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FBI Interviewed Trump Attorney Justin Clark, DOJ Reveals in Court Filings Tied to Steve Bannon

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling

The FBI interviewed former President Trump’s attorney Justin Clark, according to a Justice Department court filing early Monday morning. 

The June 29 interview was revealed in a court filing in the criminal contempt case of Steve Bannon, Politico reports.

A report of the interview was provided to Bannon’s team on June 30. 

Details of the interview weren’t immediately clear, but Clark contradicted Bannon’s claims that Trump had invoked executive privilege to prevent Bannon from testifying before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

In an extraordinary about-face over the weekend, Bannon said he’s prepared to testify. 

“The Defendant’s timing suggests that the only thing that has really changed since he refused to comply with the subpoena in October 2021 is that he is finally about to face the consequences of his decision to default,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn wrote in the court filing. 

“All of the above-described circumstances suggest the Defendant’s sudden wish to testify is not a genuine effort to meet his obligations but a last-ditch attempt to avoid accountability.”

CBP Report Says Horse-Mounted Agents Used ‘Unprofessional And Dangerous Behavior’

By Steve Neavling

CBP plans to discipline horse-mounted agents for their “unprofessional and dangerous behavior” when confronting Haitian migrants near the border in Del Rio, Texas, last year. 

The agency released a 500-plus page report by the Office of Professional Responsibility that found failures at multiples levels, a lack of appropriate policing and training, and unnecessarily aggressive behavior by several agents on horseback.

According to the report, several agents used unnecessary force and profanity-riddled threats to drive migrants back down the banks of the Rio Grande. 

“The report showed there were failures to make good decisions at multiple levels of the organization,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement. “Failures to maintain command and control over Horse Patrol Units, lack of appropriate policies and training, and the overall chaotic nature of the situation at Del Rio at the time contributed to the incident. Several agents engaged in unprofessional or dangerous behavior, including one instance in which an agent used denigrating and offensive language.”

Images of the interaction went viral, and the Biden administration pledged to hold agents responsible for unnecessary force. 

No decision has yet been made on discipline. 

Weekend Series on Law Enforcement: Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover Chat

Stejskal: Ms. Smith goes to Washington, testifying truth to power

The writer, an FBI agent for 31 years, retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006. He is the author of “FBI Case Files Michigan: Tales of a G-Man.”

By Greg Stejskal

During my FBI career, I was involved in the investigation and prosecution of many criminal conspiracies. It was often a challenge to find witnesses with direct knowledge of the machinations of the conspiracy.

Cassidy Hutchinson

Sometimes witnesses were people within the conspiracy, co-conspirators. They might be people who were recruited for the conspiracy but chose not to participate or they dropped out before the conspiracy came to fruition. And sometimes it was people on the periphery with some knowledge of the conspiracy.

As prosecutors say, conspiracies hatched in hell can’t have angels for witnesses. Most of the time, these potential witnesses weren’t the most upstanding or credible people. So we had to figure out ways to corroborate their testimony.

If the criminal activity were ongoing, we could try to have the witnesses record conversations with the conspirators or obtain written or digital communications like texts or emails. In trial, we knew they would be subject to very aggressive cross examination.

In the case of the multi-faceted “Big Lie” conspiracy, it wasn’t hatched in hell. It was hatched in large part in the West Wing of the White House. One of the seemingly big obstacles to determine whether this conspiracy was criminal was to show whether the conspirators had criminal intent. Did they believe that Trump had actually won the election, and did they intend to interfere with the Congressional certification of the counting of the electoral votes by a mob of Trump supporters that had been summoned to Washington and incited to march to the Capitol? Was there an expectation by the then president that there might be violence?

Angels as Witnesses

Going back to that adage about angels not being witnesses to criminal conspiracies – like all adages it isn’t always true. On June 28th, a 25-year-old woman, Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, looking suitably angelic, but resolute, testified to the January 6th Committee.

Like Jimmy Stewart’s character, Jefferson Smith, in the 1939 movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” she displayed the idealism of youth and an understanding that her loyalty is to the country and the Constitution not an individual or party. In the movie, Smith does a one-man filibuster until he collapses from exhaustion to expose the corruption of one senator – not an existential threat to our constitutional republic.

I have considerable experience assessing witnesses. I found Hutchinson’s testimony to be compelling and credible. She has not yet been subject to cross examination, but I believe it would be difficult to cast doubt on her testimony.

Some have criticized Hutchinson’s testimony as primarily hearsay. The definition of what constitutes hearsay can be a little confusing. But the Federal Rules of Evidence specifically says that out-of-court statements by a “party-opponent,” such as a defendant in a criminal trial, and testified to by a another is not hearsay. Neither are statements made by an agent or employee of the party-opponent made within the scope of their employment. Nor are statements made by co-conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy.

So, when Hutchinson testified to a statement that she heard the then president say (something to the effect) “I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. … They can march to the Capitol from here.” It was not hearsay and indicated that Trump was aware the crowd was armed when he extorted them to go to the Capital and “fight like hell.”

Hutchinson also testified that Anthony Ornato, Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Operations, told her that following the January 6th rally on the ellipse, Trump became irate when his Secret Service detail told him they wouldn’t take him to the Capital. Ornato said in addition to a verbal tirade, Trump reached for the steering wheel and lunged at one of the agents as though he was going to grab his throat. This also would most probably not be hearsay.

Hutchinson did not claim to have witnessed this incident, but rather that it was related to her by Ornato. Apparently, there are some anonymous people in the Secret Service who are saying Trump didn’t physically assault an agent, but that he was irate and did demand to be driven to the Capitol. This has been used to try to discredit Hutchinson’s credibility.

Stop Certification

The most important aspect of this incident is that Trump wanted to go to the Capitol to lead his supporters and to somehow stop the Congressional certification of the electoral votes. Like Julius Caesar, Trump had summoned his motley army to cross not the Rubicon but the Potomac to march on the Capitol. In Roman times, what Caesar did was treason, and he did take over the government.

Cassidy Hutchinson testified four times under oath to the January 6th Committee. By all accounts her testimony was consistent. If she were to lie, she could be charged with perjury. She isn’t promoting a book and doesn’t seem to have an interest in notoriety. Because she has breached the Trump code of loyalty, she has been castigated by Trump and his minions. After testifying the first time to the committee, Hutchinson was concerned about questions that weren’t asked and information she had that was relevant to the committee’s investigation.  She would testify three more times. The last time was televised.

The country owes her gratitude for standing up, swearing to tell the truth, and doing so. It would have been far easier for her to provide minimal information, but she chose to tell the whole truth. Many of the older, primarily males she worked with in the West Wing have chosen to not testify claiming some kind of spurious privilege.

She courageously chose to do the right thing. She characterized the insurrection on January 6th as un-American. Something was stolen on January 6th – our tradition of a peaceful transition of power. We came close to losing much more.

IRS Asks Inspector General to Investigate Rare Tax Audits of Comey, McCabe

Former FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling

The head of the IRS asked the Treasury Department’s internal watchdog to investigate the circumstances surrounding the rare, exhaustive and supposedly random audits of former FBI Director James Comey and his then-deputy Andrew McCabe. 

The FBI leaders drew the ire of former President Trump before they were selected for the audit.

“The I.R.S. has referred the matter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for review,” the agency said in a statement. 

The IRS said its commissioner, Charles P. Rettig, “personally reached out” to the inspector general’s office after the audits came to his attention. 

Democrats also called for an internal investigation. 

“Donald Trump has no respect for the rule of law, so if he tried to subject his political enemies to additional I.R.S. scrutiny, that would surprise no one. We need to understand what happened here because it raises serious concerns,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said. 

Secret Service Director Murray to Retire, Join Maker of Snapchat

Secret Service Director James Murray

By Steve Neavling

Secret Service Director James Murray announced Thursday that he’s retiring at the end of the month after three years at the helm. 

Murray, who has been with the Secret Service for 27 years, is taking a position overseeing security for Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, The New York Times reports.

Former President Trump appointed Murray to the position in 2019 to replace Randolph D. Alles.

“Joining the Secret Service was the easiest decision I have ever made,” Murray told employees in a letter on Thursday. “Deciding it is time to move on, however, has been one of the most difficult.”

According to the letter, Murray informed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that he intended to retire. 

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden issued a joint statement: “We are incredibly grateful for his service to our country and our family.”

Comey, McCabe Underwent Rare, Intensive Audit After Tiff with Trump

James Comey (Twitter photo)

By Steve Neavling

Former FBI Director James Comey and his then-deputy Andrew McCabe were selected by the IRS for an intensive, rare and purportedly random audit, The New York Times reports

Comey and McCabe both received letters from the IRS indicating it was conducting National Research Program audits of their tax returns. 

“We must examine randomly-selected tax returns to better understand tax compliance and improve the fairness of the tax system,” the letters state.

The audits drew suspicion because they are extremely rare, and Comey and McCabe had both drawn the ire of former President Donald Trump. 

In fact, the odds of being selected for the audit is about one in every 30,600. 

“Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe somebody misused the IRS to get at a political enemy,” Comey told The Times. “Given the role Trump wants to continue to play in our country, we should know the answer to that question.”

As a result of the audit, Comey received a $347 refund, and McCabe owed a small amount of money. 

“The revenue agent I dealt with was professional and responsive,” McCabe said. “Nevertheless, I have significant questions about how or why I was selected for this.”

TSA on Track to Set Another Record for Gun Seizures at Airport Checkpoints

By Steve Neavling

The TSA is on track to set another record for the most guns seized at airport checkpoints, the agency announced Thursday. 

The agency seized more than 3,000 guns at checkpoints nationwide in the first six months of this year. 

That’s an average of 17 guns per day. 

The TSA set a record last year with 5,972 gun seizures. That was a 35% increase over the previous year. https://www.ticklethewire.com/2022/01/19/record-number-of-firearms-discovered-at-airport-checkpoints-in-2021/