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U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis denied on Tuesday former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s request to dismiss the case the special counsel Robert Mueller brought against him in Virginia.

“In sum, because the Special Counsel’s appointment was consistent with both constitutional requirements regarding appointment of officers and statutory requirements governing the authority to conduct criminal litigation on behalf of the United States, the Special Counsel had legal authority to investigate and to prosecute this matter and dismissal of the Superseding Indictment is not warranted,” Ellis said in his opinion

He said that the “only issue is whether the Special Counsel’s investigation and prosecution of the matters contained in the Superseding Indictment falls within the valid grant of jurisdiction contained in [paragraph b(i)] of the May 17 Appointment Order,” a reference to a provision Mueller’s appointment order tasking him with investigation of “any links and/or coordination bet ween the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”

Ellis concluded:

“It does; the Special Counsel’s investigation of defendant falls squarely within the jurisdiction outlined in [paragraph b(i)] of the May 17 Appointment Order, and because [paragraph b(i)] was an appropriate grant of authority, there is no basis for dismissal of the Superseding Indictment on this ground. ”

During the hearing on Manafort’s request, Ellis posed sharp and skeptical questions at the attorneys for Mueller’s team. That skepticism came through in his opinion Tuesday, even as he decided that a dismissal of the charges against Manafort was not warranted.

“[T]that conclusion should not be read as approval of the practice of appointing Special Counsel to prosecute cases of alleged high-level misconduct,” Ellis said.  “Here, we have a prosecution of a campaign official, not a government official, for acts that occurred well before the Presidential election. To be sure, it is plausible, indeed ultimately persuasive here, to argue that the investigation and prosecution has some relevance to the election which occurred months if not years after the alleged misconduct.”

He argued that a “a bipartisan commission with subpoena power” would be a “better mechanism for addressing concerns about election interference.”

“The appointment of special prosecutors has the potential to disrupt these checks and balances, and to inject a level of toxic partisanship into investigation of matters of public importance,” Ellis said, adding the the U.S. system of checks and balances “ultimately works only if people of virtue, sensitivity, and courage, not affected by the winds of public opinion, choose to work within the confines of the law.”

“Let us hope that the people in charge of this prosecution, including the Special Counsel and the Assistant Attorney General, are such people,” he said.

(The reference to the “Assistant Attorney General” appears to be a reference to Rod Rosenstein, who does not carry that title. Rosenstein is the deputy attorney general and the acting attorney general in the Mueller probe.)

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The Russian firm that special counsel Robert Mueller has charged with funding Russia’s election meddling on social media and is run by an oligarch known as “Putin’s chef” challenged Mueller’s legal authority in court filings Monday.

The arguments that the company, Concord Management, presented to attack Mueller’s investigation were somewhat distinct from those previously put forward by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose own efforts to challenge thescope of Mueller’s authority were rejected by a federal judge in D.C. in May. A separate Manafort challenge to Mueller’s legal authority brought in the Virginia case against him is still pending.

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Disgraced former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens may no longer be in office, but he’s not out of hot water.

The GOP-led Missouri House committee tasked with investigating allegations against Greitens found evidence that he engaged in “multiple acts constituting crimes, misconduct, and acts of moral turpitude,” according to a scathing Monday letter from committee chairman. A “super-majority” of the panel’s members would have recommended the governor’s impeachment on those grounds, Republican Rep. Jay Barnes wrote.

Barnes also announced that he intends to file a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission alleging that Greitens’ 2016 campaign and a Greitens-linked nonprofit, A New Missouri, Inc., improperly worked together to dodge campaign finance disclosure laws.

Barnes wrote that he now believes A New Missouri “was a criminal enterprise from its inception – designed to illegally skirt donation limits and conceal the identities of major donors to Eric Greitens and ballot initiatives relating to right-to-work that were supported by the former governor.”

Greitens stepped down from office on May 29, finally caving to immense bipartisan pressure to give up his seat.

In exchange for his resignation, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner agreed to drop a felony computer tampering charge against him for allegedly obtaining a donor list from The Mission Continues, a veterans’ charity he founded, and using it to raise money for his gubernatorial bid.

Gardner previously dropped a felony invasion of privacy charge against Greitens after misconduct by one of her investigators led to her becoming a witness in the case. A special prosecutor was assigned to take up the case, which involved Greitens allegedly attempting to blackmail his former lover with a non-consensual nude photograph. The special prosecutor ultimately decided not to pursue further charges, citing the woman’s desire to put the matter to rest.

Greitens insisted to the end that he had “not broken any laws, nor committed any offense worthy of this treatment.” He admitted only to carrying out an extramarital affair with the woman, his former hairdresser.

Barnes’ letter—and two reports issued by his bipartisan committee—says otherwise.

According to Barnes, Greitens made “slanderous” and “wholly untrue” comments about the woman involved in the blackmail case, and his team gathered “evidence of sexual assault and domestic violence” against her. The woman testified before the committee and to prosecutors that Greitens hit her on multiple occasions, as TPM first reported back in January.

Then there is the computer tampering matter involving the Mission Continues donor list. After Greitens denied any wrongdoing during the 2016 campaign, an ethics commission probe forced him to admit after taking office that he illegally received the list and used it to raise funds for his campaign.

Barnes said the documents obtained by the committee, including one that proves he obtained the list “under false pretenses,” led him to believe that Greitens “faced a near certain criminal conviction” in the case.

The litany of alleged abuses uncovered by the committee go on. Greitens “may have engaged in criminal fraud in a grant application” and may have engaged in “literary fraud” with his work on “Resilience,” a 2015 book about his military service.

Most troublingly, Barnes said the committee found “direct evidence of illegal activity” related to fundraising coordination between Greitens’ campaign and A New Missouri, a 501(c)(4) non-profit that backed his agenda.

“Those in charge of the Greitens’ campaign had a scheme to hide donor identities and attempt to funnel donors to a (c)(4) if a potential donor’s identity would either be politically troublesome or they were otherwise prohibited by federal or state law from contributing to the campaign,” Barnes writes.

He concludes that though there should be “further accountability” for Greitens, particularly in the New Missouri matter, his committee no longer has the constitutional authority or mandate to carry it out.

Barnes notes that the state attorney general, Cole County prosecuting attorney, and Missouri Ethics Commission retain that authority, and that he will make a referral to the latter body next week regarding the alleged campaign finance violations.

Read Rep. Barnes’ full letter below.

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Attorneys for imprisoned former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will try to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn a pair of rulings issued by a federal judge in Washington, D.C.

In Monday filings, Manafort’s attorneys signaled their intention to appeal U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s June 15 ruling revoking their client’s pretrial release because of his alleged witness tampering. They will also appeal her April 27 decision to throw out a civil suit Manafort brought challenging the authority of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to bring charges against him as part of the federal probe into Russia’s election interference.

Mueller has accused Manafort of a host of crimes including money laundering, acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukraine, tax evasion and bank fraud. The disgraced former GOP lobbyist, who has pleaded not guilty on all counts, faces one felony trial in D.C. and another in Virginia.

Jackson recently agreed to a special counsel request that Manafort’s bail be revoked and that he be put in jail while awaiting trial after he allegedly tried to shape the testimony of two of his former business partners.

The judge said at the time that despite her lack of “appetite” for jailing Manafort, there were no other conditions that she could impose to ensure he did not have inappropriate contact with witnesses.

Manafort’s lawyers have tried—and mostly failed—to get various pieces of evidence and charges against their client thrown out.

In the civil suit, they argued that Mueller exceeded his authority by bringing charges related to Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying, which predated his work for the Trump campaign.

Jackson ruled that a civil case was “not the appropriate vehicle” to challenge criminal charges brought by a Justice Department-appointed prosecutor. Jackson also ruled against Manafort’s motion to dismiss the indictment that Mueller brought against him in the criminal case.

Manafort’s lawyers have sought for the indictment brought against Manafort in Virginia to be dismissed as well, but the judge in that case has yet to rule on the motion.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained and is reviewing phones and a computer used by Erik Prince, the President Trump-ally whose sister Betsy DeVos is the secretary of education, ABC News reported Monday.

A statement to ABC News from Prince’s spokesperson said that he “has spoken voluntarily with Congress and also cooperated completely with the Special Counsel’s investigation, including by providing them total access to his phones and computer.”

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Federal prosecutors asked the judge overseeing Michael Cohen’s criminal case in Manhattan to reject the Trump Organization’s request for more time to review documents seized from Cohen’s premises.

“Further delay will unreasonably impede the Government’s investigation,” U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami wrote in a Monday letter to Judge Kimba Wood.

The three parties—Cohen’s attorneys, the Trump Organization, and federal prosecutors —have wrangled since April over the attorney-client privilege review process for the millions of documents FBI agents took from Cohen’s office, hotel room, and apartment.

On Friday, the Trump Organization asked for two additional weeks to complete its review, saying a “password issue” kept it from accessing a trove of documents until the middle of last week.

But as Khuzami notes in his response, Judge Wood already granted the parties more time, moving her initial deadline of June 15 back to June 25 for Cohen and June 27 for the Trump Organization.

Khuzami also points out that only a tiny fraction of the documents reviewed by Special Master Barbara Jones, an independent party brought in by request of the Cohen and Trump teams, were determined to be privileged.

On those grounds, Khuzami says, the Trump Organization should not be granted yet another extension. If it is, it should be only one more week, or a deadline of July 5, Khuzami argues, adding that the government will “oppose any future requests for delay in their entirety.”

Wood last week announced that she was adopting the report that Jones filed, which designated 161 items as privileged. As Wood explained in her order, the bulk of them involved text messages exchanged between Cohen and his own outside counsel requesting or receiving legal advice. Wood agreed with Jones’ determination that seven other documents could be withheld from prosecutors because they are highly personal documents concerning Cohen’s “family affairs.”

In addition to the Trump Organization, former adult film star Stormy Daniels is also intervening in the case. Some of the seized materials involve the $130,000 Cohen paid to Daniels just before the 2016 election to keep her from talking about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, lashed out at federal prosecutors on Monday, alleging that they canceled a scheduled Monday interview with his client because it leaked to the press.

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In a sign that special counsel Robert Mueller is laying the foundation for the cases he’s brought to live on even after he wraps up his own Russia investigation, two federal prosecutors not on his team joined his case Friday against Russians accused of meddling in the 2016 election on social media.

The two Justice Department attorneys —Heather Alpino of its National Security Division, and Jonathan Kravis, who works in the D.C. U.S. attorneys office — entered appearances on the docket in the case Mueller has brought against the Russians in February.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA — Former Trump voter fraud commissioner J. Christian Adams was in a federal court in Virginia Friday to defend reports his group released in 2016 and 2017 alleging that thousands of non-citizens were illegally registered to vote and possibly voting in Virginia.

Adams and his group, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, are being sued for defamation and voter intimation by four voters, all citizens, who were named in PILF’s reports that listed alleged non-citizen illegal registrants.

Attorneys for Adams and PILF argued that the reports were not targeting the defendants but rather the government officials who Adams claims are not enforcing voter fraud laws.

The plaintiffs argued that the report amounted to character assassination of those falsely alleged to be non-citizens. If anyone’s character was being assassinated, Adams’ attorney Michael Lockerby argued, it was those of the government officials who hadn’t prosecuted allegations of voter fraud.

The four voters — as well as the Richmond chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens — allege Adams and PILF violated the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act, as well as Virginia defamation law. Friday’s hearing, in front U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady, was to hear arguments on the defendants’ motion to throw out the lawsuit.

Grady kicked off his questioning by asking Lockerby what responsibility Adams and PILF had to vet the public records they’d obtained from election registrars indicating voters who had been removed from the rolls. According to the complaint, one of the challengers was put on the registrars’ list of removals because a paperwork error.

“At the end of the day, these are public records,” Lockerby argued, blaming the government officials, rather than the defendants, for mistakenly listing the names.

He argued that PILF corrected the record for two of the plaintiffs and removed their names in the 2017 report. That claim was challenged by plaintiffs later in the hearing, who pointed out PILF was warned on multiple occasions it was mischaracterizing the voters, and only revised the second report after it had already been published.

Lockerby also argued that the publication of the reported was protected by the First Amendment and that Adams was exercising his right to draw attention to an issue of public interest.

“I can be worried about crime,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Cameron Kistler, a lawyer at the group Protect Democracy, “but that doesn’t mean I can falsely accuse my neighbor of being an ax-murderer to draw attention to the issue.”

Adams’ report, titled “Aliens Invasion,” claimed it found “1046 aliens who registered to vote illegally” and that “Each of the aliens we have discovered to have registered or voted has likely committed a felony.”

The follow-up report “Aliens Invasion II,” said that the Justice Department “has done nothing about the felonies committed by 433 suspected aliens registered in Prince William County alone.” The reports included appendixes that listed the names, and in some cases addresses and phone numbers, of the people alleged to be non-citizens who illegally registered.

Both sides encouraged the judge to read the report itself in assessing the issue.

Kistler argued during the hearing that it was not just the release of the public records themselves, but the “gloss they put on the public records” that was at issue.

Much of the hearing focused on whether LULAC had standing to bring the case, given none of its members were named and there was no explicit language referencing Latinos in the language of Aliens Invasion and Aliens Invasion II.

The judge offered questions skeptical of LULAC’s involvement in the case, suggesting that the “aliens” in the report could just as easily refer to Irish immigrants or immigrants of other nationalities.

He closed the hour-plus hearing promising a decision on the motion to dismiss soon, and telling the parties that discovery would not begin before that.

The case raised “very interesting issues,” he said.

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The lawyer of an Indiana man indicted for directing an anonymous threat towards the alt-right says his client is being prosecuted by the federal government for a bit of unserious online trolling.

In a Friday statement to TPM, Scott Lauer, the Boston public defender representing Eric Radulovic in the case brought by the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the case “should alarm anyone who cares about free speech or who has ever made an ill-considered remark online.”

Radulovic, 32, was indicted June 7 for a threat he made on 4chan last August in the aftermath of the chaotic white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where counter-protester Heather Heyer was murdered. Upset over the rally, Radulovic posed as a member of the white nationalist alt-right and threatened to show up at an upcoming “Boston Free Speech Rally” and shoot members of the alt-right with a Remington 700.

Though his aim was to prevent people from showing up to the event, Radulovic wrote that injuring white nationalists would help garner “sympathy” for their movement.

Radulovic is now facing up to five years in prison for that comment, on one charge of making an interstate “threat to injure the person of another.” He also lost his job in the IT field following his arrest, according to Lauer.

But the indictment contains no evidence that Radulovic had any intention of traveling to Boston, for what was ultimately a peaceful rally, or even owned a gun. He has no prior criminal record, and his online social media profiles are full of jokey memes and photos of sunsets, but no violent rhetoric or images of weapons.

Radulovic pleaded not guilty at a Wednesday hearing in federal court in Boston. He returned home to Indiana, where he has been ordered to receive mental health treatment as part of the conditions of his release while his case moves forward.

Lauer declined to comment on specifics about the case, but told TPM that federal prosecutors were overreacting to a misguided online comment his client made but never intended to carry out.

“The alleged threat in this case was made on 4chan, an online forum infamous for ‘trolling,’” Lauer said in an email. “‘Trolling’ refers to the practice of making outlandish claims online for shock value or satirical purposes. In that context, Mr. Radulovic never imagined or intended that his attempt at trolling would be taken seriously as a threat. While his comments may reflect poor judgment, they were not criminal.”

Some extremism experts surveyed by TPM were surprised that the federal government chose to pursue this case. They noted that no federal indictments were brought against the other white nationalists who engaged in violence at Charlottesville and several other far-right events over the past year. Many of those individuals, some members of known hate groups, flagged their intention to commit violence online before crossing state lines to actually do so.

Notably, though Radulovic was not officially charged with a hate crime, his grand jury indictment contains a “special finding” that says he “intentionally selected the victims as the object of his threat because of the actual and perceived race and color of the anticipated attendees.” (The press release about his case is also filed under the “hate crime” topic tag on the Justice Department’s website.)

This means that, if convicted, Radulovic could face enhanced sentencing for his perceived targeting of the white Americans expected to attend the rally.

Asked about this point, the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office told TPM it had “no comment beyond the indictment.”

This post has been updated.

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A Washington, D.C. federal judge on Friday refused Paul Manafort’s motion to dismiss a money laundering count against him, in yet another legal setback for the former Trump campaign chairman.

Manafort, who was jailed last week to await two federal criminal trials after his bail was revoked for alleged witness tampering, has repeatedly sought to throw out the charges and suppress the evidence against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s Friday ruling marks his latest failure to convince her to do so.

This bit of legal wrangling involves Manafort’s alleged money laundering, which Mueller’s team contends “promote[d]” his failure to comply with the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) for lobbying he did on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.

Manafort’s attorneys contended that it is a crime only to fail to register as a foreign agent under FARA, not to act as one. Therefore, they argued, channeling proceeds he earned from his overseas lobbying work was irrelevant to the alleged violation at hand.

Not so, the judge ruled.

“While defendant is correct that FARA does not prohibit being a foreign agent, undertaking activities on behalf of a foreign client, or ‘acting’ as a foreign agent per se, it is illegal to act as an undisclosed foreign agent,” she wrote in her decision.

Jackson also pointed out that language in the 2001 Patriot Act specifically allows for individuals who violate FARA to be prosecuted for money laundering offenses.

“These laws are not just about paperwork,” her ruling concludes. “Their object is to ensure that no person acts to advance the interests of a foreign government or principal within the United States unless the public has been properly notified of his or her allegiance.”

In the D.C. trial, scheduled to start in mid-September, Manafort faces charges of money laundering, tax evasion, and failure to disclose his foreign lobbying. Manafort also faces charges of making false statements on tax returns, failure to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud in a separate trial in Virginia set for late July. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to both indictments.

Read Jackson’s full ruling below.

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