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Tag: Justice Department

DOJ Operation Leads to Largest Seizure of Drugs Sold on Darknet sites

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Federal investigators have arrested dozens of people accused of trafficking drugs through Darknet sites, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The operation led to the seizure of more than $6.5 million in cash and virtual currencies, about 274 kilograms of drugs ranging from fentanyl and oxycodone to methamphetamine to heroin in the U.S., and 63 firearms.

The busts were part of operation DisrupTor, an international effort involving the Justice Department and law enforcement partners in Europe. It was the largest seizure of drugs sold online in U.S. history.

Darknet sites, which are on encrypted networks to make access difficult, have become a popular way to distribute illicit drugs.

“Criminals selling fentanyl on the Darknet should pay attention to Operation DisrupTor,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a news release. “The arrest of 179 of them in seven countries—with the seizure of their drug supplies and their money as well — shows that there will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.”

“With the spike in opioid-related overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that today’s announcement is important and timely,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “The FBI wants to assure the American public, and the world, that we are committed to identifying Darknet drug dealers and bringing them to justice.  But our work does not end with today’s announcement. The FBI, through JCODE and our partnership with Europol, continues to be actively engaged in a combined effort to disrupt the borderless, worldwide trade of illicit drugs. The FBI will continue to use all investigative techniques and tools to identify and prosecute Darknet opioid dealers, wherever they may be located.”

Click here to read prepared remarks on the busts.

Operation Legend Nets 3,500+ Arrests in Nine Cities Since It Launched in July

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

More than 3,500 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 about 200 murder suspects and seized roughly 1,000 firearms, 19 kilos of heroin, 11 kilos of fentanyl, 94 kilos of methamphetamine, 14 kilos of cocaine, and $6.5 million in drug money, Barr said at a news conference in Milwaukee.

Of those arrested, about 815 have been charged with federal offenses, 440 with firearms offenses, and 300 with drug-related 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.

Barr Slams Career Prosecutors As ‘Headhunters,’ Compares Them to Preschoolers in Boisterous Speech

Attorney General William Barr, via Justice Department.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Attorney General William Barr lashed out at his own prosecutors on Wednesday, calling them “headhunters” in search of big name targets and equating them to preschoolers.

During the wide-ranging, boisterous speech at conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan, Barr also said nationwide coronavirus lockdowns would be the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” outside of slavery, according to CNN.

“Individual prosecutors can sometimes become headhunters, consumed with taking down their target,” Barr said, The Associated Press reports. “Subjecting their decisions to review by detached supervisors ensures the involvement of dispassionate decision-makers in the process.”

Barr, who has been criticized for interfering in cases involving allies of President Trump, insisted he has the authority to intervene in such cases and that career prosecutors don’t always get the final say.

“Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency,” he said.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder blasted Barr’s criticism of career prosecutors.

“Though dangerous, Barr is becoming increasingly absurd. When I was at DOJ – regardless of my ultimate authority – I saw the career staff as trusted colleagues, not pre-schoolers,” Holder tweeted Wednesday. To my friends at DOJ, know that this nation values and supports you. I do.

Barr also castigated governors who have imposed restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” Barr said to thunderous applause.

DOJ Watchdog Is Investigating Handling of Roger Stone Sentencing Recommendation

GOP trickster and Trump ally Roger Stone.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department Inspector General’s Office is investigating the unusual intervention in the sentencing of Roger Stone, a dirty GOP trickster and longtime ally of President Trump, NBC News reports.

The review comes after a team of career prosecutors withdrew from the case in February after Attorney General William Barr and senior prosecutors for the Justice Department sought a shorter sentence for Stone, who had been convicted on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

High-ranking Justice Department officials overrode the career prosecutors’ recommendation of seven to nine years in prison, saying the sentence should be “far less.”

Trump, who commuted Stone’s 40-month sentence on July 10, congratulated Barr in February for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought” and suggested the prosecutors who recommended the stiffer sentence were “rouge.”

While testifying before the House Judicary Committee on July 28, Barr defended intervening in the case.

“I agree the president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks, but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people,” Barr said.

Jonathan Kravis, one of the prosecutors who withdrew from the case, wrote in a Washington Post column that “the department undercut the work of career employees to protect an ally of the president, an abdication of the commitment to equal justice under the law.”

Top Senate Republicans Call for Investigation of Mueller Team for Deleting Cell Phone Data

Special counsel Robert Mueller. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Top Senate Republicans are calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether special counsel Robert Mueller and his team violated federal record-keeping laws by erasing their official cell phones of data.

In a letter to the FBI and Justice Department, Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also is requesting the Justice Department to determine whether the deleted data can be recovered.

“It appears that Special Counsel Mueller’s team may have deleted federal records that could be key to better understanding their decision-making process as they pursued their investigation and wrote their report,” Grassley wrote. “Indeed, many officials apparently deleted the records after the DOJ Inspector General began his inquiry into how the Department mishandled Crossfire Hurricane. Moreover, based on this new information, the number of times and the stated reasons for the deletions calls into question whether or not it was a widespread intentional effort.”

A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that at least 15 phones used during the Russia investigation were wiped of information.

Homeland Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson requested an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

On Twitter, President Trump compared the matter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deleting thousands of emails off a private server.

“ALERT: So now we find out that the entire Mueller ‘hit squad’ illegally wiped their phones clean just prior to the investigation of them, all using the same really dumb reason for this ‘accident’, just like Crooked Hillary smashing her phones with a hammer, & DELETING HER EMAILS!” Trump tweeted early Saturday morning.

Appeals Court Rejects Prompt Dismissal of Michael Flynn Case

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a judge does not have to promptly dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first national security advisor.

In an 8-2 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Columbia Circuit said a judge can scrutinize the Justice Department’s controversial request to drop the case, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A three-judge panel of the same court ordered U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to immediately dismiss the case.

Flynn admitted lying to the FBI in 2016 about contacts with Russia.

The decision allows Sullivan to continue with his plans to hold a hearing on Attorney General William Barr’s unusual decision to drop the case.

Democrats and legal experts have questioned Barr’s motives for intervening in a case tied to President Trump.

DOJ Quietly Limited Special Counsel Probe of Russia, Making It Difficult to Explore Ties to Trump’s Campaign

Rod Rosenstein and Robert S. Mueller III

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department secretly narrowed the focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a move that prevented authorities from fully pursuing links to Trump’s campaign, The New York Times reports.

Former Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein privately limited the investigation to a criminal one, rather than one that explored authorities’ concerns about counterintelligence issues related to Trump’s connections to Russia.

Rosenstein’s actions all but ensured the investigation “would go nowhere,” The Times wrote, citing former Justice Department and FBI officials.

Publicly, Rosenstein said Mueller’s job was to explore “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government,” which includes counterintelligence issues. Not even the bureau’s then-acting director Andrew McCabe knew Rosenstein had limited the scope of the investigation. Had he known, the FBI would have investigated the counterintelligence issues, McCabe said.

“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” McCabe said. “I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”

Rosenstein declined to respond to The Times story.

Comey Accuses Barr, Trump of ‘Leaving Legacy of Damage’ at DOJ

James Comey via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Former FBI Director James Comey lambasted President Trump and Attorney General William Barr, accusing them of “leaving a legacy of damage” at the Justice Department.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Comey pointed to the Justice Department’s handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the intervention of criminal cases involving Trump allies.

“The Justice Department was damaged when the attorney general and the president lied to the American people about the work of the special counsel investigating the president,” Comey wrote.

He added, “They damaged it again when the attorney general intervened in a case involving the president’s friend Roger Stone to overrule the sentencing recommendation of career prosecutors. And they damaged it again when the attorney general tried to drop a case in which the president’s ally Michael Flynn had already pleaded guilty, twice.”

To repair the damage done by the Justice Department and Trump’s administration, Comey said voters must elect Joe Biden as president in November.

“We need a president who will appoint an attorney general not because he needs a personal defense lawyer but because American justice needs a guardian,” Comey said. “We need a president who has devoted his life to serving others through the rule of law. We need to elect Joe Biden.”