Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

Doubling Down on Mueller

November 16, 2018

What will Democrats (and Jeff Flake) do if the probe finds no collusion evidence?

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By Kimberly Strassel
The Wall Street Journal
November 15, 2018

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With the midterms over, Washington returns to its regular programming: Russia. Trump critics should consider the risk of betting their political fortunes on special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Mueller probe has lost its political potency, as Democrats acknowledged on the midterm trail. They didn’t win House seats by warning of Russian collusion. They didn’t even talk about it. Most voters don’t care, or don’t care to hear about it. A CNN exit poll found 54% of respondents think the Russia probe is “politically motivated”; a 46% plurality disapprove of Mr. Mueller’s handling of it.

That hasn’t stopped Democrats from fixating on it since the election, in particular when President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and named Matthew Whitaker as a temporary replacement. The left now insists the appointment is unconstitutional or that because Mr. Whitaker once voiced skepticism on the Russia-collusion narrative, he is unfit to oversee the Mueller investigation and must recuse himself.

The joke here is that neither Mr. Whitaker nor anybody else is likely to exercise any authority over Mr. Mueller—and more’s the pity. The probe has meandered along for 18 months, notching records for leaks and derivative prosecutions, though all indications are it has accomplished little by way of its initial mandate.

As a practical matter, Mr. Mueller should have been brought to heel some time ago. As a political matter, that won’t happen. The administration has always understood that such a move would provoke bipartisan political blowback, ignite a new “coverup” scandal, and maybe trigger impeachment. It’s even more unlikely officials would risk those consequences now, as Mr. Mueller is said to be wrapping up.

Democrats know this, as does the grandstanding Sen. Jeff Flake. Yet they demand a Whitaker recusal and are again pushing legislation to “protect” the special counsel’s probe. Senate Republicans rightly blocked that bill this week, partly on grounds that it is likely unconstitutional. They also made the obvious point that if Mr. Trump intended to fire Mr. Mueller, he’d have done so months ago and wouldn’t need to ax Mr. Sessions to do it. And while the president tweets ceaseless criticism of the probe, he has never threatened to end it.

Democrats are nonetheless doubling down on the probe for political advantage. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared members of his caucus will demand that language making it more difficult to fire Mr. Mueller be included in a spending bill that needs to pass before the end of the current legislative session. Mr. Flake is offering an assist, saying that he will block any judicial nominees in committee until a Mueller protection bill gets a Senate floor vote. Over in the House, incoming Democratic committee chairmen, led by soon-to-be Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, are vowing an investigation blitz focused on collusion with Russia.

Mr. Schumer’s last shutdown—a year ago—was a bust even though it was waged over the emotionally compelling issue of Dreamers, illegal aliens brought to the U.S. as children. He now proposes shutting down the government over a probe few people outside of Washington care about. Mitch McConnell should be so lucky.

Mr. Flake, should he run for president, will struggle to explain to conservative voters his obstruction of Trump judicial nominees, who’ll be confirmed in 2019 anyway when the Republicans expand their Senate majority.

Democrats’ other problem is that this strategy hinges in large degree on an expectation that Mr. Mueller ultimately finds something. There’s no reason to believe he has turned up any evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.

Sure, he’s secured convictions against longtime Beltway bandits for long-ago lobbying. He’s squeezed the ole standby lying-to-investigators plea out of a few targets. He’s indicted a squad of Russian trolls, who will never be brought to trial and who even Mr. Mueller’s office admits had nothing to do with the Trump team. And while it seems likely his report to the Justice Department will criticize Mr. Trump, it’s improbable it will contain proof of collusion.

And then? The president will have a field day. He will claim vindication and mercilessly drive home that the investigation was a waste and a witch hunt. And he will have a point. Two years of Democratic hyperbole will be undercut by the special counsel they’ve held out as the ultimate sleuth. They’ll have to decide whether to deride Mr. Mueller’s findings as insufficient to justify continuing their own probes.

Maybe Mr. Mueller has something. We’ll see. But if the reporting is correct that he’s wound up high and dry, Democrats will end up there with him.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/doubling-down-on-mueller-1542326829

Photo at the top: Credit EPA

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Gunman Kills at Least 12 at Thousand Oaks Bar

November 8, 2018

At least 11 bar patrons and a sheriff’s deputy were killed late Wednesday in a shooting at a country and western dance hall in Thousand Oaks, Calif., that was holding an event for college students, officials said.

The gunman is dead, officials said early Thursday, adding that there was no longer a threat to the public after the shooting at the bar, which was filled with about 100 people.

Police officers interview people outside a country music bar and dance hall in Thousand Oaks, in the Los Angeles area where the shooting happened. (USA Today/AFP)

The Ventura County sheriff, Geoff Dean, said there were “multiple other victims of different levels of injuries.” His voice cracking, he identified the slain sheriff’s deputy as Ron Helus. He said that when officers arrived at the scene of the shooting, the suspect had already died.

Sheriff Dean said the suspect had not been identified, that the authorities had “no idea” whether he had links to terrorism, and that it was not clear if he had taken his own life.

People comforted one another early Thursday near the scene of the shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Credit Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

“It’s your worst nightmare,” said Brenden Kelly, 22, who was in the club Wednesday night when shots were fired. “It’s terrible.”

Police vehicles near the scene. Credit KABC, via Associated Press

Standing outside without a shirt, he said, “There’s only so much you can do.”

The shooting at the popular country and western venue came just over a year after 58 people were killed at a country music festival in Las Vegas when Stephen Paddock opened fire from a high-rise hotel room.

That attack — and the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February — renewed the debate about the prevalence of guns in the United States and their connection to the high number of mass shootings in the country.

The rampage began late Wednesday at the popular music venue in Thousand Oaks. “There were shots fired at the Borderline Bar and Grill” at 11:20 p.m., said Capt. Garo Kuredjian, a spokesman for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. “As deputies responded, they also heard shots.” Additional units from the California Highway Patrol, Simi Valley and the F.B.I. responded, he said.

Captain Kuredjian said at the time of the shooting that about 100 people had been inside the bar, which was filled with young people who turned out for a college country music night. The bar is not far from Pepperdine University, which said in a statement that it had received reports that several students were at the bar when the shooting occurred.

Borderline’s website says that for a quarter century, it “has stood as the Ventura County’s largest country dance hall and live music venue,” with more than 2,500 square feet of open dance space.

Young people at the scene in Thousand Oaks, Calif., embraced each other early Thursday.

Jeremy Childs via Storyful

One young woman inside the bar, Teylor Whittler, described a chaotic scene as the gunfire erupted.

“I saw him shoot,” she recalled, adding that someone had yelled, “Everybody get down.”

“People started running to the back door,” she said, and she heard someone shout, “Get out — he’s coming.”

She then fled the venue and heard another burst of gunfire.

A witness interviewed by ABC7.com said that the violence started when the gunman walked up to the entrance to the bar, shot a security guard and a cashier, and deployed a smoke bomb.

“I just started hearing these big pops,” said the witness, a man who was not identified. “The gunman was throwing smoke grenades.”

 

Then, panic ensued as people tried to flee.

“He just kept firing,” the witness said, adding that “people were trying to get out the window” to run away from the gunman, who was wearing a hat and a black jacket and had “a big handgun.”

The bar had been filled with young people who turned out for a college country music night. Credit Mike Nelson/EPA, via Shutterstock

Video from the scene showed police units from multiple departments swarming the area. A Twitter post showed tearful young people at the scene hugging each other.

Thousand Oaks, a relatively affluent city in Ventura County, is about 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and near wealthy enclaves like Calabasas and Malibu.

Michael Miller, 25, who lives near the Borderline and is a regular, was on his way to the bar Wednesday night from another concert when people began to call him frantically asking if he was inside.

He said the bar is popular with police officers and firefighters, and that it is often busy on Wednesdays because it hosts a college night and allows students under 21 to enter.

As Mr. Miller and his friend Chris Weber walked toward the bar, which was surrounded by police tape, they received a call that a friend who worked the door had been shot. “She’s the sweetest, nicest girl,” Mr. Miller said, trailing off. “Nobody would expect this in Thousand Oaks.”

Mr. Weber said that many of the people he believed were at Borderline on Wednesday night had attended the music festival in Las Vegas last year where dozens died. He was frantically calling friends early Thursday to try to confirm who was inside.

Jose A. Del Real reported from Thousand Oaks, and Gerry Mullany and Russell Goldman from Hong Kong. Tiffany May contributed reporting from Hong Kong, and Matt Stevens from New York.

Related:

Mueller Readies Next Steps for Trump Probe With Uncertainty at DOJ

November 7, 2018
Special counsel said ready to deliver key findings in probe — He may feel added pressure to finish work before bosses change
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Special Counsel Robert Mueller, now freed from the constraints of his pre-election quiet period, must decide on the next steps in his high-profile investigation of Russian meddling and the role of President Donald Trump.

But Mueller still faces the prospect of a shake-up in the Justice Department’s leadership. Trump has signaled widely that he may replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the fate of the man supervising Mueller’s probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, also remains unclear.

With that possibility hanging over him, Mueller may feel extra pressure to complete his work as quickly as possible. A replacement for Sessions or Rosenstein could fire him or rein in the probe that Trump regularly denounces as a “witch hunt” fueled by anti-Trump sentiment in the Justice Department and the FBI.

Mueller is conducting an expansive investigation that includes Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, whether anyone close to Trump colluded with the Russians and whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Ousting the special prosecutor would probably produce bipartisan protests in Congress, with Democrats opening investigations once they take control of the House in January.

Producing Findings

Mueller is expected to soon produce some investigative findings on collusion and obstruction of justice, according to two U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter who asked to not be identified speaking about the probe. Mueller already was facing intensifying pressure from Trump and Republican lawmakers to produce more indictments or shut down his operation.

Unless the findings result in new indictments or subpoenas that are made public, they might stay secret. As Mueller’s supervisor, Rosenstein or a new acting attorney general would decide whether to make his findings public or share them with congressional committees.

Read more: Democrats Gain Subpoena Power as Trump Warns He May Probe Them

Mueller is unlikely to say anything. The former FBI director hasn’t said a word publicly since he was named in May 2017, letting his indictments speak for him. He’s been quiet even on that front in recent weeks under Justice Department guidelines that say prosecutors should avoid any major steps close to an election that could be seen as influencing the outcome.

While there’s no indication that Rosenstein is pressuring Mueller to conclude the investigation, he has made it clear that he wants it wrapped up as expeditiously as possible.

Even a new supervisor determined to halt Mueller’s work could go only so far in halting the cascade of investigative moves he’s already set off. His team of prosecutors have several deeply developed cases that are being litigated in U.S. courts, and they have farmed out some matters to other Justice Department components such as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Loose Ends

Mueller is in the process of tying down loose ends, according to one official. To date, he’s secured indictments against more than two dozen Russians for interfering in the 2016 election, as well as guilty pleas from top aides on Trump’s presidential campaign, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Both are cooperating with Mueller.

Several matters could keep Mueller’s probe going well into 2019, such as another significant prosecution or new lines of inquiry. And because the investigation has been proceeding out of the public eye, there may have been other major developments behind the scenes.

QuickTake: Your Guide to Understanding the Trump-Russia Saga

Mueller only recently submitted written questions to Trump’s lawyers regarding potential collusion with Russia, and his team hasn’t yet ruled out seeking an interview with the president, according to one official. If Trump refused an interview request, Mueller could face the complicated question of whether to seek a grand jury subpoena of the president. The Justice Department has a standing policy that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-07/mueller-readies-next-steps-for-trump-probe-amid-doj-uncertainty

Russian Oligarch: How Oleg Deripaska Is Trying to Escape U.S. Sanctions

November 5, 2018
Oleg Deripaska — Credit Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

This spring, a British lord with deep ties to the governing Conservative Party and a reputation as a do-gooder environmentalist arrived in Washington on an unlikely mission: to save the business empire of Oleg Deripaska, one of Russia’s most infamous oligarchs.

Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska.  Credit Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Mr. Deripaska was in deep trouble. In April, the Trump administration had announced sanctions on oligarchs close to President Vladimir V. Putin, and on their companies, as punishment for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and for other hostile acts. A billionaire who controls the world’s second-largest aluminum company, Mr. Deripaska faced possible ruin.

Portrayed as little more than a thug by his critics and suspected by United States officials of having ties to Russian organized crime, Mr. Deripaska, 50, has spent two decades trying to buy respect in the West. London welcomed him; Washington still mostly has not. Successive administrations have limited his ability to travel to the United States.

Even Mr. Putin was unable to resolve the situation when he interceded personally with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on Mr. Deripaska’s behalf.

By  Andrew Higgins and Kenneth P. Vogel
The New York Times

Image result for Oleg Deripaska, photos

But with so much on the line this time, Mr. Deripaska’s allies are now fighting back aggressively, mobilizing a vast influence machine on both sides of the Atlantic in an all-out effort to undo the sanctions against his companies before they take full effect.

The campaign to help Mr. Deripaska is playing out against an especially sensitive political backdrop. Any step by the administration that is seen as favorable to a powerful Russian is sure to draw scrutiny at a time when the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is continuing his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Moreover, Mr. Deripaska has been a subsidiary character in that inquiry, not as a target but because he at one point employed Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, as an adviser. Mr. Manafort was convicted on one set of fraud charges and pleaded guilty to other charges in cases brought by Mr. Mueller, and is now cooperating with the prosecution.

But the current lobbying effort on behalf of Mr. Deripaska’s companies still appears to have made substantial headway. In recent months, Mr. Deripaska’s firms have notched initial victories by winning multiple postponements from the Treasury Department of the sanctions on the oligarch’s holding company, EN+, and the giant aluminum company it controls, Rusal.

Now, with the administration closing in on its latest self-imposed deadline to make a final decision by Dec. 12, there are signs that Mr. Deripaska’s companies could escape the sanctions entirely.

Oleg Deripaska in London in 2011. He is one of Russia’s most prominent, and by some accounts notorious, oligarchs. Credit Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, has signaled that he is open to a plan under which Mr. Deripaska would reduce his stake in his companies in return for the sanctions being lifted.

But sidestepping the business sanctions is not Mr. Deripaska’s only goal. His team is preparing an audacious and previously unreported campaign to remove the personal sanctions on him, too. Removing the personal sanctions would eliminate substantial barriers to his doing business in the United States and around the world, and could be a requirement for him to get his hands on the money — potentially billions of dollars — resulting from any sale of part of his stake in the companies.

“Oleg Deripaska understands better than most Russian oligarchs how money buys influence in Washington,” said Michael R. Carpenter, a former National Security Council official during the Obama administration who is now senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. “It seems like he’s now using that knowledge to try to save his skin.”

The elaborate influence operation highlights one of the fastest-growing elements of the lobbying business: helping deep-pocketed foreign interests massage the sanctions, tariffs and other tools deployed by Mr. Trump against foreign governments, individuals and industries.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/04/world/europe/oleg-deripaska-russia-oligarch-sanctions.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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Russia Blocks Critic’s Site, Warns Google About Billionaire Yacht Videos

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-15/russia-blocks-putin-critic-s-site-warns-google-on-tycoon-report

George Soros gave $1M to group that paid for Fusion GPS research

November 1, 2018

Democratic billionaire George Soros has given $1 million to a group which has paid for research from Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the infamous Trump dossier.

The money was given to the Democracy Integrity Project, according to a Soros representative who spoke to the New York Times. Soros is mulling donating even more.

The $1 million figure appears to be newly revealed information. It was reported earlier this year by the Washington Post that Soros had given a grant to the nonprofit group.

Image result for George Soros, photos

George Soros

The Democracy Integrity Project was created after the 2016 election and is dedicated to investigating election interference.

Fusion GPS is known for commissioning ex-British spy Christopher Steele to compile opposition research on then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Published in full by BuzzFeed in January 2017, the dossier contains a collection of salacious and unverified claims about Trump’s potentially compromising ties to Russia.

Soros’ fundraising efforts have made him a favorite target of Republicans claiming he is a secret force seeking to influence politics, among other conspiracy theories.

GOP investigators are concerned about potential surveillance abuse by the government, as the FBI used Steele’s salacious dossier, which was funded in part by Democratic interests, in multiple Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications to gain the authority to spy on onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

U.S. Accuses Chinese Spies of Campaign to Steal Jet Engine Tech

October 31, 2018

The U.S. unveiled charges against two alleged Chinese spies for orchestrating a conspiracy to steal prized jet engine technology from private companies, as the Trump administration raises pressure on Beijing to address its trade grievances.

Image result for jet engine technology, photos

The U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday the Chinese intelligence officers worked with hackers and “co-opted company insiders” to acquire commercial aviation technology in a campaign of computer intrusions that lasted more than five years. They sought to obtain intellectual property and confidential business data, including information related to a turbofan engine used in commercial airliners, the government said.

The case comes amid growing trade friction between the U.S. and China and follows on the heels of another case in which a Chinese intelligence official was extradited from Belgium and charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from an Ohio aviation company earlier this month. A U.S. Army recruit was also indicted in September for working as an agent of a Chinese intelligence officer.

Image result for U.S. stealth aircraft photos

Intellectual property theft is among the Trump administration’s chief complaints in a trade war that has rattled global markets and seen the world’s two largest economies slap tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods. China has long been focused on acquiring advanced jet-engine technology in its efforts to close the gap with Western manufacturers on the production of commercial and military aircraft.

‘Concerted Effort’

“This action is yet another example of criminal efforts by the MSS to facilitate the theft of private data for China’s commercial gain,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman, of the Southern District of California, said in a statement, referring to China’s Ministry of State Security. “The concerted effort to steal, rather than simply purchase, commercially available products should offend every company that invests talent, energy, and shareholder money into the development of products.”

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to a faxed request for comment. After the indictment earlier this month, ministry spokesman Lu Kang accused the the U.S. of “making something out of thin air” and urged the U.S. to deal with the case “in accordance with the law.”

The turbofan engine mentioned in the latest case was being developed through a partnership between a French aerospace manufacturer with an office in Suzhou, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, and a company based in the U.S. The first alleged hack took place no later than January 2010, when members of the group infiltrated Capstone Turbine, a Los Angeles-based gas turbine company, the department said in the statement.

Image result for Capstone Turbine, photos

Alleged Spies

Among 10 individuals charged were two people the U.S. identified as spies working for the Jiangsu provincial arm of the Chinese security ministry. Division Director Zha Rong, also known as “Leanov,” and Section Chief Chai Meng, also called “Cobain,” were each charged with one count of gaining unauthorized access to a protected computer, according to the indictment dated Oct. 25.

For decades, China has sought to develop its own commercial jet to break the duopoly held by Airbus SE and Boeing Co. In 2016, it set up state-owned engine maker Aero Engine Corp. of China to develop engines to be fitted on homegrown commercial aircraft.

Beijing’s Made in China 2025 blueprint specifically identifies aerospace as a key sector that can help match or exceed the high-end manufacturing output of countries such as Germany, Japan and the U.S. Trump administration demands that China roll back support for the plan have been a major sticking in discussions to resolve the trade dispute.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-31/chinese-spies-tried-to-steal-aviation-technology-u-s-alleges?srnd=premium

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8 Dead, Shooter screamed ‘All Jews must die’ before opening fire inside synagogue

October 27, 2018

Officials: FBI Leading Investigation As Shooting Deemed A ‘Hate Crime’

A gunman screaming “All Jews must die!” burst into a Pittsburgh synagogue during Saturday morning Sabbath services and opened fire — killing at least eight people and wounding several more, including three police officers, before surrendering, authorities and reports said.

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The conservative Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill was packed with three separate congregations holding Sabbath services when the shooter entered and opened fire at around 10 a.m.

“It sounded like a loud crash in the hallway,” congregant Stephen Weiss recalled to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

The shooter, identified by CBS affiliate KDKA as 46-year-old Robert Bowers, told the paper that was he was running through the building, and heard loud, repeated gunfire that he said sounded like an automatic weapon.

Multiple reports said a semi-automatic rifle, possibly an AR-15-style rifle, was found inside.

First responders surround the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., where a shooter opened fire Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

First responders surround the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., where a shooter opened fire Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The white male gunman shot at cops when they entered the building, and surrendered after about 30 minutes, “with a pistol in his waist band and one strapped to his ankle,” according to local reporter Ross Guidotti, who said SWAT officers grabbed the man’s weapons.

Police respond to an active shooter situation at the Tree of Life synagogue on Wilkins Avenue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pa., on Saturday, October 27, 2018. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Cops are now questioning the shooter, who is not yet identified, about a “suspicious package” discovered on the lower floor of the building. Police are using a drone to examine the package.

Other officers are clearing the building, searching for other devices and weapons.

Most of the shooting took place in a third-floor classroom, which normally has students there, but the session was canceled for Saturday, Michael Eisenberg, immediate past president of Tree of Life, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Eisenberg told several news outlets that security was a major concern when he was president of the synagogue, and he had worked with the Department of Homeland Security to beef up procedures. However, police are typically only present during the high holidays, he told CNN.

La enforcement officers secure the scene where multiple people were shot, Oct, 27, 2018, at The Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Squirrel Hill. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette)  Law enforcement officers secure the scene where multiple people were shot at the Tree of Life Congregation. ALEXANDRA WIMLEY, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Pittsburgh field office were also responding to the shooting incident.

Squirrel Hill is considered a historic Jewish enclave and center for Jewish life in Pittsburgh, and it is considered home to more than a quarter of Jewish households in the Pittsburgh-area. More than 80 percent of Squirrel Hill residents said they had some concern or were very concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism, according to a Brandeis University study of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community cited by NBC news. Many also reported incidents of anti-Semitic experiences in the past year, from insults and stereotypes to physical threats or attacks, according to the study.

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Eight people have been killed and a number of others injured after a shooting situation at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller reports that a suspect, a heavy-set white male with a beard, has surrendered. The SWAT team had been talking with the suspect, and he was crawling and injured. It is unclear the extent of his injuries.

KDKA sources confirm to Andy Sheehan that the suspect is 48-year-old Robert Bowers. It is believed that he acted alone.

According to Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, at least six other people were injured, including four police officers. The officers’ injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. The other two victims were last listed in critical and serious condition.

UPMC

@UPMCnews

UPDATE AS OF 11:45 AM ON SATURDAY, OCT. 27, 2018: Please follow @UPMCnews on Twitter for updates.

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UPMC

@UPMCnews

UPDATE AS OF 1:15 PM ON SATURDAY, OCT. 27, 2018: UPMC Mercy is treating a patient who is currently in surgery. We will provide additional updates as information becomes available. pic.twitter.com/mciiVLhDV4

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Police sources tell KDKA’s Andy Sheehan the gunman walked into the building and yelled, “All Jews must die.” Sheehan’s sources confirmed that eight people were dead. Others had been shot, but the extent of their injuries in unknown at this time.

When officers arrived, the gunman reportedly shot at them, forcing officers to use their vehicles as a shield.

The shooting happened during weekly Shabbat services at the conservative Jewish Synagogue, the building was full of people for a Saturday service and police say they’ve received several calls from people barricaded inside the Synagogue.

active shooter 8 Dead, Several Others Shot At Pittsburgh Synagogue

Photo Credit: Tim Lawson/KDKA

Police are also investigating if he announced his intentions on Twitter this morning. That account has since been taken down.

Hissrich said this shooting is being investigated as a hate crime and as such, the FBI is leading the investigation.

A phone number has been established for any questions from family members of the victims. That number is (412)-432-4400.

A victims’ assistance and reunification center has also been set up on the campus of Chatham University. Grief counselors and representatives from the Red Cross will be on hand.

Meanwhile, KDKA-TV spoke with several people familiar with what services would have been taking place on a normal Saturday morning.

“At 9:45 there were three simultaneous congregations’ services that were being held,” he said. “In the main part of the building, The Tree of Life has a service that has about 40 people in it. Just below that there is a basement area where New Life congregation would have been having their Shabbat service. There would have been 30-40 people. Just adjacent to Tree of Light’s service area, a congregation was in the rabbi study room and they would have had approximately 15 people in there,” Michael Eisenberg, the past President of the Tree of Life, said.

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Chuck Diamond was a rabbi at Tree of Life for seven years.

Diamond said possibly three rabbis would’ve been inside. Rabbi Pearlman from New Light was in the basement. Rabbi Cheryl Kline was in the social hall. Rabbi Meyers, the rabbi of Tree of Life, would have been in the chapel.

pittsburgh synagogue shooting 8 Dead, Several Others Shot At Pittsburgh Synagogue

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“I was at home [when I found out]. I live right up the street around the corner and I started getting phone calls,” Diamond said.

Meghan Schiller: Did you ever as rabbi think that you were gonna have to deal with this?

Diamond: “I thought about it all the time, I have to tell you. When I was there, in the back of my mind, I always have the thought of something like this happening and what I would do, unfortunately, because of the world we live in.”

Schiller: “What comes to mind when you hear that President Donald Trump just tweeted about this?”

Diamond: “Well again, this is unfortunately it happens too often in this country and around the world that these things happen, so it affects us all, so I’m glad that he tweeted something and hopefully he’ll take positive action.”

President Donald Trump called the shooting a “terrible thing” and said “it’s a shame to watch.”

“It’s a terrible terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country, and frankly all over the world and something has be done,” Trump said. “It’s just a shame to watch this and to see it for so many years, so much of it, it’s a shame.”

Earlier, Trump tweeted his thoughts to the Pittsburgh area amid the tragedy.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Law enforcement on the scene. People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities. Beware of active shooter. God Bless All!

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Events in Pittsburgh are far more devastating than originally thought. Spoke with Mayor and Governor to inform them that the Federal Government has been, and will be, with them all the way. I will speak to the media shortly and make further statement at Future Farmers of America.

Trump was asked about revisiting gun laws and said if those inside had protection, “maybe it could have been a much different situation.”

“This has little to do with it. If they had protection inside the results would have been far better. This is a dispute that will always exist I suspect. But if they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a much different situation. But they didn’t and he was able to do things that unfortunately he shouldn’t have been able to do,” Trump said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf issued the following statement regarding the incident:

“The shooting in Pittsburgh this morning is an absolute tragedy. I have spoken with local leaders and my administration and the Pennsylvania State Police will provide any resources to assist local law enforcement and first responders.

“These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans. My thoughts right now are focused on the victims, their families and making sure law enforcement has every resource they need.

“We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life. But we have been saying ‘this one is too many’ for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.

“And in the aftermath of this tragedy, we must come together and take action to prevent these tragedies in the future. We cannot accept this violence as normal.”

shooter 8 Dead, Several Others Shot At Pittsburgh Synagogue

Photo Credit: KDKA

Two of Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams, the Steelers and Penguins, also Tweeted their thoughts and prayers to the victims.

Pittsburgh Steelers

@steelers

We send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this morning’s tragedy in Pittsburgh. We will continue to pray for everyone involved.

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We are incredibly saddened to hear of this morning’s tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We send our thoughts and prayers to all those affected.

Stay with KDKA.com for this developing story.

Man Arrested in Pipe Bomb Investigation: Male stripper with a ‘steroid problem,’ obsession with politics, kicked out of his parents’ home

October 27, 2018
  • Cesar Altier Sayoc, 56, was taken into custody on Friday morning in Plantation, Florida
  • He is an avid Trump fan with an interest in bodybuilding who says he is a member of the Seminole tribe
  • Seminole Tribe of Florida has disavowed him however, saying he has never been a member
  • Sayoc had reportedly been kicked out of his parents’ home and was living in his van when he was arrested
  • Van – which is densely covered with pro-Trump stickers – believed to be Sayoc’s was impounded in Plantation 
  • In the 1990s, Sayoc traveled the country and worked as a male stripper after failing to become a pro wrestler 
  • Four additional suspicious packages discovered on Thursday and Friday brought the total to 14
  • On Friday afternoon, postal officials in Burlingame, California intercepted a package for billionaire Tom Styer
  • Earlier Friday a package addressed to Senator Kamala Harris was intercepted in  Sacramento, California
  • A postal inspector intercepted another package to James Clapper in Manhattan Friday morning  
  • FBI also discovered suspicious package addressed to Senator Cory Booker in Florida on Thursday night
Sayoc was living in the van at the time of his arrest, and it was festooned with stickers praising Trump

Sayoc was living in the van at the time of his arrest, and it was festooned with stickers praising Trump

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A single fingerprint helped the FBI crack the mail bombing spree targeting critics of President Donald Trump and identify a suspect, officials have revealed.

Cesar Altier Sayoc, 56, was taken into custody on Friday morning in Plantation, Florida in connection with the 14 suspicious packages that have been discovered this week.

A business partner of the ‘MAGAbomber’ who toured with him as a stripper has revealed text messages showing Sayoc had an obsession with politics.

Justin Humberger revealed to DailyMail.com numerous texts from Sayoc filled with political vitriol against the Democrats and conspiracy theories.

The businessman has known Sayoc since 2015 when they toured around the US with a male stripper company.

Sayoc, a former stripper, worked as the road manager, and Humberger as a dancer. This summer the two men started up an agriculture company.

Sayoc was known to have worked as a male stripper himself who was hired to do shows in clubs around the country in the 1990s, the Washington Examiner reported.

‘He really couldn’t find his niche in life, and I guess he found it now,’ Ohio-based event promoter Tony Valentine told the Examiner.

‘Back in the ’90s, he was running around from Minnesota to the Carolinas to Florida.

‘He was like a gypsy.’

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6321331/Suspected-mail-bomber-identified-Cesar-Altier-Sayoc.html

Related:

Suspected mail bomber was a stripper with a ‘steroid problem’

and

Mail bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc was a ‘big muscle head’ stripper, says former boss (Washington Examiner)

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/white-house/pipe-bomb-suspect-big-muscle-head-stripper-former-boss

Suspicious packages sent to Sen. Cory Booker, James Clapper

October 26, 2018

Two more suspicious packages — addressed to Sen. Cory Booker and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — were discovered at mail facilities Friday morning, sources and officials said.

The packages are identical in appearance to the 10 others containing pipe bombs that were sent this week to opponents of President Trump.

One was found at a United States Postal Service facility in Manhattan addressed to CNN in the care of Clapper, a contributor at the network, sources told The Post.

Police received a call about it just before 8:30 a.m.

Evacuated Postal workers wait as police investigate a possible bomb at a facility on 322 W. 52nd Street.
Evacuated Postal workers wait as police investigate a possible bomb at a facility on 322 W. 52nd Street.Robert Miller

The NYPD’s bomb squad responded to the post office at 322 W. 52nd Street. Sources said PS 35 across the street was evacuated as a precaution.

The one addressed to Booker, a Democrat, turned up at a mail facility in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, NBC News reported.

Earlier this week, 10 packages containing what appeared to be explosive devices were sent to several high-profile Democrats, as well as actor Robert De Niro and billionaire donor George Soros.

“We can’t stop our lives — we have to go on,” Clapper said on CNN. He said he has “a lot of confidence” in authorities to get to the bottom of the scares.

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https://nypost.com/2018/10/26/latest-suspicious-package-addressed-to-james-clapper/
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