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Archive for March, 2018

Poll: Majority of Americans Support Special Counsel Probe Trump Testifying Under Oath

President Trump, via the White House

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A majority of Americans believe the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election should be fully investigated, according to a new poll.

The CNN poll found that 58% of those surveyed support a full investigation of Russian meddling, while 36% believe the probe is intended primarily to discredit Donald Trump’s presidency. The findings are virtually identical to previous polls dating back to February, despite Trump’s ramped-up assault on Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The poll also found that 55% of Americans believe the president is not cooperating enough with the investigation, while 40% support his level of cooperation.

Among Democrats, only 6% says Trump’s cooperation is sufficient, while 77% of Republicans say it is not.

Of those surveyed, 75% say Trump should testify under oath in an interview with Mueller and his team.

Special Counsel Team Seeks Jail Time Against First Person to Be Sentenced in Russia Probe

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is urging a judge to impose jail time against Alex van der Zwaan, the first person to be sentenced as part of the probe into Russian interference in the presidential election.

Van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors and the FBI about the Russia probe, faces an estimated zero to six months in jail, according to sentencing guidelines, BuzzFeed News reports

Mueller’s team didn’t indicate how much time van der Zwaan should be sent to jail, but the attorney is asking for no jail time because his wife, who lives in London is pregnant and due to deliver their child in August.

“To the extent the Court seeks to take into account the circumstances of van der Zwaan’s wife’s pregnancy, consideration of that circumstance would not preclude a term of incarceration,” the special counsel’s office wrote. “In any event, a sentence that ensured van der Zwaan’s return to the United Kingdom for the birth of his child in August 2018 would be within the recommended Guidelines’ range.”

Prosecutors added, ““The defendant was expressly warned by the government that it is a crime to lie to the Special Counsel’s Office, that lying could constitute a federal crime, and that such conduct would carry with it the possibility of going to jail if he were convicted. van der Zwaan stated that he understood. He thereafter deliberately and repeatedly lied.”

The sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 3.

Four others who have pleaded guilty so far – including former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates, Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. But their sentencing hearings have been placed on hold while they cooperate with Mueller’s team.

Democratic Senators Urge DOJ to Protect Mueller from Being Fired

U.S. Capitol

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Democratic senators, unable to gain enough support from Republicans to pass a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired, are now reaching out to the Justice Department for help. 

Nine Democratic senators sent a letter to the Justice Department, urging top officials to publicly defend Mueller as President Trump escalates his smear campaign against Mueller and his investigation, Huffington Post reports.

“We have significant concerns that the president or his White House could order individuals at the Department of Justice with the authority to oversee Special Counsel Mueller’s probe to interfere with the probe or shut it down,” the letter, released Tuesday, reads. “You fall in the line of succession at the Department of Justice … We write to request that you provide a written and public commitment that you will not interfere.”

The senators are Richard Blumenthal, of Conn., Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, Dick Durbin, of Ill.,  Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, Dianne Feinstein, of Calif., Chris Coons, of Del., Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, Cory Booker, of N.J., and Kamala Harris, of Calif.

The senators point to Trump’s attacks against the Justice Department and FBI and reports that the president ordered the firing of Mueller last summer until his attorney pressed back.

“You have an oath to uphold the rule of law and protect the Constitution,” the senators wrote. “This includes refusing to take part in any effort to deny the American public access to the truth and refusing to participate in any attempt by the president to interfere with a legitimate and critical investigation of national importance.”

Orlando Shooter’s Father Was FBI Informant, But Judge Won’t Dismiss Case Against Widow

Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The discovery that the father of the man who killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub in 2016 was an FBI informant was an insufficient reason to reject the case against the widow of the mass shooter, a judge said Monday.

Lawyers for Noor Salman urged a judge to throw out the case because prosecutors withheld information that Omar Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, worked as a confidential FBI informant at various times between January 2005 and June 2016.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Byron rejected a motion to dismiss or declare a mistrial, saying Seddique Mateen’s role as a former informant “does not change the dynamic of whether Noor Salman aided and abetted,” NBC News reports

Salman is on trial on charges of aiding and abetting her husband’s June 2016 attack on Pulse, a popular gay club in Orlando, and obstructing law enforcement’s investigation by falsely denying her role in the attack, which was one of the deadliest mass shootings on U.S. soil.

Omar Mateen told police before he was killed that he shooting was done in the name of ISIS. 

FBI: Self-Help Leader Forced Female Clients into Sexual Slavery Cult

Nxivm founder Keith Raniere

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI is accusing the leader of a self-help group of forcing his female clients into a sexual slavery cult.

Keith Raniere, founder of Albany, N.Y.-based Nxivm, is expected to be charged in federal court Tuesday of sex trafficking, sex-trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy, UPI reports

Raniere’s group, which claims to “empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human,” has operated for about 20 years and has centers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central America.

“Keith Raniere created a secret society of women whom he had sex with and branded with his initials, coercing them with the threat of releasing their highly personal information and taking their assets,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. said Raniere “displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves” and “allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding and burning them, with the cooperation of other women operating within this unorthodox pyramid scheme.”

The organization, which gets most of its funding from the sisters who are the heiresses to the Seagrams family liquor fortune, charges up to $5,000 for a five-day workshop.

Ex-President Carter: Don’t Impeach Trump Even If He Committed Wrongdoing

President Jimmy Carter

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Even if special counsel Robert Mueller finds criminal wrongdoing by Donald Trump, the president should not be impeached, said former President Jimmy Carter.

“You know, I have confidence in the American system of government,” Carter told CBS’ Sunday Morning. “I think ultimately the restraints on a president from the Congress and from the Supreme Court will be adequate to protect our nation, if he serves a full term.”

The 39th president said he believes Trump will serve his full term unless Mueller  files charges against the president. But he added, Mueller should be more forthcoming if Trump is in legal trouble.

 “I think Mueller’s been very successful in keeping his cards close to his vest and not revealing any plans. But my wish is that Mr. Mueller would go ahead and make a decision, even if it’s not anything personally that President Trump has done to violate the law; then I think he ought to make that obvious. And if he has violated the law, that ought to be revealed as well.”

Carter, a Democrat, offered to help Trump and said he believes the president wanted to “do a good job.”

“But my own preference would be that he not be impeached, but that he be able to serve out his term, because I think he wants to do a good job. And I’m willing to help him, if I can help him, and give him the benefit of the doubt,” Carter said.

Congress Rejects Trump’s Plan to Dramatically Increase Agents to Combat Illegal Immigration

ICE official, via ICE.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Congress rejected President Trump’s push for a significant increase in the number of federal law enforcement officers to combat illegal immigration.

Trump called for a dramatic increase in the number of ICE and Border Patrol agents, but Congress declined the funding, citing the agencies’ admission that it could not reach the hiring goals, Government Executive reports

The 2018 omnibus spending bill called for funding 1,000 new ICE agents, but Congress approved the hiring of just 65 additional agents

Congress also rejected Trump’s proposal to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and provided funding for just 500 new agents.

“The budget request for new Border Patrol agents, in particular, was not supported by any analysis of workload and capability gaps across CBP that would be necessary to evaluate the benefits of the proposal as compared to other investments,” congressional appropriators stated.

Both agencies have been unable to meet lofty hiring goals because of recruiting problems.

Other Stories of Interest

Lengel: Whatever the Case, The Optics Stink When It Comes To The Firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testifies before Congress.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Was justice done with the last minute firing of ex-FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe?

I say no.

The public still isn’t clear about all the reasons behind it,  though the White House or some other people leaked a limited amount of damaging info. They said McCabe leaked information to the Wall Street Journal about the probe into Hillary Clinton and the family foundation,  then allegedly was guilty of  “lack of candor” when questioned about it. Lack of candor in the FBI is often an accusation that ends badly for the accused.

We don’t know much more.

Whatever the case, the optics stink.

McCabe had stepped aside in late January, before his March retirement date. He and FBI Director Christopher Wray and other top FBI officials knew the Inspector General’s report was in the works, and the final product wasn’t going to be favorable to McCabe or the bureau.

Ordinarily, McCabe stepping aside might have been enough to satisfy. But it was clear the White House wanted him beheaded, even if it meant doing so days before his official retirement and days before he would become eligible to collect a pension.

Did McCabe do something wrong? Officials obviously say yes. And in fact, that may be the case. We haven’t seen the report.

But McCabe says no, writing in an Op-ed piece in the Washington Post: “I did not knowingly mislead or lie to investigators….I answered questions as completely and accurately as I could. And when I realized that some of my answers were not fully accurate or may have been misunderstood, I took the initiative to correct them.”

Even if McCabe did wrong, the way this has all been handled is wrong.

Normally, under such circumstances, an agent or official accused of wrongdoing internally would be given weeks, if not months, to prepare a rebuttal to defend themselves.

That wasn’t done in this case. It was days — barely, just to make sure he didn’t cross the finish line with full pension in hand.

Director Wray insists everything is being done by the book in the bureau, and that politics was not involved in the decision involving McCabe.

Christopher Wray (File photo)

Let’s be frank.

First off, you don’t think there was pressure from President Donald Trump to have Attorney General Jeff Sessions fire McCabe? If Wray seriously doesn’t think that’s the case, perhaps we need a sharper FBI director.

Secondly, while Michael E. Horwowitz, the Justice Department’s Inspector General since 2012, enjoys a reputation in some circles as being totally impartial, not everyone agrees. Some privately say he’s very political and tries to tailor his reports to what some insiders in the Beltway want.

Then there’s Attorney General Sessions, who told Congress he would recuse himself of anything to do with the Clinton investigation. And here he is, firing McCabe for something tied to that probe.

Not everyone loved McCabe. Known as being sharp, intelligent and ambitious, some also thought he could be arrogant. I’m also told some agents were happy to see him get the ax. But he also had his fans.

Whatever the case, I have a suggestion.

People who think this mess was handled properly need to stand outside the Department of Justice at 950 Pennsylvania NW, look at the sign and take notice of the word “Justice.”

It’s not just a word. It really does mean something.

 

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