Katherine Gregg Journal Political Writer kathyprojo
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Government Accounting Office has agreed to “review” the security procedures and taxpayer-funded travel costs of President Trump’s frequent visits to his Mar-a-Lago resort in response to a request by U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Last month, Whitehouse and Warren were among the members of Congress raising concerns after a reported incident in which “the President [and] his staff … discussed national security matters on full view to diners’ and reviewed potentially sensitive national security material in apparent violation of security protocols.”
In a letter to the GAO, they also raised concerns about how much Trump’s trips to his Florida resort were costing taxpayers, and they asked the GAO to provide “recommendations necessary to ensure that the President and his staff avoid violating national security protocols in the future, and ensure that taxpayer funds are used appropriately when the president travels to his private club.”
According to a statement issued by Warren’s office, the government-watchdog agency has agreed to review how the President’s communications and classified information are secured while traveling, including whether a secure space for classified communications has been established at Mar-a-Lago, as well as what, if any, security measures are employed by the Secret Service to screen staff and guests at the resort. In addition, the GAO will review what measures, if any, “the Secret Service and the Department of Defense have in place to ensure charges for travel-related expenses in connection with providing protection for presidential trips to Mar-a-Lago are fair and reasonable,” and “whether the U.S. Treasury has received payments resulting from profits at the President’s hotels.”
The letter to the GAO was co-signed by Sens. Warren, Whitehouse, Tom Udall, D-NM, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
During a preliminary hearing on Monday, Bureau of Criminal Investigations Special Agent Scott Betz repeatedly referenced a KX News video and Facebook posts as he testified in support of charges against Brennon Nastacio, 36, and Michael Fasig, 46. Fasig and Israel Hernandez, 22, who waived his hearing Monday, are charged with felony reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Nastacio is charged with felony terrorizing. The men pleaded not guilty, and the case was set for trial in October. Authorities say Fasig and Hernandez crashed their cars into the security worker’s vehicle in order to get him off the road. Nastacio allegedly walked toward the man with a knife. The incident took place on Highway 1806 as protesters were cleared from a northern “front line” camp.
No charges have been filed against the security worker, Kyle Thompson, who disguised himself as a protester with a bandanna over his face in order to take photos of burning equipment and carried a loaded assault rifle and handgun in his unmarked truck, according to Betz. During the hearing, Betz said he found posts of Fasig online saying he had a “good day” because he got to “ram” into a DAPL security guard’s truck. He also apparently tried to raise money on a GoFundMe account for repairs. After he was charged, Betz interviewed Fasig over the phone. Fasig allegedly told him that he was not the one driving the car.
Betz said he identified Nastacio from the KX News video, where he apparently holds a knife up by his head for one to three seconds as he walks toward Thompson. One protester sent in a statement about what he witnessed just north of the main Oceti Sakowin camp, but Betz said he was unable to reach him when he left one phone message. Though Betz did not interview any protesters about the incident, he talked to Thompson, who indicated he feared for his life.
Thompson said he drove to Highway 1806 to check on burning equipment. He approached a gate and asked if he could take photos, and the crowd became “riled up” and angry, leading him to drive through the ditch to get away. During this time, two vehicles struck his car, disabling it. He got out of the vehicle with an assault rifle he had in the truck and walked toward the water where he was surrounded by some protesters with knives, he told Betz. Betz said Thompson had the gun pointed down and did not fire it, though a crime lab investigation could not be certain. The pickup was set on fire potentially by a flare gun. Betz said Thompson did not indicate why he fled the protesters or walked into the water.
Defense attorneys Tyrone Turner and Bruce Nestor indicated in their cross-examination of Betz that they would argue at trial that the men feared for their lives and the lives of others near them.
Asked by Turner if he believed that Fasig showed “manifest indifference for the value of human life,” Betz answered “yes.”
“And Mr. Thompson’s didn’t?” Turner asked.
“From the information I have, no,” Betz said.
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A 30-year-old township man wearing a Halloween-type mask and brandishing an air pistol was arrested while walking his dog Monday, a police official said.(Photo: File photo)Buy Photo
MANALAPAN – Police have arrested two men and a woman, all from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for allegedly trying to shoplift thousands of dollars’ worth of cosmetics from a Route 9 Wegmans. A store security guard called police around 3:40 p.m. Saturday to report the shoplifting, police said. Four patrolmen responded to investigate. The officers arrested 34-year-olds George Foster and Renee Jones and 19-year-old Robert Brown, police said.
“The three subjects attempted to remove a total of $3,172.85 in cosmetic merchandise,” according to an item in the township’s weekly police blotter. “All three subjects were issued summonses and released pending future court dates.”
Alex N. Gecan: 732-643-4043; [email protected]
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