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Weekend Series on Crime History: How John Gotti Became The Teflon Don

Constitutional Law Expert: Enough Is Enough. Time to Subpoena President Trump

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump and his lawyers have stalled long enough, and the time has come to subpoena the president.

So says Harry Litman, a constructional law professor at the University of California at San Diego.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to subpoena the president,” Litman argued in a column for the Washington Post

Litman said special counsel Robert Mueller has been “patient while Trump and his representative engaged in scarcely credible gamesmanship.”

Trump continues to call the special counsel investigation “a witch hunt” as he tries to chip away at the credibility of the FBI and Justice Department, an effort that appears to be paying off as most of the president’s most ardent supporters agree with his calculated remarks about federal law enforcement.

“It has become increasingly apparent that neither Trump nor anyone in his orbit has any interest in his answering Mueller’s questions,” Litman wrote. “In a word, they are playing Mueller, and in the process, playing the country.”

Judge in Manafort Trial Grants Request by Special Counsel to Not Disclose Conversation about Trump Case

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The special counsel’s team that is prosecuting Paul Manafort on fraud charges successfully urged a judge to keep secret details that could shed light on the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and whether it colluded with Russia to meddle in the election.

Rick Gates, the former business partner of Paul Manafort, revealed on the stand Tuesday that he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors on Trump’s campaign.

Gates and Manafort played integral roles in the campaign.

The judge overseeing the case granted the prosecutors’ request to keep details of the conversations about Trump from becoming public.

“Disclosing the identified transcript portions would reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” the special counsel’s office wrote. “The government’s interest in protecting the confidentiality of its ongoing investigations is compelling and justifies sealing the limited portion of the sidebar conference at issue here. In addition, sealing will minimize any risk of prejudice from the disclosure of new information relating to that ongoing investigation.”

Judge T.S. Ellis III wrote that he granted the request because the conversation would “reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing government investigation.”

Jury Deliberating in Case of FBI Agent Accused of Firing Weapon During Takeover of Oregon Wildlife Refuge

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

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The fate of FBI Agent Joseph Astarita is now in the hands of a jury.

Astarita is accused of obstruction and making false statements after denying to federal authorities that he fired two shots at a militia elder involved in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge. The 41-year-old defendant also is accused of removing the shell casings from the scene to hide evidence that he was the shooter.

During the trial, he repeated his denials, saying he did not fire his weapon at Robert “LaVoy” Finicum because he was worried about crossfire.

The FBI was told to hold fire while local and state law enforcement handled Finicum, who led police on a chase in his pickup and was then shot by state police after he appeared to reach for his gun.

The jury is focused on who fired the two errant shots, not who killed Finicum because the deadly force was deemed justified.

“It is with a heavy heart that the United States government asks you to look at one of its own,” Paul T. Maloney, an assistant United States attorney, said Thursday in his final statement to the jury, the New York Times reports. “This case is about integrity; this case is about honesty; this case is about accountability and owning your shots.”

Astarita’s lawyers argued that alleged evidence against the agent was the result of lies from the “reckless” actions of one Oregon State Police trooper who fired most of the shots and later changed his story

Astarita is 13-year veteran of the FBI and is a firearms instructor.

Check back for updates.

Carla Provost Becomes First Woman to Lead Border Patrol in Its 94-Year History

Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost, the first woman appointed to the top position.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Carla Provost has been named the first woman to lead the Border Patrol in its 94-year history.

Provost, who began her career with the agency in 1995, takes over during one of the most contentious times for the Border Patrol, which has come under immense fire for its handling of families of undocumented immigrants.

The previous 17 Border Patrol chiefs have been men.

“There is no one more suited to lead the Border Patrol,” Border Patrol Commissioner McAleenan said in a news release. “It is my distinct honor to appoint Chief Provost to this position. I have absolute confidence in her experience, leadership, judgment and dedication to lead the Border Patrol, as well as her unwavering commitment to our mission, and our agency.”

During her 23 years at the agency, Provost served many roles, beginning her career at the Douglas Station in the Tucson Sector, working with a bicycle unit and ascending the ladder to numerous key leadership position in some of the busiest sectors.

Provost said she felt “humbled and proud” to take over.

“I couldn’t be prouder to have the opportunity to be the voice for the men and women on the frontlines of the U.S. Border Patrol,” Provost said. “I want to ensure that we are and that we remain the best trained, the best equipped, and the most professional law enforcement agency in the country. And that we continue to adhere to our core values of integrity, vigilance, service to country as we work to secure the border and to secure the nation.”

Provost said women hold only about 5% of the Border Patrol’s ranks, but she expressed confidence that more women will climb the ranks.

The agency has been increasing its efforts to hire more women.

FBI Agent Denies Firing 2 Mysterious Shots at Leader of Oregon Wildlife Refuge Takeover

Robert “LeVoy” Tinicum, who was shot dead by police during the armed Oregon wildlife refuge takeover.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

An FBI agent accused of obstruction and making false statements denied Wednesday that he shot at a militia leader involved in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge.

W. Joseph Astarita is accused of firing his weapon twice in the line of duty and removing the shell casings from the scene.

But Astarita testified during his trial this week that he did neither.

Astarita is charged with allegedly lying that the fired two errant shots that missed Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who was fatally shot by Oregon State Police.

Investigators were able to identify who fired six of the eight shots. After an investigation, prosecutors became convinced that Astarita fired the other two shots. 

He was indicted in June 2017.

Astarita testified Wednesday that he did not fire his weapon at Finicum because he was worried about cross-fire.

Prosecutors rested their case earlier this week, saying Astarita was the only person who could have fired the mysterious shots.

White-Collar Attorney: It’s a Myth that Mueller Must Interview Trump Before Seeking Indictments

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The constant media coverage about President Trump refusing an interview with  special counsel Robert Mueller has created the false perception that prosecutors need to talk with the president before completing the investigation.

It’s not true, says Jon Sale, an opinion contributor for The Hill and a lawyer who has represented people accused of white-collar crimes.

Sale wrote:

Government prosecutors conduct white-collar investigations every day. Usually, prosecutors complete their investigations without the benefit of interviewing the person under investigation. 

Like all white-collar investigations, Mueller’s investigation requires an analysis of the president’s knowledge and intent. The allegations involving obstruction and foreign meddling in our election are no exception.

Knowledge and intent determinations are necessary in most white-collar investigations. Typically, prosecutors determine whether they can prove criminal intent based on the facts uncovered in their investigation, including relevant witness testimony and documentary evidence such as emails.

Truth is, Mueller can seek an indictment of the president without an interview by using evidence culled from witnesses and records.

Sure enough, Trump’s team of lawyers is urging him not to agree to an interview, which is not unusual in cases like these.

“Here, the president and his legal team have apparently concluded, rightly or wrongly, that Mueller’s probe is a “witch-hunt” conducted by partisans who have pre-determined the president’s guilt,” Sale writes. “Given the president’s view about the unfair mindset of Mueller’s team, submitting to a voluntary interview would be tantamount to walking into the lion’s den.”

Gates Told Feds about Manafort’s Foreign Bank Accounts Long Before Mueller’s Probe

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates with Trump.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Before longtime business partners Paul Manafort and Rick Gates began running Donald Trump’s campaign for president, Gates revealed to the FBI that their consulting firm had foreign bank accounts.

The disclosure by Gates, made public during the Manafort trial this week, is a big deal because the foreign bank accounts became the impetus for investigating and eventually charging the pair with bank and tax fraud.

Gates told the jury that federal law enforcement in was investigating money the pair made working for Russian-friendly Ukrainian officials. He said Manafort told him to be truthful before Gates made the disclosure in 2014.

At the time, federal authorities didn’t have enough evidence to force the pair to disclose their financial records, which eventually were obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and used as key evidence in charging both men.

Earlier this year, Gates struck a plea deal with prosecutors to cooperate with them as they took their case to trial. The government is expected to rest its case in the Manafort trial by Friday.

Prosecutors allege millions of dollars were deposited into the accounts so Manafort wouldn’t be taxed on money he was making from consulting work in Ukraine.