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Ex-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III Gives Up Takata Airbag Gig for Russia Probe

Featured_220px-director_robert_s._mueller-_iii_25717
Ex-FBI DIrector Robert S. Mueller III

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Ex-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has bigger fish to fry, as the saying goes.

Mueller has resigned from his appointment as Special Master in the Takata airbag criminal restitution fund to carry on as special counsel to head up the Justice Department’s investigation of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. District Court in Detroit confirms.

“Bob Mueller took an extraordinary monetary loss to drop this assignment and willingly gave up fees that would have amounted to millions of dollars to accept the Justice Department’s Special Counsel appointment,” U.S. District Judge Judge George Caram Steeh says Monday in a statement.

“He also had to sever his employment with his law firm.  He willingly did this to perform his civic duty.  It was an extraordinary thing to do.”

Steeh will confer with Justice Department lawyers and Takata to find a replacement. The court will consider Kenneth Feinberg, whom both parties had recommended, and possibly others in the next few weeks, according to a release.

Trump’s Warm Relationship with AG Jeff Sessions Has Turned Icy Cold

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Few elected officials were as quick and passionate about supporting Donald Trump for president than Jeff Sessions, who was a senator at the time.

His loyalty helped land him the job as attorney general.

But the cozy, warm relationship between Trump and Sessions has appeared to turn ice cold, at least for the president, the New York Times reports. 

Sources told the Times that Trump has complained for months that Sessions decided to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling, a choice that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel to take over the probe.

And on Monday, Trump unleashed a series of tweets that accused Sessions’ department of devising a “watered down, politically correct” version of the travel ban.

The public admonition of an attorney general is rare for a president.

“They wholly undercut the idea that there is some rational process behind the president’s decisions,” said Walter E. Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general under Mr. Clinton. “I believe it is unprecedented for a president to publicly chastise his own Justice Department.”

White House: Trump Won’t Assert Executive Privilege to Prevent Comey’s Testimony

James Comey testifies about President Trump before a Senate committee.

James Comey testifies about President Trump before a Senate committee.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump appeared to be all that stood in the way of fired FBI Director James Comey testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On Monday, the White House insisted Trump won’t assert executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying on Thursday morning, the Associated Press reports

Although White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it’s “well-established” that Trump has power to invoke executive privilege, he won’t exercise it.

Sanders said Trump wanted to permit a “swift and thorough examination of the facts” surrounding Comey’s termination and the multiple investigations into possible ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

That being said, some legal experts this week expressed skepticism that Trump could effectively block Comey, now a private citizen, from discussing his dealings with Trump with the U.S. Senate.

The White House had considered blocking Comey on grounds that the testimony involves national security interests, but decided against it because the optics would look bad for the president.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have urged Comey to testify because of allegations that Trump pressured the former FBI director to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his contact with Russia.

Other Stories of Interest

How FBI Easily Tracked Down Leaker of Top Secret Russia Document

Reality Leigh Winner, via Facebook.

Reality Leigh Winner, via Facebook.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal investigators often struggle to uncover national security leakers, but not in the case of Reality Leigh Winner, a government contractor arrested for allegedly sending a top-secret document to a news outlet.

The Washington Post reports that Winner was easy to track down – it took just a few days – because the 25-year-old Georgia woman left behind plenty of clues. 

An unidentified news outlet, presumably The Intercept, called federal officials for a comment on one of the “most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.” The news agency, seeking comment for a story, showed authorities a copy of the printed materials, according to an affidavit.

“The U.S. Government Agency examined the document shared by the News Outlet and determined the pages of the intelligence reporting appeared to be folded and/or creased,” the affidavit reads, “suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.”

Authorities determined that six people had printed out the top-secret materials, and one of those was Winner, who worked for Pluribus International at a facility in Georgia.

A review of Winner’s work computer revealed that she had searched the agency’s classified system for the report and printed it on the same day. 

A reporter who received the documents said they were mailed in an envelope postmarked “Augusta, Georgia.”

“The Contractor informed the Reporter that he thought that the documents were fake,” the affidavit reads. “Nevertheless, the Contractor contacted the U.S. Government Agency on or about June 1, 2017, to inform the U.S. Government Agency of his interaction with the reporter.”

After Winner was arrested Saturday, the FBI said she admitted “removing the classified intelligence reporting from her office space, retaining it, and mailing it from Augusta, Georgia, to the news outlet,” court documents read.

Kushner Retains Access to Top-Secret Information Despite FBI Investigation

Jared Kushner. Photo by Lori Berkowitz Photography, via Wikipedia

Jared Kushner. Photo by Lori Berkowitz Photography, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Although President’s Trump’s son-in-law appears to be the target of the ongoing Russia investigation, he continues to have access to the nation’s most top-secret information.

“The bottom line is that if Kushner were not a family member, he would be dismissed to preserve the political legitimacy of the White House decision-making process and to separate his legal situation from that of the president,” William Yeomans, a former deputy assistant attorney general who spent 26 years at the Justice Department, told Vice News.

But even though Kushner, 36, has been reported to be a “person of interest,” there are no legal grounds to remove his access to classified information.

Someone who has been labeled a person of interest is not limited in what they can and can’t do, and it is business as usual,” said Denise Minor, a former FBI agent who specialized in white-collar crime and counterintelligence during her 28 years at the bureau.

But Kushner’s move are more likely to be scrutinized.

“If someone who knows they are under investigation destroyed notes and material that they should realize may be sought for an investigation, that person could worsen their own  position by giving rise to inferences against themselves, or in an extreme case, could raise the possibility of obstruction of justice,” said Paul Rothstein, a professor at Georgetown Law School.

Sen. Mark Warner: ‘Unthinkable’ If Trump Pressured Comey to End Russia Investigation

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Mark Warner

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

If President Trump pressured then-FBI Director to stop investigating his former national security adviser, “It would be unthinkable,” Sen. Mark Warner said Sunday in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation.

Warner is the t0p Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee that will hear testimony Thursday from Comey, whom Trump fired last month.

“We’ve known since Watergate that rules of the road were, you know, a president shouldn’t intervene in an ongoing investigation, particularly the case if it involves individuals that are close to that president,” Warner said.

While it may seem “unthinkable” to pressure an FBI director to stop an investigation, it’s exactly what Comey said happened in a memo in February. Comey also said Trump asked the then-FBI director to pledge his loyalty tot he president.

“I want him (Comey) to reinforce, one, the fact that the Russians directly intervened in our elections, which everybody accepts except for the president and maybe Vladimir Putin,” said Warner.

Jim Comey deserves to have his, in effect, day in court since the president’s disparaged him so much,” he said.

Trump Blasts His Own Justice Department Over ‘Watered Down’ Travel Ban

President Trump

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump blasted his own Justice Department in a series of tweets Monday morning, saying his travel ban has been “watered down” in order pass legal muster.

Trump urged the Justice Department to seek a “much tougher version” of the executive order that he signed to block individuals from six-majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Courts have blocked two versions of his travel ban, largely because it targets a religion.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” Trump tweeted early Monday morning. “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.”

Trump also lashed out at the courts, calling them “slow and political.”

The JusticeDepartment formally asked the Supreme Court last week to declare his executive order is constitutional.

The order before the Supreme Court is a narrower version of Trump’s controversial directive, which he signed during his first week in office.

Brexit Campaigner Nigel Farage Disputes He’s an FBI ‘Person of Interest’

Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, by Michael Vardon, via Wikipedia.

Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, by Michael Vardon, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage dismissed reports that he was a “person of interest” in an FBI investigation over possible collusion between Russian and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Farage also said the FBI has not contacted him.

“No, of course they haven’t,” Farage, the former leader of Britain’s UK Independence Party, told BBC radio on Saturday when he was asked if the FBI had been in touch with him. “I mean this is just hysteria.”

The initial report, published by the Guardian on Thursday, indicated Farage was not a suspect, but he was “right in the middle of the relationship being looked at.” The newspaper reported that Farage had “raised the interest” of the FBI because of his ties to Trump and Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks.

Farage said he only met Assange once and questioned the accuracy of the FBI source in the story.