DHS says it won’t make officials available for questioning in House probe of Portland protests

The House Intelligence Committee’s request to interview several DHS officials “will not be accommodated at this time,” Assistant Secretary Beth Spivey wrote to the committee chairman Monday, arguing that the committee had unreasonably broadened its scope after receiving a whistleblower complaint from Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of the department’s intelligence office.

Murphy has alleged that senior DHS officials, acting on orders from the White House, have tried to color intelligence reports in ways that favor Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Murphy claimed in a complaint filed last week with the DHS inspector general that the department’s acting secretary, Chad Wolf, instructed him in May to stop reporting Russian interference in the election and to focus his office’s efforts on China and Iran, two countries Democratic lawmakers briefed on intelligence say are not engaged in the same aggressive attempts to influence the elections as Russia.

Spivey said the committee had appeared to base its request to interview more DHS officials on Murphy’s complaint. While declining to make those witnesses available, the department alluded to an email Spivey said Murphy wrote July 25, in which she said he wrote, “The acting secretary [Wolf] has never given me any direction on what to do Regarding [sic] threats” to the election.

The letter from Spivey to committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) did not include the full email from Murphy, and it was not clear what else he may have written on the matter.

‘The Department is trying to have it both ways by making only a select few witnesses available to answer a very narrow set of questions and selectively releasing a small amount of documents in an obvious effort to whitewash serious allegations of misconduct by DHS’s leadership, all while refusing to make available other documents and witnesses who can testify to a broader pattern of misconduct and politicization of intelligence,” Schiff said in a statement.

He said the committee could consider “compulsory process” to force the department to cooperate. The intelligence office is part of the broader intelligence community, a collection of agencies including the CIA, and is therefore under the intelligence committee’s jurisdiction.

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Taxpayers Paid More Than $1 Million for Barriers Erected Around White House Amid George Floyd Protests

The wall that went up around the White House amid widespread protests this summer cost taxpayers more than $1 million in rental fees, according to federal spending data.

At the end of June, as protests over the death of George Floyd raged, the National Park Service (NPS), along with the Secret Service, erected “anti-scale fencing” along the perimeter of the White House. Four separate contracts—one for almost $400,000, another for $360,000, a third for $225,000, and the other for $161,000— brought the fencing initiative to almost $1.1 million.  

The fencing was widely seen as a reaction to the protests, which broke out after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died at the hands of Minneapolis cops.

A National Park Service spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Daily Beast, but the agency claimed previously that the fencing was not tied to the protests and was in fact part of a larger “replacement project” that began last year.  

As might be expected of a man who made the building of a wall central to his presidency, Trump likes barriers. In 2018, the Secret Service hired a Florida company to put up “barricades and fencing” in Palm Beach, where Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort is located. The six-month contract set taxpayers back about $17,000. Last year, the agency spent $12,000 to rent “privacy fencing and barricades needed for visits to West Palm Beach,” home of the Trump International golf resort.

Protecting the Trumps doesn’t come cheap. The Secret Service recently paid $25,000 for a pair of jet skis meant to keep the president’s family and friends safe while they swim. European jaunts by Tiffany Trump, the president’s youngest daughter, have cost Americans tens of thousands of dollars, and in 2018, First Lady Melania Trump racked up a $90,000 hotel bill during a six-hour stop in Cairo. On a day trip to Toronto the previous year, Mrs. Trump somehow managed to spend $174,000 on hotels without even staying the night. 

Before he became president, Donald Trump often complained about the costs associated with Obama family vacations. However, according to nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Trump family is traveling at a rate 12 times that of his predecessor’s.

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Seattle’s ‘Riot Kitchen’ volunteers arrested on way to Jacob Blake protests in Wisconsin

Riot Kitchen, formed in Seattle at the height of the protests, says its aim is to feed protesters. Kenosha police arrested group members this week.

Several members of the Seattle group “Riot Kitchen” were arrested in Kenosha, Wisconsin this week by police and federal agents, and the group claims they did nothing to warrant the attention from law enforcement.

A video of the arrest was shared online, and reposted by the Riot Kitchen account. It shows unmarked SUVs boxing in a tan minivan. Uniformed officers exit these vehicles, break a window on the van and the people inside the van exit.

Police then take control of the minivan, and drive it away as onlookers record. A U.S. Marshal was involved, according to Kenosha Police Department.

The presence of federal officers in U.S. cities experiencing protests has caused controversy this summer.

RELATED: Seattle leaders express concern about federal agents on standby amid planned weekend protests

Kenosha Police released a statement, saying a “citizen tip” on “several suspicious vehicles” led officers to the gas station – they note a black school bus, bread truck, and the tan van. Kenosha Police Department made special note of their out-of-state plates. 

“Police observed the occupants of the black bus and bread truck exit and attempt to fill multiple fuel cans,” Kenosha Police wrote. According to the statement, officers believed they were “preparing for criminal activity related to the recent unrest.”

The video does not show what police describe before the arrests, as it begins as police surround the minivan.

Riot Kitchen formed in Seattle at the height of the local protests earlier this year, with a mission of feeding protesters. They were a presence during the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), when protesters pushed police from a several block section of the Capitol Hill neighborhood for weeks.

Kenosha has been home to several nights of protests, riots and fires following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. It’s the latest chapter in the ongoing protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Jennifer Scheurle of the Riot Kitchen said volunteers were only purchasing the fuel for their vehicles and generator.

“We reject all claims that our crew was there to incite violence or build explosives – our nonprofit has always been and will always be about feeding people,” she said.

She said the volunteers were kept in holding cells for hours without water or blankets, and were denied phone calls to loved ones.

Police claim the vehicles contained helmets, gas masks, protective vests, illegal fireworks and suspected controlled substances. They also claimed the van tried to drive away before the arrests.

Scheurle said the group had only recently arrived in Kenosha, and had not yet attended any protest events. The volunteers were arrested for disorderly conduct, Kenosha police said.

All eight from the Riot Kitchen have been released as of Friday, Scheurle said. The Kenosha County District Attorney has not responded to requests for comment

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Hundreds arrested during protests in Belarus, says Interior Ministry

Minsk [Belarus], September 7 (ANI/Sputnik): Hundreds of people have been detained throughout Belarus for participating in unauthorized protests on Sunday, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova told Sputnik, adding that the precise number will be available on Monday.
Earlier in the day, opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko organised protests in Minsk and other cities.
“Hundreds of citizens have been arrested across the country for taking part in unauthorized protests. We do not know the final number, we are planning to present it on Monday morning,” Chemodanova said.
Meanwhile, Belarusian telecommunication provider A1 announced restoring data transmission services in Minsk to full capacity.
A Sputnik correspondent has reported that law enforcement officers disassembled the roadblock outside of the Independence Palace, the residence of Lukashenko. Pedestrians are now being allowed through.
The Minsk subway has resumed its normal work as well, according to its Telegram channel, as several stations were previously closed during the day amid protests.
The Sunday protests were the latest in the series that started in the aftermath of the August 9 election, which saw Lukashenko re-elected for a sixth term.
The opposition insists that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is the real winner. (ANI/Sputnik)

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