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Sex Coaches Jailed in Thailand Claim to Have Evidence of Russian Interference in Election

Russian leader Vladimir Putin

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI has tried to arrange a meeting with two self-proclaimed “sex coaches” housed in a Thai jail over claims that they have information about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

FBI agents attempted to set up a meeting with Anastasia Vashukevich and Alexander Kirillov, both Belarusian citizens, but the bureau was rebuffed by Thai officials who insist only the detainees’ lawyers and family members are allowed to have access to them, CNN reported Tuesday

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok received handwritten letters last month from the women, who offered to provide evidence of Russian meddling in exchange for asylum.

The women were arrested along with other Russian-Speaking sex coaches at a seminar in Thailand last month.

Vashukevich claims to be a former mistress of a Russian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the letter, she said she witnessed meetings between the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, and unidentified Americans in 2016 and 2017.

Deripaska denies the affair.

Federal Judge: Phony ATF Stings Should End Because of Concerns of Racism

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A federal judge in Chicago slammed the ATF on Monday over its phony stash-house stings, saying they primarily target people of color and should “be relegated to the dark corridors of the past.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Rube Castillo urged the federal agency to stop conducting stings that involve undercover agents promising lucrative payouts to suspects to steal nonexistent drugs from fake stash houses, ABC News reports.

“It’s time for these false stash-house cases to end and be relegated to the dark corridors of the past,” the judge said, reading parts of his 73-page ruling. “Our criminal justice system should not tolerate false stash-house cases anymore.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Rube Castillo

The judge said the operations have “inherent problems” and that the stings “must be seen through the lens of our country’s sad history of racism.”

But Castillo still dismissed a defense motion to toss the shares against primarily black suspects after their attorneys argued the cases were racially biased.

ICE Spokesman Resigns Over Trump Administration’s ‘Misleading’ Statements on Raid

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Francisco resigned over what he called “false” and “misleading” statements by the Trump administration and top-ranking immigration officials.

James Schwab told media outlets on Monday evening that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan were peddling a false narrative that hundreds of “criminal aliens” eluded arrest because Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned immigrants of a forthcoming ICE raid.

Schwab said his concerns about the misleading statements were dismissed, and ICE instructed him to “deflect” questions from the media.

“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time and I quit.”

After 232 people were detained in the raid, Sessions and Homan claimed as many as 800 “criminals” evaded arrest and were a danger to the public.

Schwab said top officials painted a misleading portrait by inflating the number of people who may have avoided arrest and sensationalizing the danger that each poses.

“I didn’t feel like fabricating the truth to defend ourselves against her actions was the way to go about it,” Schwab said. “We were never going to pick up that many people. To say that 100% are dangerous criminals on the street, or that those people weren’t picked up because of the misguided actions of the mayor, is just wrong.”

In fact, Schwab told Oakland Fox affiliate KTVU that the raid netted more arrests than initially planned.

House Republicans Abruptly Conclude There Was No Collusion with Russia

U.S. Capitol

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Even as special counsel Robert Mueller delves deeper into secret meetings between Trump and Russian associates, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee abruptly concluded they found no evidence of collusion between the president’s campaign and the Kremlin.

The GOP-dominated committee, with no input from Democrats, drafted a 150-page report that concedes Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election but disputes the intelligence community’s findings that the meddling was intended to help Trump win. One committee Republican, Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, didn’t agree, telling CNN “there is evidence” that Russia’s goal was to help shift the election in favor of Trump.

Rep. Mike Conaway, who headed the committee’s investigation, told reporters Monday that the report was based on the testimony of more than 70 witnesses and 300,000 documents. 

“We found no evidence of collusion. We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings,” the Texas Republican said. “But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, or meetings, whatever, and weave that into a some sort of fictional page-turner spy thriller.”

Trump responded on Twitter: Trump responded to the announcement on Twitter on Monday night, writing in all capital letters “THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.”

Trump didn’t mention that Democrats, who are expected to issue their own conclusions, were quick to dismiss the committee’s report as partisan-driven and premature.

“By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the majority has placed the interests of protecting the president over protecting the country,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, of Calif., the top Democrat on the committee. “And history will judge its actions harshly.”

Schiff, who suggested last month there was “ample evidence” of collusion, said the committee’s investigation was closed before key witnesses have been interviewed and important documents have been procured.

Just last week, sources revealed Mueller is investigating whether an early 2017 meeting in Seychelles was an effort to establish a back channel between Russia and the Trump administration.

Retired FBI Agent Vying for Democratic Nomination for Congress in Pa.

Retired FBI agent Todd Rowley.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Todd Rowley, who spent more than 24 years serving the FBI, is running as a Democrat for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 13th District.

The 53-year-old Donegal Township man retired from the FBI in July 2014 after a career spent on counterintelligence and counterterrorism.

Rowley, who works as a state park ranger and substitute teacher, said he wants to bridge the partisan divide that so often hampers progress in politics.

“We must begin the process of lessening the division and discourse that our country and its citizens are mired in,” he told TribLive.com. “That starts with elected officials — without abandoning their principles — being committed to and finding compromise and common ground on the many important issues our country faces today.”

The primary election is May 15 for a seat that covers  the eastern part of Westmoreland County along with Somerset, Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon, Fulton, Franklin and Adams counties, and portions of Cambria and Cumberland counties.

Other Stories of Interest

Trump Mulls Hiring Clinton Impeachment Attorney As Mueller Probe Intensifies

President Trump at the White House, via the White House.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

As the special counsel investigation continues to expand into uncomfortable territory, Donald Trump has met with veteran attorney Emmet T. Flood, who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, to join the president’s legal team.

Trump met with Flood in the Oval Office to discuss duties that would include “a day-to-day role helping the president navigate his dealings with the Justice Department,” The New York Times reports. 

While the sources said the meetings don’t necessarily reflect developments in the investigation, it does underscore Robert Mueller’s probe is far from over.

If hired, Flood would not replace Ty Cobb, who has been Trump’s lawyer throughout the investigation, the sources said.

On Sunday, Trump slammed New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman for writing the story, saying he is happy with his current legal team.

“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong,” Trump tweeted. “I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job.”

According to the Times, Cobb has told friends he doesn’t expect to remain in his job much longer.

In addition to representing Clinton during the impeachment process, Flood represented Vice President Dick Cheney in his civil suit against CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Hunt Continues for Missing FBI Agent Levinson 11 Years After Disappearance in Iran

Robert Levinson

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

It has been 11 years since former FBI agent Robert Levinson was last seen alive.

Levinson, who would have turned 70 years old on Saturday, disappeared while on a CIA operation on Kish Island in Iran.

The Iranian government initially responded that it had detained Levinson but soon backed off that story and has since maintained it has no idea about Levinson’s whereabouts.

“This is something the FBI has never forgotten. His fellow agents have never forgotten Bob,” Tom O’Connor, the head of the FBI Agents Association, told WTOP. “The FBI Agents Association stands with his family and with the FBI in the efforts that everyone is making to reunite Bob with his family.”

The FBI has not given up. O’Connor said.

“There are people that are dedicated to working nothing but the Bob Levinson kidnapping case,” he said.

Some intelligence officials believe Levinson may be dead, but that hasn’t stopped the search.

“By remembering these solemn anniversaries — 11 years is a long time — we hope that somebody will come forward with information. There’s a reward out there, $5 million, for the return of Bob Levinson to his family,” O’Connor said.

“Representatives of the Government of Iran and the United States agreed to cooperate in sharing information which would lead to Mr. Levinson’s return,” the FBI said in a statement on Friday. “The FBI calls on the government of Iran to uphold this commitment so that Mr. Levinson and his family can be reunited.”

In his experience, O’Connor said he’s not giving up hope.

“I’ve worked on hostage cases in the past where someone was held in Iraq for 311 days, and it just was one piece of information that broke and he was reunited with his family,” he said. “People didn’t think that was going to happen and it did, so never give up hope.”

Ex-Trump Aide Nunberg Says Special Counsel Probe Not a ‘Witch Hunt’

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former Donald Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, following a string of bizarre media appearances, said the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the president’s campaign is not a “witch hunt.”

“No, I don’t think it’s a witch hunt,” Nunberg told ABC. “It’s warranted because there’s a lot there and that’s the sad truth.”

But, he added, “I don’t believe it leads to the president.”

Nunberg said he believes may in Trump’s inner circle could be implicated, including his mentor and former Trump campaign aide Roger Stone.

“I’m very worried about him,” Nunberg said. “He’s certainly at least the subject of this investigation, in the very least he’s a subject.”

After defiantly daring Mueller to arrest him last week, Nunberg backed down from his pledge to ignore the investigation, including a subpoena to turn over records involving contacts with Trump’s inner circle.

On Friday, Nunberg met with Mueller and testified before a grand jury for more than five hours in Washington D.C.

Nunberg was fired from Trump’s campaign in August 2015 following the discovery of racially charged comments he made on Facebook.