Posts tagged with "FBI"

Justice Department’s scathing response: Trump brought this on himself; he had it coming

Sepember 1, 2022

The Department of Justice revealed on Tuesday night, August 30, that it only started criminally investigating former President Donald Trump after he lied about keeping “top secret” documents at his oceanside Florida mansion—including three highly classified records inside his personal desk—and had some presidential papers moved around and torn up, reports The Daily Beast.

Had Trump simply turned the documents over to the National Archives when the agency asked for them back last year, the FBI might never have gotten access to them, the DOJ explained.

The DOJ came out swinging against Trump in a scathing court filing to block him from getting his stuff back from the Mar-a-Lago search by stating flatly that “those records do not belong to him.”

In the 36-page document, the DOJ argued that Trump lacks any ability to even ask for a federal judge to step in and oversee the seizure of sensitive documents that were kept unsecured at Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Florida.

The DOJ also revealed why Trump is being investigated for violating a federal law that prohibits destroying government records, cited as 18 U.S. Code § 2071.

Federal prosecutors claim that recovered documents showed that “certain pages of presidential records had been torn up,” a crime that pivotally bars anyone from ever again holding a political office in the United States.

Federal prosecutors disclosed that Trump was under investigation for yet another crime, obstruction of justice, cited as 18 U.S.C. § 1519, because the feds “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the [Mar-a-Lago] storage room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”

For example, FBI special agents who conducted the search three weeks ago claim they found three classified documents in desks at the so-called “45 Office” in another section of the mansion—alongside two of his expired passports—despite the fact that Trump and his lawyers had sworn they wouldn’t be there.

Trump, represented by a team of defense attorneys who have been criticized for their ineptitude, according to The Daily Beast, waited a whopping two weeks after the FBI raid at his Palm Beach estate to sue and ask for a judge to appoint a “special master” to oversee federal agents’ handling of the records they seized.

On Tuesday night, the DOJ responded by arguing that the Presidential Records Act of 1978 “makes clear” that the government “has complete ownership, possession, and control” of those documents and the former president can’t just ask for them back—or dictate how they should be handled.

Trump currently is under investigation by the FBI for putting the nation’s security at risk by mishandling “top secret” government records. For more than a year, his office had been in negotiations with the National Archives over the way he took more than a dozen boxes of presidential records from the White House to his private estate—instead of turning them over to the nation’s archivists for proper preservation.

In recent days, the looming threat of an unprecedented prosecution of a former president has prompted his allies—even prominent Republicans, among them, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—to threaten nationwide violence and even civil war.

Trump sued the federal government in South Florida federal court, and U.S. District Judge Aileen Mercedes Cannon asked the DOJ to respond, hence Tuesday’s filing.

The scathing arguments laid out in the court filing—signed by top Miami federal prosecutor Juan Antonio Gonzalez and Jay I. Bratt, chief of the DOJ National Security Division’s counterintelligence and export control section—take the most aggressive tone by the DOJ yet against the former president. From the get-go, it counters the disinformation and politicizing that Trump has engaged in through public statements on social media that also bled into his lawsuit, with the DOJ saying that it would provide “a detailed recitation of the relevant facts, many of which are provided to correct the incomplete and inaccurate narrative.”

For example, Trump and his lieutenants—including  former White House aide Kash Patel—have argued that he had already declassified mountains of records, thus eliminating any accusation that such records were sensitive or improperly handled. On Tuesday, the DOJ revealed that Trump’s lawyers never even mentioned that any of the documents in the 15 boxes Trump turned over to the National Archives in January 2022 were declassified.

The DOJ also acknowledged that it has indeed had a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia investigate the former president, noting that there authorized federal prosecutors on Monday to disclose it following Trump’s statements about having received subpoenas for video footage at Mar-a-Lago.

Federal prosecutors also shed more light on what they say happened on June 3, when Bratt himself traveled south to Mar-a-Lago to figure out what exactly was going on. According to the DOJ’s court filing, Trump’s lawyers assured the feds that no classified documents remained at the mansion, which doubles as a luxurious club with international clientele that at times has included unscrupulous types suspected of spying for foreign governments.

But when the feds tried verifying whether that was true, they were rebuffed, according to the DOJ. At one point, an attorney for Trump “explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.”

Adding to the federal agents’ suspicions, Trump’s team handed over a single, sealed Redweld envelope, according to the DOJ. Inside, FBI agents found 38 documents that included five marked “confidential,” 16 marked “secret,” and 17 marked “top secret.”

“Counsel for the former president offered no explanation as to why boxes of government records, including 38 documents with classification markings, remained at the premises nearly five months after the production of the fifteen boxes and nearly one-and-a-half years after the end of the [Trump] administration,” the DOJ wrote on Tuesday.

However, despite the supposed assurances Trump’s team made that all classified material had been turned over that day, the FBI earlier this month found more than 100 others were still at Mar-a-Lago.

Research contact: @The_DailyBeast

Trump’s legal team scrambles to find an argument

August 30, 2022

On May 25, one of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a letter to a top Justice Department official, laying out the argument that his client had done nothing illegal by holding onto a trove of government materials when he left the White House, reports The New York Times.

The letter, from M. Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor, represented Trump’s initial defense against the investigation into the presence of highly classified documents in unsecured locations at his members-only club and residence, Mar-a-Lago.

According to the Times, “It amounted to a three-page hodgepodge of contested legal theories, including … Corcoran’s assertion that Trump possessed a nearly boundless right as president to declassify materials and an argument that one law governing the handling of classified documents does not apply to a president.”

Corcoran asked the Justice Department to present the letter as “exculpatory” information to the grand jury investigating the case.

Government lawyers found it deeply puzzling. They included it in the affidavit submitted to a federal magistrate in Florida in their request for the search warrant they later used to recover even more classified materials at Mar-a-Lago—to demonstrate their willingness to acknowledge Corcoran’s arguments, a person with knowledge of the decision said.

As the partial release of the search warrant affidavit on May 26—including the May 25 letter—illustrated, Trump is going into the battle over the documents with a hastily assembled team. The lawyers have offered up a variety of arguments on his behalf that have yet to do much to fend off a Justice Department that has adopted a determined, focused, and, so far, largely successful legal approach.

“He needs a quarterback who’s a real lawyer,” said David I. Schoen, a lawyer who defended Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial.  Schoen called it “an honor” to represent Trump, but said it was problematic to keep lawyers “rotating in and out.”

Often tinged with Trump’s own bombast and sometimes conflating his powers as president with his role as a private citizen, the legal arguments put forth by his team sometimes strike lawyers not involved in the case as more about setting a political narrative than about dealing with the possibility of a federal prosecution.

“There seems to be a huge disconnect between what’s actually happening—a real live court case surrounding a real live investigation—and what they’re actually doing, which is treating it like they’ve treated everything else, recklessly and thoughtlessly,” Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and FBI official, told the Times regarding Trump’s approach. “And for an average defendant on an average case, that would be a disaster.”

Trump’s team has had a few small procedural wins. On Saturday, a federal judge in Florida signaled that she was inclined to support Trump’s request for a special master to review the material seized by the government in the search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8.

It is not clear how much the appointment of a special master would slow or complicate the government’s review of the material. Trump’s team has suggested that it would be a first step toward challenging the validity of the search warrant; but it also gives the Justice Department, which is expected to respond this week, an opportunity to air new details in public through their legal filings.

Some of the Trump lawyers’ efforts have also appeared ineffective or misdirected. Corcoran, in his May 25 letter, made much of Trump’s powers to declassify material as president, and cited a specific law on the handling of classified material that he said did not apply to a president. The search warrant, however, said federal agents would be seeking evidence of three potential crimes, none of which relied on the classification status of the documents found at Mar-a-Lago; the law on the handling of classified material cited by Corcoran in the letter was not among them.

According to the Times, two lawyers who are working with Trump on the documents case—Corcoran and Jim Trusty—have prosecutorial experience with the federal government. But the team was put together quickly.

Trusty was hired after Trump saw him on television, people close to the former president have said. Corcoran came in during the spring, introduced by another Trump adviser during a conference call in which Corcoran made clear he was willing to take on a case that many of Trump’s other advisers were seeking to avoid, people briefed on the discussion said.

Trump’s allies have reached out to several other lawyers, but have repeatedly been turned down.

Corcoran, in particular, has raised eyebrows within the Justice Department for his statements to federal officials during the documents investigation. People briefed on the investigation say officials are uncertain whether Corcoran was intentionally evasive, or simply unaware of all the material still kept at Mar-a-Lago and found during the August 8 search by the FBI.

Corcoran did not respond to a request for comment. Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Trump, said only that Trump and his legal team “continue to assert his rights and expose the Biden administration’s misuse of the Presidential Records Act, which governs all pertinent facts, has been complied with and has no enforcement mechanism.”

Even before Corcoran joined the team, Trump’s legal filings in various cases read like campaign rally speeches that he had dictated to his lawyers. The former president has a history of approaching legal proceedings as if they are political conflicts, in which his best defense is the 74 million people who voted for him in the 2020 election.

Trump’s advisers continue to insist that he was cooperating before the search in returning the documents. They also have suggested that they were quick to respond to Justice Department concerns, citing what they described as a request in June that a stronger lock be placed on the door leading to the storage area where several boxes of presidential records had been kept.

Yet the unsealed affidavit showed a portion of a letter from a Justice Department lawyer sent to Trump’s lawyers that did not specify anything about a lock and read less like a request than a warning.

The classified documents taken from the White House “have not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an appropriate location,” the letter read. “Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice.”

During the August 8 search, the FBI found additional documents in that area and also on the floor of a closet in Trump’s office, people briefed on the matter said.

Trump and a small circle within his group of current advisers maintain that he was entitled to keep documents he took from the White House, or that he had already declassified them, or that they were packed up and moved by the General Services Administration — an assertion flatly denied by that federal agency.

Trump, people familiar with his thinking say, sees the attorney general, Merrick Garland, not as the federal government’s chief law enforcement officer, but merely as a political foe and someone with whom he can haggle with about how much anger exists over the situation.

Shortly before Garland announced that he was seeking to unseal the search warrant, an intermediary for Trump reached out to a Justice Department official to pass along a message that the former president wanted to negotiate, as if he were still a New York developer.

The message Trump wanted conveyed, according to a person familiar with the exchange, was: “The country is on fire. What can I do to reduce the heat?”

A Justice Department spokesman would not say if the message ever made it up to Garland; but the senior leadership was befuddled by the message and had no idea what Trump was trying to accomplish, according to an official.

Research contact: @nytimes

‘Lawyers are giggling’: Attorneys scratch their heads at Trump’s ‘very strange’ DOJ lawsuit

Augusst 24, 2022

On Monday, August 22, former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit demanding the return of documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago—arguing that the feds did not have sufficient reason for the raid, even though they found 300 classified documents at Trump’s home, according to The New York Times.

Indeed, Salon reports, the FBI recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in three batches over the last eight months, according to the report. Trump only turned over 150 of the documents to the National Archives in January, prompting the Justice Department to investigate whether he withheld some materials.

boxes included documents from the CIA, National Security Agency, and FBI across a “variety of topics of national security interest,” according to the report.

Trump rifled through the boxes of documents late last year as officials were attempting to recover them, sources told the outlet. Surveillance footage obtained by the DOJ also showed people “moving boxes … and in some cases, appearing to change the containers some documents were held in,” according to the report. Trump resisted demands to return the documents, describing them as “mine,” sources told the Times.

Earlier this year, Trump attorney Christina Bobb signed a declaration that all classified material had been returned, which ultimately led to the FBI’s unprecedented raid on Trump’s residence to recover documents that he withheld after the first three recovery attempts.

Andrew Weissmann, a former federal prosecutor who served on special counsel Bob Mueller’s team, called the report “incredibly damning” for Trump, noting that the report suggests the former president personally reviewed the documents to decide what to return.

“If you are a prosecutor, you really look for evidence of what the former president did personally,” he told MSNBC. “If the DOJ either knows about or is soon to interview those people who were sources for The New York Times, they’re going to have a substantial criminal case.”

Despite the mounting evidence that Trump’s actions may have run afoul of federal laws governing classified materials and document preservation, Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday arguing that the feds have “failed to legitimize its historic decision” to raid his home.

The lawsuit called for a court to appoint a special master, a third party who is typically a former judge, to review whether some materials may be protected by attorney-client privilege or other guidelines. The lawsuit seeks the return of documents the FBI seized in the raid.

“This Mar-a-Lago Break-In, Search, and Seizure was illegal and unconstitutional, and we are taking all actions necessary to get the documents back, which we would have given to them without the necessity of the despicable raid of my home, so that I can give them to the National Archives until they are required for the future Donald J. Trump Presidential Library and Museum,” Trump said in a statement on Monday.

The lawsuit argues that the raid was politically motivated, claiming that Trump is the “clear frontrunner” in the 2024 election “should he decide to run.”

The lawsuit accuses the feds of violating Trump’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and asks that the court block “further review of seized material” until they are reviewed by a special master.

The DOJ said it would file a response in court.

“The August 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause,” DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley told CNBC.

Research contact: @Salon

DOJ issues warning amid spike in threats against school boards, principals, and teachers

October 6, 2021

U.S. Attorney-General Merrick Garland announced a crackdown on Monday, October 4, on threats against schools and teachers after a surge in verbal attacks by parents opposed to mask and vaccine mandates, and education on race bias, The Straits Times reports.

“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against teachers, school administrators and other staff, Garland said in a memo to the Justice Department and FBI.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal; they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland said.

“The department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate,” he said.

Garland did not mention what was driving the spike, and said he respected “spirited debate”.

But the memo came after dozens of incidents across the country in which irate parents—who object to mandates for student masking, vaccine requirements, and teaching children about structural racism in society—have been seen threatening school boards, teachers and school principals.

Last week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) called on President Joe Biden to intervene after a surge in threats, many of them seen on viral videos taken at community meetings.

“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” said NSBA President Viola Garcia and CEO Chip Slaven in a letter to the president.

“The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation,” they said.

They detailed numerous violent threats and physical attacks, by parents angered by COVID-19 policies and opposed to what they wrongly believe is primary and secondary schools teaching “critical race theory,” an approach to social justice studies mostly taught at the university level.

“As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue,” they said.

A similar statement was issued by the School Superintendents Association (AASA) on September 22.

Research contact: @thestraitstimes

Missing in action: The baffling disappearance of the go-to lawyer for Capitol riot defendants

September 1, 2021

The mysterious disappearance of the lawyer, John Pierce, began on last Tuesday, August 24, prosecutors say, when he missed a hearing for one of the many cases in which he is representing a defendant in the Capitol riot investigation. The young associate who took his place said that Pierce had a “conflict.” At the time, no one seemed to give it much mind, according to a report by The New York Times.

But in the days that followed, Pierce—who is defending more cases connected to the riot than any other lawyer nationwide—missed additional hearings, and the details of his decampment started changing.

On Wednesday, his associate told a judge in one case that Pierce had gotten COVID-19 and was in the hospital on a ventilator—but only after telling a prosecutor in another case that Pierce had been in a car accident. That same evening, a different associate told a reporter that Pierce had, in fact, been hospitalized, but was getting care for “dehydration and exhaustion.”

Finally, on Monday, August 30—after Pierce had still failed to reappear—the government got involved. Federal prosecutors issued letters to several judges in 17 Capitol riot cases, informing them that no one in the Justice Department had heard from Pierce in a week and that “multiple” phone numbers for his law firm appeared to have been disconnected.

His criminal cases had come to a “standstill,” the prosecutors said, endangering the rights of his clients. If Pierce did not surface soon, they added, somethin —although it was not clear what—would have to be done.

The New York Times tried to reach Mr. Pierce several times by text and phone in recent days, but he did not respond.

Pierce’s unexplained absence was the only latest twist in his outsized role in defending those accused of participating in the Capitol attack. His clients — among them members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers militia — have stood out not only for their number, but also for the scorched-earth battle that he has vowed to wage on their behalf.

A self-described pro-Trump populist, Pierce has promised, for example, to force the government to give him video footage of the Capitol for several days before and after January 6, and has said he will demand information about every police officer working at the building that day. He also has vowed to subpoena hostile witnesses such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi—ostensibly to learn what she may have known about security at the Capitol before the attack.

Without citing evidence, Pierce has said he intends to implicate the F.B.I. and the intelligence community by showing that the riot was something like a grand act of entrapment or an inside job. He has often talked about his cases with a conspiratorial zeal, painting himself as something like a lonely legal warrior out to save his clients from an overreaching government.

“I’m like Gerard Butler in ‘300,’” Pierce said in an interview before dropping out of sight, comparing himself to the action star who played a Spartan king. “I’m in the hot gates at Thermopylae, holding the pass against the million-man Persian army.”

While the government has not yet weighed in on the merits on his claims, prosecutors did express concern in their letters filed on Monday about the young associate, Ryan Joseph Marshall, who has been standing in for Pierce at the hearings he has missed.

For one thing, Marshall is not a licensed lawyer, prosecutors said, and has taken actions on behalf of clients “that he is not permitted” to take. Moreover, they went on, it remains unclear if and when Marshall will be able to get his law license—given that he is under indictment in two criminal cases accusing him of corruption, theft and fraud in Pennsylvania.

Pierce’s situation is not his first encounter with personal and professional setbacks. Last year, his law firm nearly collapsed in a swirl of debts and resignations. Then his most prominent client, Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man charged with murder at a racial justice protest in Wisconsin last year, fired him in a highly public spat that included allegations that a charity arranged for the defense had engaged in financial improprieties.

His work in the Capitol cases began just after the attack when he took several members of the far-right nationalist group, the Proud Boys, as clients. He also has been hired by L. Brent Bozell IV, the son of a prominent conservative commentator, as well as by a Florida pastor and a Minnesota pub worker.

In recent weeks, however, at least two clients have fired Pierce, complaining that he seemed unresponsive and appeared at times to be unversed in the details of their cases. Last week, the wife of yet another client, Kenneth Harrelson, a member of the Oath Keepers from Florida, sent a letter to her friends and associates, complaining that her husband was having “issues” getting Mr. Pierce “to do his job.”

Such complaints have come atop concerns that the sheer number of Pierce’s clients has exposed him to accusations of conflict of interest. He is, for example, representing both James Cusick Jr., the Florida pastor; as well as Cusick’s son Case. Both are charged with breaching the Capitol with another of his clients, David J. Lesperance, a member of the Cusicks’ church.

In a separate case, Mr. Pierce has been hired by another father-and-son pair, Kevin and Nathaniel Tuck, two former Florida police officers who have been charged in an indictment with a Florida Proud Boy he also represents.

However, all of that only can only come to pass if he returns to court—and the government seems worried that might never happen.

“Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Pierce may be hospitalized and unable to communicate,” prosecutors wrote on Monday, “and it is unclear when Mr. Pierce will recover.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Capitol Police investigate bomb threat near Library of Congress

August 20, 2021

After a standoff of nearly four hours, the United States Capitol Police continued negotiating at 1 p.m. on Thursday, August 19, with a man who claimed to have a bomb in a black pickup truck he had parked outside the Library of Congress—prompting evacuations from government buildings in the area, The New York Times reports.

The man drove the black pickup onto the sidewalk of the Library of Congress at about 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, and the police responded to a disturbance call, Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Capitol Police said in a news conference.

When the police arrived, the man said he had a bomb and one of the officers observed what appeared to be a detonator in his hand, Chief Manger said.

The police are negotiating with the man, he said. It was unclear whether the man actually did have explosives.

“We don’t know what his motives are at this time,” Chief Manger said. He confirmed that some of those negotiations had been streamed live on social media, and said the police have “a possible name” for the person.

“We’re trying to get as much information as we can to try to find a way to peacefully resolve this,” he said. Chief Manger declined to describe the conversation between the man and the negotiators.

The man, whom officials identified as a North Carolina resident, was making anti-government statements, according to a law enforcement official.

In alerts to Capitol Hill staff members earlier Thursday, the police urged some people to move inside offices, lock doors, and stay away from windows; and told others to evacuate to designated assembly areas.

The Metropolitan Police Department was “assisting with the report of an active bomb threat involving a suspicious vehicle,” and “currently evacuating the area,” according to a spokesperson, Alaina Gertz.

The Capitol Police declined to provide details about the investigation and referred questions to the agency’s Twitter account, which urged people to stay away from the area.

With lawmakers scattered across the country for a scheduled August recess, most congressional staff were not on Capitol Hill when much of the complex went into lockdown. Many of the evacuated employees work for the Architect of the Capitol staff, building employees and workers helping with construction. And while thousands of people typically work in each office building, the pandemic has limited how many people were inside.

The Supreme Court building was evacuated shortly after 10 a.m., said Patricia McCabe, a spokesperson.

As the police investigated, they shut down several nearby streets around the 100 block of First Street SE. Technicians from the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined the officers at the scene.

Just before 11 a.m., dozens of people flooded out of the Madison building, having been told by officers inside to leave the building.

“Everybody head south now,” a Capitol Police officer said as other officers ushered construction workers away from work in the road and asked diners outside a cafe to leave their tables.

Ultimately much of the crowd, some carrying laptops and tangled handfuls of charging cords and headphones, ended up in a park near the building, calling family members and figuring out how to get home.

The threat unsettled visitors and employees at the Capitol, eight months after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Hill on January 6, in a violent attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election.

Research contact: @nytimes

Editor’s note: Shortly aftern 2 p.m., the suspect peacefully surrendered. “As far as we can tell it was just his decision to surrender,” said Chief Manger, who identified the man as Floyd Roy Roseberry and said it appeared that he acted alone. He now faces federal charges. Authorities are examining the so-called bomb to determine whether it is an explosive device.

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