June 8, 2023

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Secret Service agents for Biden, Harris suspended

Secret Service agents for Biden, Harris suspended

including members of President Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris‘s protective details — have been suspended after two men charged with impersonating federal officers allegedly bribed the agents with expensive gifts such as an assault rifle and free apartments.

Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, both U.S. citizens, were arrested on Wednesday after the FBI raided a luxury Washington, D.C., apartment building where the two had been staying. The pair, according to federal officials, claimed they worked for the Department of Homeland Security on a task force to investigate gangs and violence connected to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

On Friday, federal prosecutors argued that Taherzadeh and Ali had “compromised” agents of the Secret Service who were assigned to top security missions and accused them of trying to “ingratiate themselves” with agents of federal agencies.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein claimed in court this week that Ali told witnesses he had ties to the Pakistani agency Inter-Services Intelligence. Ali had allegedly obtained three visas from Pakistan and two from Iran in the months leading up to the alleged scheme, and prosecutors believe he took several trips to the Middle East.

“Until this claim can be further investigated, and given the nature of Ali’s conduct, specifically impersonating federal law enforcement in order to ingratiate himself with and infiltrate networks of federal law enforcement officers and other federal employees, his claim must be taken literally and seriously,” prosecutors wrote in a Friday court filing.

Taherzadeh started to delete electronic evidence once he learned the FBI was investigating him, officials said. Rothstein said Taherzadeh deleted social media posts, which he confessed he knew would be used against him.

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On Wednesday, the FBI searched five residences in the building where the suspects resided as well as three vehicles. They found body armor, gas masks, zip ties, handcuffs, equipment to break through doors, drones, radios and police training manuals, Rothstein said.

The alleged plot started in February 2020 and began to unravel in March 2022 when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service started to investigate an assault on a mail carrier at the luxury apartment building. It was during this investigation that Taherzadeh and Ali claimed to be affiliated with Homeland Security in a fabricated unit they called the U.S. Special Police Investigation Unit.

The lavish gifts they allegedly tried to give agents as part of their scheme included a $2,000 assault rifle, a television, phones, surveillance systems and rent-free apartments at the building where they lived, court documents stated. Taherzadeh told investigators Ali had provided money for their operation, which apparently included at least five apartments — two of which investigators said were worth more than $40,000 each — that were given to Secret Service agents.

Of the four agents suspended by the Secret Service, one was a special agent assigned to first lady Jill Biden’s detail, and a second worked at the White House in the uniformed division.

RealClearPolitics reported on Friday that a third suspended agent was on President Biden’s protective detail, and a fourth was assigned to secure Harris’s home.

The Secret Service said on Thursday that the federal agency was cooperating with the “ongoing investigation.”

“All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems,” the agency said in a statement.

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