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Archive for July, 2020

Stejskal: As the Election Approaches, Keep in Mind Who Trump Chooses to Reward or Punish

The writer, an FBI agent for 31 years, retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006.

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Last week two peoples’ lives changed dramatically. One avoided jail. The other’s military career ended prematurely.

Featured_stone_43837
One’s a hero, the other isn’t.

On Friday evening, the White House announced that President Trump had commuted Roger Stone’s 40-month prison term. Stone, a longtime friend of Trump and a self-described “dirty trickster,” had made no secret of his desire to receive a pardon or clemency from the president. He made it known that he had remained “loyal” to the president. Actually, he had gone beyond loyalty and committed perjury by lying to Congress and threatening a potential witness.

The subject of his lies was his knowledge of Wikileaks’ possession and ultimate distribution of emails that a Russian intelligence agency had hacked from the Democratic National Committee. He had acted as a go-between for the Trump campaign with Wikileaks. Stone refused to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, ostensibly to protect the president.

He was charged with seven counts, including perjury, obstruction of Congress and witness tampering. He was convicted by a jury on all seven counts and sentenced to 40 months in prison.

At his sentencing, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that Stone “was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president, he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”

Read more »

Secret Facebook Group Leads to Termination of 4 Border Patrol Employees

Photo via Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Four Border Patrol agents have been fired for their role in a secret Facebook group that used demeaning, vulgar, and derogatory language toward deceased migrants and Latina members of Congress.

Since launching an internal investigation into inappropriate social media activity a year ago, Customs and Border Protection Alsop suspended 38 employees and disciplined another 27, The Los Angeles Times reports.

An additional six cases are still being investigated.

The investigation was launched after ProPublica exposed a secret Facebook group called “I’m 10-15,” which included offensive content and demeaning posts that targeted undocumented immigrants and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

One of the posts was an illustration of President Trump pushing the congresswoman’s head toward his crotch. In another post, a member encouraged agents to toss a “burrito at these bitches,” referring to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who were visiting detention centers.

In one post, commenters questioned the authenticity of a now-viral photo of a drowned man and his younger daughter.

Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called the terminations “a step in the right direction to demonstrate that federal law enforcement agents cannot act with impunity.” But Castro said he still wants to know “why so few individuals were terminated and held fully accountable.”

Federal Officers in Unmarked Vans Are Seizing Protesters in Portland without Explanation

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Federal officers in camouflage and unmarked minivans are detaining protesters in Portland without the approval of local and state officials.

Videos posted on social media show federal officers grabbing protesters off the street without explanation and driving off with them in unmarked vehicles.

Since early July, officers with U.S. Marshals, Federal Protective Service, Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security Investigations have been in Portland, ostensibly to protect federal buildings.

But federal officers “are also detaining people on Portland streets who aren’t near federal property, nor is it clear that all of the people being arrested have engaged in criminal activity,” Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

Civil rights attorneys question the tactics, saying the federal officers appear to be violating protesters’ rights to due process.

“It’s like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay,” attorney Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center, says, calling the arrests “terrifying.”

“You have laws regarding probable cause that can lead to arrests,” he says. “It sounds more like abduction. It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he was not happy with the presence of federal law enforcement.

“We’re aware that they’re here. We wish they weren’t,” Wheeler tweeted Thursday evening. “We haven’t been invited to meet with them, and if we were, we would decline.”

On Saturday night, a protester was seriously injured when a federal agent fired a crowd-control weapon at him outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was in Portland on Thursday and criticized the mayor and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat.

“Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city,” Wolf said in a news release. “Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.”

Wolf released a list of property crimes involving federal buildings.

“This siege can end if state and local officials decide to take appropriate action instead of refusing to enforce the law. DHS will not abdicate its solemn duty to protect federal facilities and those within them. Again, I reiterate the Department’s offer to assist local and state leaders to bring an end to the violence perpetuated by anarchists,” Wolf said.

Wheeler said the federal officers are escalating tensions by using “life-threatening tactics,” accusing President Trump and Wheeler of “weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence.”

Fired U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to Teach at Stanford Law School

Former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired by President Trump, will teach at Stanford Law School this fall.

A graduate of Stanford Law, Berman will return to his alma mater as the Edwin A. Heafy Jr. Visiting Professor of Law, Stanford Law announced.

“We are pleased to welcome back Geoffrey to Stanford Law,” Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Stanford Law School Dean, Jenny Martinez, said. “Many of our students will go on to careers in criminal law, public interest, and government work and Geoff’s presence on our campus is a unique opportunity for our students to learn from a well-respected and accomplished public servant and professional.”

Berman, 60, was abruptly fired last month after refusing to take another job in the federal government so Trump could replace him with a political ally. Berman, whose office was investigating Trump allies, said the job offers included the chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission or head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

“The Attorney General said that if I did not resign from my position I would be fired,” he told the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month. “He added that getting fired from my job would not be good for my resume or future job prospects. I told him that while I did not want to get fired, I would not resign.”

His firing has drawn criticism from Democrats and legal experts who questioned why Barr was trying to remove an accomplished prosecutor from an office with a reputation for being independent and apolitical.

Grand Jury Indicts Four People Accused of Plotting to Murder DEA Task Force Officer

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Four people accused of plotting to murder a DEA task force officer were indicted by a Texas grand jury on Wednesday.

Those charged with conspiracy to use interstate commerce in the commission of murder-for-hire were Manual Garcia Gomez, 22; Jorge Humberto Velazco Larios, 27; Eva Denisse Gomez Garcia, 38; and Alicia Yuritzi Juarez Martinez, 31, NBCDFW-5 reports.

Larios and Gomez have been arrested, while Garcia and Martinez are still in the loose, believed to be in Mexico.

“The Dallas Violent Crime Task Force is dedicated to protecting our citizens. This includes ensuring the safety of our law enforcement partners,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno. “The defendants wanted to harm a DEA task force officer and that is unacceptable. Fortunately, we were able to prevent a dangerous act from occurring and successfully apprehend a group of violent criminals.”

The defendants face up to 10 years in prison.

Ghislaine Maxwell Hired Ex-British Military Personnel to Help Evade FBI

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime confident of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, hired former British military personnel to help evade the FBI, The Washington Post reports.

It didn’t work. The FBI broke down the door of her estate in New Hampshire earlier this month and found her hiding in a room. She wrapped her cellphone in tin foil in an apparent effort to evade FBI detection, federal prosecutors allege.

Maxwell has been charged with assisting the late Epstein in the sex trafficking of minors.

To avoid detection, Maxwell used her security staff “to make purchases for the property” with a credit card she provided, a guard told the FBI. The guards worked in “rotations” and were hired by Maxwell’s brother.

“As these facts make plain, there should be no question that the defendant is skilled at living in hiding,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe wrote in a court filing.
The U.S. attorney’s office argued that Maxwell is a flight risk.

ICE Rescinds Controversial Policy to Suspend Student Visas over Online Classes

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A controversial ICE policy that would have stripped international students of their visas if their college exclusively offered online classes amid the coronavirus pandemic has been rescinded.

The reversal was announced Tuesday by a U.S. District judge who was hearing a lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT, The Boston Herald reports.

“I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution,” U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said during a Tuesday hearing.

“The government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 policy directive,” she said.

The means international students may stay in the U.S. to take classes online.

On Monday, 18 states filed suit against the Trump administration in an attempt to rescind the new policy, alleging several violations of federal law and calling the new rule “cruel, abrupt and unlawful.”

Many universities have yet to decide whether they’re offering in-person courses this fall as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise nationwide. The Trump administration has been pressuring colleges to offer in-person classes, despite concerns about the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 135,000 people in the U.S.

After Trump Commuted Roger Stone’s Prison Term, Is Michael Flynn Next?

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Now that President Trump has commuted the prison term of Roger Stone, many are wondering if Michael Flynn is next.

Flynn is Trump’s first national security advisor and also was the target of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

When it comes to a potential pardon of Flynn, who was convicted of lying to FBI agents, Trump said Monday, “I don’t have a decision to make” about a potential pardon for Flynn “until I find out what’s going to happen” with Flynn’s attempt to get his conviction tossed, CNBC reports.

“I think he’s doing very well with respect to his case,” Trump told reporters. “I hope that he’s going to be able to win it.”

The Justice Department is asking Judge Emmett Sullivan to dismiss the conviction. After he was ordered to dismiss the case by a federal appeals court panel, Sullivan requested the court’s full line-up to reconsider the decision.

Trump has long insisted that the Mueller investigation was a hoax, even though numerous people have been convicted as a result of the probe.