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Tag: U.S. House

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.”

Wray Warns of ‘Very Active’ Russian Campaign to Interfere with Presidential Election

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

FBI Director Christopher Wray warned lawmakers Thursday that Russia continues to be “very active” in meddling with the presidential election, primarily to “denigrate” Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“The intelligence community consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections,” Wray said while testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee.

He added, “We certainly have seen very active, very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020 … to both sow divisiveness and discord and … to denigrate Vice President Biden.”

Wray said Russians are using social media and other types of propaganda to wage the misinformation campaign, but so far there is no evidence of hacking emails and election systems.

The FBI director’s testimony predictably drew criticism from President Trump, who has been largely silent on Russian interference.

But Chris, you don’t see any activity from China, even though it is a FAR greater threat than Russia, Russia, Russia,” Trump tweeted. “They will both, plus others, be able to interfere in our 2020 Election with our totally vulnerable Unsolicited (Counterfeit?) Ballot Scam.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defied a subpoena to testify by failing to show up.

Watch Wray’s full testimony here.

House Committee Launches Investigation into Homeland Security’s Actions in Portland

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee is investigating Homeland Security’s involvement in protests in Portland and other cities.

The investigation, launched Monday, also will review the dissemination of intelligence reporters on journalists and protesters.

“Let me be clear: the reporting regarding the monitoring of peaceful protesters, creating and disseminating intelligence reports about journalists and protesters, and potential exploitation of electronic devices is deeply troubling, Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to top DHS officials.

“The revelations thus far require a full accounting, and, if substantiated, must never be allowed to occur again,” Schiff added. “The Committee is therefore initiating, pursuant to its unique oversight and legislative authority, an investigation of I&A’s activities in Portland and in support of the Department’s response to protests nationwide.”

Homeland Security has drawn intense criticism for clashing with protesters and compiling intelligence reports on journalists covering protests in Portland.

The panel is calling at least nine DHS officials to testify in August.

Schiff ended his letter, saying the committee will consider “all options necessary to obtain compliance—including compulsory process.”

On Monday, Janet Napolitano, the former head of Homeland Security, criticized the department’s role in policing protests in Oregon, calling it “an abuse of authority” in a Washington Post op-ed.

House Democrats Introduce Bill to Remove J. Edgar Hoover’s Name from FBI Headquarters, Calling Him a Bigot

Hoover receives the National Security Medal from President Dwight Eisenhower on May 27, 1955, as then-Vice President Richard Nixon and others look on. (FBI photo)

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Democrats in the U.S. House are trying to remove J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters building, calling the bureau’s former director a bigot who violated the civil rights of black leaders and political rivals.

Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-VA, Steve Cohen, D-TN, Dina Titus D-NV, and Karen Bass, D-CA, introduced legislation last week to remove any reference to Hoover from the building in Washington D.C.

“It’s long past time to rename the FBI Headquarters. J. Edgar Hoover was a racist, a bigot, and a homophobe,” Rep. Connolly says in a news release. “He abused his power and trampled the civil liberties of Dr. King, anti-war protesters, his political rivals, and too many others. He is no role model for any time, and certainly not this one. Congress must right this wrong and rename this building.”

The National Commission on Renaming the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters Building ACT of 2020 would create a nine-member commission to recommend a new name that reflects diversity, as well as the values of the FBI and U.S. Constitution. The members would be appointed by the president, the Senate majority and minority leaders, the speaker of the House and the House minority leader.

“As our nation faces a historical reckoning, we have an opportunity to right our wrongs and honor Americans who represent the democratic principles on which our union was founded,” Bass says. “J. Edgar Hoover used COINTELPRO to thwart the efforts of Black activists calling for equality in America. The program was ultimately designed to surveil, defame, and silence civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X. Much worse, Hoover’s own racist views impacted FBI operations and countless racially-motivated hate crimes were left unchecked under his leadership. Identifying a namesake that reflects the true values of the FBI is worth supporting now more than ever.”

A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House in 2015 but languished.

Cohen says it is past time to remove his name from this place of honor.”

“The civil rights we enjoy today are in spite of J. Edgar Hoover, not because of him,” Cohen says. “Yet, his name adorns one of the most prominent buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital and one that houses an agency of government responsible for assuring justice.”

AG Barr Defends Use of Force by Federal Officers in Portland at Testy Hearing

Attorney General William Barr testifying Tuesday.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Attorney General William Barr defended the use of force by federal law enforcement in Portland during a combative hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

After nearly two weeks of clashes between protesters and camouflage-clad federal officers outside a courthouse in Portland, Barr said the demonstrations devolved into riots that were “an assault on the government of the United States.”

“Largely absent from these scenes of destruction are even superficial attempts by the rioters to connect their actions to George Floyd’s death or any legitimate call for reform,” Barr said in a prepared statement. “Nor could such brazen acts of lawlessness plausibly be justified by a concern that police officers in Minnesota or elsewhere defied the law.”

Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., accused Barr of using federal officers as an election ploy for President Trump.

“Real leadership would entail de-escalation, collaboration and looking for ways to peacefully resolve our differences,” Nadler said.

Barr countered “we cannot just stand aside and watch the federal court be destroyed.”

Last week, Homeland Security’s first secretary, Republican Tom Ridge, criticized the use of federal officers in cities without the consent of state and local officials, saying DHS was not “designed for that purpose.”

Barr also insisted systemic racism doesn’t exist within law enforcement, drawing criticism from Democrats.

“I don’t agree there is systemic racism in police departments generally in this country,” Barr said.

House Considers Bill to Limit When FBI Can Collect Web-Browsing History without a Warrant

U.S. Capitol

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The U.S. House of Representatives appears to have a reached a compromise on a bill that would limit when the FBI can collect records on Americans’ internet browsing histories without a judge’s warrant.

Two California Democrats, Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Adam B. Schiff, reached a tentative agreement to limit the FBI’s ability to collect the data during national security investigations, The New York Times reports.

The House may vote on the proposal this week. The bill would still need approval from the Senate.

Details of the proposal weren’t immediately clear. The New York Times wrote:

The text of the compromise amendment was not yet public, but congressional aides said that the proposal essentially limits to Americans the protections of a Senate proposal that would categorically ban the F.B.I. from using a court order for business records to collect internet browsing and search records.

House Democrats Question Top TSA Official about Measures to Protect Workers, Passengers

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Congressional Democrats questioned the top TSA official Wednesday about what the agency is doing to protect workers and the public from the quickly spreading coronavirus.

On Tuesday, three screeners at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in Northern California tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fielding questions at a Homeland Security subcommittee hearing, TSA Administrator David Pekoske told lawmakers that TSA agents regularly clean checkpoints and are allowing passengers to carry on large quantities of sanitizers.

“It’s going to require a little bit more screening on our part because we have to verify that that is, in fact, hand sanitizer in the bottle, but we do want to increase that volume to make it easier for passengers, particularly those that don’t check bags, to bring a volume of sanitizer with them,” Pekoske said, The Hill reports. “Because, as you know, you can go to another city and find none available on the shelves.”

Lawmakers asked Pekoske to ensure the TSA checkpoints are clean.

“Coronavirus is just one of many others to come, so we need to make sure that your workforce is prepared to address these health issues, as well as terrorist issues that are coming at us,” Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., said.

TSA Officers Would Receive Expanded Protections Under Passed House Bill

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

TSA officers would receive expanded protections like other federal employees under a bill passed by the U.S. House on Thursday.

The Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act, which passed on a 230-171 vote, would give full collective bargaining rights and whistleblower protections to TSA workers, who are among the lowest paid federal employees, The Hill reports.

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., said when the TSA was established following Sept. 11, 2001, “its administrator was given broad authority over its workforce with respect to setting up pay and workplace conditions. As such, transportation security officers, T.S.O.’s, have been unable to benefit from fair labor standards act protections or fall under the general schedule pay scale.”

But opponents of the bill said the additional protections would compromise public safety.

“TSA has repeatedly told us that [these changes] would tie the agency’s hands related to national security policy, workforce management, and collective bargaining,” Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., said on the floor. “Specifically, TSA would not be able to continue a one-step removal process for employees found to have committed serious security breaches or misconduct such as allowing unauthorized access to secure areas or allowing threat items and illicit contraband through the security checkpoints.”