Washington Gadfly

EXCLUSIVE: ICE Whitleblower Harry Reid Helped Get Fired Settles Lawsuit

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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Former ICE Special Agent Taylor Johnson, ousted after running afoul of Senator Harry Reid and later illegally smeared by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has quietly settled her lawsuit against the agency.

In boilerplate language that lawyers use when their clients get monetary settlements, Johnson’s attorney Morris Fischer said, “the matters have been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.”

He declined further comment and would not even say which day this month Johnson’s Merit System Protection Board claim, slated for trial June 27 in Los Angeles, was settled.

Court proceedings could have proved as embarrassing for DHS and Harry Reid, who Fischer was considering deposing.

But now important questions that would have been answered at trial remain open. Anybody concerned about the dangers of unrestricted immigration and government coercion should demand full accountability from DHS and Reid about the railroading of Johnson.

Everybody is yelping these days about how Donald Trump’s views on immigration are so dangerous. But who exactly have they harmed?

Johnson, by contrast, simply for worrying about improper screening of certain foreign immigrants, was the victim of actual political persecution at the hands of powerful Democrats and Obama’s DHS.

She was fired even after testifying at a widely-covered Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing in June 2015. “My entire chain of command was appointed by Obama,” she previously told the Washington Gadfly. “They can do anything they want.”

Johnson was a decorated agent with no disciplinary problems until 2013 when she voiced national security objections to the special EB-5 visa program for wealthy foreign investors in American companies. She worried that the special green cards were being approved for applicants without due diligence, allowing dangerous people to enter the country.

But the shit really hit the fan for Johnson when she held up a visa for one of the Chinese businessman investing in a Las Vegas casino represented by Reid’s son, Rory.

When the senator’s office complained to her boss Johnson was abruptly stripped of her gun and badge without explanation.

Here are some obvious questions about the case.

–Did Reid’s office specifically demand she be fired so the visa application could go through? When Johnson was re-assigned to clerical duties was Reid’s office informed?

–When Johnson spoke with Democratic Senate Homeland Security Committee staffers in preparation for her June 2015 testimony at a whistleblowers hearing they coerced her into not fingering Reid. They said mentioning him would violate the Hatch Act, Johnson later told this reporter.

The Hatch Act, of course, limits overt political activities by federal employees, not congressional testimony by whistleblowers.  Who authorized the staffers to employ such obvious falsehoods to coerce Johnson into silence?

The political kneecapping certainly worked. In-remarks, Johnson spoke of suffering retaliation for her opposition to the EB-5 program but left Reid’s name out of it.

–DHS fired Johnson in February 2016 after she declined a $100,000 severance package with a confidentiality agreement that would have allowed her to leave the agency with a clean work record. Who at DHS thought it would be a good use of taxpayer money to pay Johnson not to talk publicly about something she had already testified before Congress?

–Why was she fired anyway? In mediation, DHS gave conflicting and changing reasons for the termination. First, they said it was because of hundreds of improper phone calls she made to a confidential informant — except the calls turned out to be her mother. Then they said she had botched an operation — except that Johnson was never informed of any problems with it anyway until after she irked Reid.

–Who is the highest official at DHS who authorized or encourage efforts by ICE press secretary Gillian Christensen to offer confidential information about Johnson to reporters in violation of the federal Privacy Act in order to discredit her?

Christensen, in cahoots with DHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Todd Breasseale, tried to tell this reporter off the record that Johnson was a problem employee and a liar.

Did anybody at DHS above Breasseale know about this?

Certainly,  Deputy DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Based on information provided by Johnson and other whistleblowers, the Office of Inspector General concluded in March 2015 that Mayorkas,  at the behest of Reid and Virginia Governor Terry McAuffile, improperly intervened to fast track visa applications.

Mayorkas ignored repeated requests for comment.

–The smearing of Johnson, plus her termination, is now under investigation by the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the DHS Office of Inspector General.

When are there investigations going to be completed? Two OIG staffers interviewed me nearly four months ago.

–Johnson is a spunky single mother of four, with no obvious alternative career prospects. And her dismissal likely precludes the possibility that she could get any other kind of job in law enforcement. It seems unlikely — although anything is possible — she would have declined to try her case absent a substantial payout. How much of taxpayer money, if any, was used to clean up this mess?  nd who authorized it?

The Washington Gadfly this evening filed a FOIA request with DHS for all relevant information about the settlement.

Stay tuned.

Evan Gahr