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Tag: Congress

JFK Files Prompt Calls to Publicly Release Files on Civil Rights Killings

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Tune into 910AM the Superstation at 11 a.m Friday for a discussion on the release of files on civil rights killings. 

The long-awaited release of secret John F. Kennedy assassination files has prompted a push for the FBI to release secret or redacted files on killings during the civil rights era.

Students from Highstown High School in New Jersey lobbied Congress to make the files public.

“This issue is not as prominent within the mainstream media, but it should be,” one of the students, senior Zabir Rahman, told the Clarion Ledger. “The families of the victims of these atrocious crimes deserve justice if they can get it and some measure of closure.” 

The students used the JFK Records Collection Act of 1992 as a model for what they called the “Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2017,” which would create an independent review board to coordinate the release of classified records on civil rights killings.

Many of the killings are detailed in FBI files that remain largely redacted. They include the KKK’s 1964 killing of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner and the 1959 lynching of Mack Charles Parker.

FBI records on the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. also contain redactions.

Activists also are calling on redacted files relating to the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X.

Civil rights lawyers said the largely secret files make it difficult to solve cold cases.

The measure to release the files was introduced in March by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, and is under consideration by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.

So far the bill has received bipartisan support. Also backing the bill is Cynthia Deitle, a former FBI special agent who ran the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Cold Case Division.

“The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2017 is a crucial piece of legislation that must be passed by Congress and signed by President Trump,” she Deitle in a statement. “We as a society can no longer wait for vital records housed within the FBI to stay within their exclusive control. The federal government needs to release the records to researchers, academics, journalists and others who are devoted to finding the truth as to what happened to thousands of individuals who were murdered as a result of racially-motivated homicides. We have the ability, with passage of this act, to rewrite history and bring justice long delayed.”

Ex-FBI Informant to Testify about Obama-Era Nuclear Bribery Scheme

congress copyBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department has given the green light to a former FBI informant to testify before Congress about what he discovered in an undercover investigation about the Russian nuclear industry’s efforts to buy uranium in the U.S. during the Obama administration.

The news comes as House Republicans announce an inquiry into the President Obama-approved sale of a Canadian uranium mining company, Uranium One, to Russia’s Atomic Energy Agency, Rosatom, the Hill reports

The Justice Department released the unidentified informant from a confidentiality agreement, nearly eight years after he began investigating the issue.

“As of tonight, the Department of Justice has authorized the informant to disclose to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as one member of each of their staffs, any information or documents he has concerning alleged corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium market, including but not limited to anything related to Vadim Mikerin, Rosatom, Tenex, Uranium One, or the Clinton Foundation,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said.

The informant spent nearly five years digging up information on Russia’s efforts to grow its atomic energy business, helping secure a conviction against Russia’s top commercial nuclear executive in the U.S., a Russian financier in New Jersey and the leader of a U.S. uranium trucking company. Prosecutors said the scheme involved bribery, extortion, kickbacks and money laundering.

Joe Rannazzisi, the Former DEA Official and Whistleblower Who Fought the Abusive Drug Firms

Joe Rannazzisi  on "60 Minutes"

Joe Rannazzisi on “60 Minutes”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Joe Rannazzisi isn’t a household name, but he’s certainly getting well known, particularly after his appearance on Sunday on CBS’ s “60 Minutes,” where he was referred to as a whistleblower who tried cracking down on drug companies.

Scott Highham and Lenny Bernstein of the Washington Post write:

Joe Rannazzisi  is a man of strong passions who admits that he has a temper. For more than a decade, he was the frontman in the government’s war against opioid abuse. As head of the Office of Diversion Control for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he was responsible for cracking down on doctors, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and distributors who did not follow the nation’s prescription drug laws.

He said he worked hard to uphold the law, until he was pushed out by members of Congress and an industry campaign that he says has resulted in a weakening of the nation’s drug laws at a time of unprecedented crisis.

The burly, tough-talking Long Islander is now a man in the news, appearing in The Washington Post and on “60 Minutes” this Sunday to give his views on how the DEA’s war on opioids got derailed by pressure from Congress and the drug industry.

To read the whole story click here. 

Opioid Crisis Accelerated by Lawmakers with ties to Drug Industry

pillsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

As the nation grappled with an opioid crisis that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, a handful of Congressional members with strong ties to the nation’s major drug distributors managed to strip the DEA of one of its most effective weapons against narcotics.

Despite desperate calls to curtail the number of prescription narcotics spilling onto the streets, the members of Congress convinced the DEA and Justice Department to reluctantly agree to a more industry-friendly that effectively allowed the flow of addictive pain pills to continue unhindered, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” 

It was a major win for the drug companies because it weakened the DEA’s ability to pursue companies that supply to corrupt doctors and pharmacists who pushed massive amounts of pills into the black market.

Under the watered-down law, the DEA is severely limited in responding to suspicious narcotic shipments.

The 23 lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored four versions of the bill received at least $1.5 million in donation from political action committees representing the drug industry.

Mueller, Congressional Committees Clashing Over Investigations into Russian Meddling

US CapitolBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The special counsel investigation into Russia’s election meddling is beginning to clash with three different congressional probes of the same issue.

CNN reports that special counsel Robert Mueller was blocked from obtaining the Senate Intelligence Committee’s transcript of an interview with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. 

The various congressional committees aren’t sharing a lot of information, and Mueller is keeping lawmakers “out of the loop,” CNN reported.

CNN wrote:

The previously undisclosed fight, described to CNN by multiple sources, underscores the new challenges as congressional committees and Mueller’s operation head into a more intense phase of their parallel — and sometimes, conflicting — investigations into Russian election meddling and any collusion with Trump associates.

There are three committees on Capitol Hill competing for information and witnesses — and there is little, if any, communication among them, even as congressional officials say they all are preparing to intensify the pace of their inquiries this fall. While the Hill investigations into Russia’s meddling have been underway since the beginning of the year, the next few months could be the most consequential in terms of hearing from witnesses and gathering documents, sources say.

Border Patrol Barred from Speaking to Congressional Members, Lawyers During Travel Ban

Protest at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Protest at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When President Trump’s travel ban went into effect in late January, Custom and Border Protection employees directed personnel at airports to ignore members of Congress and treat lawyers with suspicion, according to a new report.

Ahead of the ban, Homeland Security officials ordered airport staff to treat lawyers as through they were “protesters” and to ignore members of Congress, documents obtained by the Daily Beast and the James Madison Project show. 

Congressional members expressed shock.

“I’m extremely troubled that CBP [Customs and Border Protection] employees would be instructed by superiors to ignore Congressional representatives trying to do their job, especially under such circumstances,” said Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat. “We suspected as much at the time, but it’s jarring to see it in black and white. I’ll be seeking more information from CBP on this matter.”

In a Jan. 28 email, a CBP officials forbid employees from interacting with members of Congress. 

“As stated on the call earlier today, you and your staff are NOT to engage with the media or Congressional representatives at this time,” emailed Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Field Operations, on Jan. 28. “Please make sure your subordinate Port Directors are following this direction. Please report any such requests to acting AC[REDACTED] from Congressional Affairs. Thank you.”

During protests at airport, CBP refused to answer questions from Congress about how many people were detained.

There are also questions whether all those detained at the airport had access to immigration lawyers.

Cummings, Conyers: Congress Must Act to Avoid Unchecked Powers of Trump’s Presidency

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings

By Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and John Conyers
Op-Ed, Baltimore Sun

On Saturday, Oct. 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox because he refused to back down from his pursuit of the Watergate tapes. Nearly a half century later, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because of, in the president’s own words, “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia.” And Wednesday, the president complained about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation; Mr. Trump said he “would have picked someone else” to run the Department of Justice has he known that was coming.

How Congress responds to moments like these matters. The differences between Congress’ response in 1973 and our response today are stark — and, frankly, disappointing. In 1973, the House Judiciary Committee had a serious and bipartisan response, subpoenaing and eventually releasing the Watergate tapes. The current Republican response has been tepid at best; they have not issued a single subpoena to the White House, and Speaker Paul Ryan defended Mr. Trump’s interference in the Russia investigation by assuring us that “he’s just new to this.”

As the senior Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, we believe it is critical that Special Counsel Robert Mueller be given the independence, time and resources to conduct a thorough investigation and report his findings to Congress. At the same time, as a co-equal branch of government, Congress must fulfill its constitutional duty to investigate the full range of Trump administration and Trump campaign actions.

Successful congressional investigations develop a comprehensive, fact-based record to form the basis for further action. The House and Senate Watergate investigations led to Nixon’s resignation and adoption of the Ethics in Government Act. It was serious, deliberative, bipartisan, transparent and operated in parallel to law enforcement investigations.

In the absence of any meaningful investigation by House Republicans, Democratic members have sent requests for information on our own. Our efforts have been met with months of stonewalling. The Trump White House recently told government agencies “not to cooperate [with any oversight] requests from Democrats,” and issued a contrived Justice Department legal opinion that such queries are “not properly considered to be oversight requests.”

We will continue to press for answers because the information we seek goes to the central question of the Trump presidency: Is the administration acting in the public interest, or merely to benefit the private interests of President Trump?

To read more click here.

Top Democrat Requests Secret Service Records on Trump Jr. Meeting

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is requesting documents that would reveal the vetting of who arrived and exited the Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

Cummings’ request is intended to clear up “recent conflicting reports” on the Secret Service’s role in vetting the Russian-connected officials who met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort at the Trump Tower in June 2016, Business Insider reports. 

On Sunday, President Trump’s lawyer suggested the Secret Service would not have permitted Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and former Soviet military intelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin into the Trump Tower if anything nefarious was happening. The Secret Service responded that Trump Jr. was not under the agency’s protection at the time and therefore “would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at the time.”