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News Story

Fourth Package Explosion in Austin Injures 2, Raising Suspicions of a Link With Previous Packages

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Local and federal authors believe a string of deadly package explosions in Austin, Texas, may be racially motived after two more people were injured Sunday evening when an explosive device detonated.

The latest explosion – the fourth so far this month – happened in southern Austin around 8:30 p.m., prompting police to urge nearby residents to stay in their homes until 10 a.m. this morning.

The latest device was different because it appears a tripwire triggered the explosion in an area of Austin far from the other package bombs.

“We will not be able to send school buses into the neighborhood on Monday,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said in a late-night news conference. “In addition to that, we’re going to ask the residents in the Travis County neighborhood to stay in your homes tomorrow morning and give us the opportunity to process the scene once the sun comes up.”

The victims in Sunday’s blast were men in their 20s who were being treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Authorities weren’t immediately certain the blast was related to three unsolved package explosions in Austin this month that killed two people and injured two others, but police are working under the belief that the bombings are connected.

The first two victims, 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House and 17-year-old Draylen Mason, are black and have ties to two prominent African Americans families connected to an East Austin church that has long fought for racial justice. The third bomb targeted a hispanic resident and her mother.

The race of Sunday’s victims weren’t release Sunday night.

The FBI and ATF are assisting local police in the probe.

FBI’s McCabe Says His Firing Friday Was Designed to Undermine Special Counsel Probe of Trump

Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday night, a little more than 24 hours before he was set to retire with full benefits.

McCabe, who spent more than 20 years with the bureau, quickly responded, saying he “was singled out” because he’s a key witness in the obstruction of justice case centered around President Trump’s termination of then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

“Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said in a statement.

McCabe is among three FBI officials who have corroborated Comey’s claim that the president demanded his loyalty and pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

All three have since been forced out or reassigned.

In a statement Friday night, Sessions defended McCabe’s termination, saying it was based on findings by both the Justice Department’s internal watchdog and the FBI office that handles disciplines. According to their yet-to-be-released reports, “Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

McCabe, whose pension is in jeopardy, denied misleading investigators and said in a statement that the accusations are “part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn.”

Weekend Series on Crime History: Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre

FBI’s McCabe Makes Final Pitch Against Termination Days Before Planned Retirement

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifies before Congress.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe met with senior Justice Department officials on Thursday to make a final pitch for why he should not be fired just days before he has been planning to retire with full retirement benefits.

The decision whether to fire McCabe ahead of his planned Sunday retirement ultimately belongs to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Disciplinary officials at the FBI are recommending McCabe’s termination, which would jeopardize pension benefits that he has been accumulating since joining the bureau in 1996.

A yet-to-be-released inspector general report claims McCabe leaked records to a Wall Street Journal reporter to raise questions about the handling of the Clinton Foundation investigation. He’s also accused of misleading investigators with the inspect general’s office about the leak.

McCabe has drawn frequent criticism from Trump, who claims the one-time acting FBI director was part of a “witch hunt” to remove the president from office.

McCabe has denied any wrongdoing and spent several hours making the case to top DOJ officials about why he should not be fired.

GSA to Investigate Trump’s Abrupt Change of Plans for New FBI HQ

The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington D.C., named after J. Edgar Hoover.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The General Services Administration’s inspector general is investigating President Trump’s abrupt change in plans for a new FBI headquarters.

“My office will review GSA’s decision-making process for the revised FBI Headquarters Consolidation project,” GSA Inspector General Carol Ochoa wrote in a letter to Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, on Tuesday. “The scope of our review will include whether the revised plan properly accounts for the full costs and security requirements of the project.”

Connolly, a leading Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, requested the investigation to determine why the president abandoned a decade-long plan to move the headquarters to a consolidated campus in Washington D.C.’s suburbs.

Trump’s new plan calls for demolishing the current headquarters, which is cramped and outdated, and replace it with a new building.

Connolly and other lawmakers said the GSA has failed to give an adequate explanation for the sudden change in plans.

Russian Hackers Accused of Attacking U.S. Power Plants, Other Critical Infrastructure

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Top U.S. intelligence officials have accused Russian hackers of waging a widespread attack against America’s nuclear power system, air transportation facilities, water processing plants and other critical infrastructure components.

The FBI and Homeland Security said the Russian government is behind a multi-stage intrusion campaign” involving cyber attacks designed to compromise the country’s electric grid, as well as “commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors,” according to a report released Thursday.

The new report is alarming because it shows Russia is capable of infiltrating and compromising infrastructure that is critical to millions of Americans. “In some cases, information posted to company websites, especially information that may appear to be innocuous, may contain operationally sensitive information,” the report reads. “As an example, the threat actors downloaded a small photo from a publicly accessible human resources page. The image, when expanded, was a high-resolution photo that displayed control systems equipment models and status information in the background.”

Also on Thursday, the U.S. government announced new sanctions against Russia following the indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign to help get Donald Trump elected.

President Trump’s Business Empire Targeted in Special Counsel Probe of Russian Interference

Trump Tower in New York City.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The special counsel team investigating Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business documents, some of which are related to Russia, the New York Times first reported Thursday.

The subpoena is the first known legal action taken against one of Trump’s businesses as part of a quickly evolving investigation that began with the appointment of Robert Mueller, a former FBI boss, and has so far netted more than 100 combined charges against 19 people and three companies.

The probe now has three major focuses: Did Trump’s campaign collude with Russia to undermine the presidential election? Did the president or his advisers obstruct justice to interfere with the investigation? And did Trump or any of his family members reach international business deals made in exchange for favors from the White House?

The news comes less than a week after Republicans on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee concluded there was no evidence of collusion with Russia, even though lawmakers failed to interview key witnesses who have been charged and are cooperating with Mueller. Trump boasted that the conclusion, made without any feedback from Democrats, was proof he did nothing wrong. 

The Trump Organization said it began cooperating with special counsel in July 2017 and has nothing to hide.

“Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel, and is responding to their requests,” said Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization. “This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”

Trump continues to  denounce the investigation as a fruitless “witch hunt” by top intelligence officials who want him out of the White House.

Manafort Seeks Dismissal of Charges, Arguing Mueller Overstepped His Authority

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is facing up to 305 years in prison, urged a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss the charges against him because they exceed the legal authority of the special counsel appointed to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a motion to dismiss the charges, Manafort’s attorneys argued the alleged crimes predate Manafort’s involvement in the Trump campaign and therefore fall outside of the jurisdiction of special counsel Robert Mueller.

His attorneys contend Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein overstepped his authority by giving Mueller permission to prosecute any unrelated crimes that are discovered during the investigation of Russia.

“It is a blank check the special counsel has cashed, repeatedly,” Manafort’s filing read.

Manafort made a similar argument for a separate batch of charges file against him by the special counsel team.

Unless Manafort strikes a deal with prosecutors, the former high-paid political consultant is on track to become the first person to be tried in connection with Robert Mueller’s investigation

Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates, is among three former Trump aides who have pleaded guilty to assortment of charges and have agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team of prosecutors. Gates, who also served on Trump’s campaign, is expected to provide information about crimes he said he and Manafort committed as business partners.

Gates and Manafort were both charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, tax fraud and money laundering stemming from lobbying and consulting work related to Ukrainian politicians who are strong allies of Russia.