Jason Foster, chief investigative counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, fits a classic Washington profile: A powerful, mostly unknown force at the center of some of the most consequential battles on Capitol Hill. For the last year, Foster — empowered by his boss, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s chairman — has been the behind-the-scenes architect of an assault on the FBI, and most centrally its role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to interviews with current and former congressional aides, federal law enforcement officials and others. With Foster in charge of his oversight work, Grassley has openly speculated about whether former FBI director James Comey leaked classified information as Comey raised alarms about President Donald Trump’s possible interference in the Russia probe. Grassley and the other Republicans on the committee have questioned the impartiality of a former member of Mueller’s team, cast doubt on the credibility of the FBI’s secret court application for permission to surveil a Trump campaign associate and called for a second special counsel to investigate matters related to Hillary Clinton. A firm that conducted opposition research on Trump has made clear in court it believes Grassley’s committee, with Foster as its lead investigator, had leaked sensitive information about its business.
For the FBI, the longstanding failure to diversify its ranks is nothing short of “a huge operational risk,” according to one senior official, something that compromises the agency’s ability to understand communities at risk, penetrate criminal enterprises, and identify emerging national security threats. Indeed, 10 months before being fired as director of the FBI by President Trump, James Comey called the situation a “crisis.”
“Slowly but steadily over the last decade or more, the percentage of special agents in the FBI who are white has been growing,” Comey said in a speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black school in Daytona Beach, Florida. “I’ve got nothing against white people — especially tall, awkward, male white people — but that is a crisis for reasons that you get, and that I’ve worked very hard to make sure the entire FBI understands.”
It’s a charged moment for the FBI, one in which diversifying the force might not strike everyone as the most pressing issue. Trump has repeatedly questioned the bureau’s competence and integrity. Many Democrats blame Hillary Clinton’s defeat on Comey’s decision to announce that the bureau was reopening its inquiry into her emails days before the election.
Democrats in the New Mexico congressional delegation slammed the release of a memo by House Intelligence Committee Republicans, saying the document was partisan and inaccurate. The FBI urged Congress to not release the memo before President Donald Trump allowed its release. The memo itself likely will not be a smoking gun to end the investigation into the Trump presidential campaign, as some supporters had hoped. Indeed, it confirmed that the FBI began investigating Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos well before the U.S. government saw the Steele Dossier. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee crafted their own memo, which they wish to release.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had an urgent question Monday about Devin Patrick Kelley, the former U.S. Air Force airman who is accused of killing 26 people worshipping at a church service yesterday: How was it that Kelley, convicted of domestic violence and discharged for bad conduct, was still able to get a gun?”
By late afternoon, Abbott appeared to have his answer: the Air Force said an initial review indicated it had failed to share Kelley’s criminal record with the civilian authorities, and so his conviction was never entered into the federal database used to screen potentially dangerous gun buyers. Federal laws bar felons and those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining guns. This story originally appeared at ProPublica and is reprinted with permission. The Air Force said it will conduct a full review of how it handled Kelley’s records, as well as all “relevant policies and procedures.”
However, the Air Force and the military’s other armed services have known for years there were widespread problems with their reporting procedures. A 2015 Pentagon report found the military was failing to provide crucial information to the FBI in about 30 percent of a sample of serious cases handled in military courts.
More than half of the people who said they were the victim of a hate crime in recent years did not report the incidents to police. When victims did report to the police, their assailants were arrested in just 10 percent of the cases. The incidents reported as hate crimes were almost always violent (90 percent) and often seriously so, with nearly 30 percent involving reports of sexual assault, aggravated assault and/or robbery. Those are some of the striking findings of a special federal Bureau of Justice Statistics report released Thursday, based on national crime victimization surveys conducted for the years 2011 to 2015. The report came as the Department of Justice convened a hate crimes conference in Washington, D.C. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at the start of the conference and repeated his pledge to combat hate crimes aggressively.
The offices of a local anti-abortion organization were the site of an overnight fire Tuesday night. The FBI says they are investigating the cause of the fire at the offices of Project Defending Life and urging anyone with details to call a hotline. Project Defending Life said on Facebook the FBI “confirmed this was an act of arson.”
NM Political Report called an FBI spokesman and if we receive a response, will add it to this story. The Albuquerque Journal reported the FBI was investigating a suspected arson, and KOB-TV report a spokesman said it was deliberately set. The organization says the offices will be closed while repairs happen.
A likely final poll of the presidential race in New Mexico puts Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton ahead of Republican nominee Donald Trump by eight points. The poll found Clinton leads Trump 45 percent to 37 percent. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson came away with 11 percent support while Green Party candidate Jill Stein polled at 3 percent support. Results from the poll, conducted by Gravis Marketing, are perhaps most surprising because of the organization it’s commissioned by—Breitbart News. The right-wing online news organization is notable for its enthusiasm for Trump and the so-called “alt right” segment of his supporters who deviate from more mainstream conservatives, especially on racial issues.
Donald Trump has lagged in support behind Hillary Clinton in New Mexico in all public polls this election season. But the boisterous Republican presidential nominee promised a crowd of roughly 2,500 people he would win the state. The crowd gathered Sunday to hear Trump speak in an airplane hanger just outside of the Albuquerque International Sunport. Related: Small protests greet Trump
“We’re tied—that’s not so good—we’re tied in New Mexico,” Trump told the crowd, echoing a statement last week from one of his campaign advisors on WABC, a New York radio station. “We’re going to win New Mexico.
In a video message intended for the tens of thousands of men and women working to keep drugs and people from illegally entering the United States, then-Deputy Border Patrol Chief Ron Colburn wanted to leave little doubt about the consequences for those who betrayed their mission. “The light of justice will ultimately drive you from the shadows,” Colburn said in the 2009 message, one of many produced by the agency to combat corruption in its ranks. “You will find no safe haven among fellow criminals. You will be identified. You will be arrested.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich put a hold on an intelligence bill over what his office calls a “massive expansion of government surveillance.”
Heinrich’s office announced the hold on the Intelligence Authorization Act, which essentially blocks the legislation, on Tuesday morning. Heinrich said that he is doing so because of concerns over the constitutionality of the expanded authorization for domestic surveillance. At issue are National Security Letters, which the federal government can use to get information without approval from a judge. The Electronic Privacy Information Center says the letters give “the FBI the power to compel the disclosure of customer records held by banks, telephone companies, Internet Service Providers, and others.”
The proposal would expand the list of information the FBI could get using these letters. “This represents a massive expansion of government surveillance and gives the FBI access to law-abiding Americans’ email and browser histories without judicial approval or independent oversight,” Heinrich said in a statement.