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Archive for August 16th, 2017

FBI: Man Tried to Detonate Bomb in Oklahoma City, But It Was Fake

Bombing suspect Jerry Drake Varnell

Bombing suspect Jerry Drake Varnell

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI arrested a 23-year-old Oklahoma man after the FBI said he tried to detonate what he thought was a vehicle bomb targeting a bank in Oklahoma City.

Jerry Drake Varnell was arrested Saturday morning in Oklahoma City following a long-term FBI investigation into domestic terrorism, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The FBI was tipped off that Varnell hated the federal government and originally wanted to bow up a building in Washington D.C.

An uncover FBI agent was in contact with Varnell via encrypted texts and Facebook messages and offered to help him assemble a bomb in downtown Oklahoma City.

Feds said Varnell was arrested after he parked a van with what he thought was an explosive device near BancFirst and dialed a number on his cell phone to detonate the “bomb,” which was inert and couldn’t explode.

Justice Department Stymies DEA’s Proposal to Grow More Marijuana for Research

marijuanainthemittenphotoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA’s plans to allow more research of marijuana has been stymied by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has insisted pot is almost as dangerous as heroin.

The Justice Department has not allowed the DEA to move forward with proposals to grow more marijuana for research, the Washington Post reports. 

“They’re sitting on it,” said one law enforcement official familiar with the matter. “They just will not act on these things.”

Consequently, one senior DEA official said, “the Justice Department has effectively shut down this program to increase research registrations.’’

The standoff pits the DEA and Justice Department against each other on the value of researching marijuana to determine if it has medicinal benefits. Although more than two dozen states have approved the use of medicinal marijuana, the federal government still considers pot a schedule 1 drug.

Trump’s Pledge to Hire More Border Patrol Agents Is Met with Resistance, Logistical Snags

ICE agents, via ICE.

ICE agents, via ICE.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s pledge to quickly hire 15,000 new border security agents and immigration officers has hit logistical snags.

Just days after entering office, Trump signed an executive order to add 5,000 more Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more immigration officers for ICE.

Since then, Homeland Security’s watchdog has expressed skepticism about the ability to hire that many new employees. Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General also issued a report in late July that questions  need for 15,000 new agents and officers, CBS News reports. 

“Neither CBP nor ICE could provide complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies for the additional 15,000 additional agents and officers they were directed to hire,” the report found.

Neither agency knows exactly how many employees it needs.

Tony Payan, director of the Mexico Center at the Baker Institute at Rice University, suggested the Trump administration provided an “arbitrary number” of employees to hire.

“So what is the optimum number for the border patrol?” Payan said. “We don’t really have a baseline right now. I think saying that we need 25 percent more, or we need to double ICE, at this point in time it sounds to me more like … sort of an arbitrary number.”

Times of Trenton: Trump’s Justice Department Erodes Constitutional Rights

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

By Editorial Board
Times of Trenton

“It tears at the fabric of our great nation and does not move us forward; it takes us backwards.”

With these terse words, more than 60 members of Congress – including half a dozen from New Jersey – summed up their dismay over a decision by the U.S. Department of Justice that does an enormous injustice to members of the LGBTQ community.

In a no-holds-barred letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the lawmakers expressed deep disappointment concerning a friend-of-the-court brief the department filed late last month in the case of Zarda v. Altitude Express.

In the brief, the nation’s top law-enforcement body claims that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect lesbians, gays or bisexual people from discrimination.

Not so fast, the letter writers argue. Not only is the Justice Department’s action contrary to existing law, they say forcefully, but it also violates the country’s basic ideals of liberty and justice for all.

The original lawsuit under review stems from 2010, when a skydiving instructor named Donald Zarda charged that a former employer, Altitude Express, Inc., violated the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against him because of his sexual orientation.

Former U.S. Attorney: Good Reason to Believe Mueller Has Obtained Trump’s Tax Returns

President Trump, via White House

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said there’s good reason to believe special counsel Robert Mueller already has President Trump’s tax returns as part of his investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 general election.

“Based on my years of experience conducting complex white-collar investigations as a federal prosecutor, it suggests to me that Mueller has already obtained tax returns as part of his investigation,” Renato Mariotti,  a former federal prosecutor in the Securities and Commodities Fraud Section of the United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago, wrote in a column for The Hill

Mariotti notes that Mueller’s ability to obtain a search warrant to raid the home of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort indicates the special counsel has a good reason to believe a federal crime was committed.

Mariotti wrote:

One typical step that federal prosecutors take near the beginning of white-collar investigations is obtaining tax returns. I worked with federal prosecutors who obtained tax returns in every single white-collar investigation they worked on. I didn’t do that, but I obtained tax returns in most white-collar cases I investigated, particularly cases involving financial transactions.

Obtaining a subject’s tax returns can be a useful tool in almost any investigation. They tell you where the person invests their money, where their bank accounts are, where they have debts and who they’ve given money to. Often the information found in a tax return can tell a prosecutor which financial institutions and corporate entities to subpoena for records.

At times, obtaining tax returns can lead to evidence of tax offenses. If an individual receives money that is not reported in the tax return or is misrepresented, that can be charged as a separate federal crime. Hiding financial transactions also can be used as evidence that the subject knew that the underlying source of the money was illegal. 

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