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Two Brothers Questioned in Mysterious Death of Border Patrol Agent

File photo of a Border Patrol vehicle, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal investigators may be closer to solving the mysterious death of a Border Patrol agent who was found at the bottom of a ravine in Texas last month.

The FBI is investigating two brothers who have been called “persons of interest” in the death of Rogelio Martinez and critical injuries to his partner on Nov. 18 near Van Horn, Texas, the Dallas Morning News reports

The news, which the feds said is preliminary, comes less than two weeks after a local sheriff and the FBI cast doubt on a Border Patrol union’s claims that the agents were brutally attacked by blunt objects, possibly rocks, not far from the border of Mexico. President Trump also peddled the unfounded narrative that the agents were attacked by immigrants.

Court documents signed on Dec. 2 reveal that FBI agents questioned Antonio and Daniel Muñoz and discovered red-stained fabric in a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am.

A forensics lab in Virginia is testing the fabric.

The brothers have denied they were involved, and neither has been arrested or charged.

Investigators said they are still pursuing the theory that the agents fell into a ravine along treacherous terrain.

Whistleblower: Flynn Pledged to End Sanctions with Russia on Trump’s Inauguration Day

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump had just begun delivering his inauguration speech when his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, texted a former business associate to alert him that sections against Russia were ending and a plan was in the works to build nuclear reactors with Russian partners, a whistleblower has told Congress.

The new allegations surfaced in a letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who said the whistleblower contacted him in June.

Flynn recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s U.S. ambassador and is said to be cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Flynn’s text about new deals with Russia was sent to his business partner, Alex Copson, a managing partner of ACU Strategic Partners.

It’s just the latest revelation about links between Trump’s inner circle and Russia, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump defeat Kremlin foe Hillary Clinton.

“During their conversation, Mr. Copson informed the whistleblower that he ‘just got this text message’ from General Flynn saying that the project was ‘good to go’ and directing Mr. Copson to contact their business colleagues to ‘let them know to put things in place’” the letter says.

Copson added, “Mike has been putting everything in place,” according to the letter. “I am going to celebrate today. This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.”

Republicans Scrambled to Discredit Intensifying Trump-Russia Probe

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Many Republicans are scrambling to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller as the investigation into the cozy relationship between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia intensifies.

The smear campaign is taking on a new urgency after several of Trump’s campaign aides have been charged and are said to be cooperating with the special counsel team.

Republicans are seizing the opportunity following revelations that a top FBI official, Peter Strzok, was removed from the special counsel team for sending text messages critical of President Trump.

“The question really is, if Mueller was doing such a great job on investigating the Russian collusion, why could he have not found the conflict of interest within their own agency?’” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., asked at a news conference, according to the Washington Post

Sen. Chuck Grassley

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, suggested the special counsel investigation is a partisan-driven campaign designed to smear Trump.

“Strzok’s behavior and involvement in these two politically-sensitive cases raises new concerns of inappropriate political influence in the work of the FBI,” Grassley wrote in a letter to the Justice Department and FBI.

Feds from 3 Agencies Conduct Nighttime Raid at Cleveland City Hall

Cleveland City Hall, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal agents from three agencies conducted a nighttime raid on Cleveland City Hall on Wednesday night as part of a criminal probe.

The IRS, FBI and HUD were involved in the raid, but it wasn’t immediately clear what the agents were investigating, Cleveland.com reports

The feds declined to provide details on the raid and the investigation.

Cleveland FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson would only say that agents were at city hall “after business hours for authorized law enforcement activity.”

The city also declined to comment on the raid.

Check back for updates.

ATF to Determine if It has Authority to Ban Bump Stocks on Weapons

Acting head of ATF Thomas Brandon.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two months after the Las Vegas shooting, ATF said it has begun reviewing whether it has the authority to ban bump stocks, a device that allowed the shooter to essentially convert weapons into automatic ones, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Lawmakers have called on ATF officials to determine whether the agency has the authority to regulate bump stocks without congressional action.

ATF’s Acting Director Thomas E. Brandon is testifying in front of a Senate committee hearing about the issue this week.

Those like Sen. Dianne Feinstein believe Congress should pass legislation addressing the issue rather than relying on ATF to make changes.

 

Bradley Moss: Does An FBI Agent’s Anti-Trump Texts Discredit Russia Probe? Hardly

Bradley P. Moss is a partner at the Washington, D.C. Law Office of Mark S. Zaid, P.C., where he has represented countless individuals (including whistleblowers) serving within the intelligence community, and is also the deputy executive director of the James Madison Project, through which he has represented media outlets such as Politico, Gawker, Daily Caller, and the Daily Beast in FOIA lawsuits against the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.

President Trump

By Bradley Moss
For Politico

What are we to make of the revelation that a senior FBI counterintelligence official, Peter Strzok, was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team this past summer, allegedly for sending anti-Trump text messages during the 2016 campaign?…

If all Strzok did, however, was privately express his personal political views, and he otherwise properly conducted himself in the context of his official duties, has he done anything wrong? The short answer is no. Not only are civil servants permitted to retain their personal political views while employed by the U.S. government, but they are even permitted by law to express those personal political views. The Hatch Act, passed in 1939, governs concerns about politics permeating the civil servant workplace. The statute only prohibits civil servants from engaging in political activity, which is directed at the promotion of or advocacy against a political party, group or candidate. Strzok allegedly sent text messages to a colleague mocking President Trump when he was still a candidate, something comparable to what countless of millions of Americans—including, no doubt, many GOP members of Congress—did with respect to both major candidates throughout the 2016 election.

To read the full column click here.

Is Trump Immune from Obstruction of Justice Charges? It’s Complicated, Legal Observers Say

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer brazenly declared the president “cannot obstruct justice” because he’s the “chief law enforcement officer.”

Citing the executive powers in the U.S. Constitution, Trump’s attorney John Dowd said the president “has every right to express his view of any case.”

Dowd didn’t elaborate, but his position drew comparisons to Richard Nixon’s infamous remarks in 1977: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

Dowd’s position that Trump is legally incapable of obstructing justice  came two days after the president’s explosive admission that he knew his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI. It’s a felony to lie the FBI. 

Many legal experts believe Trump’s admission that he knew of the alleged crime bolsters special counsel Robert Mueller’s case that the president intended to quash a legitimate criminal investigation by urging then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the case against Flynn. When Comey refused, he told investigators that Trump fired him.

Trump fired Comey, leading to claims that the president obstructed justice, a felony punishable by prison time.

But can a president be criminally charged with obstruction of justice?

Legal scholars are deeply divided on the issue, but virtually all agree that Trump, if guilty, could be impeached by Congress on the obstruction of justice charges.

Just look at Nixon and former President Bill Clinton, both of whom were accused of obstruction of justice and were impeached, but never criminally charged.

“No one in the judiciary committees during the Clinton and Nixon cases ever claimed that the president is incapable of obstructing justice,” constitutional scholar Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law told ABC.

Former President Nixon

Gerhardt insists the president isn’t above the law and said it’s “absurd” to claim that Trump couldn’t be criminally charged for obstruction of justice.

Blanket Immunity

Peter Zeidenberg, a lawyer who focuses on white collar and investigations, agrees, saying blanket immunity for a president would mean he could lie to prosecutors, destroy evidence and violate other laws.

“That assertion would literally mean that the president is above the law,” Zeidenberg told Politico.

Eugene Kontorovich, professor at Northwestern University School of Law, said it’s possible that a president’s action could constitute obstruction of justice, but added that the president may direct “inferior officers,” such as Comey, because Trump is the president of the supreme law.

“Offering advice on prosecutorial discretion cannot amount to obstruction,” Kontorovich told Politico. 

Noting the law is very unclear and has no precedent in a criminal proceeding, some legal experts said the authority to determine whether a president committed obstruction of justice belongs to the U.S. House of Representatives, which has impeachment powers.

For that reason, some legal scholars said the best way to handle obstruction of justice is through the impeachment process, not through the legal system.

“The task of determining whether Trump acted improperly ultimately falls to the House,” John Culhane, professor at Widener University Delaware Law School, told Politico.

But Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who focuses on constitutional law, insisted Trump cannot commit obstruction of justice by “exercising his constitutional power” to terminate employees and control appointees.

“I think if Congress ever were to charge him with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, we’d have a constitutional crisis,” Dershowitz told ABC News. “You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power.” 

Others disagree, saying the president is required to follow the law like any American citizen.

“We have a president, not a king,” said Sam Berger, senior policy adviser at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “No one is above the law, whether it be Trump or any of his close associates. It’s the sort of desperate claim that makes you wonder, ‘What exactly are they hiding?’”

Ousted Member of Russia-Trump Probe May Have Saved Clinton from Charges

Hillary Clinton

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In what could become a distracting setback to the credibility of the Trump-Russia investigation, the FBI agent who was removed from the special counsel probe for mocking the president altered the language used to describe Hilary Clinton’s actions in the email inquiry last year.

Peter Strzok’s change in the original writing, which was by then-FBI Director James Comey, was significant and may have helped Clinton avoid charges, legal observers told CNN

Strzok, a former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, altered Comey’s earlier draft language, from “gross negligence” to “extremely careless.”

Several people were involved with the decision to change the language, a U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. The change in language carries significant legal implications because federal law makes it a crime to mishandle classified material in a grossly negligent way.

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