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Trump Denies Chief of Staff’s Claims That President Softened Plans for Border Wall

An existing wall at border of Mexico. Photo via Congress.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump fired back at his chief of staff, John Kelly, on Thursday morning, saying his top aide misspoke a day earlier when he told a group of lawmakers that some of the president’s tough immigration policies were “uninformed” and would never result in a wall along the entire southern border with Mexico.

In a meeting with some Democratic lawmakers, Kelly insisted Mexico will never pay for a border wall.

President Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly .

Trump responded several hours later in three strongly worded tweets, saying plans for the wall have “never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived it.”

Trump also insisted Mexico would reimburse the U.S. for the costs to build the wall.

“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country,” Trump tweeted. “We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!”

It’s unclear what prompted Kelly to contradict the president’s position on a security wall, but the statements to lawmakers come on the eve of a possible federal government shutdown.

The president has indicated he’s willing to compromise with Democrats on granting permanent legal protections for so-called Dreamers in exchange for providing border security funding that would help build a wall on the Mexican border.

Without a long-term budget deal by midnight Friday, the federal government faces a possible shutdown. 


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Trump Administration Mulls Jailing Leaders of Sanctuary Cities

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s uncompromising crackdown on illegal immigration may soon include legal consequences, including jail time, for leaders in so-called sanctuary cities.

The Justice Department announced its exploring “what avenues might be available” to file possible criminal charges against local politicians who provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports

Director Kirstjen Nielsen indicated Wednesday that the DOJ was “reviewing what avenues might be available” to hold sanctuary city leaders accountable for their policies that shelter unauthorized immigrants from deportation.

“The context of this is, of course, not only putting my [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers at risk, but also finding an efficient and effective way to enforce our immigration laws,” Nielsen said.

The prospect of filing criminal charges against local officials provoked outrage among some Democrats and civil rights groups.

“In free democracies, you can’t jail people for opposing the president’s policies, policies that courts have found to be lawful,” Vanita Gupta, the chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the former head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department, told the New York Times. 


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Border Patrol Agents Accused of Sabotaging Water, Supplies for Migrants

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Border Patrol agents routinely sabotage containers of water and other supplies placed in the Arizona desert to save the lives of thirsty migrants overcome by heat exhaustion and dehydration, according to two humanitarian groups.

The Tucson-based groups claim the agents are essentially delivering a death sentence to people trekking the dangerously hot landscape in a shameless effort to crack down on people who illegally cross into the U.S. from Mexico, the Guardian reports

Volunteers identified more than 400 vandalized water containers along an 800-square-mile patch of Sonoran desert near Tucson from March 2012 to December 2014, according to the report, published by No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos

The groups also accused Border Patrol agents of vandalizing food and blankets and intimidating human rights volunteers.

“Through statistical analysis, video evidence, and personal experience, our team has uncovered a disturbing reality. In the majority of cases, US border patrol agents are responsible for the widespread interference with essential humanitarian efforts,” the study found.

The study added, “The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands.”

Steve Passament, a border patrol spokesman in the Tucson sector, said the agency strongly opposes sabotaging humanitarian supplies and plans to discipline any agents who risk the lives of human beings.

Other Stories of Interest


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ATF: Gun Store Thefts Surge for Fifth Straight Year, Setting Records in 2017

ATF photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Thieves stole an alarming number of firearms from gun stores and other licensed dealers in 2017, setting a new record for the fifth consecutive year, according to annual statistics compiled by the ATF.

Burglaries and robberies resulted in the theft of 8,129 stolen guns from licensed firearms dealers across the country in 2017, a 3.3% increase over 2016.

Since 2013, the number of stolen guns has surged more than 135%.

Also on the rise for the fifth consecutive year was the number of gun stores that were robbed or burglarized. In 2017, 610 stores were targeted by thieves, compared to 347 in 2013.

Alarmed by the five-year upward trend, the ATF is urging gun dealers to create stronger security measures. Stolen firearms are particularly worrisome because they’re disproportionately used to commit violent crimes, according to numerous studies.

Without federal security requirements, gun store owners in most states are free to operate with no safeguards.

The surge in stolen guns has prompted federal lawmakers to introduce legislation to combat firearm theft. 

In October, many Democrats in the Senate have supported a measure that would require gun dealers to secure their firearms in a locked safe or vault after the store closes. But the proposal is opposed by the National Rifle Association because of potentially detrimental costs, and not one Republican  has offered to cosponsor the legislation.

The proposal with the best chance of passing was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and it calls for stiffer jail sentences for gun thieves.   Even many Democrats have pledged to support the bill.


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Head of DEA’s Phoenix Division Faces Discipline over Relationship with Subordinate

Phoenix DEA Special Agent in Charge Douglas Coleman, via DEA.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Douglas Coleman, the head of the Phoenix Division of the DEA, could soon be disciplined after an internal investigation concluded he had an “unprofessional personal relationship” with a subordinate.

The Justice Department Office of the Inspector General recently issued a scathing report about the relationship between Coleman and his administrative assistant and division spokeswoman Erica Curry, the Arizona Family reports

The investigation found that the self-described “best friends” engaged in an inappropriate romantic relationship that created the appearance of favoritism. Coleman, for example was Curry’s boss when she received bonuses, promotions, special accommodations and questionably high travel expenses.

The investigation concluded Coleman’s conduct amounted to misuse of office and the failure to maintain high standards of personal conduct.

With the report in hand, the DEA must now decide whether Coleman should be disciplined.

“The matter remains ongoing within the DEA disciplinary system and we cannot comment at this time,” a DEA spokeswoman said.


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A Defiant Bannon Snubs a Subpoena to Answer Questions about Trump-Russia Probe

Former top aide to President Trump, Steve Bannon.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Taking cues from the White House, President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon repeatedly defied a subpoena Tuesday ordering him to respond to a congressional committee’s questions about possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Bannon refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee about the presidential transition team or his time in the administration. The decision was advised by his attorney, who conferred during the day with the White House, which strongly discouraged cooperation with lawmakers. 

The defiance and apparent collaboration with the Trump team shocked and enraged many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, harshly criticized what he called a “gag order by the White House” designed to disrupt the investigation.

“This was the first time that we saw a witness refuse to answer questions on the instruction of the White House or on the claim that the White House might later invoke privilege in which [the majority was] not only unwilling to accept that answer but willing to act with great alacrity to subpoena that witness in real time and insist that he come back,” Schiff said.

Bannon also was issued a subpoena to testify before a grand jury as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to undermine the chances of his rival Hillary Clinton.

The special counsel investigation has so far netted indictments against four former members of Trump’s inner circle during the 2016 presidential election.


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Former CIA Officer Arrested in Alleged Plot to Dismantle U.S. Spy Network

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former CIA officer long suspected of helping China disable the United States’ sophisticated spy network has been arrested and charged in federal court with the unlawful retention of nation defense information that he’s accused of leaking to Beijing.

The arrest of Jerry Chun Shing Lee at Kennedy Airport in New York on Monday capped a five-year investigation spearheaded by the FBI, the New York Times reports

Federal investigators became suspicious that the CIA had within its ranks a mole when the intelligence agency began losing its closely guarded informants in China. The FBI said it discovered Lee, who left the CIA in 2007 and moved to Hong Kong, was leaking the identities of the informants. 

In 2o12, while Lee was visiting family in the U.S., FBI agents scoured his luggage and found two volumes of handwritten notes containing classified information.

The dismantling of America’s spy network has been considered one of the U.S.’s worst intelligence blunders in recent years. 


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Bannon Issued Subpoena to Testify Before Grand Jury in Trump-Russia Probe

Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief adviser to President Trump, has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump associates.

The issuance of a subpoena, which compels testimony from Bannon, was a rare move by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been interviewing dozens of former and current Trump officials in more informal settings that don’t require a subpoena, the New York Times reports

A notable exception was Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafot, who was subpoenaed and later indicted on various federal charges, including money laundering.

Why Mueller opted to subpoena Bannon, who joined the Trump campaign team in August 2016, is open to speculation.

On Tuesday, Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

Bannon was subpoenaed last week, just days after the release of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” an explosive book in which Bannon raised serious legal questions about a June 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower between the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer who reportedly offered to release compromising information about presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Bannon, who was in the campaign’s inner circle when most of the alleged collusion with Russia took place, also predicted the special counsel probe is far from over and will focus on money laundering. 

“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,’” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated Bill Clinton when he was president.


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