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Archive for January 30th, 2018

House Speaker Ryan Urges Republicans to Resist Linking Memo to Mueller Probe

Rep.Paul Ryan

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

House Speaker Paul Ryan urged fellow Republicans on Tuesday to resist using a politically divisive memo alleging “shocking” misconduct in the FBI and Justice Department to undermine confidence in the special counsel investigation of President Trump and Russia.

Speaking during a closed-door meeting with Republicans, Ryan implored them not to exaggerate the contents of the four-page memo and to abstain from linking it to the ongoing probe spearheaded by Robert Mueller, a source in the room told The Hill

“First, there are legitimate questions about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] process,” he told reporters after the meeting. “This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation and his investigation should be allowed to take its course.”

Ryan’s words of caution come one day after Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to publicly release a classified, GOP-drafted memo that alleges the Justice Department and FBI abused their authority by extending surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser and suspected Russian agent Carter Page. 

Some Republicans have already said the memo, which the Justice Department warned would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release, demonstrates an anti-Trump bias in the FBI.

Democrats dismissed the memo as propaganda in the escalating campaign by the president and his allies to undermine the two agencies tasked with overseeing the ongoing investigation of the president, his campaign and Russia. The probe has produced indictments of four former Trump aides so far, and Mueller plans to soon interview the president to determine whether he obstructed justice by trying to tamper with the investigation.

The memo has been delivered to the White House, and Trump has four days to determine whether to approve the document’s release. He initially indicated he supports the memo’s release.

Thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts have cropped up in the past month to spread support for releasing the document. Many of them have joined a viral hashtag campaign on Twitter – #ReleaseTheMemo – to press for the public disclosure of the memo.

Russian Trolls Make Resurgence on Social Media to Interfere with Special Counsel Probe

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Russian-linked social media accounts that spread immeasurable propaganda during the 2016 presidential election are making a comeback in an escalating campaign to influence the investigations of possible ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

Two top Democrats sent a letter to Twitter and Facebook earlier this month, warning that Russian-linked accounts are cropping up in alarming numbers to spread information intended to undermine investigations by congressional committees and  special counsel Robert Mueller.

“It is critically important that the Special Counsel’s investigation be allowed to proceed without interference from inside or outside the United States,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, both of California, in the letter, according to CNBC.

Each serves on a committee investigation Russian interference during the election.

Thousands of automated accounts, called bots, have cropped up lately in response to the widening investigations that have reached the White House.

Many of them have joined a viral hashtag campaign – #ReleaseTheMemo – to press for the public disclosure of a Republican memorandum that claims the FBI and Justice Department are tainted by political biases. On Monday, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to publicly release the secret, much-disputed memo that alleges the agencies abused their authority by extending surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser and suspected Russian agent Carter Page.

The vote, along party lines, ignored Justice Department warnings that the release would be “extraordinarily reckless” because the memo draws from classified information. 

The lawmakers expressed concern that the reemergence of Russian bots “are intended to influence congressional action and undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Russian-linked trolls also are spreading content from Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has relentlessly blasted the intelligence agencies for alleged anti-Trump biases, Mother Jones reported, basing the information on data compiled by the nonpartisan Alliance for Security Democracy. 

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia launched an aggressive, sophisticated smear campaign designed to disseminate disinformation on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Google. The propaganda targeted controversial subjects such as police brutality, Black Lives Matter, immigration and Muslims.

Wired reported earlier this month that Mueller’s team interviewed at least one member of Facebook’s team connected Trump’s campaign as part of the investigation into Russian interference.

During a series of congressional hearings last year, Twitter, Facebook and Google were criticized by lawmakers for failing to take steps to eliminate the Russian propaganda campaign.

Twitter plans to notify nearly 700,000 users who interacted with suspected Russian propagandists.

Other Stories of Interest

Former FBI Director Comey Sends Message of Support to McCabe And Other FBI Officials

Former FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former FBI Director James Comey, whose firing by President Trump has triggered an obstruction of justice investigation, sent a heartfelt message of support to Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe following his earlier-than-expected resignation on Monday

“Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on,” Comey said in a tweet. “He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well.”

Comey added: “I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you.”

McCabe’s abrupt resignation follows recent conversations with FBI Director Christopher Wray, who warned about a forthcoming inspector general report on the bureau’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation.

Trump and other Republicans have accused McCabe of political bias in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state. Trump even claimed McCabe played an influential role in the bureau’s decision not to seek charges against Clinton.

The accusations began when his wife, Jill McCabe, was a Democratic candidate for state Senate in Virginia and received nearly $500,000 in donations from the political organization of Terry McAuliffe, a longtime friend of the Clintons. 

The FBI determined there was no conflict because McCabe did not oversee the investigation while his wife was still running.

Still, McCabe has been the primary target of a campaign by Trump and other Republicans to undermine confidence in the top ranks of the FBI amid the Russia investigation.

It was revealed last week that Trump urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to pressure the new FBI director, Chris Wray, to fire McCabe. Wray refused and threatened to resign if he was asked to do it again. 

The New York Times reports that Wray suggested McCabe take a demotion. Instead, he stepped down and will take a leave of absence until the is eligible for retirement in a few weeks. 

New Plans Call for Building New FBI Headquarters at Current Site

The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington D.C., named after J. Edgar Hoover.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Long-stalled plans to build a new FBI headquarters outside of District limits has taken a stunning, expected turn: The General Services Administration appears to prefer building the bureau’s new home at the current site, the Washington Business Journal reports. 

The GSA faces a deadline today to submit a detailed plan to the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works on efforts build a new headquarters.

But the GSA’s apparent endorsement of building on the current site is not the final word because additional appropriations would require congressional approval.

The current headquarters, built in 1974, is dilapidated and no longer useful to the FBI.

A new headquarters is expected to house the 11,000 FBI staff members who are spread across multiple locations in the region.

Border Patrol Agents Find 76 Immigrants Packed into Tractor-Trailer in Texas

Dozens of immigrants were found inside this tractor-trailer in Texas. Photo via Border Patrol.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Border Patrol agents made a disturbing discovery inside a tractor-trailer northwest of Laredo, Texas: 76 immigrants, including 13 unaccompanied children, were packed into the bed of truck.

The immigrants, hailing from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, were found in “good health” at a checkpoint on U.S. 83 on Friday, Border Patrol announced Monday

The discovery is just the latest in what agents said is an increase in the use of tractor-trailers to smuggle immigrants into the U.S.

“These criminal organizations view these individuals as mere commodities without regard for their safety,” Laredo Sector Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Gabriel Acosta said in a news release. “The blatant disregard for human life will not be tolerated. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle these organizations and prosecute those responsible.”