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Mueller is Close ‘Personal Friends’ with His Likely New Boss, William Barr

Trump’s attorney general pick, William Barr.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump has long complained that special counsel Robert Mueller and his former FBI director, James Comey, were “Best friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest.” 

Turns out, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, has “been personal friends for over 20 years,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, Newsday reports.

“I didn’t know that they were that close personally,” Graham said after meeting privately with Barr on Wednesday.

Not only did Barr and Mueller work together at the Justice Department, Mueller attended the weddings of two of Barr’s daughters, and both men’s wives attend a Bible school together.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Trump knows about the relationship.

New Legislation Will Help Prosecutors Bring Justice to Civil Rights-Era Killings

Martin Luther King Jr.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Prosecutors have struggled for decades to bring justice to victims of civil rights-era killings because the decades-old FBI records are often redacted.

That could soon change after President Trump signed a bill Tuesday to allow the FBI to release unredacted documents related to the unsolved cases.

The legislation was set in motion by dozens of students at Highstown High School in New Jersey.

One of the students, who is now at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Clarion Ledger the bill is a reminder “that even if justice is long delayed, it does not have to mean that justice is denied.”

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the records are important for the victims’ families and the communities.

“An incredible level of healing and reconciliation can accompany knowledge,” he said. “Given the age of these cases and the fact it is highly unlikely that these cases could be resurrected, this is the way to get that healing and reconciliation.”

The students used the JFK Records Collection Act of 1992 as a model for what they called the “Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2017,” which would create an independent review board to coordinate the release of classified records on civil rights killings.

Many of the killings are detailed in FBI files that remain largely redacted. They include the KKK’s 1964 killing of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner and the 1959 lynching of Mack Charles Parker.

FBI records on the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. also contain redactions.

Activists also were calling on redacted files relating to the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X.

Civil rights lawyers said the largely secret files make it difficult to solve cold cases.

Accidental Reveal of Manafort’s Interactions with Russians Raises Prospect of Collusion

Paul Manafort’s mugshot

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

One of the most revealing details of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia was made public this week by accident.

In a court filing, lawyers for Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign boss, made a redaction error that revealed their client’s relationship with a Russian-linked operative named Konstantin Kilimnik.

During the campaign, Manafort met with Kilimnik and discussed “a Ukraine peace plan” and shared inside polling data.   

So what’s the big deal?

It’s the first strong indication that Mueller’s team has evidence of possible collision between Russia and Trump’s campaign. As the head of Trump’s campaign, Manafort was communicating with Kilimnik, a suspected Russian intelligence agent who was indicted by Mueller’s team on obstruction of justice charges.

Manafort also urged Kilimnik to pass the data to Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska, who has claimed Manafort was in debt to him over a failed business, The New York Times reported

Just this month, the Department of Treasury lifted sanctions against Deripaska’s aluminum company.

The poorly redacted documents also contradict Trump’s repeated claims that Mueller has no proof of possible collusion.

Only time will tell whether Mueller has enough evidence of collusion.

El Chapo Trial: How the FBI Cracked Sinaloa Cartel’s Sophisticated Communications System

‘El Chapo’ Guzman

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

When the FBI couldn’t crack the Sinaloa cartel’s encrypted messages, agents did the next best thing: They went after the tech guru who built the sophisticated communications system.

Cristian Rodriguez began cooperating with the feds in 2011, handing them the encryption key to listen to about 800 calls from members of the most notorious Mexican drug cartel.

On Tuesday, prosecutors played excerpts from what they described as incriminating phone calls that were tapped between July 2011 and January 2012. Jurors heard the calls during the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the alleged Sinaloa kingpin, The New York Times reports.

The elusive El Chapo was captured by a recording device between 100 and 200 times. In many of the calls, Guzman could be heard orchestrating cocaine sales and speaking to corrupt cops.

The trial resumes Wednesday.

Rod Rosenstein, Overseeing Russia Probe, Plans to Leave His Post

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

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who hired Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference during the election, is preparing to leave his post.

The career prosecutor’s departure comes as the Senate prepares to confirm President Trump’s pick for attorney general, William Barr. The hearing is set to begin Jan. 15, and it could take a month or more before he is confirmed.

There are no signs that Rosenstein is being forced out by Trump, ABC reports.

Speculation mounted that Trump would fire Rosenstein in September after The New York Times reported the deputy AG considered secretly recording the president and invoking the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

Trump has called the Mueller investigation a witch hunt, even as the special counsel secured convictions of some of the president’s former top aides.

Rosenstein had the authority to appoint a special counsel to investigate election interference because then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from any inquiries into Russia’s contacts with the Trump campaign team. Rosenstein appointed Mueller after Trump fired his FBI director, James Comey, who told lawmakers the president pressured him to stop investigating his national security director, Michael Flynn, who was later indicted.

 

Russian in Trump Tower Meeting Charged in Case That Reveals Close Ties to Kremlin

Trump Tower

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Russian lawyer who met with top Trump campaign aides at Trump Tower in 2016 was charged Tuesday in a money-laundering case that reveals her close ties to the Kremlin.

Federal prosecutors in New York charged Natalia V. Veselnitskaya with obstruction of justice in a U.S. money-laundering case involving Yury Chaika, a wealthy Russian businessman connected to the Trump Tower meeting, The New York Times and Guardian report.

The June 2016 meeting was prompted by a representative close to the Kremlin who told Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., that Chaika could provide incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

The meeting has become a focus of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. Attending the meeting were top campaign aides, Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, who has been convicted of crimes in unrelated cases.

Although the case against Veselnitskaya is unrelated to the Trump Tower meeting, the indictment reveals how closely she is connected to the Russian government.

DEA Agent Accused of Helping Drug Cartel Was Denied Bond Because of ‘Double Life’

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A former police officer accused of joining the DEA so he could protect a Puerto Rican drug cartel was ordered to stay behind bars Monday until his September trial.

DEA Agent Fernando Gomez, who worked in the Chicago field office, was arrested in December and charged with racketeering conspiracy for his alleged decade-long affiliation with the Organizacion de Narcotraficantes Unidos. The gang, which imported vast shipments of cocaine into the U.S., was accused in the indictment of participating in at least eight drug-related killings in New York and Puerto Rico.

Manhattan federal Judge Jesse Furman denied bail to Gomez, saying he was a flight risk because he lived double lives for decades, New York Post reports.

“It raises in my mind an extraordinary level of deviousness,” Furman said.

Gomez is accused of helping the gang beginning in 2006 when he was a detective with the city of Evanston.

Trump’s Shutdown Endangers Airport Safety As Unpaid TSA Screeners Call in Sick, Quit

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump said the government shutdown could last months or even years because border protection is so important.

But what about airline safety?

In the first weeks of the shutdown, protection at U.S. airport has been compromised because TSA screeners are calling in sick – and some are quitting – because they can’t afford to work without a paycheck.

The agency’s 51,739 screeners are required to work during the shutdown because their services – screening bags and passengers for weapons – are considered essential.

But with no assurances of getting paid until the shutdown is over, a growing number of screeners have called in sick.

Airports are increasingly concerned about airport safety and disruptions.

“We’re concerned that a prolonged government shutdown could potentially impact security and wait times at airports,” Christopher Bidwell, a senior vice president for security at the Airports Council International-North America in Washington, told Time.

During previous government shutdowns, Congress made sure that federal employees who are forced to work are paid. That has happened yet.

Under normal circumstances, screeners would get paid this Friday. If they don’t, airports are bracing for long wait times, disturbances and potential threats to airlines and passengers.