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stejskalGreg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Argument for Keeping J. Edgar Hoover’s Name on FBI HQ

By Greg Stejskal

The so called “cancel culture” movement has championed efforts to remove statues and the names of certain historical figures from public areas and buildings.

J. Edgar Hoover

I have never understood why military bases and schools are named for Confederate generals who took up arms against the United States to maintain the institution of slavery. I don’t think anyone ever proposed naming anything for Benedict Arnold.

But the movement has gone beyond Confederate generals. There is apparently strong support, including on Capitol Hill,  for removing J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. Some of Hoover’s actions during his 48 years as director of the FBI are difficult to defend. It brings to mind, Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play:

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

The good that Hoover did was not interred with his bones. Upon his death in 1972, he lay in state in the Capitol rotunda, an unprecedented honor for a civil servant. When the FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue was finally built in 1975, it was named for him.

From the time Hoover became director of the FBI in 1924, he built it into arguably the best investigative agency in the world. Hoover embraced forensic/scientific crime-fighting tools and established the FBI laboratory. He championed a national fingerprint repository and matched with the fingerprints, a repository of criminal records. This would become the National Crime Information Center.

The FBI developed a reputation for professionalism and incorruptibility that has seldom been breached. That incorruptibility was demonstrated in 1925, soon after Hoover became director, when he committed the bureau to investigate the Osage Indian murders in Oklahoma. The murders involved a conspiracy of community leaders, local and state officials, and the collusion of law enforcement. (The story is well-told in David Gann’s 2017 book, Killers of the Flower Moon.) Using undercover agents, the FBI identified and prosecuted many of those involved the conspiracy.

During Hoover’s tenure he directed the bureau to do some extralegal activities. Many of these initiatives were done at the request of various presidents under whom he served. Prior to World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Hoover to have the FBI monitor the activities of various isolationists, some of whom were German sympathizers, including Charles Lindbergh and Father Coughlin.

Hoover complied with the monitoring request. But when President Roosevelt was contemplating the detention of Japanese Americans, Hoover voiced his opposition to the detention, saying he did not believe they posed a threat to national security.

The author, Greg Stejskal

But the good that Hoover did seems to be largely forgotten or overshadowed by the bad acts that were committed by the bureau at his direction. Those bad acts principally involve the Counter Intelligence Program. COINTELPRO began in the mid-1950s by surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting and disrupting the American Communist Party that acted as a surrogate of the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin referred to American communists as “useful idiots.”

This was in the midst of the Cold War. To say that Hoover had an obsession regarding the threat of communism and the Soviet Union would be an understatement.

Hoover was privy to the Venona project, a secret counterintelligence operation begun by crypto analysts in the Army Signal Corps (forerunner of the National Security Agency) during WWII and for several years, thereafter. The analysts were able to decipher some of encrypted telegraph traffic between the Soviet embassy in the US and Moscow.

These communications revealed that Soviet intelligence officers operating in the U.S, had recruited numerous communists and communist sympathizers as spies or coopetes, people willing to help the Soviet Union.

It was the Venona that revealed that the Soviet Union had infiltrated the Manhattan Project which helped produced the first nuclear weapons during World War II.

Investigation by the FBI and British intelligence led to the identification of British physicist, Klaus Fuchs and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as spies. (Information from the Venona intercepts was never revealed at the Rosenberg trial.) The decrypted messages also indicated that a significant number of Americans in the government, entertainment and scientific research had been recruited by the Soviets.

Many of these recruits were never identified. Some were only identified after the fall of the Soviet Union. The existence of Venona and the deciphered messages was not declassified and revealed until the 1990s.

Monitoring Civil Rights Movement

Hoover and others involved in counterintelligence were understandably concerned about the possibility of Soviet influence in the media, entertainment and some political movements.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Under COINTELPRO, the FBI began to target some organizations within the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements that were believed to be influenced or controlled by the Soviet Union. There were people in leadership in these groups that were avowed communists. (Ironically, some of techniques that were used by the FBI were learned and honed successfully combating the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan’s ideology was more akin to the Nazis than the communists. In fact, the Klan was vehemently anti-communist.)

These targeted groups and leaders were monitored with electronic surveillance, wiretaps and hidden microphones. Robert Kennedy, attorney general from 1961-64, authorized electronic surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. and other principals in the civil rights movement ostensibly because of the possibility of Soviet influence. President John Kennedy was also aware of the bugging.

None of this justifies some of the egregious acts by the FBI at the direction of Hoover like threats of blackmail, false stories planted in the media, “black bag jobs” (burglaries). It does put COINTELPRO activity in context. There were national security concerns that at least in part explain why the groups were targeted, although the threat of Soviet influence in hindsight was exaggerated.

For all the good that Hoover did it’s hard to get past the bad things that were done to disrupt and discredit the civil rights movement, and specifically Martin Luther King Jr.  He’s been characterized by critics as racist, a trait that can’t be condoned by anyone.  

But COINTELPRO should not be Hoover’s legacy, nor should it be forgotten. His legacy should be the FBI – its successes, failures and transgressions.

Maybe we shouldn’t name anything for anyone. After all,  It’s said that not even the saints were saints.


The Case For Prosecutors Going After Trump

By Greg Stejskal

Last Saturday Former President Donald Trump was acquitted on one article of impeachment charging him with inciting an insurrection.

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Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

Many aspects of the impeachment process are foreign to me, but during my career as an FBI agent, I was mostly involved with investigating and prosecuting federal crimes. I wondered if the incitement of an insurrection charge against former President Trump could be prosecuted criminally, and if there had been analogous prosecutions.

In August 1969, on successive nights, seven people were murdered in Los Angeles. Five people were killed at the home of film director Roman Polanski and his actress wife Sharon Tate. Polanski was out of town but Tate, who was pregnant, and four friends were brutally murdered. The following night, Leno and Rosemary LaBlanca were stabbed to death.

There did not seem to be any connection between the victims. But the crime scenes were both horrific. The principal weapons used were knives. The scenes were very bloody and there was graffiti on the walls, made with blood, including the words “Helter Skelter.”

We know these events today as the Manson Family murders. Four members of the group, three women and one man, along with Manson, were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. 

At trial, which lasted nine and a half months, no evidence was presented that Manson participated in the murders or ever instructed any of the defendants to murder any of the victims. (Manson stayed at the Spahn ranch, where the family lived, during the first night of the murder spree.) Manson was a charismatic leader of the cult and preached an eclectic philosophy grounded in white supremacy and from various sources – principally from his reading of the Book of Revelations that he believed foretold the coming of the Beatles. Manson told his followers that the Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter” denoted acts of mayhem and violence that would bring on an apocalyptic race war. 

The murders were meant to be attributed to Blacks and precipitate the race war. The three women and Manson were convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder despite Manson never directly ordering the violence. The prosecution contended his convincing the cult of his bizarre philosophy constituted an overt act that propelled the conspiracy.

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Flie photo

This is obviously an imperfect analogy as to what Trump did up to and following the election, which ultimately culminated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But Trump does seem to be a cult leader, with a significantly larger cult than Manson’s.

A certain segment of his supporters has unquestioning loyalty to him. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, characterized it this way: “Politics is not about the weird worship of one dude.”

Trump, since the beginning of his campaign, has preached that mail-in balloting is inherently fraudulent, and if he were to lose, it could only because the election was “rigged.”

Trump did lose the election, by about 7 million votes and a 306-232 electoral votes. Despite the results, Trump claimed that he had won the election, that it had been stolen from him due to massive fraud – the “Big Lie.”

No proof of substantial fraud has been produced by Trump or any of his supporters. In addition to lying, Trump has refused to denounce the white nationalist militia groups and QAnon conspiracy aficionados – conspiracies that are every bit as loony as anything Manson dreamed up. These groups were well represented among the insurrectionists who visited so much violence on the Capitol and its defenders.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, one the House managers prosecuting the impeachment trial, summed up the cult psychology of both Trump and Manson with a quote from Voltaire: Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

‘Trial by combat’

When Trump and his surrogates called for the “Stop the Steal” rally Jan. 6, it was becoming clear that it was a last-ditch effort to delay finalization of the election. Congress would certify the states’ electoral votes that day, and Vice President Mike Pence would preside. Trump had been trying to persuade Pence to disqualify the votes from some states where voting had been close but were carried by Joe Biden. Pence had told Trump that he had no constitutional authority to disqualify electoral votes. Trump reportedly told Pence he was being a “pussy.”

At the rally, several speakers warmed up the crowd with bellicose language. Rudy Giuliani told the crowd: “There needed to be a trial by combat.” When Trump took the stage, he thanked and praised the previous speakers, specifically naming Giuliani and in effect, endorsing their message.

Trump’s speech was also bellicose, with phrases like “fight like hell” and not being “weak if you want to take back your country.” He did temper his rhetoric somewhat, saying they would march to Capital in a “peaceful” and “patriotic” manner. He also said he would march with them. He didn’t. He went back to the White House and watched the insurrection on television. As a former reality TV star, Trump might have thought watching it on TV was the same as being there.

So, did Trump and his surrogates intend to incite an insurrection at the Capitol?

No limit to presidential actions

Trump had shown he was willing to do anything to avoid relinquishing the presidency. He knew his last chance was to stop or disrupt Congress’ certification of the electoral votes. If that could be achieved by an insurrection at the Capitol, so be it. Probably the best indication of Trump’s intent was that, after learning the Capitol had been breached and senators, members of the House and the vice president were under siege, he made no effort to stop it.

During the insurrection, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy called Trump and asked the president to tell the insurrectionists to stop. Trump first replied he had no control over the mob; they were “antifa.” McCarthy said that wasn’t true; they were Trump supporters. Trump replied: “Well Kevin, I guess they must care more about the election than you do.”

If a criminal prosecution of Trump and others were contemplated, much more investigation would be needed — unlike the impeachment trial, witnesses would be necessary. Some investigation is currently being done by the FBI, and the House managers have produced a comprehensive timeline documented with video and audio recordings. I think incitement of an insurrection, conspiracy, aiding and abetting are all viable prosecutable offenses that should be pursued.

Trump has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.


Trump and the Anatomy of a Con

The writer, an FBI agent for 31 years, retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska Lincoln Law School.

By Greg Stejeskal

During my time in the FBI, I investigated several frauds involving cons or grifts of varying sophistication. One relatively savvy con artist told me the first step is to convince yourself the scam is true. It is easier to sell if on some level you believe it’s real. (I’m guessing it’s easier to convince yourself if you are narcissist.)

The Set Up

President Trump has some history of running cons like Trump University, his former charitable foundation, etc. In effect his whole attack on the presidential election has been a con. Since the beginning of his campaign for reelection, Trump has said the only way he could lose was if the election were rigged.

President Donald Trump

He elaborated that absentee ballots were inherently fraudulent, although significant fraud hasn’t occuyrred in states where they’re used regularly.

Covid made mail and dropoff voting options prevalent in most states, endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats. But they was embraced more by the Democrats than Republicans at least in part because of Trump’s attacks.

I don’t know if Trump convinced himself that the only way he could lose was if the election were rigged, but he did manage to convince millions of his supporters. Part of the con was that Trump was predictably ahead early in the counting on election day. This was because more Republicans voted in person at the polls than Democrats who used mail balloting. Another factor was that many Republican-controlled legislatures prohibit absentee ballots from being validated or processed until Election Day. That means they’re not counted until well after in-person ballots are tabulated.

As the counting continued into the next few days, it became clear that Trump was losing. Trump even called for the counting to stop in the early morning hours after Election Day. Despite rigorous oversight by both parties and no credible evidence of widespread fraud, Trump railed that there were numerous incidents of shenanigans, but never produced any credible evidence.

Ultimately all the counting was finished, and Joe Biden was declared the winner. By Trump’s own standard it was a landslide, 306-232 electoral votes. Trump’s appointed Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray reported there was no evidence of significant fraud that would have affected the outcome.

Greg Stejskal

The director of cybersecurity, Christopher Krebs, also a Trump appointee said it was a clean election with no evidence of cyber interference or fraud. (Because Krebs contradicted Trump’s claims, the president fired him. Trump also criticized Barr, leading to his resignation effective next Wednesday.)There is some speculation that Trump is challenging the results at least partly as a fund-raising scheme. Donations are solicited to pay for legal expenses and supporters have given over $200 million so far. Little of the money raised is going for legal challenges to the election. It is going into a “campaign fund” that’s use is indeterminate – a slush fund.

This seems reminiscent of Mel Brooks’ movie and musical, “The Producers,” where Broadway producer Max Blalystock and his accountant figure out that they can make more money on a failed play than a successful one. The intended flop is titled “Springtime for Hitler.” Apparently, Trump has figured out a way to make money on a failed campaign, “Springtime for Trump.”

But Trump’s challenge to the result and refusal to concede his defeat has far more dire consequences. His millions of fervent supporters believe his baseless claims of election fraud and that the election was stolen from him.

This is further exacerbated by many in the leadership of the Republican Party enabling Trump’s con to continue by supporting his claims and over 50 failed legal challenges.

Court challenges reached a crescendo with a lawsuit filed at the U.S. Supreme Court by the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, backed by 17 other Republican attorneys general and 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives. The lawsuit challenged the election procedures of four states — Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania nd Wisconsin and asked the court to nullify about 20 million votes. The Supreme Court summarily rejected the suit in a one-page order.

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A recent book, “Lincoln On The Verge by Ted Widmer, follows Lincoln’s circuitous 13-day train trip from Springfield, Ill., to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration on March 4, 1861. (The Constitution prescribed that inauguration date until it was changed to Jan. 20 by the 20th Amendment in 1933.) I was struck by some of the similarities between that presidential transition and our present one.

Lincoln won with a plurality of only about 40 percent of the vote, but got a majority of electoral votes. The Democratic Party had split into Southern and Northern factions. Stephen Douglas was the Northern candidate and John Breckinridge; the sitting vice president, was the Southern candidate. Southern Democrats vilified Lincoln and when he won, some of states began to secede, starting with South Carolina.

This time, after the Supreme Court on Dec. 11 rejected the Texas suit brought on Trump’s behalf, some of the Texas Republican leadership suggested: “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a union of states that will abide by the Constitution.” That implies secession, an act of insurrection and this statement has been characterized as seditious. (Sedition is the inciting of an insurrectionary movement tending towards treason.)

Final Act in Election Drama 

Last Monday, Electoral College members in each state and cast 306 votes for Biden and 232 for Trump. That will be formally accepted by Congress on Jan. 6 unless challenged by at least one House member of the House and one senator.

A movement is afoot by some Republican members of the House to interfere with Congress’ formal acceptance by objecting to some states’ electoral votes. Vice President Mike Pence will preside. This would probably be a futile effort, and certainly foment more discord and disunity.

When Lincoln made his first inaugural address, he closed with the following:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over the broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, where again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

It was not to be.

Despite Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen, he’s the one who’s trying to steal the election by any means from a duly elected Joe Biden. Maybe Trump will come to realize, like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas, that despite all his efforts to overturn the election, the inauguration of new president will come just as Christmas will.


This November Keep in Mind Who Trump Has Chosen to Punish and Reward

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.

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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 »


Why the FBI was Right to Launch the Russia-Trump Probe and Investigate Michael Flynn

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com


Greg Stejskal: “When Flynn was interviewed, he did lie.”

I first met Bill Priestap (Edward William Priestap) in the mid-90s. I had been talking to University of Michigan football teams every Fall since 1982. I would bring along other agents and federal prosecutors, and we would talk about illegal sports gambling, drugs and other things that college players should avoid. Bill Priestap was head coach Lloyd Carr’s director of operations, responsible for arranging the FBI talks.

Bill and I became friends, and he expressed interest in becoming an FBI agent. He had a master’s degree in educational administration and business administration, and a law degree. He also had the experience of running a major college football program. I encouraged him to apply. 

He did and was accepted, entering duty in 1998. Bill opted to pursue administrative advancement and in 2015 became assistant director of counterintelligence at FBI HQ.

In July 2016, Bill Priestap faced probably the most consequential decision of his career. 

On July 22, Wikileaks released emails that had apparently been hacked from the Democratic National Committee, specifically from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. This resulted in the FBI initiating an investigation of the cyber intrusion of the DNC.

Five days later, the Australian government advised American intelligence services that in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a Trump presidential campaign advisor, had told the Australian High Commissioner to Britain that the Russian officials were in possession of politically damaging information relating to Hillary Clinton.


FBI Agent Bill Priestap

Presented with this information, Priestap authorized the opening of an investigation of possible Russian hacking and any connection to the Trump presidential campaign. The case was code-named Cross Fire Hurricane from the opening line in the Rolling Stones song, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” (The so-called Steele dossier played no role in the opening of the investigation. CFH investigators didn’t learn of the Steele dossier until September of that year.)

The FBI was careful not to make this investigation public, to avoid election influence. (Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal server for some emails involving Department of State business was already public information and was being investigated separately.)

Priestap continued to supervise the case. Following the election, the efforts of the Russian government to interfere and influence the election became public, and President Obama imposed significant sanctions on Russia.  

Michael Flynn and the Ambassador

Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, who had been a close campaign advisor to President Trump, was named to be national security advisor in the new administration. Flynn had several telephone conversations with Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, prior to the inauguration.

The substance of these calls was known to the FBI through established electronic surveillance of Kislyak. Among other things, Flynn asked Kislyak to advise the Russian government to not retaliate for the new sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Flynn indicated that the sanctions would be mitigated by the Trump administration.


President Trump and Michael Flynn

When it became publicly known that Flynn had spoken with Kislyak prior to the inauguration, Vice President Pence made a public statement saying that Flynn had not discussed the Obama sanctions with Kislyak.  Apparently, Flynn had lied to Pence about his conversation with Kislyak. This was a big concern for the FBI and attorneys at the Department of Justice.

It was decided by Priestap and others in the FBI and DOJ that Flynn should be interviewed regarding his conversations with Kislyak. Any time an interview of this nature is contemplated, a pre-interview strategy is prepared. Priestap and others were involved in that strategy. 

Memoranda, emails, and other documents discussing that strategy were released to Flynn’s attorney last month. (These documents are not exculpatory, referred to as Brady material, which would be required to be turned over to the defense in discovery.)

The discussion reflected in the documents addressed such topics as when to warn Flynn that lying is a crime. The effort was to learn the truth while balancing his rights. The documents also contain the question, “What’s our goal?” Is it, “Truth/admission or get him to lie so we can prosecute or get him fired?”

When Flynn was interviewed, he did lie. He was not encouraged to lie by the interviewing agents. In fact, Flynn was given several opportunities to change his answers. Once Flynn agreed to be interviewed, he always had the choice to tell the truth or lie. 

Chris Wallace of Fox News characterized it this way: “Did the FBI play hardball? Yeah, guess what?  The FBI plays hardball. And guess what? If you’re talking to the FBI – and a lot of lawyers would say don’t talk to them unless you have to – don’t lie.”

The FBI informed the Trump administration of Flynn’s dishonesty.  Flynn was asked to resign for having lied to Vice President Pence. 

Trump meddling


James Comey

Soon thereafter, at a meeting of President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director James Comey, Trump pulled Comey aside and said he “hoped you can let (the investigation into Flynn) go.” Comey was noncommittal.

In March 2017, Comey testified at a congressional hearing that the bureau was investigating “whether there was any coordination between the (Trump) campaign and Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.” Comey did not say whether Trump was a target of the investigation.

On May 9, 2017, Comey was fired by Trump. The director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the president and can be fired without cause. However, the following day, in the Oval Office, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kislyak, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” The following day, during an interview with Lester Holt of NBC, Trump said, “And in fact, when I decided to just do it (fire Comey), I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election they should have won.”

Following Comey’s firing, Rosenstein appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller III, to pursue the Russian election interference case. 

Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI by Special Counsel Mueller, and in December 2017, he pleaded guilty. As part of that plea, Flynn admitted under oath that he had lied to the FBI. Flynn thereafter cooperated with Mueller’s investigation. 

At some point, Flynn apparently had a change of heart. In June 2019, he fired his attorneys and hired Sidney Powell, a Fox News contributor and proponent of the “Deep State” conspiracy theory. Since her hiring, Powell has been orchestrating an effort to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea by alleging prosecutorial misconduct — so far unsuccessfully.

Final Mueller report

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Ex-FBI DIrector Robert S. Mueller III

In March 2019, Mueller submitted his report and concluded the investigation, while prosecutors continued to pursue criminal charges from the lengthy probe. The investigation resulted in 34 indictments (including 12 members of Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, who will probably never be prosecuted), seven guilty pleas or convictions so far and compelling evidence that the president obstructed justice on multiple occasions. (A statement signed by over 1,000 former prosecutors concluded that if any other American engaged in the same efforts to impede federal proceedings the way Trump did, they would likely be indicted.) The Mueller report explicitly states the report does not exonerate the president. The report also concluded that Russian interference was pervasive and ongoing.

Clearly what began as an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election was not a hoax nor a witch hunt.

In December 2019, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz submitted his report regarding the initiation and the beginning stages of the Russian investigation. The report found serious errors in applications for court orders to eavesdrop on a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. (Some similar errors in other applications not related to the Russian probe were also found.)

The IG found no evidence of political bias or improper motivation by the FBI. “The FBI’s investigation had a factual basis and was initiated for an authorized purpose.” The IG “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political or improper motivation influenced “the agency decision to open the investigation.”

On March 3, 2020, a bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee found there was no reason to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of helping elect Trump president. The report from the Senate committee, chaired by a Republican, undercuts Trump’s effort to portray the Russian investigation as a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats and a “Deep State” embedded in the government bureaucracy.

Trump, at an April 19 Covid-19 briefing, called FBI leadership involved in initiating the Russian investigation “human scum.” He characterized the investigation as a “takedown of a duly elected president.” He went on to say, “what they did to Flynn was a disgrace.”

On April 30, Trump referred to people “at the top of the FBI” who prosecuted Flynn, Manafort and others as “dirty, filthy cops.” What apparently the president doesn’t understand is that to investigate and prosecute subjects in a case of this magnitude, requires “street” agents to do the interviews, execute search warrants and analyze enormous amounts of documentary evidence. Also involved are U.S.  attorneys — dedicated, career prosecutors. All have forgone more lucrative careers in order to serve their country.

Agents and prosecutors are not political eunuchs. They have political preferences, but in my experience that has not influenced how an investigation or prosecution is pursued. Agents and prosecutors go where the facts lead them. They are not perfect and sometimes make mistakes, but the overarching goal is justice. 

I do not know Comey, but I do know Bill Priestap, and I have seen nothing to indicate that he isn’t the man of integrity and high ideals that I encouraged to join the FBI over 20 years ago. He retired from the FBI in April 2019.

The people Trump is championing are convicted criminals. He may decide to pardon them, but he should not attack the dedicated men and women of the FBI and the Department of Justice and impugn their integrity for doing their job, and in my estimation, doing it well.

Note: The U.S. Supreme Court stated in Burdick v. U.S. (1915) that accepting a pardon is a confession of guilt.


The Unabomber Story in His Own Words

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

A new documentary about the Unabomber/Ted Kaczynski will begin airing on Netflix Saturday (Feb. 22).

“The Unabomber – In His Own Words” is so titled because the documentary liberally uses parts of the only interview Kaczynski has ever given since his arrest and conviction in 1996.

The documentary not only looks at Kaczynski’s 17 years of terror attacks that killed 3 people and injured 23 from 1978-1995, it also explores his youth and time at Harvard where he was admitted at 16.

Ted was then a grad student at Michigan from 1962-1967 when he received his PhD with honors. Based on Ted’s autobiography, Ted’s first thought about killing people was while he was at Michigan.

I’m in the documentary as well, having worked on the investigation. In November, 1985, a package (weighing about 5 lbs. and measuring 3”x 8”x 11”) was received in the mail at the residence of Professor James McConnell. McConnell, who was teaching and doing research in the psychology department at the University of Michigan. The package was opened by an assistant of McConnell. It exploded and caused considerable damage to McConnell’s kitchen, but the assistant only suffered minor injury to his arms and abdomen.

Ted’s brother, David, who ultimately turned Ted in, is interviewed extensively. David provides insights into Ted’s youth and the trauma he experienced when he realized Ted was the Unabomber.

The documentary delves into some of the theories as to why Ted turned from a promising career in theoretical mathematics to a hermit living in the woods and a serial bomber.


Did Our President Provide an Opening for a Racist Remark in Michigan Heard Around the Country?

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

In the late ’70s, I was assigned to the FBI Detroit field office’s surveillance squad. We spent most of the time following Detroit organized crime members, but we were also involved in other investigations. One of those resulted in information that a local group of the Ku Klux Klan were going to Tennessee to obtain dynamite. We were tasked with following them.

The Klan guys left for Tennessee in the evening in one van and drove straight through the night. They switched drivers every few hours — a challenge for us, as we only had one agent per car. A lot of coffee was consumed.

Periodically we would switch the lead car, so they didn’t see the same car following them. We ended up in rural east Tennessee on a two-lane highway. I was in the lead car when the van turned onto a dirt road. I let the van go over the first hill before I followed. There were several steep hills before the road led to an open field. Upon reaching the crest of the last hill, I saw something I didn’t think still existed.

The field was full of men in white robes with tall conical hats. Knowing I wouldn’t be welcome, I put the car in reverse, and backed down the road. I got on the radio and told the rest of the team to not come any further.

Later that night we saw the Klan burn a cross in a nearby town square. The Michigan Klan guys never got their dynamite, but that road trip left me with some indelible images of evil incarnate. No good has ever come from wearing those white robes and pointy hats.

I thought about what I saw in that field in Tennessee when I saw the reports of the August 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left a counterprotester dead. President Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.” That’s only true if you can be a very fine person and be a racist and a xenophobe. 

Hate and racism are malignant

Greg Stejskal

Hate and racism are like some cancers. They may be in remission, but never go away. In the last few years, racism has seemed to metastasize.

When Trump announced that he was running, he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… . They’re sending people who have lots of problems and they’re bringing those with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some I assume are good people.”

His statement didn’t evoke Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty.

When Trump was criticized by four female congresswomen of color, he responded by saying that they should “go back” to the “crime-infested places from which they came.” All but one, who is a Somali refugee, were born in the U.S. and are elected members of the House of Representatives.

The Saline incident

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Mexican American parent Adrian Iraola, standing,  is interrupted by Tom Burtell at right. (Photo: MLive video screenshot) 

So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that at a school meeting a few days ago in Saline, Mexican-American parent Adrian Iraola, was interrupted by another parent, Tom Burtell. Iraola was talking about his son distress over being called names like “taco” and “enchilada” while attending Saline schools. Burtell interrupted, saying: “Then why didn’t you stay in Mexico?”

The video of the Saline incident (bleow) went viral and precipitated a national discussion. 

Read more »


Deep State? No, These Folks Are American Patriots

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

By Greg Stejskal

On March 10, 1975, I reported to the Department of Justice Building in Washington, D.C. — “Main Justice” — to be sworn in as a FBI special agent with my fellow new agents. In a large room that was used for the secret trial of the Nazi saboteurs during World War II, I raised my right hand and took the oath that every agent takes:

“I (my name) do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

The Constitution prescribes a similar oath for the president in Article II.

Unlike those Nazi saboteurs who swore an oath to the Fuhrer, we swore allegiance to the concept that we are a country of laws, and no man is above the law. We would not be taking an oath of fealty to anyone. In fact during the Revolution, those serving in the Continental Army not only pledged allegiance to the United States, but specifically denounced any allegiance to King George III.

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Trial of Nazi saboteurs during World War II.

For me what followed was an almost 32-year career investigating and prosecuting violations of federal laws. I had the good fortune to be involved in a number of high-profile cases, and it was a rewarding career.

So when I watched the recent impeachment hearing, I had a somewhat unique perspective.

Most people didn’t have the time to watch the hearings. Others  prejudged them as a hoax or a witch hunt.

Being retired, I did have time and tried to view the hearings objectively. (Full disclosure: I’m a lifelong Republican.)

I’m not going to recount the evidence or try to make a case for or against impeachment although I thought the evidence was compelling and creditable. But what especially troubled me were the personal attacks on the witnesses by the president. Most of the witnesses were career foreign service officers. All of whom took an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

No right to publicly disparage

The third public witness was Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine and a career foreign service officer. She was removed as ambassador by President Trump. In the now infamous, “perfect,” July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump characterized Ambassador Yovanovitch as “bad news.”

Whilee Yonanovitch was testifying Nov. 15 at the congressional hearing on national TV, President Trump tweeted:

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second call with him. It is a US President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

It is the president’s “absolute right” to appoint and/or remove an ambassador, but I don’t believe the president has any kind of right to publicly disparage a career foreign service officer with an outstanding reputation and stellar career. Leaving aside the issue of whether his tweet constituted witness intimidation.

On Nov. 19, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams testified. Jennifer Williams is a veteran State Department official who has served as a special advisor to Vice President Mike Pence on European and Russian affairs.

Before her testimony, President Trump again took to twitter saying, she [Williams] should read the transcripts of the July 25 call and another one that took place in April. “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know and mostly never even heard of and work out a better presidential attack!”

The president’s twitter attacks disparaging the witnesses and questioning their veracity were reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy’s attacks on witnesses during his notorious hearings of the early 1950s – those really were witch hunts. Coincidentally, McCarthy’s chief counsel during the hearings was Roy Cohn. Cohn later was Donald Trump’s attorney and according to Trump his mentor.

Impressed, Inspired and Proud


Sen. Joseph McCarthy (Photo: Wikimedia)

As a retired FBI agent, I was impressed, inspired and proud of the foreign service and intelligence officers who testified.

They are dedicated Americans, patriots, who swore an oath to protect and defend the constitution, not an individual. They witnessed or became aware of what appeared to them to be inappropriate conduct by the president and some individuals ostensibly acting on his instructions. They had the courage to report that conduct, to testify under oath and in some cases to suffer the slings and arrows of the president’s wrath.

The witnesses did not have a political agenda. They had a country agenda. They are not denizens of the deep state. They are sailors on the ship of state, not to be vilified, but to be saluted. They are Teddy Roosevelt’s men and women in the arena.

I once served in the company of such people and would be proud to stand with them now.