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The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee bashed Twitter Thursday for an “inadequate” and “deeply disappointing” presentation the social meeting company gave earlier Thursday morning to the committee staff investigating Russian election meddling.

“I am more than a bit surprised, in light of all the public interest in this subject over the last few weeks, that anyone from the Twitter team would think that the presentation they made to the Senate staff today even began to answer the kind of questions that we’d asked,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) told reporters.

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

In an unattributed statement on the company blog published Thursday afternoon, Twitter disclosed that it had identified nearly 200 accounts associated with the same Facebook pages that were part of a Russian troll farm’s $100,000 ad buy on that platform.

Twitter said it had searched for accounts associated with the “roughly 450” Facebook pages shared as part of that company’s review. Twitter found 22 accounts that directly corresponded to the Russian Facebook accounts, and then found 179 others associated with those Twitter users.

Facebook shared those accounts directly with Twitter, TPM has learned; Congress still does not have the ads Facebook promised to share with elected officials, though those ads are expected by Monday.

“Neither the original accounts shared by Facebook, nor the additional related accounts we identified, were registered as advertisers on Twitter,” the statement read. “However, we continue to investigate these issues, and will take action on anything that violates our Terms of Service.”

The statement came after Twitter representatives met investigators from the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. Alongside Facebook, Twitter is at the center of both congressional and federal inquiries into the Trump campaign’s role, if any, in Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The social media company also said in the statement that Kremlin-backed news outlet RT purchased $274,000 in advertisements in 2016. It’s unclear how that figure compares to RT’s spending on Twitter in other years, or how it compares to Twitter ad budgets at news organizations of similar size.

“In [2016], the @RT_com, @RT_America, and @ActualidadRT accounts promoted 1,823 Tweets that definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market,” the Twitter statement’s authors wrote. “These campaigns were directed at followers of mainstream media and primarily promoted RT Tweets regarding news stories.”

RT undertook a major expansion into the United States in 2013, and since the election it has been the subject of intensifying scrutiny, first from an official assessment by the US intelligence community and more recently directly from the DOJ, which has asked the organization to register as a foreign agent.

Executives from the company presented their findings to Senate Intelligence Committee staff on Thursday afternoon. Intelligence Vice-chair Mark Warner (D-VA) said he was unimpressed that Twitter’s research was “based on accounts that Facebook had identified” rather than a proactive review of their user base.

Other figures Twitter provided in the statement painted a picture of a social media platform under seige: The microblogging service said it blocks some 130,000 attempts to artificially promote hashtags to its “trending topics” category each day, in addition to 450,000 suspicious other logins daily. The company also said it had identified and suspended 117,000 programs that were abusing its proprietary interface to send “low-quality tweets.” Those programs had already tweeted 1.5 billion times in 2017.

This post has been updated.

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The acting director of the Office of Government Ethics said Thursday that he will maintain the watchdog’s practice of directing legal defense funds established for employees of the executive branch to bar contributions from anonymous sources.

The legal advisory issued Thursday is an apparent reversal from a brief, earlier update under OGE’s new acting director, David Apol, which suggested that the office would allow legal defense funds to accept donations from anonymous sources, such as lobbyists.

The last official guidance issued on the matter is a legal opinion from 1993, which established that legal defense funds for executive branch staffers could accept anonymous donations from lobbyists. Since the Clinton administration, however, the OGE in practice has directed those setting up such funds not to accept any anonymous contributions.

The ethics office sparked confusion earlier this month by placing a note atop the 1993 opinion, stating that the finding had not changed. The move suggested that under Apol, OGE might permit legal defense funds to accept anonymous contributions, although a spokeswoman for the office told TPM at the time that the policy had not changed and that it was still directing funds to bar anonymous donors.

These rules have come under much greater scrutiny since current and former staffers to President Donald Trump hired legal representation to field special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election. So far, Trump ally Roger Stone and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have established legal funds, but it has not been reported that any current White House staffers have legal funds.

The advisory issued Thursday formalizes that OGE will direct any legal defense funds set up for executive branch staffers to include a clause stating that “contributions shall not be accepted from anonymous sources.”

But ethics experts note that the guidance on legal defense funds is still vague, and they argue that OGE should establish stricter guidelines.

“It’s still somewhat remarkable that there aren’t more specific regulations and guidelines with respect to legal expense trust funds in the executive branch. The guidance is very thin, particularly when compared to the guidance provided by the House and Senate Ethics Committees,” Robert Walker, a government ethics expert at Wiley Rein LLP, told TPM.

Walker said that OGE should give clear guidance on who can and cannot serve as trustee for a staffer’s legal defense fund; what information those funds would be required to make public; and what limitations have been established on how much an individual can donate.

He said that while it may have been “practical” for OGE to issue vague guidelines, the ethics watchdog should eventually craft regulations with more specific instructions for this type of legal defense fund.

Walter Shaub, the former OGE director who resigned after Trump took office, also criticized a “lack of transparency” in the new legal advisory from Apol. In a series of tweets, he noted that OGE did not make it clear whether it will require funds to publicly disclose their donors, nor did it publicize any guidance for who can be a funds’ trustee, among other issues.

The advisory stated that the legal defense funds must comply with certain gift rules, which Shaub noted bar contributions from a source who is donating because of the beneficiary’s official position. Walker noted that question was raised before the Trump administration and has been “carried over” by the advisory issued Thursday.

“This is an inherent tension and issue with the whole notion of legal expense trust funds in the executive branch,” he observed. “How do you get around the fact that they’re all probably being given because of the official position of the individual? I think OGE probably would be better of addressing that squarely.”

Walker added that OGE needs to say how the funds “might be best structured to avoid potential conflicts and the appearance of conflicts.”

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Representatives for Twitter arrived in a Senate office building Thursday morning to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staff as part of its investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election.

After the Senate Intel interview, Twitter is also expected to meet with the staff of the House Intelligence Committee, as part of its own Russia probe.

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UPDATED Sept. 28, 9:40 a.m.

In what is becoming something of a pattern, a far-right event slated to take place just after Christmas in Charlotte, North Carolina lost support even before planning really got underway.

Infighting, mistrust and the dark stain of August’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia appears to have derailed a “March Against Communism” rally scheduled for Dec. 28. At least one slated headliner already pulled out earlier this week, while other white nationalist figureheads warned their followers not to participate.

On Thursday morning, just two days after telling TPM it planned to move ahead with the event, the group Anti-Communist Action (Anticom) announced the rally was cancelled due to “safety concerns.”

“In light of safety concerns, we’ll no longer be holding an event in Marshall Park,” the group said in tweet pinned to the top of its page. “This was agreed upon by both organizers and guests.”

An Anticom spokesman who identified himself only as Seth declined to elaborate on the tweet, saying the group wanted to “keep future planning private.” On Tuesday, he had described his high hopes for the rally to TPM.

“A good way to describe this is what ‘Unite the Right’ should have been, in the non-violent sense,” Seth said, referring to the Charlottesville rally.

Though the spokesman acknowledged he was “sad to see” white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, whose name was listed on an initial announcement circulated by Anticom, pull out of the event, he expressed confidence that his relatively low-profile group could still draw a big coalition of white nationalists, militia groups, libertarians and far-right icons to North Carolina.

The parallels between Anticom’s planned rally and Charlottesville were clear. Aside from the name of the city where the “March Against Communism” will be held—Anticom’s Seth said it was “just an unfortunate coincidence”—there was a planned torch rally through the city’s streets, and many of the exact same participants who showed up to “Unite The Right” were invited.

Those similarities kept some would-be participants away. The Charlottesville rally led to the slaying of counter-protester Heather Heyer; to companies cutting off access to white nationalist and other extremist groups’ social media accounts and funding sources; to days of damning news headlines; and to a number of participants getting fired from their jobs or winding up in jail.

Spencer confirmed to TPM in a text message that he had pulled out of the Charlotte event, expressing concern about the outdoor venue.

“Cville proved that we simply can’t fully trust mayors and chiefs of police,” he said. “I don’t want to simply repeat Cville. We’ve got to learn from Cville and create better models.”

Others who Anticom said were invited to the event were out in force at Charlottesville, including animal-sacrificing former Florida Senate candidate Augustus Sol Invictus; white nationalist group Vanguard America; neo-Confederate group League of the South; and Matthew Heimbach, head of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party. None of those invitees responded to TPM’s requests for comment.

Some in the community called for a boycott of the event, suggesting that it might be a setup and questioning the motives of the low-profile Anticom organizers. White supremacist Andrew Anglin, who has apparently resuscitated his Daily Stormer website on an Icelandic domain after being booted off a number of U.S. hosting services, told readers: “Urging people to attend a purposefully provocative event with unknown planners who have openly called on people to bring guns to the event is, in our view, utterly irresponsible.” White supremacist hacker Weev echoed those warnings in his own blog post, accusing Spencer of “trying to get some of your fool asses killed” by initially agreeing to participate in an event with weapons organized by “virtually unknown parties.”

Outrage and accusations flew with even more fervor on the 4chan /pol/ message board, where many Charlottesville attendees and supporters had once coordinated planning. Posters speculated that Spencer was “a plant of some sort”—a “Bolshevik” or undercover federal agent trying to undermine their movement:

Much of this festering suspicion stemmed from the wording of the original invitation from Anticom, which encouraged attendees to bring their “torches, guns, armor, gear, and flags” to the “nonviolent” event in the Charlotte, which has a growing minority population.

Unlike in Virginia, visible and, in most cases, concealed firearms are forbidden at protests in North Carolina. Seth, Anticom’s group’s spokesman, told TPM that he had provided updated guidance on carrying firearms an that the group would closely follow police instructions on whether attendees could bring other weapons, like flagpoles, and shields.

While Seth told TPM the group had been in conversation with the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department about those issues, police spokesman Rob Tufano told TPM that “no one from the organization” had been in touch with the department. If Anticom moves forward with the rally, all it’ll need to do is file for an amplified sound permit to use a speaker system and stick to city streets during the torch march, offering advance notification to the local Department of Transportation.

The “March Against Communism” also will face some competition for media attention. A counter-rally coordinated in response to the event is seeing a flood of support, according to “Charlotte Against Racism/White Supremacy” organizer Jibril Hough.

“I’ve never tried to organize something that’s gotten so much interest so early,” Hough, an activist and spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, told TPM of his interfaith event, which also will be held in the city’s Marshall Park.

Hough said he plans to hold his rally, which will feature live music and politically-oriented speeches, “even if they don’t show up,” saying it will “allow us to show our diversity and a united front.”

Already, hundreds of people have added themselves to Facebook groups for Hough’s event and for a similar one organized by Indivisible Charlotte.

For now, it looks like the counter-protesters will be the only ones there.

Pictured above: In this Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 photo, multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va. (Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

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The House Intelligence Committee announced Wednesday that it plans to hold an open hearing on Russia with representatives from tech companies in the “coming months,” although it is unclear when exactly the hearing will be, which tech firms have been invited and whether those firms will agree to appear voluntarily.

The hearing will be about “how Russia used online tools and platforms to sow discord in and influence our election,” according to a statement from Reps. Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Republican and Democrat leading the committee’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) has recused himself from the probe.

“Congress and the American people need to hear this important information directly from these companies,” the statement read.

Scrutiny on how the Russians used social media to influence the 2016 campaign has increased since Facebook disclosed that about 3,000 ads were purchased by some 500 inauthentic Russian-linked accounts. Facebook has reportedly turned over information about the ads to special counsel Robert Mueller, and also is cooperating with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s efforts to understand more about Russia’s campaign-related activities on Facebook. Twitter, too, reportedly is meeting with Senate Intel investigators behind closed doors this week.

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At least one of the Facebook ads that were purchased by a Kremlin-linked troll factory during the 2016 campaign promoted the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Politico reported Tuesday, while others boosted Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) campaign even after he dropped out of the race.

“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein,” one ad says, according to Politico. “Trust me. It’s not a wasted vote. … The only way to take our country back is to stop voting for the corporations and banks that own us. #GrowaSpineVoteJillStein.”

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In recent weeks, Facebook has received the lion’s share of attention when it comes to the social media component of Russia’s interference in the U.S. election. But the service the President so frequently and famously uses hasn’t received quite the same level of scrutiny yet—perhaps because it’s much harder to nail down exactly what happened on Twitter during the 2016 campaign.

Much of the activity on Twitter is a morass of bot traffic, spam accounts mobbing hashtags and plain old harassment, so teasing out the Twitter component of a coordinated influence campaign that spanned multiple platforms is a seriously tall order. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have proposed some of the first regulations that would specifically affect Twitter and Facebook; a Twitter spokesman told TPM that, regarding regulation, “we are open to discussing this with the FEC and Congress.”

There are a few facts about Russian-linked activity on Twitter during the 2016 campaign we already know thanks to published reports, but there’s much more that remains unclear. Answers to some of those unanswered questions could emerge from Twitter’s closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

What We Know

Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks spread propaganda on Twitter

The primary arms of the Russian disinformation campaign operated on Twitter—in fact, you still can visit the Twitter pages for DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, two of the outlets for emails stolen from Democratic organizations and operatives.

Twitter has a laissez-faire attitude toward who can and can’t use its network; short of distributing something illegal or advocating violence—and sometimes even then—users can do pretty much whatever they want with impunity. In this case, it appears to have given useful platforms to what the U.S. intelligence community says were fronts for a Russian intelligence service.

The Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks accounts haven’t tweeted since January 2017 and December 2016, respectively.

Groups of synchronized, automated accounts promoted Trump in the interest of Russians

Russian intelligence also used networks of automated accounts, or social botnets, on Twitter, although it’s hard to tell which were actually harnessed by the GRU and which were simply a function of Russia’s burgeoning cybercrime industry. Much of the work that has been done tracking bot accounts is inductive, which has made the task of labeling bot accounts a perilous one. Plenty of amateur Trump-Russia sleuths have managed to look foolish for accusing run-of-the-mill conservative Twitter users of being Russian bots.

But some of the reasoning is convincing and comes from reliable sources. Cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs, formerly a reporter for the Washington Post, noted that any time he criticized Putin, it mysteriously generated defensive tweets about Trump. He also observed that the service’s like and retweet buttons were being used as part of a strategic offense.

Russian-linked accounts promoted fake news stories

Russian social botnets appear to have been used to promote a lot of far-right news hashtags, according to Hamilton 68, a program that tracks probable bots of Russian origin. This is in itself not especially unusual. Twitter charges to promote tweets and tags on its service, so an underhanded advertiser may feel the need to promote its work through a network of linked accounts that will get it the requisite number of likes and retweets.

But a January report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in noted that Russian state-affiliated bloggers had prepared such a campaign for Clinton’s victory. “Before he election, Russian diplomats had publicly denounced the US electoral process and were prepared to publicly call into question the validity of the results,” the report’s authors wrote. “Pro- Kremlin bloggers had prepared a Twitter campaign, #DemocracyRIP, on election night in anticipation of Secretary Clinton’s victory, judging from their social media activity.”

At other moments, Russian Twitter users glommed onto the far-right news of the day, including the conspiracy theory that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich had something to do with the stolen emails.

Russians ran at least one pro-Trump news account

The @tpartynews account had some 22,000 followers and regularly insulted Black Lives Matter activists. The account was followed by former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka, who himself has been linked to far-right racist and anti-Semitic groups in Hungary.

What We Don’t Know

How much bot traffic was actually directed by Russian intelligence?

Bot traffic on Twitter is vast. While it accounted for 33 percent of pro-Trump tweets during the run-up to the 2016 election, it also accounted for 22 percent of pro-Clinton tweets. It’s very difficult to tell which tweets are of Russian origin and which Russian tweets are part of a Kremlin influence campaign. Much of this simply speaks to a vulnerability on the platform that activists have been complaining about for years: Twitter’s sign-up process is very simple and open to abuse by anyone who, for whatever reason, wants to promote a malicious agenda or harass other users.

To what extent did Russia use Twitter’s ad technology?

We now know Russian operators used Facebook to run ad campaigns around divisive social issues. They made use of the company’s microtargeting capabilities, which are especially effective at locating people who may be sympathetic to the deluge of anti-Clinton, pro-Trump news that the GRU had already seeded through WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks. Twitter hasn’t yet answered the question of whether Russian intelligence was able to operate to its satisfaction merely using botnets and sock-puppet accounts like @tpartynews, or whether it needed to buy promoted tweets or hashtags; so far there’s no evidence that it did.

Why are some Russian accounts dormant while others are still active?

One group tracking Russian bots notes that many of them haven’t stopped tweeting. In fact, they tweeted in support of alt-right groups in the aftermath of the slaying of Heather Heyer at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Again, some of this is inductive reasoning: ProPublica identified one account as a bot by noting it used a stolen photo, sent five tweets in a single minute that all used a URL shortener, and that the account’s tweets “were reported to use similar language from Russian government–backed outlets Sputnik and RT.” Of course, all this could be true of a human account, too.

What does Twitter plan to do about any of this?

Twitter is due on Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday. The company has thus far been tight-lipped about its strategy for dealing with malicious foreign governments trying to tamper in each others’ elections—similar influence campaigns in France and Germany have taken place since the American election. The company may come up with some kind of internal proposal for enhancing its ability to detect and root out activity like the GRU influence campaign in much the same way it, along with Facebook, has agreed to help the U.S. deal with social media accounts run by the Islamic State.

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A group of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said in letter to the Justice Department Tuesday that the DOJ had not responded to previous requests for information in July and August, related to concerns that the Department was becoming politicized on voting rights and educational issues.

Their letter Tuesday also requested more information about any DOJ coordination with President Trump’s voter fraud commission, which was also the subject of their July request. Since then, a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a private group surfaced a February email that was forwarded to Attorney General Jeff Session from a conservative activist, who was later appointed to the commission, demanding that Democrats and even “mainstream” Republicans not be selected for the panel.

“These developments underscore the concerns many of us have raised about a return to the illegal politicization of the Department’s Civil Rights Division that took place under the Bush administration, and raise questions about the role of Department leadership in the formation and operation of this nakedly partisan commission,” the Democrats said.

The letter was signed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The Judiciary Democrats’ letter Tuesday sought more information about the exchange, as well as any other communications between current DOJ officials and other commission members as well as Bush-era DOJ officials who were involved in the politicized hiring scandal.

It also lodged more general requests about the “Department’s process for responding to Congressional inquiries.”

The letter Judiciary Democrats sent in July sought information about any coordination between the DOJ and the election commission on letters both entities sent out to state officials on June 28: the DOJ’s letter was about National Voter Registration Act compliance; the commission’s letter sought voter roll data. An for the DOJ has denied there was any coordination.

In August, they asked for more information about a report in the New York Times that the DOJ was seeking to file lawsuits against universities for their affirmative action programs and the project was being run out of the “front office,” meaning by Trump administration political appointees.

Both requests for information, according to the latest letter, were not met with a response from the DOJ.

“As outlined here, we continue to have serious concerns – as to both process and substance – about the Department’s apparent coordination with the thoroughly discredited Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, as well as its failures to respond to our numerous oversight requests,” the Democrats said.

The DOJ has recently responded to a FOIA request from the non-profit group the Campaign Legal Center. Seeking documents related to voter fraud allegations in the 2016 election, the Campaign Legal Center received earlier this month an email sent from a Heritage Foundation scholar whose name was redacted to a recipient whose name was also redacted. According to the chain of emails released to the non-profit, the Heritage email was eventually forwarded to Sessions.

Heritage later confirmed that the email had been sent by Hans von Spakovsky, a former Bush administration official whose known for pushing restrictive election laws. Spakovsky, now a member of the voter fraud commission, has denied that he was emailing the attorney general. Due to the redactions in the FOIA release, it’s unclear exactly how the email was forwarded to Sessions.

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The Justice Department on Tuesday waded into the debate over free speech on college campuses, filing a statement of interest on behalf of an evangelical Christian student who sued his Georgia university over alleged First Amendment violations.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the DOJ’s statement in the case during an address promoting campus free speech at Georgetown University Law Center, telling the small, invitation-only crowd that his agency would “enforce federal law, defend free speech, and protect students’ free expression from whatever end of the political spectrum it may come.”

As he spoke, faculty and students who were denied entry to the event protested outside, some with tape placed over their mouths.

Sessions made clear Tuesday that the interest in the evangelical student’s case was just the start of the DOJ’s newly-launched campus free speech crusade, promising that his department would be weighing in on more cases “in the weeks and months to come.”

The renewed commitment begins at a particularly charged moment in the national debate over free speech. Students have organized mass protests to keep certain controversial speakers from addressing their peers, and those speakers have capitalized on the contention to secure media attention in turn.

One such speaker is white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, who has enlisted the help of Georgia State University grad student Cameron Padgett to manage his speaking tour of college campuses across the country. Padgett has sued Michigan State University on First Amendment grounds for refusing to allow Spencer to come speak, after successfully suing Auburn University to allow Spencer to speak there.

National attention is likely to be trained on how the case that drew the DOJ’s interest, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, plays out given the Attorney General and other Trump administration officials‘ recent remarks on the subject of free speech.

At issue in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski is Georgia Gwinnett College’s use of two “free speech expression areas,” which are made available to students for a total of 18 hours a week. Student Chike Uzuegbunam filed suit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in December, charging that school officials had violated his First Amendment rights by telling him to stop preaching his evangelical beliefs and distributing fliers about his faith within one of those zones. Officials allegedly told him that his evangelizing amounted to “disturbing the peace” because a number of students had complained about his comments, according to court documents.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit representing Uzuegbunam, has argued that this stance violates both the student’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The DOJ concurred in its statement of interest, pointing to decades of court precedent falling strongly in favor of strong free speech protections in public spaces like state university campuses.

“Colleges and universities must protect free speech and may not discriminate out of a concern that listeners might find the content of speech offensive or uncomfortable,” the statement reads, noting that there is a heightened interest in this case because of the “allegations of disparate treatment based on religion.”

U.S. Judge Eleanor Ross is currently considering a motion to dismiss the case filed by Georgia Gwinnett College.

Read the DOJ’s full statement of interest in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski below:

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