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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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Special counsel Robert Mueller in court filings Monday evening accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of witness tampering and asked for a judge to revoke his current house arrest and send him to jail.

Prosecutors alleged that Manafort sought to shape the testimony of witnesses beginning earlier this year. They claim that a person they dub as Person A reached out over encrypted texts to two former business associates of Manafort who were involved in his Ukraine lobbying work, according to the filings. The texts started in late February, just after Mueller unsealed a new indictment against Manafort in Washington, D.C., the prosecutors said.

Manafort has been charged in D.C. with money laundering, false statements and failure to disclose foreign lobbying. He also faces charges that include bank fraud and tax fraud in Virginia. He’s pleaded not guilty in both cases.

The charges that were revealed in late February included allegations that Manafort used a group of former European leaders — called the “Hapsburg” group — to secretly promote Ukraine’s Party of Regions in the United States. According to Monday’s filing, Person A sought to communicate with two former Manafort associates who worked  at a PR firm that acted as a intermediary between him and the  “Hapsburg” group.

Person A told one associate that Manafort wanted to get in touch with the second associate 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,” according to the texts quoted in the filings.

Manafort himself also attempted to reach one of the associates via texts and phone calls himself, according to a log of the alleged communications provided in the filings. One of those texts was a link to February 25 Business Insider story about how European politicians believed to be members of the Hapsburg group were reacting to Mueller’s allegations.

Mueller on Monday night filed a number of documents — emails and memos — he says shows that the Hapsburg group was in fact in engaged in lobbying in the United States. They include emails about connecting the European politicians with U.S. Senators, and placing op-eds in American news outlets.

Prosecutors are asking the judge, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, to rethink Manafort’s current placement in home confinement, and suggested that he may need to be put in jail.  The move comes after months of back and forth between prosecutors and Manafort over the terms of his release, whether he’s posted sufficient bond for his bail, where he can live and travel, and other related restrictions.

“Manafort’s obstructive conduct—carried out at a time when he was seeking relief from his current conditions of release—instills little confidence that restrictions short of detention will assure Manafort’s compliance with the Court’s orders and prevent him from committing further crimes,” Mueller said.

Read the Mueller request that Manafort’s house arrest be revoked, as well as the affidavit filed by an FBI agent about the communications below. A log of the alleged communications from Manafort and Person A to the two business associates are also below:

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The Justice Department’s Inspector General is expected, any day now, to release his much anticipated report on the department’s activities in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

The review is mostly focused on DOJ’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. It is separate from the Inspector General probe into surveillance warrants sought for an ex-Trump campaign advisor, nor will it likely cover the other GOP allegations of bias in DOJ’s Trump-Russia investigation. (The Inspector General, it’s worth noting, hasn’t formally announced any inquiries into the Trump investigation matters besides the one reviewing the surveillance warrants).

Rather, the Office of Inspector General — in its January 2017 announcement that it was opening its probe, at the behest of lawmakers of both parties — said the report would cover five major areas.

Here is what they are, what we know about them so far, and what questions remain:

Comey’s Clinton Press Conference, And His Two Letters To Congress

Among the episodes Inspector General Michael Horowitz is examining is a press conference FBI Director Jim Comey gave in July 2016 in which he stridently criticized Clinton for using an outside email server. Comey called Clinton’s actions “extremely careless,” but recommended that no charges be brought. The sort of announcement that Comey made then is typically left to the Justice Department. Comey has since defended the move by arguing that he was seeking to restore DOJ leadership’s credibility after Bill Clinton’s tarmac meeting with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which angered Republicans.

The Inspector General also is looking at Comey’s decision to send Congress a letter in late October 2016 announcing that the investigation had been reopened to search files found on a computer used by Anthony Weiner, who was being investigated for sex crimes and whose wife, Huma Abedin was one of Clinton’s closest aides.

Days later, just before the election, Comey sent Congress another letter indicating that nothing the FBI found had changed the conclusions it had previously reached in the  Clinton email probe. But by then, the news cycle had been dominated by the news that the email probe had been reopened.

It is not typical for the Justice Department to announce the opening or reopening of an investigation. And there’s a DOJ policy ordering that it stay quiet about investigations that could influence an election in the weeks leading up to election day.

Comey has said that even though he feels “mildly nauseous” that his announcement may have impacted the election, he doesn’t regret sending the letters.

Whether McCabe Should Have Been Recused From The Clinton Probe

Prior to the report set to be unveiled in the days to come, the Inspector General released the findings in its review pertaining to ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a frequent Trump target who was fired in February by Attorney General Jeff Sessions hours before he was eligible for full pension benefits. The Inspector General said then that McCabe misled its investigators who were reviewing his decision to permit details about internal feuds over Clinton investigations to be disclosed to the press.

This latest report also is examining the decision that McCabe not recuse himself from overseeing the Clinton probe. An October 2016 Wall Street Journal story revealing that McCabe’s wife, in an unsuccessful 2015 state Senate race, received campaign contributions by a group linked to Clinton supporter Terry McAuliffe, made McCabe a punching bag for Republicans, who called him biased.

McCabe sought ethics counseling when he became deputy director in February 2016, which is when he first had any oversight into the Clinton email probe and well after his wife’s campaign ended.

Ironically, the media leak that McCabe would later mislead IG investigators about was for a negative Clinton story depicting internal DOJ tensions over investigating her. The story confirmed a separate investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

“Among the purposes of the disclosure was to rebut a narrative that had been developing following a story in the WSJ on October 23, 2016, that questioned McCabe’s impartiality in overseeing FBI investigations involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and claimed that McCabe had ordered the termination of the [Clinton Foundation] Investigation due to Department of Justice pressure,” the Inspector General said in its McCabe report.

Did A DOJ Official Feed Inappropriate Info To The Clinton Campaign?

The Inspector General is probing communications between Peter Kadzik and John Podesta, who have been friends since both were at Georgetown Law.

Wikileaks posted an email Kadzik, then a DOJ official, sent to Podesta, the chair of Clinton’s campaign, in May 2015, flagging an upcoming hearing where a DOJ official would be testifying and was “likely to get questions on State Department emails.” Kadzik also flagged a detail in a court document being filed in an emails-related FOIA case.

Ethics experts who are skeptical that Kadzik violated DOJ policies have pointed out that he wasn’t using his government email, and that he was highlighting only publicly available information.

Other DOJ/FBI Leaks During the Campaign

The announcement also said that the Inspector General is probing “[a]llegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information.”

Clinton supporters have accused the FBI of leaking information about the investigations into her, with one report dubbing the FBI “Trumpland” for its Clinton hostility. There’s been some reporting that the leaks were coming from current or former federal investigators in New York, whom, it’s been speculated, have remained close to Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani himself bragged on Fox News that he had an advance warning from the FBI about the Comey letter to Congress.

An Interestingly Timed Clinton Foundation Records Release

A batch of FBI records related to President Trump’s father sought under the Freedom of Information Act was released October 30, while some FBI Clinton Foundation-related records were published on November 1, 2016. Their release was also promoted on an FBI Twitter account. The FBI records concerning the Clinton Foundation pertained to its investigation into President Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich — a probe closed in 2005. But the Clinton Foundation was also a political flashpoint for Hillary Clinton in her campaign.

The Twitter account that promoted their release had been dormant for more than a year before its reactivation the day before it tweeted the Clinton Foundation files. The Clinton campaign also said the timing was “odd” given there was no lawsuit deadline facing the FBI.

The FBI at the time said that the timing reflected “standard procedure for FOIA” in which records that requested three or more times are released publicly and processed on a “first in, first out” basis.

The day before the Clinton records tweet, the FBI Records Vault Twitter account also tweeted records related to Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father.

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On Thursday, President Trump announced the pardon of Dinesh D’Souza, a bombastic, conservative firebrand, known for making outright racist remarks. The case involved campaign contributions made by D’Souza’s mistress at his behest, as well as “nonsense” claims by D’Souza that he was targeted by the Justice Department for his attacks on President Obama.

D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to campaign finance violations for a scheme in which he used his mistress and assistant as straw donors to contribute $10,000 to the Republican candidate running against U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

The Republican, Wendy Long, was kept in the dark about the source of the payments, according to the indictment, despite her repeated questions to D’Souza about where they came from.

In 2012, D’Souza and his wife made a $10,000 contribution — $5,000 each, the legal limit — to Long. He then urged his assistant, Tyler Vawser, and a woman described as his lover, Denise Odie Joseph, to make $10,000 contributions in their and their spouses’ names. D’Souza eventually admitted, when pleading guilty, that Vawser and Joseph made the contributions with the understanding that they’d be paid back by D’Souza. (Joseph actually made a $15,000 contribution, $5,000 of which was returned by the campaign.)

Among the evidence prosecutors had was a secret recording Joseph’s husband made of Joseph telling him months before D’Souza was arrested that, if caught, D’Souza might eventually plead guilty.

However, D’Souza would first plead not guilty, Joseph told her husband, to provide “a window of opportunity to get his story out there,” according to the prosecutors.

As the case proceeded, there was some confusion about D’Souza’s relationship status with both women involved. D’Souza’s affair with Joseph had first been reported by the Christian magazine World in 2012, which caught D’Souza — then the president of a Christian college — checking into a hotel with Joseph. He said at the time that Joseph was his fiancée and that he “had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced.” Prosecutors, however continued to describe Joseph as a “woman with whom D’Souza was romantically involved” and the other woman as his wife. D’Souza, after the charges were brought in 2014, declined to clarify whether he was married to either woman.

Dixie D’Souza would eventually write a letter to the court that said Dinesh D’Souza had a “flawed character and lack of truthfulness.”

In the pretrial proceedings, D’Souza’s lawyers claimed that he was the target of prosecutors “because of his consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism” of President Obama. D’Souza had become a cult hero among the far-right for his anti-Obama books and films. One of his biggest cheerleaders when the charges were brought was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), then a rising Tea Party star,  who also on Thursday celebrated Trump’s pardon announcement.

D’Souza himself, in a 2014 interview with Sean Hannity, floated the idea that the charges were “kind of payback” for the anti-Obama film D’Souza made, which he claimed “seem[ed] to have gotten under President Obama’s skin.”

The prosecutors, led by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, denied the allegations of political bias, and told the court that D’Souza was “exploiting” his criticisms of Obama in a “baseless attempt to avoid criminal prosecution.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman sided with the prosecutors in the pretrial dispute, with the judge later calling D’Souza’s claims “nonsense”.

D’Souza’s guilty plea came unexpectedly in March 2014, on the same day trial was set to start.

“I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids,” he said at his plea hearing.

He was sentenced to eight months in a community confinement center, five years probation and a $30,000 fine.

A statement released by his attorney after the plea deal claimed that D’Souza’s illegal contributions were “an act of misguided friendship” toward Long.

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While Paul Manafort has claimed, so far without much success, that special counsel Robert Mueller has overstepped his authority by focusing on Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying, Mueller has left hints in various filings that his ongoing investigation into the former Trump campaign chairman may also be looking into something else.

It’s not clear exactly what that something else is, when or even if it will yield additional charges against Manafort, or whether it will bring the Russian collusion case closer to President Donald Trump or his associates. But there has been a series of intimations floated publicly by Mueller that suggest more is going on beneath the surface.

The most obvious signal was an Aug. 2 internal Justice Department memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to Mueller, disclosed with heavy redactions by Mueller last month, in which Rosenstein confirmed the special counsel’s authority to investigate Manafort for both the Ukraine allegations, and accusations that the Trump campaign and Russian colluded to influence the 2016 election.

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Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied a request Tuesday by Paul Manafort that special counsel Robert Mueller turn over unredacted versions of warrant affidavits that were part of his investigation into the former Trump campaign chairman.

The affidavits in question were for warrants targeting one of Manafort’s email accounts and five phone numbers. The latter warrant was only obtained this year.

Jackson, citing her own review of the unredacted affidavits behind closed doors, said in her order that “the Court finds that the limited redactions are appropriate and justified on the grounds set forth by the prosecution, and that the Office of Special Counsel need not reveal the redacted information to the defendant at this time.”

“There is nothing in the redactions that relates to any of the charges now pending against Manafort or that would be relevant to a challenge to any of the warrants issued based on the affidavits, particularly given the prosecution’s stated willingness to set aside that information and not rely upon it to establish that there was probable cause to support the issuance of any warrant,” the judge, who is overseeing the case brought against Manafort in D.C. said.

It is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for Manafort the judge has handed down recently. She last week declined to throw out one of the counts Mueller brought that Manafort alleged was duplicative. She also ruled against two seperate legal actions Manafort brought challenging Mueller’s authority.

Manafort has been charged with money laundering, failure to register foreign lobbying, and false statements in Washington, D.C. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, and to the charges Mueller brought against him in Virginia.

Read the order below:

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LiveWire