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Archive for August, 2018

Amy Hess, Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Louisville Division, Gets Promoted to Headquarters

FBI Special Agent Amy Hess has been promoted to executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch at the bureau’s headquarters.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Amy Hess, who served as special agent in charge of the FBI’s Louisville Division for the past two years, is taking a job at FBI headquarters in Washington D.C., making her one of the highest-ranking women in the bureau.

Hess will serve as executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, overseeing the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, Critical Incident Response Group, Cyber Division, International Operations Division and Victim Services Division, the bureau wrote in a news release.

Hess joined the bureau in 1991, joining the Kansas City field office. From there, she served a variety of important roles, from assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Office and on-scene commander of the FBI’s counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan to chief of staff in the National Security Branch to special agent charge of the Memphis Field office.

The FBI has yet to name Hess’ replacement.

Congressman Goodlatte’s Son Lambasts Father over Strzok Firing, Says He’s ‘Deeply Embarrassed’

Rep. Bob Goodlatte

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The son of an influential Republican congressman excoriated his father after news broke about the FBI’s firing of Peter Stzrok, the veteran agent who had played a central role in the investigation of Russia.

Bobby Goodlatte tweeted that he was “deeply embarrassed” that “Strzok’s career was ruined by” Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s “political grandstanding.”

During a congressional hearing, the 13-term congressman took Strzok to task over  disparaging text messages that the FBI agent wrote about Trump during the election.

The younger Goodlatte on Sunday also began raising money for the Democrat who’s running in his father’s congressional district. Goodlatte is retiring.

Manafort to Kusher: Trump ‘Should’ Hire Banker Who Approved Suspicious $16M Loan

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort emailed the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner weeks after the 2016 election in an attempt to secure a top job for a Chicago banker who is at the center of Manafort’s fraud trial.

Manafort wrote that Stephen Calk, chief executive officer of the Federal Savings Bank, “should be part of the Trump Administration” and that Calk’s “preference” was to be secretary of the Army.

Kushner, who played an integral role during the transition, responded in no time.

“On it!” Kushner responded to the Nov. 30, 2016 email.

Read the email here.

Calk approved $16 million in loans to Manafort, even though the bank was warned earlier that Manafort had falsely overstated his finances. 

Calk was active supporter of campaign since April,” Manafort wrote in the email. “HE served on the National Economic Policy Advisory Committee for Trump campaign and has made over 40 television interviews during the course of the General Election. His background is strong in defense issues, management and finance. His preference is Secretary of the Army.”

Manafort listed “alternative positions” for Calk: Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and Deputy Secretary of Commerce.

Calk never got the job.

A week after the election, Calk pitched himself for the job in a memo entitled,  “Qualification Memorandum on Behalf of Stephen M. Calk Articulating His Qualifications to Serve as the 22nd Secretary of the Army.”

“Mr. Calk willingly risked his national professional and personal reputation as an active, vocal, early supporter of President-Elect Trump,” Calk wrote in the memo.

Prosecutors rested their case this week against Manafort, who could spend the rest of his life in prison if he’s found guilty of numerous bank and tax fraud charges.

Venezuelan President Who Accuses U.S. of Overthrow Attempts Seeks Help from FBI

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Venezuelan president who routinely suspects the U.S. is trying to overthrow him is now turning to America – more specifically, the FBI – for help investigating an assassination attempt.

President Nicolás Maduro said he believes the suspects led to Floria, Peru and Columbia, BBC reports

The U.S. said it would cooperate but has yet to indicate whether the FBI would pay a visit with a country that has a tense relationship.

The U.S. increased sanctions on Venezuela after accusing the country of rigging the  presidential election so Maduro would win a second term.

On Saturday, the president shocked many by saying he would work with the U.S. if it agreed to help track down the would-be assassins.

“If the US government offered, or confirmed its offer, of FBI cooperation to investigate, I would accept it,” he said.

Maduro alleges the mastermind behind the attack came from “terrorist” cells in Florida.

Two drones laden with explosives detonated near where the president was delivering a speech on Aug. 4.

The president was unscathed, but seven soldiers were injured.

Oregon Jury Acquits FBI Agent of Lying About Firing Weapon in Death of Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot and killed by police during the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal prosecutors took a big hit on Friday in a Portland, Ore., courtroom.

A federal jury found FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita not guilty after about six hours of deliberations over two days. He was accused of lying to conceal that he fired two shots at the truck of refuge occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum in January 2016.

Astarita, 41, a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, looked straight ahead but squeezed the hands of defense lawyers Robert Cary and Meghan Ferguson sitting on either side of him as the court clerk read the verdicts about 2:45 p.m., according to a report in The Oregonian newspaper.

Once the jury left, the attorneys hugged Astarita.

A 37-year-old married father of two from a Portland suburb who sat the jury told Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian:

“I feel it’s possible someone is lying. I don’t know which side, or who, or it could be both. There’s still two unattributed shots, and I feel like we’re never going to know for sure who took them.”

He also said he “felt like a pendulum going back and forth during the trial — from ‘oh man, he definitely did it’ and then ‘well, maybe, he didn’t.”’

 

FBI Fires Strzok over Anti-Trump Texts During 2016 Election

Peter Strzok testifying on The Hill.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI has fired Peter Strzok for sending anti-Trump text messages to his lover during the presidential campaign.

Strzok attorney Aitan Goelman confirmed FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowditch ordered the termination Friday, overruling an internal disciplinary review that had recommended Strzok be demoted and suspended for 60 days.

“The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok is not only a departure from typical Bureau practice, but also contradicts Director Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the FBI intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters,” Goelman said, according to Politico.

The FBI declined numerous news agencies’ requests for a comment.

Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau, was among the lead investigators of Russian interference during the 2016 election until the anti-Trump text messages were discovered by a Justice Department inspector general.

Special counsel Robert Mueller immediately removed Strzok from the team investigating Russia.

The politically charged texts were amplified by the president and his supporters as evidence that the investigation into Trump and his campaign was biased.

The texts were sent to an FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, who also was part of Mueller’s team.

Page and Strzok were having an affair, and Trump called the pair “FBI lovers.”

Airport Worker Who Crashed Stolen Plane Asked, ‘Can This Thing Do a Back Flip?’

Via YouTube video taken by a resident near the accident scene.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

FBI agents have recovered the flight data recorder from a plane that was stolen and crashed by a 29-year-old airport worker whose only training appears to be video games.

Authorities are trying to determine whether the crash in which Richard Russell died was deliberate or accidental.

The rogue Horizon aircraft took off Friday evening after Russell stole the twin-engine turboprop from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and flew it in circles above the Pugent Sound in Washington before crashing in a wooded area near the island.

CNBC reports that it’s unclear whether Russell had any formal training, but Horizon Air CEO Gary Beck said he did not appear to have a pilot’s license. 

A worker on the grounds crew told air traffic control that Russell played video games.

“There were some maneuvers that were done that were incredible maneuvers,” Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden said. “I don’t know how he achieved the experience that he did.”

Beck emphasized that “commercial aircraft are complex machines” that are not easy to fly.

“I wasn’t really planning on landing it,” Russell told air traffic controllers and a pilot, according to a recording of the incident.

 “I’ve played video games before and I know what I’m doing a little bit,” adding he knew how to “put landing gear down.”

Russell appeared to be having fun, asking, “Pilot guy, can this thing do a back flip, you think?”

The FBI, which also recovered parts of the cockpit voice recorder from the plane, said human remains were found at the crash site.

“I got a lot of people that care about me and it’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them,” Russell is heard saying before the recording ends. He called himself “just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess, never really knew it until now.”

Trump Threatens to ‘Take Action’ Against FBI, Heightens Campaign to Discredit Russia Probe

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump lashed out at the FBI, Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a series of tweets over the weekend.

As the showdown continues between the president and Robert Mueller over an interview, Trump is pumping up his rhetoric and threats against the groups that are overseeing the investigation of Russia’s meddling.

“Our A.G. is scared stiff and Missing in Action. It is all starting to be revealed – not pretty. IG Report soon? Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

Trump has been furious with Sessions since he recused himself from the Russia investigation, which continues to pick up steam.

In another tweet, Trump threatened “to get involved” with a public records request involving his former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

“Why isn’t the FBI giving Andrew McCabe text messages to Judicial Watch or appropriate governmental authorities. FBI said they won’t give up even one (I may have to get involved, DO NOT DESTROY). What are they hiding?”

The tweets are part of a heightened campaign to sow doubts about the credibility of federal authorities involved in the investigation, which is looking into whether the president obstructed justice or his campaign colluded with Russia.