Thursday, July 23, 2020

Last Call For The State Of The Police State, Con't

The deployment of federal Customs and Border Patrol agents to "assist law enforcement" is far bigger than Portland, Chicago, or Albuquerque. It's nationwide, it involves thousands of agents and dozens of drones, and it's been going on for six weeks.

In a conspicuous show of force, armed Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were recently seen in Portland carrying out surveillance and arrests. Agency director Mark Morgan has defended the deployment as measured and restrained. “I will not send any resource out anywhere to confront American citizens,” he told Time. But CBP’s support to local law enforcement has extended far beyond its controversial Portland deployment, and includes not just thousands of personnel, but drones and dozens of other aircraft, according to a CBP document obtained exclusively by The Nation.

The document, a draft of the agency’s answers to questions posed to them by Senator Kamala Harris on June 5, 2020, details the assets CBP deployed in response to requests for assistance from local law enforcement agencies across the country. So many local law enforcement agencies requested support that, according to the document, CBP was not aware of any state or local entities that explicitly declined assistance. The assistance includes a broad array of services like aerial surveillance, crowd control, unmarked vehicles, and plainclothes surveillance. Several requests involve specialized tactical units like CBP’s amphibious Riverine Force.
An index lists requests from various metropolitan police departments, including the NYPD, Chicago PD, Miami PD, Philadelphia PD, San Diego PD, and DC’s Metropolitan PD. Even federal agencies requested assistance, including several FBI field offices and the Drug Enforcement Agency. CBP aerial assets have been deployed to a variety of states including Illinois, New York, Ohio, Texas, Michigan, California, Florida, and Minnesota.

When Minneapolis erupted in protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd, CBP deployed a predator drone over the airspace. Several members of Congress sent CBP a letter demanding that the agency “cease any and all surveilling of Americans engaged in peaceful protests,” while CBP response to the protests also prompted Senator Harris to send the agency her list of questions. Director Morgan testified to the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on June 25, on the subject of “CBP Oversight.”

The document was provided to The Nation by a CBP official on condition of anonymity to avoid professional reprisal. It is unclear when CBP intends to provide the information to Senator Harris.

According to the document, between May 20 and June 10, these requests resulted in 326.4 hours of aviation assets deployments as well as 2,174 personnel. Aviation support—CBP’s Air and Marine Operations possesses hundreds of aircraft—totalled 326.4 flight hours and included 38 rotor wing, eight fixed wing, and two unmanned aircraft systems. Included in the deployment was one Bearcat, two ATVs, three “vessels,” 50 marked vehicles, and 52 unmarked vehicles. Federal law enforcement’s reported use of unmarked vehicles in Portland led to uproar after video surfaced on social media showing what appeared to be a demonstrator arrested by an unidentified federal agent who ushered him into an unmarked vehicle. Among these federal agents were BORTAC agents—CBP’s elite tactical unit.

Although the document states, “The policies require the use of identifiable agency uniforms with badging and name tapes on the outermost garment (e.g. jacket, body armor),” CBP has offered no explanation about its use of agents who did not carry such identification.

The document is often vague on the deployments, especially regarding the aircraft deployments, saying only that “the nature of these deployments were based on the requests.” But answers to questions about surveillance capabilities provide some clues about the measures taken.

“CBP’s aircrafts can be equipped with cameras, radar and/or other technologies to support CBP components in patrolling the border, conducting surveillance as part of a law enforcement investigation or tactical operations, and respond to other significant incidents as directed,” the document states.

Portland meanwhile remains the test run for Trump's brownshirt thugs, as Mayor Ken Wheeler was among those tear gassed by armed goons last night.

The mayor of Portland, Oregon was tear-gassed by U.S. government agents late Wednesday as he stood outside a federal courthouse during another night of protests against the presence of the agents dispatched by President Donald Trump to quell the city’s ongoing unrest.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, appeared slightly dazed and coughed and said it was the first time he’d been tear-gassed.

He put on a pair of goggles someone handed him and drank water but did not leave his spot at the front and continued to take gas as the protest raged — with demonstrators lighting a large fire between the fence and the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse amid the pop-pop-pop sounds of the federal agents deploying tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the agents knew Wheeler was among those in crowd when they used the tear gas.

Earlier in the night, Wheeler was mostly jeered as he tried to rally demonstrators who have clashed nightly with federal agents but was briefly applauded when he shouted “Black Lives Matter” and pumped his fist in the air.

Wheeler has opposed federal agents’ presence in Oregon’s largest city, but has faced harsh criticism from many sides and his presence wasn’t welcomed by many demonstrators who yelled and swore at him.

Wheeler has his own sins to atone for when it comes to Portland's cops and Oregon's long history of white supremacist violence against Black Americans, but he stood up for the right thing last night.

Retribution Execution, Con't

The Trump regime is so blatantly, ham-handedly, obviously evil in its clear efforts to make a retributive strike against convicted former Trump scumbag lawyer Michael Cohen that a judge actually took pity on the asshole and he's going back to home confinement rather than solitary at federal prison.

Michael Cohen will be released to home confinement, a judge ruled on Thursday, finding that the government acted in a retaliatory manner when it took President Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer into custody earlier this month
"The purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail is retaliatory and its retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his first amendment rights to publish a book and discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media and others," Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled during a telephonic hearing. 
Cohen, who has been held in solitary confinement at federal prison in Otisville, New York, since he was remanded on July 9, will be released by 2 p.m. ET Friday after he takes a test for the coronavirus. 
Cohen and prosecutors will have one week to negotiate the terms of his release as it relates to his involvement with the media. 
"Just as you wouldn't have a press conference from a jail cell, you shouldn't be able to have a press conference from your home. You can communicate, you can discuss, you can post on social media, but you can't make a confinement into a free person. You can't make a person confined in jail or at home into totally free person. There's got to be a limit," Hellerstein said. 
Cohen's attorney called the judge's order a "victory for the First Amendment." 
The ruling confirms "that the government cannot block Mr. Cohen from publishing a book critical of the president as a condition of his release to home confinement," Danya Perry, who argued on behalf of Cohen at the hearing, said in a statement. "This principle transcends politics and we are gratified that the rule of law prevails."

Cohen's book profits should frankly be seized, as with John Bolton's Mustache Memoirs, but he should be able to write his book.  Trump tossing him in solitary confinement was such a blatantly crooked act that Cohen, the lawyer who arranged Trump's payoffs to porn stars to keep quiet during the 2016 campaign and was convicted for it, actually ended up a sympathetic figure in all this.

I'm sure Barr has more tricks up his sleeve to punish Cohen, or Cohen will simply get in trouble again for being a scumbag and skip his home confinement to eat out, but for now it looks like there is a limit to Trump's perfidy.

The key being "for now".

Householder Of Cards, Con't

The bribery, conspiracy, and racketeering charges against Ohio GOP state House Speaker Larry Householder is much bigger than just the $61 million he and his co-conspirators allegedly took from FirstEnergy.  The Feds say Householder had several industries lined up for pay-to-play schemes, encompassing much of the corporate bills in the 2019 GOP legislative session.

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s alleged pay-to-play scheme to pass legislation for special interests extended beyond House Bill 6 and its $1 billion ratepayer bailout of a pair of ailing nuclear power plants.

Householder and charged co-conspirator Neil Clark, a lobbyist, are portrayed in a federal affidavit as engaging in an active effort to solicit big, secretive checks in exchange for favorable consideration of bills.

The Perry County Republican talked of adding money from the payday-loan, nursing home and other industries to the $60 million funneled by FirstEnergy to Generation Now, the “dark money” nonprofit Householder allegedly controlled to defend House Bill 6 from a repeal attempt.
An affidavit from an FBI agent detailing the federal racketeering charges against Householder and his alleged co-conspirators reveals that “other” non-energy interests paid nearly $2.9 million into Generation Now, which was not required to reveal its donors.

In a 2019 recorded meeting, Clark “discussed making ‘soft money’ payments to Householder relating to the passage of unrelated legislation” aside from House Bill 6, the affidavit states.

Clark, who represented both payday lending and nursing home interests as a lobbyist, stated Householder wanted to see the checks from special interests in person before they landed at Generation Now.

The long-time GOP-aligned lobbyist talked of the size of the expected checks. “A noticeable number ... $15-$20-$25,000 ... to Gen Now and hand-deliver the check to the speaker,” the affidavit quotes Clark.

In a Jan. 10, 2018 phone call with Clark recorded by the FBI, Householder (who was not yet speaker) said: “So we are looking at payday lenders. And we are expecting big things in (Generation Now) money from payday lenders.”

“So far, I think we are, what, 50 (thousand dollars)? I think,” Householder said.

Clark replied, according to the affidavit: “You should have gotten 25 or 50 (thousand dollars) from [owner of firm], correct?” Householder answered: “Yes” before confirming with someone in the room it was only $25,000.

In an Aug. 19, 2019 phone call captured by federal authorities, Clark talked of making a road trip with Householder or his advisers to pick up a check and advance unspecified legislation.

Clark said the targeted individuals “might write a check to (Generation Now)” totaling $50,000, again saying it should personally be handed to Householder.

The federal affidavit claims the alleged pay-to-play scheme dated to 2017, the first year of Householder’s return to the Statehouse after his earlier tenure as speaker in the early 2000s. He became speaker again in 2019.

Subpoeaned bank records from Generation Now match recorded conversations between Householder and Clark about the president of a payday lending company writing a $25,000 check on Oct. 18, 2017 and a $30,000 check from an unidentified party the next day.

But, Householder’s apparent designs on helping out the payday loan industry apparently were thwarted by the last House speaker to confront controversy and scandal.

While denying wrongdoing, then-Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, resigned on April 12, 2018 as the FBI investigated overseas trips he took with payday-lending lobbyists. No criminal charges have ever surfaced.

The Ohio GOP is corrupt as hell, and I really, really hope voters throw them out in November.
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