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Archive for May, 2018

Matthew Miller: Rod Rosenstein’s Decision Shows ‘The System is Failing’

Matthew Miller was director of the Justice Department’s public affairs office from 2009 to 2011.

By Matthew Miller
For the Washington Post

Rod Rosenstein

President Trump on Sunday launched his most direct attack on the Justice Department’s independence since he fired FBI Director James B. Comey, taking to Twitter to “hereby demand” that it open a counter-investigation of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump’s demand crossed every institutional norm that has long safeguarded the Justice Department’s independence. The president was calling for an investigation into both political opponents from the former administration and career law enforcement agents, without evidence of wrongdoing, for the obvious purpose of undermining a criminal probe into his own conduct and that of his associates. Trump was clearly testing the limits of the system that constrains presidential interference with the Justice Department. And the response so far — including Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s decision to refer the matter to the department’s inspector general — shows that the system is failing.

There is no legitimate justification for asking the inspector general to investigate a hyped-up claim that the FBI inappropriately infiltrated the Trump campaign. Just as in February there was no legitimate justification for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in response to claims by House Republicans, asking the inspector general to investigate alleged — and debunked — abuses by the department in securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page.

To read the full column click here.

Indicted FBI Agent Has Exhausted Personal Savings For Forensic Experts in Oregon Case

Robert “LeVoy” Tinicum

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Indicted FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita has exhausted his personal savings to pay for his own forensic experts and has sought some federal funds to cover additional expenses, his attorney said in court, The Oregonian newspaper reports.

On Monday, Astarita sat in a U.S. District Court hearing in Portland listening to government experts testify how they identified him as the one who fired twice at the truck of Oregon occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum and then tried to cover it up.

Attorneys for Astarita, who is charged with repeatedly lying to state and federal investigators about firing two shots at  Tinicum’s truck in 2016, claim the government has no concrete evidence and instead is relying on questionable “so-called experts.”

One of his defense attorneys, Washington, D.C.-based lawyer Robert Cary, argued that the FBI’s fuzzy aerial video proves nothing and that the government is using a faulty synchronization of videos created by someone who lacks expertise, The Oregonian reports.

The hearing is expected to last multiple days.

 

Late Night Host Seth Meyers Weighs in on Trump’s Spy Allegations, Don Jr.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Some of the late night comics have not been kind to President Donald Trump. That certainly includes Seth Meyers, who weighs in on the president’s claims about an FBI spy in the 2016 campaign, his Twitter rants and Donald Trump Jr.’s activity.

Stefan A. Halper, the FBI Source at the Center of a Controversy

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s no longer a secret: Stefan A. Halper is the FBI source who assisted the Russia investigation, the Washington Post reports.  He’s at the center of a standoff between congressional Republicans and the Justice Department.

The Post describes him as a well-connected veteran of past GOP administrations who convened senior intelligence officials for seminars at the University of Cambridge in England. The Post goes on to write:

In the summer and fall of 2016, Halper, then an emeritus professor at Cambridge, contacted three Trump campaign advisers for brief talks and meetings that largely centered on foreign policy, The Washington Post reported last week.

At some point that year, he began working as a secret informant for the FBI as it investigated Russia’s interference in the campaign, according to multiple people familiar with his activities.

Border Patrol Agent in Montana Admits He Asked For ID Because Women Were Speaking Spanish

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two U.S. citizens were stopped and questioned by a Border Patrol agent last week at a northern Montana gas station in the town of Havre because they were speaking Spanish, KRTV reports.

Ana Suda, a native of Texas who lives in Havre,  stopped with a friend at a Town Pump store to buy milk and eggs. They were speaking Spanish when a Border Patrol agent asked them for their documents, the station reports.

Suda said she paid for her items, gave the agent her identification and started recording video of the incident in the parking lot.

When Suda asked why he wanted to see their identification, the agent said, “Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here and saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.”

James Clapper: Trump Leading a ‘Very Disturbing Assault on Independence of the Department of Justice’

James Clapper on CNN

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Echoing what former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said the other day, ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper tells CNN Monday that President Donald Trump is  leading “a very disturbing assault on the independence of the Department of Justice.”

“When the President — this president or any president — tries to use the Department of Justice as kind of a private investigatory body, that’s not good for the country,” Clapper told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Clapper was reacting to Trump’s demand over the weekend that the Justice Department “look into” whether the FBI or Justice Department planted a spy in his presidential campaign following reports that the bureau dispatched a confidential source to speak with some campaign aides about possible ties to Russia.

Clapper tells CNN the FBI’s use of confidential informants is a  “a legitimate activity, an important one, on the part of the FBI. They use informants and have strict rules and protocols on this.”

ATF Helping Philly Police Analyze Ballistic Evidence to Help Solve Crimes

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

For decades, the Philadelphia Police Department only analyzed ballistic evidence needed for trials. Other shell casings collected at crime scenes sat in evidence lockers across the city, reports NBC 10 in Philly.

Two years ago, the department collaborated with ATF to collect and analyze all casing. Now in Philly investigators analyze roughly 65,000 bullets and shell casings every year.

Authorities says it has paid off and helped solve crime.

Justice Department Directs IG to Investigate Trump’s Claim of FBI Spying on HIs Campaign

President Trump, via White House

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Here’s the latest political storm in Washington.

The Justice Department on Monday directed, a the behest of President Donald Trump, the Inspector General to probe the president’s allegation that his campaign had been “infiltrated or surveilled” by the FBI, NBC News reports.

“The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

As always, the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct,” she added.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein weighed in saying “if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

While some see this as legitimate, others see it as a tactic by the Trump camp to try to discredit the Robert Mueller investigation.