Correction: Ellen Ratner only relayed information about Seth Rich, according to Butowsky

Several readers identified a contradiction between a lawsuit that I drafted on behalf of Ed Butowsky versus what he said in an interview. The mistake is mine

Ellen Ratner only relayed information from Julian Assange about Seth Rich, but she said nothing about his brother, Aaron, according to Mr. Butowsky. Paragraph 45 of the First Amended Complaint in Edward Butowsy v. Michael Gottlieb, et al. mistakenly says she relayed information about both.

Mr. Butowsky said he knew nothing about Aaron’s alleged involvement until he had a phone conversation with Joel Rich, father of Seth and Aaron.

Wikileaks supporters pointed out that the error could lead readers to believe that Julian Assange had identified a living source, as opposed to one who had been murdered. To date, neither Wikileaks nor Mr. Assange have identified any of their living sources without permission from those sources.

That’s why we asked Aaron Rich more than a year ago to authorize Wikileaks to reveal whether he was involved in leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Thus far, he and his lawyers have refused to do so.

Transcript suggests Obama White House pressured intelligence agencies to blame Russia

Newly released documents from the FBI suggest that the Obama White House pushed intelligence agencies to publicly blame the Russians for email leaks from the Democratic National Committee to Wikileaks.

This afternoon I received an undated (and heavily redacted) transcript of an interview of James Rybicki, former chief of staff to former FBI Director James Comey, that includes this excerpt: “So we understand that at some point in October of 2016, there was, I guess, a desire by the White House to make some kind of statement about Russia’s…” and then the next page is omitted.

The comment is made by an unidentified prosecutor from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel or “OSC,” not to be confused with the office of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller (the OSC is a permanent office that investigates Hatch Act violations, and Mr. Comey was under investigation for trying to influence the 2016 Presidential election).

The context of the statement makes it all the more interesting, because the OSC prosecutors were noting that the FBI publicized its reactivation of the Clinton email investigation shortly before the 2016 election, and they were wondering why the FBI did not counterbalance that by publicizing the “Russian collusion” investigation into Donald Trump. In that setting, one of the prosecutors then commented that the White House wanted some kind of statement made about Russia. [Continued on page 2].

DNC and CrowdStrike refuse to provide records about alleged Russian email hack

Last night, attorneys for the Democratic National Committee and CrowdStrike formally objected to subpoenas from Ed Butowsky, refusing to provide any records about whether DNC emails were leaked internally or hacked by Russians. The FBI also missed a deadline yesterday for providing records about Seth Rich.

Surprise, surprise. Three years after the purported Russian attack on DNC servers, and nobody outside the DNC or its contractors has seen those servers. Why not?

Frankly, I expected the DNC and CrowdStrike to balk, and I’ll be filing motions to compel in the next few weeks.

You will recall that Roger Stone forced federal prosecutors to admit in late May that neither the FBI nor Special Counsel Robert Mueller had investigated the DNC servers that allegedly were hacked by Russians. Instead, Mueller and the FBI relied exclusively on a redacted report from CrowdStrike.

To my knowledge, the U.S. Department of Justice had never before handed off a computer crime investigation to a third-party contractor hired by the alleged victim. Instead, the FBI (or some other law enforcement agency) had always investigated those crimes. Obviously, the DNC doesn’t want any independent investigation of its claims that Russian hackers — as opposed to a DNC employee like Seth Rich — were responsible for transferring DNC emails to Wikileaks.

Here’s another subject to ponder. More than a year ago, the DNC filed a kamakaze lawsuit alleging that the Trump campaign and the Russian government had conspired to hack its servers, apparently in hopes that the lawsuit would keep the Russian collusion hoax alive through the 2018 elections. At the time, President Trump welcomed the lawsuit, saying it would finally allow for an independent inspection of the DNC’s servers.

Why hasn’t that happened yet? The Trump campaign and some of the other defendants are represented by major law firms (as you would expect), and those firms have dutifully filed motions to dismiss, but it seems that none of those firms have demanded discovery, e.g., an opportunity to inspect the servers. Why not? And why didn’t some of the Congressional committee chairmen subpoena the servers when the House was under GOP control? Why isn’t Sen. Lindsey Graham doing it now?

I’ve long observed that Republican lawyers (and Republicans generally) tend to be very cautious and even a little passive, whereas their Democratic counterparts tend to be hyper-aggressive. Maybe some of the defendants in DNC v. Russian Federation need to light a fire under their lawyers. If somebody had demanded access to the DNC servers back in 2018, the Russian collusion hoax might have collapsed a lot earlier, and Nancy Pelosi might not be Speaker of the House.

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You can read the DNC’s and Crowdstrike’s objections to the Butowsky v. Folkenflik subpoenas by clicking here and here. You can read their objections to the Butowsky v. Gottlieb subpoenas by clicking here and here.

Lawsuit outs Ellen Ratner as source for Seth Rich information

Former Fox News news analyst Ellen Ratner relayed information from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to Texas businessman Ed Butowsky regarding Seth Rich’s role in transferring emails to Wikileaks, according to an amended lawsuit that I filed this morning on behalf of Mr. Butowsky.

Although Ms. Ratner previously worked for Fox News, she is by no means a Republican or a conservative, and her role in the Seth Rich saga (like that of journalist Sy Hersh) obliterates the Democratic narrative that right-wing zealots fabricated the story about Mr. Rich leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Rich, a DNC employee, was murdered in Washington, D.C. on July 10, 2016, and the murder remains unsolved. Here’s an excerpt from the amended suit (“RCH” stands for “Russian Collusion Hoax”):

[continued on p. 2]

Trooper was working the day of Horaney murder, but alibi is not conclusive

State Trooper Tyson Metzig, whose ex-wife suggested he may have been involved in the murder of Longview, Texas businessman Ron Horaney, was working near Jacksonville on the day that Mr. Horaney was murdered, according to records released yesterday evening by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The records — which you can read for yourself by clicking here — do not provide a conclusive alibi. Mr. Metzig stopped a driver around 4 p.m. and subsequently arrested him for felony DWI, according to the arrest report. Mr. Horaney was shot to death around 7 p.m.

In a cover letter, DPS wrote that it had no responsive records other than the ones that I uploaded, and that seems somewhat strange. Here’s exactly what I requested:

(1)  All of Trooper Metzig’s email communications (sent or received) on the dates listed above [i.e., May 29-31, 2016].

(2)  All of Trooper Metzig’s text messages (sent or received) on the dates listed above.

(3)  Records of all outgoing or incoming phone calls on the dates listed above.

(4)  Payroll or other records indicating what time shifts (if any) Trooper Metzig worked on the dates listed above.

(5)  Any incident or arrest reports submitted by Trooper Metzig on the dates above.

Here’s the explanation from DPS:

With respect to Items #1-4 of your request, the Department has conducted a good faith search for any and all information related to your request and has not been able to locate any responsive records. This may be due to the Department’s records retention policy, which mandates the destruction of Department records in accordance with our state-approved retention schedule. See Gov’t Code § 441.187. Accordingly, even if the Department generated the requested record, we no longer maintain a copy. Please note that records indicating the time shifts of a commissioned officer are also protected from disclosure by section 411.00755 of the Government Code which limits the information that can be released from the personnel record of a commissioned officer of the Department of Public Safety.

As I reported on Wednesday, federal authorities are now reviewing the case.

I’ve been asked what happened to the comment section on my blog, and I wish I had a good answer. For some reason unknown to me, the current version of WordPress deletes the comment section after 24 hours. To work around that, I’ll post this article on the LawFlog Facebook page, and you can post your comments (or tips) there.

Update on Horaney murder investigation

I’ve never deleted a blog post before, but this evening I removed my July 8, 2019 blog post about the 2016 murder of Ron Horaney in Gregg County, Texas. Here’s why.

First, I confirmed that federal authorities are looking into the murder, and I’m quite content to let them do their thing. As I’ve previously reported, one of the Texas Rangers investigating the murder was caught having an affair with Mr. Horaney’s widow. Former Ranger Brent Davis claimed the affair did not start until after the murder, but the Texas Department of Public Safety essentially allowed Mr. Davis to exonerate himself.

To say the least, Mr. Davis has some credibility problems. In his statements to DPS’s internal investigators, he said Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano told him that the affair would not prevent the sheriff from seeking Mr. Davis’s assistance in the future. When that statement became public, the sheriff sharply disputed it. That alone should have prompted much closer scrutiny of Mr. Davis’s story, and let’s hope the feds give him the scrutiny that he so richly deserves.

That takes me to the second reason for deleting the July 8, 2019 post: I want to get more information about Trooper Tyson Metzig. At present, I am not expressing an opinion one way or another about the information that was provided to me, but of course that may change as I get more information. If I got something wrong, then I will take my lumps in public.

For now, I am grateful that the feds are involved, and I hope they can provide closure for the Horaney family and everyone else involved.

Subpoenas issued for FBI, Crowdstrike, and DNC records on “Russian hacking” and Seth Rich

This afternoon I issued subpoenas to the FBI, CrowdStrike, and the Democratic National Committee for their records on murdered DNC employee Seth Rich. The subpoenas further demand all evidence that Russian hackers were responsible for obtaining DNC emails in 2016 that were later published by Wikileaks.

Two weeks ago, attorneys representing Roger Stone forced prosecutors to admit that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Obama-era intelligence officials never examined the DNC servers that purportedly were hacked by the Russians. Instead, Mueller and Obama officials relied on redacted draft reports prepared by CrowdStrike, Inc., a private company hired by the law firm Perkins Coie, the same law firm that hired Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele.

Hopefully, we will soon know why the DNC did not want the FBI (or anyone else) looking at those servers. Maybe because the DNC knew that one of its own employees leaked the emails?

You can read the FBI subpoena by clicking here, the CrowdStrike subpoena by clicking here, and the DNC subpoena by clicking here. The case is Edward Butowsky v. Michael Gottlieb, et al., Case No. 4:19-cv-00180 (E.D.Tex.).

Defamation lawsuit filed against CNN, New York Times and lawyers for Seth Rich family

A federal lawsuit filed this morning accuses CNN, The New York Times, and Vox of smearing Texas financial advisor Ed Butowsky with false claims about his role in investigating the murder of Democratic National Employee Seth Rich.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Sherman Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, also accuses lawyers in New York and Chicago of maliciously prosecuting a bogus lawsuit on behalf of Seth Rich’s parents, Joel and Mary Rich.

Full disclosure: I’m one of Ed’s attorneys, and I filed the lawsuit on his behalf. I don’t have a lot of time to blog about the case, but I tried to write the lawsuit in plain English (see Paragraphs 1-7 and 33-84), and you can read it by clicking here.

DPS IS STILL HIDING THE BALL

Sometimes when you request records from the government, you can tell a lot by what they refuse to give you. In the eight days between February 20 and February 28, 2019, the Texas Department of Public Safety denied three of my public information requests.

In the letter dated February 20, 2019, DPS refused to release the retirement letter that deputy inspector general Louis Sanchez sent to the Public Safety Commission, i.e., the commission that oversees DPS. I’m told Mr. Sanchez referenced a complaint against Inspector General Rhonda Fleming, alleging (among other things) that Ms. Fleming discriminated against her ex-girlfriend by blocking the ex-girlfriend’s promotion to captain. As my readers know from previous blog posts, I have a pretty low opinion of the Office of Inspector General (a.k.a. the “Office of Damage Control“) under Ms. Fleming’s leadership.

In the February 27, 2019 letter, DPS refused to release records about illegal immigrants allegedly working in the Capitol Grille inside the Texas Capitol Building. My DPS sources tell me the restaurant reported a theft, and the agent assigned to investigate soon discovered multiple immigrants working without identification. That might not be such a big deal but for the fact that DPS gets millions from the legislature to patrol the Mexican border, and yet it cannot keep illegal immigrants (without ID) from entering a secured building, i.e., the capitol building. I’m told top officials in DPS are trying to keep the incident quiet. [Continued on p. 2].

Lawsuit: Texas senator quashed investigation of state trooper girlfriend

The chairman of the Texas Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee quashed an internal investigation of a female state trooper with whom he had an affair, according to an amended federal lawsuit filed this morning.

The lawsuit alleges that Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) intervened with Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw to terminate the investigation of Trooper Diane Martinez and Captain Rolando Rivas. Whitmire’s committee oversees DPS.

Ironically, Martinez and Rivas were under investigation because another trooper reported the captain for showing favoritism toward Martinez, “with whom [the captain] appeared to be having an inappropriate relationship.” Here’s an excerpt from the lawsuit:

47. In April of 2016, Corporal Katherine Gibson (formerly Creekmore) filed a misconduct complaint against Captain Rolando Rivas because he was showing favoritism toward a subordinate, Trooper Diane Martinez, with whom he appeared to be having an inappropriate relationship. OIG [i.e., the DPS Office of Inspector General] initiated an investigation, and within a matter of weeks Captain Rivas began cleaning out his office. At one point, the captain’s secretary discovered a note in his office that caused her and other co-workers to fear that Captain Rivas might harm himself. A short time later, however, the chairman of the Texas Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee intervened with Defendant McCraw on behalf of Captain Rivas, and the OIG investigation was quashed. As it happens, Trooper Martinez had boasted about having an intimate relationship with the married committee chairman, Senator John Whitmire.

48. After Defendant McCraw quashed the investigation, Captain Rivas was allowed to resume his position in Cpl. Gibson’s chain of command. Predictably, he began retaliating against her with numerous bad-faith accusations and disciplinary write-ups. The stress became so severe that Cpl. Gibson sought and obtained medical leave in May of 2017 due to harassment from her chain-of-command. She filed a second misconduct complaint against Captain Rivas in July of 2018, as well as complaints against Lieutenant Glen Lester and Sgt. Rito Morales, because of the ongoing retaliation scheme. Since that time, Defendant Fleming has deliberately slow-walked the investigation, Lieutenant Glen Lester and Sgt. Rito Morales have been allowed to transfer and Captain Rivas is scheduled to retire on February 28, 2019. This is standard operating procedure for Defendant McCraw and Defendant Fleming. When they can no longer cover up misconduct by a senior officer, the investigation is delayed and the senior officer is allowed to retire quietly… By delaying her findings, Defendant Fleming can close the investigation without sustaining any of the allegations. As a result, the report will not be subject to public release, and DPS will be saved from embarrassing revelations.

In the interest of full disclosure, I filed the amended lawsuit on behalf of my client, Trooper Billy Spears, who was punished in 2015 for allowing himself to be photographed with Snoop Dogg at SXSW (the incident made international news and resulted in continued retaliation against Trooper Spears). Captain Rivas and Trooper Martinez were added to the complaint in order to demonstrate a pattern of corruption, cronyism, and cover-ups at DPS. [Continued on Page 2].

Texas official flashes badge during traffic stop… but he’s not a cop

Body camera video from an August 14, 2018 traffic stop by a Huntsville, Texas police officer shows a senior official from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission flashing a badge and identifying himself as a deputy executive director of the state’s third largest law enforcement agency… even though he is not a law enforcement officer himself.

Dennis Beal is TABC’s deputy executive director of business & revenue operations, but according to records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, he has never been licensed as a peace officer in Texas.

Dennis Beal, Deputy Executive Director
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission

Shortly after the one-minute mark in the three-minute video, Mr. Beal displays a badge and agency credentials and states that he does not have liability insurance because he is driving a state vehicle. He also explains to the officer that he lives in Huntsville but works in Austin, and he is driving home after a meeting. He was released with a warning.

I emailed TABC spokesman Chris Porter to ask “why TABC issues badges to civilian employees and whether TABC has any policy governing the use of badges and credentials by civilian employees, particularly during traffic stops.” Here is his response:

TABC previously made it a practice to issue gold identification badges to its senior leadership, which includes Commissioners, the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Directors. These badges identify the bearer as an employee of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and are distinct from the badges carried by commissioned peace officers. The badge includes the bearer’s job title as well as the badge number. The badge does not identify civilian employees as commissioned peace officers, nor does it grant any privileges normally afforded to peace officers.

The latter sentence sounds like hair-splitting to me. If I had stopped Mr. Beal back when I was a deputy sheriff, and he flashed his badge and credentials as a deputy executive director of TABC, I would have reasonably assumed that he was a cop. I’m not saying TABC’s policy is unique, because the Houston Police Department once issued badges to spouses of HPD officers (and maybe it still does), but it all seems a little shady to me. [Continued on page 2].