House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Rep. Matt Gaetz’s removal from the House Judiciary Committee is “least that could be done” should a Department of Justice investigation find allegations of possible sex trafficking true.
Pelosi responded to the emerging scandal surrounding Gaetz during a weekly news conference, saying that she believes the investigation is an “important issue” that affects the “integrity of the Congress.”
Gaetz became embroiled in a political firestorm earlier this week after The New York Times first reported that the Justice Department was conducting a probe into whether he had a sexual relationship with a minor and violated federal sex-trafficking laws.
The Republican lawmaker responded by claiming that the allegations are false and that the investigation was part of an “organized criminal extortion” plot against him and that bombshell report from The Times was a “planted leak.”
“If in fact these allegations are true, of course, being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done,” Pelosi told reporters during the press conference, “but again, I think from what we’ve heard so far, this would be a matter for the Ethics Committee.”
Pelosi’s remarks on the investigation followed a similar response by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said it’s too early to judge Gaetz and the situation at hand.
“Those are serious implications. If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that’s the case,” McCarthy told Fox News on Wednesday. “But right now Matt Gaetz says that it’s not true, and we don’t have any information. So let’s get all the information.”
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida claimed on Tuesday that an ongoing Justice Department investigation into whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws is part of an “organized criminal extortion” scheme against his family.
The New York Times first reported on the investigation, and Gaetz confirmed its existence to The Times and the news website Axios.
According to the reports, investigators are said to be examining whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, which would violate sex trafficking statutes.
The Republican lawmaker said on Twitter that the investigation was launched on a false premise and based on “lies” being pushed against him by a former Justice Department official.
“Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name,” Gaetz tweeted. “We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter … and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.”
Gaetz continued: “No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets … of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Tuesday that the Justice Department would review how to tackle anti-Asian violence within the next 30 days.
The review was announced in a letter from Garland obtained by CBS Chief Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent Jeff Pegues and shared on Twitter by his colleague, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang.
Garland cited the DOJ’s efforts to prosecute Ku Klux Klan members in its early history, saying, “One hundred and fifty years later, hate crimes persist and continue to have a toxic effect on our society.”
He said the Justice Department would consider how it could better track the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents, prioritize criminal investigations, utilize civil enforcement authorities to ensure bias does not arise, and equip US Attorney’s Offices with resources to protect against hate.
“While this effort remains ongoing, the Department will seek justice for the victims of hate-fueled mass murderers we have seen too many times in the past several years – killings that have shaken our communities, torn at our social fabric, and undercut our most basic values,” Garland said in the statement.
Garland added that he would “continue to deploy” community outreach organizations and civil enforcement power to help prevent further hate crimes. That would include working with state and local authorities to provide bolstered resources to both investigate and prosecute hate crimes and prevent potential hate events before they occur.
In mid-March 2021, a mass shooting targeting massage parlors and spas in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, brought the rising trend of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes into the national spotlight and onto the radar of Congress, the Biden White House, and law enforcement agencies like the DOJ.
Insider’s Ryan Barber recently reported that Garland, an experienced federal prosecutor and former longtime judge, is also aiming to restore morale and boost a sense of camaraderie at the DOJ following the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021, culminating in the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol.
They include “reinstating and reinvigorating” the White House’s work with federal agencies to focus on hate crimes. To that end, Biden is redirecting some funds from the American Rescue Plan to create a new $49.5 million grant program to help Asian-American domestic violence and sexual assault victims, and also establishing a new COVID-19 Equity Task Force focused on xenophobia and health disparities.
The right-wing influencers and ‘Stop the Steal’ organizer Ali Alexander, are being investigated to help gain a greater understanding of what inspired the rioters to ransack the US Capitol building, The Post reported.
Investigators intend to explore whether there is a link between those who stormed the Capitol and those who may have influenced them by promoting election fraud conspiracy theories, the paper said.
The investigation does not necessarily mean that the men will face criminal charges, people familiar with the case told The Post.
“We are investigating potential ties between those physically involved in the attack on the Capitol and individuals who may have influenced them, such as Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and [Stop the Steal organizer] Ali Alexander,” an unnamed US official told the paper.
All three men made unsubstantiated claims of election fraud in the lead-up to the Capitol siege.
On one occasion, Stone baselessly claimed that North Korea had interfered in the presidential election by shipping in ballots through Maine ports.
The longtime friend of former President Donald Trump also spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court the day before the insurrection. He was reportedly flanked by extremists who later stormed the Capitol.
Jones, who also gave a speech at this event, posted a video on his website InfoWars.com of him telling a crowd: “We have only begun to resist the globalists. We have only begun our fight against their tyranny. They have tried to steal this election in front of everyone.”
He has publicly stated that his media company funded the Stop the Steal rally– the precursor to the Capitol siege.
Alexander, who is also said to be under investigation, helped organize several rallies that preceded the insurrection.
Donald Trump reportedly plotted with a Justice Department lawyer to oust acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen so he could place a loyalist who would put pressure on lawmakers in Georgia to overturn the election in his favor, The New York Times reported Friday.
The story recalls Trump’s final efforts to hold on to power in the days leading up to President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
According to The Times’ Katie Benner, Trump and Jeffrey Clark were working on ways to stir up doubts about the election results. Rosen had not cooperated with Trump’s alleged plan, prompting him to seek out a willing participant in Clark, The Times reported.
Top leaders at the Justice Department threatened to resign if Rosen was fired, which forced Trump to abandon the idea, but not before Clark and Rosen made their opposing arguments to Trump, the newspaper reported.
Allies including pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell have pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems switched votes for Trump to votes for Biden in the election. Dominion filed a $1.3 billiondefamation lawsuit against Powell earlier this month.
The Times reported Trump also pressured Rosen to appoint special counsels, specifically one that would investigate Dominion.
Insider was unable to reach Clark, and the Justice Department did not reply to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Clark told The Times its report, which was based on interviews with four former Trump officials, had inaccuracies but did not specify what they were.
“Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties,” Clark said. “All my official communications were consistent with law.”
In December, Rosen and deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue reportedly denied Clark’s request to have the department hold a news conference and say they were investigating the fraud allegations.
Additionally, The Times reported Clark had asked Rosen and Donoghue to send Georgia officials a letter that falsely said the department was investigating the state for voter fraud and that they should overturn Biden’s win. On December 31, Rosen and Donoghue told Clark he was wrong since there was no evidence of any fraud.
Over that weekend, Clark met with Trump and came back to tell Rosen he would replace him ahead of January 6, when Congress met to certify the votes.
Rosen refused to step down and worked with White House counsel, Pat Cipollone to schedule a meeting with Trump later that night, The Times reported.
Rosen, Donoghue, and Clark met with Trump, Cipollone, and his deputy Patrick Philbin. Cipollone ultimately convinced Trump it would be unwise to fire Rosen.
Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud have been criticized as the spark that fueled the attempted insurrection on January 6 at the US Capitol. Trump supporters breached the building and clashed with law enforcement, halting the joint session of Congress as lawmakers were set to formalize Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The riot lead to the deaths of five people.
The House impeached Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection. The Senate will soon hold a trial and vote on whether to convict the former president. This is the second impeachment Trump faced in his four years in office.
A man is facing federal charges after he tweeted threats to “explode the IRS headquarters,” as well as threaten to kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
Cody Wolf Gideon Mohr, 27, of Columbia, Maryland, was arrested earlier Thursday after a criminal complaint was filed in relation to his tweets.
A routine review of public social media accounts by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Criminal Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division flagged Mohr’s Twitter account, @BonaFried. The review found that “the user threatened the IRS and federal employees, including political officials and law enforcement officers,” according to a statement from the Justice Department.
According to an affidavit, a tweet from the account dated January 15 read: “I am going to explode the IRS headquarters with a bomb.” In a follow-up tweet around the same time, the user wrote, “I am simply announcing my intentions to give employees a fair shot at escaping alive.”
“The user posted other tweets since January 15, 2021, allegedly making additional threats including that he was ‘laser focused on thinking about ways to kill [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi,’ ‘[it would be cool to] drive 80 mph into a million people,’ and that ‘…if a cop pulls you over for something minor like speeding or a busted tail light, you can just threaten his life and he’ll let you go with no trouble,'” according to the Justice Department statement.
Investigators pinpointed the IP addresses used to access the @BonaFried account in and around Columbia, Maryland, and identified Mohr as the user of the Twitter account.
“We take threats to bomb a federal building and injure federal employees seriously,” US Attorney Robert K. Hur said in a statement. “The US Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will use all the tools at our disposal to identify and prosecute those who make such threats.”
If charged, Mohr could face up to 10 years in prison for making threats to destroy a federal building with an explosive. It is unclear if Mohr will also face charges for threatening the life of the House Speaker.
Mohr is scheduled to appear in court in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 22.
Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney in Washington, DC, said Tuesday that the FBI and Justice Department are looking into “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy” after the Capitol riot.
The “scope and scale” of the Capitol riot probe is unprecedented in FBI and DOJ history, Sherwin said at a press conference.
He added that his office has opened more than 170 subject files so far and charged 70 cases, but prosectors expect that number to “grow into the hundreds.”
Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s field office in Washington, DC, said the bureau has opened 160 case files and “that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” adding that FBI agents have received more than 100,000 “pieces of digital media” to investigate.
The FBI and Justice Department are investigating an unprecedented number of cases and criminal conduct after last week’s deadly riot at the US Capitol, officials said Tuesday.
Steve D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the bureau’s Washington, DC, field office, said at a news conference that the office has opened 160 case files and “that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” He added that agents have received over 100,000 “pieces of digital media” and are “scouring every one for investigative and digital leads.”
Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney in Washington, DC, said the “scope and scale” of the Capitol riot investigation is unprecedented in FBI and DOJ history.
“The Capitol grounds, outside and inside, are essentially a crime scene,” Sherwin said. He added that there were “thousands of potential witnesses” and “hundreds” of potential cases that could arise as a result.
The US attorney’s office in DC has opened more than 170 subject files, Sherwin said, which means “these individuals have been identified as potential persons that committed crimes on the Capitol grounds, outside and inside.” More than 70 cases have been charged so far, and that number may “grow into the hundreds,” Sherwin said.
He also said the range of criminal conduct resulting from the riot was “unmatched” by anything else the FBI and DOJ have investigated, and that potential crimes that could be charged include trespassing, theft of mail, theft of digital devices inside the Capitol, assault on local and federal officers, theft of national security or national defense information, felony murder, and more.
“The gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mindblowing,” he added.
A federal judge said the Justice Department acted unlawfully when it rescheduled the execution of the only woman on death row, Politico reported.
Lisa Montgomery’s executed was initially scheduled to be executed this month, but the Bureau of Prisons rescheduled the date to January 12 after her attorneys got sick with COVID-19 and asked for a delay so they could file a clemency petition, the Associated Press reported.
US District Court Judge Randolph Moss said the Justice Department couldn’t execute Montgomery, 52, before the end of the year and then said they couldn’t order her execution while there was stay-in-place order amid the pandemic.
“The Court, accordingly, concludes that the Director’s order setting a new execution date while the Court’s stay was in effect was ‘not in accordance with law,'” Moss wrote.
Moss vacated the January 12 date, which means President Donald Trump’s administration may have to reschedule Montgomery’s execution until after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Montgomery was convicted in 2004 of strangling a woman who was eight months pregnant to death, cutting the baby out of her, and kidnapping it, CNN reported.
Earlier this month, Brandon Bernard became the ninth execution carried out by the Federal Bureau of Prisons this year after a 17-year hiatus. Bernard also represented the first time an execution has been carried out during a presidential lame-duck period in 130 years.
There are more executions still scheduled until Biden takes office, including Dustin John Higgs, whose execution is scheduled for January 15, just five days before Biden is sworn in. Higgs would be the last of five scheduled executions that were set in Trump’s lame-duck period.
President Donald Trump on Friday discussed naming attorney Sidney Powell as a special counsel investigating voter fraud, according to a report from The New York Times.
According to The Times, most of his advisors didn’t support the plan, including Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney.
Trump elevating Powell to such a role would be a stunning turnaround from just last month, when Giuliani and campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis said that she was “practicing law on her own” after being purged from the campaign team.
President Donald Trump on Friday discussed naming attorney Sidney Powell as a special counsel investigating voter fraud, according to a report from The New York Times.
The Times report cited two people familiar with the talks, and it was not evident whether Trump would follow through with the plan.
According to The Times, most of his advisors didn’t support the plan, including Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney and the face of his campaign’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
While Giuliani joined the meeting by phone, Powell was at the White House, with the discussions being “raucous at times,” according to the report. Other administration officials popped in and out of meeting, with resistance to the proposed ideas coming from White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Powell reportedly lashed out at other Trump advisors, calling them “quitters.”
The president “has been in contact with Ms. Powell in recent days, despite the fact that the campaign last month sought to distance itself from her as she aired wild and baseless claims about Dominion Voting Systems machines, which were used in some states, somehow being connected to a Venezuelan plot to control the election,” the Times reported.
Dominion officials, incensed by the allegations, have threatened to sue her for defamation if she fails to retract her allegations about the company. The company, which has long had contracts from a range of states controlled by Democrats and Republicans, said that Powell’s allegations against the company have damaged its business.
“Your reckless disinformation campaign is predicated on lies that have endangered Dominion’s business and the lives of its employees,” the company said in a letter obtained by Insider. “Dominion has never provided machines or any of its software or technology to Venezuela, nor has it ever participated in any elections to Venezuela. It did not receive $400 million from the Chinese in the weeks before the 2020 election. It has no ties to the Chinese government, the Venezuelan government, George Soros, Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster.”
During the White House meeting, there was also “a discussion about an executive order to take control of voting machines to examine them,” according to the Times report.
Giuliani reportedly inquired about the Department of Homeland Security seizing control of voting machines but was told that the department could not take such an action.
President Donald Trump has already discussed sacking Jeffrey Rosen, who is set to replace Attorney General Bill Barr next week, reported the Associated Press.
Trump is discussing removing Rosen if he does not comply with his demands and appoint a special counsel to probe Hunter Biden’s tax affairs and the president’s groundless election fraud claims, Trump administration and Republican sources close to the White House told the agency.
Trump has already talked through the move with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and attorney Pat Cipollone, according to the report.
Rosen is supposed to replace Barr, who announced his resignation Monday, as effectively a stopgap justice department chief until President-elect Joe Biden takes office in eight weeks and appoints a successor.
According to the report, Trump has even discussed with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, whether he can appoint special counsel investigators himself, believing it would damage the incoming Biden administration.
The White House and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
Rosen has served as Barr’s deputy at the justice department since 2019.
Barr was previously considered one of Trump’s staunchest loyalists. Still, their relationship soured when the Wall St Journal revealed last week that Barr was aware that Hunter Biden was under investigation for potential tax fraud crimes by authorities in Delaware for months.
Trump was reportedly furious that Barr had not gone public with the information during the presidential election. One of Trump’s main lines of attack against his rival was Hunter Biden’s employment by Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, which he alleged was evidence of Biden family corruption.
No evidence has emerged to substantiate the allegations against Hunter Biden. However, as part of the US attorney’s investigations into his tax affairs, he has been subpoenaed for information about his work with Burisma.