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Column: Ex-Fed Prosecutor — Nuclear Meltdown Gripping Justice Department

Michael J. Stern, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, was a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelJStern1

Attorney General William Barr on ABC News.

By Michael J. Stern
USA Today

“The Real Housewives” have nothing on the Department of Justice when it comes to drama. I don’t mean to be flippant. But if I can’t marvel at the absurdity of the nuclear meltdown that is gripping the institution to which I dedicated my professional career, I’m afraid I will cry.

I was concerned when the punchline “Donald Trump” came to be preceded by the title “president.” But my beloved DOJ was filled with career prosecutors whose dedication and integrity would keep the ship on course — even if the storm lasted four years.

I was confident that the traditions that made the Justice Department the most respected law enforcement organization in the world would surely allow it to weather any attorney general Trump could install.

But Trump has commandeered the department and sent a clear message: “Investigate me or people close to me and I will undercut years of your hard work, trash your reputation on Twitter, and create a Hobson’s choice between your integrity and your ability to earn a living. And if you pick the former, I will issue a pardon and undo all you worked for anyway.”

Read the full column

Ex-DEA Agent and Wife Charged With Laundering Colombian Drug Money

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-DEA agent Jose I. Irizarry has been charged with working with Colombian drug dealers to launder money seized from undercover drug operations, the Justice Department announced Friday. He allegedly used the cash to buy a Tiffany diamond ring, a $135,000 Land Rover and a home in Cartagena.

The 19-indictment unsealed in Tampa, Fla., also named his wife Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry (Gomez), 36.

Authorities charged the scheme involved diverting money from undercover money laundering investigations into bank accounts the couple controlled along with family members and criminal associates.

Authorities allege that Irizarry was in personal bankruptcy proceedings for nearly the duration of this criminal conduct and failed to disclose any of his illicit income to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Irizarry is charged with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, honest services wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit identity theft and aggravated identity theft.  Gomez is charged with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

 

Weekend Series on Most Controversial Pardons

Police: CBP Employee Fatally Shot Wife, Sons And Self at Their Florida Home

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection employee fatally shot his wife and two sons before killing himself in their Florida home Thursday, according to authorities.

Orange County Sheriff’s deputies discovered four bodies at the home after CBP alerted authorities that they had not heard from the employee, whose identity has not yet been released, CNN reports.

The CBP employee was stationed at the Orlando International Airpot.

The employee’s sons were in middle school and high school.

Trump Hires Julia Nesheiwat as White House Homeland Security Adviser

White House Homeland Security Adviser Julia Nesheiwat.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

President Trump has hired Florida’s chief resilience officer to be his White House homeland security adviser.

Julia Nesheiwat, a former U.S. Army captain with an extensive military background, will be the fourth person to fill the position since Trump was elected, Politico first reported. She replaces Rear Adm. Peter Brown, who lasted about six months on the job.

Dough Fears and Tom Bossert also held the position.

Neishewat had served as deputy special presidential envoy for hostage affairs for four years.

In Florida, Neishewat prepared for natural disasters.

Neishewat’s military background includes tours in Afghanistan Iraq. She is fluent in Arabic, Japanese and Spanish.

Trump split up the Homeland Security Council and National Security Council soon after he became president. The national security adviser is Robert O’Brien, who worked with Neishewat at the State Department.

Trump Defies AG Barr, Continues Tweeting about Justice Department

President Trump and AG William Barr, via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

In brazen defiance of Attorney General William Barr, President Trump continued to tweet about the Justice Department.

On Wednesday, Trump retweeted allegations that he is “the victim” of a DOJ conspiracy theory, just hours after reports suggested Barr told his staff that he’s considering resigning over the president’s comments about Justice Department criminal cases.

Trump fired off more than a dozen tweets and retweets that seemed to make a case that Barr should “clean house” at the Justice Department.

“There must be JUSTICE. This can never happen to a President, or our Country, again!,” Trump wrote, retweeting a post from Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who insisted there are “high expectations that the Justice Dept will very soon deliver transparency & ACCOUNTABILITY regarding DOJ/FBI officials who weaponized the awesome powers at their disposal in order to target the Trump campaign.”

Last week, Barr told ABC News that Trump’s tweets about Justice Department cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said.

Trump continued tweeting anyway.

According to The Washington Post, Barr’s motive for threatening to quit may have been to send a message to Trump to stop tweeting.

“He has his limits,” a source said.

CBP Finds Human Brain in Shipment Coming from Canada

Human brain found at the Canadian-Michigan border.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers were in for a surprise when they inspected a Canadian mail truck that had crossed the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Mich.

They found a human brain specimen inside a glass jar. It was not accompanied by any of the mandated paperwork or documentation to bring the brain into the country, CBP says in a news release.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was headed for Kenosha, Wis.

“Individuals looking to import shipments such as this, need to remember that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a strict Import Permit Program that must be adhered to,” Area Port Director Michael Fox said. “This is just another great example of just one of the many things CBP officers do to protect our nation on a daily basis.”

CBP has notified the CDC of the discovery.

Stejskal: New Unabomber Documentary to Air on Netflix

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

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

A new documentary about the Unabomber/Ted Kaczynski will begin airing on Netflix Saturday (Feb. 22).

“The Unabomber – In His Own Words” is so titled because the documentary liberally uses parts of the only interview Kaczynski has ever given since his arrest and conviction in 1996.

The documentary not only looks at Kaczynski’s 17 years of terror attacks that killed 3 people and injured 23 from 1978-1995, it also explores his youth and time at Harvard where he was admitted at 16.

Ted was then a grad student at Michigan from 1962-1967 when he received his PhD with honors. Based on Ted’s autobiography, Ted’s first thought about killing people was while he was at Michigan.

I’m in the documentary as well, having worked on the investigation. In November, 1985, a package (weighing about 5 lbs. and measuring 3”x 8”x 11”) was received in the mail at the residence of Professor James McConnell. McConnell, who was teaching and doing research in the psychology department at the University of Michigan. The package was opened by an assistant of McConnell. It exploded and caused considerable damage to McConnell’s kitchen, but the assistant only suffered minor injury to his arms and abdomen.

Ted’s brother, David, who ultimately turned Ted in, is interviewed extensively. David provides insights into Ted’s youth and the trauma he experienced when he realized Ted was the Unabomber.

The documentary delves into some of the theories as to why Ted turned from a promising career in theoretical mathematics to a hermit living in the woods and a serial bomber.