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Trump Aide Kash Patel Offered Immunity to Testify in Classified Document Case

Kash Patel, former Trump adviser. Photo via Department of Defense

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department offered immunity to Kash Patel, a close adviser to former President Trump, to testify to a federal grand jury about the storage of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. 

In early October, Patel appeared before a grand jury as part of the investigation but repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. 

Now prosecutors are offering him immunity to obtain his testimony, The New York Times reports

Following the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, Patel claimed that he “personally witnessed” Trump declassifying records before he left the presidency.

“On the way out of the White House he issued further declassification orders declassifying whole sets of documents,” he told Fox News.

“He can literally stand over a set of documents and say these are now declassified and that is done with definitive action immediately,” Mr Patel added.

Renato Mariotti, a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, said in a Twitter thread that the DOJ likely reached the immunity deal to get Patel to testify under oath that his statements about Trump declassifying the documents were false.

Oath Keepers Leader Tried to Get Message To Trump After Jan. 6, Regretted Not Killing Pelosi

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

Four days after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, tried to convey a message to President Donald Trump, said he wished he had killed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and predicted a coming civil war. 

Rhodes made the comments in a secretly recorded meeting in a parking lot with Jason Alpers, who testified Wednesday during a trial of several Oath Keepers members, including Rhodes, who are accused of taking part in a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. government, CBS News reports

Alpers, a military veteran and software company founded based in Dallas, said the idea behind the meeting was to urge Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act. Alpers claimed to have indirect access to the president. 

“My only regret is they should have brought rifles,” Rhodes says in the recording, which was obtained by the FBI. “We should have brought rifles. We could have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang [f******] Pelosi from the lamppost.”

Alpers handed the audio record over to the FBI. 

U.S. Citizen Gets 20 Years For Leading an All-Women Military Terrorist Battalion in Syria

By Allan Lengel

A U.S. citizen was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday in Virginia for organizing and leading an all-female military battalion in Syria on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Allison Fluke-Ekren (police photo)

The government alleges that Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, formerly of Kansas, traveled overseas from around September 2011 to May 2019 and engaged in terrorist acts in countries including Syria, Libya and Iraq.

Fluke-Ekren ultimately served as the leader and organizer of an ISIS military battalion known as the Khatiba Nusaybah, where she trained women to use AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts. Over 100 women and girls, some as young as 10, received military training from Fluke-Ekren in Syria on behalf of ISIS, authorities alleged.

During the sentencing hearing, the court put in the record two separate letters submitted by Fluke-Ekren’s adult daughter and adult son, both of whom accused her of abusing them in Kansas and overseas while they were still minors.

Her daughter also delivered a victim impact statement in court describing abuse in Syria, including coercing her to marry an ISIS fighter, who raped her. She was 13 at the time.

Around 2008, Fluke-Ekren departed the U.S. and moved to Egypt with her now-deceased second husband, who was a member of the terrorist organization, Ansar al-Sharia.

In 2011, they lived in Benghazi, Libya. After the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission and CIA Annex in Benghazi, Fluke-Ekren’s husband claimed that he removed at least one box of documents and at least one electronic device from the U.S. compound in Benghazi.

Fluke-Ekren assisted him in reviewing and summarizing the stolen contents. The documents and electronic device, along with the summaries, were then turned over to the leadership of the terrorist organization, Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, the government alleged.   

Secret Service Spokesman Testifies Before Jan. 6 House Committee

By Steve Neavling

The Secret Service’s top spokesman testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and discussed the dramatic testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. 

Anthony Guglielmi was asked about issuing rebuttals of Hutchinson’s testimony, The Washington Post reports, citing people familiar with the interview.

In June, Hutchinson told the committee that a former President Trump wanted to join the riot and lunged at a secret Service agent in a limousine when he was told he couldn’t go.

Guglielmi said the rebuttals were approved by then-Secret Service Director James Murray and Deputy Director Faron Paramore. 

The Jan. 6 committee is working to wrap up its final report and is expected to continue its work beyond the Nov. 8 elections. 

Man Who Kidnapped, Attacked Border Patrol Agent with Machete Was Sentenced to 31 Years in Prison

Fernando Angel Puga

By Steve Neavling

A New Mexico man who kidnapped and brutally beat an off-duty Border Patrol agent with a machete in June 2017 was sentenced to 31 years in prison, the Justice Department announced Tuesday

Fernando Angel Puga, 37, of Las Cruces, and his co-defendant Sergio Ivan Quinonez-Venegas, of Mexico, were arrested nearly two years after the attack. 

A federal jury found Puga guilty of kidnapping, carjacking causing serious bodily injury and transportation of a stolen vehicle in interstate commerce in May. 

Agent Lorenzo Hernandez, who is assigned to the agency’s Deming area, was helping his mother at her food truck when two suspicious men, one of whom had a gun, asked Hernandez for a ride on June 9, saying their car had broken down. 

Worried that the men would harm his mother and minor brother and nephew, Hernandez offered the strangers a ride in his 2014 Ford Focus.

One of the suspects stuck a gun into Hernandez’s ribs and said, “This is a kidnapping.”

During a 50-mile drive to an area outside of Las Cruces, the suspects threatened to kill him. When the car stopped, Hernandez confronted the men outside of his car and a struggle over the gun ensued. 

Puga struck and stabbed Hernandez with a machete. 

Hernandez was taken to the hospital with fractures to his skull and arms and severe stab wounds to his body and fingers.

“When faced with a deadly situation, the victim fought off the attackers and managed to escape,”  Jeffrey R. Downey, special agent in charge of the FBI’s El Paso Field Office, said in a statement. “The courage and determination showed by the victim is awe-inspiring. The victim was not only able to escape but also assist law enforcement in the identification and arrest of the defendant and bring about the justice deserved in this violent abduction. We hope this sentencing will help the victim heal from the physical and mental wounds inflicted in this horrific incident.”

Quiñonez-Venegas was arrested June 13 and told FBI agents that he was forced to participate in the kidnapping by Puga. Two days later, the FBI and a local sheriff’s office arrested Puga, who claimed he was kidnapped by Quiñonez-Venegas.

“I am thankful that this violent criminal will have a long time behind bars to reflect on his heinous actions while the community is made safer,” U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff said in a statement. “I am also hopeful that the victim experiences healing and finds some solace in defendant’s removal from society. I laud the efforts of our law enforcement partners who worked to bring Puga to justice.” 

Quiñonez-Venegas was sentenced to five years in prison on Sept. 29. 

CBP Shoots Pepper Balls at Venezuelan Migrants After Agent Struck with Flagpole

By Steve Neavling

Border Patrol agents shot pepper balls at a group of Venezuelans to drive them out of the U.S. during a tense and chaotic scene that unfolded in El Paso near the U.S.-Mexico border Monday. 

The migrants crossed the border and approached agents outside a station under the international bridge. One of the migrants struck an agent with a flagpole, CBP said. 

“On October 31, at approximately 12:20 p.m., a group of Venezuelan nationals attempted to illegally enter the United States while protesting along the Rio Grande River International Boundary near downtown El Paso,” CBP said in a statement. “One of the protesters assaulted an agent with a flag pole, at which time agents responded by initiating crowd control measures. These measures included the use of the authorized less-lethal force pepperball launching system. The crowd then dispersed and returned to Mexico.”

The ACLU criticized CBP for its actions. 

“This footage is highly alarming,” Jonathan Blazer, director of border strategies at ACLU, said in a statement. “People seeking asylum on U.S. soil should be screened for protection, not pushed back, especially through use of force.”

Blazer said the Biden administration “must end its failed attempts to scare people out of crossing into the U.S. through tactics that have led to unnecessary death and suffering, and restore a humane process for seeking asylum.”

FBI Uses ‘Investigative Genealogy’ to Identify Woman Found Dead in 1974

Ruth Marie Terry in her 20s. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI identified a woman found dead on Cape Cod, Mass., in 1974 by using “investigative genealogy,” the special agent in charge of the bureau’s Boston Field Office announced Monday.

Known as the “Lady of the Dunes,” the remains of Ruth Marie Terry, 37, were found in the sand dunes in Provincetown. Her hands missing and her head nearly severed, Terry was killed by a blow to the head several weeks before her body was found, investigators said. 

The FBI believes her hands were “presumably removed by the killer so she could not be identified through fingerprints,” the bureau said in a news release

She was the oldest unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts, Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta said. 

Investigative genealogy combines DEA analysis with “traditional genealogy research and historical records to generate investigative leads for unsolved violent crimes” and holds great promise for other cases, Bonavolonta said. 

“This is a unique method that can generate new leads for unsolved homicides, as well as help identify unknown victims,” Bonavolonta said.

He added, “We are determined and we will be dogged in our search for justice for victims and their families.”

Ex-Capitol Police Officer Found Guilty of Obstruction in Jan. 6 Investigation

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo via Shutterstock.

By Steve Neavling

A former U.S. Capitol Police officer who warned a rioter to delete his Facebook post about entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot was found guilty of obstruction of justice on Friday. 

The jury that delivered the verdict against Michael Riley, but couldn’t agree on a second obstruction count, prompting a judge to declare a mistrial on that count, the Justice Department said in a news release.

On Jan. 7, 2021, Riley sent a Facebook message to friend Jacob Hiles, warning him that he could be charged. 

“Hey Jake,” Riley wrote, “im a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance. Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to be charged. Just looking out!”

Riley continued to send hundreds of messages to Hiles. After learning that Hiles had been talking to the FBI, Riley deleted all of his messages. 

The jury found him guilty in connection with his conduct involving the coverup. But the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charge related to his communications with Hiles.