Thursday, November 28, 2019

HAPPY TURKEY DAY

by Bob Walsh

Happy Turkey Day to one and all. I hope you all manage to eat yourselves into a Turkey Coma and enjoy some quality time with whatever of your friends and family who are out on parole, probation or some other form of conditional release.

Watch some sports. Watch some fake news. Watch some old movies on TV or maybe a new movie on DVD. Do like Joe Biden and listen to the record player. Go see the new Terminator movie. You will probably be the only person in the theater.

ENJOY!

A SON FOR PAPA JOE TO BE PROUD OF

Hunter Biden suspected of smoking crack in DC strip club’s VIP room

By Joe Marino, Elizabeth Rosner and Bruce Golding

Page Six
November 26, 2019

Hunter Biden was suspected of smoking crack inside a strip club where he dropped “thousands of dollars” during multiple visits — at the same time he held a seat on the board of a controversial Ukrainian natural gas company, The Post has learned.

The incident, which took place at Archibald’s Gentlemen’s Club in Washington, DC, late last year, represents the most recent alleged drug use by Biden, 49, who has acknowledged six stints in rehab for alcoholism and addiction that included a crack binge in 2016.

Workers at Archibald’s, located about three blocks north of the White House, said Biden was a regular there, with two bartenders and a security worker all instantly recognizing his photo and one worker identifying him by name.

Security worker Ranko Petrovic said Biden — the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner to challenge President Trump next year — would routinely hole up in a VIP room and drink during his visits.

Although Petrovic said the club “had no issue with him,” former Archibald’s managing partner James Ritter said one occasion in late 2018 was marred by a “suspicion of drug use.”

“There was a smell of burning Styrofoam in the VIP room. We told him nothing illegal can go on here,” Ritter said.

“We didn’t see anything illegal. After he was spoken to, the smell stopped.”

“VIP employees suspected it was crack,” he added.

Hunter spent “thousands and thousands of dollars in the Archibald’s VIP rooms,” and paid his bills with “credit cards that didn’t have his name on it.”

The club generally required customers to use credit cards that matched official IDs, but “Hunter was a bit of an exception,” Ritter said.

“Whenever he was in town he came in for two days in a row, disappeared and come back a month later,” Ritter said.

Archibald’s current owner, Dan Harris, didn’t return an email seeking comment.

At the time of the incident, Hunter was a board member of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, which reportedly paid him as much as $50,000 a month.

That job lies at the heart of the ongoing impeachment inquiry against Trump, with Democrats alleging that the president withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in a bid to force an investigation into corruption allegations against Hunter and his dad.

Trump has denied any quid pro quo.

Hunter joined the Burisma board in April 2014 but declined the company’s offer to serve another term in May due to the controversy surrounding his membership, according to a July 1 profile by the New Yorker.

In an interview with ABC News last month, Hunter denied a suggestion that he wasn’t qualified because he “didn’t have any extensive knowledge about natural gas or Ukraine.”

“No, but I think I had as much knowledge as anybody else who was on the board — if not more,” he said.

Hunter — who’s currently embroiled in a paternity scandal with an Arkansas woman, Lunden Alexis Roberts — also conceded that being the son of the then-vice president “of course” played a role in his selection.

Hunter has never detailed the extent of the work he did for Burisma, although the New Yorker report said he attended board meetings and energy forums in Europe “once or twice a year.”

The magazine’s 11,000-word-plus profile was based on a series of warts-and-all interviews in which Hunter detailed a fall 2016 drug binge in Los Angeles, where he repeatedly bought crack at a homeless encampment while going without sleep for several days.

On Oct. 28, 2016, he checked into rehab at the Grace Grove Lifestyle Center in Sedona, Ariz., but left after only a week and headed to the nearby Mii Amo resort spa.

Hunter was joined there by former sister-in-law Hallie Biden — widow of his older brother, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in May 2015 — and they launched an affair that lasted about a year, according to the New Yorker.

Hunter — whose first wife, Kathleen, obtained a divorce from him amid his relationship with Hallie — remarried in May following a six-day romance with Melissa Cohen, 33.

In his ABC interview last month, Hunter said he’d “done estimable things and things I regret,” but was now in “probably the best place I’ve ever been in my life.”

His personal lawyer and spokesman, George Mesires, didn’t return requests for comment.
__________

Strippers used sex toy on Hunter Biden at NYC’s Hustler Club: sources

By Elizabeth Rosner

Page Six
November 27, 2019

Hunter Biden spent several thousand dollars at a Manhattan strip club during a pair of visits — including one that sent a staffer scrambling to buy a sex toy so strippers could use it on him, sources told The Post on Wednesday.

Biden — who’s been dogged by a series of strip-club allegations uncovered by The Post this week — was accompanied by a woman both times he went to Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club NYC in Hell’s Kitchen about a year ago, the sources said.

On each occasion, he and his companion holed up in a private room, where they ordered bottles of pricey booze and were joined by several strippers, sources said.

During one particularly wild night, workers suspected Biden — son of former Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the Democratic primary race to challenge President Donald Trump — was high, and he was warned that drugs weren’t allowed on the premises, sources said.

That same night, a worker had to be sent out to purchase a dildo so the gals could use it on Hunter, sources said.

It’s unclear if the club didn’t have a similar device on hand or if he insisted on a brand-new one fresh out of the package.

Despite the lurid allegations, Hunter was described as an almost-ideal customer.

“He was a pretty nice guy,” one source said.

“He was pretty friendly and a pretty good tipper.”

Hunter’s personal lawyer and spokesman, George Mesires, didn’t return messages seeking comment late Wednesday afternoon.

3 X 3

by Bob Walsh

Yesterday, for the third day running, all three major stock indexes closed up at new records. It might not be the end all and be all, but it is better than a sharp stick in the eye.

OKLAHOMA COP INDICTED FOR SHOOTING ROAD RAGE SUSPECT WHO FIRED ON COPS

by Bob Walsh

A grand jury has indicted Lt. John Mitchell, 40, for shooting and killing a road rage shooting suspect in the early morning of May 20.

Michael Ann Godsey, 34, had, prior to her being shot and killed, fired at least two shots at the cops and two shots at her own mother. She is known to have fired other shots at apparently random people in town.

Lt. Mitchell and one other officer engaged her with rifle fire, shooting into her pickup truck. They continued to fire even after the truck stopped moving. When the smoke cleared Godsey was found deader than dogshit in the drivers seat of the truck. Lt. Mitchell fired about 60 rounds at the suspect, which the grand jury apparently found to be excessive.

The members of the grand jury had probably never been shot at by a violent criminal.

Lt. Mitchell's attorney describes Godsey as a violent, fleeing felon. Sounds like a reasonable description to me. Mitchell is facing second-degree murder charges, which could get him ten years if he is convicted.

OREGON COPS CAN NO LONGER BE CONVERSATIONAL AT TRAFFIC STOPS

by Bob Walsh

The Oregon Supreme Court has just ruled that cops can no longer engage persons in automobiles with questions about items unrelated to the traffic stop without a good reason to do so. The case stems from a stop made in 2015 which resulted in finding a package of meth on the floor of the car stopped for failure to signal a turn.

HAS POCAHONTAS WARREN STARTED INTO HER DEATH SPIRAL ?

by Bob Walsh

A new Quinnipiac survey of Democrats now shows that Pocahontas has dropped from 28% to 14% in overall favorability and she is now chasing Mayor Pete, who is at 16%, still both well behind Old Man Joe at 24%.

The survey, which hit 1,325 registered voters within the last week, seems to show a reaction to the incredible taxpayer cost of her "Medicare for every human being in America."

A lot of people react favorably to the idea in general, but when you ask them about the cost or about the fact that they will loose their current employer plans, her support drops like a poleaxed steer.

AUBREY HUFF STRIKES OUT KATHY GRIFFIN AND TOM ARNOLD

Retired MLB star Aubrey Huff boasts he's 'teaching his sons to shoot guns in case Bernie beats Trump' sparking furious Twitter spat with Kathy Griffin and Tom Arnold

Daily Mail
November 27, 2019

Retired MLB star Aubrey Huff ignited an uproar on social media by tweeting a picture from a San Diego gun range, where he claimed to be preparing his sons for the possibility of a Bernie Sanders presidency and an ensuing civil war.

'Getting my boys trained up on how to use a gun in the unlikely event @BernieSanders beats @realDonaldTrump in 2020,' Huff wrote on Twitter. 'In which case knowing how to effectively use a gun under socialism will be a must.'

Huff included a picture in his post, showing him holding up a target with clusters of bullet holes around the head and chest.

When asked by one Twitter user whom Huff plans to shoot, the two-time World Series champion and former San Francisco Giants slugger issued a hit list: 'Ummmm crazy people rioting and trying to break into my house for food or shelter.'

The original post elicited thousands of responses on social media, including reactions from comedians and Trump critics Kathy Griffin and Tom Arnold.

Griffin's response was succinct: 'This dumb fuck right here.'

Huff reacted to Griffin immediately, referencing an infamous tour poster of hers that featured the comedian holding a replica of Trump's severed head. 'My boys and I were shooting a fake paper target, as I was teaching them safe gun practices,' Huff wrote. 'Yet here's a picture of you holding a fake head of @realDonaldTrump murdered by your hand with a knife. How'd that work out for your career? The hypocrisy is strong with this one. #moron.'

Arnold, who once appeared on Trump's reality show, piled on after Griffin: 'Kathy Griffin just handed Aubrey Huff his ass.'

In response, Huff took a swipe at Arnold by referencing his four divorces. 'She's not gonna bang u Tom,' Huff wrote. 'If I were you I'd focus on hanging on to that 4th wife before you lose the rest of your money on alimony payments.'

HOW TO AVOID THE HIGH COST OF FUNERALS

Utah woman kept dead husband in freezer for as long as 11 years

Associated Press
November 26, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY -- Police say a man whose body was in a freezer for at least one year was the husband of the woman who had recently died in their apartment west of Salt Lake City.

Tooele Police Sgt. Jeremy Hansen said Tuesday that the medical examiner identified the man as 69-year-old Paul Edwards Mathers. Officers discovered his body last Friday after finding his wife dead on the bed.

Hansen says a cause of death hasn’t been determined. Police suspect foul play but don’t know if his wife was involved. They don’t suspect foul play in the death of his wife.

Hansen said detectives estimate the man’s body could have been there for as long as 11 years based on when residents in the apartment complex say they last saw him.

ROBBER MADE BAD CHOICE IN PICKING LAST VICTIM

Miami Man In Van Guns Down AK-47 Wielding Robber Because He Didn’t Want ‘To Go Out Like A Punk’

By Peter D'Oench

CBS Miami
November 25, 2019

MIAMI – A 60-Year-old Miami man said he was forced to shoot and kill a gunman who had broken in to his van early Monday morning in an attempt to rob him of his jewelry.

“The guy I killed last night, he put an AK-47 to my damn face,” said Donovan Stewart.

Stewart told CBS4’S Peter D’Oench that he had to act quickly because he was worried about the safety of his 11-year-old son and girlfriend who were in the van with him.

“I am from Kingstontown in Jamaica,” he said, “and I am not going to go out like a punk. So I emptied my Glock in his chest. This man tried to get in my van while I was sleeping and he was surprised to see what I did.”

He demonstrated what he did for CBS4.

“Well, he opened the door like this and pointed his AK-47 and I reached around like this and got my gun. That is how I did this to him,” he said.

“So I thought you are you going to kill me so now I have to act quickly because I am trained,” he said. “You know I have a security license, I have a G license and I have a state firearms license and a concealed weapons permit and I have a gun and I am a member of the NRA.”

“I am going to defend my life and those I love,” he said. “My family is innocent and just don’t put an AK-47 in my face. I will not allow that to happen. This guy also hijacked a woman in a van and was found with her car key. He robbed another woman at gunpoint.”

“You want to come looking for trouble,” he said. “Come to me. Come to me. I wouldn’t do anything like this to anybody and they picked the wrong person in this case.

Miami Police Officer Mike Vega said while this appears to be a case of self-defense the investigation is still open.

“Everyone is cooperating,” he said, “but we still need to receive more information. We need to put this all together and determine what happened.”

“If anybody knows anything they should call Miami Police,” Vega added.

Meanwhile, while D’Oench was at his location at the crime scene, he was approached by Delilah Gaitor and her boyfriend, Evans Chery. Gaitor said the dead gunman was the same man who terrorized her around 6 a.m. on Saturday and robbed her at gunpoint of $600 in cash, her iPhone and her 2018 Volkswagen.

“He had a gun and forced me to open my door,” she said. “He told me to open, so I gave him my cash right away. I feel very relieved now. This was a terrible thing to do to me. I was devastated and I was emotional. This is crazy to rob this man. He has a family and to do something like that while he was living in a van is not right.”

Chery said, “Karma is something else. I mean this woman works hard for her money.”

Vega said Miami Police were trying to determine if the unidentified gunman who was killed had robbed other people.

HOW TO DEMOTE FROM LIEUTENANT GENERAL TO MAJOR GENERAL

‘Oink, oink.’ Lieutenant general belittled staff, mocked female airman’s weight, IG found. It cost him a star

By Stephen Losey

Air Force Times
November 26, 2019

According to some who worked for him, there were two sides to former Lt. Gen. Lee Levy.

In public, the former head of the Air Force Sustainment Center was “self-confident, articulate, charismatic, passionate, likeable [and] charming,” witnesses told investigators from the Air Force’s Office of the Inspector General. But some who worked for him saw a very different leader — one who “repeatedly, publicly and personally belittled and berated” his staff, was “abrasive” and created an environment “infused with fear and intimidation.”

Subordinates were “walking on eggshells” to avoid upsetting him, according to a March 2019 IG report.

A comment by one unnamed witness reveals just how reviled Levy — and the toxic command climate he created — was by some: “I think if he was in the battlefield, he probably would’ve been shot in the back,” the witness said.

The IG report, which the Air Force provided at Air Force Times’ request, indicates this witness wasn’t alone.

“Though stated in a number of ways, this sentiment was expressed by virtually every member of Lt. Gen. Levy’s [redacted]," the report says.

Levy’s bullying behavior — which investigators found even extended to making degrading remarks and pig noises in public about a female subordinate’s eating habits — ultimately cost him his third star. He officially retired as a major general on Nov. 1, over a year after he left the center and his formal retirement ceremony was held.

The Air Force Sustainment Center, which is headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, is part of Air Force Materiel Command and provides depot maintenance, supply chain management and installation support to sustain multiple aircraft including the A-10 Warthog, AC-130, B-1 Lancer, B-52 Stratofortress, F-15, F-16 and F-22 fighters, and the KC-130 Stratotanker.

One witness said that although she knew and liked Levy at first, after going to work for him, things became so bad she began to lose sleep and was unable to get out of bed on weekends.

“There were a lot of nights when I would come home just in tears or … just absolutely emotionally and mentally exhausted from the work,” she said. “After I worked for him and experienced that, it was more of, he’s the boogeyman that you just wanted to run away from.”

In a statement provided by his attorney, Levy said he disagreed with the allegations and characterizations against him in the report.

“I attempted to be tough but fair in my leadership style as we strove for excellence in everything we did,” Levy said. “Had concerns been voiced at the time, I would certainly have addressed the issue to resolve it. Unfortunately, those who are now complaining waited until I left command and was retiring.”

But the IG report detailed repeated, specific incidents that investigators concluded amounted to a failure to set and maintain a healthy command climate.

‘You’re always eating’

Perhaps the most egregious of Levy’s comments — corroborated by multiple witnesses — were directed toward one woman under his command about her eating habits and weight.

This airman told investigators that Levy would “always have to somewhat make a joke at my expense" to groups of people, typically when she was the lowest ranking airman. Although she never had any weight issues or difficulty meeting Air Force fitness standards due to her eating habits — one witness described her as “very much in shape” — Levy would comment about what she was eating, claim she was always sleeping, or say she never knew what she was doing.

She told investigators that one day, as she was sitting at her desk at lunchtime, Levy walked by and said, “Oink, oink, [redacted]. Are you really eating again?”

Levy’s comments made another person so uncomfortable he stepped away, the report stated. Levy looked at her, laughed and grabbed his own lunch before saying, “You’re always eating.”

Another witness corroborated her testimony and said Levy’s conduct was “terribly degrading and rude,” and a sign of toxic leadership.

Levy told investigators he didn’t recall that incident, or making comments about that airman’s weight and eating habits. When asked if he said the airman was “always eating,” he told investigators, “Mmm, I might have said that when I … I don’t know. I don’t know.” He also said if he did say something like that, “it was part of good-natured give-and-take between the two of them” and that the female airman would have participated in it by making jokes about her own eating.

In an email Monday, Levy’s attorney, Richard Stevens, said he denied making pig noises or saying anything intended to be personally belittling or demeaning.

“In general, there were frequently conversations and light-hearted banter among the ‘inner circle’ staff about who was eating what, among many, many other topics every single day,” Stevens said.

But the female airman did not feel it was so light-hearted. She told investigators she felt she was being compared to a pig, and that she didn’t feel his comments were good-natured. To the contrary, she told the IG, they made her feel “terrible.” Like many women, she said, she is conscious about her weight.

That wasn’t the only instance when Levy allegedly made such comments to her. On a business trip to Washington around March 2017, Levy reportedly made another remark about her weight while riding in a government vehicle as it was going over bumps on a freeway.

An unidentified witness said Levy said something along the lines of “if you lose a few pounds, maybe the vehicle would have less strain on it.”

The female airman also testified that Levy said during that drive that she needed to be careful about how much she ate, because her uniform pants might not fit anymore.

The IG said that even if Levy was trying to be humorous and was oblivious that his comments were not being taken in that light, “his comments were inappropriate, particularly given his position and the public contexts in which they were made, (though even if made in private the comments would still not have been appropriate). They undermined [the airman’s] dignity and were not respectful of her.”

‘Do you know who I am?’

The report also detailed multiple other instances in which Levy is said to have bullied or humiliated his subordinates, even on a matter as small as his coffee not being hot enough or dust being on the top of picture frames. Wing commanders also were subject to Levy’s poor treatment, witnesses told the IG, though the report did not detail such incidents.

He once publicly reprimanded a civilian employee for not pulling him out of a meeting with a four-star general when a senator called, even though the senator said not to disturb Levy and left a message wishing Levy happy holidays.

“General Levy was yelling at me so loud that … everybody else … all came out [of their offices] to see who he was yelling at and what he was yelling about,” that witness said. “I was almost in tears. I couldn’t get away from him fast enough, but I stood there and took the, what I call a tongue-lashing, and just kept saying, ‘Yes sir, it won’t happen again.’”

Witnesses told investigators that Levy repeatedly dropped folders and packages on the floor for subordinates in piles to pick up. Several thought it was intentional, and one said he believed it was a “total power move.” One subordinate was so shocked that he took a picture of the pile.

“I still don’t quite know how to respond to it,” said one witness who had to pick up folders Levy left on the floor three separate times. “At the time I felt like was a, you know, ‘Get on your knees, boy … pick that stuff up.’"

Another was so bothered by the disrespect that, after the third time Levy left folders on the floor, told another official that “If that happens again … I will walk out of the office.”

Levy also chewed out another subordinate over the phone over a minor change to a change-of-command ceremony script, flipping the order when the chaplain and the speaker were announced.

“He asked me, do I know who he is? And I said, ‘Yes sir,’” the subordinate told the IG. “And he said, ‘Uh, do you know that I am the three-star commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center?’ and I said, ‘Yes sir, I know.’”

That subordinate told the IG the call was done to humiliate her, and that she “shut down” and lost respect for Levy after that.

Another witness testified that Levy said “I want a head on a platter” over this incident.

Levy told investigators he did not recall it.

Personal expenses

The IG said Levy "wrongfully accepted loans from a lesser paid employee,' by having that junior officer pay his personal travel expenses on her own personal bank card in violation of Defense Department ethics regulations. Although Levy at first advanced the subordinate enough money to cover his expenses, the report said, Levy several times failed to replenish that amount to keep up with his spending, and at times he owed her several hundred dollars for months.

As Levy’s planned retirement approached last year, and after several attempts to get repaid, the subordinate began to get nervous that she might not be getting the money she was owed. She asked another official for help, who called Levy and shortly thereafter, Levy cut the subordinate a check.

Stevens, Levy’s attorney, said in a statement to Air Force Times that is a “gross mischaracterization.” He said junior officers had access to a personal bank account of Levy and his wife, and that they were to alert them if that account ran low and never to cover expenses with their own funds.

In this instance, Stevens said, a junior officer overspent the account without Levy’s knowledge and covered the error with her own funds, and then sought reimbursement. Levy did not authorize the overspending or ask to borrow money, and was unhappy his rule against overspending had been broken, Stevens said.

During his interview with the IG, the report said, Levy said he only became aware that his indebtedness to the subordinate was an issue when he read the allegation. When asked about the phone call with the person who intervened to obtain the final payment, said “I have no knowledge of what you’re talking about whatsoever.”

The IG said Levy’s denial was not persuasive, and that the official’s testimony was more credible than Levy’s and such a phone call “is not one that would likely have been overlooked or forgotten.”

“This stark and troubling difference in testimony about whether a telephone call took place raises the specter of a false official statement under Article 107, Uniform Code of Military Justice,” the IG said.

In fact, the IG said, Levy “claimed a lack of memory of events at all or details of the same” when asked about many events and allegations against him throughout his interview.

According to Air Force officials, there was not sufficient evidence to charge Levy with making a false official statement.

Levy offered 13 high-ranking officers and civilians as character witnesses to the IG, although all but three lacked first-hand knowledge or evidence as to the instances regarding his command climate.

Several of Levy’s character witnesses offered positive views about how he treated them personally and mentored them in their careers, the report said, although some acknowledged he could be difficult to please and “long had a reputation for being direct or intense.” Several said Levy’s style was not one they themselves would embrace, and a general officer cited as a character witness said he had turned down a chance to work for him because of his reputation.

In a memo to Air Force Times, Stevens included excerpts from multiple letters of support from those who worked side-by-side with Levy, to refute the claims that Levy had a “dual personality.” Several called Levy a mentor who challenged them to grow as officers and improve their own performance.

“Lt. Gen. Levy was ‘game on’ every day," one letter, whose writer was not identified, said. He “was admittedly a ‘tough’ commander with high expectations. … [T]here was not an unhealthy command climate at the AFSC during my assignment. There was a command climate that expected people to work hard, reach for high goals, and perform at their best every day, but there was absolutely not a disrespectful, belittling or humiliating environment. It was a challenging place to work, but I am a better airman for being pushed to perform my best every day.”

“I would follow Lt. Gen. Lee Levy into combat as his colleague or his subordinate again in any organization,” said another colleague, who also called Levy brilliant, articulate and decisive.

Levy, who joined the Air Force in 1985, commanded AFSC from June 2015 until his change of command and retirement ceremonies were held on Aug. 7, 2018. But when allegations about his behavior emerged while he was on terminal leave, former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson extended his term on active duty and he was reassigned to the Pentagon while the investigation was conducted.

Levy was originally due to officially retire on Oct. 1, 2018. But because he was kept on active duty for the investigation, he reverted to his previous rank of major general last Oct. 6, 60 days after he left his command at AFSC. Stevens said the law requires three-star generals to revert to major general after being out of command 60 days.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said an officer grade determination was conducted, which did not restore his third star. He officially retired as a two-star on Nov. 1.

FATAL ATTACK BY WILD HOGS

Feral hogs in Texas attacked and killed a woman outside a home

By Lauren M. Johnson

CNN
November 26, 2019

A Texas woman was found dead after pre-dawn attack by a group of feral hogs outside a home, the Chambers County sheriff said.

Christine Rollins, a 59-year old caregiver to an elderly couple in Anahuac, failed to show up at her normal time on Sunday, the sheriff's office said. The 84-year-old homeowner found her lying in the front yard between her car and the house.

Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said in a news conference Monday that "multiple hogs" assaulted Rollins when she arrived at work, likely between 6 and 6:30 a.m., when it was still dark outside.

"In my 35 years, I will tell you it's one of the worst things I've ever seen," Hawthorne told reporters.

Jefferson County Medical Examiner Selly Rivers determined Rollins was attacked by different hogs because of the various size of the bites on her body, Hawthorne said.

Mature feral hogs can weigh between 100 and 400 pounds, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The sheriff noted feral hogs are a problem across Texas, but attacks are rare.

CNN affiliate KTRK spoke to neighbors who said they have complained recently about wild hogs in the area.

ADL HAS LACKED THE COURAGE TO CALL OUT THAT VIOLENCE AND HATE TOWARDS THE JEWISH COMMUNITY HAS BEEN LARGELY LED BY AFRICAN-AMERICANS

Despite new push, doubt lingers over ADL’s ability to fight anti-Semitism

By Shiryn Ghermezian

JNS
November 25, 2019

Standing alongside Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, local faith leaders, elected officials, and community partners, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt announced last week that the New York-based group will be doubling the number of Brooklyn schools involved in its “No Place for Hate Peer to Peer Program” for the 2019-2020 school year. The ADL committed $250,000 to expand the initiative, which has helped promote tolerance in more than 1,700 public and private schools nationwide since 1999.

The program has already been rolled out in 22 schools in Brooklyn, N.Y., and reached more than 8,200 students, according to ABC7. The number of schools administering the program will expand to up to 40 this academic year, with a focus on the neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Borough Park, where most of the recent anti-Semitic incidents against Orthodox Jews have taken place.

“We track acts of harassment and vandalism and violence, and what’s so alarming is that the situation has not improved this year,” said Greenblatt. “The severity of the incidents seems to be increasing in terms of their frequency, their aggressiveness, and their physicality.”

The 2018 Hate Crime Statistics, released on Nov. 12 by the FBI, revealed that of the 1,617 victims of anti-religious hate crimes reported in the United States, “56.9% were victims of crimes motivated by offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.” Brooklyn alone experienced at least 93 incidents of anti-Semitic violence, harassment, and vandalism in 2018. The most recent acts of anti-Semitic vandalism involve the unprovoked attack on a 21-year-old Orthodox man in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and a series of egg-throwing incidents targeting Jews in Borough Park.

Despite the expansion of its education program, the ADL has been criticized for its approach to fighting anti-Semitism, especially in New York. Former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, also the founder of Americans Against AntiSemitism, told JNS, “I just don’t have much faith in the ADL and what they represent these days. I think they need to be educated to recognize what’s going on in our communities, to be honest about what’s going on and to address what’s going on. They’re talking about education? I want to educate them.”

Citing some examples, Hikind expressed frustration at the ADL for never publicly criticizing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate – for appointing outspoken anti-Semite Linda Sarsour as an official campaign surrogate. He also said the ADL never publicly addressed a recent report that documents the “systemic anti-Semitism and an ingrained delegitimization of Israel” at New York’s Columbia University and its sister school, Barnard College.

“ADL is [supposed to be] there for the Jewish people to fight against anti-Semitism. How is it possible that this is going on in New York, the home of the ADL, and where is the ADL with regard to [anti-Semitism] at Columbia University, NYU and Kingsborough Community College? What are they doing in all these places? The answer is nothing,” said Hikind. “I know the ADL criticized [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu when he made certain remarks. That’s what we need the ADL for? They do wonderful reports, but beyond that, it’s a joke.”

He added that “they need to be educated into dealing with reality and to stop being so freaking politically correct. That’s sort of the moto of the ADL. Not to rock the boat.”

Bryan Leib, board member of Americans Against Anti-Semitism, also told JNS that he has little hope in the ADL and its newly announced initiative.

“While no effort to combat anti-Semitism should be overlooked or downplayed, the ADL has shown that it’s unwilling to address the problem head-on by getting to the crux of the matter, so I’m not expecting this program to have much of an immediate effect,” he said. “The ADL has failed to call out any form of anti-Semitism that isn’t borne of white supremacy, and their curriculum is more about tolerance and racism in general than it is about the unique history of anti-Semitism.

“We cannot expect to fight anti-Semitism if we don’t recognize its coming from the left and the right. So while teaching tolerance is always good, it won’t likely make a dent against the irrational hatred that is anti-Semitism,” he continued. “If city officials are actually interested in making a dent in the rise of violence, they should publicly announce that they are placing undercover police on the streets dressed as Orthodox Jews in the three main areas the attacks are taking place. At the very least, that would help deter future attacks.”

Nissan Jacobs, founder and CEO of WoMen Fight AntiSemitism, told JNS that while her organization is “overjoyed” to see the “No Place for Hate Peer to Peer Program” in New York, “the violence and hate towards the Jewish community has been largely led by African-Americans and Muslims, which does not fit the Trump right-wing paradigm, and indeed, ADL has lacked the courage to call this out.”

She said “the ADL is largely held to its donor base, and they have been absent in key areas of speaking out, which is why we and Hikind stepped forward. Obviously, had ADL been doing their job, we would not have had to hold a rally against such crimes in front of the New York City Mayor’s office. But the fact they are partnering with Brooklyn Borough president Adams clarifies that they may not have the guts to speak out and be honest to Jews who see through their silence on this essential part of the problem, but they are aware that throwing money, time and energy to the wind in any other direction is a futile waste.”

“The attacks in the key areas this initiative is focused on, Crown Heights, Borough Park and Williamsburg, are 99.99% perpetrated by anti-Semites from the African-American, Muslim and Latino communities. Again, we have to take credit for making this possible because up to now, the ADL has ignored this basic fact.”

Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, a leader in Crown Heights and founder of the New York-based volunteer group Jewish Future Alliance, found fault with the ADL’s national leadership. While commending the local leadership in New York for not politicizing the issue of anti-Semitism and being “honest, direct and responsive” about its source, he said about ADL’s national leaders: “I think they’re blaming everything on the alt-right, when in truth in Brooklyn the anti-Semitism is coming from the left.”

It’s agreed that more than education is needed to stop the wave of attacks, taking place across Brooklyn. Behrman said the ADL’s education program is not “the solution to the problem” in the borough “because it’s not catered to the issues we’re facing now.”

He explained, “I think if you want to solve the problems in Brooklyn, you have to address the issues head-on. Any curriculum has to cater to local problems; a lot of it is gentrification and the Jewish community being falsely blamed for the displacement of the African-American community. If you teach against hate, and someone can’t make their rent and the Jew is seen as the person to blame, I don’t think a curriculum about hate is necessarily going to make a real difference here.”

Though the issue does not have one simple solution, Behrman suggested doing a study in local schools to understand what factors are influencing people’s behaviors and leading to an increase in violent anti-Semitic attacks. “Once we have the results, we can create a curriculum to cater to those needs,” he said.

He also pointed out what he believes is a “general feeling of lawlessness” in New York, which he blamed on city and state officials instituting laws that are “effectively tying the hands of the police department and making it harder for them to arrest and do their job. And as a result, people are more likely to commit violent crimes.”

“New York is turning into Gotham in terms of lawlessness,” he asserted, “and we need a Batman to save the day.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

HOW TRUMP WANTS TO BE SEEN

And that's how Trey Rusk and Dave Freeman see Trump


Rocky Trump, a true champion, eager to take on all challengers, including Adam Schitt and Jerry Nadler

JORDANAIAN RESEARCHERS SAY ONLY 400,000 JEWS WERE KILED BY THE NAZIS AND THEY DESERVED IT

The Holocaust – “Biggest Lie in Modern History”

By Edy Cohen

Israel Today
November 26, 2019

In many countries around the world denying the Holocaust is a criminal offense that can lead to lengthy imprisonment. In Arab countries, not only do they not teach about the Holocaust, but they openly deny the Holocaust to ridicule Israel and the Jewish people.

In October, a conference was organized for Jordanian researchers and journalists under the banner “The Holocaust – the Biggest Lie in Modern History.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published a video with English subtitles exposing some of the shocking statements made at the conference. Organizers claimed that between 600,000-800,000 victims were killed in the Nazi concentration camps, and of these, only half were Jewish, meaning that no more than 400,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

The common antisemitic distortion used to justify the horrors of the Holocaust was repeated at the conference, which asserted that the Jews had it coming to them because they negatively influenced German and Western society. There was even the absurd claim made that there is no evidence proving the Holocaust – no bones, cremated bodies, gas chambers or any other physical indication that it ever happened, even though the evidence is well-documented and accessible to everyone.

At the end of the conference, one of the speakers said, “The Jews lie so much (about the Holocaust) that they have come to believe their own lies.” This statement echoes the infamous Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Nazi Propaganda, who said that if we repeat a lie enough times, the lie will get rooted in the consciousness of the masses as the truth.

It is important to understand that this despicable conference could not have taken place without the approval of the Jordanian authorities, who themselves publicly deny the Holocaust. They have decided that it is to their advantage to falsify historical and scientific data and ignore facts that have been researched comprehensively for many decades.

This kind of event not only encourages further Holocaust-denial in the Arab world, but also antisemitism that is on the rise on Arab streets and many other places across the globe.

The obvious purpose of this conference is to demonize Jews and delegitimize the State of Israel by minimizing the magnitude of the Holocaust, which is falsely perceived to be the main justification for the existence of the Jewish state.

Israel is failing to expose and deal with the phenomenon of Holocaust-denial in the Arab world. It is time to stop ignoring the dangerous propaganda and stop being afraid to confront those who promote the diabolical falsification of the Holocaust. Dialog or reconciliation cannot be achieved with Jordan, or any other country, whose starting point is antisemitism and Holocaust-denial.

PAPADOPOULOS JUMPING IN CONGRESSIONAL RACE

by Bob Walsh

George Papadopoulos, former low level Trump staffer and target of some of the early Russian Hoax action, has announced he is running for the congressional seat vacated by Katie Hill, D-Santa Clarita, after some of her sexual escapades hit the fan.

The seat had been held by a string of Republicans until Hill snagged it in 2018 so he has a realistic shot at it. He's got good name recognition and the fact he got fucked over in some of the Trump bullshit may count in his favor in that district. Maybe. He was found guilty of a process crime (pleaded guilty actually, to lying to the Feebs) and did 14 days as a guest of the people.

THINGS ARE LOOKING SOLID

by Bob Walsh

Yesterday was the second day in a row that the DOW, S&P and NASDQ indexes all closed at record highs. It also marked the 100th new high for the DOW during the Trump administration.

All LOT of people vote with their wallets. Wallets are looking pretty good right now.

CAN'T SEARCH CAR OF UNLICENSED DRIVER ..... IN CALIFORNIA

by Bob Walsh

The California Supreme Court has just ruled (4-3) that the mere fact that the driver of a car is unlicensed is not probably cause to conduct a search of the vehicle. The decision went the other way when it was up for review in 2002.

In the case under review the cops got a call about an erratic driver. They went to the registered address of the car and shortly after that Maria Elena Lopez pulled up. She asserted that she was unlicensed. They hooked her up and asked if she maybe had ID in the car. She said maybe yes. They searched, found her purse. In the purse was some meth.

The original case presupposed that the driver might have had documentation which he/she ditched in the car to avoid identification and that it was permissible for the cops to search for the possibly dumped ID.

LOOKS LIKE STEPHEN KING WAS RIGHT

by Bob Walsh

U C Santa Cruz has announced they have found a three times higher mercury concentration in the mountain lions in their area than in the mountain lions in the inland areas of the formerly great state of California. The suspected cause.....FOG.

They think (or at least want us to think) that the fog is leeching mercury out of the ocean and depositing it in coastal areas where it makes its way into the flora and fauna. They think the mercury originates with the burning of coal. (Think China and India.)

Just make sure you don't eat any mountain lions you might happen to shoot. It could be bad for you.

IS NANCY PELOSI'S SCROTUM SHRIVELING ?

by Bob Walsh

A careful read of some subtle and not so subtle clues and remarks being made, mostly on the QT, might tend to lead a reasonable person to believe that Nancy Pelosi really, really does not want to take an unsuccessful impeachment attempt forward and is trying to arrange a censure instead.

Trouble is, the psycho left really believes their own press. They really think that Trump did it and that Adam Schiff has all the proof in his back pocket and all they have to do is go forward with it and Trump will be impeached, removed from office and summarily executed, making Hillary Clinton the new president. (What can I say, they are idiots.)

Whether this is going to work out or not I have no idea. It is, however, still fun to watch and speculate.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bob, have you had one to many of those bottles with the worm in them?

ANOTHER ONE BAILING OUT OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC

by Bob Walsh

Charles Schwab / TD Ameritrade has just announced they are getting the fuck out of San Francisco and moving to Texas.

The Chamber of Commerce said they are "deeply disappointed."

Hey Howie, you need a retirement gig?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bob, what I need is a girlfriend!

MORE INFO ON DIVE BOAT FIRE

by Bob Walsh

Some more information has come out regarding the fire on board the dive boat Conception off the coast of Santa Barbara that killed 34 people earlier this year. The boat had a 24" forward escape hatch that did not have an illuminated sign. Under the current Coast Guard regs the boat would have been required to have a 32" forward escape hatch that had emergency illumination on the EMERGENCY EXIT sign. However, because the Conception was built before 1996 it was exempt and did not require a retrofit.

The full report on the fire is expected to be released next year.

I AM NOT SURE HOW I FEEL ABOUT THIS

by Bob Walsh

On Monday President Trump signed a bill making some forms of animal cruelty a federal felony beef.

I am unaware that animal cruelty in general is an underprosecuted crime so I am unsure that it warrants this action. Just my thought, for what that is worth to you.

BOYS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

by Bob Walsh

It seems that on Monday two inmates killed one inmate on the yard at Folsom.

Prisons will continue to be unpleasant places until we start incarcerating a better class of people.

A SPLIT OVER THE FREEING OF PRISONERS

Trump is glad that his landmark law is leading to the release of inmates. His Justice Department wants them to stay in prison

By Neena Satija, Wesley Lowery and Josh Dawsey

The Washington Post
November 24, 2019

The five former inmates assembled on the White House stage weren't scheduled to speak, but then President Donald Trump said: "Where's Gregory? Greg?

"Come on, get up here!" From behind the president, Gregory Allen saluted and then made his way to the microphone. "Two months ago I was in a prison cell, and I'm in the White House," declared Allen, a Florida resident who had been freed under Trump's signature criminal justice legislation. "That's continuing to make America great again!"

The gathering in April was a triumphant celebration of the First Step Act, the most sweeping overhaul of the federal criminal justice system in a generation. Since its passage nearly a year ago, the law has led to the release of more than 3,000 inmates — including Allen, who was convicted of cocaine trafficking in 2001.

The Justice Department, though, had never wanted to let Allen out of prison. In fact, even as he and Trump shared a joyous embrace on television, federal prosecutors were trying to persuade a judge to put Allen back behind bars.

The president has repeatedly pointed to the First Step Act as one of his administration's chief bipartisan achievements and one for which he is personally responsible. But cases like Allen's expose a striking rift between the White House allies who supported the law and the Justice Department officials now working to limit the number of inmates who might benefit from it.

"DOJ is pushing against the will of the people, the will of Congress, the will of the president," said Holly Harris, a conservative activist and leader of the Justice Action Network, who worked with Congress and the White House to pass the law.

Harris noted that, before the law's passage, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a vocal critic of reducing prison sentences. His successor, William Barr, expressed similar reservations prior to his appointment.

The First Step Act aims to lessen long-standing disparities in punishment for nonviolent drug offenses involving crack cocaine. Having 5 grams of crack, a form of cocaine that is more common among black drug users, used to carry the same mandatory minimum sentence as having 500 grams of powder cocaine, which is more common among white drug users.

But federal prosecutors are arguing in hundreds of cases that inmates who have applied for this type of relief are ineligible, according to a review of court records and interviews with defense attorneys. In at least half a dozen cases, prosecutors are seeking to reincarcerate offenders who have already been released under the First Step Act.

The department has told federal prosecutors that when determining whether to challenge an application for early release they should consider not the amount of crack an inmate was convicted of having or trafficking — but rather the amount that court records suggest they may have actually had, which is often much larger.

A Justice spokesman, Wyn Hornbuckle, defended that interpretation. He did not respond to questions about the split between the department and the White House allies who pushed for the law.

Hornbuckle said that in years past prosecutors could secure lengthy prison sentences without having to prove an offender had large amounts of drugs. Under today's laws, he said, those same offenders would likely be charged with crimes involving larger quantities.

"The government's position is that the text of the statute requires courts to look at the quantity of crack that was part of the actual crime," rather than the amount the person was convicted of having, Hornbuckle said. "This is a fairness issue."

In the vast majority of cases reviewed by theWashington Post, judges have disagreed with the Justice Department's interpretation. Some of the people involved in writing the legislation also disagree, including Brett Tolman, a former U.S. attorney in Utah. He and other supporters of the law note that the text of the legislation does not explicitly instruct courts to consider the actual amount of crack an offender allegedly had.

"This is not a faithful implementation of this part of the First Step Act," said Tolman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. "At some point, they figured out a way to come back and argue that it wouldn't apply to as many people."

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, accused the Justice Department at a congressional hearing last month of "trying to sabotage" the law by interpreting it in this way. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a key Republican sponsor of the law, declined to comment on the department's stance on inmate eligibility but told the Post he had concerns about how other aspects of the law are being implemented.

"It would be a shame if the people working under the president failed to implement the bill as written," Lee told the Post.

In January, Barr told Congress he would enact the First Step Act in ways that "are consistent with congressional intent."

But current and former White House officials said Barr, who was sworn in Feb. 14, has expressed concerns it would drive up crime numbers and the administration would be blamed. He also told White House officials he'd heard from many critics of the law, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Hornbuckle declined to comment on those accounts.

"The people that did the deal, including President Trump, wanted to help guys like me," said Allen, 49. "But on the flip side, you have federal prosecutors who wake up every day trying to keep guys like me locked up."

In February, two months before the White House ceremony, U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara in Tampa, Florida, rejected the Justice Department's argument that Allen should remain in prison, concluding it was contrary to the spirit of the law.

Prosecutors told Lazzara they would appeal. When they noted that some judges had interpreted the law differently, Lazzara said, "I'll bet you Congress didn't really think through what was going to happen."

Indeed, at least five federal judges across the country have sided with the Justice Department in rejecting applications for early release. Others have said they will not rule on the applications until appellate courts decide how they should be handled.

The effect has been to paralyze the flow of First Step Act releases in some areas, leaving hundreds of petitioners — the vast majority of whom are black — in federal prison, defense attorneys say.

Among the stalled cases is that of Deonte Sweeney, a former construction worker serving a 22-year sentence for trafficking more than 5 grams of crack cocaine. Prosecutors have opposed Sweeney's application for early release, alleging that he had 84 grams of crack. The judge said he would not rule until he had guidance from appellate courts.

"I put my life in the jury's hands," Sweeney, 41, said from a federal prison in Pennsylvania. "So whatever amount the jury chose, that's what I should be held accountable for."

White House officials declined to comment.

Trump continues to claim credit for the bill. Just last month, the president appeared onstage in South Carolina with Tanesha Bannister, a 45-year-old South Carolina woman freed under the First Step Act.

"I want to thank the president for giving me another lease on life," Bannister told the crowd.

Unmentioned was that Justice Department prosecutors had opposed Bannister's release.

The First Step Act was championed by a bipartisan coalition that spanned the political spectrum, from the conservative megadonor Koch brothers to racial-justice activist Van Jones. The legislation forbids federal jailers from shackling pregnant inmates and grants judges new powers to free sick and elderly prisoners.

One of the most consequential parts of the law was the provision allowing federal inmates like Allen to apply for early release. The mandatory sentencing policies those offenders faced are among the factors that have led America to incarcerate more people than any other nation, experts say.

Efforts to pass similar legislation during the Obama administration failed to gain traction with congressional Republicans and were not taken up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But after Trump's election in 2016, advocates believed they had another shot.

Their hope was rooted in the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who had expressed support for criminal justice reform and whose father spent 14 months in federal prison for crimes including tax evasion and witness tampering.

A version of the legislation made it through the House in May 2018, but the chances of a bill gaining enough Republican support in the Senate seemed a long shot — especially because Sessions opposed it.

"There are still those who would have you believe we should release the criminals early, shorten sentences for serious federal traffickers, and go soft on crime," Sessions said in a speech last year. "That would be bad for the rule of law, it would be bad for public safety, and it would be bad for the communities across America."

Advocates who lobbied on behalf of the bill said they believed that Sessions' opposition trickled down to other members of the Justice Department.

"I have no question about it that, behind the scenes, there were certain people at DOJ who seemed like they were trying to actively hurt the legislation," said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for the conservative group FreedomWorks. "The tough-on-crime mentality that existed in the 1980s and '90s is still present with some members of Congress and is still very much present inside the DOJ."

But Kushner raised the issue with his father-in-law so often that the president grew annoyed with him, according to current and former administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

KimKardashianWest and Kanye West introduced the president to the case of Alice Johnson, a grandmother who had received a life sentence for trafficking crack cocaine. Trump has said he was deeply affected by her story. The couple persuaded him to grant her clemency in June. White House aides say Trump was also swayed by lobbying from several Republican governors who had enacted similar sentencing reforms in their states.

McConnell was unwilling to act without hearing from Trump directly.

Early in December 2018, Trump called McConnell directly and asked him to give the legislation a vote in the Senate, the aides said. Trump told him that, with White House backing, McConnell's fellow Republicans would fall in line.

"Once his heart was in it, he was all in," said Ja'Ron Smith, a special assistant to Trumpwho helped shepherd the legislation. "It wasn't easy to get consensus, but the president was really pushing for this."

McConnell called a vote on Dec. 18. The legislation passed overwhelmingly, with 87 senators in favor and just 12 against. Three days later, Trump signed it.

Trump has made criminal justice reform a chief talking point in recent months, and several of his advisers believe it could play an important role in his reelection bid, said Doug Deason, a prominent donor to the Trump campaign. A senior campaign official added that the Trump campaign plans to tout the First Step Act in the hopes of attracting black voters in key states such as North Carolina and Florida.

The legislation has earned Trump goodwill from unlikely corners, something he craves amid an impeachment investigation. Last month, he beamed onstage in Columbia, South Carolina, as he was presented with an award from a bipartisan advocacy group of black elected officials.

"I told him, 'You ought to go and get that award,' " Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in an interview. "There ain't many people giving you an award these days."

Backstage, Trump talked up the idea of another such law, asking Steve Benjamin, the city's mayor, if he should call it the Second Step Act, the mayor recalled.

Yet defense attorneys and advocates are frustrated that the White House is not doing more to ensure that the law is implemented as intended.

"The irony of this administration working against itself is mind-boggling," said Brittany Barnett, a defense attorney who has worked on several of the First Step Act cases championed by Kardashian West. "Especially with lives on the line."

In the weeks after the bill became law, many federal prosecutors allowed inmate petitions for early release to go unchallenged. Then, at the direction of officials in Washington, prosecutors began to reverse course, court records show.

In March, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Bockhorst asked federal judges in West Virginia to place a hold on more than two dozen applications for relief — some of which she had not previously opposed. She wrote that she expected to oppose at least some of those applications based on new guidance from the department.

In a brief phone interview, Bockhorst said the government shutdown that began soon after the bill passed and lasted until late January delayed the guidance from Washington. "We didn't have the benefit of any kind of coordinated position," she said.

Some U.S. attorneys had opposed early releases from the beginning, including the prosecutors in Florida who reviewed Allen's application. They argued that although Allen pleaded guilty to a crime involving 50 grams or more of crack, evidence suggested he actually had more than 500 grams.

Lazzara was not persuaded, and on Feb. 19 he ordered that Allen be freed. Later that day he was.

The following month, Allen got a call inviting him to the White House. Neither the advocates who organized the April 1 event nor White House staff were aware that federal prosecutors had already notified the court that they would seek to reincarcerate him, organizers said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Florida referred requests for comment to the Justice Department, which declined to discuss Allen's case. Allen's defense attorneys declined to comment.

One federal public defender in Florida, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid imperiling other cases, said prosecutors eventually came to realize that they were appealing the release of a man Trump had hugged on television.

Two weeks after local newscasts led the evening news with images of Allen smiling and embracing the president, the former inmate got another phone call: The government was dropping its appeal.

Allen never received a formal explanation of why prosecutors changed course. But he gave the Post his theory: "Once they saw they gave me a presidential invite, they had to rethink things."

EDITOR’S NOTE: Trump is wrong, DOJ is right! Releasing a bunch of dope dealers and other criminals puts the public’s safety at risk.

HIS ‘STOP AND FRISK’ REDUCED CRIME, BUT NOW BLOOMBERG APOLOGIZES TO BLACKS FOR IT

Bloomberg wants to be strong on guns and soft on crime

By Rafael Mangual

The Washington Post
November 24, 2019

Now that Mike Bloomberg has announced he’s running for president, he may want to rethink his campaign messaging. Because if he doubles down on his recent comments regarding the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, he may end up undercutting what will likely be the signature issue of his campaign: gun control.

As a founder and financial backer of one of the largest gun-control advocacy groups in the country, Bloomberg has been an ardent supporter of heavier restrictions on firearm purchases, ownership and carriage. The former New York mayor has touted both restrictions on private gun transfers and ownership of assault weapons. His group, Everytown for Gun Safety, has spent millions opposing an expansion of “concealed” carry across the nation.

But America’s gun violence is heavily concentrated in urban neighborhoods, where it is driven largely by perpetrators who, particularly because of criminal pasts, are already prohibited from possessing firearms by existing statutes. Consider the case of Baltimore, where, according to the Baltimore Sun, 85 percent of homicide suspects in 2017 had a criminal record and an average of nine prior arrests. Nearly half of identified suspects had a prior gun offense.

Simply putting more anti-gun laws on the books would do little to solve this problem. What has been shown to make a difference is a proactive, data-driven approach to policing and placing a premium on enforcing gun laws already in place. And giving gun laws meaningful effect requires the political will to detect, prosecute and incapacitate violators.

This is what makes Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk reversal so worrisome. That tactic resulted in the removal from New York streets of thousands of illegal guns — guns that were unlawfully possessed because they were banned, because the carrier was unlicensed or because of the possessor’s status as a felon or juvenile.

By stopping, questioning and, in some cases, frisking crime suspects, police were able to reduce gun crime in two ways. First, when stops led to an arrest and prosecution, the removal of gun-wielding criminals from the streets, even if temporarily, incapacitated them for a period of time. Second, the increased probability of being confronted by officers deterred many criminals from carrying guns and committing other offenses.

Many critics of the NYPD under Bloomberg argue that the absence of a spike in New York’s gun crime following the sharp decline in stops under Bloomberg’s successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, demonstrates that stop-and-frisk is ineffective. Others argue against stop-and-frisk because of racial disparities in the department’s stop numbers, which, they say, proves racial animus on the part of police. But both criticisms miss the mark.

By the time NYPD reports began showing sharp declines in stops, New York was a different city than it was when Bloomberg took office. Thanks to several years of aggressive policing, New York had fewer dangerous neighborhoods than it did in the early 2000s. Dangerous neighborhoods are precisely where easing up on policing would have yielded an increase in crime; without that fertile ground, there were fewer places for new criminal activity to take root. In other words, by the time New York pulled back from stop-and-frisk, the sustained use of that technique — and other robust policing tactics — had worked well enough to provide the city with some lasting protection against a resurgence in crime.

That nuance was captured in a microgeographic analysis published in Criminology & Public Policy in 2015. This study found that the NYPD’s stops-and-frisks did, in fact, significantly deter crime in the hot spots within the city’s more dangerous neighborhoods — which is where the highest number of police stops were concentrated. These neighborhoods had — and, in some cases, still have — large minority populations, which goes a long way toward explaining the racial disparities in enforcement trends. What the study’s findings also show is that, because so much of New York’s gun crime was concentrated in minority neighborhoods, those communities also benefited the most from the Big Apple’s historic crime reductions.

If New York’s example illustrates the benefits of sustained proactive policing, Chicago’s 2016 crime spike illustrates the downside risk of an abrupt rollback of policing for a city with a higher concentration of crime hot spots. A recent analysis published in the University of Illinois Law Review found that the sharp drop in stops by Chicago police — which, in 2016, went from about 40,000 per month down to about 10,000 — was responsible for 245 of 274 additional homicides that year. These murders were concentrated almost exclusively in high-crime, mostly black and Latino neighborhoods.

If the available data tells us anything, it’s that you can’t prioritize reducing gun violence without also prioritizing criminal enforcement. It may be that Bloomberg’s contrition over stop-and-frisk is simply a rhetorical maneuver to preempt jabs from his Democratic rivals. But if he continues backing away from his record in New York, he’ll severely undermine one of his main arguments for sending him to Washington.

FIRED FOR COWARDICE, REINSTATED AND PROMOTED TO SERGEANT, ONLY TO STAY PUT IN COP CAR WHILE ONE OF HIS OFFICERS WAS BEING KILLED

Detroit police sergeant previously fired for cowardice but got job back

By George Hunter

The Detroit News
November 26, 2019

DETROIT -- A Detroit police sergeant at the center of accusations that he failed to act after a fellow officer was killed by a gunman last week had been previously terminated for cowardice before being reinstated in a deal the city's police chief says he did not sign off on.

Those revelations came as police officials announced Tuesday they might seek charges against Sgt. Ronald Kidd over his alleged behavior during last week's fatal shooting of Detroit police officer Rasheen McClain.

Police Chief James Craig said Tuesday the department might seek misdemeanor neglect of duty charges against Kidd, who "sat in his scout car a block away while you could hear people screaming ‘officer down’ on the radio," the chief said. Kidd was suspended Monday.

The misdemeanor carries up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

The Nov. 20 incident wasn't the first time Kidd stood by while a coworker was in danger, Craig said. Kidd was fired in 2014 for cowardice after police video showed he failed to act while his female partner was being assaulted by a mentally ill man in a detention facility, Craig said.

Kidd got his job back via an internal plea agreement, although Craig said he didn't agree to the 2015 deal, which he said was signed by someone else using the chief's name. Craig said he's investigating what happened with the signature, which he insisted wasn't his handwriting.

That agreement lowered Kidd's punishment from termination for cowardice to a 68-day suspension, Craig said.

"I wouldn't have entered into that kind of deal, and when I looked at the agreement, someone signed my name agreeing to this," Craig said. "Someone scrawled a signature, but that absolutely is not my signature. So I'm trying to find out what happened.

"I remember vividly the video of the female officer getting beat up. There's no way I'd have signed that agreement."

Kidd, who has been with the department since 1998, was later promoted to the rank of sergeant in June 2018. Craig said union rules mandated Kidd be put on the promotion list, although the chief said, "if it was up to me, I wouldn't have promoted him."

Attempts to reach Kidd on Tuesday were not successful.

On Monday, Craig announced he'd suspended Kidd after the chief said he reviewed the McClain shooting.

McClain's death was the culmination of a series of shootings involving the 28-year-old suspect, a parolee whom police officials say was obsessed with a 16-year-old girl and a 32-year-old woman, police said.

Craig clarified at the Tuesday press conference the suspect was in relationships with both the teenager and the woman. The woman lived in the house on Wyoming where McClain and his partner were shot, although the 16-year-old does not live there as police initially thought, Craig said. He added investigators have not been able to locate the teen.

"This is a very complicated case," Craig said. "I was initially led to believe that (the suspect) was going to the house to seek out the 16-year-old, but it turns out, he is in a relationship with a 32-year-old female. He also had a dating relationship with the 16-year-old."

Craig said the two females are not related. The chief also said the suspect slept in the home from time to time but did not live there.

On Oct. 30, the suspect went to the Wyoming house demanding to see the woman, Craig said. "Her son didn't want him there; he refused entry, so (the suspect) shot the house up.

"The 16-year-old was a factor," the chief said. "We believe that was part of his rage. He had some kind of dating relationship with her."

An internal investigation into how detectives followed up on that shooting is ongoing, Craig said. Earlier, he told The News investigators tried once to contact the home's occupants, and then sent a letter asking them to call back, rather than following up in person.

Craig said the 28-year-old suspect returned to the home Wednesday, looking for the 32-year-old woman, and then broke into the house and holed up inside with a rifle.

McClain and his partner, Phillippe Batoum-Bisse, responded at 7:30 p.m. after an occupant of the house dialed 911 to report the home invasion.

McClain called for backup and then led a team of four officers into the house to search for the gunman. As they descended the basement stairs, police officials say the man fired off two shots, striking McClain in the neck and Batoum-Bisse in the left ankle.

Police submitted a warrant request to Wayne County Prosecutors, who said more investigative work needed to be done.

Craig said Kidd's body-worn camera showed "an unacceptable response from a supervisor" after the officers were shot.

"The camera shows that after the shooting, a group of officers ran to a location where they thought the suspect was hiding," Craig said. "On the camera, you can hear (Kidd) saying to another officer, 'They must know something. We should get cover.'

"So he sits in his car while all this is going on, and when he finally makes it to the scene, he makes that statement? That's unacceptable," Craig said. "What should have happened is, he should have joined those officers who were trying to arrest a suspect who'd just shot two fellow officers.

"The other brave officers are going after this dangerous suspect, who'd just shot two officers with a high-powered rifle — and instead of helping, Kidd stays back and says he should take cover."

Mark Young, president of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association union, did not respond to requests for comment.

Craig said several times on Tuesday that Kidd's actions aren't indicative of most department supervisors.

"The vast majority of our supervisors do it the way we want them to do it," he said. "Are supervisors going to make bad decisions at times? Yes. As a supervisor, have I made bad decisions? Yes.

"But not making a decision and avoiding going to a scene and assuming command is never an option," the chief said. "You wanted to be a sergeant. ... You go to the scene and take control."

DRUGS TO US, GUNS TO MEXICO

Arizona guns quietly smuggled across border as bullets fly in Mexico

By Curt Prendergast

Arizona Daily Star
November 25, 2019

Images of charred, bullet-ridden trucks on a remote highway in Sonora and an hourslong gunbattle in the heart of Culiacan, Sinaloa, horrified the U.S. public in recent weeks.

The images showed where the “iron river” of guns and ammunition bought in the United States empties onto the streets of Mexico.

The headwaters of that river often spring from Southern Arizona, where federal court records show young people buying weapons for $100 payouts, a man buying rifles from gun stores every few days for nearly a year in Green Valley and Tucson, and heroin addicts selling .50-caliber rifles to their dealers.

After the fatal shooting of three women and six children in La Mora, Sonora, on Nov. 4, Mexican officials announced that some of the ammunition used in the attack came from the U.S.

To get a closer look at how the iron river flows from Southern Arizona into Mexico, the Arizona Daily Star analyzed the 32 weapons-smuggling cases involving Mexico filed in federal courts in Tucson and Phoenix in 2018.

The cases show that rather than dam up the iron river midstream at the Arizona-Sonora border, federal agencies focus on where the river ends and where it begins.

Only a handful of prosecutions came from firearms and ammunition being smuggled into Mexico through Arizona’s ports of entry. Most cases came from federal agents scouring suspicious paperwork at gun stores in Tucson and Phoenix or following up on firearms recovered in Mexico that were traced back to Arizona.

At Arizona’s ports of entry, customs officers catch thousands of pounds of hard drugs every year and inspect millions of travelers heading north, but they only caught six rifles and four handguns heading south in fiscal 2019, according to data provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Since 2012, customs officers in Arizona caught 106 rifles, 88 handguns and 202,000 rounds of ammunition.

Far more weapons were caught in Sonora after they crossed the border. Since 2009, the Mexican military recovered 6,700 illicit firearms, including 4,200 rifles, the Mexican newspaper El Imparcial reported on Nov. 18.

Firearms are largely illegal for civilians in Mexico, but they are used widely by drug cartels and other criminal groups.

The Mexican military estimates 1.6 million illicit firearms are circulating in Mexico, the Milenio news outlet reported in August. The estimate included 200,000 firearms smuggled into Mexico each year, most of which came from the U.S. but also from Spain, Italy and Austria.

A more solid number comes from weapons traced back to the U.S. after Mexican authorities recover them at crime scenes, find them abandoned, or under other circumstances. More than 67,000 firearms recovered in Mexico were traced to the U.S. from 2013 to 2018, according to ATF data.

The narratives included in court cases and search-warrant affidavits illustrate what Mexican commentators call an “operaciĆ³n hormiga,” or “ant operation,” of quietly buying firearms in Southern Arizona and smuggling them in small numbers across the border.

Even one such purchase can have “devastating repercussions” in Mexico, Angela Woolridge, a federal prosecutor who handles many of the firearm cases in Tucson’s federal court, wrote in sentencing memorandums.

“It is impossible to know how many people already have been or will be threatened, injured, or killed because of the single firearm the defendant purchased,” Woolridge wrote.

Last weekend, three people were fatally shot in San Luis Rio Colorado, the Mexican border town south of San Luis, Arizona. Mexican authorities recovered high-powered rifles, tactical gear and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Grenade launchers were at the heart of a 2018 case in which an undercover Homeland Security Investigations agent set up two sting operations in Tucson and Chandler.

A man who was not named in court documents contacted the HSI agent online and asked about buying an M-16 automatic rifle and a grenade launcher. He and the undercover agent set a price of $3,650 and met in the parking lot of a big-box store in Tucson in September 2018. The man was arrested, as were two men the following month who met with the agent in Chandler to buy three machine guns with attached grenade launchers for $10,500.

Another highly destructive weapon that figures prominently in cartel violence is the .50-caliber rifle, which can pierce armor and bring down helicopters.

When Mexican soldiers in Sinaloa took into custody the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, on Oct. 17 they set off an hourslong gunbattle with cartel soldiers, some of whom used .50-caliber rifles.

The .50-caliber rifles are “what the cartels need to strengthen their particular ‘armies,’ if you will,” said Monique Villegas, special agent in charge of the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. If a competing cartel gets .50-caliber rifles, “that’s what they’re going to start looking for in the U.S.”

Buying one is relatively easy in Arizona and elsewhere, Villegas said.

“My 86-year-old grandmother could walk into a store and buy a .50-caliber rifle if she wants to,” Villegas said.

Michael Huynh, 29, and Katie O’Brien, 28, both Tucsonans, did just that on several occasions, court records show.

They were sentenced in September to five years in prison after they bought three .50-caliber rifles on behalf of their heroin dealer, who would then arrange to have them smuggled into Mexico. One of the .50-caliber rifles, a belt-fed TNW HBM2, is so heavy-duty that it is mounted on a tripod.

Huynh later said he had bought about 50 firearms for his heroin dealer in the previous year.

A rifle that Huynh bought in October 2017, a Century Arms RAS47 assault rifle, was recovered in Mexico three months later after a shootout between Mexican law enforcement and a cartel in La Paz, Baja California Sur.

During their investigation, ATF agents learned that another man, who was not charged, bought a Colt M4 rifle for Huynh’s heroin dealer in March 2017. That rifle was recovered in Culiacan four months later.
Although port busts are relatively rare, when they do happen they can lead to complex investigations.

In November 2017, customs officers busted a vehicle containing six firearms at a port of entry in Nogales, Arizona. Investigators found that one of the firearms was sold online to Gardenia Rincon Avilez two days before the bust, court records show.

Five months later, police in El Mirage searched the home of Nicholas Brasseur, a licensed firearms dealer, and found paperwork showing he had sold 50 lower receivers for AR-15 type rifles to Rincon in March 2018 for $21,000 and another 53 receivers to an associate of Rincon.

Brasseur told agents that Rincon had said she planned to take the receivers to Tucson, where they would be converted to fully automatic rifles and then taken to Mexico.

Weeks later, customs officers in Nogales stopped Rincon as she drove into Arizona. She told agents that she bought the receivers and took them to her sister’s house in Scottsdale, where she stored them in a Tupperware box in the garage.

She eventually took them to Tucson and sold them to the man who had told her which weapons to buy. She sold them for $700 each, or a profit of about $400 per receiver, according to court records.

Rincon said she was given cash in Mexico and brought it to Arizona to buy weapons. On one occasion, she was asked to buy a FN M249 belt-fed rifle in Phoenix. She bought the rifle for $8,000 and sold it in Tucson for $12,500.

Two of the rifles she bought in March 2018 were later recovered in Mexico.

Young buyers

In June 2017, an otherwise law-abiding 18-year-old in Tucson was pressured by a family friend to buy a rifle. The friend gave him the money and told him to buy a Century Arms WASR-10 assault rifle from a gun store in Tucson.

In exchange for $100, the young man lied to the store employee and said the rifle was for his own use, making him one of a half-dozen “straw buyers” in a smuggling ring that moved rifles through Nogales into Mexico, including one recovered in Culiacan, Sinaloa.

In another case, a 23-year-old woman bought a Century Arms RAS47 pistol in Tucson at the request of her boyfriend in December 2017. Hours later, he smuggled it through Nogales into Mexico. The pistol was used in a crime in Sinaloa less than two months later.

Young buyers are common in Arizona and throughout the states bordering Mexico, said the ATF’s Villegas.

“They probably have no ties to the cartel,” Villegas said, and instead are just looking to make a “quick couple hundred dollars.”

“A lot of these people don’t know guns really,” Villegas said. “They are told which guns are needed at that time and told which ones to get.”

Straw buyers need to have clean criminal histories and “the chances of having a criminal record goes down if you’re young,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Phoenix.

As is the case with various types of crime, “some young people don’t recognize the significance of their actions,” Brown said.

Young people acting as straw buyers are among the biggest challenges to shutting down cross-border firearms trafficking in Southern Arizona, he said.

He called it “troubling” that so many people would agree to be straw buyers without “recognizing that you are buying a gun that is intended to be used in a crime by people with a callous attitude towards life,” Brown said.

Repeat buys

Gun-trafficking rings buy the same type of weapon over and over, court records show.

“Cartels know they can go to multiple stores and buy one or two firearms and it won’t pop up as a trafficking scheme,” Villegas said.

In one of the most egregious cases the Star found, Alejandro Navarro Mendez pleaded guilty earlier this month to buying 108 firearms knowing they would be smuggled into Mexico. His most common purchases were Savage .22-caliber rifles, which accounted for 36 of the firearms he bought.

He started buying the firearms in October 2017 and by the following February he had found his rhythm.

On Feb. 3, 2018, he walked into a sporting goods store in Tucson and bought a Ruger SR22 .22-caliber pistol. Three days later he bought three Savage 62F .22-caliber rifles at a Walmart in Tucson. On Feb. 9, he bought an Umarex Beretta 92 .22-caliber rifle at the same sporting goods store that he went to before.

On Feb. 12, he bought a Savage 64F .22-caliber rifle at a second Walmart in Tucson. Five days later, he bought a Glock 42 .380-caliber pistol from a small gun store in Tucson. The next day, he went back to a Walmart and bought a Savage 64F .22-caliber rifle. On Feb. 24, he went back to the small Tucson gun store and bought a Kel-Tec PMR30 .22-caliber pistol.

Every few days until September 2018, he cycled through different stores in Tucson and Green Valley, including 45 visits to four Walmart stores.

The road ahead

After the shooting in La Mora, Brown expects more national-level enforcement initiatives will start appearing. Villegas pointed to recent announcements by the Department of Justice of a crackdown on gun violence in the U.S.

At the federal courts in Tucson and Phoenix, prosecutors still lack a law specific to cross-border smuggling of firearms.

Instead, they generally charge gun smugglers at ports of entry with trying to export goods without a license.

Those accused of making straw purchases are charged with making false statements on ATF forms. Individuals who sell numerous guns can be charged with operating a firearms business without a license.

The number of these prosecutions continues to lag behind cases related to other border-related crimes. While 32 cases of smuggling firearms into Mexico were brought in federal court in Tucson and Phoenix in 2018, prosecutors filed 750 drug-smuggling cases that year and thousands of border-crossing cases.

The billions of dollars that can be made by selling drugs in the U.S. “cartels are going to continue to fight to sell drugs and make money,” Villegas said.

“As long as the need for drugs is there, guns will be going south,” she said.

AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI INSISTED IRANIAN FORCES HAD TO AVOID HITTING ANY CIVILIANS OR AMERICANS

‘Time to take out our swords': Inside Iran’s plot to attack Saudi Arabia

Israel Hayom
November 26, 2019

Four months before a swarm of drones and missiles crippled the world’s biggest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, Iranian security officials gathered at a heavily fortified compound in Tehran.

The group included the top echelons of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite branch of the Iranian military whose portfolio includes missile development and covert operations.

The main topic that day in May: How to punish the United States for pulling out of a landmark nuclear treaty and reimposing economic sanctions on Iran, moves that have hit the Islamic republic hard.

With Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, looking on, a senior commander took the floor.

"It is time to take out our swords and teach them a lesson,” the commander said, according to four people familiar with the meeting.

Hard-liners in the meeting talked of attacking high-value targets, including American military bases.

Yet, what ultimately emerged was a plan that stopped short of direct confrontation that could trigger a devastating US response. Iran opted instead to target oil installations of America’s ally, Saudi Arabia, a proposal discussed by top Iranian military officials in that May meeting and at least four that followed.

This account, described to Reuters by three officials familiar with the meetings and a fourth close to Iran’s decision making, is the first to describe the role of Iran’s leaders in plotting the Sept. 14 attack on Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled oil company.

These people said Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved the operation, but with strict conditions: Iranian forces must avoid hitting any civilians or Americans.

Reuters was unable to confirm their version of events with Iran’s leadership. An IRGC spokesman declined to comment. Tehran has steadfastly denied involvement.

Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York, rejected the version of events the four people described to Reuters. He said Iran played no part in the strikes, that no meetings of senior security officials took place to discuss such an operation, and that Khamenei did not authorize any attack.

“No, no, no, no, no, and no,” Miryousefi said to detailed questions from Reuters on the alleged gatherings and Khamenei’s purported role.

The Saudi government communications office did not respond to a request for comment.

The US Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon declined to comment. A senior Trump administration official did not directly comment on Reuters’ findings but said Tehran’s “behavior and its decades-long history of destructive attacks and support for terrorism are why Iran’s economy is in shambles.”

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, at the center of a civil war against Saudi-backed forces, claimed responsibility for the assault on Saudi oil facilities. That declaration was rebuffed by US and Saudi officials, who said the sophistication of the offensive pointed to Iran.

Saudi Arabia was a strategic target.

The kingdom is Iran’s principal regional rival and a petroleum giant whose production is crucial to the world economy. It is an important US security partner. But its war in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians, and the murder of Washington-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents last year, have strained its relations with US lawmakers. There was no groundswell of support in Congress for military intervention to aid the Saudis after the attack.

The 17-minute strike on two Aramco installations by 18 drones and three low-flying missiles revealed the vulnerability of the Saudi oil company, despite billions spent by the kingdom on security. Fires erupted at the company’s Khurais oil installation and at the Abqaiq oil processing facility, the world’s largest.

The attack temporarily halved Saudi Arabia’s oil production and knocked out 5% of the world’s oil supply. Global crude prices spiked.

The assault prompted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to accuse Iran of an “act of war.” In the aftermath, Tehran was hit with additional US sanctions. The United States also launched cyberattacks against Iran, US officials told Reuters.

The Islamic republic has blamed “thugs” linked to the United States and other regional adversaries for orchestrating street demonstrations that have rocked Iran since mid-November when the government hiked fuel prices.

Speaking at a televised, pro-government rally in Tehran on Monday, Salami, the Revolutionary Guards chief commander, warned Washington against any further escalation of tensions: “We have shown patience towards the hostile moves of America, the Zionist regime (Israel) and Saudi Arabia against Iran ... but we will destroy them if they cross our red lines.”

Scouring targets

The plan by Iranian military leaders to strike Saudi oil installations developed over several months, according to the official close to Iran’s decision making.

“Details were discussed thoroughly in at least five meetings and the final go-ahead was given” by early September, the official said.

All of those meetings took place at a secure location inside the southern Tehran compound, three of the officials told Reuters. They said Khamenei, the supreme leader, attended one of the gatherings at his residence, which is also inside that complex.

Other attendees at some of those meetings included Khamenei’s top military advisor, Yahya Rahim-Safavi, and a deputy of Qassem Soleimani, who heads the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign military and clandestine operations arm, the Quds Force, the three officials said. Rahim-Safavi could not be reached for comment.

Among the possible targets initially discussed were a seaport in Saudi Arabia, an airport and US military bases, the official close to Iran’s decision making said. The person would not provide additional details.

Those ideas were ultimately dismissed over concerns about mass casualties that could provoke fierce retaliation by the United States and embolden Israel, potentially pushing the region into war, the four people said.

The official close to Iran’s decision making said the group settled on the plan to attack Saudi Arabia’s oil installations because it could grab big headlines, inflict economic pain on an adversary and still deliver a strong message to Washington.

“Agreement on Aramco was almost reached unanimously,” the official said. “The idea was to display Iran’s deep access and military capabilities.”

The attack was the worst on Middle East oil facilities since Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi strongman, torched Kuwait’s oil fields during the 1991 Gulf crisis.

US Senator Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), an Air Force combat veteran and Republican lawmaker who was briefed by US and Saudi officials, and who visited Aramco’s Abqaiq facility days after the attack, said the perpetrators knew precisely where to strike to create as much damage as possible.

“It showed somebody who had a sophisticated understanding of facility operations like theirs, instead of just hitting things off of satellite photos,” she told Reuters. The drones and missiles, she added, “came from Iranian soil, from an Iranian base.”

A Middle East source, who was briefed by a country investigating the attack, said the launch site was the Ahvaz air base in southwest Iran. That account matched those of three US officials and two other people who spoke to Reuters: a Western intelligence official and a Western source based in the Middle East.

Rather than fly directly from Iran to Saudi Arabia over the Gulf, the missiles and drones took different, circuitous paths to the oil installations, part of Iran’s effort to mask its involvement, the people said.

Some of the craft flew over Iraq and Kuwait before landing in Saudi Arabia, according to the Western intelligence source, who said that trajectory provided Iran with plausible deniability.

“That wouldn’t have been the case if missiles and drones had been seen or heard flying into Saudi Arabia over the Gulf from a south flight path” from Iran, the person said.

Revolutionary Guards commanders briefed the supreme leader on the successful operation hours after the attack, according to the official close to the country’s decision making.

Images of fires raging at the Saudi facilities were broadcast worldwide. The country’s stock market swooned. Global oil prices initially surged by 20%. Officials at Saudi Aramco gathered in what was referred to internally as the “emergency management room” at the company’s headquarters.

One of the officials who spoke with Reuters said Tehran was delighted with the outcome of the operation: Iran had landed a painful blow on Saudi Arabia and thumbed its nose at the United States.

Sizing up Trump

The Revolutionary Guards and other branches of the Iranian military all ultimately report to Khamenei. The supreme leader has been defiant in response to Trump’s abandonment last year of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly called the Iran nuclear deal.

That 2015 accord with five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia, France, China, and the United Kingdom – as well as Germany, removed billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran’s curbing its nuclear program.

Trump’s demand for a better deal has seen Iran launch a two-pronged strategy to win relief from sweeping sanctions reimposed by the United States, penalties that have crippled its oil exports and all but shut it out of the international banking system.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has signaled a willingness to meet with American officials on the condition that all sanctions be lifted. Simultaneously, Iran is flaunting its military and technical prowess.

In recent months, Iran has shot down a US surveillance drone and seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel through which about a fifth of the world’s oil moves. And it has announced it has amassed stockpiles of enriched uranium in violation of the UN agreement, part of its vow to restart its nuclear program.

The Aramco attacks were an escalation that came as Trump had been pursuing his long-stated goal of extricating American forces from the Middle East. Just days after announcing an abrupt pullout of US troops in northern Syria, the Trump administration on Oct. 11 said it would send fighter jets, missile defense weaponry, and 2,800 more troops to Saudi Arabia to bolster the kingdom’s defenses.

"Do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American interests, American forces, or we will respond,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Tehran during a press briefing.

Still, Iran appears to have calculated that the Trump administration would not risk an all-out assault that could destabilize the region in the service of protecting Saudi oil, said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit working to end global conflict.

In Iran, “hard-liners have come to believe that Trump is a Twitter tiger,” Vaez said. “As such, there is little diplomatic or military cost associated with pushing back.”

The senior Trump administration official disputed the suggestion that Iran’s operation has strengthened its hand in working out a deal for sanctions relief from the United States.

“Iran knows exactly what it needs to do to see sanctions lifted,” the official said.

The administration has said Iran must end support for terrorist groups in the Middle East, such as Lebanon-based Hezbollah, and submit to tougher terms that would permanently snuff its nuclear ambitions. Iran has said it has no ties to terrorist groups.

Whether Tehran accedes to US demands remains to be seen.

In one of the final meetings held ahead of the Saudi oil attack, another Revolutionary Guards commander was already looking ahead, according to the official close to Iran’s decision making who was briefed on that gathering.

"Rest assured Allah almighty will be with us,” the commander told senior security officials. “Start planning for the next one.”