Police executed a search warrant last week on two brothers suspected of distributing marijuana vaping cartridges and found 31,200 filled cartridges, 98,000 unfilled cartridges, 12.5 gallons of refined liquid THC, 18.5 pounds of marijuana, three money-counting machines, and eight guns. Tyler Huffhines, 20, is accused of running the massive operation with his brother Jacob, 23. Tyler allegedly told detectives he started buying THC vape cartridges legally last year in California for $2.50 each, then brought them to Wisconsin and sold them to dealers for $15 apiece. Soon he employed at least 10 people to manufacture cartridges in a rented condo, using syringes to fill up to 5,000 cartridges per day with a highly potent amount of liquid THC. It’s unclear whether the Huffhines’ products are linked to the deadly lung attacks that have struck users of black market THC cartridges (see Talking Points).
Federal officials last week toured an empty government office building outside Los Angeles to see whether it could be repurposed as a homeless shelter, after Trump tweeted that the federal government would be “doing something” about homelessness in California. Local advocates were outraged and bewildered at the implication that the federal government could be forcibly relocating homeless people. White House officials tried to steer away from the subject this week, but Trump continued to lambaste California for the state’s problems with homelessness, promising to intervene in the near future. “We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco, and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” Trump said, noting that many of the homeless were camped outside high-priced buildings whose residents “pay tremendous taxes.”
Spy vs. spy
Centreville, Md., and Oyster Bay, N.Y.
Russian spies in the U.S. achieved a technical breakthrough in 2010 that compromised the FBI’s encrypted radio systems, Yahoo News reported this week. The breach let the Russians track, and likely mislead, the FBI teams assigned to monitor them. One former senior U.S. official called it a “stunning” operation, carried out in part by the wives of Russian diplomats working out of secret “listening posts” in Maryland and New York. Russian spies were able to communicate with U.S. assets undetected, while the FBI and CIA had to cut off contact with some Russian assets, fearing their cover was blown. U.S. officials discovered the breach by 2012; it’s not clear to what degree the Russians could learn the substance of FBI communications. “We’re in an intelligence war with the Russians,” a former intelligence officer said, “every bit as dangerous as the Cold War.”
The Trump administration announced this week that it was revoking California’s right to set auto emissions standards stricter than federal rules. The state’s authority dates to the 1970 Clean Air Act, and 13 states—about one-third of the U.S. auto market—follow California’s tighter rules. The White House has argued that this effectively lets California determine national environmental policy. “Federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” Environmental Protection Agency head Andrew Wheeler said. The administration has been embroiled in a battle with California over the White House’s efforts to roll back pollution and greenhouse gas rules. Four automakers—Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW—that agreed to California’s tighter fuel economy standard now face an antitrust inquiry, from the Department of Justice, that Democrats have condemned as politically motivated.
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski refused to answer dozens of questions in a contentious House hearing this week—though he ultimately conceded that President Trump twice asked him to help curtail the Russia investigation. In the first major hearing of the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment probe, Lewandowski mostly evaded questions regarding the summer of 2017, when Trump told Lewandowski he wanted then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions to proclaim Trump did nothing wrong and instruct Mueller to investigate only “meddling for future elections.” As Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said, “He called you to do his dirty work!” Yet Lewandowski said he never spoke with Sessions and that Trump never asked him to do “anything illegal.” Shown a clip of himself, from a February MSNBC program, saying that Trump hadn’t told him to “get involved” with the Mueller probe “in any way, shape, or form,” Lewandowski replied, “I have no obligation to be honest with the media.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) this week accused top White House officials—perhaps even President Trump or the attorney general—of covering up an intelligence official’s whistleblower complaint. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, refused to deliver the complaint to Congress, as required by law, under orders from a “higher authority.” An intelligence official submitted the whistleblower report, deemed of “urgent concern” by the inspector general, on Aug. 12. Schiff says Maguire didn’t even notify Congress of the report and refused to comply with a subpoena this week to turn it over. Maguire says he’s not required to do so because the complaint involves someone outside the intelligence community. “The committee can only conclude,” Schiff said, “that the serious misconduct at issue involves the president” or other top White House officials. ■