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Archive for March, 2018

Another Explosion in Austin Tuesday Night After 2 More Package Bombs Found in Central Texas

By Steve Neavling

Yet another explosion rattled Austin Tuesday night as hundreds of local and federal investigators continue their frantic search for a suspected serial bomber responsible for at least four attacks that have killed two people and injured four others since March 2.

The latest explosion comes on the same day that authorities were investigating the discovery of two package bombs at FedEx facilities in Austin and nearby Schertz.

At 8:10 p.m. Tuesday, Austin fire officials said the were “on scene at a reported package explosion” at a Goodwill store where a man in his 30s was seriously injured.

But about an hour later, the Austin Police Department said the explosion didn’t appear to be connected to the other bombings that have terrified the Texas capital.

“Items inside package was not a bomb, rather an incendiary device,” police tweeted. “At this time, we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs.”

Investigators believe two package bombs found earlier in the day at two separate FedEx facilities were connected to the suspected serial bomber. The first package exploded early in the morning in Schertz, about an hour from Austin, and a second was found with an undetonated bomb later in the day in Austin.   

Update 10:40 p.m.: Police held a news conference to address the Goodwill explosion.

  • Package Bomb Explosion at FexEx Facility in Texas likely Linked to Austin Serial Bomber

    FedEx truck, via Wikipedia

    By Steve Neavling

    A package bomb exploded at a FedEx Facility near San Antonio early this morning, drawing fears that it’s connected to the series of deadly blasts in Austin, Tex.

    The bomb, which authorities believe was destined for Austin. detonated shortly after midnight at the facility in Schertz.

    “It would be silly for us not to admit that we suspect it’s related” to four bombings in Austin this month, FBI San Antonio spokeswoman Michelle Lee told USA Today

    The package exploded at about 12:30 a.m. in the sorting area of the FedEx Ground distribution center.

    One person was injured and treated for minor injuries.

    The ATF and FBI were headed to the scene this morning.

    The blast comes after four package bombs exploded about 80 miles from Austin in the past month, killing two people and wounding four more.

    Authorities believe the bombs are connected but are unsure of a motive and do not have a suspect.

    On Tuesday, authorities said they were investigating whether the bombs were racially motivated because the victims have been black or Hispanic.

    FBI Tracked, Surveilled Black Lives Matter Protesters More Than Previously Disclosed

    Black Lives Matter poster on a window in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

    By Steve Neavling

    The FBI surveillance of Black Lives Matter protesters went much further than previously believed as agents tracked the movements of an activist and conducted surveillance of homes and cars of people believed to be tied to rallies in Ferguson, Missouri, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

    The documents from 2014 indicate the FBI trailed an activist flying from New York to Ferguson, where protests broke out following the shooting of an unarmed black man.

    Federal investigators gathered information from social media to profile and track activists. The FBI even sent informants and set up surveillance of antiracist activists.

    The heavily redacted records provide a rough snapshot into FBI activities surrounding the protests.

    A November 2014 report shows that an FBI agent alerted investigators that a protester was planning to travel from New York to Ferguson for a Thanksgiving Day protest. The activist’s name was redacted, but notes from investigators indicate they suspected the protester “had been arrested at a previous protest.” Another report suggests the FBI had compiled a dossier on the protester.

    The documents contradict the FBI’s earlier assertion that agents don’t police ideology and only target people believed to be planning violence, said Michael German, a former FBI agent and now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program.

    “This is clearly just tracking First Amendment activity and keeping this activity in an intelligence database,” said German, in a phone interview, referring to the FBI report about an individual’s plans to travel for a protest. “Even if you made the argument that it is about a propensity for violence, why isn’t there a discussion of that propensity? Instead they are discussing bond money, not detailing a criminal predicate or even a possibility of violence.”

    Trump Hires Conspiracy Theorist to Join Legal Team Involved in Mueller Probe

    Attorney Joseph E. diGenova

    By Steve Neavling

    Donald Trump, who has escalated his high-stakes campaign to discredit U.S. intelligence officials involved in the special counsel investigation, hired a tenacious, longtime Washington lawyer who has peddled a conspiracy theory that the FBI and Justice Department framed the president.

    Joseph E. diGenova, a former Ronald Reagan-era U.S. attorney, will join the president’s legal team as an outspoken voice for Trump, but he won’t be taking a leading role role, the New York Times reports.

    “Former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Joe DiGenova will be joining our legal team later this week,” said Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers. “I have worked with Joe for many years and have full confidence that he will be a great asset in our representation of the President.”

    DiGenova has claimed that a secretive group of FBI agents and Justice Department officials fabricated the Russia investigation to hurt Trump’s chances of winning the 2016 presidential election.

    “There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said on Fox News in January.

    DiGenova added, “Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.”

    DiGenova has been unable to provide evidence to substantiate the far-fetched plot.   

    Trump, who had avoided referring to special counsel Robert Mueller on the advice of his lawyers, slammed the investigation on Monday as a “total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

    On Sunday, Trump falsely claimed on Twitter that Mueller’s team has “12 hardened Democrats, big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans.”

    Mueller is a registered Republican who was appointed by Republican Deputy Attorney General Jay Rosenstein after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who also is a Republican.

    Trump stepped up his assault against the FBI and Justice Department following a spate of recent news that Mueller’s team has expanded its investigation to examine the business dealings of the president and his family.

    So far, Mueller has indicted at least 19 people and three companies as part of its evolving investigation that began with allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

    Republicans Warn Trump of Impeachment If He Fires Mueller Or Interferes in Probe

    Sen. Lindsey Graham

    By Steve Neavling

    Donald Trump’s escalating assault on the FBI, Justice Department and the special counsel team now pursing an obstruction of justice case against the president drew strong warnings from Republicans who are worried about Trump’s next move.

    The president ramped up his rhetoric against federal law enforcement leaders and for the first time targeted special counsel Robert Mueller in a string of inflammatory and often misleading tweets over the weekend that have raised concerns that Trump may be setting the stage for Mueller’s termination.

    Those concerns were heightened when Trump’s attorney John Dowd, who had refrained from criticizing Mueller in the past, said Saturday he prays Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will “bring an end” to Mueller’s 10-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned that any attempts to fire Mueller would trigger impeachment proceedings against the president, who is accused of obstructing justice with the termination of former FBI Director James Comey.

    “If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency because we’re a rule-of-law nation,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    Trump made a series of misleading, bold claims against the FBI, Justice Department and Mueller’s team, repeating his assertion that the investigation is a “witch hunt,” despite the special counsel netting indictments against at least 19 people and three companies so far.

    Republicans warned Sunday of serious consequence if Trump refuses to cooperate with Mueller’s team.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, pledged “a very, very long, bad 2018” if Trump tries to interfere in the probe. Gowdy also questioned why Trump’s attorney called for the end of the investigation that is rooting out Russians who “attacked our country.”

    On “Fox News Sunday,” Gowdy said Trump’s attorney should have nothing to worry about if the president is innocent.

    “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible,” Gowdy said.

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he did not like how Trump’s administration handled the termination of McCabe, and he defended Mueller’s investigation. 

    “I remain confident that the special counsel is going to conduct a probe that is fair and thorough and is going to arrive at the truth and is not going to go down rabbit holes that are not places that we need to be going,” Rubio said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    Trump’s White House attorney, Ty Cobb, released a statement later Sunday, saying the president isn’t planning to interfere in the special counsel investigation.

    “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the president is not considering or discussing the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said.

    Fourth Package Explosion in Austin Injures 2, Raising Suspicions of a Link With Previous Packages

    By Steve Neavling

    Local and federal authors believe a string of deadly package explosions in Austin, Texas, may be racially motived after two more people were injured Sunday evening when an explosive device detonated.

    The latest explosion – the fourth so far this month – happened in southern Austin around 8:30 p.m., prompting police to urge nearby residents to stay in their homes until 10 a.m. this morning.

    The latest device was different because it appears a tripwire triggered the explosion in an area of Austin far from the other package bombs.

    “We will not be able to send school buses into the neighborhood on Monday,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said in a late-night news conference. “In addition to that, we’re going to ask the residents in the Travis County neighborhood to stay in your homes tomorrow morning and give us the opportunity to process the scene once the sun comes up.”

    The victims in Sunday’s blast were men in their 20s who were being treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

    Authorities weren’t immediately certain the blast was related to three unsolved package explosions in Austin this month that killed two people and injured two others, but police are working under the belief that the bombings are connected.

    The first two victims, 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House and 17-year-old Draylen Mason, are black and have ties to two prominent African Americans families connected to an East Austin church that has long fought for racial justice. The third bomb targeted a hispanic resident and her mother.

    The race of Sunday’s victims weren’t release Sunday night.

    The FBI and ATF are assisting local police in the probe.

    FBI’s McCabe Says His Firing Friday Was Designed to Undermine Special Counsel Probe of Trump

    Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

    By Steve Neavling

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday night, a little more than 24 hours before he was set to retire with full benefits.

    McCabe, who spent more than 20 years with the bureau, quickly responded, saying he “was singled out” because he’s a key witness in the obstruction of justice case centered around President Trump’s termination of then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

    “Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said in a statement.

    McCabe is among three FBI officials who have corroborated Comey’s claim that the president demanded his loyalty and pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

    All three have since been forced out or reassigned.

    In a statement Friday night, Sessions defended McCabe’s termination, saying it was based on findings by both the Justice Department’s internal watchdog and the FBI office that handles disciplines. According to their yet-to-be-released reports, “Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

    McCabe, whose pension is in jeopardy, denied misleading investigators and said in a statement that the accusations are “part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn.”

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