Rick Gates freed of curfew, GPS monitoring after Manafort testimony

NEWARK, N.J. — Rick Gates, the star witness in Paul Manafort’s fraud trial, was freed from a curfew and GPS monitoring after a judge credited his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller and trial testimony against his former boss.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the request by Gates, who has been under house arrest since his guilty plea in February. Jackson cited his compliance with his bail terms and his testimony in August under “difficult circumstances,” alluding to the withering cross-examination by Manafort’s attorneys in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Under the order on Monday, Gates must continue to live at his house in Richmond, Va., call probation officers once a week from a landline and submit to monthly inspections of his home. Gates, who is cooperating in Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016, is awaiting sentencing by Jackson. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and making false statements to U.S. investigators.

— Bloomberg News

Dossier firm’s founder to refuse lawmaker’s questions

WASHINGTON — Glenn Simpson, a founder of the firm that commissioned a dossier alleging ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, will show up under congressional subpoena Tuesday for lawmaker’s questions — but he won’t answer them, his lawyer says.

Simpson will invoke his constitutional right not to testify during the scheduled closed-door interview, according to the lawyer, Joshua Levy.

“Republicans in Congress are once again staging a theatrical event designed to protect President Trump from law enforcement investigations into his conduct,” Levy said in an emailed statement.

Simpson is co-founder of Fusion GPS, which hired former British spy Christopher Steele to produce a dossier with unverified allegations, some of them salacious, of ties between Trump and Russians before he became president. Trump and Republicans say the dossier, funded largely by Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, is bogus and provided a pretext to begin the Russia inquiry that’s now run by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Simpson has already testified to other congressional committees. But he was subpoenaed to appear last week before Republican and Democratic members and staff of the House Judiciary Committee, as well as the Oversight and Government Reform panel. Those lawmakers are conducting an ongoing joint examination of investigative decisions made during the 2016 campaign by the FBI and the Justice Department.

— Bloomberg News

Former Senate Intelligence Committee security chief pleads guilty

WASHINGTON — The former head of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee has pleaded guilty to one charge of making false statements to the FBI.

The guilty plea, which was announced by the Justice Department on Monday, comes along with a commitment by the government to move to dismiss related charges.

James A. Wolfe, who was director of security for nearly three decades, has now admitted to making false statements about disclosing non-public information to members of the media.

“By his guilty plea, Wolfe admitted making false statements to the FBI concerning whether he had provided unclassified, but not otherwise publicly-available, information to reporters,” the Justice Department said in a release. “Specifically, on Oct. 16, 2017, and again on Oct. 24, 2017, Wolfe provided a particular reporter with non-public information concerning a witness who had been subpoenaed to testify before the SSCI. Wolfe also admitted making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with three additional reporters, including one of the authors of the aforementioned article.”

Wolfe was indicted on three counts related to making false statements back in June.

— CQ-Roll Call

Extradition hearing ordered for Islamic State terror suspect in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A judge in Sacramento ordered an extradition hearing Monday for an Iraqi man suspected of being a terrorist and wanted in his homeland for allegedly shooting a police officer.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan ordered the hearing to begin Feb. 25 to determine whether Omar Ameen should be sent back to Iraq to face trial on murder charges there.

The order is somewhat of a victory for both sides in the case. Prosecutors wanted an extradition hearing set to get the case moving forward, while Ameen’s attorneys argued that they need more time to investigate the case to try and show that Ameen was not in Iraq at the time of the slaying.

Chief Assistant Federal Defender Ben Galloway said his office’s efforts include hiring translators to go through Iraqi and Turkish documents and finding an investigator who can go to the region to investigate the case.

“We’re all here to make the right decision, do the right thing,” Galloway said. “I have no doubt of that. But this takes time.”

Prosecutors had been asking for an extradition hearing to be set for December, noting that the United States would want a speedy response from Iraq if they were seeking to extradite someone from that country.

“The United States is under a treaty obligation with the government of Iraq,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey Hemesath told the judge as Ameen sat handcuffed at the defense table listening through an interpreter.

Ultimately, Brennan decided his court schedule required the hearing to be set for late February and that it likely would last a day or two.

Brennan does not have the authority to order Ameen sent back to Iraq. Instead, he can determine whether enough evidence exists to support the murder charge. The final decision must come from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Ameen is currently in the Sacramento County Jail being held without bail. He was arrested at his Arden Arcade apartment in August after the Iraqi government requested his extradition in connection with the 2014 slaying of a police officer there.

Court documents filed by federal prosecutors describe Ameen as a terrorist leader with ties to Islamic State and al-Qaida, and say he helped make improvised explosive devices and captured and executed soldiers.

— The Sacramento Bee