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Archive for April, 2019

FBI Arrests Leader of Armed Militia That Was Detaining Undocumented Immigrants

Distant border fence in the desert near El Paso and its Mexican neighbor Juarez.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI on Saturday arrested the leader of an armed militia that was detaining undocumented immigrants at the southern border.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was arrested in New Mexico, where the United Constitutional Patriots is based, on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the New Mexico attorney general, Hector Balderas, announced.

The arrest comes after the group posted controversial images and video of its operations on its Facebook page, showing members detaining immigrants.

“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” Balderas wrote in a statement. “The arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hand of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”

A spokesman for the United Constitutional Patriots claimed responsibility for detaining 5,600 immigrants over the past two months, saying the group’s mission is “to support the Border Patrol.”

But U.S. Customs and Border Protection has urged private citizens not to get involved with detaining immigrants and asked that they instead alert border officials.

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Story of ‘Sammy the Bull’

FBI Believes Russian Hackers Penetrated At Least One Florida County’s Computers

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI concluded Russian hackers breached “at least one” Florida county government as part of an operation to infiltrate the state’s computer systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The findings were revealed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which was released Thursday.

Mueller reported that Russia’s military intelligence agency was able to “gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government.”

Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, or GRU, attempted to breach other counties’ systems in Florda by sending spearphishing emails to more than 120 email accounts operated by Florida county election officials.

“We understand the FBI believes the operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government,” Mueller’s report states.

The report did not indicate whether any of Florida’s election results were compromised. Mueller said the FBI and Homeland Security were investigating the incidents.

Florida is a key swing state in presidential elections.

Mueller Report: Sarah Sanders Admitted She Made Up Claims about FBI Agents

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When Sarah Sanders gathered in front of reporters the day after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, the White House deputy press secretary made a claim that became an ongoing narrative.

She asserted that “countless” FBI agents had confided in the White House that they no longer had confidence in Comey.

Turns out, she wasn’t telling the truth, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

In an interview with Mueller’s team, Sanders, who has been promoted to press secretary, said the assertion was a “slip of the tongue.”

“She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything,” the report stated.

5 Highlights of Robert Mueller’s Report on Russian Interference

William Barr speaks to reporters about the Robert Mueller report.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday released a redacted version of Robert Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian interfere during the presidential election.

Here are five highlights:

1. Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation was unable to clear Trump of obstruction of justice.

“The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,” the report stated. “At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

2. Mueller’s team decided not to prosecute Donald Trump Jr. and other members of his campaign team for meeting with a Kremlin-linked source in July 2016.

“Taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting.” the report states, “The Office ultimately concluded that, even if the principal legal questions were resolved favorably to the government, a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that Campaign officials or individuals connected to the Campaign willfully violated the law.”

3. When Mueller was appointed on May 17, 2017, Trump declared the appointment was the “end of my presidency.”

“According to notes written by Hunt, when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel has been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked,’” the report states.

4. Mueller explained why he decided not to interview Trump.

“Ultimately, while we believed that we had the authority and legal justification to issue a grand jury subpoena to obtain the President’s testimony, we chose not to do so,” the report states. “We made that decision in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation. We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the President’s actions and his public and private statements describing or explaining those actions, we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony.”

5. Mueller’s evidence of “numerous” connections between Trump’s campaign and Russians “was not sufficient to support criminal charges.” 

“While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges,” the report states. “Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeak’s release of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation.”

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Federal Strike Force Busts Dozens of Medical Professionals for Illegal Opioid Prescriptions

FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess is joined by partner agency officials at a press conference in Cincinnati to announce charges against 60 defendants. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A team of federal investigators and prosecutors made its largest bust to date against illegal opioid prescribers, including dozens of pharmacists, nurse practitioners, doctors, and other medical professionals.

The Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force, which was formed in October, operates in Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Knoxville, Memphis, and Birmingham to take down illegal opioid prescribers in areas hardest hit by the crisis. On Wednesday, the announced charges against 60 defendants, most of whom are medical professionals.

“Using the strike force model, we have now focused our resources on a region of the country which arguably has suffered the most from egregious prescription opioid diversion schemes,” FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess said at news conference Wednesday in Cincinnati, where the charges were announced.

A news release said the medical professionals were “essentially acting as their patients’ drug dealers.”

“The ARPO strike force is going after doctors who act like drug dealers,” said FBI Criminal Investigative Division Health Care Fraud Unit Chief Steven Blaum. “Our focus is on the doctors because the sheer volume of pills they can prescribe can have a significant impact on their communities in terms of access to illicit opioids. By removing just one bad doctor, we can stop the addiction cycle before it starts.”

DOJ Shared Some of Mueller’s Findings with White House Attorneys Ahead of Today’s Release

AG William Barr

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump should be prepared to respond faster than Congress to Thursday’s release of Robert Mueller’s report because Justice Department officials “have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions” reached by the special counsel in recent days, The New York Times reports.

As a result, the president’s legal team will have a leg up on rebutting some of the claims and preparing a strategy to what is likely to be a contentious fight over the report’s findings.

The report also may identify members of Trump’s administration who offered damaging information about the president to the special counsel team.

The meetings with White House lawyers also raise more questions about Attorney General William Barr’s involvement in the report.

Barr plans to discuss the findings at a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. At 11 a.m., the Justice Department plans to deliver the report to Congress.

Prosecutors File Hate Crime Charges Against Man Accused of Torching 3 Black Churches

Holden Matthews

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against the white man suspected of setting fire to three African American churches in Louisiana.

Authorities believe Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy, was motivated by racism when he allegedly used gasoline to burn three historic black church in the St. Landry Parish over 10 days, The Associated Press reports.

On Monday, Matthews pleaded not guilty to the hate crimes and three counts of arson of a religious building. Worried Matthews is a flight risk, state District Judge James Doherty denied bail for Matthews, who had no previous criminal record.

“We felt that he was an immediate risk to public safety,” said Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning. “In my mind, I felt another fire was imminent.”

The ATF helped local authorities in the hunt for the culprit.

Matthews was charged after authorities said his cell phone records placed him at the arsons. Found on the phone were images of the three churches burning, the fire marshal said.