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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday denied allegations from special counsel Robert Mueller that he engaged in witness tampering. Manafort  accused Mueller of a “not too-subtle attempt to poison the potential jury pool.”

Manafort’s claims came in a court filing that said the communications flagged by the special counsel were “irrelevant, innocuous and unsupportive of the conjured witness tampering claim.”

The court filing argued Manafort did not violate the conditions imposed on him when he was placed under house arrest in October.

“In fact, nothing in the Release Order bars Mr. Manafort from communicating with others, whether those individuals are possible witnesses at his trial or otherwise. Mr. Manafort does not know the individuals that the Special Counsel intends to call at his trial. The Special Counsel has not provided Mr. Manafort with its witness list. Indeed, previously,” Manafort said.

His filing was in response to allegations made in court documents by Mueller that starting in February, Manafort and a longtime business deputy sought to make contact with two former associates involved in their Ukraine lobbying work. Mueller on Friday filed obstruction of justice charges against Manafort and his business deputy, Konstantin Kilimnik. According to Mueller, the two associates helped coordinate a group of ex-European politicians known as the Hapsburg Group, who promoted Ukraine’s Party of Regions in Europe and the United States. Among the alleged texts Mueller highlighted was one in which Kilimnik told one associate that Manafort wanted to “give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the US, and the purpose of the program was EU.” Mueller also included in court filings emails and memos that he says show that the Hapsburg Group lobbied in the United States.

Manafort’s filing on Friday was not responding to the obstruction of justice charges, but to an earlier request by Mueller that the judge consider putting him in detention before his trial due to the alleged witness tampering.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will hold a hearing on the matter on June 15.

Manafort on Friday denied that he was attempting to change the testimonies of witnesses, citing a lack of evidence put forward by the special counsel.

He said the texts surfaced by the special counsel were “entirely consistent with Mr. Manafort’s stated position and repeated assertion of his innocence.”

Manafort’s attorneys also filed a memo that they say was written by one of the associates that “clearly demonstrates the European focus of the group, identifies Europeans as the group’s members, and shows that the conferences that were planned were to occur in Europe.”

“The Court should not condone such heavyhanded gamesmanship by the Special Counsel when there is no reason to believe that the latest charge has somehow increased the risk of flight in this case. ”

Read Manafort’s filing below:

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The Missouri special prosecutor appointed to take over the investigation of Eric Greitens announced Friday that she won’t file any further criminal charges against the disgraced Republican former governor.

The news mean that Greitens, who was previously charged both with blackmailing his then-mistress and with a separate campaign finance violation, is now legally in the clear.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the she has “exhausted potential leads” but had not obtained sufficient evidence to pursue charges in connection with the blackmail allegations, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

At a press conference on Friday afternoon, Baker said she was “frustrated” by the outcome. She said that though there was “probable cause” for sexual assault charges against the governor in the blackmail incident, a lack of corroborating evidence and the victim’s desire not to pursue the case further helped steer her decision.

“Probable cause is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the victim in that case couldn’t bear it on her own,” Baker said.

Baker was assigned to take over the investigation last month after a case brought by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner fell apart just days before Greitens’ trial was set to begin. Greitens was accused of taking a non-consensual nude photo of a woman with whom he carried out a 2015 affair, and threatening to release it if she went public. He admitted to the extramarital relationship, and the woman’s testimony was deemed credible by a special Missouri House committee probing the allegations.

But the alleged photo never materialized, and Gardner’s case fell into disarray after she was called as a witness in her own probe. Lawyers for Greitens wanted to ask her about an interview she oversaw in which one of her investigators allegedly perjured himself.

Baker said in her press conference that she was “hamstrung” throughout her investigation because she considered Gardner’s entire office potential witnesses in the case and therefore could not confer with them on issues of legal strategy.

Greitens’ team had argued that he was innocent of criminal wrongdoing and that prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to charge him.

He resigned in disgrace last week. In doing so, Greitens signed a settlement agreement with Gardner’s office in which she agreed to drop separate charges that he illegally stole a donor list from the veterans charity he founded, a campaign finance violation.

The woman at the heart of the blackmail scandal on Friday released a statement through her attorney thanking “all who have supported her and believed her testimony.”

“As my client, and the citizens of this state, move past this difficult time in Missouri’s history we hope other women in similar situations are not discouraged by this process,” the statement from attorney Scott Simpson read. “It takes real courage to testify once, let alone six times, but that courage exposes the truth.”

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Special counsel Robert Mueller announced Friday a new grand jury indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime Russian business deputy for alleged witness tampering in the case that was already pending against Manafort.

Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s business deputy, has been alluded to in previous Mueller court filings, which have claimed that he’s had ties to a Russian intelligence service.

The special counsel on Friday brought charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice against the two men.

“From in or about and between February 23, 2018, and April 2018, both dates being approximate and inclusive, within the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendants Paul Manafort, and Konstantin Kilimnik, knowingly and intentionally conspired to corruptly persuade another person, to wit: Persons D1 and D2, with intent to influence, delay, and, prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding,” Mueller said in the filing.

Manafort previously was facing charges brought in D.C, that included money laundering, failure to disclose foreign lobbying and false statements. Those charges remain unchanged in the new indictment.

Mueller has also brought a case against Manafort in Virginia, where the charges include bank fraud and tax fraud.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Mueller first made the witness tampering allegations against Manafort on Monday evening, in court filings seeking that his current release on house arrest be revised or revoked. It appears Mueller was able to quickly convince a grand jury to approve the charges, and prosecutors have put on a full court press to pressure Manafort to cooperate on the probe.

Before Friday’s new charges, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had scheduled a hearing for next Friday on the bail revocation, and it is possible that Manafort that be sent directly from the courthouse to jail, due to the allegations.

According to Mueller, Manafort and Kilimnik — who up until Friday’s new indictment, was referred to as “Person A” in the special counsel’s court filings — sought to make contact with two former business associates who were involved in Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying work. The two former associates, according to Mueller, were in charge of coordinating a group of ex-European politicians known as the “Hapsburg group,” who sought to promote Ukraine’s Party of Regions in Europe and the U.S.

Manafort’s and Kilimnik’s alleged outreached involved both phone calls and texts which started in February, when Mueller unveiled new allegations against Manafort having to do with the “Hapsburg group.”

Defense attorneys unconnected to the case told TPM earlier this week that Monday’s bail revocation filing, which included a log of the alleged texts and calls, was especially persuasive.

“You could put this evidence in front of a grand jury and they would indict him in a nano second,”said Nick Akerman, a defense attorney and former Watergate prosecutor. “If you had these two witness and these documents, you put them before a trial jury, they’d convict them in two seconds. Its really a pretty overwhelming case.”

Kilimnik made his first appearance in Mueller’s court filings as “Person A,” when Mueller alleged last year that Manafort had sought to ghost-write an op-ed for a Ukraine news outlet, in violation of judge’s gag order on the case. Emails obtained by TPM showed Kilimnik correspondence with a former Ukrainian politician who claimed to be the op-ed author, in which Kilimnik informed him that he was sending a draft to Manafort to look over.

Other court documents filed by Mueller have described “Person A” as having had “ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”

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Multiple witnesses appeared in front of a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing Friday to testify in favor or against the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census — a Trump administration move that is roiling the civil rights community and prompting numerous lawsuits.

But the Republican lawmakers who showed up to participate in the hearing seemed most interested in speaking to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who is bringing a lawsuit seeking to alter how the U.S. congressional map is drawn to diminish the political power of immigrant-friendly states.

His lawsuit is parallel to the push for a census citizenship question, but if successful, could have just as drastic of an effect, if not more. Whereas the Trump administration has claimed it needs census citizenship data for Voting Rights Act enforcement (a claim viewed skeptically by voting rights activists), the Alabama lawsuit explicitly seeks to exclude undocumented immigrants from how U.S. congressional seats are apportioned.

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The last 24 hours have brought a wave of revelations about how key pieces of information from the Senate’s Russia investigation were made public, as well as the Trump era’s first indictment involving leaks to the press.

James Wolfe, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former director of security, is accused of being in regular contact with at least four reporters covering national security, and providing two of them with sensitive information related to the committee’s work. Wolfe was arrested Thursday and charged on three counts of lying to the FBI about his contacts with journalists. He is expected to appear in federal court in his home state of Maryland on Friday.

We know that one of the reporters was The New York Times’ Ali Watkins, formerly of BuzzFeed and Politico, whose phone and email records were secretly seized. We also know that much of the leaked information centered on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Other details — including the names of the other three journalists — have yet to emerge.

But it’s clear that the Trump administration’s aggressive pursuit of leakers is starting to collect scalps.

The clearest set of facts laid out in the indictment involves Wolfe’s interactions with Watkins, with whom he had a three-year romantic relationship between 2014 and 2017.

On March 17, 2017, Wolfe, who was tasked with protecting sensitive information shared with the committee’s lawmakers and with escorting witnesses to their testimony, received a classified document regarding “Male-1,” or Page.

That same day, he exchanged dozens of text messages with “Reporter #2,” who has since been identified as Watkins, and the pair had a 28-minute phone call.

Just over two weeks later, on April 3, Watkins published a bombshell story for Buzzfeed detailing that Page in 2013 met with and provided documents to Victor Podobnyy, a Russian intelligence operative who sought to recruit him.

Podobnyy, who was later charged by the U.S. government for his undercover spying, described Page as “an idiot” who provided him with documents on the U.S. energy business, according to a phone call transcript included in the U.S. court filing viewed by Buzzfeed.

On the day the story appeared, Watkins and Wolfe exchanged a flood of messages and spoke repeatedly on the phone.

The Times reported that Watkins had denied to the FBI that she used Wolfe as a source for classified information. In a statement to the newspaper, her personal lawyer, Mark MacDougall, called it “disconcerting” that the Justice Department had obtained a journalist’s telephone records. BuzzFeed News editor in chief Ben Smith told the Times that the site was “troubled by what looks like a case of law enforcement interfering with a reporter’s constitutional right to gather information about her own government.”

The other central incident laid out in the indictment involved the committee’s move to subpoena Page to testify in October 2017.

Per the filing, Wolfe told “Reporter #3” on Oct. 16 that he served Page with a subpoena, and the next day agreed to the reporter’s request to provide Page’s contact information. On Oct. 17, “Reporter #3” published an article reporting on the subpoena. Wolfe followed up congratulating the reporter’s work, adding, “I’m glad you got the scoop.”

The identify of that journalist has not yet been revealed, in part because multiple news organizations, including NBC News and CNN, published stories on Page’s subpoena on Oct. 17. Multiple bylines were attached to each article, and each sourced their information to “a source familiar with the matter.”

Wolfe’s apparent communication via texts, emails, calls, and in-person conversations with these journalists contradicts sworn statements he made to the FBI in December denying having contact with reporters.

Page reacted to the news of Wolfe’s indictment on Twitter, writing that it was now “more understandable” how NBC staffers always knew he’d be showing up for appearances before the Senate committee.

In a joint statement, committee chair Richard Burr (R-NC) and vice chair Mark Warner (D-VA) said they were “troubled” by the charges against Wolfe but planned to move forward with their investigation.

“This news is disappointing, as the former staffer in question served on the Committee for more than three decades, and in the Armed Forces with distinction,” Burr and Warner said. “However, we trust the justice system to act appropriately and ensure due process as this case unfolds. This will in no way interfere with our ongoing investigation, and the Committee remains committed to carrying out our important work on behalf of the American people.”

This post has been updated to note that Wolfe appeared in federal court on Friday in Maryland, not Washington, D.C.

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Texas progressives have a shot at a major policy victory that would make life easier for many hundreds of thousands of working people. To stop them, state Republicans are set to try to roll back local democracy.

In February, Austin’s city council passed an ordinance requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave. Activists are poised to get similar measures on the November ballot in San Antonio and Dallas, via citizen-led initiatives.

But they’re are also girding for the next stage of the battle. If those measures pass, they expect the GOP-led state legislature, pressed by business interests, to file suit to block them after the fact. If that doesn’t work, Republicans are likely to pull out an even more potent weapon: preemption. That could expand the fight over paid sick days into a more elemental battle over the authority of local governments to set their own direction.

In recent years, in states from Wisconsin to Alabama, cities have passed progressive economic, environmental, and public health policies only to see GOP-controlled state government use preemption laws — laws that bar cities and counties from passing their own regulations — to wipe out those advances.

Texas, where progressive, racially diverse big cities are increasingly at odds with the conservative state government, has been a particular preemption hotspot. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) pledged upon taking office in 2015 to use preemption laws to “limit the ability of cities to California-ize the great state of Texas.” Since then, the state has passed laws forbidding cities and counties from creating sanctuary city protections, and regulating oil and gas drilling. The latter measure invalidated a 2014 ballot initiative, the product of a grassroots campaign, that banned fracking in the city of Denton.

“The state legislature has essentially declared war on local democracy in Texas,” Mark Pertschuk, director of progressive advocacy group Grassroots Change, which has tracked the preemption trend, told TPM in a phone interview. “Folks that want a higher minimum wage, benefits like paid sick days and family leave, they have the ability to put together a very good opposition to preemption and can do it in a non-partisan way.”

The proposal, which is identical across the three cities, would require employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with an annual cap of six or eight days depending on the size of the business. Advocates say it would prevent workers from having to show up sick out of fear of losing wages needed to cover basic expenses like rent or groceries—or of even losing their jobs outright. The policy would also allow parents to take time off to care for sick children.

Abbott has warned that the paid sick leave measures would be “crushing” for businesses, and said the state needs a uniform set of regulations to ensure predictability for the private sector.

By waging the campaign in three of Texas’s four biggest cities simultaneously, and using ballot initiatives to show that the policy has broad popular support, progressives aim to undermine GOP opposition. The goal is to drive voters to the polls both to support a measure that directly benefits them, and to change the composition of a legislature that seems intent on reining in the power of cities to govern themselves.

One challenge activists are confronting: Texas’ dismally low levels of voter registration and turnout. This lack of civic engagement helps explain why the state’s large blue cities have little history of using ballot initiatives to try to secure policy wins — they simply can’t expect enough supporters to show up.

“It just doesn’t happen that often,” Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, told TPM of the ballot process.

State Republicans who fear-monger about the imaginary threat of mass voter fraud will also pick over ballot initiative signatures with a fine-toothed comb, activists say.

“We know its going be a contentious issue,” Zenén Pérez of the Texas Civil Rights Project, one of the coalition of organizations coordinating on the sick leave effort, told TPM, “[S]tate officials are going to be looking at every single signature to see if there was any sort of fraud committed.”

Pérez said that the team in San Antonio gathered some 144,000 signatures — almost twice what they estimate they’ll need to get on the ballot per city regulations — with the expectation that a significant number may include unregistered voters whose names will be tossed out. Activists in Dallas have a June 11 deadline to submit their own signatures.

“We have a lot of problems with accurate registration rolls in the first place,”Pérez said, citing Texas’ onerous voter registration and ID requirements.

If the measures get enough valid signatures and then are approved by voters, sick leave supporters then will likely need to fight off the GOP’s preemption effort.

Already Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has appeared to lay the groundwork, joining a lawsuit against Austin’s paid sick leave law brought by business groups. Paxton has argued that Texas law already bars cities and states from imposing economic regulations including paid sick days, and has accused Austin of trying to “usurp the authority of the state lawmakers chosen by Texas voters.”

The coalition behind the sick leave push explicitly chose to use the ballot initiative process in Dallas and San Antonio to bolster the campaign’s legitimacy, and demonstrate that the numbers are on their side. A recent study found that the lack of paid sick days affects some 4.3 million Texans — almost 40 percent of the state’s workforce.

Interference by the state will appear to be “much more a subversion of a democratic mandate than it would be if we passed it through council,” Alex Birnel, advocacy manager at MOVE San Antonio, a youth advocacy group involved in the effort, told TPM.

Birnel said that the coalition was also actively courting business groups and lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum “so that legal challenges, if they arise, look as politically and optically misguided as they are.”

Gordon Lafer, a labor expert with the Economic Policy Institute, told TPM that these sort of progressive economic initiatives “really drive voter turnout,” and that they have a decent chance of passing if they make the ballot.

But even if they fail or if a preemption bill comes on their heels, Lafer said, the effort exposes the bipartisan support behind common-sense workers’ rights measures that materially benefit hundreds of thousands at what most economists say is only a small cost to the businesses that employ them.

“It kind of opens up some fissures,” Lafer said. “It reveals some of those tensions between the donor class and the base.”

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Both Eric Murphy and Chad Readler have defended Ohio’s voting restrictions in cases in front of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, Murphy, the state’s solicitor general, and Readler, who currently works at the Justice Department, will both have a chance to sit on that appeals court, thanks to nominations announced by the White House Thursday.

Murphy, last fall, argued for Ohio in front of the Supreme Court, in a case challenging the state’s voter purge system. The system allows election officials to remove voters from the rolls if they sit out two federal elections in a row and do not respond to subsequent notifications from the state. Voting rights advocates say it’s disenfranchising eligible voters.

The Sixth Circuit ruled against Ohio in 2016.  The Supreme Court has not handed down its decision in the case yet.

Murphy also defended Ohio when it was sued for its 2014 cutbacks to early voting, which eliminated the state’s “golden week,” when voters could register and vote at the same time. The appeals court ultimately ruled in favor of Ohio, overturning a lower court’s decision.

Readler, meanwhile, worked on Ohio election law cases when he was an attorney for Jones Day (where Murphy also worked for some time). He was involved in writing Ohio’s legal briefs supporting a law that allowed election officials to throw out the ballots of absentee and provisional voters if the addresses and birthdates they fill out on the ballot forms didn’t perfectly match what’s in the state’s records.

Readler also represented the Trump campaign in election-related cases, including a lawsuit bought by Ohio Democrats alleging Trump’s calls for vigilante poll watchers amounted to voter intimidation.

Since joining the Trump administration in January 2017, Readler has led the DOJ’s Civil Division as its acting head. Trump has since nominated Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief-of-staff, Jody Hunt, to take over the division. Hunt’s nomination awaits Senate confirmation.

Progressive groups are already signaling that they’ll oppose Readler’s and Murphy’s nominations.

“These individuals would pose serious threats to the rights and liberties of people in the Sixth Circuit if they were to become federal judges,” Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, said in a statement that pointed specifically to both nominees’ records on voting rights, among other things.

Democrats won’t likely have any tools to stop them from bring confirmed. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has said he will no longer honor the committee’s custom on blue slips — in which nominees only move forward in committee if both home state senators turn in blue slips approving of their advancement — on appeals court nominees, unless he believes that the White House did not confer with the home state senators in choosing the appointees.

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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort may have only one more week to wear his famously fancy Italian suits.

Manafort will be appearing in front of a federal judge in a D.C. courthouse for a June 15 hearing on allegations that he engaged in witness tampering while awaiting trial in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is possible, and even likely, that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will order Manafort — who has been under house arrest since October — into immediate detention until his trial, which is currently scheduled for Sept. 17.

“I don’t see how he leaves the courthouse and doesn’t go directly to jail,” Nick Akerman, a defense attorney and former Watergate prosecutor, told TPM.

[ Read a reporter’s notebook from Tierney Sneed on how Manafort’s bail hearing might go » ]

Though his trial doesn’t start for several weeks — with sentencing, if convicted, even farther in the future — the Trump campaign chairman who had advised other GOP presidential campaigns may be headed to jail much sooner. It would be a remarkable fall for a political operative who was once dubbed the leader of “the torturers’ lobby,” given the millions Manafort made representing foreign dictators. It could also dramatically ratchet up the pressure on Manafort to cooperate with the Mueller probe, which could pose new legal threats to President Trump and his associates.

“Unless he comes up with some good arguments that completely undercut what I see right now, in the very strong government motion, I think she’s going to put him in,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor and longtime white-collar defense attorney.

Mueller alleges Manafort attempted to reach out to former two associates involved in his Ukraine lobbying effort, from which many of the charges against him stem. Manafort and his business partner Konstantin Kilimnik (only identified as “Person A” in the filings) allegedly texted and called the associates starting in February, after new charges against Manafort were unveiled, the court documents said. According to the filings, Kilimnik told one associate in a text that Manafort wanted to “give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the US, and the purpose of the program was EU.” Mueller also filed emails and memos that allegedly show the associates had, in fact, partaken in lobbying activities within the U.S.

The papers, I think, read persuasively,” said white collar defense attorney and former prosecutor Harry Sandick, who added that the “biggest single factor” in whether Manafort goes to jail next week “is the views of the judge who makes the decision.”

It’s a very discretionary decision. There is no legal rule that compels the defendant to be detained or not detained,” he said.

Manafort has until Friday morning to file a response to Mueller’s allegations. He may try to present evidence that rebuts Mueller’s narrative and he could put forward a defense based on the law, arguing that his alleged behavior does not require that he be sent to jail.

At next week’s hearing, the government is not required to present its evidence through witness testimony the way it must at a trial. So the hearing could be focused just on what’s in the court filings — though the judge requested that the FBI agent who filed a declaration supporting Mueller’s allegations, as well as any other witnesses either side wants to call, should be ready to testify.

“The only possible witness that Manafort can bring forward is himself. And he would be absolutely wacko to take the stand and waive his Fifth Amendment privilege here,” Akerman said.

The witness tampering allegations relate to the charges Mueller brought that Manafort failed to disclose foreign lobbying. He also has been charged with an assortment of financial crimes, both in D.C. and in Virginia, arising from the Ukraine lobbying work, which predated President Trump’s campaign. He has pleaded not guilty in both cases. The Virginia trial is slated for the end of July.

Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni declined to comment for this story, but in a statement after Mueller’s witness tampering allegations, said Manafort was “innocent” and that the latest allegations would not change his defense.

For Manafort’s bail to be revoked, Mueller must only convince a judge that there is probable cause — a notably lower standard than beyond reasonable doubt — to believe that Manafort committed a crime, and that there is no combination of conditions of release that will prevent Manafort from fleeing, posing a danger to the community, or violating his bail.

“The government has clearly established its burden of at least probable cause,” Ackerman said.

Still, in bail hearings, like in sentencing, judges are left with broad discretion, and Jackson could choose to impose new restrictions on Manafort’s house arrest conditions, or just give him a heavy tongue lashing.

Manafort got a pass, albeit with a scolding from the judge, when he previously violated the court’s gag order on the case. On the other hand, Jackson gave a lawyer who pleaded guilty to misleading Mueller’s investigators a month in prison, even though the prosecutors weren’t requesting any jail time.

Most judges take violation of bond conditions as a personal betrayal,” Cotter said.

Jackson’s decision to push the hearing off until next week could be a sign that she does not think Manafort poses a danger to the public, or it could mean that she wants to give Manafort plenty of time to respond and for her to consider his arguments “to create a record of fairness as she decides to put him in,” Sandick said.

“Certainly his lawyers are telling him today, ‘Look Paul, she likely is going to rule a week from Friday, so you need to get your affairs in order now. You need to prepare for going in. Now we are going to fight to prevent that, but you’ve got to prepare for that,’” Cotter said.

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In its latest effort to kick up dust over the Mueller probe, Team Trump is making a fuss over tens of thousands of emails that a federal agency turned over to Mueller’s investigators last year.

The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that lawyers for President Trump’s 2016-2017 transition team are threatening to call for an inspector general probe into the conduct of the General Services Administration (GSA), and to have some officials at the agency sanctioned by the D.C. Bar.

According to letters sent in January and last month and reviewed by the Beast, the transition team is alleging that officials at GSA, which supports the work of other federal agencies, should have notified them before turning over the emails. The team also claim Mueller’s investigators, who are probing Russian meddling in the election, failed to protect attorney-client privileged material in the emails.

Team Trump is also making hay over the fact that former FBI official Peter Strzok, who Mueller fired after discovering texts he’d exchanged with a former girlfriend disparaging Trump, was involved in obtaining the emails from GSA.

Transition team lawyer Kory Langhofer wrote that Strzok “played a larger-than-previously known role in unlawfully seizing our client’s records,” according to the Beast.

The conflict first bubbled to the surface last December when the transition team went to Congress with accusations that the GSA had promised to simply serve as custodian over their records, and instead turned over the materials improperly.

GSA deputy general counsel Lennard Loewentritt strongly denied that claim, telling BuzzFeed that the agency made no commitment to protect the records and explicitly told Trump’s team that materials “would not be held back in any law enforcement actions.”

Legal experts and former government attorneys agreed that nothing improper seemed to have transpired, noting that presidential privilege would not apply because Trump had not yet been sworn in.

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Newly revealed details about how White House Counsel Don McGahn remembered his late January 2017 meetings with Sally Yates, then the acting Attorney General, confirmed much of Yates’ own account of the meetings. Yates has testified that she informed McGahn of false statements given by then-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn to Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn’s conversations with a Russian official.

But the account laid out by McGahn in a memo that partially became public Saturday differs from Yates’ testimony, given to the Senate Judiciary committee in early May 2017, in a few key areas. Those differences point to the major questions still lingering in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, and particularly his probe into whether President Trump obstructed justice.

McGahn and Yates disagree on whether Yates signaled to McGhan that Flynn gave the FBI, as well as Pence, a false account of his phone calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. In December, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in a January 24, 2017 interview about whether the topic of Russian sanctions came up.

The question matters because what Trump knew by February 2017 about whether Flynn lied to the FBI could help explain why Trump allegedly asked then-FBI director James Comey to go easy on Flynn before firing him in May. If Trump did make that request, it could be evidence of obstruction of justice.

McGahn’s account of his two January meetings with Yates comes in the form of a memo he wrote about two weeks after the meetings, which is quoted repeatedly by Trump’s personal attorneys in their recently leaked January 2018 letter to Mueller. In the letter, Trump’s attorneys argued that the White House concluded from McGahn’s discussion with Yates that Flynn was not under FBI investigation. Yates’ testimony casts doubt on that assumption, and it’s not even fully backed up by the portions of the McGahn memo that Trump’s attorneys quote.

In many places, McGahn’s memo lines up with Yates’ testimony. But some of the details don’t match, or at the very least, define the holes in the story. Because the Trump attorneys’ letter only quotes selectively from McGahn’s memo — and the memo hasn’t been released in full — it’s hard to know which gaps between the two accounts are outright contradictions, or just products of what the lawyers left out about McGahn’s memorialization of the meeting.

Neither Yates nor the White House responded to TPM’s questions about the discrepancies. The February 15 McGahn memo has been turned over to Mueller’s investigation, according to the Trump attorneys’ letter.

January 26: The First Yates-McGahn Meeting

According to McGahn’s memo, Yates told him at the meeting, which took place in a McGahn’s office at the White House, “that Flynn may have made false representations to others in the Administration regarding the content of the calls.” Yates also explained why that made him vulnerable to blackmail, according to the memo.

Yates’ testimony backed up that recollection. But the two accounts differ in a major way. McGahn’s memo says that “Yates claimed that Flynn’s statements to the FBI were similar to those she understood he had made to Spicer and the Vice President.” Yates, meanwhile told Congress that, when she informed McGahn that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI, she declined to answer McGahn’s question about how Flynn did in the FBI’s questioning.

The question of how the White House knew that Flynn had misled FBI agents in the same way he misled Pence came up previously, when Trump in a December 2017 tweet claimed he fired Flynn for both his lies to Pence and to the FBI. Up until that tweet, the White House’s line was that Flynn was fired for misleading just Pence. If Trump knew in early 2017 that Flynn also lied to the FBI, that could be evidence that he obstructed justice when he allegedly urged Comey to go easy on Flynn.

Later January 26: McGahn Briefs Trump, Priebus, and “Other Advisors” About Yates’ Flynn Claims

After his meeting with Yates, McGahn briefed Trump, then-chief of staff Reince Priebus and “other advisors” about Yates’ Flynn claims, according to the Trump attorneys’ letter.

Among the concerns expressed during the briefing “was a recognition by McGahn that it was unclear from the meeting with Yates whether an action could be taken without jeopardizing an ongoing investigation,” McGahn’s memo said. “President Trump asked McGahn to further look into the issue as well as finding out more about the calls.”

According to her testimony, Yates had told McGahn at the first meeting that it was up to the White House what to do about Flynn. It’s not clear if she told him anything more about how such action would affect an ongoing probe.

McGahn would go on to request a second meeting with Yates.

Yates testified that McGahn did not indicate to her during the second meeting that he had discussed their first Flynn meeting with anyone else. A February 14 2017 statement from then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer recounted McGahn’s briefing of Trump and “a small group of senior advisors.”

January 27: Second Yates-McGahn meeting

Yates and McGahn both said that McGahn had raised concerns about whether the White House taking action against Flynn would affect an ongoing investigation.

“We told him, both the senior career official and I, that he should not be concerned with it, that General Flynn had been interviewed, that their action would not interfere with any investigation and in fact, I remember specifically saying, you know it wouldn’t really be fair of us to tell you this and then expect you to sit on your hands,” Yates testified. In addition to a DOJ lawyer that accompanied Yates, a White House associate working with McGahn also was at the meeting.

McGahn’s memo, likewise, said that Yates indicated “that the DOJ would not object to the White House taking action against Flynn,” but also recounted that Yates refused to confirm or deny an investigation.

The McGahn memo revealed for the first time his recollection that Yates “indicated that the DOJ would not object to the White House disclosing how the DOJ obtained the information relayed to the White House regarding Flynn’s calls with Ambassador Kislyak.”

The New York Times interpreted that to be a reference to the wiretap on Kislyak that picked up his conversations with Flynn.

Trump’s attorneys, in their letter, argued that Yates’ green-lighting of such a disclosure helped the White House conclude that there was no active investigation into Flynn — and thus Trump couldn’t have been obstructing it with his request to Comey.

But when Yates, in her testimony, went through the topics that had come up in her meeting with McGahn, she didn’t mention giving him permission to disclose the surveillance.

“The first topic in the second meeting was essentially why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another. The second topic related to the applicability of criminal statutes and the likelihood that the Department of Justice would pursue a criminal case,” she testified. “The third topic was his concern that their taking action might interfere with an investigation of Mr. Flynn. And the fourth topic was his request to see the underlying evidence.”

Yates testified that she told McGahn it was likely he’d be able to look at the underlying evidence, but that she wanted to work it out with the FBI first over the weekend. That Monday morning, she called McGahn to let him know he could come over to the Justice Department. Yates was fired by Trump later that night over her refusal to defend his travel ban.

Conversations With Flynn After the Yates Meetings

The Trump attorneys’ letter doesn’t say whether McGahn continued to seek the underlying evidence against Flynn. But it documents other conversations White House officials had with Flynn about Yates’ claims.

McGahn was in a February 8 meeting with Priebus, Flynn and another White House official where Priebus “asked Flynn whether Flynn spoke about sanctions on his call with Ambassador Kislyak,” according to the letter. Flynn said he wasn’t sure and didn’t remember doing so. Asked about the FBI interview, Flynn told Preibus “that FBI agents met with him to inform him that their investigation was over.”

Flynn would claim on another phone call with McGahn on February 10 that “the FBI told him they were closing it out,” according to the letter.

That day, McGahn and Preibus would tell Trump he had to let Flynn go, and by February 13, his resignation letter was handed in. McGahn wrote the memo two days later, the day after Trump had dinner with Comey and allegedly asked him for his loyalty.


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