Washington Gadfly

EXCLUSIVE: ICE Whistleblower May Depose Harry Reid

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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Senate Minority Leader [crscore]Harry Reid[/crscore] could be deposed for ICE whistleblower Taylor Johnson’s new lawsuit because complaints from his office precipitated her ouster.

Johnson’s attorney, Morris Fischer, told the Washington Gadfly that, “We will attempt to depose whoever is involved in this corruption up to and including Harry Reid. His fingerprints are all over the place.”

The veteran law enforcement agent, who DHS fired in February after she rejected $100,000 in hush money, filed a Merit System Protection Board claim against the agency earlier this month.

Johnson, a single mother of four, had a storied career until she ran afoul of Reid by expressing national security concerns about the EB-5 visa program for foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in American companies. One of the green cards she refused to approve was for a Chinese investor in the Las Vegas casino represented by Reid’s lawyer son, Rory.

After Reid’s office called her Special Agent-in-Charge Johnson was stripped of her gun and badge without explanation in 2013. Her frantic boss demanded to know why he was suddenly being threatened with congressional action.

Johnson’s complaints and objections from other whistleblowers were subsequently vindicated.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General concluded in a March 2015 report that then-U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) director Alejandro Mayorkas improperly intervened on behalf of Reid for the Las Vegas SLS Hotel and Casino then represented by his son. Mayorkas, now DHS Deputy Secretary, also lobbied for companies tied to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Rodham, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

In June 2015, Johnson testified in a nationally televised hearing about her troubles with the agency and concerns about the program. Although DHS spokesman officially told the media they could not comment about her particular case, it turned out the ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen was running a secret smear campaign against her with the full knowledge of Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.  The attempt to discredit Johnson is now under investigation by the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the DHS Office of Inspector General, which both have interviewed this reporter about his encounter with Christensen.

Johnson’s actual MSPB complaint is confidential. But Fischer explained the legal issues at play based on information already in the public realm.

ICE gave shifting and obvious bogus rationales for why they needed to cut her loose, he explained. First, they claimed she made hundreds of improper calls to a confidential informant.

Except it turned out the calls were actually to Johnson’s mother. Then, they said she forged a document that said ICE dogs in 2011 had not detected drugs in a car crossing the Mexican border that it was later determined contained them.

They made her take a handwriting test. But it concluded she did not fill out the form.

Johnson, who set up a gofundme.com page for legal costs, was finally dismissed for lack of candor. The actual contents of her Merit System Protection Board lawsuit are confidential.

DHS needs to prove she was not fired for testifying before Congress and would have been dismissed regardless of her objections to the visa program.

Good luck with that.

ICE never objected to Taylor’s conduct regarding the 2011 border operation until after Reid’s office complained about her.

“There shouldn’t be surprises regarding Taylor’s retaliation,” said Fischer, who has garnered lucrative settlements and jury verdicts for other clients harmed by DHS. “This case will not be won through a lot of dazzling and unexpected litigation maneuvering.”

“This is blatant retaliation and we don’t know what the full extent of the Senate Committee’s investigation and our litigation will produce. There may be one gazillion surprises with respect to how corrupt the whole thing was.”

Evan Gahr