Posts Tagged ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation’

Two injured in mysterious Texas bombing, fourth in month

March 19, 2018


© AFP/File | Police in Austin, Texas are investigating a series of deadly bombings in recent weeks
CHICAGO (AFP) – Two people were injured late Sunday in an explosion at a home in Austin, Texas, the fourth mysterious bombing in the city this month, police said.The blast came just hours after police made a direct public appeal to the unknown bomber or bombers suspected of other recent bombings.

An exploding package killed a 39 year-old man on March 2. On March 12, one exploding package killed a 17-year-old boy and another separate one injured a woman.

After the latest blast, the county Emergency Medical Service said on Twitter that they responded to reports of an explosion around 8:30 pm (0130 GMT Monday), and two men in their 20s were rushed to a hospital with serious injuries.

Authorities were investigating the previous bombings as possible hate crimes as the two men killed were African-American, and a Hispanic woman was seriously injured.

Police did not mention the race of the Sunday victims.

Image result for ATF, Photos, jackets from behind, austin, Texas

“Stay inside your home until we have had a chance to deem this neighborhood safe,” Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley said at a streetside news conference after the blast.

“That will not be, at a minimum, until daylight, given the darkness and the size of the area that we want to go in and check to make sure again that this neighborhood is safe.”

Because of the darkness “we have not really had an opportunity to really look at this blast site to determine what has happened,” Manley said.

– $115,000 reward –

Police believe the earlier attacks were related. All of the cardboard packages were hand-delivered, not sent through the mail, and the bombs were built with household items available at hardware stores.

At a later press conference early Monday, Manley said that the Sunday explosive may have been activated by a trip-wire, unlike the previous bombs.

It is “very possible” that it was “activated by someone either handling, kicking or coming in contact with a tripwire that activated the device,” Manley said.

“That changes things,” he said. “We now need to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device, whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack, anything that looks out of place.”

Manley told reporters that the two victims were either riding their bikes or pushing them when a suspicious package on the side of the road detonated.

He told the Austin-American Statesman that investigators are operating under the assumption that the attack is connected to the three prior blasts.

A task force of hundreds of agents is working on the case, including criminal profilers and experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

At an earlier press conference Sunday, Manley addressed the unknown bomber or bombers directly.

“We want to understand what brought you to this point, and we want to listen to you,” he said.

Police also said they were increasing the reward offered for information leading to an arrest, bringing the total city and state bounty money to $115,000.




Trump Ally Was in Talks to Earn Millions in Effort to End 1MDB Probe in U.S.

March 1, 2018

Emails indicate Republican donor and wife were negotiating fee if the Justice Department closed its investigation 

President Donald Trump welcomed Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak in September. Emails appear to show Elliott Broidy, a longtime Republican donor, prepared talking points for Mr. Najib ahead of the visit.
President Donald Trump welcomed Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak in September. Emails appear to show Elliott Broidy, a longtime Republican donor, prepared talking points for Mr. Najib ahead of the visit. PHOTO: ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

A top Republican fundraiser close to President Donald Trump was in negotiations to earn tens of millions of dollars if the U.S. Justice Department dropped its investigation into a multibillion-dollar graft scandal involving a Malaysian state investment fund, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

In emails dated during the past year, Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and a longtime Republican donor, and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, an attorney, discuss setting up a consulting contract with Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman at the center of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal, which brought scrutiny to the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak. The messages include draft agreements between Ms. Rosenzweig’s California law firm and representatives of Mr. Low about the possible terms of their business engagement. In one draft, there is a proposal that includes a $75 million fee if the Justice Department quickly drops its investigation.

Along with the contract drafts, the emails also appear to show Mr. Broidy prepared talking points for Malaysia’s prime minister ahead of a 2017 visit to Washington that included a meeting with Mr. Trump and other officials. In the talking points, the prime minister was advised to state that Malaysia wanted to emphasize its work with the U.S. in confronting North Korea, while also arguing against the U.S. legal pursuit of the 1MDB matter. It isn’t clear what, if anything, came of the talking points.

The details of the purported effort to influence the Justice Department investigation were included in a cache of emails from Mr. Broidy’s and his wife’s email accounts that were provided to the Journal.

Mr. Broidy was a vice chairman for the Trump campaign’s joint fund with the Republican Party during the 2016 campaign, helping it raise more than $108 million. A longtime Republican donor, he gave more than $160,000 last year to the Republican National Committee, where he is currently a national deputy finance chairman. In March, Mr. Trump is set to attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles that Mr. Broidy helped organize.

Chris Clark of Latham & Watkins LLP, on behalf of Mr. Broidy and Ms. Rosenzweig, who runs Colfax Law Office Inc., said in a statement that Ms. Rosenzweig’s law firm was engaged by Pras Michel, a member of the 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees and a friend of Mr. Low, “to provide strategic advice as part of a broader team to Mr. Low.”

The statement adds: “During the course of this engagement a number of strategies were discussed with Mr. Broidy, Mr. Michel, and other members of the team. But at no time did Mr. Broidy or Ms. Rosenzweig, or anyone acting on their behalf, discuss Mr. Low’s case with President Trump, any member of his staff, or anyone at the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Mr. Clark said neither Colfax Law nor Mr. Broidy has ever represented Malaysia or any of its officials “in any capacity.”

“We are concerned that the Wall Street Journal is in possession of internal drafts of documents that were never used, and that were never intended to be shared with third parties,” he said. “We question the legality and propriety of the manner in which the documents were obtained.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Elliott Broidy, right, a venture capitalist, and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, an attorney.
Elliott Broidy, right, a venture capitalist, and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, an attorney. PHOTO: BILLY BENNIGHT/UPPA/ZUMA PRESS

Mr. Low didn’t respond to a request for comment on the arrangement. He has denied wrongdoing in the 1MDB matter. The 1MDB fund has denied any money is missing and said it would cooperate with any lawful investigation. Multiple investigations in Malaysia into 1MDB closed without finding wrongdoing.

Prime Minister Najib, who oversaw 1MDB and gave Mr. Low control over investment decisions, has been keen for the Justice Department to drop its probes.

The Justice Department alleges Mr. Low, a 36-year-old Malaysian financier, helped siphon off at least $4.5 billion from 1MDB, between 2009 and 2015. Mr. Low and conspirators from Asia and the Middle East allegedly used the proceeds to buy luxury homes in the U.S., frequent Las Vegas nightclubs and fund Hollywood movies, among other things. At least six countries are investigating the affair, including Singapore and Switzerland.

Since mid-2016, the Justice Department has sought, via civil lawsuits in California, to seize almost $2 billion in assets allegedly bought with the stolen money. On Wednesday, authorities in Indonesia seized Mr. Low’s $250 million yacht at a port on the resort island of Bali after a request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A representative for Mr. Low said in a written statement in the wake of the yacht seizure that the case was “completely without foundation’’ and that “rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically motivated allegations, the DoJ is continuing with its pattern of global over-reach—all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing.”

U.S. authorities also allege in civil lawsuits that “Malaysian Official 1,” which people aware of the matter say is a reference to Mr. Najib, received $681 million from 1MDB into his personal accounts. The Justice Department is seeking to seize tens of millions of dollars of diamonds purchased for his wife. Mr. Najib has denied taking money for personal gain and he was cleared by Malaysia’s attorney general of any wrongdoing.

In September 2017, Mr. Trump invited Mr. Najib to a meeting in the White House to discuss trade ties. Given the 1MDB scandal, and Mr. Najib’s alleged personal involvement, the timing of the trip sparked contention among the prime minister’s critics. Ahead of that trip, Mr. Broidy sent an email to a colleague at his venture-capital firm on Aug. 7, 2017, with the subject line “Malaysia Talking Points *Final*.”

The email appears to outline how Mr. Najib should approach his U.S. visit. The first-listed priority was to make it clear that Malaysia fully backed U.S. efforts to isolate North Korea, the email said. The talking points also list the 1MDB affair: The U.S. investigation “has caused unnecessary tension,” the talking points read, “and could cause a negative reaction among Malaysians.”

A spokesman for Mr. Najib didn’t respond to a request for comment on the purported talking points or his visit to Washington.

In his September 2017 visit to the White House, Mr. Najib met with Mr. Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and other U.S. officials. In a public appearance together, Mr. Trump identified Malaysia as a strategic national-security ally in Asia. “He does not do business with North Korea any longer,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Najib. “We find that to be very important.”

Ahead of Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Najib last fall, Gen. McMaster and a member of the White House Counsel’s Office advised him that the prime minister was under investigation by the Justice Department and that the issue might come up, a White House official said. Mr. Trump was advised that Mr. Najib might bring up the case and could lobby him to ask the Justice Department to shut it down, and that he should respond that he wouldn’t interfere, the official said.

Mr. Najib subsequently didn’t raise the issue in his private meeting with the president, nor did Mr. Trump, the official said.

The White House didn’t respond to a question about whether Mr. Trump had ever discussed the Justice Department probe with Mr. Broidy.

Legal experts said certain actions described in the emails had little precedent in Washington. An effort to approach White House officials to close a Justice Department investigation would be unusual because administrations have typically not had any involvement in federal investigations, to avoid giving the appearance of any political motivation. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has often waded into Justice Department matters, criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions as recently as Wednesday, when he labeled Mr. Sessions’ handling of a surveillance-related probe as “disgraceful.”

Mr. Broidy’s involvement with Malaysian politics dates to at least March 2017, when his wife, Ms. Rosenzweig drew up an agreement between her Beverly Hills law firm and Mr. Low, according to the emails.

On March 12, 2017, Ms. Rosenzweig emailed the agreement to Nickie Lum Davis, whose Hawaii-based firm, LNS Capital, acted as a consultant to Colfax on the deal with Mr. Low, the emails show. The unsigned draft stipulated various terms, including a $75 million payment if the firm could help get the Justice Department to drop its civil-asset forfeiture lawsuits within 180 days.

Ms. Rosenzweig later changed the details of the agreement to a flat fee, which she said was to ensure they complied with U.S. law, according to an email later in March to LNS’s Ms. Davis.

Ms. Davis didn’t respond to a question for comment.

By May, there was still no final agreement, according to the email chain. Mr. Low didn’t want to pay Ms. Rosenzweig directly, but through Mr. Michel, the former hip-hop star, the emails show. Mr. Michel was among the many celebrity friends Mr. Low made in the years after the alleged fraud began in late 2009. The emails didn’t state a reason for the payment structure.

Mr. Michel didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The emails the Journal viewed didn’t show whether Ms. Rosenzweig’s firm had finalized terms of the agreement with Mr. Low.

In 2009, Mr. Broidy pleaded guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct and admitted to making nearly $1 million in gifts to benefit four former top officials in the office that oversees New York state’s pension fund, which made $250 million in investments in Mr. Broidy’s firm, the Journal reported. As part of his guilty plea, he agreed to forfeit $18 million to New York state.

Florida Shooter Excelled at NRA-funded Rifle Training; FBI Admits Ignoring Early Tip

February 17, 2018


Nikolas Cruz was part of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, one of thousands of youth shooting clubs supported by pro-gun group

.Photo used as profile picture on the Instagram account of Nikolas Cruz, who was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
Photo used as profile picture on the Instagram account of Nikolas Cruz, who was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018/AP

The troubled teen authorities say killed 17 people at a Florida high school excelled in an air-rifle marksmanship program supported by a grant from the National Rifle Association Foundation. It was part of a multi-million dollar effort by the pro-gun group to support youth shooting clubs.


 This booking photo obtained February 15, 2018 courtesy of the Broward County Sheriff's Office shows shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.

This booking photo obtained February 15, 2018 courtesy of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office shows shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.HANDOUT/AFP

Nikolas Cruz was wearing a shirt with the logo of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program when he was arrested. Former cadets told The Associated Press that Cruz was on the varsity marksmanship team that competed against other area schools.<

The cadets used air rifles special-made for target shooting. The JROTC program at Cruz’s school received $10,827 in non-cash assistance from the NRA’s foundation while he was there. NRA declined to comment. The foundation gave nearly $2.2 million to schools in 2016.

This photo posted on the Instagram account of Nikolas Cruz shows weapons lying on a bed.

This photo posted on the Instagram account of Nikolas Cruz shows weapons lying on a bed./AP

‘Desire to kill’

The FBI received a specific report last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a “desire to kill” and access to guns and could be plotting an attack, but agents failed to investigate the tip, the agency said Friday.

Maria Reyes, Stacy Buehler and Tiffany Goldberg light candles around a cross as they attend a candlelight memorial service for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School thatJOE RAEDLE/AFP

A person who was close to Cruz called the FBI’s tip line on Jan. 5 and provided information about Cruz’s weapons and his erratic behavior, including his disturbing social media posts. The caller was concerned that Cruz could attack a school.

In a statement issued Friday, the agency acknowledged that the tip should have been shared with the FBI’s Miami office and investigated, but it was not. The startling admission came as the agency was already facing criticism for its treatment of a tip about a YouTube comment posted by a “Nikolas Cruz” last year.

The FBI investigated the comment, which said “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” but did not determine who made it.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency was still reviewing its missteps on the January tip. He said he was “committed to getting to the bottom of what happened,” as well as assessing the way the FBI responds to information from the public.

>> Dead bodies, blood and smoke’: Eyewitnesses recount carnage at Florida high school shooting <<

“We have spoken with victims and families and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy,” Wray said in the statement.

Cruz has been charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami.

Also Friday, mourners gathered for the first funeral for a shooting victim, packing the Star of David chapel to remember 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. From outside the chapel, other mourners strained to hear the voices chanting Jewish prayers and remembering the star soccer player as having “the strongest personality.” She was also remembered as a creative writer with a memorable smile.

A day earlier, details of Wednesday’s attack began to emerge, showing how the assailant moved through the school in just minutes before escaping with the same students he had targeted.

Cruz jumped out of an Uber car and walked toward building 12 of the school, carrying a black duffel bag and a black backpack. A man inside spotted Cruz and knew he was a former student, a troubled kid.

He radioed a co-worker and within a minute heard gunshots.

The 19-year-old was wearing a maroon shirt, black pants and a black hat. The man, whose name was blacked out from a sheriff’s affidavit, told detectives Cruz was moving “purposefully.”

Cruz slipped into the building, entered a stairwell and extracted a rifle from his bag, authorities said. He shot into four rooms on the first floor — going back to spray bullets into two of the rooms a second time — then went upstairs and shot a single victim on the second floor.

He ran to the third floor, where according to a timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, three minutes passed before he dropped the rifle and backpack, ran back down the stairs and quickly blended in with panicked, fleeing students.

Florida State Sen. Bill Galvano, who visited the third floor, said authorities told him it appeared that Cruz tried to fire point-blank out the third-floor windows at students as they were leaving the school, but the high-impact windows did not shatter. Police told Galvano that it was not that difficult to open the windows.

“Thank God he didn’t,” Galvano said.

From the time Cruz entered the building until the time he left, only six minutes passed. During that brief time, he shot more than two dozen people, including 17 fatally.

After the rampage, he walked to a Wal-Mart and bought a drink at a Subway restaurant, then went to a McDonald’s.

About 40 minutes later, a deputy saw him walking down a suburban South Florida street and grabbed him. He didn’t put up a fight.



Florida Governor calls on FBI director to resign over missed signs

February 17, 2018

FBI has admitted failing to investigate a tip about suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz

By Jeremy B White
The Independent

Florida’s Governor is calling on the FBI’s director to resign amid revelations the agency failed to follow up on a tip about a suspected school shooter.

“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable”, Governor Rick Scott said in a statement.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup

FBI Director Christopher Wray

“Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it,” Mr Scott aded. “An apology will never bring these 17 Floridians back to life or comfort the families who are in pain”.

As authorities reconstruct the events that led to the bloodletting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this week, they have discovered that the FBI had received warnings on at least two occasions about suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz.

The investigative agency acknowledged that, a little more than a month before the shooting, a person contacted the FBI tip line with “information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

In a violation of protocol, the information was never passed along to the FBI’s Miami office for followup

“I am committed to getting to the bottom of what happened in this particular matter, as well as reviewing our processes for responding to information that we receive from the public,” Mr Wray said in a statement about the lapse, adding “We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy”.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he is launching a view of FBI and Department of Justice practices.

“It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed,” Mr Sessions said in a statement. “We see the tragic consequences of these failures”.

Florida shooting: A grieving community tries to come to terms with the loss of 17 lives

The agent in charge of the Miami office has also said the agency received a tip about an online comment, posted under the name ‘nikolas cruz,’ in which the commenter said “Im going to be a professional school shooter”.

“No other information was included with that comment, which would indicate a time, location or the true identity of the person who made that comment,” Special Agent Robert Lasky told reporters. “The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment”.

Mr Cruz, who is facing seventeen counts of murder, was expelled from the school for bad behaviour before the shooting, and some students and teachers there have described him as troubled. His defence attorney described him as a “a broken human being”.



FBI failed to follow up on Florida shooting suspect tip in January

February 16, 2018



The Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged on Friday that some “protocols were not followed” after it obtained a tip in January that Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the Florida school attack, had the potential of “conducting a school shooting.”

Chris Wray is pictured. | AP Photo


FBI Director Christopher Wray — Andrew Harnik/AP Photo


“We are still investigating the facts,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “I am committed to getting to the bottom of what happened in this particular matter, as well as reviewing our processes for responding to information that we receive from the public.”

Nikolas Cruz

The FBI said a caller had provided the bureau with “information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts” on Jan. 5.

But because of a lapse in procedure, the bureau said, the information was “not provided” to its regional field office in Miami and “no further investigation was conducted at that time.”


The announcement prompted a wave of backlash by public officials, with Gov. Rick Scott of Florida issuing a call for Wray to step down.

“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement, adding: “The FBI Director needs to resign.”

The bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Scott’s statement. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, however, lamented the “tragic consequences of those failures” on Friday, saying that intelligence officials “must do better” to prevent further shootings from taking place.

“It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed,” Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions announced that he had instructed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to carry out an “immediate review” of protocols at the Justice Department and FBI to “ensure that we reach the highest level of prompt and effective response to indications of potential violence that come to us.”

“The FBI in conjunction with our state and local partners must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks,” Sessions added. “This is imperative, and we must do better.”

Cruz is accused of killing 17 people and wounding several others when he allegedly opened fire on students and staffers at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland on Wednesday. Cruz, a 19-year-old former student of the school, allegedly used an AR-15-style assault rifle to unleash the deadly onslaught at the school.

Another tipster is reported to have separately flagged to the FBI a disturbing comment left by a user, “nikolas cruz,” on YouTube in September. “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” the comment read. Two FBI agents investigated the matter, The Washington Post reported, but were unable to identify the person behind the post.

The FBI did not specifically address the post on Friday.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement on Friday that the FBI’s failure to follow-up on the tip was “inexcusable,” calling on lawmakers to “immediately” look into the bureau’s procedures for screening information.

“The fact that the FBI is investigating this failure is not enough,” Rubio. “Both the House and Senate need to immediately initiate their own investigations into the FBI’s protocols for ensuring tips from the public about potential killers are followed through.”

Since the fatal shooting on Wednesday, local and federal authorities have painted Cruz as a troubled individual. During a bond hearing in Florida on Thursday where Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, his attorneys described him as a “broken child.”

President Donald Trump on Thursday lamented on Twitter that “many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed” had not been followed up on, pointing to “neighbors and classmates” who he said “knew he was a big problem.”


How Not to Fix the FBI

February 13, 2018

A second special prosecutor would undermine the good work of Congress.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears at the National Sheriffs Association Winter Conference in Washington, Feb. 12.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears at the National Sheriffs Association Winter Conference in Washington, Feb. 12. PHOTO: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS

Rep. Devin Nunes has rendered the public an extraordinary service. Almost single-handedly, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has pried loose from an obstructionist Justice Department documents revealing how the Federal Bureau of Investigation used Clinton campaign research to justify a warrant to spy on Carter Page, a onetime Trump campaign associate. So why are Republicans now threatening to undermine all this good work by calling for a special counsel?

In the past few days, the calls for a special counsel to look into the FBI and Justice Department have grown louder. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham want one. So do Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and others. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is thinking about it. Meanwhile, President Trump’s deputy press secretary has told reporters that the president’s lawyers want one too.

It’s a tempting proposition. Republicans are plagued by a special counsel whose mere existence calls into question the legitimacy of the last election. Why shouldn’t they inflict the same menace on Mr. Trump’s opponents? The answer is that a special counsel is not only unnecessary but counterproductive.

Right now, two big questions hang over our public life: how the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential elections, and whether the Justice Department and FBI let Hillary Clinton off the hook in the investigation into her private email server even as they politicized counterintelligence operations to undermine team Trump.

Republicans who think a special counsel is the right way to pursue answers ought to take a hard look at the Robert Mueller investigation. Mr. Mueller has indicted a few folks since being named special counsel last May. But he’s produced scant evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and no one knows what he’s really found because it’s all secret.

What makes anyone think a new special counsel would be any different? Once appointed, the curtain would drop. Congress would be asked to stand down, on the grounds that it must not do anything that might interfere with a criminal investigation.

This prosecutorial approach turns the Constitution on its head. In our system of self-government, the American people, acting through their elected representatives, are given oversight of what their politicians and government have been up to. For the most part, accountability is meant to come via the ballot box—not a grand jury.

A better way forward would be for Mr. Sessions to appoint a U.S. attorney to investigate abuses of power within the Justice Department and FBI. Rather than destroying these organizations, the goal of the investigation would be to restore their credibility by identifying any abuses of power and removing the responsible individuals. Although the threat of a grand jury would likely be necessary to concentrate the minds of certain officials who might not be inclined to cooperate, the goal would be to hold individuals accountable, not to tar whole institutions.

Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, says that such an investigation would require the unequivocal support of three principal players: President Trump, Attorney General Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Each would have to show a commitment that has so far been lacking.

Image result for Christopher Wray, photos

Christopher Wray

Mr. Trump would need to overcome his administration’s reluctance to use its declassification powers to make public crucial material. Mr. Sessions would have to provide the designated U.S. attorney not only with support but clear parameters and a time frame to ensure the effort did not drag on and on. Mr. Wray, for his part, would have to show cooperation that doesn’t require the threat of a congressional contempt citation.

The man or woman appointed to lead the investigation, Mr. McCarthy says, “has to be someone who is looking to hold people accountable while preserving Justice and the FBI as the essential institutions they are, and who is looking to have this wrapped up in short order, not an empire builder à la Mueller.”

Mr. McCarthy believes that although there are other possible investigators, it would be best to use FBI agents. Of course, these agents would have to lack any connection to the subjects of their investigation, and they would need a guarantee that their careers would not suffer. But using FBI agents to root out the bad apples, says Mr. McCarthy, could elicit more cooperation from a bureau that might otherwise see itself as under siege from people who wanted the institution destroyed.


If handled properly, such an investigation could bring many benefits. The public would get a full accounting of the dossier saga. Those responsible for any abuses would be removed. And the American people would see that our system of government is capable of identifying abuse and correcting it—without resorting to the constitutional aberration known as the special counsel.

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Rachel Brand Resigns At U.S. Justice Department — Was next in line of succession to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

February 10, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Rachel Brand has been widely discussed as a potential judicial nominee. Leaving the administration might help her avoid controversy that could complicate any future nomination. | Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department’s third-ranking official, Rachel Brand, will resign and take a senior job at Walmart Inc (WMT.N), with sources familiar with her decision saying on Friday that she had grown increasingly uncomfortable with President Donald Trump’s attacks on her department and the FBI.

The department said Brand will be leaving her post in the coming weeks. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, himself repeatedly criticized by Trump, praised her “critical role in helping us accomplish our goals as a department.”

Brand, 44, was next in line of succession to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia and whether the Republican president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the ongoing probe.

She became the latest senior law enforcement official to either resign or be fired since Trump took office in January 2017, a list that includes a Federal Bureau of Investigation director and deputy director, and an acting attorney general. Trump also ousted all remaining U.S. attorneys, the chief federal prosecutors in each state, who had served under Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

Brand’s resignation is different in that she was hand-picked for the job by Trump, assuming her post just five days after Mueller’s appointment in May 2017.

News of Brand’s departure came a week after Trump approved the release of a previously classified memo written by Republican lawmakers that portrayed the Russia investigation, initially handled by the FBI and now headed by Mueller, as a product of political bias against Trump at the FBI and Justice Department.

After just nine months on the job, Brand had become more and more uneasy with Trump’s escalating attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI, which she and other law enforcement professionals feared was beginning to undermine the rule of law, according to sources familiar with her thinking.

In a statement, Brand defended her department, saying, “The men and women of the Department of Justice impress me every day.”

The attacks have escalated in recent weeks as Republicans in Congress have criticized the handling by the Justice Department, FBI and the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court of warrants for surveillance of a Trump campaign advisor, Carter Page, who had ties to Russia. Trump called the matter “a disgrace.”

In a statement, Walmart said Brand will join the company as executive vice president for global governance and corporate secretary. “We are fortunate to have a leader of Rachel Brand’s stature join the company,” President and CEO Doug McMillon said.

Mary McCord, who served as acting head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division from October 2016 until April 2017 and helped oversee the FBI investigation into the collusion matter, said Brand’s resignation would further shake morale at the department.

“When the associate attorney general steps down after just nine months in the midst of a barrage of attacks on the department from the White House and Capitol Hill, it is another blow to the career women and men of the department who have been doing their jobs diligently while trying to block out the turmoil around them,” said McCord, now a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

The department is also facing a major backlog on leadership positions that still need confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Rosenstein oversees Mueller’s investigation because Sessions recused himself from the matter last year. Trump also has criticized Sessions for recusing himself. Brand on Friday lauded Sessions’ “commitment to the rule of law.”

Rosenstein is the only official with legal authority to fire Mueller, and it is widely believed he would resign if ordered to do so without good cause. If Rosenstein resigned, that authority would have fallen to Brand under the department’s succession line. With her gone, the next person in line is Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

Any permanent replacement for Brand would have to be confirmed by the Senate and would likely face tough questioning about their willingness to preserve the Russia probe’s independence.

Trump could use a 1998 law on executive branch vacancies to appoint a temporary replacement of his choice, as long as that person was an experienced Justice Department employee or another administration official already confirmed by the Senate.

Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the agency’s Russia investigation, in May 2017, saying he took the action because of “this Russia thing.”

The FBI’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, stepped down in January after Trump repeatedly criticized him on Twitter. McCabe’s wife previously ran as a Democrat for a seat in Virginia’s state Senate and received donations from then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a close ally of Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton.

Brand oversees the Justice Department’s civil, antitrust, tax and environmental and natural resources divisions. She played a crucial role in helping push for Congress to reauthorize the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program after it faced opposition from some privacy-minded lawmakers in both parties. The measure passed, and Trump signed it into law in January.

A Justice Department official said that Jesse Panuccio, the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General, will temporarily take over Brand’s job until a replacement is named.

He previously served as acting associate attorney general until Brand was confirmed and sworn in.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and John Walcott; Additional reporting by Warren Strobel, Karen Freifeld, Jonathan Landay, Anthony Lin, Jan Wolfe and Nathan Layne; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Eric Walsh and Daniel Wallis

See also:


White House Favors Releasing Democratic Memo

February 9, 2018

Document rebuts Republican allegations of abuse by FBI in its effort to monitor former Trump campaign adviser

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has requested that any redactions made to the Democratic memo be ‘fully explained’ by either the FBI or the Justice Department.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has requested that any redactions made to the Democratic memo be ‘fully explained’ by either the FBI or the Justice Department. PHOTO: J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—The White House is inclined to approve the release of a classified Democratic memo that rebuts Republican allegations of abuse by the FBI in its application to monitor a former Trump campaign aide, according to a person familiar with the matter.

John Kelly, White House chief of staff, said earlier this week that he told the lawyers reviewing the document to “get back to me” by the end of Thursday with their recommendation on whether President Donald Trump should release the memo. Mr. Kelly suggested then that redactions could be necessary, saying the document was “not as clean” as a Republican memo released the week before.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Thursday that the review process was “ongoing.”

An administration official said a declassification decision by the president was expected on Friday.

“The White House understands that withholding the document is not the right response,” the official said. White House officials are now discussing parts that need to be redacted because they reveal investigators’ sources and methods, he said.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee wrote the 10-page memo as a rebuttal to a Republican document released to the public last week. The GOP document alleges federal investigators concealed partisan motives behind Democrat-funded research included in a secret warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a foreign-policy adviser for the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

Separately, Republican lawmakers are broadening their examination of the former British spy who compiled the research, Christopher Steele, and the dossier he assembled on the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. That review includes probing what role associates of Hillary Clinton played in providing him with information, according to people familiar with the matter.

One of the questions that Republicans are asking is whether information from a freelance researcher, Cody Shearer, may have been passed indirectly to Mr. Steele, these people said. They added that the information was passed from Mr. Shearer through Sidney Blumenthal, a close associate of the Clintons, and another official who worked for the Obama State Department, Jonathan Winer.

Mr. Shearer compiled his information in September and October 2016—after many of the memos that make up the Steele dossier were already written, according to a person familiar with the matter. The information circulated widely in political and journalistic circles in Washington and was shared by Messrs. Winer and Blumenthal as part of concerns about Mr. Trump’s alleged Russia connections, the person said, adding there was no contact with the Clinton campaign or Democrats regarding the passing along of the information.

In a criminal referral to the FBI released publicly this week, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) wrote: “It is troubling enough that the Clinton campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.”

The referral redacted the names of Messrs. Shearer, Winer, and Blumenthal, but a person familiar with the matter said that the letter from the senators refers to them.

The White House has a five-day window following the House Intelligence Committee’s Monday vote to approve the Democratic memo’s release, which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and other Republican lawmakers have called for.

The White House has said Mr. Trump’s decision on the release and whether elements should be redacted will hinge on the recommendation of senior law-enforcement officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray. Mr. Trump met with Mr. Rosenstein on Tuesday to discuss the memo.

Democrats say their document is needed to correct misstatements and omissions in the GOP memo. According to people familiar with the warrant, the application for surveillance says the research was linked to people or groups with a political motivation or political affiliations. The Democratic memo is also expected to address what information beyond that collected by Mr. Steele was used in the warrant to monitor Mr. Page.

On Monday, after the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to release the Democratic document, the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), requested that any redactions made to the Democratic memo be “fully explained” by either the FBI or the Justice Department.

Mr. Page, who hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing, had been on the radar of U.S. intelligence since 2013, when alleged Russian spies made an attempt to recruit him. He left Mr. Trump’s campaign in September 2016, a month before investigators sought a surveillance warrant on him.

The FBI publicly opposed the release of the GOP memo, citing “grave concerns” about its accuracy. Democrats have said the Republican document was an attempt to discredit a wide-ranging Justice Department probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The investigation is also looking into potential obstruction of justice by the president and his aides.

Mr. Trump has denied any obstruction or collusion and said the GOP memo “totally” vindicated him. In his first year in office, he has repeatedly attacked top officials at the FBI and Justice Department, including Mr. Rosenstein, whom he appointed.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at and Byron Tau at

Appeared in the February 9, 2018, print edition as ‘Trump Inclined to Clear Release of Memo.


Eric Holder Warns Trump Risks Long-Term Damage to FBI, Justice Department (While The Swamp is Being Drained, Rats Try To Protect Each Other…)

February 8, 2018

Longtime Obama attorney general says the credibility of law-enforcement agents could be undermined in criminal cases

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Eric Holder. Getty Images

Former Attorney General Eric Holder warned that President Donald Trump’s attacks on top officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department are undermining the credibility of law-enforcement agents investigating and prosecuting criminal cases.

Mr. Holder, who spent six years as attorney general under Democratic President Barack Obama, said that rank-and-file FBI agents testifying in court cases could face undue skepticism following the scorn aimed at the nation’s top law-enforcement agencies.

“I would hope that the president would rethink the way in which he has attacked career people in the FBI, career people at the Justice Department, the career people in our intelligence community, and think about the way in which he has spoken about his attorney general,” Mr. Holder said Wednesday.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Speaking to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Mr. Holder also talked about his own future, which could include a bid for elective office.

“I think I’ll make a decision by the end of the year about whether there is another chapter in my government service,” he said.

Possibly the presidency? a reporter asked.

“We’ll see,” said Mr. Holder.

Mr. Holder now chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group supported by Mr. Obama that aims to produce what it says would be fairer electoral districts.

In the past year, Mr. Trump has lodged repeated attacks on leaders of the FBI and Department of Justice. White House aides said he was infuriated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Mr. Trump has also faulted Mr. Sessions for not aggressively investigating his 2016 opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In July, Mr. Trump tweeted that “Attorney General Jeff Session has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”

In another tweet that month, Mr. Trump called Mr. Sessions “beleaguered” and again prodded him to look into what he called “Crooked Hillary’s crimes.”

After an extended investigation into Ms. Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, the Justice Department declined to prosecute her in the summer of 2016.

Mr. Trump has also taken aim at the FBI leadership. In December, he tweeted that bureau’s reputation was in “tatters—the worst in History!”

A favorite target of the president has been ex-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who stepped down last month. Mr. Trump had sought to focus attention on what he said was a conflict of interest involving Mr. McCabe’s wife, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for a Virginia state Senate seat and received financial support from former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Holder said that the “long-term negative, collateral consequences” of such messages from the president “are substantial.”

“They’re real,” he continued, “and I hope the president would pull back.”

Write to Peter Nicholas at
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Who ruined the credibility of who?

Senators Ask Justice Department to Open Criminal Probe Into Trump Dossier Author

January 6, 2018

Republicans Grassley and Graham say Christopher Steele may have made false statements to federal investigators

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 Christopher Steele. Photographer Victoria Jones– PA Wire via AP

WASHINGTON—Two Republican senators have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether the author of a controversial research document on President Donald Trump lied to investigators.

Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said they have seen evidence that former British spy Christopher Steele made false statements to federal investigators about how he disseminated his research, which has taken center stage in the investigation into Russian activity during the 2016 election.

The two senators stressed on Friday that they were requesting “further investigation only, and is not intended to be an allegation of a crime.” They are senior members of the congressional panel that oversees the Justice Department and have access to classified, nonpublic information as part of their oversight responsibilities. They didn’t provide details on what evidence they had seen in deciding to make the referral.

“I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement.

The referral marks the latest twist in a political and legal drama over the origins and accuracy of a 35-page dossier, which contains salacious and unverified allegations about the president.

Mr. Steele, a former British intelligence official, wrote a series of memorandums during the 2016 election regarding Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. The memos contained a number of unverified allegations concerning Mr. Trump’s business deals and his personal life. He also provided those documents to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in late 2016, and provided a copy of the report to Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.).

Mr. Steele has been sought out by the three congressional committees probing Russian interference during the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Moscow, but people familiar with the matter say he hasn’t spoken to Capitol Hill investigators as part of their probes.

Those memos were compiled into a dossier that circulated widely in intelligence, law enforcement and media circles during the election. Mr. Trump has called it “fake” and “discredited,” and has denied any collusion by him or his campaign. Moscow has denied interfering with the election.

Mr. Steele was working for the nonpartisan research firm Fusion GPS when he wrote the memos. During that time period, Fusion was being paid by an attorney for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to conduct opposition research on Mr. Trump—a common election-year tactic of gathering incriminating or embarrassing information on a political rival.

Mr. Steele, who has made just one public statement since being identified as the dossier’s author, couldn’t be reached for comment. “I’m now going to be focusing my efforts on supporting the broader interests of our company here,” he told reporters in a brief statement last year, referring to his own firm.

U.S. investigators are looking into contacts between several current and former associates of Donald Trump and Russian individuals—some with direct ties to the Russian government or state-owned entities. WSJ’s Niki Blasina provides a who’s who of the Russians at the center of the investigations.

An attorney for Fusion GPS called for reporters to be “skeptical in the extreme” about Mr. Grassley and Mr. Graham’s referral.

“After a year of investigations into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the only person Republicans seek to accuse of wrongdoing is one who reported on these matters to law enforcement in the first place,” said Joshua Levy, an attorney for Fusion. “Publicizing a criminal referral based on classified information raises serious questions about whether this letter is nothing more than another attempt to discredit government sources in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The two co-founders of the firm wrote in a New York Times op-ed this week that they were “extremely proud” of their work on the Trump dossier.

“Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?” wrote Fusion co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, who are also former Wall Street Journal reporters. “What came back shocked us.”

Mr. Grassley serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel with oversight of federal law enforcement and the Justice Department. Mr. Graham serves as chairman of that panel’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism.

Write to Byron Tau at