ICYMI News-Down the Rabbit Holes

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Drug dealers in lab coats

Where it began

Meet the DEA whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi.

It the midst of the biggest drug epidemic in American history, the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to keep addictive opioids off US streets was derailed, that according to Joe Rannazzisi.

Rannazzisi ran the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, the division that investigates and regulates the pharmaceutical industry.

In a joint investigation between 60 Minutes and the Washington Post, Rannazzisi tells the story of how the opioids crisis was allowed to spread, aided by Congress, Lobbyists and a drug distribution industry that shipped almost unchecked hundreds of millions of pills to rogue pharmacies and pain clinics, providing the rocket fuel for a crisis for over the last two decades has claimed 200,000 lives.

CBS News-60 Minutes

“It was my opinion, that this made the whole crack epidemic look like nothing. These weren’t kids slinging crack on the corner. These were professionals who were doing it. They were just drug dealers in lab coats.

60 Minutes
Published on Sep 30, 2018

On how congress may have helped to disarm the DEA amid the opioid crisis. Because of the joint 60 Minutes and Washington Post report Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) an architect of that policy was forced to withdraw his name from consideration to be President Trump’s drug czar” to head the US Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration.”

CBS News

Fallout from “60 Minutes” & Washington Post investigation into opioid crisis

CBS News
Published on Oct 19, 2017

Cardinal Health, distributors respond to Washington Post/60 Minutes opioid investigation

The joint investigation said a former DEA official, since July employed by Dublin-based Cardinal, crafted a 2016 law that greatly weakened the agency’s ability to halt large opioid shipments during investigations. Cardinal had been subject to two enforcement actions. The story also traces other former federal regulators now working for Cardinal (NYSE:CAH).

Biz Journals; Oct 16 2017

Members of the multibillionaire philanthropic Sackler family that owns the maker of prescription painkiller OxyContin are facing mass litigation and likely criminal investigation over the opioids crisis still ravaging America.

Some of the Sacklers wholly own Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, the company that created and sells the legal narcotic OxyContin, a drug at the center of the opioid epidemic that now kills almost 200 people a day across the US.

““This is essentially a crime family … drug dealers in nice suits and dresses,” said Paul Hanly, a New York city lawyer who represents Suffolk county and is also a lead attorney in a huge civil action playing out in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, involving opioid manufacturers and distributors.” [The Guardian]

Opioid Makers Must Face Racketeering ClaimsCourthouse News

A federal judge in Ohio refused Wednesday to dismiss racketeering claims against Purdue Pharma and other drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies in a massive collection of cases blaming them for the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The claims of hundreds of cities and counties against opioid makers including Purdue and Johnson & Johnson have been consolidated in Cleveland federal court. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster is overseeing the case.

Trial in the case is set for September 2019.

Other defendants include opioid distributors McKesson and Cardinal Health.

Recommended reading

The making of an opioid epidemic – When high doses of painkillers led to widespread addiction, it was called one of the biggest mistakes in modern medicine. But this was no accident; By Chris McGreal; Nov 8, 2018; The Guardian

Sackler family members face mass litigation and criminal investigations over opioids crisis; By: Joanna Walters; Nov 19 2018; The Guardian

The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over The DEA; Washington Post

Opioid Crisis: The lawsuits that could bankrupt manufacturers and distributors; December 16, 2018; CBS News 60 Minutes

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.

Washington Post; Oct 15 2017

Rep. Tom Marino withdrew from the DEA nomination two days later. Linden Barber, a former DEA lawyer who also helped craft the bill and also represented the drug companies, is now an executive with Cardinal Health.

Loretta Lynch, who was Attorney General, which oversees the DEA, “declined” to be interviewed and former President Obama, who signed the bill, “declined to discuss the law” at the time of the Washington Post report in 2017.

And Russian the plot thickens.

First there were these:

Russian adoption meeting lawyer is a Russian informant; April 27; TNB.

Donald Trump Jr Congressional Testimony Released; May 16; TNB.

The Russia Investigation: The Agalarovs; May 31; TNB.

The Planners Of The Trump Meeting Moved Millions, And Mueller Now Investigating – Documents show suspicious transfers began six days before the controversial meeting; Sept 21; Jason Leopold & Anthony Cormier; BuzzFeed.

Now there is thisExclusive: “Whistleblowers said the Americans were exchanging messages with unsecure Gmail accounts set up by their Russian counterparts as the US election heated up.”

At least 10 FinCEN employees have filed formal whistleblower complaints about the department. The whistleblowers say they tried multiple times to raise concerns about issues they believed threatened national security, but that they faced retaliation instead of being heeded. Some of FinCEN’s top officials quit in anger. One senior adviser has been arrested and accused of releasing financial records to a journalist.

That adviser, a whistleblower named Natalie Mayflower Edwards, first sounded the alarm in the summer of 2016. She went on to speak with six different congressional committee staffers to air her concerns. In July and August 2018, she met again with staffers of one of the Senate committees investigating Russian interference during the presidential campaign. In those meetings, she told the staffers that FinCEN withheld documents revealing suspicious financial transactions of Trump associates that the committee had requested.

^^^^Read this^^^^

Which goes hand-in-hand with this Washington Post story:

^^^^Read this. ^^^^^

For more on Bill Browder and Sergei Magnitsky see Will the World Elect Vladimir Putin’s Man to Run the World’s International Police? TNB

The Whitaker Problems continue ….

Whitaker, who has previously criticized the investigation, never sought a formal recommendation about whether he needed to recuse, the source said. Instead, he received guidance on his options and the applicable rules over the course of three meetings with ethics officials and multiple discussions with his own advisers.


Senate Letter Re Acting AG Ethics Review [via Buzzfeed contributor Chris Geidner & DocumentCloud]

Further tangling the web, lawmakers turn their attention towards Trump’s pick for US Attorney General, William Barr, who, in June, drafted a memo and not only shared it with DOJ officials and Trump’s lawyers, but “discussed the memo with Trump and told him it would likely come up during his Senate confirmation,” CNN reported, via a The Wall Street Journal released on Wednesday.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement that the Barr memo was “very troubling” and contended it meant Barr had argued “the President is above the law.”

“We need answers as to why Barr proactively drafted this memo and then shared it with the deputy attorney general and President Trump’s lawyers,” read the statement from the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.


According to BuzzFeed‘s Chris Geidner reporting on Thursday on the Whitaker/Burr web, Whitaker “has submitted paperwork to the Senate Judiciary Committee” that Trump has picked Barr to be nominated, however, “the nomination itself has not yet been sent to the Senate,” which is reportedly “expected” to happen at the beginning of the new Congressional session in January.

Further recommended reading on William Barr’s “unsolicited” memo.

A First Take on Bill Barr’s Memo on Presidential Authority and the Mueller Investigation; By Marty Lederman; Dec 20, 2018; Just Security

Bill Barr’s Very Strange Memo on Obstruction of Justice; By Mikhaila Fogel, Benjamin Wittes; Dec 20, 2018; Lawfare

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