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Archive for August, 2018

Watchdog Group Confirms Trump’s Involvement in FBI Headquarters Project

Current FBI headquarters

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The GSA administrator who is overseeing the construction of a new FBI headquarters may have misled Congress about President Trump’s involvement in the debate over where to build a new campus, according to a government watchdog report released Monday.

The GSA inspector general report also claims officials understated the costs of building a new headquarters in downtown Washington D.C. by suggesting it would cost less than the original plan of erecting a new campus in the suburbs. 

The current headquarters sits near Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel.

The GSA last year scrapped a plan to build a new FBI headquarters in the suburbs in favor of building a smaller headquarters in downtown D.C., which would require some staff to relocate to Alabama, Idaho and West Virginia.

The inspector general’s report concluded that testimony by GSA Administrator Emily Murphy “was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with the President or senior White House officials about the project.”

During the hearing, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., asked Murphy, “To your knowledge, was the president or anyone else at the White House involved in those discussions, either with your predecessors, people you’re working with now, or yourself?”

Murphy responded, “The direction that we got came from the FBI. It was the FBI that directed to GSA as to what its requirements would be. We obviously did coordinate, given that it is a substantial budget request, we coordinated that request with OMB to provide for funding but the requirements were generated by the FBI.”

The Post reports that Murphy had discussed the project with Trump, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and other White House officials

Some Congressional members accused Trump of intervening because his hotel is a stone’s throw from the FBI headquarters, and the president doesn’t want a competing hotel to replace the brutalist building.

Mueller Ended Plea Deal Talks with Manafort Before Second Trial in September

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Special Counsel Robert Mueller put an end to negotiations for a last-minute plea deal between his prosecutors and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Manafort’s legal team began plea discussions while jurors were deliberating after closing arguments in their client’s fraud case in which he ultimately was convicted of eight of 18 counts tax and bank fraud, the Wall Street Journal reports

The plea talks involved Manafort’s upcoming Washington D.C. trial, but they fell apart after Mueller expressed unknown concerns and objected to a potential deal.

The specifics of the potential deal were unclear.

Manafort’s convictions last week came about a month before his second trial is set to begin Sept. 17 on charges of lying to federal investigators and failing to register as a foreign agent.

How Unrelated, Decades-Old Cold Case May Prevent Mueller from Disclosing Russia-Trump Report

Special counsel Robert Mueller. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The unsolved disappearance and apparent murder of a Columbia University professor more than 60 years ago may prevent special counsel Robert Mueller from disclosing revealing information about the Trump campaign and Russia.

The cold case has nothing to do with Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, but the six-decade-old mystery has given rise to a legal question that is entirely relevant to the special counsel probe, Politico reports

At issue is whether judges have the right to release grand jury information that typically is kept secret. An appeals court is expected next month to deliver a decision on whether grand jury information can be disclosed in the case of the Columbia University professor Jesus Galindez.

Author and attorney Stuart McKeever, who has been closely following the cold case, is suing the Justice Department for the release of grand jury testimony involving the 1956 disappearance.

If the court sides with the Justice Department’s argument that grand jury information must be kept secret, it could set a precedent that would prevent Mueller from releasing a report on his findings to Congress or the public.

“If the D.C. Circuit were to accept the Department of Justice’s arguments…that would have potentially enormous implications for the future of the information from the Mueller investigation. That could close out a path by which that information becomes public,”  Harvard Law professor Alex Whiting said.

FBI, ATF Agents Search Baltimore Home After Sunday’s Mass Shooting in Florida

The shooter, David Katz, (right) was 24 years old. Photo via Twitter.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Heavily armed FBI and ATF agents wearing bulletproof vests searched the Baltimore home Sunday night of the father of the man who opened fire at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., leaving three dead and 11 others injured.

Authorities identified the shooter as 24-year-old Baltimore resident David Katz, who killed himself. According to investigators, Katz was in Jacksonville, participating in a football video game when he opened fire shortly after 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

ATF and FBI agents arrived at the townhouse of Katz’s father around 6 p.m. and searched the home for about four hours, the ATF said at a press conference.

Authorities were tight-lipped about what, if anything, they found at the home on the 1200 block of Harbor Island Walk.

Trump Lashes Out at Cohen, Suggests ‘Flipping’ Should Be Illegal

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump on Wednesday harshly criticized his former lawyer Michael Cohen for “flipping” on him by implicating Trump in a campaign finance scheme after pleading guilty to eight federal crimes, including tax evasion and bank fraud.

“It’s called ‘flipping,’ Trump said, “and it almost ought to be illegal.”

“I know all about flipping,” the president added in his interview with “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt. “For 30, 40 years, I’ve been watching flippers.”

But Trump in the past has actually cooperated with law enforcement. In the 1980s, in order to avoid prosecution, Trump reportedly testified in a tax-evasion scheme and offered to place undercover FBI agents in his Atlantic City casinos.

On Tuesday, the president’s former personal attorney struck a deal with federal prosecutorsin which he also pleaded guilty to making illegal corporate and campaign contributions to influence the 2016 election, claiming he committed those crimes “at the direction” of President Trump.

Feds Target Trump Organization’s Handling of Cohen’s Hush Money

Trump Tower

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Trump Organization and two company officials are the target of a federal investigation involving payments to silence adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

Prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office are zeroing in on how the company handled hush money that then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen gave adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, the New York Times reports.

Prosecutors have discovered that the organization reimbursed Cohen as a legal expense and that company officials falsified legal invoices to hide the true purpose.

Cohen told a judge earlier this week that the money was intended to silence Daniels, who claimed she had affairs with Trump.

Grand Juror Who Leaked Information about ‘Snitch’ Sentenced to Prison

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A grand juror who leaked secret information about a “snitch” involved in a federal investigation was sentenced Thursday to one year and one day in prison for obstructing justice.

Leslie Lynn Heburn, 37, of Miami tracked down on social media the girlfriend of a man recently indicted to tell her that her boyfriend had been set up by a confidential informant.

Grand jurors are routinely warned they are prohibited from divulging information they learn during the grand jury proceedings.

Heburn, who earlier pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, acknowledged to a judge that she and other jurors had been warned about leaking information about the proceedings but did so anyway.

Assisting the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida was assisted by the FBI Miami Area Corruption Task Force, Miami-Dade Police Department and the ATF.

Inmates Train Puppies Before They Become Bomb-Sniffing Crime Stoppers

Photo courtesy of Puppies Behind Bars.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Taylor spent most of her early life behind the walls of a New Jersey women’s correctional facility.

Now the black Labrador is answering a higher calling, sniffing out bombs and shell casings for the ATF.

The two-year-old dog, who is more hyper than her explosives-detecting predecessor, shares a home with his veteran agent handler, Nic Garlie of the St. Louis ATF office, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports in an uplifting story about second chances and America’s best friend. 

Taylor was raised by prison inmates under a program called, Puppies Behind Bars, which gives criminals an opportunity to raise puppies that are being groomed to work for agencies such as the ATF. It gives inmates a sense of responsibility and provides positive interactions.  

“They really feel like part of them leaves prison when the dog succeeds and goes on to work,” Gloria Gilbert Stoga, the program’s founder, said.

One of Taylor’s handlers, Neville, spent much of her 12 years behind bars alone, bored and without much to accomplish.

The four-legged friend changed Neville’s outlook, according to her journal entries.

“It is a wonderful nervous energy to think while I am locked in this world, I can still be a service to someone,” Neville wrote.

Now Taylor is prepared to help keep America safe.