Tag Archives: Scott Pruitt

Flying high again

Sentenced!! Jeffrey Yohai, who is only relevant for a four-year marriage to bumbling fraudster and Trump associate Paul Manafort‘s daughter, picked up a nine year prison term and $6.7 million restitution payment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit (his own separate) bank and wire fraud.

Yohai (above) was out on bond after a 2018 guilty plea including misuse of construction loan funds. While awaiting sentencing,  he ran side projects. Perhaps the most ambitious was a two-tailed investor swindle that reportedly ensnared Hollywood big shot Dustin Hoffman. One on end, Yohai scored $15 million in loans (which he did not repay) to spruce up some Hollywood Hills properties (which he did not own). Then he hoodwinked the real owners into letting him line up rich tenants, pocketed the rent checks, and falsified transfer documentation when the owners demanded payment.

If the victim demanded repayment, Yohai would often buy time by sending checks written on accounts with insufficient funds. When those checks bounced, according to the complaint, Yohai would assert he wired the money back to the victim and send fake wire transfer documentation, “insisting that there must be some banking mistake to explain why the funds never arrive.” [sic]

He also sold “non-existent backstage passes for the Coachella music festival.”

One of the bank fraud convictions for which Papa Paul is currently imprisoned included a dishonest bank loan application with his son, who was not charged on that occasion.

Yohai, a recovering drug addict, also reportedly cheated other abusers. Prosecutors contend that after leaving [rehab], Yohai scammed fellow addicts who paid to live at a “sober living” home he set up in L.A. Yohai allegedly took a $5,000 security deposit from one such man and charged another $35,000 a month “for ‘detox’ care which [Yohai] could not and did not provide.”

Jessica Manafort recently changed her surname (for obvious reasons) to her mother’s maiden name, Bond.

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Scott Warren is back in the news as the Feds attempt to stick the No More Deaths volunteer with his own ten-year stretch on retrial for harboring charges.

Warren allegedly let two undocumented people crossing Arizona’s Sonoran Desert crash at a humanitarian aid workers’ building for a few days. No More Deaths had attracted federal ire by fingering Customs and Border Protection for emptying water jugs left for illegal immigrants. To avoid another hung jury, the government has reportedly filed a motion forbidding the defense from mentioning Trump or his immigration policy at the trial, which would be “irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial.”

“WE DON’T SAY HIS NAME.”

The Intercept notes about 87% of adults surveyed by UCLA/University of Washington, including an overwhelming majority of self-identified Republicans, believe provision of water and first aid to illegal immigrants, of which Warren stands accused, should not be a criminal offense.

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More trouble at the EPA. Instead of destroying the planet, Trump’s infamous deregulation station is reportedly destroying documents. And scandal-plagued ex-chief Scott Pruitt‘s shenanigans may be involved.

Multiple “senior EPA officials” anonymously disputed the shredding allegations to Politico. Documents in question relate to correspondence with a former Comcast lobbyist, Richard Smotkin, who reportedly set up one of Pruitt’s multiple jet-setting trips while in office (Morocco, 2017, over $100,000). Washington Post reported as details leaked last year that Smotkin accompanied Pruitt on the trip, ostensibly to broker a free trade agreement, but to some appearances promoting the sale of U.S. natural gas to Morocco. Smotkin promptly went to work for the Moroccan government.

Though the EPA chief did visit a solar power research installation, he canceled a public appearance with an energy efficiency expert at an international conference in Marrakesh and instead met with the chairman of a large phosphate exporter.

Accused shredder, EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson (below, double chin without glasses) is apparently also not cooperating with an inspector general investigation into how Jackson happened upon the planned Congressional testimony of environmental chemist and former EPA Board of Scientific Counselors chairwoman Deborah Swackhamer in time to harass her before she publicly “criticized the Trump administration’s approach to science.”

Jackson refused to tell IG investigators how he obtained Swackhamer’s testimony in advance, telling them, “I am not going to involve others or point fingers. … Welcome to Washington.”

Current head EPA thug Andrew Wheeler protested that questioning Jackson on the matter “implicates constitutional concerns.” [sic]

Jackson was also reportedly less than forthcoming to IG inquiries into the firing of Pruitt’s aide Madeline Morris for her objections to scrubbing politically sensitive meetings from the official schedule.

As New York Times reported last year, in the final, coal-dark days of Pruitt’s acid rain reign, Jackson waved off the notion Morris was canned for the schedule alterations. Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff who fired Morris and dredged up the issue, was himself fired from EPA that year.

Jackson had refused to comment on Morris’s six weeks of salary collection following her dismissal, an arrangement which would break federal law. IG agents dropped in unannounced to further explore this irregularity last July, and not in especially good faith, in Jackson’s opinion.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/paul-manafort-s-ex-son-law-yohai-charged-another-real-n933526
https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/16/manafort-jeffrey-yohai-1498903
https://apnews.com/9a368dcf9ca7484e8e40b87780aed174
https://theintercept.com/2019/11/11/immigration-aid-scott-warren-retrial/
https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/07/epa-ryan-jackson-documents-investigation-067566
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/lobbyist-helped-broker-pruitts-100000-trip-to-morocco/2018/05/01/b2e20ee0-4d76-11e8-b725-92c89fe3ca4c_story.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/11/07/top-epa-official-watchdog-engaged-standoff-that-inspector-general-calls-flagrant-problem/
https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/epa-aide-questioned-deleting-pruitt-meeting-details-then-was-fired/

Pruitt: In Memoriam

The most pathetic head of a militant, unnecessary government agency was forced out on July 5, ending months of antipathy and taxpayer dollar waste. Scott Pruitt resigned two days after evidence surfaced that he forged his official events calendars to avoid (apparently this is an emotion he is capable of harboring) embarrassment.

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in disgrace last week. 

As we have reported previously, Pruitt was ladling out exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard that distorts the ethanol market. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley  and Joni Ernst were pissed, and began talking up Pruitt’s scandals.

(Interestingly, while Trump promised to continue this inefficient propping up of Iowa corn farms, ethanol subsidy adversary and Texas Senator Ted Cruz actually won the state’s 2016 GOP primary for president.)

To be fair, while Pruitt did apparently use staffers to land his daughter McKenna the position of clerk of the White House Counsel last summer, a breathlessly-shared New York Times story that he used the EPA mantle to maneuver her into law school at University of Virginia turned out to be shoddy reporting.

He did use his pre-Trump career subordinates to score a letter of recommendation from former Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, William Howell.  McKenna (below) got the coveted seat.

However, much like Veterans Affairs, the pompous Oklahoman kept two sets of schedules: the official public record, and his actual itineraries. Reportedly, the former were doctored:

Pruitt’s aides would print sections of the private calendar containing details of events, gather around a table, sometimes in Pruitt’s office, and decide what would be omitted or altered on the public calendar.

Some calendar events hidden from the public and uncovered by CNN include Pruitt noshing with coal producer Alliance Resource Partners CEO, Joseph Craft, and Vatican official (and accused sex criminal) Cardinal Pell when Pruitt blew through $120,000 of taxpayer cash in Italy last year.

Seven of the undisclosed meetings involved individuals who were nominated or reportedly under consideration for EPA positions.

Vox reported on perhaps Pruitt’s most disturbing extravagance yet:

The EPA, according to three expense line items for April, spent a total of $2,749.62 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”

Pruitt’s office spent $24,115 on a variety of tactical clothing and body armor in seven separate orders. 

[our emphasis]

Unfortunately, the “arm ourselves against the weather” notion is a holdover from previous administrations:

EPA Spends $200,000 on Body Armor to Prepare For Changing Climate

Much of the dirt on Pruitt, including the calendar alterations and daughter internship overture, came from Trump handler Kevin Chmielewski (below, not Trump), who was fired from EPA in March.

Washington Free Beacon, however, found evidence Chmielewski actually resigned without giving a reason.

Apparently, the Presidential Personnel office, which had no qualms tolerating a similar situation for Jared Kushner, raised Cain over irregularities in the former bagman’s security clearance. Chmielewski, who worked briefly for DHS before EPA, was flustered:

In a lengthy, combative interview with the Free Beacon, Chmielewski repeatedly refused to answer several questions and threatened to spend the “rest of his career going after” this reporter.

He said neither the PPO, nor anyone else in the federal government, ever contacted him with background check concerns. He told the Free Beacon that he has a permanent Top Secret-level security clearance but would not provide any paperwork to prove it.

“This is how ridiculous and idiotic you are,” Chmielewski said in the interview.

Free Beacon also found $7,667 in unpaid taxes to the state of Maryland and a 2005 DUI tarnishing Chmielewski’s record.

Pruitt was replaced by deputy Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist who squints all the time.

Andrew Wheeler official photo.jpg

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An ingenious Chicago man, Dushaun Henderson-Spruce (below), duped the US Postal Service into forwarding all corporate mail for (wildly more successful, despite USPS’s government-backed box monopoly) rival UPS to Henderson-Spruce’s apartment. For three months.

NPR reported the paper form–top government efficiency!–was not even filled out correctly:

At first, the initials ‘HS’ were written on the signature line, but the initials were then scratched out and replaced with ‘UPS,’ according to the charges.

Henderson-Spruce, who told investigators he briefly worked for UPS several years ago, was previously charged in 2016 for one count of misdemeanor bank fraud, for possession of a stolen check.

New charges carry a potential 25 years.

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In May, NSA indiscriminately wiped hundreds of millions of “call detail records”–everything they (unconstitutionally) compiled since 2015–because in coercing the telephone companies to relinquish private phone records, they inadvertently bagged “some CDRs that NSA was not authorized to receive.”

Because you weren’t allowed to know they were recording all your call logs until Snowden revealed the spy agency’s Constitution trampling, you also get no insight into the deletion process. Shut up and let the Government take care of you.

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In June, bumbling criminal and ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was sent to jail, his house arrest revoked for new charges of witness tampering. He picked up new charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, to which he pleaded not guilty.

After initially bitching from his private solitary suite that being two hours outside of D.C. limited face time with his attorneys to prepare his defense, Manafort is now reportedly boasting on the monitored prison phone lines that he circumvents the prison’s “no email” rule by typing emails on a laptop that his associates move in and out of the compound. The messages send as soon as the team hits a “hotspot.”

Even the smartest criminals slip up occasionally:

Russia Probe Continues While Shulkin Doubles Down

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Delta is weathering another rough summer. First, public backlash was fierce when Delta banned “pitbull-type service animals” because–get this–they bite:

“We must err on the side of safety. Most recently, two Delta employees were bit by a pit bull traveling as a support animal last week. We struggled with the decision to expand the ban to service animals, knowing that some customers have legitimate needs, but we have determined that untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk.”

(Washington Post did a fun expose in January on passengers abusing the “emotional support animal” loophole to get large dogs–and ducks–seats on planes.)

Delta said it flew 250,000 [emotional support] animals last year, up 150 percent from 2015, while “incidents” such as biting or defecating had nearly doubled since 2016.

Then, Delta’s contractor SkyWest Airlines turned a plane back to the gate at Fort Wayne International when a passenger was too slow to turn her phone to “airplane mode” during taxi.

Other passengers, including a Latina woman, who spoke up in defense of Rodgers […] [a] total of four adults and a child were removed from the flight.

The original transgressor, Robyn Rogers, is on Instagram as “DJ Reborn.”

If it matters, from the New York Post-obtained video, Rogers appears to be black, and the flight attendant white.

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Sketchy suspected House Democrat data downloader Imran Awan, who we are not allowed to characterize as sketchy because he is an immigrant, pleaded guilty to a single charge of bank fraud.

Mr. Awan’s sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 21. Under federal guidelines, he faces a likely range of zero to six months in prison. And as part of the agreement, the government will ask the court to dismiss all charges against [Awan’s wife] Ms. Alvi when Mr. Awan is sentenced.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! Awan Updates

Politico broke it down:

At the time of his arrest, Awan was accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which is against the credit union’s policies since it is not the owner’s primary residence. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan, according to the indictment filed against Awan.

Media shrills such as Washington Post, which have completely ignored Awan & company’s sordid subterfuge because it makes the Democrats look like idiots, gleefully declared Awan’s legal victory to “debunk […] conspiracy theories.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted right-wing news sites and Trump’s reactionary interest in the “Pakistani mystery man” is an “anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job.”

Right-wing Daily Caller obtained a transcription from a September 2016 powerpoint presentation of Theresa Grafenstine, Inspector General for the House who conveniently retired last year.

According to her LinkedIn, Grafenstine (above) now works for Deloitte Consulting.

Grafenstine found that Imran made “unauthorized access” to congressional servers in a way that suggested he was trying to “conceal” his activity and that his unusual activity suggested a server could be used for “nefarious purposes.”

As we have reported previously, Awan and his highly-paid relatives, who were all fired, were trippin’ with the inventory. The IG report found over $100,000 in electronics were removed from House inventory when the alleged conspirators (“shared employees” Imran Awan, Abid Awan, Hina Alvi, Jamal Awan and Rao Abbas) could not produce them for an audit. Purchase prices were manipulated so individual items could be reported as “office supplies” to the Federal bean counters.

Also, the employees continued to access the House server months after they were fired.

It is noteworthy the IG had evidence of this potentially criminal activity at least seven months before the “shared employees” were canned in February 2017. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) kept Imran on the payroll until his July 2017 arrest.

Federal prosecutors spoke with 40 witnesses, but found no evidence that Mr. Awan had engaged in illegal conduct involving House computer systems, per the plea agreement.

As a conservative opinion writer noted earlier this year, none of the Awan IT aides were subjected to background checks for employment, using a loophole in hiring procedures that exempts potential hires from background checks if another member of Congress vouches for them.

Awan’s attorney, a longtime Hillary crony, will seek a fine for his client instead of jail time, per Fox News.

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Speaking of plea deals for the privileged, disgraced FBI agent Chase Bishop (below) has been re-armed and offered a sweet settlement of his second-degree assault charge by the prosecution. The details will not be released, because he is your employee.

chase-bishop-in-court.jpg

Bishop’s lawyer, David Goddard, said that the FBI strongly encourages its agents to carry their guns when they’re not working

[our emphasis]

(This is why we need the Federal Government to control our gun use, while packing themselves without any accountability. Federal agents are beyond reproach.)

Also shielded from the public are Bishop’s toxicology results from the night his butter fingers put a round in the leg of Tom Reddington at a (presumably) drunken “dance-off” in a Denver bar last month. Bishop ran away, but was eventually picked up by police.

Prosecutors told Denver Post the blood alcohol level “[does] not support further charges” for Bishop.

He is due back in court on…also August 21.

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And George Clooney was out of sight to the high-rolling driver who collided with the Hollywood has-been in Italy last week.

Ambulance personnel tend to actor George Clooney after he was involved in a scooter accident Tuesday in Italy.

Video of Clooney going up in the air was obtained by Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

While later headlines billed the Batman and Robin star’s transpo means as a “motorcycle,” the pictures above from CNN and OK Magazine indicate the manly mishap was indeed sustained on a scooter.

It is unclear if Clooney wore a helmet.

CNN reports he received a negative scan at Giovanni Paolo II hospital. The overrated actor also told CNN he hit 65 mph before tagging the Mercedes that cut in front of him.

The video shows the scooter going maybe 35 mph.

Related:

Clinton/Clooney Cash: Cum One, Come All

According to The Federalist and New York Post, a lawsuit originally filed with the FEC last year by pro-Trump organization Committee to Defend the President alleges Hillary bagged hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from individual wealthy donors by funneling to state Democratic parties, which can make unlimited contributions to the DNC via the Hillary Victory Fund. This would appear to be a loophole around the federal limit of $2700 per person, per candidate, per election–in the amount of $84 million. This allegedly allowed Hillary to control the DNC in exchange for paying down their debt.

BONUSIn a very public spectacle, FBI agent Peter Strzok treated the public to a 10-hour array of smug expressions (cataloged by someone on Steemit) as the House Judiciary Committee questioned Strzok about his former investigative role under Robert Mueller into Trump’s 2016 campaign. We have not watched the actual video.

550a814a8c7a20c609e1d338f0e2b88db7c37d7c818121b0e816f365aa8cf941.jpg

Apparently, Strzok, refused to answer a question out of loyalty to the FBI. GOP dinosaur and Chair of the committee, Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte (below, right), incorrectly claimed Strzok had been subpoenaed and threatened to hold him in contempt.

Republican Louie (his actual, adult name) Gohmert of Texas found an opening to mention Strzok’s extramarital affair with fellow ex-Mueller investigator Lisa Page, to the consternation of Democrats, who proceeded to suggest Gohmert harbors a psychiatric illness.

Page, who received Strzok’s “we’ll stop [the election of Donald Trump]” text that was hidden from the public until the Justice Dept IG report dropped last month, participated in part one of a two-day, private interview by the HJC. She had refused to comply with a subpoena for public hearing Wednesday and was also threatened with contempt. According to The Hill, although Republicans were gratified with her responses to some questions friend-with-benefits Strzok refused to answer, they were off-put she showed up with an FBI attorney. (Page, unlike Strzok, has resigned from the FBI.)

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/05/politics/scott-pruitt-epa-resigns/index.html

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/392461-pruitt-frequently-asked-aides-to-help

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/392570-pruitts-new-problem-with-the-gop-ethanol

http://time.com/4203690/iowa-caucuses-ted-cruz/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/politics/scott-pruitt-whistleblower-secret-calendar/index.html

http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/394791-nsa-deletes-scores-of-call-records-over-technical-irregularities

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/6/21/17488454/scott-pruitt-tactical-pants-scandal

http://freebeacon.com/issues/epa-whistleblower-run-ins-law-enforcement-background-check-red-flags/

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/judge-jails-ex-trump-campaign-chair-manafort-ahead-155410775–politics.html

https://www.yahoo.com/news/delta-bans-pit-bulls-dogs-115851622.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/nation-now/2018/06/28/delta-attendant-kicks-passengers-off-plane-over-airplane-mode-dispute/741161002/

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article163818253.html

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-nation/2018/07/04/Imran-Awan-an-ex-congressional-IT-worker-for-Democrats-pleads-guilty-to-bank-fraud/stories/201807040068

http://thehill.com/opinion/cybersecurity/384125-democratic-house-it-scandal-illustrates-the-hazards-of-reckless

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/07/03/ex-dem-it-aide-imran-awan-pleads-guilty-to-bank-fraud-in-deal-with-prosecutors.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/judge-dancing-fbi-agent-accused-in-backflip-gunfire-incident-can-carry-weapon-again/

https://www.9news.com/article/news/crime/dancing-fbi-agent-offered-plea-deal-in-club-shooting/73-572427832

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/10/europe/george-clooney-scooter-accident-italy-intl/index.html

https://nypost.com/2018/06/09/democratic-parties-accused-of-funneling-84m-into-clinton-campaign/

http://thefederalist.com/2018/04/24/bombshell-fec-records-indicate-hillary-campaign-illegally-laundered-84-million/

https://steemit.com/informationwar/@gregorypatrick/my-favorite-c-span-clip-from-the-peter-strzok-hearing-did-you-use-that-smirk-when-you-lied-to-your-wife?sort=author_reputation

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/396980-former-fbi-lawyer-lisa-page-gets-closed-door-grilling-from-house

Scott Pruitt Loves Chik-fil-A and Lotion–UPDATED

UPDATED 6/12/18:

Chase Bishop has surrendered to the Denver Sheriff Office to face a charge of second-degree assault announced Tuesday, according to CBS.

180612-chase-bishop-mugshot.jpg

District Attorney Beth McCann notes the belated arrest is justified even without Bishop’s blood alcohol level, a lab result that takes minutes to run in any American health care facility but nonetheless “could take another week.”

We also learned Bishop (normally based in Washington, D.C.) was in Denver for vacation, not training.

Original post continues below:

Disgraced spendthrift Scott Pruitt, vital national security interest and Gestapo-minded head of the EPA, is causing more trouble for fellow Republicans who must actually get re-elected in November.

The shameless Oklahoman lost his lawyer, Sarah Greenwalt, and scheduler, Millan Hupp to resignations last week.

Sydney Hupp, Millan’s sister and another EPA scheduler, personally  emailed Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy last year to throw the weight of Pruitt’s office behind a highly-selective franchise acquisition application for his wife Marlyn, according to Washington Post. Sydney is also no longer with EPA. Marlyn did not get her Chik-fil-A.

Millan (below) had other questionable duties, according to Politico, including help[ing] Pruitt find housing and inquir[ing] about purchasing a used mattress for him from the Trump International Hotel.

But Vox noted the most demeaning tasks that fell to Pruitt’s multi-million dollar security squad: driving him to multiple locations to look for a moisturizing lotion offered by Ritz-Carlton hotels, and picking up his dry cleaning.

A Little Forfeiture

Unlike Imran Awan‘s wife, Hina Alvi, who was confronted by FBI agents and subsequently allowed to board an international flight with over $10 g’s in cash despite charges of bank fraud, U.S. citizen Rustem Kazazi had his life savings confiscated while flying from Cleveland to New Jersey last October.

He was ultimately en route to his original home country of Albania, because no self-respecting person would set foot in New Jersey except for a layover. While Mr. Kazazi was not required to report carriage of his “life savings”–$58,100 earmarked for purchasing a retirement home and assisting less fortunate Albanian family members–on a domestic flight, he was reportedly prepared to declare the funds during his layover in –ughhh–Newark, NJ.

However, government wants their money. Cleveland TSA thugs saw the cash surreptitiously sequestered in a large envelope marked “$58,100” in the 64-year-old’s carry-on bag. You can probably guess what happened next.

At the time, presumably because there was no real suspicion of criminal activity, Kazazi (who speaks little English) was merely searched, interrogated without an interpreter, given a receipt that read “U.S. currency” (no amount specified), and allowed to continue to Albania without the money.

In December, TSA’s fellow agency under DHS, the Customs and Border Protection, informed Kazazi they had his money, which was suspected of being “involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.” The amount had dropped to $57,330. The extra $770 must have been a “finder’s fee” for the sharp-eyed agent at the x-ray machine.

Image result for tsa worker

(Which is interesting, because according to USA Today, TSA actually harasses people leaving the country–the setting in which Kazazi was shortchanged–while CBP harasses them coming in.)

Forfeiture usually targets small entrepreneurs on bullshit charges like “structuring” deposits to avoid extra paperwork, because the Feds know these people will not have the resources to sue the government and reclaim property. As we have reported, over 90% of these seizures recently studied by the IRS inspector general came from innocent people:

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 10: IRS Takes From Little People; Squander Millions on Unused Email, Faulty Fraud Detection

Because they got caught and publicly shamed by the press (and served by Institute for Justice, who is helping the family sue the government pro bono), the Feds announced earlier this week they would refund Kazazi’s $57,330 within 30 days.

Rustem Kazazi and his son, Erald, are pleased that the government is returning the money taken from them at the airport, but said their vision of America has been affected. (Michael Sangiacomo / Plain Dealer)

The disappearance of the $770 remains a mystery. Rustem’s son Erald (above, right), who helped prepare the money for the trip, notes it was all in $100 bills.

“I always thought the government was here to protect us.”

–Rustem Kazazi

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A’wanna Have Awan’s Luck with Lucrative Employment and Soft Criminal Proceedings

Awan, unlike Kazazi, is actually facing criminal charges. But his case may have been boosted by the bumbling Capitol Police, who unloaded a glut of evidence to Awan’s defense attorney, Bill and Hillary Clinton associate Chris Gowen. After he copied everything, law enforcement reportedly angrily admitted they thought Gowen was with the prosecution. Oops.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! Awan Updates

Interestingly, although Gowen told Daily Caller the erroneous evidence disclosure was useless to the defense, it reportedly consisted of a copy of a laptop Awan’s former tenant, Laurel Everly, turned in to the Capitol Police in hopes of seeing whether Awan had hacked her. Everly previously complained of her landlord’s allegedly suspicious behavior and called him an “extortionist.”

Daily Caller also notes Awan argued against a different, government laptop  potentially implicating his family and friends’ theft of Democratic House members’ server data Awan left in a [obsolete term alert] phone booth being entered into evidence because he put a note that said “attorney client privilege” near it.

Fox News reported Awan will likely enter a plea agreement in the next hearing on July 3.

FBI Agent Shoots Amazon Packer

It’s not quite the “imperiling disabled children by mishandling live ordinance” level of functioning displayed by the CIA,

CIA: Careless, Incompetent, and Arrogant

but the FBI is making a play for “most unaccountable Federal Agency of the month” (May 2018). The setting: Mile High Spirits Distillery and Tasting Bar, Denver, CO.

Agent Chase Bishop, 29, visiting Denver for agency-funded training and intoxication, accidentally capped a bystander in the leg while retrieving the firearm that jostled out of his ass crack after he failed to properly land a backflip on the Mile High dance floor in the early morning of June 2. Such a white boy move.

The video from Good Morning America shows Bishop swaggering away with a smirk, raising his hands as he disappears into the crowd.

Chase Bishop: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

It’s unclear if he identified himself as law enforcement. Mile High put out a statement that loaded firearms are prohibited on the premises. Heavy, however, reports that the agent is probably above the law:

Bob Pence, a retired FBI agent who was the Agent-in-Charge of the Denver field office, told Denver 7 that FBI agents are “considered on-duty 24 hours a day,” and were therefore permitted to carry their weapons everywhere. Pence told the news network that agents “should not drink excessively.”

Charges have not yet been announced, pending toxicology results. It’s been eight days, so with typical Washington efficiency a blood sample must have been sent to an out-of-state lab via carrier pigeon.

The Liberty University graduate is a former Army intelligence officer.

PHOTO: Tom Reddington is interviewed at his home in Denver, June 6, 2018. He was accidentally shot by the back-flipping FBI agent. (GMA)

The victim, 24-year-old Tom Reddington (above), works for the much-maligned super-corporation Amazon loading trucks. He has since been offered lifetime complimentary beverages from Mile High.

The “National Security” Front

Facebook is back in the newsfeed, publicly broadcasting the posts of “as many as 14 million users” after a “bug” set the default setting to “public” on all those users’ posts between May 18 and May 27. The social media giant supposedly changed the setting back to preferred privacy parameters once the bug was discovered.

When confronted by the ACLU, Orlando, FL police were forced to admit Amazon’s dystopian face-and-movement tracking technology Rekognition (showcased in the self-congratulatory promotion for a revolutionary grocery store below) has been deployed for public surveillance downtown.

Although chief John Mina insisted the system is merely “testing” recognition by capturing footage of seven department officers (and lamented the State is “a long way” from–Engadget‘s words–“tracking persons of interest”), he reneged on a public promise to reveal the cameras’ locations. A spokeswoman helped cover Mina’s ass by proclaiming his ignorance of the test cameras, because why would a police chief be aware of his office’s ongoing efforts to usurp civil liberties?

 Mina also said that he doesn’t know whether those cameras’ footage are uploaded to any Amazon server.

Mina (below) is resigning this year to run for election as Orange County sheriff.

The ACLU also learned that Amazon provided Washington County [Oregon] a roadmap under a non-disclosure agreement, and offered to link the county to other government customers interested in Rekognition, such as a body camera manufacturer. That’s particularly problematic when facial recognition on body cameras is illegal in Oregon. Amazon deleted mentions of body cams from its site after the ACLU raised the issue.

Amazon has lauded the cameras’ usefulness for identifying guests at the recent royal wedding in the UK.

Some of our previous coverage of facial recognition and its propensity to finger innocent people–especially African-Americans and women–when searching databases for a suspect can be found here:

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! March 10, 19 and 22–Genes, Tattoos and Faces

Not to be outdone, Google helped fund some new research into algorithms that Futurism.com reports will allow Artificial Intelligence to create realistic footage of people from existing images or video. Perhaps those captured by police cameras.

[P]articipants in an experiment struggled to determine whether or not the resulting videos were real.

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/06/pruitt-epa-republicans-scandal-scarred-599048

https://www.vox.com/2018/6/7/17437628/scott-pruitt-ritz-carlton-trump-epa-white-house

https://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2018/06/notes_do_not_publish.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/02/us/ohio-us-customs-cash-taken/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_latest+%28RSS%3A+CNN+-+Most+Recent%29

http://dailycaller.com/2018/05/24/washington-dc-capitol-police-evidence-house-hacking-suspect-attorney/

http://dailycaller.com/2017/10/06/imran-awan-very-strongly-wants-to-block-review-of-hard-drive-was-using-alias/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/06/06/ex-dem-it-aide-imran-awan-poised-for-plea-deal-after-months-mysterious-delays.html

Chase Bishop: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/victim-shot-back-flipping-fbi-agent-says-initially-115504028–abc-news-topstories.html

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2018/06/07/A-software-bug-made-some-private-posts-public-for-up-to-14-million-Facebook-users/stories/201806070253

https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/22/amazon-selling-facial-recognition-tech-to-law-enforcement/

https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/25/orlando-amazon-facial-recognition-tech/

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-john-mina-retirement-sheriff-race-20180607-story.html

Cinco de ResignO and Corn

Ex-Trump adviser Carl Icahn‘s oil refinery is cashing in on a “financial hardship waiver” from Trump’s EPA, freeing the facility from a key Federal regulation.

Related:

Trains, Cranes and Blame Games

CVR Energy Inc (based in EPA “administrator” Scott Pruitt‘s home state of Oklahoma) is one of a lucky two dozen “small” oil refineries (75,000 or fewer barrels produced daily) to score the coveted exemption from the Renewable Fuel Standard regulation in 2017, potentially saving tens of millions of dollars according to Reuters.

Scott Pruitt is pictured. |Getty Images

Above: Pruitt makes a point.

Because the Federal Government’s main purpose is to preserve jobs that are no longer useful or exist only at the behest of enormous lobbies, all gasoline and diesel is required to contain a certain percentage of corn-based ethanol, which subsidizes corn farmers to use gasoline-powered tractors to harvest corn we don’t need to force-feed the animal flesh (locked in a race with global warming to destroy human civilization) and mix in with the real fossil fuels.

Reuters reports the program (originating under George W. Bush in 2005 and increasing the required “renewable” portion of blended fuel each year) purports to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers.

Unfortunately, when government rules with unconstitutional regulations, the little people get shucked first. Small refineries must prove disproportionate financial hardship to legally waive the “blending credits” all oil outfits must otherwise either produce or purchase to present as annual tribute to the EPA. The “hardship” definition is more inclusive under Trump, leading to more waivers compared with those granted by Obama’s EPA.

The EPA’s oily move on CVR was lambasted by a separate corn-fed state official, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

According to Reuters, Icahn is currently under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for his role in influencing biofuels policy while serving as Trump’s adviser.

*

Speaking of the EPA…oh boy.

EPA head Scott Pruitt's security costs have been encouraged by his head of security, former Secret Service Pasquale 'Nino' Perrotta

Head EPA security thug Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta (above) resigned Tuesday under allegations of terminating whistleblower Kevin Chmielewski for refusing to retroactively approve some lavish travel for a former Pruitt aide. He was scheduled to talk to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday regarding their federal ethics investigation of the agency and it’s unclear how that will be refined settled.

According to The Hill, [o]nce someone leaves government employment, the inspector general’s office [which would concern internal, not congressional testimony-taking anyway] cannot compel someone to comply with an investigation.

(This may apply more to Albert Kelly, Pruitt’s head of the Superfund at EPA who, ironically enough, funded Pruitt through loans from his Bristow, OK-based SpiritBank. Apparently, the FDIC hit Kelly with a $125,000 fine and a lifetime banking ban last year after SpiritBank squandered $30 million in TARP bailout funds.)

SpiritBank Logo

Kelly (below) also resigned from EPA on Tuesday.

EPA's Albert Kelly. Photo credit: Oklahoma State Home Builders Association

(Credit to Daily Mail for obtaining a photo of Perrotta–apparently no easy feat, as even his LinkedIn profile keeps that ugly mug anonymous. But Daily Mail has a consistent typo implying Pruitt is receiving a blowjob rather than “taking heat” for his shameless exploitation of government office.)

From Nino’s LinkedIn profile, the former Secret Service agent fancies himself as a less-literate version of Liam Neeson from Taken:

I have a very “unique” law enforcement career with extensive leadership and law enforcement experience; world – wide [sic]. For the past ten years, as a hobby, I created and sold a very successful startup construction firm that accomplished numerous home improvement projects throughout the D.C. area. Today I manage a boutique security and investigative firm; [sic] Sequoia Security Group, Inc. which is based out of Bethesda, Maryland. The Sequoia team is comprised of highly successful, diversified team members, all having “unique” experience making our firm very successful at meeting our client needs. 

I am a results driven individual that enjoys [sic] seeing progress at work!

“Nino” reportedly encouraged Pruitt’s much-publicized police state preparations, including his upgraded Chevy Suburban with Kevlar-lined seat covers, twenty (20) bodyguards and $43,000 soundproof booth. (The proposed bulletproof desks never got installed.)

Sequoia Security Group associate, Edwin Steinmetz, reportedly won the $3,000 contract to shake down Pruitt’s office for possible concealed listening devices in March.

Washington Post:

Pruitt also had biometric locks installed in his office […] for a cost of $5,656.75. Those expenditures, first reported by AP, weren’t disclosed on the government’s contracting website because they were split into two payments and the threshold for reporting stands at $3,500.

Chicago Tribune:

[T]he 2014 Chevy Tahoe with four-wheel-drive that was used by Gina McCarthy, Pruitt’s predecessor as EPA administrator, has largely sat idle at the EPA headquarters, according to several current and former staffers. The agency had its lease renewed on Feb. 2, 2017, at a cost of $9,180.

Under House questioning in April, Pruitt admitted he delegated approval of larger pay raises for two subordinates (reversing his previous pleas of ignorance): Senior legal counsel Sarah Greenwalt received a raise of more than $66,000, bringing her salary to $164,200, and scheduling director Millian Hupp saw her salary jump from $48,000 to $114,590.

But citizens are perhaps most indignant at Pruitt’s self-indulgent travel portfolio. Washington Post alleges the administrator sought to use his office as a dress rehearsal for taxpayer-funded retirement: Pruitt drew up a list of at least a dozen countries he hoped to visit and urged aides to help him find official reasons to travel.

Apparently, Pruitt’s essential EPA mission to Morocco last December–four days, $100,000–was planned by ex-Comcast lobbyist Richard Smotkin, who subsequently scored a $40,000/month position lobbying for the Moroccan government. Cha-CHING !!!

John Konkus of EPA’s press office and Liz Bowman of the public affairs division also quit late last week.

*

The NSA more than tripled its metadata collection of phone calls last year compared to 2016, sweeping up 530 million call records. For your protection.

These call records include what number the unsuspecting citizen target dialed and how long they spoke. 40 individuals were targeted in 2017.

Surveillance requests under FISA section 702, which do not require a warrant, increased from 5,288 to 7,512.

NSA’s FISA Festivities Extended with Bipartisan Support; Rest of Government Fights for Funding–Updated with Related FBI Dereliction of Duty

Tech Crunch extrapolates that more Americans innocent until proven guilty (hope you have nothing to hide!) were “unmasked” by intelligence agencies.

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! April 3–Susan Rice Returns

Use of the pen register/trace and tap orders (for which Government prosecutors need only suggest that “the information likely to be obtained by such installation and use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation”) decreased. Lots of paperwork.

*

We missed some big news from March, in which ex-FBI director James Comey (currently self-enriching on the book tour and talk show circuit) was shown to have misled the public regarding options for cracking the Syed Farook iPhone in February 2016.

FBI Rapes More Phones

FBI Rapes More Phones (Continued)

Tech Crunch reported that days after Comey’s public pity party aimed at manipulating the public against the encryption on their iPhones that ostensibly prevented his investigation of the San Bernardino mass murderer, the FBI decided to ask existing vendors if that was even true. Apparently not, because the Remote Operations Unit (ROU), who handles the vendors, told the Inspector General that Comey never bothered to call them.

The OIG report cited former FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess:

Hess expressed concerns that an [Operational Technology Division] unit may have had techniques available to exploit the Farook iPhone that certain unidentified OTD officials did not employ and that these officials were indifferent to the fact that FBI leadership and others were testifying to Congress, and filing affidavits in court, that the FBI had no such capability.

[Hess] became concerned that the CEAU [Cryptographic and Electronic Analysis Unit–a division of ODT] Chief did not seem to want to find a technical solution, and that perhaps he knew of a solution but remained silent in order to pursue his own agenda of obtaining a favorable court ruling against Apple. 

[…]

[He] told the OIG that, after the outside vendor came forward, he became frustrated that the case against Apple could no longer go forward, and he vented his frustration to the ROU Chief. He acknowledged that during this conversation between the two, he expressed disappointment that the ROU Chief had engaged an outside vendor to assist with the Farook iPhone, asking the ROU Chief, “Why did you do that for? [sic]”

As we reported previously, the iPhone was successfully hacked by an anonymous vendor.

On the book tour, Comey has reportedly stated his agents grilling  Michael Flynn believed the ex-Trump adviser deceived the bureau about his Kremlin communications. This was apparently contradicted by newly un-redacted House Intelligence Committee testimony from Comey, who professed the agents thought Flynn was being truthful.

*

Former FBI attorney Lisa Page, recently demoted in the wake of anti-Trump texts exchanged with Peter Strzok while helping Mueller investigate Trump’s alleged 2016 collusion with Moscow (see our link “NSA’s FISA Festivities…” above), resigned Friday.

Lisa Page, FBI agent who bashed Trump in texts, resigns

Page was photographed in “active wear.” Chilly!

(She may be modeling a new Washington trend, “take the pension and run.”)

For example, former Comey associate and chief FBI lawyer (recently demoted) James Baker…also resigned on Friday.

He is alleged to have spoken with Mother Jones prior to the breaking news of Trump’s alleged Kremlin connections in “the dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele. MJ reporter (yes, his actual name) David Corn denied Baker leaked the story.

*

Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday.

*

And alleged House Democrat hacker Imran Awan continues to evade prosecution for charges of bank fraud and conspiracy. The most recent postponement moved his U.S. District Court hearing from Friday to June.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! Awan Updates

Fox News reports a plea deal may be planned.

Awan’s attorney contends the conservative site Daily Caller, as well as goading tweets from Trump, are keeping the story alive, requiring time-consuming provision of evidence.

 

Thanks to our sources: 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-biofuels-epa-icahn/exclusive-u-s-epa-grants-biofuels-waiver-to-billionaire-icahns-oil-refinery-sources-idUSKBN1I10YB

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/386281-upheaval-at-pruitts-epa-as-departures-mount?userid=115887

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/03/06/man-hired-to-sweep-scott-pruitts-office-for-bugs-is-in-business-with-a-top-epa-security-official/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a295cf156f0e

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/12/pruitt-epa-security-chief-spending-pasquale-perrotta-480825

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-scott-pruitt-suv-bullet-proof-seat-covers-20180417-story.html

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/epa-chief-faces-capitol-hill-grilling-over-ethical-043405198–politics.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scott-pruitt-lobbyists-foreign-travel_us_5aebd4bfe4b0ab5c3d63a64e

 

NSA triples metadata collection numbers, sucking up over 500 million call records in 2017

https://nypost.com/2018/05/05/house-intel-panel-report-reveals-comey-book-tour-discrepancy/

Inquiry finds FBI sued Apple to unlock phone without considering all options

https://nypost.com/2018/05/05/lisa-page-fbi-agent-who-bashed-trump-in-texts-resigns/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/04/politics/fbi-officials-lisa-page-james-baker-resign/index.html

http://thehill.com/policy/technology/385881-cambridge-analytica-shutting-down-report?userid=115887

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/05/04/ex-dem-it-aide-imran-awan-s-case-hit-with-repeated-delays-as-feds-probe-new-allegations.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxnews%2Fpolitics+%28Internal+-+Politics+-+Text%29

ICE, IRS, VA and the Russia Thing

A chief counsel at ICE, Raphael Sanchez, resigned Monday after his four-year scheme of stealing seven immigrants’ identities and spending $190,000 on credit cards and Amazon accounts opened in their names was exposed.

This required forging social security cards and drivers licenses from the ICE database. Not to be confused with the Vigilant database ICE now accesses for new prey:

Refrigerators, ICE and Ex-Im Updates

(Accolades are in order for Alameda, CA, whose residents recently nixed a $500,000 contract for a Vigilant license plate reader network.)

The 44-year-old Seattle-based lawyer, whose job description is “immigration removal proceedings in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington”,  claimed three illegal immigrants as dependents on his tax returns with impunity, but got pinched when he used a Chinese national’s permanent resident card to pay his electric bill.

Through his own lawyer, Sanchez offered “sincere and immense regret” and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. His recommended sentence is four years.

*

Despite Pentagon comptroller David Norquist echoing military leaders’ “pleading” with Congress to save $2,000,000,000 PER YEAR by closing “tens of thousands of excess military bases around the world” [our emphasis], our entitled representatives have so thoroughly refuted the move that Defense didn’t even broach the subject in their 2019 budget request. According to Washington Times, the improbable decision to conduct a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is out of the question this election year.

The last BRAC round occurred in 2005 and took a decade to complete. It is estimated to have cost $24 billion and the Pentagon estimates it will save about $4 billion per year.

The House Armed Services Committee dismissed the Pentagon’s request last year, because America was founded on the basis of a stifling cent Federal government whose chief objective is to provide military and contracting jobs indefinitely.

*

As the IRS gears up for tax season, they’re dogged by the independent Taxpayer Advocate Service‘s damning details of last year’s effort to recover $920 million that was mistakenly not confiscated. Private collection agencies and IRS itself were allowed to pocket 25% commissioneach–of what they scored for the Feds.

Image result

IRS’ target group unfortunately included many struggling taxpayers. The 4,100 targets had a median household income of $41,000 (national median last year was $59,039, according to the Census Bureau); 28% made less than $20,000, and some received Social Security, making them ineligible for shakedown by IRS ground rules.

19% were below the federal poverty level.

Of those bullied into “installment agreements” by the collectors, 45% could not afford to make the payments because they had income that was less than their allowable living
expenses.

According to the report obtained by ThinkProgress, the agencies got paid for accounts actually settled by IRS:

The IRS is aware that it is paying commissions to [collection agencies] with respect to work done by the IRS, but has
no plans to change its procedures to attempt to identify payments that were clearly not attributable to [agencies]…

[our emphasis]

Also, the initiative cost $20 million but recovered just $7 million.

A revenue-neutral FairTax, collected with every purchase to punishe consumption rather than production, eliminating the IRS, is still out of the question.

Related:

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 10: IRS Takes From Little People; Squander Millions on Unused Email, Faulty Fraud Detection

The Department of Veterans Affairs is back under the microscope.

Last week’s Office of Inspector General report scrutinized VA secretary David Shulkin (below) for attending the Wimbeldon tennis tournament–and stopping in Copenhagen, Denmark–last July in conjunction with the London Ministerial Summit on Veterans’ Affairs.

A portrait of David Shulkin, secretary of the Department

The Obama-appointed Undersecretary is the only Trump nominee to wield unanimous 100-0 consent from the Senate from his 2017 confirmation to head VA.

Washington Post, who apparently got the story first in September, noted Shulkin previously denied reaching out to Prince Harry’s 2016 Invictus Games head Victoria Gosling to poach the tennis tickets (worth thousands on the street). It turns out Shulkin did exactly that, and got served when OIG found Gosling could not come up with the first name of Shulkin’s wife, Dr. Merle Bari. This did not match Shulkin’s story that Gosling was a friend, so the exchange did not require ethics clearance.

Dr. Bari proved to be a very expensive add in add on to the delegation, adding $4300 in plane tickets alone to the $122,000, 11-day European extravaganza funded by the VA’s taxpayer-provided budget. Her status as “invitational traveler” cleared the VA ethics office just two weeks after her husband directed the agency to determine “essential” travel to “decrease employee travel and generate savings.”

Shulkin (2016 net worth: $17 million) repaid the government for Bari’s ticket.

A member of the security team’s expense voucher included “an inexplicable $3,825 overpayment for airport parking and a $2,718 overpayment for lodging.”

The report mentions another unusual expense: VA had official “Trip Book” itineraries printed for the entourage, 15 copies at a cost of $100 each.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! September 13 and 29: Mnuchin Continues Opulent Employment; Tom Price Priced Out of Trump Administration

The best part? Shulkin’s chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson (below) resigned Friday after altering emails to VA’s ethics lawyer to suggest Shulkin received an award on the trip’s Denmark leg (which would have justified his wife’s traveling at taxpayer expense). OIG, of course, found Shulkin had no idea of the malfeasance.

636543769466427466-Screen-Shot-2018-02-16-at-11.19.54-AM.jpg

(Wright Simpson flew in economy class, but changed her connecting city, adding $2900 to the cost of her ticket.)

Two other staff members indulged in the trip, with six (6) security employees requiring “several additional days of advance travel.” So several of the trip itinerary booklets were apparently extras.

It’s unclear if Shulkin has yet rewritten VA hiring guidelines as he promised last December when USA Today found the agency has routinely–in violation of Federal law–employed physicians with revoked medical licenses for the past 15 years.

*

Besides Shulkin, four other Trump officials are under investigation for lavish travel using government funds. EPA head Scott Pruitt, for example, traveled from Cincinnati to New York on a military plane at a cost of $36,068.50 to catch his first-class flight to Rome, according to CNBC. Pruitt, according to the EPA, is awarded first or business class (for his frequent travel on jumbo jets to spread environmental protection) to avoid repeating past “security threats.” The Hill:

Pruitt has a “blanket waiver” to federal standards that limit officials’ ability to book first-class flights on the taxpayer dime.

*

Paul Manafort‘s release from house arrest looks even less likely, as Robert Mueller‘s long awaited Russia probe turned up evidence of his “additional criminial conduct…[including]  a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! October 23: Podesta Joins the Presidential Party

It’s unclear if the still-pending $10 million bail deal will proceed for Manafort’s alleged overstatement of income by his company DMP International to secure a $9.5 million mortgage for his other venture, Summerbreeze LLC. No additional charges are yet filed, and D.C. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson (below) has everyone under gag order as her office aims for an October trial.

Amy Berman Jackson.jpg

On February 16, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein indicted 13 Russian citizens and 3 Russian entities for spreading anti-Hillary and pro-Trump propaganda during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election via (according to Politicoidentity theft, fake accounts, carefully orchestrated trips and outreach, a concerted social media strategy and even real live rallies across the United States secretly planned from Russia.

Specifically: Russian “specialists were instructed to post content that focused on ‘politics in the USA’ and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except [Bernie] Sanders and Trump—we support them)[.]”

[our emphasis]

According to The Hill, the Russians sought to suppress support among black voters for Hillary Clinton, creating fake accounts on social platforms including Facebook and Instagram with names like “Blacktivist” and “Woke Blacks” — and suggesting that she was not strong enough on issues germane to African-Americans. 

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ice-lawyer-seattle-charged-stealing-immigrants-ids-n847856?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma

https://www.seattlepi.com/seattlenews/article/ICE-Seattle-Immigration-Corruption-12617163.php

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/raphael-sanchez-ice-chief-steal-immigrants-identity-fraud-us-immigration-customs-enforcement-a8214511.html

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pentagon-drops-effort-to-close-unneeded-military-bases-that-cost-2-billion-per-year/article/2648854

IRS paid private debt collectors $20 million to recoup $6.7 million from low-income Americans

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/veterans-affairs-chief-shulkin-staff-misled-ethics-officials-about-european-trip-report-finds/2018/02/14/f7fbc020-0c3a-11e8-8b0d-891602206fb7_story.html?utm_term=.39103093bba7

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/02/16/va-secretary-david-shulkins-chief-staff-retiring-amid-travel-report-findings/344810002/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/15/trump-cabinet-officials-in-ethics-scandals.html

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/373811-pruitt-coach-travel-yielded-interactions-that-were-not-the-best

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/16/mueller-russia-indictments-not-playing-around-217014

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/bernie-sanders-russia-2016-election-interference-415691

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/mueller-manafort-bank-fraud-accusations-416509

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/374302-five-key-takeaways-from-the-russian-indictments?userid=115887

Spring Break Blitz: Stories We Sat On!!! February 27–Justice Department and EPA

Associated Press reported that new EPA head Scott Pruitt is under scrutiny for using personal email to communicate official business while Attorney General for Oklahoma, and lying about it to Congress.

A review of Pruitt emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request showed a 2014 exchange where the Republican emailed a member of his staff using a personal Apple email account.

Emails released under court order last week in response to a different public records request yielded additional examples where emails were addressed to Pruitt’s private account, including a 2013 exchange with a petroleum industry lobbyist who emailed Pruitt and a lawyer on the attorney general’s staff. That suggests Pruitt made his private email address available to professional contacts outside his office.

It is not illegal in Oklahoma for public officials to use private email as long as they are retained and made available as public records. Pruitt’s use of the private account appears to directly contradict statements he made last month as part of his Senate confirmation.

Pruitt’s deception came from the forward-thinking 2020 presidential hopeful, New Jersey’s Senator Cory Booker in a written inquiry for Pruitt prior to his confirmation hearing. Cabinet nominees apparently respond to written questions for vetting because it is more efficient for the Senate panels to process nominations.

Mr. Booker apparently sought to avoid the confusion caused by both Obama’s Secretary of State and Attorney General, who used personal emails throughout their tenures to flout Freedom of Information Act lawsuits:

Hillary Updates

The FOIA avoidance is especially relevant recently, because the National Security Archive FOIA Audit released March 11 revealed that only 38 out of 99 federal agencies have updated their FOIA regulations in compliance with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.

This allows about 60% of our agencies are ignoring the new improvements on FOIA, which require agencies to notify citizens of their right to seek assistance with the FOIA liaison and prohibiting the charge of search or duplication fees when the agency fails to meet the notice requirements and time limits set by existing law.

Oh well.

Interestingly, Elijah Cummings said of the FOIA reform during 2016 floor debate:

“This is a simple improvement that every agency should adopt, and I look forward to working with Chairman [Jason] Chaffetz [R-Utah] in the years ahead on such commonsense [sic] reforms.”

[our emphasis]

Cummings Not Going

Let’s see if the career criminal Cummings holds his own future moves to the same standard of transparency.

The Hill:

Booker […] asked Pruitt whether he had ever conducted state business using personal email accounts. Pruitt responded: “I use only my official OAG email address and government issued phone to conduct official business.”

[…]

AP and other news organizations reported last week that 7,500 pages of emails released following a lawsuit filed by a left-leaning advocacy group showed Pruitt and his staff in Oklahoma coordinated closely on legal strategy with fossil-fuel companies and special interest groups working to undermine federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions.

The emails were released after an Oklahoma judge ruled that Pruitt had been illegally withholding his correspondence, which is public record under state law, for the last two years.

[…]

Pruitt’s use of private email was first reported earlier this month by FOX 25 television of Oklahoma City.

The Hill notes that Republicans rammed through Pruitt’s confirmation vote earlier in February prior to the release of the emails. Senator Booker joined all but two of his fellow Democrats in voting against Pruitt, who was confirmed 52-46.

***

The Pruitt predicament is interesting, because it was only one month ago (January 26) that…

Outgoing DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and three other officials fought Obama-appointed US District Court Judge Randolph Moss‘s order to preserve their emails for public record.

Conservative group Judicial Watch was conducting a Freedom of Information Act investigation of Johnson and his lackeys using private emails on government computers. Judge Moss declared the emails should be copied for official record for “an abundance of caution.” Just in case Johnson wanted to delete them. Like Hillary.

Politico:

“DHS’s present understanding is that the former officials are not independently aware of how to transfer e-mails from a web-based account (i.e., Gmail) to a thumb drive and that DHS information technology staff who were consulted did not have any particular knowledge about how to transfer the e-mails, either,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.

The filing suggests the ex-officials and DHS staff are also unsure about how to copy part of the private emails archives, since the suit sought only work-related emails between certain dates in 2013 and 2015.

If Moss won’t lift his order, the Justice Department asked that he let the officials move the messages to encrypted DVDs instead of thumb drives or hard drives.

As brilliant and dedicated as our “public servants” are, moving an email to a thumb drive is apparently beyond their capabilities. But burning “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde” on a DVD? Easy.

As we have referenced above, disgraced ex-Attorney General Eric Holder deliberately used the email alias Lew Alcindor for official government proceedings to shield his official communications from FOIA lawsuits.

*

For all the missteps and truly troubling actions of his nascent leadership, Trump appeared to actually propose meaningful conservative budget reforms this week, reducing spending for State Department and EPA in a budget draft. The Hill:

The Trump administration is proposing a 37 percent spending cut for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), according to multiple reports.

U.S. officials say the suggested decrease would likely require laying off employees, including security contractors at diplomatic facilities overseas, The Associated Press said Tuesday.

[…]

The agencies together received $50.1 billion during the current fiscal year, it added, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget.

Career Republicans in Washington whose careers depend on lavishing their constituents’ money (which they exhausted $20 trillion ago) were not pleased.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he would oppose drastic cuts to the State Department. 

“Probably not,” he said when asked if Congress could pass a 37 percent reduction at the department, according to Fox News.

The leaked EPA budget proposal suggested Trump will cut spending by 24% (a reduction of $2 billion to $6.1 billion), possibly reducing the EPA “work”force by about 20% to “only” 12,000 employees.

Pathetic presidential hopeful, carpet-bombing and corporate welfare advocate Lindsey  Graham had equally strong reservations as McConnell on the proposal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said Trump’s reported plans for his first budget were “dead on arrival.”

“It’s not going to happen,” he said, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster. A budget this lean would put those who serve overseas for the State Department at risk. And it’s not going to happen.”

Ex-Im Bank Updates

The Trump budget will reportedly not touch the entitlement spending that is financially dooming everyone who does not die in the next 20 years.

Defense spending will increase by $54,000,000,000. That amount will be cut from non-defense spending.

As a reminder, the earlier full Trump budget proposal increased the national debt by $9,700,000,000,000 over the next 10 years. Rand Paul was the only Republican to vote against it.

*

Washington Free Beacon had some damning juice on the EPA this week as well.

Environmental Protection Agency employees used their government purchase cards to spend $14,985 on fitness memberships, according to an audit by the inspector general of the agency.

[…]

Three other transactions [from the audit] were made to vendors who were considered high risk[.]

[…]

Auditors also noted that this is not the first time the agency did not have adequate oversight of the purchase-card program. In March of 2014, the inspector general released a report noting that of the $152,602 in transactions that they evaluated, $79,254 went to purchases that were prohibited, improper, or erroneous.

[Less than 50% of sampled spending was allowed…that’s success, right?]

After the most recent findings, the inspector general said that the risk for the purchase-card program “is high enough to warrant an audit.”

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

All emphasis is ours.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/01/justice-department-dhs-officials-emails-234253

http://freebeacon.com/issues/epa-purchase-card-fitness-memberships/

https://www.yahoo.com/news/records-show-epas-pruitt-used-private-email-despite-203908715–politics.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/321605-trump-pitches-37-percent-cut-to-state-budget-reports

http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20170311-2017-FOIA-Audit-shows-3-in-5-Agencies-Failed-to-Follow-New-FOIA-Law-Instructions/

FOIA Reform Adopted after Years-Long Battle