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President Obama Says ‘Rule of Law is at Risk’ in Dismissal of Michael Flynn Case

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Former President Barack Obama, who has tried to be low key and refrain from publicly criticizing President Donald Trump, said in a private conversation Friday with ex-members of his administration that the “rule of law is at risk” in the Michael Flynn case, Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News reports.

Obama called the the Justice Department’s move to drop the charges against the former White House national security adviser unprecedented.

“The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Obama said in a web talk with members of the Obama Alumni Association.

“And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”

Weekend Series on Crime: The Mafia

TSA to Require Employees to Wear Facial Coverings Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The TSA said Thursday it will begin requiring employees to wear “facial protection” at screening checkpoints, more than two months after the pandemic reached the U.S.

The decision comes after 534 TSA employees have tested positive for the coronavirus and six have died, as of Thursday.

“TSA is making this change to protect our employees and travelers as social distancing cannot always be maintained in the screening process,” the TSA said in a statement.

The decision to require masks is “an additional measure to help minimize spread of COVID-19 and help raise the overall health and safety level inside the airport environment,” the TSA said.

“TSA is making this change to protect our employees and travelers as social distancing cannot always be maintained in the screening process.” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said.

Justice Department Moves to Drop Criminal Case Against Michael Flynn, Drawing Criticism

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department dropped its criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, citing documents detailing how FBI officials planned to handle a January 2017 interview with Flynn.

The decision to recommend that a judge dismiss the case drew immediate criticism from legal experts and Democrats, who raised serious questions about the motivations of the DOJ and Attorney General William Barr.

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat and even cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

In documents filed Thursday in federal court in Washington D.C., the Justice Department said, “The Government has concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn,” NBC News reports.

“The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue,” the filing said.

The decision follows the release of an internal review into the handling of the case. Flynn’s lawyers claimed the review shows Flynn had been entrapped into lying when FBI agents interviewed him.

Trump applauded the DOJ’s recommendation.

“I didn’t know that was happening at this moment. I felt it was going to happen just by watching and seeing like everybody else does,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

“He was an innocent man,” he said of Flynn. “He is a great gentleman.”

The move was “outrageous,” chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said.

“The evidence against General Flynn is overwhelming. He pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. And now a politicized and thoroughly corrupt Department of Justice is going to let the President’s crony simply walk away,” Nadler said in a statement.

Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who responded to the DOJ’s actions by saying “This is not justice,” urged Justice Department lawyers not to resign.

“DOJ lawyers of integrity will be tempted to resign over today’s motion to dismiss the Flynn case,” McQuade tweeted. “My advice is to please stay. We need you instead of those who might replace you.”

The recommendation still needs to be approved by Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Stejskal: Why the FBI Was Right to Launch the Russia-Trump Probe and Investigate Flynn

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


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. 

Read more »

Coronavirus Claims Life of First ICE Detainee; 705 Others Have Tested Positive

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The first ICE detainee to die from the coronavirus was a 57-year-old El Salvador man who had become ill at the Otay Messa Detention Center in San Diego.

“He contracted (Covid-19) at the facility,” the senior immigration official told CNN. “As soon as he tested positive he was sent to the hospital. He died there.”

Immigration rights groups have filed lawsuits against ICE, arguing the facilities are not adequately protecting detainees from the deadly coronavirus.

“The heartbreaking tragedy at Otay Mesa could have been prevented had US immigration officials heeded the recommendations of medical experts and acted in time,” Dr. Ranit Mishori, a senior medical adviser for Physicians for Human Rights, said in a statement Wednesday. “Thousands of doctors, advocates, and even the former acting head of ICE have been sounding the alarm for months about the grave risks of immigration detention amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The government cannot say it did not know this would happen.”

Six weeks ago, ICE announced its first detainee to test positive for COVID-19.

Nearly half of the ICE detainees tested so far – 705 – have a confirmed infection, according to ICE.

FBI Arrests Army Veteran After Finding 4 Pipe Bombs in His Colorado Home

Bradley Bunn, via Facebook.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

FBI agents arrested a 53-year-old Army veteran in Colorado for allegedly planning to use pipe bombs against law enforcement officers who tried to seize his weapons.

Bradley Bunn, a carpenter, was arrested Friday while walking to his car to head to an armed protest at the Denver State Capitol to rally against stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. prosecutors told The Durango Herald.

According to prosecutors at a court hearing on Wednesday, Bunn insisted he had the constitutional right to possess weapons, including land mines and artillery, and that he would “take out a few” law enforcement officers if they tried to seize his weapons.

During a search of his home, the FBI found bomb-making materials, an Army guide on building booby traps, and four pipe bombs, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Tonini.

His public defender said Bunn had mental health issues from serving in Iraq.

Appellate Court Overturns Order to Reduce Detainees at ICE Facility Over Coronavirus Fears

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Adelanto ICE Processing Facility in California won’t have to remove a significant number of its detainees after a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel overruled a lower court’s order, The Los Angeles Times reports.

U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter issued a preliminary injunction on April 23, ordering the facility near Los Angeles to decrease the population by at least 250 people by April 30 over fears of a coronavirus outbreak. The facility holds about 1,200 detainees but has room for nearly 2,000.

The Trump administration urged the appellate court to halt the injunction.

But the three-judge panel said Hatter’s order to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for detention facilities may remain intact.

The case began with a lawsuit by the ACLU of Southern California and the law firm Latham & Watkins.

“We remain very concerned about people who remain detained at Adelanto and will do everything we can to protect them,” ACLU attorney Minju Cho said.