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Tag: Congress

Mueller Defends Special Counsel Investigation, Saying It Wasn’t ‘a Witch hunt’

Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before congress.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday rejected repeated claims by President Trump that the investigation into Russia’s election interference was a witch hunt.

The defense of his investigation came during several hours of testimony before two congressional committees.

“Your investigation is not a witch hunt, is it?” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., asked.

“It is not a witch hunt,” Mueller responded.

During most of the hearings, Mueller stuck to his pledge to narrow his responses to his widely reported final report. But that didn’t mean the hearings were without new information.

Earlier in the day, Mueller suggested he did not pursue charges against Trump because of the Justice Department’s position that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

“And I’d like to ask you the reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC (DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel) opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., asked.

“That is correct,” Mueller said at 10:50 a.m.

But three hours later, Mueller corrected his earlier statement.

“Now, before we go to questions, I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said, and I quote, ‘You didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion’,” Mueller said. “That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”

During the hearing, Mueller emphasized that one of the most alarming discoveries was the breadth of Russia’s interference during the presidential election. In his opening statement, Mueller said the investigation found “sweeping and systematic” Russian interference during the 2016 election.

He repeated the report’s conclusion that there was not ample evidence that Trump’s election team colluded with Russia.

But, Mueller stressed, the report did not exonerate Trump on obstruction, contradicting the president’s insistence that the special counsel team concluded he did nothing wrong.

“Based on Justice Department policy and principles of fairness, we decided we would not make a determination as to whether the president committed a crime,” Mueller said. “That was our decision then and it remains our decision today.”

How to Watch Mueller’s Long-Awaited Testimony Before Congress

Robert S. Mueller III testifies before Congress.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited testimony before Congress begins Wednesday morning and includes two separate hearings.

Mueller’s first appearance begins at 8:30 a.m. in front of the House Judiciary Committee. That will be followed by another two hours before the House Intelligence Committee.

Mueller will be accompanied by Aaron Zebley, a longtime aide granted permission to assist Mueller with questions.

Most major broadcast networks will carry the hearings live. Even Fox News, despite earlier reports, will be airing the testimony. Also covering the hearings are C-SPAN, CNN, and MSNBC, both on television and online.

Mueller will be given a 30-minute break after the three-hour House Judiciary Committee meeting that begins at 8:30 a.m.

As predicted, President Trump called the hearings “a rigged Witch Hunt.”

What to Expect from Mueller’s Testimony Before Congress This Week

Special counsel Robert Mueller Mueller.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Robert Mueller, the special counsel who investigated Russian election interference, will testify before two U.S. House committees on Wednesday.

Mueller reluctantly agreed to testify after Democrats issued a subpoena.

So what should Americans expect?

Democrats are hoping Mueller’s testimony will provide new and compelling evidence against Trump. Republicans plan to excoriate Mueller over what they consider FBI bias against the president.

If history is any indication, Mueller will be factual, dispassionate and nonpartisan.

Mueller has already said that everything he knows about the investigation is inside his 448-page report. So it’s unlikely Democrats will get dramatic, new testimony.

Mueller has repeatedly said he found no evidence that Trump colluded with Russia. But Mueller’s report makes clear that Trump may have obstructed justice and that the special counsel did not pursue charges against the president because of the Justice Department’s position that sitting presidents cannot be indicted.

On Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on Face the Nation that he plans make clear to Americans that there’s “a pretty damning set of facts that involve a presidential campaign in a close race welcoming help from a hostile foreign power.”

“Who better to bring them to life than the man who did the investigation himself?” Schiff asked.

Reluctant Mueller to Testify Before House Committees; Trump Declares ‘Presidential Harassment’

Special counsel Robert Mueller. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former special counsel Robert Mueller has reluctantly agreed to testify in open session before Congress on July 17.

Mueller will appear before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees after being issued a subpoena to discuss the Russia investigation.

Mueller undoubtedly will be questioned about evidence that President Trump obstructed justice. In his final report, Mueller documented 10 instances of Trump trying to thwart the investigation. But Mueller did not conclude whether the president’s actions amounted to a crime, citing a Justice Department policy preventing the indictment of a sitting president.

The decision to press forward belongs to Congress.

Last month, Mueller insisted he would not testify.

“Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report,” Mueller said on May 29. “It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

In a letter to Mueller on Tuesday, Reps. Jarrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the committees, addressed the special counsel’s reluctance to testify.

“The American public deserves to hear directly from you about your investigation and conclusions,” the chairmen wrote. “We will work with you to address legitimate concerns about preserving the integrity of your work, but we expect that you will appear before our committees as scheduled.”

After the announcement of Mueller’s plans to testify, Trump tweeted, “Presidential Harassment.”

The hearings could accelerate impeachment proceedings in the House.

Border Patrol Chief Defends Detention Centers After ‘Concentration Camps’ Comparison

Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said Thursday that comparing migrant detention facilities to concentration camps is “offensive.”

“I personally find them offensive,” Provost told the House Homeland Security subcommittee.

The remarks were in response to Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s comments on Instagram on Monday, when she said “the U.S. is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are.”

Some historians agreed with the congresswoman’s comparisons, but some Jewish groups took offense.

Provost said agents are “bringing toys in for children and buying them with their personal money. Agents are bringing in clothes. They’re feeding babies. They’re going above and beyond day in and day out to try to care for these individuals to the best of their ability. And this is not what they were trained or what they signed up for to do.”

Provost said Border Patrol agents are doing the best they can in the midst of a surge in migrants crossing the border.

“I have been forced to divert 40 to 60 percent of border patrol’s manpower away from the border as we process and care for nearly 435,000 families and children that have flooded across our southern border so far this year,” Provost said.

Border officials have been blasted by Homeland Security’s inspector general, who called the conditions at the detention centers “egregious violations.” The internal watchdog found nooses in detainee cells, inadequate medical care, unreported security incidents, moldy and dilapidated bathrooms, rotting food and overly restrictive segregation.

Theft of Thousands of Guns, Parts from ATF Facility Reveals Serious Problems at Agency

File photo of guns, via ATF

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

ATF officials are being evasive about the theft of thousands of guns and firearm parts that were supposed to be destroyed.

Many of the guns had been seized by law enforcement, and others were retired service weapons from the ATF, FBI, DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies.

The weapons disappeared after being sent to the ATF’s National Firearms and Ammunition Destruction Branch in Martinsburg, W.Va., where they were supposed to be destroyed.

The case has exposed the ATF’s failure to keep track of guns sent to the facility and detect when weapons are stolen. The agency has declined to publicly reveal the extent of the thefts, and ATF officials have been evasive when questioned by Congress.

One of the suspects in the thefts, Christopher Yates, a guard at the ATF facility, has admitted stealing thousands of firearms, gun parts and ammunition before selling them. The 52-year-old, a contract employee for the ATF for 16 years, pleaded guilty in federal court in April to stealing government property. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in August.

Yates managed to steal the guns and parts for years without the ATF knowing.

The ATF has failed to provide detailed information on the thefts to Congress, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In a March 28 letter to senators, then-Acting ATF Director Tom Brandon cited Yates’ open case as a reason for failing to provide more information.

“We cannot at this time characterize the scope of the thefts from the Martinsburg facility,” wrote Brandon, who retired in April.

Senators are pledging to get to the bottom of the case.

“The ATF is tasked with protecting our communities and the theft of a substantial amount of weapons, parts and ammunition from ATF facilities raises significant concerns,” Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote in a statement to the Journal Sentinel. “Our committee is seeking a full accounting of this situation, and we hope the ATF will be as transparent as possible while we continue to pursue answers.”

Without a proper accounting of stolen guns, agents at each of the ATF’s 25 field offices have been assigned to search for stolen weapons. That search is taking resources away from fighting crime.

Cyberattack on CBP Exposes Facial Recognition Data on Thousands of Travelers

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal law enforcement defends the use of facial-recognition technology as a new tool to track down criminals, but a recent cyberattack of a Customs and Border Patrol subcontractor raises serious issues about privacy.

CBP acknowledged this week that the breach exposed facial-recognition data on thousands of people crossing the southern border, along with their license plates.

The disclosure comes less than a month after U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee hearings on facial-recognition systems prompted congressional members to call for a moratorium on the quickly growing technology.

“We shouldn’t be using the technology until we can be sure people’s rights are being protected,” Neema Singh Guliani, senior legislative counsel for the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said during a May 22 hearing. “By and large, people have been unaware of these systems and how they work.”

CBP said the subcontractor violated government regulations by uploading the images to its company network.

Lawmakers Uneasy about FBI’s Facial Recognition Technology

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Some Democrats and Republicans in Congress are calling for a temporary ban on the federal government’s use of facial recognition technology after the FBI revealed it had accumulated more than 640 million photographs.

The photos, which come from driver’s licenses, mug shots, passports, social media and other places, can be used for the bureau’s facial recognition technology.

“This technology is evolving extremely rapidly without any real safeguards,” Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said during the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Tuesday. “Whether we are talking about commercial use or government use, there are real concerns about the risks that this technology poses to our civil rights and liberties and our right to privacy.”

The technology has been criticized, not just over transparency and privacy concerns, but because of its unreliability. Studies have shown the technology is less accurate on darker faces, which could lead to arrests based on false matches.

Kimberly Del Greco, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services section, told lawmakers that “Trust is crucial” to the FBI.

“Protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people is part of our culture.”

Some lawmakers questioned why the FBI was using noncriminal photos.