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Republicans Balk at Bill to Protect Russia Investigation As Trump Meets with Rosenstein

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The fate of the special counsel’s Russia investigation hangs in the balance as President Trump decides today whether to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who supervises the federal probe.

The removal of Rosenstein would cause a shake-up at the top of the Justice Department, leaving open the possibility that the new deputy attorney general could end the investigation by firing social counsel Robert Mueller.

This scenario is why Democrats and some Republicans are backing a bill that would make it more difficult for Trump’s administration to end an investigation that has resulted in numerous indictments.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to bring the bill to the floor, leaving no protections in place to prevent Mueller’s removal.

The bill, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, would allow Mueller to appeal and provide for a judicial review of any attempts to fire him.

FBI Revives Investigation into Murder of Virginia State Trooper in 1984

Trooper Johnny Rush Bowman

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI is breathing new life into a long-dormant investigation of a Virginia State trooper who was stabbed 45 times at his house 1984.

The 34-year-old case has left investigators frustrated because they’ve been unable to identify the killer, who left behind a wig, sunglasses and a construction hard hat, ABC News reports

The attacker rang the doorbell at Trooper Johnny Rush Bowman’s home in Manassas, Va., and stabbed him to death while his family was inside the house.

The FBI hopes to receive tips in the cold case by announcing a $50,000 reward to find the killer.

“There are several milestones in August and September [including] the anniversary date of the murder and what would have been Trooper Bowman’s birthday and as a result, the FBI is offering a significant reward of $50,000 to bring attention to this unsolved murder,” FBI spokesperson Kadia Koroma told ABC News via email Wednesday.

“No one has forgotten Trooper Bowman — not his family, his friends, and certainly not law enforcement,” Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division, said in a statement released by the FBI on Monday.

Veteran FBI Agent to Serve As Watchdog at Los Angeles School District

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A veteran FBI agent stationed in Europe has accepted a job as inspector general of the troubled Los Angeles school district.

William Stern, who is the chief attache to the Netherlands and to Europol, will relocate to California and begin his $179,000-a-year job on Jan. 31, the Los Angeles Times reports.

His contract runs through June 30, 2020.

“He’s well qualified for the position and we’re grateful to have him join the LAUSD team,” L.A. Unified general counsel David Holmquist said Tuesday.

Stern’s job will be to prevent and identify waste, fraud and abuse among district employees and contractors.

Stern started with the FBI in 1999, working as a special agent on white-collar crime and an attache to the United Kingdom.

Secret Service Unveils New Presidential Limo With Exterior Armor Plating

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. Secret Service is using its new armored presidential limousine in New York to shuttle President Donald Trump around this week as he attends the United Nations General Assembly meetings.

The exterior armor plating of the 2018 Cadillac is reportedly eight-inches thick, with its doors weighing the same as those on a Boeing 757 aircraft, reports the website Auto Spies. The site says the bulletproof windows are 5 inches thick and its nearly bus-size tires can run-flat to keep the car in motion for some distance.

The interior is sealed to protect against a chemical attack.

Trump Less Likely to Fire Rosenstein Because of Midterm Election Fallout

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, via Justice Department.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The departure of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seemed all but certain earlier this week, but White House officials said Tuesday it’s unlikely that President Trump will fire Rosenstein before the midterm elections.

Sources in the White House told the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post that a major shakeup in Justice Department looks less likely as Trump considers the possible fallout during midterm elections. 

Allies of Rosenstein, who set in motion the special counsel investigation of Russia with the appointment of Robert Muller in May 2017, also said he is unlikely to voluntarily resign.

Rosenstein is scheduled to meet with the president Thursday to discuss a New York Times story that said he considered secretly recording Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to force his removal from office.

According to advisers to the president, Trump has expressed a willingness to hear out Rosenstein.

Republicans have urged the president to wait until after the midterm elections to remove Rosenstein.

Homeland Security Warns of Weaponized Drones in Hands of Terrorists

Drone via CBP.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The potential for weaponized drones has never been greater.

Fearing that terrorists could use drones to attack Americans, Homeland Security is urging Congress for more authority to stop  malicious drones.

Intelligence officials are warning that terrorist organizations like ISIS have mastered the use of weaponized drones.

In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro was almost struck by explosives dropped from drones earlier this year. 

“Any time drones are used for an attack, what appears to have been an assassination attempt, it’s gravely concerning,” DHS’ top intelligence official, David Glawe, told CBS News.

Glawe fears that a weaponized drone could threaten the Super Bowl or White House, for example.

But no law enforcement agency has the authority to jam or shoot down drones, Glawe said.

“I think we want the opportunity to have all tools in the toolbox for our law enforcement officers. To identify good from bad is a key component,” Glawe said.

DHS has asked Congress to give the agency power to “redirect, disable, disrupt control of, seize, or confiscate, without prior consent” a drone that “poses a threat.” But after a Senate committee approved the legislation last summer, the bill stalled over concerns from civil liberties groups.

“It’s a problem because it means that DHS can shoot a drone out of the air or seize it and they can do so without ever having a judge look at their actions and determine if they were right,” said Neema Singh Giuliani, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Glawe said there is no time to debate the issue.

“This threat is upon us today. I wake up in the morning and night just hoping we don’t have an attack,” Glawe said. 

Russia Investigation at Risk with Potential Departure of Rosenstein

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifying before a House committee in December 2017.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The potential departure of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has raised legal questions over who would succeed him and oversee the special counsel investigation of Russia.

With Rosenstein in charge of the Robert Mueller investigation, a lot is at stake.

Legal experts say President Trump likely has two options if he fires Rosenstein, who has come under fire following reports that he suggested secretly recording Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

Under a federal law about the order of succession, Solicitor General Noel Francisco would be the next in line to replace Rosenstein. But Francisco may recuse himself because he worked for Jones Day, a law firm that has represented Trump’s campaign. Next in line is Steven Engel, the head of the Justice Department.

But another law, the Vacancies Act, could give Trump more options because it gives the president the authority to temporarily fill executive positions with acting officers, according to the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal reports:

But if invoked, the Vacancies Act could open the field—at least on a temporary basis—to a much larger pool of potential successors. The list could include other Senate-confirmed Trump administration officials in and outside the Justice Department. It could also include senior Justice Department officers who haven’t gone through Senate confirmation but have served in the agency for at least 90 days and have attained the highest-level pay grade.

While the Vacancies Act could give Mr. Trump more flexibility, it’s a more legally uncertain path. For one, it’s not clear if the Vacancies Act could be used to replace Mr. Rosenstein if he is fired.

Under the law, a vacancy arises when a relevant officer “dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office.” Legal experts disagree about whether getting fired constitutes being “otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office.” A 1999 Office of Legal Counsel memo—citing Senate floor debate—suggests that a firing would count. The issue would likely be litigated.

Updated: Deputy AG Rosenstein Considering Resigning; Will Meet With Trump on Thursday

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Update: 3:35 p.m. Monday — Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein will remain put for now,  but will meet with President Donald Trump Thursday to discuss his job, the Washington Post reports.

___________________________________

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has worked to keep the Justice Department in line with its mission, is considering resigning, the Washington Post reports.

The paper reports that Rosenstein told the White House he’s willing to resign, but it was unclear if the resignation has been accepted.

One Justice Department official tells the Post Rosenstein was on his way to the White House on Monday and was preparing to be fired. But the official said Rosenstein is not resigning.

Meanwhile, in earlier reports, President Trump said he has not decided whether to fire Rosenstein following a New York Times report, that stated he discussed secretly recording the president and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. 

Asked whether he feels unsettled about Rosenstein, who is overseeing Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Trump said his administration is investigating.

“I’m not unsettled about anything, but I’ll tell you what. We are looking at it,” Trump told host Geraldo Rivera in an interview Sunday for his new show on WTAM radio in Cleveland. “It’s very early. We just read the reports. ... We will make a determination.”

Trump also indicated Rosenstein was “hired by Jeff Sessions.”

“I was not involved in that process, because you know they go out and get their own deputies and the people that work in the department,” Trump said. “Jeff Sessions hired him.”

Trump has lashed out at Sessions since he recused himself from the Russia investigation, a decision that gave Rosenstein the authority to appoint a special counsel.