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Archive for January 3rd, 2019

Inside the Beltway: Of Rats and Witch Hunts

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Greg Stejskal

“Conspiracies hatched in hell can not have angels for witnesses.” – is an adage sometimes used by prosecutors in criminal cases. The point being that in order to prove the existence of a conspiracy, which by design is done in secrecy, it may be necessary to have as witnesses a person or persons who were involved in the conspiracy. (A good Hollywood dramatization of how this works is depicted in Elia Kazan’s film, “On the Waterfront.”)

Coconspirators turned cooperating witnesses are problematic for the prosecutor because the witness by his/her own admission was a participant in a criminal conspiracy. In order to make a strong case, these non-angelic witnesses’ testimony is usually corroborated by other evidence.

Further strengthening their credibility, the testifying conspirator has admitted their involvement in the conspiracy and have often pleaded guilty and been sentenced for the act(s) for which they are testifying.

Using coconspirators as witnesses is a long established and necessary practice in criminal prosecutions. The federal rules of evidence allows for an exception to the hearsay rule: the conspirator can testify as to statements by another conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy. It is also common practice for the defense to attack the credibility of these witnesses.

What is unusual in my experience is attacking the practice of using a conspirator as a witness as something to be “outlawed” and referring to such witnesses as “flippers.” Such attacks were recently made by the president of the United States.

President Donald Trump

Flippers are apparently witnesses who have admitted to their participation in a criminal conspiracy, pleaded guilty to their involvement and agreed to truthfully testify under oath about the conspiracy. The president has also characterized some of these witnesses as “rats,” saying they are disloyal and lying to get a more favorable sentence. Thus, sounding more like Johnny Friendly, a mob boss, in “On the Waterfront” than the president.

The president has also seemed to imply that those who don’t flip and remain loyal to him will be rewarded with a presidential pardon – the ultimate “get out of jail free card.” (A pardon presupposes guilt for the act or acts that are being pardoned.) And this is where it gets really bizarre – the president using his pardon power to encourage potential witnesses to not cooperate with the US Department of Justice. That would seem to be a prima facia case of obstruction of justice.

If as the president has repeatedly said, the special counsel probe is a “witch hunt” then the president has nothing to fear from cooperating witnesses who will be under oath and subject to perjury charges should they lie.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said: “I have never met or heard of anyone who could out-smart honesty.”

 

Robert Mueller & Rod Rosenstein Named ticklethewire.com Feds of the Year for 2018

Rod Rosenstein and Robert S. Mueller III

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III have been named ticklethewire.com’s Feds of the Year for 2018.

It’s the first time since 2008 when the award was first established, that ticklethewire.com has named two people the recipients of the award.

These are extraordinary times. Not since the White House was occupied by Richard Nixon have we seen the integrity of the justice system challenged in this way.

We’ve seen two Attorney Generals fired along with an FBI director and deputy FBI director. And that’s only in two years.

We’ve seen a president belittle, via twitter and speeches, the Justice Department and FBI.

Under intense pressure, and extremely challenging circumstances, Rosenstein has stood for integrity and undertaken the herculean task of dealing with the White House and maintaining justice at the Justice Department.

It’s been no easy mission, and frankly, something few could pull off and survive.

All that said, it made Rosenstein an obvious choice for this award.

At the same time, Robert Mueller has carried out his duties as special counsel with nothing but class and integrity.

Once again, he too has come under repeated attacks by the White House while carrying out this important mission.

It is his presence in this ongoing investigation as a watchdog of government that has given many Americans renewed faith in our justice system.

It’s an honor to have two public servants as dedicated as these two.

Previous recipients of the ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year award include: Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008):   Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010);  Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011); John G. Perren, who was assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate (2012); David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Los Angeles (2013);  Loretta Lynch, who was U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time (2014); John “Jack” Riley,  the DEA’s acting deputy administrator (2015); D.C.  U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips (2016) and Joe Rannazzisi, a retired DEA deputy assistant administrator (2017) .

 

Stjeskal: Of Rats and Witch Hunts

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Greg Stejskal

“Conspiracies hatched in hell can not have angels for witnesses.” – is an adage sometimes used by prosecutors in criminal cases. The point being that in order to prove the existence of a conspiracy, which by design is done in secrecy, it may be necessary to have as witnesses a person or persons who were involved in the conspiracy. (A good Hollywood dramatization of how this works is depicted in Elia Kazan’s film, “On the Waterfront.”)

Greg Stejskal

Coconspirators turned cooperating witnesses are problematic for the prosecutor because the witness by his/her own admission was a participant in a criminal conspiracy. In order to make a strong case, these non-angelic witnesses’ testimony is usually corroborated by other evidence.

Further strengthening their credibility, the testifying conspirator has admitted their involvement in the conspiracy and have often pleaded guilty and been sentenced for the act(s) for which they are testifying.

Using coconspirators as witnesses is a long established and necessary practice in criminal prosecutions. The federal rules of evidence allows for an exception to the hearsay rule: the conspirator can testify as to statements by another conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy. It is also common practice for the defense to attack the credibility of these witnesses.

What is unusual in my experience is attacking the practice of using a conspirator as a witness as something to be “outlawed” and referring to such witnesses as “flippers.” Such attacks were recently made by the president of the United States.

President Donald Trump

Flippers are apparently witnesses who have admitted to their participation in a criminal conspiracy, pleaded guilty to their involvement and agreed to truthfully testify under oath about the conspiracy. The president has also characterized some of these witnesses as “rats,” saying they are disloyal and lying to get a more favorable sentence. Thus, sounding more like Johnny Friendly, a mob boss, in “On the Waterfront” than the president.

The president has also seemed to imply that those who don’t flip and remain loyal to him will be rewarded with a presidential pardon – the ultimate “get out of jail free card.” (A pardon presupposes guilt for the act or acts that are being pardoned.) And this is where it gets really bizarre – the president using his pardon power to encourage potential witnesses to not cooperate with the US Department of Justice. That would seem to be a prima facia case of obstruction of justice.

If as the president has repeatedly said, the special counsel probe is a “witch hunt” then the president has nothing to fear from cooperating witnesses who will be under oath and subject to perjury charges should they lie.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said: “I have never met or heard of anyone who could out-smart honesty.”

 

Shutdown Irony: Country Less Safe As Federal Law Enforcement Works with No Pay

Photo via Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The irony of President Trump shutting down the federal government in the name of public safety is nothing short of incredible.

Trump is refusing to budge on his demands for a border wall as the government shutdown is now in its second week.

But the agencies that protect Americans’ safety – the FBI, DEA, ATF, Coast Guard, TSA and yes, the Border Patrol –  are affected by the shutdown.

Since the federal law enforcement employees are considered “essential,” they are still on the job, but they are not getting a paycheck. And that is lowering morale and prompting some to resign.

Tens of thousands of TSA employees, many of whom make less than $40,000 a year, are protecting airports without a paycheck.

Nearly 13,000 special FBI agents also are working without pay, prompting the FBI Agents Association to urge politicians to quickly find a solution.

“As the country celebrates the New Year, the American public can be assured that the FBIAA’s membership—which includes nearly 13,000 Special Agents of the FBI  are on the job 24-hours a day, seven days a week to protect our country from criminal and terrorist threats,”  FBIAA President Tom O’Connor wrote in a statement. “These men and women are doing so while facing a confluence of policies and gridlock that are causing financial hardship for Agents and their families.”

The American Federation of Government Employees union filed a lawsuit Monday, arguing that “essential” employees should be paid for their work.

So far, Trump has shown no willingness to budge on his call for billions of dollars for a wall that even many Republicans say appears to be a waste of money.

Democrat-Controlled House to Re-Introduce Bill to Protect Special Counsel Mueller

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

As Democrats take control of the U.S. House today, the new leaders are expected to introduce new legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.

Incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-NY, plans to re-introduce legislation that would allow Mueller and future special counsels to challenge their termination in the courts, CNN reports.

Nadler is the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would be in charge of any future impeachment proceedings.

But the legislation faces an uphill battle because Republicans still control the Senate, which defeated a similar bill last year.