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The plot thickened on Wednesday when House Intelligence Committee Rep. Devin Nunes suggested that intelligence agencies monitoring foreign officials may have “incidentally” picked up communications of Trump transition team members.  

 

Although the bipartisan intelligence team, which includes Nunes (R-Tulare, CA) and fellow Intelligence Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Burbank, CA), found no evidence to support Trumps claims that former President Obama wiretapped him, Republicans are already jumping on the bandwagon, suggesting the finding supports the commander-in-chief’s claim.

 

The data known as “incidental collection,” indicates that the targets of American intelligence gathering were foreign officials, not specific members of the Trump transition or Mr. Trump himself.

 

In fact, any American citizen who talks, messages or emails with a foreign official under surveillance would be picked up by intelligence agencies. This would include Obama administration officials and private citizens like journalists and business people.

 

FBI Director James B. Comey told the Intelligence Committee on Monday that the president was at no point the target of court-ordered surveillance during or after the 2016 presidential campaign. He also said that no president could directly wiretap a citizen without a warrant.

 

Meanwhile Trump said he felt vindicated by what Nunes said, and doubled down on his claim that he was spied on by the former president.  

 

Nunez said “Details about U.S. persons, details associated with the incoming administration — details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value — were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.”

 

He declined to say where he learned of the surveillance, but he said none of the information collected had anything to do with the F.B.I.’s investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

 

Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer read Nunes’s statement during his news briefing Wednesday afternoon and said Nunes planned to come to the White House later that day to brief the president.  

 

Nunes’s press conference came as a surprise to his fellow committee members, raising eyebrows from Democrats. Schiff questioned whether Nunes is acting as a “surrogate of the White House.”  

 

At his own news conference later that afternoon, Schiff sharply criticized Nunes, given that his committee is in the middle of an active investigation that includes the question of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia’s suspected attempts to meddle in last year’s election. 

 

 “The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or (if) he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both,” Schiff told reporters. 

 

Nunes, who was a key figure in the Trump transition, told reporters that the monitoring appears to have been carried out legally.  

 

As President Donald Trump continues to push his immigration policies, which include mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, churches and government leaders throughout L.A. County are preparing for a showdown.  

 

Last week, the Malibu City Council voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution to become a sanctuary city.  Backers said the move is a chance for Malibu’s privileged to stand up for the city’s vulnerable population.

 

Los Angeles has officially vowed to defy federal immigration officials by not cooperating with orders by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Mayor Eric Garcetti put the stance in writing on Tuesday with an executive directive.  

 

At a press conference, the mayor stood with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck to underscore the city’s decision to expand their immigration policy.

 

The Los Angeles Police Department stopped asking citizens about immigration status years ago. Now, the practice has expanded to include the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the Los Angeles Airport Police.

 

Executive Directive 20 will also keep the information of citizens at city facilities private.

 

"The city of Los Angeles doesn't ask questions about where you come from or what language you speak or how you worship God, it is in our power to keep everyone safe," Garcetti said.

 

Beck added, "In L.A. we don't care what color your skin is, where your parents come from or what language you speak. We are your police department.”

 

The LAPD stopped honoring ICE detainers back in 2014 unless a warrant signed by a judge is presented. Garcetti also said education is the best defense against fear, and that efforts would be made to inform immigrants of their rights.

 

Several houses of worship are offering their premises as living quarters for some people.  However, noting that people are more vulnerable living in churches, members of LA Voice — a coalition of churches, synagogues and mosques — are offering sanctuary in their own homes.  Executive director, Rev. Zachary Hoover hopes to find shelter for more than 150 people. 

 

Sanctuary needs to be “a temporary” thing, Rev. Francisco Garcia Jr. of Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood, told the L.A. Times. “If it’s not a (deportation) case that’s likely to get overturned, (offering sanctuary) doesn’t make sense … for the family and for the movement.”

 

Not everyone thinks California should be home to sanctuary cities.  “We have so many homeless in California, so many vets in need, so many children who can’t read. Why are we spending our time and energy on people who are breaking our laws?” asked John Goya, a pro-Trump supporter in Long Beach.  

 

Short Sales Diminishing

Thursday, March 16, 2017

By Glenda Brass, MBA

 

A just-released report reveals underwater properties are steadily declining, with more than one million shifting status in 2016—a possible turning point in the ongoing inventory crisis.

 

According to ATTOM Data Solutions’ Year-End 2016 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, the amount of “seriously” underwater properties in the U.S. decreased by over one million last year, while the amount of “equity rich” properties increased by 1.3 million. Seriously underwater is defined as a property with a loan-to-value ratio of 25 percent or more of its fair market value; equity rich is defined as a property with an LTV ratio 50 percent or less.

 

The opposing gap between the two is a signal of the overall health of the housing market, as well as the potential for short supply to improve – even if marginally.

 

“Since home prices bottomed out nationwide in the first quarter of 2012, the number of seriously underwater U.S. homeowners has decreased by about 7.1 million, an average decrease of about 1.4 million each year,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions. “Meanwhile, the number of equity rich homeowners has increased by nearly 4.8 million over the past three years, a rate of about 1.6 million each year.

 

“Despite this upward trend over the past five years, the massive loss of home equity during the housing crisis forced many homeowners to stay in their homes longer before selling, effectively disrupting the historical domino effect of move-up buyers that feeds both demand for new homes and supply of inventory for first-time homebuyers,” Blomquist says.

 

Approximately 10 percent—5.4 million—of all properties with a mortgage are still seriously underwater, according to the report, marking the lowest level since 2012.

 

The top five states with the most seriously underwater properties in 2016 were Nevada (19.5 percent share), Illinois (16.6 percent), Ohio (16.3 percent), Missouri (14.6. percent) and Louisiana (14.5 percent). The majority of the top five metropolitan areas with the most seriously underwater properties were located in Ohio: Cleveland (21.5 percent), Akron (20.1 percent), Dayton (20.0 percent) and Toledo (19.9 percent).

 

The top five states with the most equity rich properties in 2016, by comparison, were Hawaii (37.8 percent), Vermont (36.9 percent), California (36.0 percent), New York (34.9 percent) and Oregon (32.0 percent). The majority of the top five metropolitan areas with the most equity rich properties were located in California: San Jose (51.6 percent), San Francisco (47.7 percent) and Los Angeles (39.2 percent).

 

With this substantial reversal of trend, how long will the inventory shortage last? The drop-off dynamic of shrinking underwater properties and expanding equity could indicate the answer is sooner than expected. So, buyers hang in there. It’s just a matter of time before the market shifts. Sellers if you’re looking to sell soon, you may want to take advantage of the current ‘sellers’ advantage.

 

Glenda Brass is a successful real estate consultant who has been in the real estate industry for almost 20 years. She is CEO/Managing Partner of Brass & Brass Enterprises, LLC, located at 2639 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. For a free consultation on anything real estate… selling, buying, renovating, leasing, or to learn about our consumer education offerings, call Glenda at 310-345-9707 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

On Wednesday, jurors convicted fallen Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca of obstructing a federal investigation into abuses in county jails and lying to cover it up.

 

According to prosecutors, Baca became furious after learning about the FBIs covert scheme to investigate allegations of inmate and visitor abuse.  Jurors convicted Baca of three felonies: obstruction of justice, conspiracy and making false statements to federal investigators.

 

A national law enforcement figure, Baca led the sheriff’s department for 15 years until the scandal broke in 2014.

 

A mistrial was declared late last year when the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of acquitting Baca.  At that time, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office opted to retry the case.

 

Ten people in all have been convicted or pleaded guilty to various charges, including obstruction of a federal investigation, civil rights violations for beating inmates and visitors in the jails, and intimating an FBI official.  

 

Offenders ranged from Baca’s undersheriff Paul Tanaka—now serving 5 years in prison—to lower-level deputies.  Baca maintained that he knew nothing about the conspiracy and pinned it on Tanaka.

 

Prosecutors say Baca saw the FBI probe as an incursion into his territory.  This is when he hatched a scheme to keep the feds from contacting potential witnesses.  When Baca learned inmate and informant Anthony Brown had a phone smuggled into the jail, Brown’s name was erased from the computer systems and he was relocated multiple times to various facilities to keep the FBI from finding him. 

 

Although Baca had no direct dealing in the obstruction and cover up, Tanaka and deputies involved testified their boss gave them orders and was aware of what was going on.  Email and phone records confirm a link between them and Baca.

 

Prosecutors tried to strike a deal with Baca last year that called for him to plead guilty to a single count of making false statements to federal investigators and spend no more than six months in prison.

 

But U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said that deal was too lenient and indicated he would give Baca a harsher sentence.  That’s when Baca decided to withdraw his plea and go to trial.

 

Now 74, and showing early signs of Alzheimers Disease, Baca is facing time in federal prison. 

 

 

President Donald Trump’s allegations that he was wiretapped by President Barack Obama during the 2016 presidential campaign has, so far, proven false.  Since Trump tweeted this as a fact on March 4, the FBI and top Congressional officials have been scrambling to uncover evidence.

 

Whether real or imagined, Trump’s accusation has alarmed intelligence leaders on both sides.  However, the bipartisan consensus is that “there is no basis for that claim whatsoever.”

 

“We don’t have any evidence that that took place," Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said at a press conference with Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Burbank) , the top Democrat on the panel.

 

Schiff, however, said the committee still wants the Justice Department to respond to their requests for information.   “We have given them until March 20. We will be asking the director if he sees any evidence that has confirmed the president’s claim.”  He added that the committee is willing to use compulsory process, but doesn’t think that will be necessary.

 

“President Obama wouldn’t physically go over and wire tap Trump, so you have to decide, are you going to take those tweets literally.  Looking at him and his associates…You have to ask if something was done either appropriately or inappropriately.  We want to find that out,” Nunes said.

 

Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham said FBI director James Comey should share what he knows with the public.  He has threatened to subpoena Comey for information about whether the agency received a federal warrant to conduct surveillance on Trump, his campaign or Trump Towers

 

James Comey will testify before the committee at a public hearing Monday and will be questioned about Trump's claim.

 

Democrats say there is nothing to share. “I don’t think there is anything behind it the except for something he (Trump) saw on TV,” one lawmaker said. Actually, the unfounded claim was first made by right-wing radio host Mark Levin shortly before Trump sent his tweet.

 

The Intelligence panel is conducting an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, including whether the FBI and intelligence agencies collected information into contacts between Trump associates and Russian government officials.

 

Lawmakers on Senate Intelligence Committees say they’re happy with the amount of information they’re getting.  

 

Trump refused to back down on his claims, saying “a wire tap covers a lot of different things.” 

Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was “extremely confident of his claim.” 

 

 

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