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Des Moines Register: ATF Tobacco Investigation Schemes Is ‘Highly Questionable’

atf badgeBy Editorial Board
The Des Moines Register

It’s getting harder and harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

First there was the scandal involving federal agents who helped route guns to Mexican drug cartels. Then it was revealed that law enforcement officials nationwide have routinely abused forfeiture laws to seize the property of law-abiding citizens.

Now there are signs that agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used highly questionable — arguably illegal – cigarette sales in order to fund a secret bank account used to pay informants.

And we’re not talking about a handful of rogue agents raising a few thousand dollars. The evidence points to tens of millions of dollars being raised by law enforcement officials through the same schemes used by the criminals they were supposed to be apprehending.

The operation, detailed in a recent report from the New York Times, wasn’t authorized by the Justice Department, the agency under which the ATF operates, and that appears to have been by design. It gave agents access to a bank account that, because it was off the books, wasn’t subject to the usual level of oversight.

The scheme itself was built on a complex series of transactions, some of which involved the sale and shipment of water and snacks disguised as cigarettes.

To read more click here. 

Sen. Schumer: Trump’s Plans to Cut TSA Budget by 11% Is Dangerous

airport scanner 2By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s plans to cut 11% from the TSA’s budget would “spell real trouble for security,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

The cuts are meant to free up money to increase funding for immigration enforcement programs and the construction of a wall along the Mexico border.

Schumer, D-N.Y., called the cuts a “cash raid for the borer wall,” Newsday reports. 

“You’re not going to quietly pillage the federal funds that protect New York on my watch,” said Schumer, who serves as the Senate Minority Leader, directing his message at the White House.

Under Trump’s plans, the Coast Guard also would be cut by 14%.

The TSA cuts would eliminate a $20 million program to train flight crew members in firearms training in the event of a hijacking. The plan also calls for cutting $45 million in grants for local law enforcement to increase patrols in and around airports.

Other Stories of Interest

Weekend Series on Crime History: Underwater Tunnel Used to Smuggle Drugs Into U.S.

Atty. General Sessions Says Adios to All the Remaining U.S. Attorneys From the Obama Administration

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (file photo)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (file photo)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

As always, some U.S. attorneys had hoped to dodge the bullet and stick around. But that was not meant to be.

On Friday,  the Justice Department announced that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asking all 46 remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys across the country to submit their resignations immediately, according to report in the Washington Post by Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett.

“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice,” agency spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”

Until the President appoints replacements, career prosecutors will run the offices.

Among those who will ago is Detroit’s U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

“I have loved serving in this job as much as anyone has ever loved any job,” McQuade said in a statement Friday night. “It has been an incredible privilege to work alongside public servants who devote their tremendous talents to improving the quality of life in our community. I am proud to have served as U.S. Attorney in the Obama Administration.”

But not all went quietly into the night.

New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the highest profile U.S. Attorney in the country, refused to go, saying President Donald Trump had promised him during the campaign that his job was safe.

So, Trump fired him.

 

NBC Takes A Look Inside ATF’s Lab That Connects Guns to Criminals

FBI Investigates Possible Computer Server Connection Between Trump Organization, Russian Bank

Donald TrumpBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An FBI counterintelligence team is investigating a possible computer server connection between the Trump administration and a Russian bank.

The same team is investigating whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

One U.S. official told CNN the server relationship was “odd,” but it’s not yet clear whether it was significant. 

CNN wrote:

Internet data shows that last summer, a computer server owned by Russia-based Alfa Bank repeatedly looked up the contact information for a computer server being used by the Trump Organization — far more than other companies did, representing 80% of all lookups to the Trump server.

It’s unclear if the Trump Organization server itself did anything in return. No one has produced evidence that the servers actually communicated.

Washington Post: Senate Should Confirm Trump’s Nominee for No. 2 Spot at DOJ

rod_rosenstein_us_attorneyBy Editorial Board
Washington Post

Though President Donald Trump’s opening weeks have been chaotic and dispiriting, the nation’s new chief executive has still managed to make a few good choices. One of his best was nominating Rod Rosenstein to be the No. 2 at the Justice Department. The sooner the Senate confirms him, the sooner the administration will have another adult in its top ranks. So it’s unfortunate that Mr. Rosenstein faced demands from Democrats at his Tuesday confirmation hearing that no one in his position should accede to.

As deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein would oversee the daily operations of a vast, 115,000-person bureaucracy responsible for enforcing laws on everything from hate crimes to antitrust. After nearly three decades in the Justice Department, serving under presidents of both parties, “Rod Rosenstein has demonstrated throughout his long career the highest standards of professionalism,” Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The senator praised Mr. Rosenstein’s “nonpartisan” approach and noted his wide support among Democratic officials in Maryland, where Mr. Rosenstein serves as U.S. attorney and has had notable success prosecuting gang crime and political corruption.

Instead of that record, Mr. Rosenstein’s hearing was dominated by the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week from issues involving Russia and the 2016 presidential election. With Mr. Sessions sidelined, Justice Department decisions regarding any investigation into Russia’s meddling and contacts between Mr. Trump’s circle and Russian officials would fall to Mr. Rosenstein.

He assured senators that “political affiliation is irrelevant to my work” and promised to “support any properly predicated investigation related to interference by the Russians or by anybody else in American elections.”

To read more click here. 

Feds May Lower Hiring Standards to Hire More Border Patrol, ICE Agents

ICE agents, via ICE.

ICE agents, via ICE.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Homeland Security may have to lower its hiring standards to increase immigration enforcement and shut down the border with Mexico.

The agency, which has struggled to fill vacant positions, wants to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more ICE agents.

Strict hiring standards have made it difficult to fill those positions, so now DHS is considering eliminating the polygraph test, requiring less thorough background checks and making an entrance exam easier, according to a DHS memo obtained by Vice

“The idea that they would be able to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents without lowering the standards always struck me as unrealistic,” said Stephen Legomsky, who served as senior counsel to DHS under President Barack Obama. “It would be a terrible idea to eliminate the [lie detector] test, but if they don’t, I don’t see how they could meet their hiring target.”

The hiring standards are so strict that a vast majority of applicants never make it through the process. For example, about 65% of applicants fail the polygraph test.