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Tag: Justice Department

FBI: Evidence Points to Hired Gunman Who Killed Seattle Federal Prosecutor

Murder weapon in the unsolved homicide of Seattle federal prosecutor Thomas Wales.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI has found strong evidence that a Seattle federal prosecutor was killed in 2001 by a hired gunman, indicating a possible break in a case that has long frustrated law enforcement.

The FBI and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plan to hold a news conference to discuss the unsolved murder of Thomas Wales, who worked as a white-collar criminal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

For more than a decade, agents suspected the involvement of a former Bellevue area airline pilot, the Seattle Times reports

Federal prosecutor Thomas Wales was killed by a gunman in his home.

Now the FBI is investigating a possible connection between the pilot and a “very small group” of people who may have been involved.

The 57-year-old pilot has maintained his innocence.

The news conference will be the first time the FBI has disclosed that multiple people may have involved in the murder.

Wales, 49, was shot several times in the basement of his Queen Anne Home late on the night of Oct. 11, 2001.

Trump Directs Justice Department to Propose Regulations to Ban Bump Stocks

File photo of guns, via ATF

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump, in a significant departure from his uncompromising, pro-NRA stance on guns, is directing the Justice Department to propose regulations to “ban all devices” such as the bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting.

Under intense pressure to address the alarming proliferation of mass shooters using assault-style rifles, Trump has indicated it’s time to move swiftly on guns designed to kill a lot of people.

“We must move past clichés and tired debates and focus on evidence based solutions and security measures that actually work,” Trump said during a White House ceremony.

The Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School has placed on pressure on NRA-supporting Republicans to finally get tough on assault-style guns. They failed to act on a ban bump stocks last year.

Even the predominately conservative Florida state legislature, after many years of reluctance, is drafting legislation to reduce access to semiautomatic rifles.

“The Parkland shooting seems to be a change moment in terms of the way Republicans view gun control measures,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican lobbyist and operative.

On legislation drafted by state Senate President Bill Galvano, Stipanovich said, “None of these are necessarily earth-shaking, but all of them, at least in recent times, are unprecedented in the Florida Legislature.”

Protests broke out across the country over Republicans’ failure to address gun control.

AG Sessions to Form Task Force to Combat Election Interference by Russians

AG Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

While President Trump remains defiant in his refusal to condemn Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, his attorney general Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday the formation of task force to combat global cyber threats, including those used to undermine elections.

The move comes a week after leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies warned Congress that Russians, emboldened by their success during the presidential election, are planning to interfere in the 2018 mid-term elections in November.

A memo signed by Sessions gives the Justice Department until the end of June to report on its findings, according to Reuters.

“The internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate, and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and enemy governments,” Sessions said in a statement.

The task force, which will include representatives from the Justice Department and FBI, has been criticized for its lack of a clear vision.

“This step basically takes a number of really complicated parallel issues in ‘hard’ cybersecurity and ‘soft’ information security and throws them into the same amorphous task force,” said Graham Brookie, a cyber security aide in the Obama administration who now works at the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council think tank.

Senate Confirms John Demers to Head DOJ’s National Security Division

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Senate on Thursday confirmed John Demers to head the Justice Department’s national security division after a Republican senator lifted a hold on his confirmation over a dispute on marijuana.

Demers, an attorney for Boeing and former member of the Justice Department’s national security division team, is set to become assistant attorney general for national security.

“John Demers was on the leadership team at the creation of the National Security Division, which today plays a crucial role in protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

“I am grateful to the Senate for confirming John and I look forward to his return to the department, where his significant experience in both the private sector and public service will most certainly benefit the American people.”

The confirmation was made possible after Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado lifted a hold on the nomination over a dispute with Sessions’ zealous crackdown on marijuana, even in states that legalized pot.

“I have decided to lift my holds on the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, United States Attorneys, and United States Marshals as an act of good faith,” Gardner said in a statement. “My holds on all other DOJ nominees will remain in place as discussions continue.”

Other Stories of Interest

Sessions Lashes Out at GOP Senator Over Marijuana Policy Dispute

AG Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has compared marijuana to heroin, blamed pot for spikes in violence and declared that “good people don’t smoke it,” lashed out at a senator from Colorado over a controversial pot policy.

“Too often, we’ve seen bad judgements, even politics enter into the work that we do,” Sessions said in a speech at a National Sheriffs’ Association meeting, according to Forbes. “We’re trying to confirm a number of important component heads at the Department of Justice.  It’s just getting to be frustrating, I’ve gotta tell you. Our nominee to the National Security Division — the anti-terrorism division — was approved unanimously in the committee. But because right now one senator’s concerns over unrelated issues — like reversing federal law against marijuana — we can’t even get a vote.”

Sessions was referring to Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who has prevented the attorney general’s Justice Department nominees from being confirmed as part of a protest over Sessions’ decision to revoke an Obama-era policy that encouraged federal prosecutors to respect state laws on marijuana. Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level because the government stopped funding research to determine whether cannabis has medicinal benefits. 

Gardner said he voted to confirm Sessions’ nomination as attorney general because the former senator pledged not to make marijuana a major issue for the Justice Department.

“I have not changed my decision to hold these nominations until we have a commitment that lives up to what I believe was given to me prior to the confirmation,” Gardner said.

Other Stories of Interest

Top DOJ Official Steps Down to Avoid Prospect of Overseeing Special Counsel Probe

Rachel Brand is stepping down as third in command.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Fearing she would be tapped to oversee the special counsel investigation of Donald Trump and Russia, the Justice Department’s third in command decided to step down and avoid the president’s escalating attacks on the DOJ and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, who is taking a job as an executive at Walmart, was already frustrated with mounting, unfilled vacancies under the Trump administration, according to multiple people close to Brand, NBC News reports

Since Brand was next in line to oversee the widening special investigation, she became increasingly worried when President Trump began publicly criticizing the DOJ’s second in command, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

In May, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Kremlin had any ties with Trump’s campaign. Since then, Rosenstein has been the target of Trump’s relentless criticism in what has become a campaign to undermine confidence in the department overseeing the investigation.

While announcing her departure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation, called Brand a “lawyer’s lawyer.”

Brand said in a statement, “I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here.”

How Special Counsel Probe of Russia Quickly to Trump’s Campaign, Administration

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

The special counsel investigation that began over growing evidence that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election quickly expanded to Donald Trump’s campaign and administration officials following mounting allegations of wrongdoing.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed by Trump’s Justice Department in May, soon after the president fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who told congressional committees that his termination was an act of retaliation for refusing Tump’s orders to end an investigation into a former campaign and administration official, Michael Flynn.

About a month after taking over the potentially landmark case, Mueller requested documents from the General Services Administration (GSA), which plays a key role during presidential transitions, CNN reports, citing newly released email records. 

Months before Mueller’s appointment, the bureau’s investigation appeared to be limited to Russia’s campaign to undermine the 2016 presidential election, according to newly released documents, which include emails between the FBI and GSA. The probe quickly expanded to encompass the president’s campaign and his new administration’s ties to Russa, resulting so far with the indictments of four former Trump aides.

“As a follow up to our request, we thought it best to send GSA an official preservation letter. Your staff has been extraordinarily responsive and we appreciate their patience with our (my) questions,” the agent wrote, according to the email obtained by CNN. GSA redacted the name of the FBI agent who sent the email.

The special counsel team demanded the preservation of communications, records and electronics involving 13 of Trump’s campaign officials, marking a significant development in the probe.

Unable to fire Mueller, Trump launched a smear campaign against the FBI and DOJ. alleging widespread anti-Trump sentiment in the top law enforcement agencies, which traditionally have been considered widely Republican.

Now that the special counsel investigation has reached the front steps of the White House, following increasing allegations that the president obstructed justice by trying to yield his influence to disrupt a probe that could determine Trump’s fate as president.

Trump’s Legal Team Explores Appointment of Second Special Counsel to Probe FBI, DOJ

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s relentless, unsubstantiated claims that the FBI and Justice Department are conducing a “witch hunt” to purge him from office may get new muscle in the form of a second special prosecutor.

The president’s legal team supports the appointment of another counsel to investigate unfounded allegations that the Robert Mueller probe has been tainted by an anti-Trump bias among investigators and the top ranks of the FBI and Justice Department, Axios reported Monday

To make that happen, the Justice Department would have to appoint a special prosecutor, who would examine claims trumpeted by the president that the investigation has been compromised by law enforcement with a vendetta.

It’s not yet clear whether the Justice Department, which Trump has repeatedly claimed is out to get him, would be open to appointing a second counsel.