Corrupt Congressman Resigns Amid Scandals

Originally published on March 19, 2015, at NationofChange.org

To avoid a congressional ethics investigation into allegations of corruption, Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois announced his resignation from Congress on Tuesday. Caught failing to report gifts and charging taxpayers for lavish trips, Schock finally decided to step down when the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) began interviewing people close to the congressman. Although the House Ethics Committee will no longer have jurisdiction over Schock, the Justice Department could file criminal charges against him.

On February 2, The Washington Post published an article describing Rep. Schock’s remodeled office decorated in the style of PBS’s “Downton Abbey.” Because Schock’s interior decorator, Annie Brahler, had offered her services for free, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint accusing Schock of accepting an improper gift. Although Schock eventually paid $40,000 from his personal finances to cover the cost, the media attention and his own self-promotion prompted further investigations into his extravagant lifestyle.

Appearing on the cover of Men’s Health while posting photos of himself on Instagram hiking across glaciers, surfing, and hanging out with Ariana Grande, Schock flagrantly flaunted a lifestyle well beyond his pay grade. Since first running for office in 2008, Schock has raised over $10.8 million in campaign contributions without ever facing a serious opponent. Between December 2009 and February 2010, Schock charged taxpayers more than $100,000 for decorations and renovations to his office.

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LAPD Rookie Wanted for Murder

Originally published on March 17, 2015, at NationofChange.org

The Pomona Police Department issued an arrest warrant for murder on Monday for an LAPD rookie officer on the run. Initially considered a person of interest, law enforcement officials now believe LAPD Officer Henry Solis knows he is wanted for murder and is considered armed and dangerous. Although police have found Solis’ car, the probationary officer has been missing since Friday.

According to the Pomona Police Department, officers responded to a homicide reported at 3:30am on Friday at Third and Main streets. While off-duty, LAPD rookie officer Henry Solis had been drinking at the Viva Tequila Lounge and Nightclub in downtown Pomona. After leaving the club, Solis allegedly got into a physical altercation with Salome Rodriguez, Jr.

Solis pulled out a gun and reportedly shot Rodriguez twice in the abdomen, twice in the left leg, and once in the neck. Rodriguez was able to run for about a block before collapsing in a nearby parking lot. An ambulance transported Rodriguez to the USC Medical Center where he later died from his wounds.

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Drunken Secret Service Agents Crash into White House Barricade

Originally published on March 12, 2015, at NationofChange.org

In yet another example of misconduct and incompetence, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has launched an investigation into two Secret Service agents caught on surveillance camera driving drunk and crashing into a White House barricade. Besides driving under the influence, the agents also disturbed an active bomb investigation by possibly driving over the suspicious package. Instead of allowing law enforcement officials to arrest the agents or determine their blood alcohol content, a Secret Service supervisor simply decided to send them home.

Around 10:25pm on March 4, a Pennsylvania woman exited a blue Toyota near the southeast entrance of the White House carrying a package wrapped in a green shirt. As the woman approached a Secret Service agent, she shouted at him that she was holding a bomb. After placing the package on the ground, the woman ran back to her vehicle and jumped inside with the agent in pursuit.

Opening the front passenger door, the agent ordered the woman to exit the vehicle when she put the car in reverse. After the open door struck the agent, he managed to reach inside the car and force it into park. But the woman shifted it back into drive and sped off before the agent could stop her. Officers immediately secured the area with police tape and called the bomb squad to check the package for explosives.

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Ferguson Police Chief Resigns After DOJ Exposes Systemic Racism

Originally published on March 12, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announced his resignation on Wednesday after a scathing Justice Department report revealed systemic racism throughout the government of Ferguson. Accused of racial discrimination and repeatedly violating civil rights, Chief Jackson has decided to step down along with the city manager, a municipal court judge, and two police officers who immediately resigned in the wake of the Justice Department’s investigation. Although the Department of Justice declined to file charges against Darren Wilson, their investigation exposed a culture of unlawfully targeting black people for profit and ridicule.

“It is with profound sadness that I am announcing I am stepping down from my position as chief of police for the city of Ferguson, Missouri. My resignation will be effective March 19, 2015 to provide for an orderly transition of command,” Chief Jackson wrote in his resignation letter. “I will continue to assist the city in any way I can in my capacity as a private citizen.”

According to the Justice Department report, the police in Ferguson disproportionately stopped, arrested, cited, and used force on black residents while exchanging racist emails between officers and court officials. After analyzing the Ferguson Police Department’s data on stops, searches, and arrests between 2012 and 2014, the DOJ discovered that blacks accounted for 85% of all traffic stops, 90% of citations received, and 93% of people arrested were black. 88% of the cases in which officers reported using force had been against black people, and all 15 people bitten by police dogs were black.

In order to generate revenue for the city, police officers engaged in contests to impose the highest number of unfair fines on black residents. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, officers regularly violated the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments without consequence while charging black residents with unlawful allegations, including “manner of walking along roadway.”

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Republican Senators Undermine President’s Nuclear Deal with Iran

Originally published on March 11, 2015, at NationofChange.org

In a blatant effort to undermine President Obama’s negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program, 47 Republican Senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leaders on Monday threatening to sabotage any agreement reached between the two countries. Fearing Iran’s potential nuclear capabilities and enraged by the president’s utter disdain for them, Republican legislators have adopted casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rhetoric against diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government.

Drafted by Sen. Tim Cotton of Arkansas, the letter attempts to dissuade Iranian leaders from signing a deal with the president by insulting their understanding of America’s constitutional system. They point out that “the president may only serve two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then – perhaps decades.”

The senators added, “We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

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Senator Expected to Face Federal Corruption Charges

Originally published on March 7, 2015, at NationofChange.org

The Justice Department is preparing to file criminal corruption charges against former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Robert “Bob” Menendez of New Jersey. A federal grand jury began investigating the senator two years ago after the FBI and Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) delved into allegations of Menendez exchanging political favors for lavish gifts from campaign contributor and Florida ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen. In exchange for vacation trips and political donations, Menendez has allegedly obstructed a program to improve port security and attempted to interfere with Medicare’s reimbursement policies in order to advance Dr. Melgen’s business prospects.

A month after Sen. Menendez assumed office on January 17, 2006, Dr. Melgen began negotiations to purchase ICSSI, a Dominican company contracted to provide cargo screening in the Dominican Republic. In 2002, ICSSI had acquired a contract to provide screening throughout the country, but the government suspended the deal claiming the contract was too expensive and the bidding was too uncompetitive. Intent on purchasing ICSSI, Dr. Melgen fought to reinstate the contract, which was reportedly worth $500 million over 20 years.

During this time, Menendez began pushing legislation to require screening all ship containers headed to the U.S. In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security donated an x-ray scanning device to the Dominican Republic. Inspectors working at the Dominican port at Multimodal Caucedo found 5,000lbs of cocaine in a cargo container of peaches during the first week of operating the device.

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Former CIA Director Agrees to Plead Guilty to Leaking Classified Material

Originally published on March 5, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Retired four-star general and former CIA Director David Petraeus entered a plea bargain agreeing to plead guilty to leaking highly classified material to his former mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell. In his plea deal, Gen. Petraeus also admitted to violating several Non-Disclosure Agreements with the Department of Defense (DOD), making false statements to the FBI during the course of a criminal investigation, and retaining classified documents after resigning from office. Although the Obama administration has a record of aggressively prosecuting conscientious whistleblowers, the Justice Department has been lenient on high-ranking officials responsible for leaking sensitive information.

After returning from the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Petraeus spoke with Broadwell about the location of sensitive documents referred to as the black books. In their conversation, recorded on August 4, 2011, Petraeus acknowledged that the black books contained highly classified material before eventually agreeing to lend her the journals. On August 28, 2011, Petraeus delivered the black books to a private residence in Washington, D.C., where Broadwell was staying for a week.

The black books consisted of eight sensitive notebooks possessing the identities of covert agents, war strategy, intelligence mechanisms, diplomatic discussion, notes from high-level National Security Council meetings, and Petraeus’ private discussions with President Obama. At the time, Broadwell was writing a biography of Petraeus titled “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus” while engaging in a sexual relationship with the married four-star general.

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