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News Story

Iran Says Disappearance of Robert Levinson Is an Ongoing ‘Missing Person’ Case

Robert Levinson

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The family of Robert Levinson, the former FBI agent who vanished in Iran in 2007, expressed some relief after the Iranian government changed its tone on his disappearance.

The government of Iran acknowledged for the first time that the disappearance is an ongoing “missing person” case.

Levinson “has no judicial or criminal case in any Islamic Republic of Iran court whatsoever,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters, The Associated Press reports.

President Trump said Iran’s acknowledgment was “a very positive step.”

“If Iran is able to turn over to the U.S. kidnapped former FBI Agent Robert A. Levinson, who has been missing in Iran for 12 years, it would be a very positive step,” President Trump tweeted Sunday night.

The State Department last week offered up to a $20 million reward for information leading to the safe return of Levinson, who is believed to have been abducted on March 9, 2007.

Former ICE Director Homan Pledges to Run Against ICE Critic Sen. Gillibrand

Former ICE Director Thomas Woman.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Thomas Homan, who was President Trump’s first acting ICE director, pledged to run against U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat and former presidential candidate who has suggested abolishing ICE.

Homan said he’s tired of listening to Gillibrand’s anti-ICE rhetoric and wants to remove her from her Senate seat.

“Let me just say this: When I do return to New York and Sen. Gilibrand is still around, she won’t be around because I’ll take her on,” Homan said on Larry O’Connor’s “Examining Politics” podcast.

Homan, who served as ICE director from January 2017 to June 2018, acknowledged he’s no longer a New York resident but would return to the state to run against Gillibrand.

Gillibrand became the first sitting senator to join the “Abolish ICE” movement in June 2019.  Since then, president candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders said he also wants to abolish ICE.

Homan defended the agency and its agents, saying, “ICE are the good guys.”

ATF Loses Agents And Resources As Gun Deaths, Mass Shootings Rise

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

As law enforcement struggles with how to handle the proliferation of mass shootings in the U.S., the agency tasked with enforcing gun laws is underfunded and without a permanent leader.

The ATF is expected to lose 300 agents to retirement in 2018 and 2019, and the agency isn’t hiring enough replacements.

The agency has no permanent leader, and its budget continues to be cut.

Kenneth E. Nelson, former acting ATF director, said the agency is being handled like “political football.”

“If they are really concerned, Congress would give ATF the resources to prevent and respond to mass shootings, but ATF is a political football,” Nelson told The Washington Times.

Since 2001, the number of gun deaths have risen 34%, but the number of federal agents – about 2,600 – has not increased.

“The growth of violent gun crime is an external challenge that has strained ATF’s ability to respond to requests for assistance to address the needs of the nation’s cities and citizens most affected by this violence,” ATF wrote, adding that “requests for services and support continue to exceed our ability to respond.”

In 2018, the ATF hired 156 agents but lost 172 to retirement. With about 17% of agents aged 50 or older, the agency is expected to lose a lot more staff.

President Trump has even discussed transferring the ATF’s responsibilities to the Treasury Department.

David Chipman, a former ATF agent, said the gun lobby is to blame.

“We all agree gun violence is a significant public safety threat, so why is the ATF the size that it is?” he said. “That is largely because the gun lobby has been concerned about an effective and aggressive ATF, and their influence over legislators has kept the ATF ineffectual, at least budgetwise.”

FBI Joins Investigation of Deadly Attack on Family Near U.S.-Mexico Border

Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI is joining the investigation into the attack that killed nine Mexican Americans last week near the U.S. border.

The deadly ambush in broad daylight left three women and six children dead after suspected drug cartels riddled the Mormon family’s SUV convoy with bullets on Nov. 4.

“The FBI will be providing assistance at the invitation of the Mexican government with the investigation into the recent attack against American citizens,” the FBI said in a statement, according to CNN. “The FBI remains committed to working alongside our international partners to help bring justice to the perpetrators of this heinous act of violence.”

Mexico’s foreign ministry invited the FBI to help.

Mexican authorities believe rival drug cartels attacked the family as part of a case of mistaken identity.

Last week, Trump offered to send U.S. troops to Mexica to “wipe” the cartels “off the face of the earth.”

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Clinton Impeachment Inquiry

Former AG Jeff Sessions Running for His Old U.S. Senate Seat in Alabama

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he is running for his old U.S. Senate seat in Alabama.

“Our freedoms have never been under attack like they are today. We have major party candidates for President campaigning on socialism, confiscating firearms, and closing down churches they disagree with,” Sessions said in a news release. “I’ve battled these forces my entire life, and I’m not about to surrender now. Let’s go!”

Sessions lauded President Trump in a video accompanying the announcement, saying Trump is “doing a good job for America and Alabama.”

Sessions stepped down from the Senate seat after he was appointed Trump’s first attorney general in 2017. The relationship quickly soured after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Sessions joined a crowded field of Republicans running against incumbent Democrat Doug Jones, who won in an upset over GOP candidate Roy Moore in 2017.

White Restaurant Owner Who Enslaved a Disabled Black Man Gets 10 Years in Prison

Bobby Paul Edwards

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A white restaurant manager who forced a disabled black man to work more than 100 hours a week without pay has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 54, beat, burned and hurled racist slurs at John Christopher Smith to make him work harder at a small diner in Conway, South Carolina, the Justice Department said.

“This abusive enslavement of a vulnerable person is shocking,” Jody Norris, FBI special agent in charge of the Columbia Division, said in a statement. “The FBI is always vigilantly searching for these offenses and stands ready to bring perpetrators to justice and help victims reclaim their lives. We understand human trafficking takes many forms and we encourage anyone with information related to these crimes to contact the FBI.”

Edwards used his belt, fists, pots and pans to beat Smith, federal prosecutors said. In one instance, Edwards burned Smith’s neck with metal tongs dipped in hot grease.

The abuse occurred between 2009 and 2014, when Edwards was the manager. State authorities rescued Smith after receiving a tip about the abuse.

The FBI led the investigation.

Edwards pleaded guilty to forced labor on June 4.

“It is almost inconceivable that instances of forced labor endure in this country to this day – a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said. “The Department of Justice will continue to investigate, prosecute, and convict human traffickers involved in forced labor, seeking justice on behalf of their victims.”

Senate May Vote on Chad Wolf’s Nomination to Lead Homeland Security by Tuesday

Chad Wolf

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Senate may vote as early as Tuesday on President Trump’s pick of Chad Wolf as acting Homeland Security secretary.

If approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, Wolf would be Trump’s fifth leader of Homeland Security, a department that has been shaken up by its focus on immigration.

A closure vote today would open the door for a full floor vote next week, CBS News reports.

Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan would resign if Wolf’s nomination is approved.

It’s unclear whether Trump plans to tap Wolf for the permanent secretary position.