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Archive for August 17th, 2018

FBI Director Seeks to Bring ‘Normalcy’ to Bureau in Midst of ‘Turbulent Times’

FBI Director Christopher Wray in Atlanta. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

When President Trump offered Christopher Wray the top position in the FBI, the former assistant attorney general knew his job would not be easy.

After all, his boss – Trump – was trying to convince the public that the top law enforcement agencies were out to get him and could not be trusted. The FBI, the president insisted repeatedly and loudly, was part of a political “witch hunt”intent on running him out of office.

This month, Wray entered his second year as the director of the FBI, replacing James Comey after the president fired him in May 2017, prompting the assistant attorney general to appoint a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

As Trump continues to try to discredit the FBI, Wray said Thursday that he is trying to usher in “normalcy” in the midst of “turbulent times.”

“My big point of emphasis has been that even though we live in tumultuous times, turbulent times, I’m trying to bring calm, stability — dare I say it — normalcy, in an environment where I think there’s an appetite for that,” Wray said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Thursday.

The drama continued this week with the firing of special agent Peter Strzok for sending anti-Trump text messages during the presidential election.

On a weekly basis, Trump derides the FBI, Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller on Twitter – his preferred means of spewing out criticism.

“Social media commentary has its place, but that’s not what drives our work,” he said.

Wray described his relationship with the president as “professional.”

Still, Wray defended Rod Rosenstein, the assistant attorney general who has caught much of the criticism for hiring Mueller.

Wray declined to address the Republicans who are beating the drum for Trump.

“I’m not going to be weighing in, commenting on other’s opinions,” he said.

Wray said he won’t let outside criticism hinder his focus on the FBI and its mission.

“I’m a big believer in the idea that actions speak louder than words, and so what I look at is what do I see in terms of people’s commitment to the mission, success in the mission, desire to work here,” he said. “Our focus is our oath, our mission, the rule of law.”

Judge: Trump Opened Door for FBI Disclosure After Declassifying Dossier Documents

Members of the House Intelligence Committee. Photo via U.S. Capitol.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s decision to release a declassified report on the Steele dossier and the Democratic rebuttal to it means the FBI must cough up information on whether the report verifies the evidence suggesting a link between Trump and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta in February supported the FBI’s decision to deny a request seeking to confirm the existence of records involving the controversial dossier, Politico reports

But Trump’s decision to declassify the competing reports nullifies the question of whether the documents exist.

“It remains no longer logical nor plausible for the FBI to maintain that it cannot confirm nor deny the existence of documents” related to attempts to verify information in the dossier, Mehta wrote in a 13-page opinion.

The FOIA was filed by a Politico reporter and the James Madison Project.

“This ruling represents another incremental step in revealing just how much the FBI has been able to verify or discredit the rather personal allegations contained in that synopsis derived from the Steele dossier,” said Brad Moss, a lawyer pressing the lawsuit. “It will be rather ironic if the president’s peripheral actions that resulted in this ruling wind up disclosing that the FBI has been able to corroborate any of the ‘salacious’ allegations.”

Release of ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape Was Impetus for Buying Stormy Daniels’ Silence

Longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen was on the fence about buying the silence of a former adult-film star who says she had sex with Trump until the infamous NBC “Access Hollywood” tape was released and showed Trump bragging about groping women.

A day after the recording was made its rounds in the media, Cohen expressed a desire to strike a deal with Sunny Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing a person familiar with a conversation between Cohen and the dancer’s representative.

A few days later, Clifford signed a nondisclosure agreement, about a month after initially resisting the idea.

According to federal prosecutors, the “Access Hollywood” tape was the impetus for buying Clifford’s silence.

Prosecutors are investigating whether the deal was a violation of campaign finance laws that require the disclosure of in-kind contributions.

Jury Reconvenes Today After Asking Judge to Clarify Meaning of ‘Reasonable Doubt’

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A jury will reconvene Friday morning after failing to reach a verdict during its full day of  deliberations in the fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Just before the jury said it wanted to go home at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the panel asked Judge T.S. Ellis to clarify the meaning of “reasonable doubt,” the threshold for acquittal. The judge clarified that the prosecution must prove their case beyond “doubt based on reason,” not “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The jury also asked three other questions, including the legal requirements to disclose foreign bank accounts and the definition of “shelf” companies.

Ellis provided no insight, except to say the jury should rely on their “collective recollection.”

The jury will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Friday to determine whether Manafort is guilty of 18 counts of tax and bank fraud, which prosecutors said the Republican consultant committed to indulge in an excessive lifestyle that included more than $6 million on seven homes, $820,000 ons manicure the lawns, a $21,000 black titanium and crystal watch, a $15,000 ostrich jacket and an $18,000 python jacket. 

If convicted, Mueller could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The jury’s decision in the first trial brought forward by special counsel Robert Mueller carries a lot of weight for special counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump, who has long complained that the investigation is a “witch hunt” designed to force him out of office.

Whatever the case, Manafort faces a second trial in several months on money laundering charges, and prosecutors are expected to have even more evidence in that case.