolas cruz” – the same name as the school shooter. The tipster boasted, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

In early January, a caller who said he was close to Cruz warned that “He’s going to explode” and appeared on the verge of violence.

The FBI never forwarded the information to the FBI’s Miami field office, so the tip was never investigated.

Some Republicans are calling for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray, while some Democrats say such a move would be premature.

Border Patrol Agent Indicted for Allegedly Lying about Ties to Mexican Drug Traffickers

Border marker, via Border Patrol.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A Border Patrol agent accused of lying twice about his ties to two Mexican drug traffickers has been indicted by a San Diego federal grand jury.

The indictment alleges Agent Ramon Delgado lied about his relationships with drug traffickers during an interview and in his pre-employment background questionnaire, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Delgado, 44, faces up to five years in prison on a count of making false statements to the federal government.

The investigation began following suspicions that Delgado assisted a drug trafficking organization that smuggled heron, meth and cocaine into the U.S. According to prosecutors, Delgado maintained a close relationship with the two drug traffickers while working for Border Patrol.

Former Trump Aide Changes Mind After Defiantly Daring Mueller to Jail Him

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Sam Nunberg, who helped launch Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015, embarked on a surreal, daylong media blitz in which he defiantly dared special counsel Robert Mueller to arrest him, called the president “stupid” and suggested Trump colluded with Russia to undermine the 2016 election.

But after a string of interviews in which he denigrated Trump, called the Russia investigation “a witch hunt” and pledged to ignore a subpoena to appear before a grand jury Friday, Nunberg told the Associated Press that he likely would comply.

Nunberg’s tirade shocked lawmakers and even prompted a CNN reporter to ask if was drunk.

At times erratic, angry and confrontational, Nunberg disclosed he was interviewed by Mueller’s team, which is investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to wage a propaganda campaign against his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Nunberg, who was fired from the campaign in August 2015 over racially insensitive Facebook posts, said that it was unfair he was ordered to turn over emails he exchanged with a host of former top campaign officials, saying it would take dozens of hours.

“I think it would be really, really funny if they wanted to arrest me because I don’t want to spend 80 hours going over emails,” he told MSNBC.

His demeanor and message dramatically changed later in the day, telling an AP reporter that he’s willing to comply but believes the scope of the investigation is too wide-ranging.

A failure to cooperate with a subpoena can result in charges of contempt of court and obstruction of justice.

It’s unclear why Nunberg so quickly changed his mind.