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News Story

BuzzFeed Hires Former Top FBI Official to Track Down Authenticity of So-Called Steele Dossier

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

BuzzFeed has hired a former top FBI and White House cybersecurity expert to lead a team trying to verify parts of the controversial, disputed Steele dossier that suggested Russia had compromising information on President Trump.

Anthony Ferrante, who now works at FTI Consulting, a Washington-based advisory firm, has worked on the investigation for about six months, traveling around the globe to obtain more information on the veracity of the dossier, Foreign Policy reports.

BuzzFeed was the first news organization to publish the dossier, which alleged there were ties between Trump and Russia.

The story prompted a lawsuit against BuzzFeed, which is scurrying to defend the report, which was funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Trump dismissed the dossier as fiction, suggesting it’s another example of federal law enforcement’s campaign to bring down the president.

Sessions Lashes Out at GOP Senator Over Marijuana Policy Dispute

AG Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has compared marijuana to heroin, blamed pot for spikes in violence and declared that “good people don’t smoke it,” lashed out at a senator from Colorado over a controversial pot policy.

“Too often, we’ve seen bad judgements, even politics enter into the work that we do,” Sessions said in a speech at a National Sheriffs’ Association meeting, according to Forbes. “We’re trying to confirm a number of important component heads at the Department of Justice.  It’s just getting to be frustrating, I’ve gotta tell you. Our nominee to the National Security Division — the anti-terrorism division — was approved unanimously in the committee. But because right now one senator’s concerns over unrelated issues — like reversing federal law against marijuana — we can’t even get a vote.”

Sessions was referring to Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who has prevented the attorney general’s Justice Department nominees from being confirmed as part of a protest over Sessions’ decision to revoke an Obama-era policy that encouraged federal prosecutors to respect state laws on marijuana. Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level because the government stopped funding research to determine whether cannabis has medicinal benefits. 

Gardner said he voted to confirm Sessions’ nomination as attorney general because the former senator pledged not to make marijuana a major issue for the Justice Department.

“I have not changed my decision to hold these nominations until we have a commitment that lives up to what I believe was given to me prior to the confirmation,” Gardner said.

Other Stories of Interest

Top DOJ Official Steps Down to Avoid Prospect of Overseeing Special Counsel Probe

Rachel Brand is stepping down as third in command.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Fearing she would be tapped to oversee the special counsel investigation of Donald Trump and Russia, the Justice Department’s third in command decided to step down and avoid the president’s escalating attacks on the DOJ and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, who is taking a job as an executive at Walmart, was already frustrated with mounting, unfilled vacancies under the Trump administration, according to multiple people close to Brand, NBC News reports

Since Brand was next in line to oversee the widening special investigation, she became increasingly worried when President Trump began publicly criticizing the DOJ’s second in command, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

In May, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Kremlin had any ties with Trump’s campaign. Since then, Rosenstein has been the target of Trump’s relentless criticism in what has become a campaign to undermine confidence in the department overseeing the investigation.

While announcing her departure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation, called Brand a “lawyer’s lawyer.”

Brand said in a statement, “I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here.”

Fiancé Still Awaits Answers in Border Patrol Agent’s Mysterious Death

Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez was found dead at the bottom of a ravine in west Texas.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The man Angela Ochoa was about to marry was unconscious in an El Paso hospital bed, riddled with cuts and bruises.

Her fiancé Rogelio Martinez had been working a late shift as a Border Patrol agent about 120 miles east of their home in El Paso. That’s all she knew because no one at the hospital would talk to her about had happened.

Later that day, Martinez died, and still Ochoa was given no information about on what caused the fatal injuries.   

“We were just hoping we would have answers,” Ochoa told the El Paso Times

The next day, President Trump seemed to have answers that Ochoa didn’t.

“Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt,” Trump tweeted. “We will see out and bring justice to those responsible. We will, and must, build the wall.”

But justice never came, and in the next couple of days, a team of local and federal law enforcement officers cast doubt on Trump’s tweet.

Nearly three months laster,  following more than 650 interviews, Ochoa was given an autopsy report last week that indicated there was no evidence of a  “scuffle, altercation or attack.” 

According to the autopsy, Martinez died of “blunt force trauma” to his head caused by an “undetermined manner of death.”

Now all Ochoa wants are answers. She’s frustrated and angry.

Federal officials said they are still investigating the case and believe Martinez may have been killed in a car crash.

Martinez and his partner Stephen “Michael” Garland were responding to unknown activity on the night of Nov. 18 near Van Horn, a Texas town near the Mexico border and about 110 miles southeast of El Paso. Garland was seriously injured but has no memory of what happened. According to the FBI, Garland told a dispatcher, “We ran into a culvert.”

Garland was seriously injured and has no memory of what happened.

Ochoa said Martinez “had a big heart.”

He really enjoyed spending time with the kids they would catch … kids that lived the hard life outside of this country. He enjoyed getting to know them,” she added.

Watergate Reporter Bernstein: No Modern President Has Lied As Often As Trump

Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein on CNN.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who helped expose the Watergate scandal under President Nixon, is skeptical that Donald Trump will agree to an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller because of the president’s “compulsive, continual lying.”

“I think many of us will believe it when we see him sit down with Mueller. Look, we have no reason to believe almost anything that [Trump] says. What is so extraordinary about him and his presidency is the incessant, compulsive, continual lying,” Bernstein said on CNN

“We’ve never had a president who lies like this, certainly in the modern era. Even Nixon,” he added.

Bernstein’s comments follow news that Mueller, who is investigating Trump, his campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, wants a sit-down interview with Trump, who boasted two weeks ago that he has nothing to hide and will answer questions under oath.

But White House officials, including his attorneys, are urging the president to avoid the interview because they fear he will lie and be charged with perjury.

Trump has not yet made a final decision on the interview, which has not been scheduled yet.

Congressional Democrats to Meet with FBI Today Over Rebuttal Memo

Rep. Adam Schiff.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Democrats are refusing to give up on their fight to publicly release a classified report that rebuts a much-disputed, Republican-drafted memo alleging the FBI and Justice Department had abused their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign aide.

Today, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which drafted the report, said the panel is meeting with the FBI to hear its concerns about releasing the 10-page document and its advice on passages to redact.

“We’re going to sit down with the FBI and go through any concerns that they have,” Schiff said in a CBS interview. “And any legitimate concerns over sources and methods, we will redact.”

Trump insists he declined to release the report because it would “create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests.”

Schiff countered that Trump blocked the memo because it “undermines his claim of vindication” from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation that has evolved to include claims that the president obstructed justice by trying to interfere with the probe.

Schiff said the Democratic memo, which draws its information from classified reports, defended the surveillance request, saying investigators “followed all of the correct procedures.”

Under obscure committee rules, Democrats have three options: resubmit the document after the FBI’s concerns are addressed, urge the Republican-controlled House to override Trump’s refusal to publicize the report or let the issue go.

As Trump Escalates ‘Witch Hunt’ Rhetoric, No. 3 at Justice Department Steps Down

Rachel Brand is stepping down as third in command.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Rachel L. Brand, the third in command at the Justice Department and the first woman to serve as associate attorney general, plans to step down after nine months on the job as President Trump and his allies escalate their criticism of the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.

Brand was in the difficult position of being next in line for deputy attorney general, a post held by Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Trump and Russia investigation. Rosenstein has been a frequent target of attacks by the president and his allies because he is overseeing what Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.”

Democrats and others who support the investigation are worried Rosenstein will be replaced with a Trump ally who is willing to fire Mueller.

Brand, worked in appointed posts in the past three presidential administrations, will soon begin working in a top level position at Wal-Mart, the New York Times reports

Trump’s Bold Memo Snub Risks High-Stakes Standoff with Dems, Feds,

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump on Friday blocked the release of a classified, Democratic memo that counters a much-disputed, GOP-drafted document alleging the FBI and Justice Department had abused their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign aide.

White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote in a statement released Friday night that the Democratic memo would “create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests.”

Trump was “inclined to declassify” the memo, McGahn suggested, but not until sensitive passages were omitted.

Trump’s bold, contentious decision to block the rebuttal one week after cheerfully releasing the GOP memo sets the stage for a potentially volatile, high-stakes standoff that could have a lasting impact on the presidency, federal law enforcement and Americans’ faith in their leaders and institutions

Under an obscure rule, the House Intelligence Committee, which unanimously voted in favor of publicly disclosing the rebuttal on Monday, has the option of calling for a full House vote to override the decision.

It’s not yet clear whether enough Republicans would vote in favor of the memo’s release. Whatever the case, Trump, who declared last weekend that the GOP memo “totally vindicates” him, is losing support from his own party as he elevates the rhetoric against the FBI and DOJ, which are overseeing the special counsel investigation into Russia and Trump’s actions before and after he became president. 

Among the Republicans who publicly criticized the president for refusing to release the rebuttal was Justin Amash, of Michigan, who said the public has a right to examine both documents and draw their own conclusions.

I’ve read both memos,” Amash tweeted. “Neither one endangers national security. The American people deserve the opportunity to read both memos.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. D-Calif., said Trump’s refusal to release the Democrats’ memo indicates he “has something to hide.”

“The President’s decision to block the Democratic memo from release is part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the President,” she added. “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., accused Trump of obstructing justice by releasing one document and refusing to disclose another.

“Refusal to release Democratic response to #NunesMemo – evidence of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump happening in real time,” Blumenthal tweeted.

On Saturday, Trump defended his decision on the rebuttal, saying the memo is “very political” and “long.”

President Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning to defend his decision not to declassify a memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee in response to a GOP memo the president declassified for release last week. He called the Democrats’ memo “very political” and “long.” It is 10 pages, while the GOP memo is four pages.

Mr Trump also claimed Democrats knew their memo could not be released in its current form because it would reveal “sources and methods,” forcing the White House not to support its release.