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Tag: Middle East

Feds: Were Middle Easterners Promised Influence over American Policy Through Trump Donations?

President Trump’s inauguration, via White House

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether highly influential businessmen from the Middle East tried to buy influence over American policy by donating to President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC.

The investigation is examining whether people from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates used straw donors – or American intermediaries – to donate to the funds since federal law bars foreigners from contributing to political campaigns, The New York Times reports.  

Trump friend and billionaire Thomas Barrack

One of Trump’s closest friends, billionaire financier Thomas J. Barrack Jr., raised a significant amount of money for the funds. He’s known for having an extensive network of business connections in the Persian Gulf.

The PAC, Rebuilding America Now, was created in the summer of 2016 when Trump was struggling to raise money for his presidential run. Such PACs can raise an unlimited amount of money, but only if they’re not closely coordinated with the campaign.

Barrack told investigators a year ago that Trump’s campaign boss, Paul Manafort, treated the PAC as a fundraising arm of the campaign.

The PAC raised $23 million, primarily from big donors such as Linda McMahon, a professional wrestling executive whom Trump later appointed to head the Small Business Administration. She donated $6 million.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Barrack and Manafort went on a Mediterranean cruise together in August 2016, just three months before the presidential election. On the cruise, the pair met with several influential Middle Easterners, including Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar and one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Barrack denied any wrongdoing.

“Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to either the campaign, the inauguration or any such political activity,” said Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for Barrack.

Prosecutors also are investigating whether Middle Easterners and others funneled money into Trump’s $107 million inaugural fund in exchange for access to the new presidential administration, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Federal law prohibits the exchange of money for political favors.

Trump raised more money for his inauguration than any previous president. The donations largely came from billionaires and corporations, including casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, AT&T Inc. and Boeing Co. 

Another donor was billionaire Dan Gilbert, whose Quicken Loans company has been under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly targeting, among others, lower-income African Americans for mortgages, many of which went belly up.

Americn in Custody Again After Threatening to Join ISIS, Kill an American

ISIS flag

ISIS flag

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An 18-year-old South Carolina man who was accused of hatching a plan to kill soldiers as revenge for American military action in the Middle East was granted early release last May.

Now Zakaryia Abdin is back in custody after a grand jury indicted him Tuesday on a charge of providing material support to a terrorist organization, the Associated Press reports. 

This time he is accused of telling an undercover agent, whom he thought was an Islamic State recruiter, that he wanted to join the terrorist organization and torture an American on video.

Authorities arrested Abdin as he tried to board a plane to Jordan last week.

He’s accused of telling an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to be show on video torturing an American hostage because “I want to be the one to send the message because they know who I am.”

FBI Director: Fewer Americans Joining ISIS After Aggressive Crackdown

ISIS flag

ISIS flag

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

ISIS is losing its influence in the U.S. as fewer American are traveling overseas to fight alongside extremists in the Middle East, FBI Director James Comey said.

In 2014 and the first half of 2015, the FBI saw between 6 and 10 Americans traveling to the Middle East or trying to join ISIS every month. Now Comey said the number is about one per month, Fox News reports. 

“There’s no doubt that something has happened that is lasting, in terms of the attractiveness of the nightmare which is the Islamic State to people from the United States,” he told reporters during a wide-ranging round-table discussion Wednesday.

The FBI said ISIS’ ability to inspire “troubled souls” remains a constant concern, but federal authorities are beginning to a downward trend.

FBI, Local Officials Briefly Detain 17 Men of Middle Eastern Descent After 100+ Gunshots Reported

Apple ValleyBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Law enforcement briefly detained 17 men of Middle Eastern descent in a remote part of Apple Valley, Calif., after campers said they heard chanting and hundreds of gunshots Sunday morning.

The FBI and San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies responded and interviewed the men, but no charges were filed and the shooters were released.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Mille said there was no evidence the men committed a crime or had outstanding warrants.

“None of the persons interviewed yesterday were identified as terrorists,” she said.

Law enforcement officials found several handguns, a shotgun and rifle.

“A records check of the subjects, their weapons, and their vehicles was completed,” the statement said. “The records check revealed none of the subjects had a criminal history or outstanding warrants, the weapons were registered with the Department of Justice except for the rifle, and the vehicles were also registered.”

FBI: Suburban Denver Woman Planned to Wage Jihad In Middle East

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A 19-year-old suburban Denver woman boarded a flight on her way to wage jihad in the Middle East.

But the Associated Press reports that authorities arrested her April 18 at the Denver International Airport, where she told agents she was en route to the Middle East to help start a holy war, according to the FBI.

Shannon Maureen Conley had “legitimate targets of attack” that included military facilities, government employees and public officials, the AP wrote.

Conley was charged with conspiring to help a foreign terrorist organization.

Investigators were told that Conley planned to fly to Turkey before traveling to Syria to become a housewife and nurse at a man’s camp.

FBI Director James B. Comey Steadfast in Keeping Terrorism As Top Concern for Bureau

FBI photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When James B. Comey became the FBI’s new director last year, many observers believed he’d usher in a new era at the bureau by shifting some of the focus away from terrorism.

But the New York Times reports that Comey, a former Justice Department prosecutor who focused on gun cases, appears to have underestimated the threat still posed by terrorism.

“I didn’t have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become,” Mr. Comey said, referring to offshoots of Al Qaeda in Africa and in the Middle East during an interview with the Times at the J. Edgar Hoover Building. “There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated.”

Comey said he therefore will keep terrorism as the main focus of the FBI.

President Obama appeared to indicate last year that the U.S. would move past terrorism soon and that “we have to recognize that the scale of the threat resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

FBI Director Comey Raises Concerns About Radicalized Americans Carrying Out Attacks

James Comey

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director James B. Comey is expressing increased concerns about Americans being radicalized in the Middle East and North Africa and returning to the U.S. to carry out attacks, the Tribune Washington Bureau reports.

The agency is stepping up efforts to identify radicalized Americans who who travel overseas.

“We are focused on trying to figure out what our people are up to, who should be spoken to, who should be followed, who should be charged,” Comey said in a recent meeting with reporters. “It’s something we are intensely focused on.”

FBI’s John Perren Named ticklethewire.com’s Fed Of The Year for 2012

John Perren

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

John G. Perren, assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate, who has been at the forefront of the FBI war on terrorism, has been named ticklethewire.com’s Fed Of The Year for 2012.

Perren, whose tenure has been extended beyond the FBI’s mandatory retirement age, has been with the bureau since 1987.

Perren earns the award for a variety of reason. First off, someone would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated FBI agent. Additionally, he’s well respected by his colleagues, and has been known as a fair and good boss over the years, important criteria in determining this award.

Perren has worked in a variety of positions. He was the acting assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office and was special agent in charge of counterterrorism at WFO, a position that included overseeing the Rapid Deployment Team of agents to the Middle East in probes involving attacks on U.S. citizens and American interests.

Perren was one of three On-Scene Commanders at the Pentagon following 9/11. From January to June of 2005, he was the On-Scene Commander for FBI Field Operations in Baghdad, with responsibility for over 125 FBI personnel in Iraq.

In his current position, he heads up a program the FBI describes as detecting, deterring, and defeating ” acts of domestic terrorism, as well as the actual or threatened use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Perren is the fifth recipient of the ticklethewire.com award and the second FBI agent to receive it.

Last year, Thomas Brandon, the acting number two person at ATF was the recipient.

Previous recipients have included Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008), Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009) and Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010).