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Tag: Justice Department

Barr Struck Deal with Mexico to Release Ex-Defense Minister for Senior Cartel Leader

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, former Mexican defense minister.

By Steve Neavling

Mexican authorities agreed to arrest a senior cartel leader in exchange for Attorney General William Barr dismissing drug trafficking charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.

The deal, first reported by Reuters, sheds more light on an unusual decision that drew criticism from some in Congress and the State Department, as well as former DEA agents.

“Mexico committed to collaborate with the United States in the capture of a primary objective,” a source told Reuters

Daniel Millan, spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, responded, “what we agreed was to maintain a united front against crime and cooperation that respects the sovereignty of each country.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman denied both countries had a deal. 

Last week, multiple news outlets reported that Mexican officials were so incensed with the arrest of Cienfuegos that they threaten to remove the DEA from the country.

The unidentified cartel leader is suspected of trafficking large quantities of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that kills tens of thousands of Americans a year. 

Judge Orders DOJ to Confirm Evidence in Michael Flynn Case After Some Documents Were Altered

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department has until today to verify each piece of evidence it has turned over in the criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser.

Judge Emmet Sullivan on Friday ordered the DOJ to declare under the penalty of perjury that the evidence it has relied on to dismiss the perjury charge is accurate, Politico reports.

The unusual directive underscores the distrust between the judge and DOJ, which has admitted that two of its court documents were “inadvertently” altered. 

Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. But he later fired his attorneys and asked to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he was entrapped by the FBI and Justice Department. 

Attorney General William Barr, who has intervened in cases involving the president’s allies, asked the judge to dismiss the case in May. 

Sullivan balked and appointed former federal judge John Gleeson to argue against dropping the case. 

‘Operation Legend’ Nets Nearly 5,000 Arrests in 9 Cities, Barr Announces

Attorney General William Barr, via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling

Nearly 5,000 people have been arrested across nine cities as part of “Operation Legend,” an anti-crime initiative launched by the Justice Department in July, Attorney General William Barr announced Tuesday. 

Since the operation began on July 8, federal authorities and their local partners have arrested 267 murder suspects and seized roughly 16 kilos of fentanyl, 200 kilos of methamphetamine, 30 kilos of cocaine, and more than $7.3 million in drug proceeds.

Of those arrested, 1,124 have been charged with federal offenses. More than 600 have been charged with firearms offenses, and 440 have been charged with drug-elated crimes. 

The operation involves more than 1,000 agents from the ATF, DEA, and FBI, along with the U.S. Marshals Service, in nine cities: Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, Kansas City and Indianapolis. The operation is named in honor of LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy who was fatally shot while he was sleeping in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.

To see a breakdown by city, click here.

Trump Says He’s ‘Not Happy’ with Barr, Won’t Commit to Retaining AG

President Trump and AG William Barr, via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling

President Trump on Wednesday said he was “not happy”  with Attorney General William Barr and declined to say whether he’d keep Barr in a potential second term. 

In an interview with Newsmax, Trump said it was “too early” to decide whether Barr would stay on if the president wins re-election in November. 

“Can’t comment on that, it’s too early. I’m not happy, with all of the evidence I had, I can tell you that. I am not happy,” Trump said.

Trump has expressed frustration with Barr after the attorney general told Republicans that he didn’t expect the Justice Department to finish its investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. 

Trump’s remarks also come after the The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the Justice Department’s investigation of the Obama era’s “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials didn’t uncover wrongdoing.

“Personally, I think it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. It’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “I think it’s really a horrible thing that they’re allowed to get away — when they say no indictments, they actually said no indictments before the election.

“I had to go through elections with all those clouds over my head. But they don’t because the Republicans are so nice. Personally, I think it’s too bad. I think it’s too bad, they’re guilty as hell.”

Ethics Groups Urge House to Begin Impeachment Inquiry Against Barr

AG William Barr

By Steve Neavling

Two private ethics groups are calling for the impeachment of Attorney General William Barr, accusing him of misusing his position to help President Trump get re-elected. 

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) made the case in a 267-page report released Monday that outlines how they say Barr has undermined public confidence in the Justice Department, Bloomberg reports.

They pointed to what they called the intentional distortion of Robert Mueller’s special counsel report, Barr’s repeated news interviews in support of the president, and his appointment of U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the Trump-Russia investigation. Barr also has intervened in criminal cases involving Trump associates, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 

They said these actions may also violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity while on duty. 

“The working group came to the reluctant conclusion that Attorney General Barr is using the powers of the Department as a vehicle for supporting the political objectives of President Donald Trump,” they wrote. “It appears that the Department has transitioned from one that is subject to law, to become one that instead views the application of law as politically discretionary; moving from rule of law to rule by law.”

Gov. Cuomo As U.S. Attorney General? Biden Is Reportedly Considering Him

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

By Steve Neavling

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is reportedly considering New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as his attorney general if he wins the election. 

The possibility is so strong that the National Governors Association is looking into contingencies to replace Cuomo as the chairman because he would be unable to serve in that role if he becomes attorney general, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Cuomo, 62, served as New York’s attorney General from 2007 to 2010.  

Biden and Cuomo have a relationship dating back to the 1980s. People familiar with the relationship say Biden sees himself in Cuomo. 

Other potential candidates for attorney general include former acting AG Sally Yates and Stacey Abrams, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017.

Sessions, Rosenstein Were ‘Driving Force’ Behind Trump’s Child Separation Policy

A detention center, via CBP.

By Steve Neavling

In a May 2018 call with U.S. attorneys along the border with Mexico, then-Attorney General Jeff Session was blunt about what President Trump wanted. 

“We need to take away children,” Sessions told the five prosecutors, referring to Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy, according to an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, first reported by The New York Times.

In a second call about a week later, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told prosecutors that age was not a factor and that they should not have dropped two cases because the parents had children who were barely more than infants.

Sessions and Rosenstein were a “driving force” behind the controversial policy that led to the separation of thousands of families, despite their past attempts to distance themselves, according to a draft report by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

“The department’s single-minded focus on increasing prosecutions came at the expense of careful and effective implementation of the policy, especially with regard to prosecution of family-unit adults and the resulting child separations,” the draft report said.

In a statement to the Times, a DOJ spokesperson denied the conclusions reached in the Horowitz report, and Rosenstein said he never directed prosecutors to pursue cases they objected to. 

“If any United States attorney ever charged a defendant they did not personally believe warranted prosecution, they violated their oath of office,” Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement. “I never ordered anyone to prosecute a case.”

William Barr to Self-Quarantine After Possible Exposure to Coronavirus

Attorney General William Barr, via Justice Department.

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General William Barr will self-quarantine after refusing to do so on Friday following possible exposure to the coronavirus from members of President Trump’s inner circle. 

A Justice Department spokesperson told The Associated Press that Barr plans stay inside his home for several days after attending a meeting at Justice Department headquarters, hours after Trump announced he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Barr has tested negative four times for COVID-19 since Friday, the spokesperson Kerri Kupec said.  

Last week, Barr attended a ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in the White House Rose Garden, where more than 150 people assembled shoulder to shoulder without social distancing. Barr was seen speaking with former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, who tested positive for COVID-19. Neither wore a mask.  

At least eight attendees tested positive for the virus, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Notre Dame President John Jenkins, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has checked into a hospital.