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He previously stepped down from the post amid misconduct allegations

An former government official whose job used to be reporting improper conduct at the Department of Homeland Security has been indicted by federal authorities in an alleged scheme to defraud the government and steal federal workers’ private information.

According to a Department of Justice news release from Friday, former former acting Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security Charles Edwards and his former subordinate Murali Yamazula Venkata have been indicted on 16 counts “for their alleged theft of proprietary software and confidential databases from the U.S. government as part of a scheme to defraud the U.S. government.”

The release goes on to say that “from October 2014 to April 2017, Edwards, Venkata, and others executed a scheme to defraud the U.S. government by stealing confidential and proprietary software from DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), along with sensitive government databases containing personal identifying information (PII) of DHS and USPS employees, so that Edwards’s company, Delta Business Solutions, could later sell an enhanced version of DHS-OIG’s software to the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at a profit.”

The charges against the two include “conspiracy to commit theft of government property and to defraud the United States, theft of government property, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft,” according to the Justice Department.

The indictment also says that, “Venkata and others also assisted Edwards by reconfiguring his laptop so that he could properly upload the stolen software and databases, provided troubleshooting support whenever Edwards required it, and helped him build a testing server at his residence with the stolen software and databases.”

Edwards — who started working as acting inspector general starting in 2011 — stepped down from the DHS watchdog post in December 2013 amid a storm of questions about his conduct in the position.

“The litany of allegations against Edwards included claims that he bowed to political pressure and watered down his reports; abused agency personnel and resources; and retaliated against employees who questioned his conduct,” according to Fox News at the time.

However, after leaving DHS, the DOJ release says, Edwards “continued to leverage his relationship with Venkata and other DHS-OIG employees to steal the software and the sensitive government databases.”

According to an investigative report from the Washington Post, the affected software and databases contained the personal information of over 250,000 government workers.

The Department of Justice also notes that an indictment is nothing more an allegation and “all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Obama-era inspector general indicted in alleged scheme to steal government workers’ info for personal gain

But he doesn’t have to report yet

Longtime GOP operative and former Trump campaign associate was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison on Thursday, after prosecutors’ previous efforts to get him a longer sentence became a subject national controversy.

According to Fox News:

Before announcing the sentence in a federal courtroom in Washington, the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, took a firm stance toward the Republican operative, faulting him for the actions that led to the charges. She sentenced him to 40 months in prison.

“Mr. Stone lied,” Jackson said in court. She also said Stone injected himself “smack” into a political controversy and was not “persecuted.”

Stone chose not to speak when given the opportunity.

Stone was found guilty in November on seven counts that included lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional investigation, which stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The 67-year-old Stone was indicted in January following a heavily armed pre-dawn FBI raid at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home.

“This prosecution is and was righteous,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb said of the case, echoing a comment Attorney General William Barr made about the matter last week. “The defendant was found guilty by a jury of his peers of obstructing justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering. The court should impose a substantial period of incarceration.”

According to NBC News, however, Stone will not have to report to prison until the judge decides on the defense’s pending motion for a new trial stemming from a claim of juror bias. Last week, it was reported that jury foreman Tomeka Hart was a former Democratic congressional candidate and had a long history of anti-Trump social media posts.

In addition to the concerns about juror bias, the trial was also recently plagued by controversy about the sentencing itself. Last week, all four line prosecutors handling the case resigned after a Department of Justice put out an amended sentencing memo saying that the initial recommendation of seven to nine years “could be considered excessive and unwarranted.” That was after President Donald Trump tweeted that the initial recommendation was a “miscarriage of justice.

The department’s change of course on the sentencing recommendation generated considerable backlash against Barr, which included over 2,000 former Justice Department officials as well as some congressional Democrats who called for his resignation over concerns of political interference in the process.

Barr said in an interview later that President Trump had “never asked me to do anything in a criminal case” but that his tweets about cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

“Bill Barr stepped in and stopped what I thought was an unjust sentence enhancement,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in the attorney general’s defense on Monday, “and to the people who want Barr to resign, we know your agenda!”

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Roger Stone sentenced to over three years in prison on charges stemming from the Mueller probe

‘Come on, Rudy Giuliani?’

The months-long impeachment crusade against President Donald Trump may be over, but the underlying questions about the Bidens and their actions in Ukraine still remain. However, Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t seem too worried about the prospect of a federal investigation into the matter.

During an interview on “CBS This Morning” Monday, cohost Anthony Jacobs informed the the elder Biden that the Justice Department is taking in information about Hunter Biden’s work for a natural gas company in the Ukraine — which occurred while his dad was vice president — from Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

“[Sen.] Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.] told CBS News the Justice Department is vetting information from Rudy Giuliani about about your son’s work in Ukraine,” Jacobs asked. “Are you concerned a federal investigation may be launched?”

Biden began chuckling at the first mention of Giuliani’s name and continued laughing as Jacobs repeated his question a second time, before his demeanor transformed into a more serious one as he gave the answer, “No.”

“Look, I expect, I expect Trump to do the same exact thing he’s been doing,” the former vice president elaborated.

“Why has he been attacking me from the beginning, why did he risk — and he should have been impeached — why did he risk getting convicted by going to a foreign leader to say, ‘You don’t have to get me anything on Biden, there’s nothing to get, just tell me you’re going to investigate him so I can hurt him,’?” Biden added, echoing a Democratic impeachment allegation about the president’s motives in dealing with Ukrainian officials last year. “Have you ever seen a sitting president as concerned about a single nominee, in trying to stop a nominee?”

When asked a follow-up on whether or not Hunter is “fair game,” Biden responded, “I don’t think our sons are fair game at all. No one has said he’s done anything wrong except the thug, Rudy Giuliani. Come on, Rudy Giuliani?”

Graham told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that he had spoken with Attorney General William Barr and that Barr told him the Justice Department had set up a “process” for Giuliani to turn over information he’d gathered in Ukraine so that it could be vetted for accuracy.

Graham explained, “We’re to make sure that Hunter Biden’s conflict of interest is explored because it’s legitimate. How could Joe Biden really fight corruption when his son sitting on the Burisma board?” He also said that vetting information coming out of Ukraine was critical because of the possibility of Russian misinformation.

On Monday morning, Barr said that there is a process to take in and look over information on Ukraine from Giuliani as well as others, but that the department would proceed very cautiously in doing so.

“As I did say to Sen. Graham, we have to be very careful with respect to any information coming from Ukraine,” Barr cautioned at a DOJ press conference. “There are a lot of agendas in the Ukraine, there are a lot of cross-currents, and we can’t take anything we receive from the Ukraine at face value.”

Barr explained that the department has set up an “intake process in the field so that any information coming in about Ukraine could be carefully scrutinized by the department and its intelligence community partners” and the same “is true for all information that comes to the Department related to the Ukraine, including anything that Mr. Giuliani might provide.”

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Biden laughs when asked about federal investigation against his son, calls Rudy Giuliani a ‘thug’

‘We went through hell unfairly’

A jovial President Donald Trump took a post-impeachment victory lap Thursday, after his Wednesday impeachment acquittal in the Senate, in a lengthy White House speech that praised his Republican allies while excoriating Democrats and GOP Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) and derided the Russia probe in fairly explicit terms.

“This is really not a news conference, it’s not a speech, it’s not anything, it’s just we’re sort of — it’s a celebration, because we have something that just worked out,” Trump told the audience. “We went through hell unfairly.”

During his remarks, Trump also took aim at other previous attempts to undermine his presidency, including the Russia probe and the related Mueller report.

“We’ve been going through this now for over three years,” Trump said. “It was evil. It was corrupt. It was dirty cops. It was leakers and liars, and this should never, ever happen to another president, ever. I don’t know that other presidents would have been able to take it. Some people said no, they wouldn’t have. But I can tell you, at a minimum, you have to focus on this, because it can get away very quickly, no matter who you have with you.”

“We were treated unbelievably unfairly,” Trump said later in the wide-ranging speech. “We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bulls**t. We then went through the Mueller report, and they should have come back one day later. They didn’t; they came back two years later, after lives were ruined, after people went bankrupt, after people lost all their money.”

Trump also called out Democrats during the remarks, mentioning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) by name.

“I say Democrats are lousy politicians because they have lousy policy,” Trump said, referring to health care, immigration, and tax issues.

“So I’ve always said they are lousy politicians, but they do two things,” he continued, later explaining that those things are that they are “vicious as hell” and they stick together.

“Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person,” Trump said. “Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person. And she wanted to impeach a long time ago, when she said ‘I pray for the president.'” He went on to add that “she may pray, but she prays for the opposite, but I doubt she prays at all.”

He also criticized Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who he said “used religion as a crutch” in voting to convict him the day before. “Never heard him use it before, but today, you know, it’s one of those things,” Trump went on. “But you know, it’s a failed presidential candidate, so things can happen when you fail so badly running for president.”

Throughout his remarks, Trump heaped praise on several of his Republican allies from both the House and the Senate who were in attendance, thanking them for their support during the impeachment process and even cracking jokes about a few of them.

For example, the president joked about Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and his famous tendency not to wear jackets. “I said, he never wears a jacket. What the hell is going on? He’s obviously very proud of his body.” He also joked that people say that when Jordan works out, “the machine starts burning.”

However, while the Ukraine impeachment efforts may finally have come to a close, Trump said that he doesn’t expect Democrats to cease their efforts against him.

“I’m sure they will try to cook up other things,” Trump said, specifically referring to Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“They’ll go through the state of New York, they’ll go through other places, they will do whatever they can,” Trump said. “Because instead of wanting to heal our country and fix our country, all they want to do, in my opinion, it’s almost like they want to destroy our country. We can’t let it happen.”

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: ‘It was all bulls**t’: Trump hits Romney, Democrats, and Russia probe in post-acquittal victory speech

This shouldn’t be difficult

In the wake of Iran’s admission that the country shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, many of the Islamic republic’s people have taken to the streets in protest of the regime. Video from the weekend’s demonstrations show some people shouting “death to the dictator,” in reference to the ayatollah, and others refusing to step on U.S. and Israeli flags.

Back in Washington, however, Nancy Pelosi’s response to the protests was entirely predictable, given how the Iran debate has gone over the last couple of weeks.

When asked whether or not she supports the anti-regime protests on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Pelosi felt it necessary to say that there were “different reasons why people are in the street” and tried to draw parallels between these protests and the demonstrations and the regime-backed funeral mourning that took place after the Soleimani strike earlier this month.

In contrast, President Trump warned the regime Sunday morning not to kill the protesters and reminded them that the world is watching in a record-breaking tweet, which is unfortunately necessary, given the fact that we’re talking about a brutal, repressive dictatorship.

The above story is an excerpt from Blaze Media’s Capitol Hill Brief email newsletter:

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Pelosi sidesteps on Iranian protesters, citing ‘different reasons why people are in the street’

‘I’ve determined that it simply isn’t our time’

The 2020 Democratic presidential field lost another candidate Thursday with Julian Castro’s announcement that he was no longer running.

“It’s with profound gratitude to all of our supporters that I suspend my campaign for president today,” Castro said in a Thursday morning tweet. “I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together. I’m going to keep fighting for an America where everyone counts—I hope you’ll join me in that fight.”

In a video accompanying the tweet, Castro said that he is “so proud of the campaign we’ve run together,” adding, “We’ve shaped the conversation on so many important issues in this race, stood up for the most vulnerable people, and given a voice to those who are often forgotten.”

But due to the short amount of time left until the Iowa caucuses combined with the “circumstances of this campaign season,” Castro said, “I’ve determined that it simply isn’t our time.”

Castro’s campaign, like those of others who dropped out of the race before him, just failed to gain a lot of traction in the crowded presidential field. RealClearPolitics put his polling average at 1.2 percentage points as of Thursday. The same page also shows that the former onetime Obama administration HUD secretary had been in the back of the presidential pack since announcing his campaign last January.

Much like his polling, Castro’s fundraising numbers consistently paled in comparison to those of the primary field’s front-runners. Third-quarter numbers for 2019 showed that he had just $700,000 cash on hand. The campaign laid off staff in New Hampshire and South Carolina in early November.

And those polling and fundraising woes also played into Castro’s exposure on the Democratic debate stage; he hadn’t qualified for a DNC primary debate since September, failing to meet the requirements to participate in both the November and December events.

According to Ballotpedia, Castro’s departure brings the total number of Democratic presidential primary candidates to 14.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Another Democrat drops out: Julian Castro exits 2020 presidential race

Beatings also were a larger share of murders than rifles

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its Uniform Crime Report for 2018 on Monday, and the numbers indicate that more people were killed by knives than rifles.

The annual report touts an overall drop in violent crime for the second consecutive year, according to the Bureau’s news release on the numbers. However, the numbers specifically regarding homicides in the United States offer some insight into America’s ongoing gun control debate.

Due to multiple shooting massacres that took place in August, gun control proponents have once again turned their animus toward semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15. Perhaps the most salient example of this is 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke’s pledge, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

However, as has been the case in previous years, the numbers show that rifles in general — which would include semi-automatics as well as others — are only responsible for a fraction of a percent of the total homicide rate in the United States.

Here’s what the FBI’s 2018 homicide numbers show us:

  • Overall, the number of homicides dropped from 15,195 in 2017 to 14,123 in 2018. The overall number of people murdered with guns dropped as well.
  • 10,265 were committed with firearms, out of which handguns accounted for 6,603.
  • Rifles were used in 297 homicides, with shotguns being used in 235 and “other guns” used in 167.
  • 2,963 homicides were listed as “firearms, type not stated.”

What does this show us? According to the available information, rifles were responsible for just 2.1 percent of total homicides last year — and 2.9 percent of gun homicides.

Once again, deaths from knives and “personal weapons” like hands, fists and feet were higher than the number homicides committed with rifles. More than five times as many murders were committed with knives (1,515) as with rifles, and more than twice as many people were killed with “personal weapons” (672). Other years included in the FBI report’s table — which spans 2014-2018 — show similar disparities between the same weapon types.

Again, these numbers are just for rifles as a whole. There’s no further breakdown for what kind of action or cosmetic features the rifles had.

The question of what to do about the AR-15 and other widely used semi-automatic rifles — sometimes referred to as “assault weapons” — will likely remain as one of the main focus points in America’s ongoing debate about guns and the Second Amendment.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: FBI stats: Knives used in 5 times as many murders as rifles in 2018

‘We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand’

UPDATE: In response to this article, a representative from Walmart reached out to TheBlaze for clarification as to whether open carry would be “banned” in Walmart stores with the following statement: “It’s not exactly accurate to say open carry is banned, what we are doing is asking people not to do it. We will treat law-abiding customers with respect, and we will have a very non-confrontational approach. Our first priority is safety. We will be providing new signage to help communicate this policy in the coming weeks.”

We reached back out to Walmart and asked, for further clarification, what would happen if a customer refused their request not to open carry, regardless of how polite that request was phrased.

In response, the Walmart representative answered, “We will respectfully request that they do not carry. The discretion will be given to the store manager. If there is not imminent threat, the SM can ask them to leave the weapon in the vehicle for next time. If the customer is causing concern or fear with customers/associates, the store manager can then approach the customer and/or follow necessary protocols for a potential active shooter. In some states, open carry is very common, so again, some discretion will be given to the store manager.”

The headline has been updated in light of this clarification.

One of the nation’s largest retailers is making some drastic changes to its policies on guns and ammunition following high-profile shootings over the summer, one of which occurred at its stores.

In a memo circulated to employees on Tuesday, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced that the company would no longer sell handgun ammunition or “short-barrel rifle ammunition” like .223 and 5.56 NATO caliber, “that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons.”

Now the Arkansas-based company will focus on long barrel hunting rifles and their corresponding ammunition, the CEO added.

“We have a long heritage as a company of serving responsible hunters and sportsmen and women, and we’re going to continue doing so,” McMillon said.

“We’ve also been listening to a lot of people inside and outside our company as we think about the role we can play in helping to make the country safer.” McMillon added. “It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable.”

In addition to the inventory changes, the company will also ask that customers no longer openly carry their guns in its stores unless they are members of law enforcement.

“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results,” McMillon said in a memo distributed to employees on Tuesday. “We hope that everyone will understand the circumstances that led to this new policy and will respect the concerns of their fellow shoppers and our associates.”

However, the executive explained, “As it relates to concealed carry by customers with permits, there is no change to our policy or approach.”

The company will also stop selling handguns in Alaska, the only state where it still does so, “marking our complete exit from handguns.”

Walmart has previously said that its share of the national ammunition sales market was around 20 percent. Tuesday’s memo estimated that the change will bring the company’s share to somewhere between 6 and 9 percent.

As the reason for the changes, the memo cites the early August shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed, as well as another incident at a Walmart store in Southaven, Mississippi, where authorities say one employee fatally shot two co-workers. It also mentions shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and this past weekend’s attack in Midland and Odessa, Texas.

“We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand,” McMillon wrote. “As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same.”

Walmart has made decisions to scale back its gun and ammunition offerings before. The company began its exit from the handgun business in 1993 and stopped selling AR-style modern sporting rifles in 2015.

Update:

The National Rifle Association responded to the news of Walmart’s policy changes hours later, saying it was “shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites.”

“The truth is Walmart’s actions today will not make us any safer,” the statement continued. “Rather than place the blame on the criminal, Walmart has chosen to victimize law-abiding Americans.”

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: (UPDATED) Walmart announces plan to ban ‘military style’ rifle ammunition and handgun ammunition, will ask customers not to open carry in stores

‘No doubt at this very minute, the smuggling cartels are getting the word out … Congress is going to legalize millions, just get there’

America is currently facing a massive border crisis, and House Democrats along with seven Republicans responded to it Tuesday evening by passing an amnesty bill with absolutely no border security money or asylum system reforms. The final vote was 237-187.

House Resolution 6, or the “American Dream and Promise Act of 2019,” would extend amnesty to at least 2.5 million illegal immigrants who were either brought to the U.S. as minors or have been on “Temporary Protected Status.” That number is well beyond the estimated 700,000 to 800,000 total DACA recipients. This would take the form of green card status with a path to citizenship.

“The Dream, and now Dream and Promise Act, is urgent for our country,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at the bill’s introduction in March, before trying to sell the legislation under a few lines from a Ronald Reagan speech.

However, critics point out that the legislation would do absolutely nothing to address the border enforcement problems and legal loopholes that created the current crisis in the first place.

Conservative Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) took to social media Tuesday to say the bill would cost the American taxpayer $34.6 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while providing “$0 (ZERO) dollars for border security” and no asylum reforms.

“What is it?” Roy asked rhetorically. “A complete dereliction of our constitutional duty to #SecureTheBorder and address the ongoing humanitarian crisis at our southern border.”

Indeed, according to a summary sheet from House Judiciary Committee Republicans, the total cost of the bill comes from the combined estimated costs of the two bills that make up the legislation in its current form.

But that’s not all. The summary also explains that “time constraints” kept the CBO from being able to calculate the potential public cost of aliens who could seek citizenship by violating the terms of their visas and then become eligible for green cards: “That cost is unknown.”

Other critics say that the bill’s barriers against applicants with criminal histories are too low.

Briefing materials about the bill from the office of Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) say that “applicants with several misdemeanor convictions can obtain a green card, even if the misdemeanors were violent and resulted in death or bodily injury.”

The bill’s language bars illegal immigrants who have been convicted of felonies or three separate misdemeanors involving total jail time over 90 days from getting green cards. It also disqualifies those who have been convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude” and those convicted of domestic violence.

However, the bill bars DHS from using state and federal gang databases as the determining factor in disqualifying potential beneficiaries.

“The Democrats are making us consider a bill that will worsen — give a green light — to the border crisis, incentivizing more people to cross our borders illegally in hopes of getting a piece of the amnesty pie,” House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said on the House floor Tuesday. “No doubt at this very minute, the smuggling cartels are getting the word out … Congress is going to legalize millions, just get there.”

Meanwhile, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security says that the current level of migrants in custody is “beyond sustainable capacity” while this year has seen record levels of border apprehensions.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: House responds to border crisis by passing a mass amnesty bill with zero border security funding

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