Posts tagged with "FBI"

Democrats blast FBI as new details of ‘sham’ Kavanaugh inquiry emerge

July 26, 2021

A group of Democratic senators is demanding more answers from the FBI after the agency revealed new details about the limited scope of its supplemental investigation into Brett Kavanaugh‘s background when he was a nominee for the Supreme Court in 2018, NBC News reports.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, June 30 to Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware)—but only made public on Thursday, July 22Jill Tyson, assistant director of the FBI’s Congressional Affairs Office acknowledged that the department conducted only 10 additional interviews in its supplemental investigation, even though it had received over 4,500 tips.

Tyson said “relevant tips” from phone calls and messages were forwarded to the White House counsel’s office. It’s unclear what became of the tips after that.

Whitehouse, who had written then-FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for details about the inquiry, said, “This long-delayed answer confirms how badly we were spun by Director Wray and the FBI in the Kavanaugh background investigation and hearing.”

While Wray has said the FBI followed tip line procedures, “he meant the ‘procedure’ of doing whatever Trump White House counsel told them to do,” Whitehouse tweeted, adding, “That’s misleading as hell.”

A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Then-President Donald Trump tasked the FBI with conducting a supplemental background investigation into Kavanaugh at the urging of some Republican senators after his nomination to the high court in 2018 was endangered by sexual misconduct allegations dating to his high school and college years. Kavanaugh repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week,” Trump said at the time.

Republicans said the subsequent FBI report vindicated Kavanaugh, while Democrats maintained that it was incomplete. NBC News reported at the time that the FBI hadn’t contacted over 40 people with potential information about the sexual misconduct allegations.

The Senate confirmed the nomination in a narrow 50-48 vote.

Attorneys for the accuser who testified at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Christine Blasey Ford, said in a statement that the FBI letter confirmed that the agency’s investigation was “a sham and a major institutional failure.”

“Because the FBI and Trump’s White House Counsel hid the ball on this, we do not know how many of those 4,500 tips were consequential, how many of those tips supported Dr. Ford’s testimony, or how many showed that Kavanaugh perjured himself during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said the lawyers, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks. “Our nation deserved better.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Capitol Police open offices in California, Florida to probe threats against members of Congress

July 7, 2021

The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) announced on July 6 that the department is in the process of opening regional field offices in California and Florida to investigate threats to members of Congress, as part of enhanced security efforts in the wake of the Capitol insurrection last January 6, The Hill reports.

Capitol Police said in May that threats against members of Congress have more than doubled—increasing 107%— since last year.

“The USCP has enhanced our staffing within our Dignitary Protection Division as well as coordinated for enhanced security for Members of Congress outside of the National Capitol Region,” Acting USCP Chief Yogananda Pittman said in a statement.

She added, “The Department is also in the process of opening Regional Field Offices in California and Florida with additional regions in the near future to investigate threats to Members of Congress.”

“It has been six months since rioters attacked the United States Capitol and our brave police officers and law enforcement partners who fought valiantly to protect elected leaders and the democratic process,”  Pittman said.

“We will never forget USCP Officers Brian Sicknick and Howie Liebengood, who died after the attack, nor the sacrifices of the nearly 150 law enforcement officers who were injured,” Pittman added.

While more than 500 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, the FBI is still searching for some 300 subjects, including those involved with placing pipe bombs at each party’s national headquarters.

The department said it has been working to implement recommendations from multiple Juary 6 reviews, including those from the Government Accountability Office, the Capitol Police Office of Inspector General, and a House panel.

The various reviews found that the force was operating with aging equipment, failed to follow up on intelligence or widely distribute information to officers, and sidelined the Architect of the Capitol, one of its board members, from assisting with security planning.

Now, the force is expanding wellness services, with an emphasis on psychological trauma and stress; enhancing member protection; increasing training; and enhancing critical incident response training.

According to The Hill, the department also has purchased new helmets and batons for its forces, as well as shields, which its watchdog previously found were improperly stored and damaged.

What’s more, Pittman announced, the Capitol Police will increase its intelligence sharing with officers. “Externally, USCP leadership has increased intelligence sharing and collaboration between all of our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners; as well increased our partnership within the intelligence community and Congressional stakeholders.”

Research contact: @thehill

Biden Administration probes leak of IRS records on such well-heeled taxpayers as Bezos, Buffet, Musk

June 10, 2021

The Biden Administration announced on July 8 that it is investigating how tax information on several of the world’s richest people—among them, Jeff BezosElon Musk, and Warren Buffett—has been leaked to the public, according to a report by CNN.

“The unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information is illegal,” said Treasury spokesperson Lily Adams. “The matter is being referred to the Office of the Inspector General, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, all of whom have independent authority to investigate.”

The investigation comes after a report that showed new information from a trove of never-before-seen IRS records. Earlier Tuesday, ProPublica reported on exclusively obtained IRS documents which showed how the likes of Bezos, Musk, Buffett, Bill Gates, George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Bloomberg have legally avoided paying income tax.

“Any unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information by a person of access is illegal and we take this very seriously,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during Tuesday’s briefing.

Psaki also reiterated the Biden administration’s stance on having wealthy Americans pay more taxes to fund the President’s proposals.

“I’m not going to comment on specific unauthorized disclosures of confidential government information. I can tell you that, broadly speaking, we know that there is more to be done to ensure that corporations, individuals who are at the highest income are paying more of their fair share. Hence, it’s in the President’s proposals, his budget and part of how he’s proposing to pay for his ideas,” Psaki said.

Research contact: @CNN

‘Find me a Proud Boy’: Dating fix-up request outed California woman at Capitol riot, FBI says

June 9, 2021

A California woman who participated in the January 6 Capitol insurrection was outed by a video in which she said she “want[ed] to find me a Proud Boy,” the FBI says, according to a report by SFGate.

Stephanie Baez, 27, was arrested and charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority” and “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds” after authorities say she posted repeatedly from Washington D.C.

According to the FBI’s criminal complaint, the agency received a tip that a woman with the Instagram handle @stephmb293 was posting videos of herself at the insurrection. Investigators also were directed to a Reddit post that showed the same woman being interviewed outside the Capitol on January 6.

“How do you feel about the Proud Boys?” a man off-camera asks, referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, of which multiple high-ranking members have been arrested for their involvement in the riot.

“I love the Proud Boys,” she replies, according to SFGate. “I want to find me a Proud Boy.”  The man then asks for her number, and the woman provides her Instagram handle.

The FBI says that account is linked to a phone number with 714 area code, which includes Orange County, and that Baez posted repeatedly posted from the Capitol that day.

The complaint also shows multiple photos of Baez inside the Capitol—wearing red, white and blue eye shadow and tee-shirt adorned with George Orwell’s face. She posted a selfie of herself wearing the shirt, the FBI said, with the caption: “Welcome to 1984!”

When a photo of Baez circulated online in a tweet seeking to identify Capitol rioters, the complaint says she messaged an Instagram friend, “It’s my proudest moment. Just sucks they used such a horrible pic, I want to send them the one of me in my USA bikini and be like ‘here, please use this at least lol.'”

In an April interview with the FBI, Baez admitted the photos were of her, the complaint says. Baez also allegedly gave a series of reasons for why she was there that day, claiming she was in D.C. to attend a Trump rally and “look at medical schools.”

The FBI says Baez told investigators “she had authority to be inside the Capitol because she had looked up the Capitol’s hours ahead of time and confirmed that the Capitol would be open so that she could tour it,” but “later stated that it is possible that she read the website wrong.”

The complaint alleges Baez boasted to several friends on social media that she couldn’t get into legal trouble for what she did. “I already checked,” the complaint says she wrote. “Since we are legally allowed into the Capitol Building and I didn’t damage anything, I didn’t break the law.”

Baez was apprehended in Alabama, where she made a court appearance Friday and was released on a $10,000 bond. She is due back in court on June 9.

Research contact: @SFGate

Work halted again at Amazon construction site after eighth noose is found

May 28, 2021

Work was suspended for the second time in as many weeks on May 26, after another noose—the eighth in just one month—was discovered at an Amazon warehouse under construction in northern Connecticut, The Washington Post reports.

The noose was found at the Windsor work site in Hartford County, Connecticut, on Wednesday—one day after work resumed from the last stoppage. The discovery occurred after security was upgraded and a few hours before NAACP representatives arrived to interview workers about previous incidents. The noose, made of red rope, was found in some yellow electrical cables.

“This is ridiculous,” Scot X Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP, told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “We told them to take this seriously, and they’re trying to water it down. This is pretty bad.”

The FBI and Connecticut State Police are assisting the Windsor Police Department with the investigation of the incidents, which are being treated as hate crimes.

Amazon is offering a $100,000 reward for information that helps identify the responsible party. The company did not immediately respond to a request from the Post for comment. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post)

Cameras had been installed during the shutdown, Windsor Police Chief Donald Melanson said at a Wednesday news conference, according to the Hartford Courant, but do not cover the entire 3.6 million-square-foot site.

Windsor police officers had been patrolling the site when the seventh noose was discovered on May 19, the department said in a news release. Employees in the area were interviewed, and the rope was taken to a state lab for analysis. The work site had no surveillance cameras at the time.

At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont called the nooses “racist provocation of the worst type,” according to the Hartford Courant.

Work on the Amazon facility in Windsor began late last year and is supposed to be completed by late this year. Amazon has said that the center will create 1,000 jobs in the next two years and that employees will be paid $15 per hour plus benefits.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

FBI probes campaign donations to Maine Senator Susan Collins

May 20, 2021

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been reviewing a possible scheme to funnel over six-figures in illegal donations to the 2020 re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, recently unsealed court records in Washington, D.C., show, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The FBI is investigating whether Martin Kao, the former chief executive officer for Hawaii-based contractor Martin Defense Group, illegally donated money to the senator’s campaign, according to a search-warrant application filed in federal court in April. The contractor has offices in Maine, as well as other locations.

Overall, the prominent defense contractor has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for bilking the federal government out of $12.8 million that should have been distributed to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program instituted during the COVID-19 crisis.

Specifically, according to the Bloomberg report, an FBI agent alleged in a court affidavit that Kao used a shell company to make a $150,000 donation to Collins’ re-election campaign and reimbursed family members for smaller donations. Under federal law, government contractors are prohibited from making donations to political committees. So-called “straw” donations in which a contributor uses someone else’s money also are illegal.

Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Collins, told Bloomberg that the senator’s campaign “had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant.”

A lawyer for Kao did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The donations to Collins’ campaign under investigation were a small percentage of the more than $30 million in receipts her campaign raised in the last cycle. Outside PACs on both sides spent many millions more in one of the most expensive Senate races in the country.

In August 2019, Collins announced that Martin Defense Group, then known as Navatek, had received an $8 million Department of Defense contract. A press release on her website said she “strongly advocated” for the funding.

Research contact: @Bloomberg

Federal officers execute sunrise search of Rudy Giuliani’s apartment and office

april 29, 2021

Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early on Wednesday, April 28, at the home and office of Rudy Giuliani—the former New York City mayor who became President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer—thereby stepping up a criminal investigation into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation told The New York Times.

The investigators seized Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the sources said.

Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president, the Times noted. It represents a major turning point in the long-running investigation into Giuliani, who as mayor steered New York through the Sept. 11 attacks and earlier in his career led the same U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that is now investigating him.

Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer questions from prosecutors—except those regarding his privileged communications with the former president.

“What they did today was legal thuggery,” Costello said. “Why would you do this to anyone—let alone, someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States?”

The federal authorities have been largely focused on whether Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump Administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs; who at the same time were helping Giuliani search for dirt on Trump’s political rivals (among them, Joe Biden, who was then a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination).

The United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan and the F.B.I. had for months sought to secure a search warrant for Giuliani’s phones.

Under Mr. Trump, senior political appointees in the Justice Department repeatedly sought to block such a warrant, The New York Times reported, slowing the investigation as it was gaining momentum last year. After Merrick Garland was confirmed as President Biden’s attorney general, the Justice Department lifted its objection to the search.

While the warrants are not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Giuliani, the wararants show that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase. To obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.

Spokespersons for the F.B.I. and the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Research contact: @nytimes

Persona non grata: Jimmy Gomez drafts resolution to oust Marjorie Taylor Greene from House

February 1, 2021

California Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-34th District) has announced that he plans to introduce a resolution calling for the expulsion of Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-14th District) from the House of Representatives, The Boston Globe reports.

On grounds of “repeated endorsements of sedition, domestic terrorism, and political violence,” Gomez called Greene “a clear and present danger to Congress and our democracy.”

In a tweet announcing the resolution, Gomez said Greene “did it to herself, and she must go.”

“As if it weren’t enough to amplify conspiracy theories that the September 11 attacks were an inside job and the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was staged, a string of recent media reports has now confirmed that Congresswoman [Greene] had previously supported social media posts calling for political violence against the Speaker of the House, members of Congress, and former President Barack Obama,” Congressman Gomez said in a statement.

Gomez was referencing a flurry of alarming moments involving the Georgia Republican that came into light this week.

CNN KFile review released on Tuesday, January 26, for example, unveiled a series of Green’s past social media posts from as recently as 2019, including one that pushed a baseless QAnon conspiracy which casts Donald Trump “in an imagined battle against a sinister cabal of Democrats and celebrities who abuse children.” The FBI has called QAnon a domestic terrorism threat and the Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin on Wednesday, January 27—warning of the potential for lingering violence from extremists enraged by President Joe Biden’s election and emboldened by the attack on the Capitol.

In another post from January 2019, Greene “liked” a comment that “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the House, The Boston Globe said.

What’s more, CNN reports Greene “liked” comments about executing FBI agents who were part of the “deep state” working against Trump.

Greene released a statement in response to the CNN review, in which she claimed many people have run her Facebook page.

In another post that surfaced last week, Greene pushed a claim that the February 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was a “false flag” event — an incident that was faked or planned by someone other than the perpetrator to take away people’s guns. In May 2018, Greene posted a story about a disgraced sheiff’s deputy based near Parkland receiving a retirement pension. A commenter wrote: “It’s called pay off to keep his mouth shut since it was a false flag planned shooting,” to which Greene replied:

Indeed, Congressman Gomez, a Harvard Kennedy School grad, wasn’t alone in calling for Greene’s removal.

Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern (District 02)) tweeted “this is sick” and said both Greene and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy should resign.

Massachusetts Representative Jake Auchincloss (D-District 04) echoed his colleagues’ sentiments: “Words have consequences. [Greene] should resign. If she doesn’t, Congress needs to expel her. If you don’t understand that calling for the murder of political rivals is a threat to democracy, you shouldn’t be allowed to represent one.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Reuters: Proud Boys leader was ‘prolific’ informer for law enforcement

January 28, 2021

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, has a past as an informer for federal and local law enforcement—repeatedly working undercover for investigators after he was arrested in 2012, according to a former prosecutor and a transcript of a 2014 federal court proceeding obtained by Reuters.

Founded in 2016, the Proud Boys is known as a far-right, neo-fascist, and male-only political organization that promotes and engages in violence in the United States and Canada. Miami-based Tarrio, 36, is a high-profile figure who has organized the right-wing Proud Boys since 2018 in their confrontations with those they believe to be Antifa, short for “anti-fascism,” an amorphous and often violent leftist movement.

The records uncovered by Reuters are startling because they show that a leader of a far-right group now under intense scrutiny by law enforcement was previously an active collaborator with criminal investigators.

In the 2014 Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, an FBI agent, and Tarrio’s own lawyer described his undercover work and said he had helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in various cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling.

Tarrio, in an interview with Reuters Tuesday, denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others. “I don’t know any of this,” he said, when asked about the transcript. “I don’t recall any of this.”

Law-enforcement officials and the court transcript contradict Tarrio’s denial. In a statement to Reuters, the former federal prosecutor in Tarrio’s case, Vanessa Singh Johannes, confirmed that “he cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes.”

That didn’t stop police from arresting Tarrio when he arrived in Washington, D.C., in early January, two days before the Capitol Hill riot—in which, Reuters says, the Proud Boys were involved on January 6. He was charged with possessing two high-capacity rifle magazines, and burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a December demonstration by supporters of former President Donald Trump. The D.C. Superior Court ordered him to leave the city pending a court date in June.

Indeed, although Tarrio did not take part in the Capitol insurrection, at least five Proud Boys members have been charged in the riot. The FBI previously said Tarrio’s earlier arrest was an effort to preempt the events of January 6.

What’s  more, the news outlet says, in  November and December, Tarrio led the Proud Boys through the streets of D.C. after Trump’s loss. Video shows him on December 11 with a bullhorn in front of a large crowd. “To the parasites both in Congress, and in that stolen White House,” he said. “You want a war, you got one!” The crowd roared. The next day Tarrio burned the BLM banner.

Former prosecutor Johannes said she was surprised that the defendant she prosecuted for fraud is now a key player in the violent movement that sought to halt the certification of President Joe Biden.

“I knew that he was a fraudster— but had no reason to know that he was also a domestic terrorist,” she said.

Research contact: @Reuters

FBI agent who helped launch Russia investigation says Trump was ‘compromised’

September 8, 2020

Peter Strzok— the FBI counterintelligence agent whose spiteful texts about President Donald Trump took him down; along with girlfriend and FBI lawyer Lisa Page; and arguably, the Russia investigation, itself—says in a new book that, even if Trump didn’t formally conspire with the Russian election interference operation, the president was badly compromised.

In the new release, entitled Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Strzok states that Trump was exposed because of his questionable business dealings, the hush money paid on his behalf to silence women, shady transactions at his charity—and, most importantly, “his lies about his Russia dealings,” including his secret 2015 effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow even as he told the world that he had no business with Russia.

“Putin knew he had lied. And Trump knew that Putin knew—a shared understanding that provided the framework for a potentially coercive relationship between the president of the United States and the leader of one of our greatest adversaries,” writes Strzok.

“This simple fact could explain something that made no sense otherwise: why Trump repeatedly … [chose] the course of action that made little sense in the context of U.S. national security but that clearly benefited Russia,” he writes.

And while—according to NBC News, which has obtained a copy of the book—Strzok reveals no new evidence that the president acted as a tool of Russia, the author’s inside account provides a detailed refutation of the notion that a group of anti-Trump denizens of the deep state cooked up the Russia “hoax,” as Trump likes to call it, to take down a president they didn’t support.

To the contrary, as he tells it, career public servants inside the FBI and the Justice Department were gobsmacked in 2016 by what they uncovered about a presidential campaign that seemed to find unlimited time to meet with Russians, practically inviting exploitation by a foreign adversary.

“I was skeptical that all the different threads amounted to anything more than bumbling incompetence, a confederacy of dunces who were too dumb to collude,” Strzok writes, summing up his view of the case for a Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia before he was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in July 2017 over his biased texts. “ 

In a statement to NBC News, White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern called Strzok’s account “utter nonsense” and argued that neither Mueller nor Congress “…[has] found any wrongdoing by the president.” He added: “Strzok is a joke, and his book isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. ”

Whether crimes were committed is a different question from whether Russia had a hold over the president, however. Who was supposed to answer that counterintelligence question? Who would look at whether Trump had, in fact, benefited from massive investments by Russians, as his son once said he did? Or whether there was any reason to think Putin could blackmail him?

Strzok, 50, an Army veteran who worked most of his two-decade FBI career chasing Russian spies, says it was the job of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. But Strzok writes that at the time he left the investigation in 2017, “we were still looking for the right way to investigate those counterintelligence concerns.”

Research contact: @NBCNews