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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
December 12 to December 18, 2021

Featured Investigation:
U.S. Drug Agents Ramp Up
Fentanyl Counterattack on Chinese Mainland
-- as the DEA Faces Its Own Troubles at Home

The U.S. is nearly doubling its number of drug agents deployed to China, Vince Bielski reports for RealClearInvestigations. But a series of setbacks has left the Drug Enforcement Administration a smaller and less effective outfit in the face of the deadly fentanyl scourge, according to former agents, high-ranking officials and agency documents. Bielski reports:

  • While the DEA presence in China is growing to about a dozen agents, that small crew still faces a mission impossible: collaborating with Chinese agents to try to bust traffickers hidden somewhere in a sprawling export supply chain that’s linked to 160,000 companies. 
  • And back home, the DEA has been swept up in the country’s turn against law enforcement as a force for good, leading to morale problems that also afflict police forces as well as the Border Patrol.
  • Hundreds of DEA agents have left the agency and haven’t been replaced.
  • Calls for the agency to be eliminated have grown, with reformers favoring decriminalization.
  • The yearly take of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel alone rivals the DEA’s annual $3 billion budget.
  • On top of such challenges, Congress is still wary of the agency over the scandal when agents cavorted with prostitutes in Colombia and a botched operation that took four civilian lives in Honduras.
  • The DEA was left to drift without a Senate-confirmed leader for half a decade just as fentanyl grew to a crisis now claiming 65,000 American lives a year.

Featured Investigation:
DC Bar Restores Convicted FBI Russiagate Forger
to ‘Good Standing’ Amid Irregularities and Leniency

The D.C. Bar has cleared former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith to practice law again as a member in “good standing" -- even though he has yet to finish his probation as a convicted felon for falsifying a surveillance document in the Trump-Russia affair, Paul Sperry reports for RealClearInvestigations.

The move is the latest in a series of exceptions made for Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty in August 2020.

Sperry reports:

  • The bar didn’t initiate disciplinary proceedings against him until February of this year — four days after RealClearInvestigations first reported he had not been disciplined.
  • After the negative publicity, the bar temporarily suspended Clinesmith. Then in September, a court quietly agreed with the bar’s recommendation to let Clinesmith off suspension with time served.
  • But records indicate the bar did not check beforehand with his probation officer to see if he had violated his sentence or performed the required community service.
  • Clinesmith was cleared to practice even though he may still be in the Special Counsel’s sights in other areas of his wide-ranging inquiry. The lawyer was also part of the FBI’s controversial Hillary Clinton email probe. 
  • In related matters raising further questions about partisanship on the part of the D.C. Bar, it is pursuing disciplinary action against Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has not been charged with a crime, but not against Hillary Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann, who has been indicted for lying to federal probers.

Biden, Trump and the Beltway

How Project Veritas Got Ashley Biden’s Diary
New York Times
If you think Joe Biden is forgetful, meet his children. His son Hunter, of course, left his laptop full of damaging information at a Delaware repair shop and, this story reports, his daughter Ashely appears to have left her personal diary – full of painful information about her sex life and sobriety – at a rental house. The Times tries to blame Trump and his allies for this mess, with a piece heavy on innuendo that ignores basic questions. It reports that a woman who lived in the house after Ashley found the diary, which was subsequently sold to Project Veritas, an outfit that specializes in undercover video journalism. After failing to get Joe Biden to comment on the diary, Project Veritas decided not to report on it. That narrative seems to undercut the basis for the Justice Department's investigation, to see if there was “a criminal conspiracy among a handful of individuals to steal and publish the diary.” But the Times never addresses such questions, much less why the DoJ considers this matter worthy of its attention – or why it appears to be feeding the newspaper information about an ongoing probe. (The Times seemed similarly unbothered by anti-Trump leaks it got from government and other sources throughout the contrived Trump-Russia affair, leaks it indeed made public, in contrast with Project Veritas.) The Times does suggest, without evidence, that Trump himself might be involved. “The investigation has focused new attention on how Mr. Trump or his allies sought to use the troubles of Mr. Biden’s two surviving children to undercut him.” And even if they did, how is that a crime? If it were, Trump’s children would have plenty of cases.  

More Biden, Trump and the Beltway

FBI Dirty Tricks in Targeting GOP Rep. Fortenberry? Politico
Flynn, Other Ex-Intel Pros Spread Vote Fraud Claims Reuters
Jan. 6 Jail Deputy Warden's Vulgar Anti-Trump Tweets National File
Two Jan. 6 Organizers Are Naming Names Rolling Stone
PowerPoint Takeover Plan Sent to Trump Admin New York Times

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

FBI Agents Had Sex With Hookers Overseas
Inspector General, Justice Department
Another week, another scandal at the FBI. The law enforcement bureau that has been battered for its unethical conduct while investigating President Trump as well as for its use of confidential sources who may have instigated crimes is now dealing with a Department of Justice Inspector General's report that found that “four FBI officials solicited, procured, and accepted commercial sex overseas, and that a fifth FBI official solicited commercial sex overseas, in violation of DOJ and FBI policies.” The press release describing the report – which provides no dates or places (though it is probably connected to the recall of employees from Asia in 2018) – also alleges that four of the employees “lacked candor” with investigators while another “made false statements.” In addition, the Inspector General ...

... found that one of those officials lacked candor in a compelled interview with the OIG when the official denied observing or placing pills in a package to be delivered to a foreign law enforcement officer and that another of the officials failed to report having been provided such a package.

The press release states that “of the five officials who solicited commercial sex overseas, failed to report their misconduct and misconduct of others, and failed to report contact or relationships with foreign nationals, two resigned, two retired, and one was removed.” It does not say whether their pensions or other benefits were affected.

The Secret Border Patrol Unit Investigating Americans
Yahoo News
A secretive Customs and Border Protection division routinely used the country’s most sensitive databases to obtain the travel records and financial and personal information of journalists, government officials, congressional members and their staff, workers for non-governmental organizations and others. This article reports that as many as 20 journalists were investigated as part of the division’s work, which eventually led to referrals for criminal prosecution against one of its operatives, Jeffrey Rambo, his boss and a co-worker. None were charged, however. In an interview with Yahoo, Rambo said he and his agency were not targeting journalists, they were just following leads for legitimate investigations.

Green Energy Contributing to Forced Labor
Daily Caller
Products that are fundamental to nearly all global “green pledges” — including electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, wind turbines and industrial-grade storage batteries — require minerals that are produced with significant human rights violations. This article reports that about 45% of the world’s solar panel polysilicon supply is produced in the Uighur region of China, a place known for forced labor and other official repression. In addition, more than 40,000 child workers, some as young as 6, work in Congo mining cobalt, a key material for electric vehicle batteries, according to the most recent estimate of Amnesty International. These human rights issues seem to be having little impact on the green agenda.

In June, a White House report on supply chains labeled human rights violations as a “risk” for the renewable energy industry. But the Biden administration continues to forge ahead in its crusade against global warming, outlining goals of wind farms, solar fields, electric vehicle fleets and massive storage batteries powering the grid. U.S. envoy for climate John Kerry sidestepped a question in November on labor abuses taking place in China and tied to green technology production, saying he’s the “climate guy” and had to stay in his lane.

Lawmakers Blast Facebook but Quietly Invest
Business Insider
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Facebook shameful and irresponsible. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon suggested prison time for the tech giant's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Rep. Ro Khanna of California said Facebook should be broken up. 

But despite their tough talk toward the social-media behemoth, all three of those Democratic lawmakers or their spouses stood to gain financially from Facebook. They were among at least 31 lawmakers in the House and Senate — 18 Democrats and 13 Republicans — whose families held investments in the tech company during 2020, according to an Insider investigation of lawmakers' most recent financial disclosures. Some of those lawmakers — such as Pelosi — are influential enough to move markets with a stray comment at a press conference. Others sit on powerful committees tasked with overseeing the very companies from which they stand to profit. … Pelosi reported that her husband, the investor Paul Pelosi, exercised stock options and purchased 5,000 shares of Facebook on January 16, 2020, for a total value between $500,000 and $1 million. His stock options in the company were set to expire the next day. 

 

Coronavirus Investigations

How a Kennedy Built an Anti-Vax Power Amid Covid Associated Press
Vax Makers' Stealth '20 Cash to Democrats, Republicans Intercept
Colo.: How Covid Politics Tore Apart a Luxury Vacation Town Atlantic
Deadly: Covid's Empty Roads, America's Speeding Addiction Slate



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