investigations
January 21, 2021

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) set off a metal detector on Thursday as he tried to enter the House chamber while carrying a gun, HuffPost reports.

Reporter Matt Fuller witnessed Harris set off the metal detector and then stand as an officer used a wand to scan him. It was then discovered that Harris' suit coat was concealing a firearm. Harris was refused entrance to the Chamber, Fuller reports, and he asked Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) to take the gun so he could go onto the House floor for a vote. Katko responded that he didn't have "a license" and would not take the weapon, Fuller said.

Speaking to other lawmakers near him, Harris complained that he asked his staff to remind him about the metal detectors, and they had failed to do so, Fuller reports. Harris left, and upon his return 10 minutes later, he did not set off the metal detector. A Capitol Police spokesperson told Fuller the situation is under investigation.

The metal detectors were installed after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Several Republican lawmakers have tried to go around the metal detectors to avoid being scanned, and on Thursday, Fuller said he saw Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.), and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) refuse to be wanded down after setting off the metal detectors. Boebert earlier boasted that she will always have her gun on her while in D.C.

Members of the House are not permitted to carry firearms onto the floor, and Fuller tweeted that a person "who would have a good sense of this situation" told him there are "a lot more members than we think who go to the floor armed." Catherine Garcia

December 3, 2020

As recently as this summer, the Department of Justice investigated the roles of Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser, and Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, in an alleged scheme to pay a bribe in exchange for a pardon, two people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.

On Tuesday, redacted court documents were unsealed that showed the existence of the investigation into possible unregistered lobbying and bribery. People familiar with the case told the Times that Sanford Diller, a billionaire real estate developer from the San Francisco area, solicited help from Broidy and Lowell in an attempt to get clemency for Hugh Baras, a psychologist from Berkeley who received a 30-month prison sentence after being convicted of tax evasion and improperly claiming Social Security benefits.

The Times reports that Diller was set to make "a substantial political contribution" to an unspecified recipient in order for the pardon to be made, and the court documents state that as part of the effort, the White House Counsel's Office was approached by someone who wanted to make sure the "clemency petition reached the targeted officials." Diller died in February 2018, and the Times says there is no evidence that the plan moved ahead following his death.

No one has been charged in this inquiry, and a Justice Department official said no member of the government is "currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing." Reid Weingarten, a lawyer for Lowell, confirmed to the Times that his client did represent Baras, who never received clemency. Broidy's attorney, William Burck, told the Times his client was asked by Diller to assist on a clemency petition, and it was not a lobbying effort. Both Weingarten and Burck downplayed the investigation, with Weingarten saying it was "much ado about precious little."

Broidy was a top fundraising official for Trump's inauguration and later became the deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee. In October, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act in connection with another case involving an attempt to influence the Trump administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests. Catherine Garcia

September 14, 2020

More details emerged on Monday about a Saturday night car crash involving South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R).

During an impromptu press conference on Sunday night, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) announced that Ravnsborg had been involved in a fatal car accident near Highmore. She did not share any additional information. Almost immediately, Ravnsborg's office released a statement saying he was uninjured in the crash and was cooperating with the investigation.

On Monday, state investigators with the Department of Public Safety said Ravnsborg reported that he struck a deer with his 2011 Ford Taurus on Saturday night, but he had actually hit a man, whose body was found on Sunday. Ravnsborg's office said he called 911 after the accident, but state investigators did not reveal whether he reported the crash via 911. The accident took place as Ravnsborg drove home from a dinner hosted by the Spink County Republicans.

The victim has been identified as Joseph Boever, 56. His cousin, Victor Nemec, told KELO-TV that earlier Saturday, Boever had crashed his truck into a hay bale near Highway 14, and planned on fixing it Sunday. Nemec doesn't think Ravnsborg called 911, because no sirens were heard leaving Highmore on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, Nemec wasn't able to get in touch with Boever, and when he drove by the spot where his cousin left his truck and saw police officers and emergency vehicles, he called authorities looking for information. Victor and his brother, Nick Nemec, were asked to identify Boever's body later that night. "My worst fear is that they're trying to get ducks in a row to absolve the attorney general of any wrongdoing," Nick told KELO-TV. He added that it was upsetting to think that the body may have been out there overnight, as the family doesn't "know if cousin Joe was laying on the highway for 22 hours or if they had bagged him up before that." The Department of Public Safety said the investigation is ongoing. Catherine Garcia

September 1, 2020

The Army announced on Tuesday that there will be an "in-depth investigation into the chain of command actions" at Fort Hood related to the death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen.

Gen. John Murray, the commanding general of Army Futures Command, will lead the probe, the Army said. The remains of Guillen, 20, were found in June, several months after she was reported missing. The Army's Criminal Investigation Division said the suspect in her disappearance was another Fort Hood solider, who died by suicide when approached by authorities.

Located in Texas, Fort Hood houses 36,500 soldiers. As of late July, CNN reports, there have been 23 deaths at the base this year, including four homicides, seven suicides, and seven off-duty accidents. The Army said there are now "several investigations underway at Fort Hood which are tasked with reviewing a wide range of topics and concerns. Gen. Murray will roll those efforts into a more complete and comprehensive investigation that will delve into all activities and levels of leadership."

This new investigation is separate from an independent review of Fort Hood that began in August, the Army said, and "will look at all the actions of the command from the lowest level to the senior level at the post," Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said. Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that this year, there has been a major increase in the number of felonious crimes and sexual assault reports at Fort Hood, and the Army must "understand the root causes so that we can make the appropriate changes." Catherine Garcia

August 31, 2020

Liberty University announced on Monday it is launching an independent investigation into "all facets" of the school's operations during Jerry Falwell Jr.'s time as president.

Following the death of his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., Falwell became president of the evangelical university in 2007, and left his post last week. Falwell and Liberty cut ties after Falwell's business partner, Giancarlo Granda, came forward and said he had spent years in a sexual relationship with Falwell's wife, Becki Falwell, and sometimes, her husband would watch them. Falwell has admitted his wife and Granda had a relationship but denies that he was part of it.

Liberty's board said an outside firm will look into "financial, real estate, and legal matters" connected to Falwell, and the school is "committed to learning the consequences that have flowed from a lack of spiritual stewardship by our former president." Falwell had earlier been accused of ensuring that his family and close friends benefit from campus construction contracts. Catherine Garcia

June 18, 2020

The Air Force announced on Thursday that its inspector general has launched an investigation into whether military surveillance planes were used to improperly monitor anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests in Minneapolis and Washington earlier this month.

Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the chief Air Force spokesman, told The New York Times the probe is regarding "the use of Air National Guard RC-26 aircraft to support civil authorities during recent protest activity in U.S. cities." The investigation appears to have been sparked by lawmakers who voiced their concerns that the use of these planes may have violated the civil liberties of protesters, the Times reports.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) is an RC-26 pilot with the Wisconsin Air National Guard, and he told the Times he flew two night missions over Minneapolis this month, providing real time video to authorities. He said Gov. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) requested the aircraft in order to spot any possible trouble happening below. The camera on the plane is so strong that while flying between 4,000 and 20,000 feet, it is able to capture a general image of a person, but cannot use facial recognition or read license plates, Kinzinger said.

The Times also saw a message sent on June 2 by National Guard officials telling their commanders that the West Virginia Air National Guard deployed an RC-26B aircraft with electronic surveillance equipment to observe protesters in Washington. A military official familiar with the matter told the Times video recorded from the aircraft was sent to senior National Guard leaders in real time, and they were able to watch the footage on their cell phones.

Last week, Joseph Kernan, the under secretary of defense for intelligence and security, sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee saying that he did not receive any orders from the Trump administration to spy on protesters during the demonstrations. Catherine Garcia

February 28, 2020

Two public safety officials told the Los Angeles Times that Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shared graphic photos from the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others last month.

The Times says it's unclear how many people saw the pictures, which allegedly showed the victims' remains, and whether deputies took the photos themselves or received them from someone else. One of the officials told the Times he saw a picture on someone else's cell phone, while not working on the case. He also said that two days after the crash, first responders were discussing pictures that had been taken showing the aftermath.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department on Thursday said "the matter is being looked into." This could be a significant breach, as sharing such photos with people who are not authorized to view them is "a cardinal sin in law enforcement," Joseph Giacalone, an instructor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Times. Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2020

The National Transportation Safety Board provided an update on Monday afternoon about its investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others Sunday morning in Calabasas, California.

There was heavy fog in the area, and the pilot told air traffic controllers that he was going to try to fly higher to avoid a cloud layer, the NTSB said. When controllers asked him to share more information, he did not respond. Flight radar suggests the helicopter made it to 2,300 feet then began dropping down to the left, The New York Times reports.

Investigators are taking a "broad look at everything" around the accident, NTSB official Jennifer Homendy said. "We look at man, machine, and the environment, and weather is just a small portion of that."

Investigators are now searching a debris field of 500 to 600 feet for perishable evidence. The helicopter did not have a cockpit voice recorder. Catherine Garcia

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