Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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On August 12 of last year, white nationalists, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia marched through Charlottesville, Virginia in the blazing summer heat, chanting racist slogans and clashing with the hundreds of anti-racist activists who showed up. Dozens were injured and a young paralegal, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car driven by a far-right activist plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Afterward, with tensions running high, concerns percolated that a “Free Speech Rally” scheduled to take place in Boston the following weekend could devolve into similar violence.

The day after Charlottesville, Eric Radulovic, a 32-year-old Indiana man, visited 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” discussion board, popular among the white nationalists, anti-Semites, and trolls who compose the “alt-right.” Dozens of messages proliferated about the Boston rally and how it would go. “Be prepared everyone. this can get bad,” one warned.

Posing as a member of the alt-right, Radulovic wrote an anonymous post warning that he planned to shoot other alt-right activists at the rally, in order to generate public sympathy for the movement, which was now associated with Heyer’s death.

“I’m going to bring a Remington 700 and start shooting Alt-right guys,” Radulovic allegedly posted. “We need sympathy after that landwhale got all the liberals teary eyed, so someone is going to have to make it look like the left is becoming more violent and radicalized. It’s a false flag for sure, but I’ll be aiming for the more tanned/dark haired muddied jeans in the crowd so real whites won’t have to worry.”

The Boston event was ultimately peaceful. But last Friday, some 10 months after Radulovic wrote the anonymous post, he was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors with the felony of “transmitting in interstate and foreign commerce a threat to injure the person of another.” Radulovic now faces up to five years in prison.

Speaking to TPM, some experts on far-right extremism questioned the federal government’s decision to pursue the case. They noted that no federal indictments have been brought against the white nationalists who openly promoted, and in some cases carried out, violence in Charlottesville.

President Donald Trump notoriously said “both sides” were to blame for the Charlottesville violence.

“It’s hard to really understand why this is where the FBI is putting its resources,” said Michael German, a former undercover FBI agent who specialized in domestic terrorism operations and is now a national security expert at the Brennan Center for Justice.

“Any number of these far-right protests over the last two years have involved actual violence by people who promoted violence on social media, expressed an intent to commit violence at the protest, committed violence at the protest, videotaped it, put it on the Internet to promote themselves and recruit others for additional support at following rallies, which often involve interstate travel,” German continued. “And yet somehow the FBI is not bringing any federal charges from those cases.”

The five-page indictment returned by a grand jury makes no mention of any other threats Radulovic made, and offers no evidence that he actually intended to shoot anyone — or even to attend the Massachusetts rally. In addition, Radulovic appears to have no prior criminal record, and his public social media profiles feature no violent rhetoric or images of guns or other weapons.

It’s unclear if Radulovic is currently in jail or has retained a lawyer. The publicly available court filings and DOJ press release on his arrest say only that he was slated to appear in federal court in Indiana on June 8 and in Boston on June 20.

TPM received no response to a Facebook message sent to his account, nor to multiple emails and a Facebook message sent to the woman identified on his page as his longtime girlfriend.

According to the indictment, Radulovic made his online post “knowing that it would be interpreted as a threat, and recklessly disregarding the risk that his communication would be interpreted as a threat.”

“At least one person” living in Massachusetts who saw Radulovic’s message and planned to attend the rally as a counter-protester chose not to go out of “fear of gun and other violence,” the indictment contends.

But extremism experts say the bare-bones indictment leaves many questions unanswered, like whether federal investigators accessed other threatening anonymous posts Radulovic may have made, or had other evidence that he intended to act on this threat. They also emphasized that any stated intention to commit violence, from any source, should be treated seriously by law enforcement.

“The fact that he mentioned the event and there was some kind of specificity as to what type of weapon he would bring, that’s where it kind of crossed the threshold into a criminal matter,” Daryl Johnson, a former senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, told TPM.

Mark Pitcavage, an expert on far-right extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, added that Radulovic’s use of first-person language was “quite rare” precisely because it could prompt legal action. Alt-right and white nationalist posters tend to give themselves some cover by “urging other people to do things,” or making “suggestive” comments like, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone brought a 50-cal sniper rifle and set up,” Pitcavage said.

But some experts say they were struck by the lack of information indicating that Radulovic’s post was anything other than a one-off comment on a forum known for gruesome bluster.

“The potential violence was a little more speculative and less imminent than we might typically see in other prosecutions,” Eric Goldman, an internet law expert at Santa Clara University School of Law, told TPM in an email.

Contrast this with the leaked Discord chats of white nationalists organizing the Charlottesville rally, who shared photographs of themselves posing with semi-automatic weapons and discussed “thumping” counter-protesters with PVC pipes. Some of those same participants subsequently showed up in Charlottesville wielding firearms, weighted flagpoles, shields, and other arms, and committed acts of violence.

No federal indictments were issued in relation to that rally, though local authorities made some arrests. In the subsequent months, white nationalists — some of whom have prior criminal histories — fired bullets at counter-protesters at a Richard Spencer event in Florida and brawled with them at another Spencer event in Michigan.

A February report from the Southern Poverty Law Center found that people linked to the alt-right have killed or injured over 100 people since 2014, shooting up high schools and an Islamic Cultural Center. As Peter Simi, an expert on extremism at Chapman University, pointed out, the leaders of Attomwaffen Division, a vicious white supremacist group linked to multiple recent murders, have not been apprehended.

“Here’s a group that has advocated for violence and death, clearly and explicitly, and yet federal charges have not been filed against them,” Simi noted.

On his public profiles, at least, Radulovic never appeared to promote violence. He lives in the Indianapolis suburb of Avon, where he releases trippy mixtapes under the name DJ Hypergiant. His Instagram and Facebook pages are full of photographs of sunsets darkening the wide Indiana sky, his cat and girlfriend, and homecooked pizzas. His Twitter feed makes a few mentions of depression and a few digs at President Trump and at Nazis, but it’s primarily filled with goofy memes.

“It’s interesting they are going through this trouble to target this person,” Simi said of Radulovic. “It’s work to file an indictment.”

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The Justice Department Inspector General report released Thursday knocked down the Republican talking point that former FBI official Andrew McCabe mishandled a significant conflict of interest during his oversight of the various investigations into Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

According to the report, McCabe was “not at any time required to recuse” from Clinton-related investigations.

Republicans, including President Trump, have called McCabe’s impartiality into question because his wife, during her failed 2015 state senate run, accepted funds from a political group linked to then-Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally.

McCabe was fired as FBI deputy director in March. A separate DOJ IG report criticized McCabe for misleading investigators about his role in leaks to the press concerning one of the Clinton investigations.

The IG report released Thursday did say McCabe could have chosen to recuse himself, and that doing so would’ve helped ease any perception that he was biased towards Clinton. The report also noted that once McCabe did officially step back from all Clinton-related probes on Nov. 1, 2016, he “did not fully comply with his recusal in a few instances.”

“We believe McCabe did what he was supposed to do by notifying those responsible in the FBI for ethics issues and seeking their guidance,” the report notes, adding that “voluntary recusal is always permissible.”

“We also found that the FBI ethics officials and attorneys did not fully appreciate the potential significant implications to McCabe and the FBI from campaign contributions to Dr. McCabe’s campaign and did not implement any review of those campaign donations,” it continues.

Trump and the GOP have used the donation to paint McCabe as a Clinton ally.

“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” Trump tweeted last December.

Dr. Jill McCabe’s campaign received $675,288 from McAuliffe’s campaign committee and the Virginia Democratic Party, and the McCabes met with McAuliffe once before she initiated her campaign.

McCabe told the IG that he did not learn about the donations until the publication of an Oct. 23, 2016 Wall Street Journal identifying them. That article prompted then-FBI Director James Comey to urge McCabe to voluntarily recuse himself, which he did days later.

The report concludes that McCabe assuming oversight of the Clinton email probe in February 2016, three months after his wife lost the race, did not represent an inappropriate conflict of interest. Chief FBI ethics official Pat Kelley told the IG that no reasonable person could question McCabe’s impartiality as a result of the donation—an assessment the report agreed with.

“The fact that McAuliffe supported Dr. McCabe’s campaign, and was a known associate of Hillary Clinton, did not create any connection between the Clinton email investigation and Dr. McCabe’s financial interests,” the report reads.

The authors do take McCabe to task for requesting to be kept up to speed on media leaks about the investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

“We found no evidence that McCabe continued to supervise investigative decisions in the Clinton-related matters after” his recusal, the report reads. “We did find that McCabe, prompted by a follow-up WSJ article of November 3, 2016, made inquiries about the steps the FBI was taking to address media leaks relating to the Clinton Foundation and exhorting managers to stop the leaking.”

The report recommends that FBI ethics officials consider implementing a review of campaign donations made to any Department employees or their spouses during runs for public office to avoid this messy set of circumstances from occurring again.

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Several top officials at the FBI believed that concern about leaks from the bureau’s New York office played a role in then-Director James Comey’s fateful decision to publicly announce the reopening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation just 11 days before the 2016 presidential election.

The Justice Department Inspector General (IG) report released Thursday found that senior FBI officials at the time — including General Counsel James Baker, top aide Lisa Page, and top FBI agent Peter Strzok — believed that fear of leaks prompted the letter’s release.

The news that the Clinton email probe had been reopened badly damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign, perhaps costing her victory.

“Numerous witnesses connected this concern about leaks specifically to [the New York office] and told us that FBI leadership suspected that FBI personnel in [the New York office]  were responsible for leaks of information in other matters,” the report said. “Even accepting Comey’s assertion that leaks played no role in his decision, we found that, at a minimum, a fear of leaks influenced the thinking of those who were advising him.”

Comey denied to investigators that fear of leaks played a role.

Comey told the IG’s office that he “didn’t make this decision because [he] thought it would leak otherwise,” adding that “that would be a cowardly way to make a decision.” He did acknowledge that he “consoled” himself with the knowledge that “it would have come out anyway.”

As the report puts it, others had “a different recollection.”

“The discussion was somebody in New York will leak this,” Baker said. “[T]he sense was that that this significant of a step is not going to go unnoticed. And if we don’t put something out, somebody will leak it. That’s just what we talked about.”

Page told the IG that her “personal belief” was that there was “a substantial and legitimate fear that when we went to seek the warrant in order to get access to the Weiner laptop, that the fact of that would leak.”

Then-deputy attorney general Sally Yates, meanwhile, told the IG that the FBI explicitly cited the threat of leaks in explaining their decision to go public to Justice Department.

As Yates put it, one of the reasons the FBI “gave for why they felt like [Comey] had to go to Congress is that they felt confident that the New York Field Office would leak it and that it would come out regardless of whether he advised Congress or not.”

The report’s authors do not definitively say whether or not they think the decision was driven by worries about leaks, but note repeatedly that few shared Comey’s view.

“Although we acknowledge that Comey faced a difficult situation with unattractive choices, in proceeding as he did on October 28, Comey made a serious error of judgment,” the report concludes.

The allegation that DOJ or FBI officials “improperly disclosed non-public information” was one of five points included in Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s January 2017 memo laying out the parameters of his investigation.

Much of the speculation focused on Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, who in the run-up to Election Day claimed to have a direct line on the “revolution coming on in the FBI” over the handling of the Clinton email investigation. Giuliani even told Fox News on Nov. 4, 2016 that he had advance knowledge that the FBI was reviewing new Clinton-related emails found on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, then-husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

The sources of those leaks, according to reports in the Daily Beast, Reuters, and Vanity Fair, were disgruntled current and former agents in the FBI’s New York office. Giuliani retained close ties to the office from his days as a U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Giuliani’s name is not mentioned in the IG report, nor is a definitive assessment on whether the New York office was the primary source of leaks.

Instead, the report lays out Comey’s comments on whether his actions were driven by concerns about leaks next to that of other FBI and DOJ officials.

The IG concluded that Comey ignored long-established DOJ and FBI norms in going public, and that he “engaged in ad hoc decisionmaking based on his personal views even if it meant rejecting longstanding Department policy or practice.”

“Ironically, in his effort to avoid the FBI or himself being seen as political, Comey based his decision, in part, on his assessment of the likely outcome of the political process,” the report said.

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New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday filed a sweeping lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation and its board of directors — the president and his three eldest children — for engaging in “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct.”

The lawsuit claims Trump’s foundation “illegally provided extensive support” to his 2016 campaign. It also alleges that the foundation engaged in “willful self-dealing” to serve Trump’s personal and business interests.

Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the foundation entirely. She also asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities, that Trump pay at least $2.8 million in restitution, and that Trump be barred from leading any other New York nonprofit for at least 10 years.

The charity’s directors, President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump were sued in their individual capacity, putting them personally on the hook for the repayment of funds.

Trump’s children were on a board that “existed in name only” and did not meet after 1999, according to the lawsuit, leaving their father without any oversight, and allowing him effectively to do with the foundation what he wished.

“The Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in a statement on the results of her office’s 20-month investigation.

Trump promptly responded on Twitter, insisting that he “won’t settle this case!”

“The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” the tweet read.

A second tweet from Trump said that Schneiderman “never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case” and that “his disciples brought it when we would not settle.”

Schneiderman initiated the Trump Foundation investigation but resigned earlier this year over reports he physically abused multiple romantic partners. Underwood, a career staffer, took over his position.

A spokesman for the Trump Foundation said Underwood’s lawsuit is “politics at its very worst.”

“The Foundation currently has $1.7 million remaining which the [New York Attorney General] has been holding hostage for political gain,” the spokesman said in a statement. “This is unconscionable — particularly because the Foundation previously announced its intention to dissolve more than a year and a half ago.”

“The prior NYAG, who was recently forced to resign from office in disgrace, made it his stated mission to use this matter to not only advance his own political goals, but also for his own political fundraising,” the spokesman added. “The acting NYAG’s recent statement that battling the White House is ‘the most important work [she] have ever done’ shows that such political attacks will continue unabated.”

The lawsuit lays out new details about coordination between the foundation and Trump’s presidential campaign. The charity raised over $2.8 million in order to influence the campaign, and senior campaign staffers, including Corey Lewandowski illegally assumed control of those charitable funds, according to the suit.

In one significant incident, Trump raised money for the foundation during a January 2016 televised veterans’ fundraiser he held instead of participating in a primary debate. Lewandowski dictated how and when five $100,000 grants would be dispersed to Iowa veterans’ non-profits just days before the Feb. 1, 2016 Iowa caucuses, an alleged violation of state and federal law.

Brad Parscale, the campaign’s digital director, created a website for the fundraiser, while communications director Hope Hicks helped arrange speakers for the event.

As the lawsuit notes, Trump, under penalty of perjury, repeatedly signed IRS 990 forms affirming that the tax-exempt foundation did not carry out political activity. Yet he repeatedly violated these rules, the lawsuit alleges.

In 2013, the foundation donated $25,000 to a political group working to reelect Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The foundation’s annual IRS report listed a donation to a Kansas nonprofit with a similar name, and only admitted to improperly giving money to the Bondi group after the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported on the transaction.

Trump’s staff said that accounting errors led to the donation being made from the foundation rather than from his company.

This alleged improper payment, detailed in the suit, is one of many abuses first surfaced during the 2016 presidential election thanks to Fahrenthold’s tenacious reporting.

These include Trump’s use of the charity’s money to settle legal disputes involving his for-profit businesses. In 2007, Trump used $100,000 of the charity’s money to settle a dispute with the town of Palm Beach over code violations at his Mar-a-Lago club. Five years later, the foundation doled out $158,000 to settle a lawsuit with a man angry that he did not receive a $1 million hole-in-one prize during a tournament at another golf club.

The lawsuit also notes that in May 2016, the foundation contributed to The Mission Continues, a veterans charity that had been established by Eric Greitens, who was then running as a Republican for governor of Missouri. The charity played a role in the recent scandals that forced Greitens to resign as governor: Greitens obtained the charity’s donor list and used it to fundraise for his campaign, potentially a serious campaign finance violation.

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Lawyers representing Michael Cohen in a federal criminal investigation into his financial dealings may soon jump ship, ABC News reported Wednesday.

“A source representing this matter” told ABC that Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison of McDermott, Will & Emery LLP are expected to end their representation of President Trump’s longtime fixer.

Sources also told ABC that Cohen is likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors. If it happens, Cohen’s cooperation could cause problems for Trump.

Shortly after the ABC News report appeared, the Wall Street Journal, too, reported that Cohen’s lawyers were set to leave the case. But the Journal added that Cohen hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll cooperate.

Cohen, Harrison and Ryan did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment. To date, the lawyers haven’t filed anything in court suggesting they plan to end their representation.

Joanna Hendon, the attorney representing Trump in the privilege matter, also did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

This move would come at a very sensitive time for Cohen, who is being investigated for a host of potential financial crimes. Cohen’s lawyers were given a Friday deadline to finish reviewing hundreds of thousands of documents seized from his premises by federal agents to determine which should be covered by attorney-client privilege.

If they miss the deadline, a government “taint” team uninvolved in the Cohen probe will take over the review, per a ruling by Judge Kimba Wood.

Cohen’s team had gone to court to prevent exactly that outcome from occurring, expressing concern that federal prosecutors would not make appropriate privilege designations. Wood and federal prosecutors have countered that the use of a taint team was standard practice in federal criminal investigations and would be capable of carrying out the task.

No replacement counsel for Cohen has yet been identified.

Ryan has been representing Cohen in the federal and congressional investigations into Russia’s election interference since last June, as well as the hush money case involving adult film star Stormy Daniels.

A person familiar with the legal discussions told the New York Times that Ryan’s break with Cohen was primarily related to the payment of his legal bills. The Trump campaign has paid out some $228,000 to McDermott, Will & Emery to cover Cohen’s legal fees, though it’s unclear exactly what legal work those payments funded.

Federal campaign finance law would likely bar the Trump campaign from funding Cohen’s legal defense in a personal matter like the probe into his financial dealings.

This post has been updated.

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Maine voters on Tuesday night reaffirmed that they want to overhaul their state’s elections and move to a ranked-choice system.

The move is likely to increase the national momentum behind ranked-choice voting (RCV), which in recent years has seen a surge of interest amid widespread concerns about election fairness.

By 55 to 44 percent, Mainers approved a ballot referendum that does away with winner-takes-all plurality-style voting in favor of a system that reformers believe gives voters more choice and a stronger voice in selecting candidates who will represent them. Maine will use this system in November’s federal elections.

Under RCV, voters rank all of the candidates in order of preference. The candidate who earns more than 50 percent of the vote wins. If no candidate hits that threshold in the first round, an instant-runoff situation kicks in in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, and those votes are redistributed to the voter’s second choices.

According to the election reform group Fair Vote, which has led the fight for RCV, the system helps restore majority rule by ensuring that “candidates who are opposed by a majority of voters can never win.” Voters’ second-choice picks actually matter, making them feel like they have more of a say in how an election ends up.

Momentum for RCV in Maine grew after Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, was twice elected with under 50 percent of the vote, while more liberal candidates split the vote.

This system is already in effect in 11 U.S. cities including San Francisco and Minneapolis; Maine’s statewide Tuesday election was the first time it was used to select nominees for governor, the U.S. House and legislative offices.

The Pine Tree State passed ranked-choice voting by referendum in November 2016, but the decision got caught up in the state Supreme Court and legislature. It became mired in protracted partisan fights, with Democrats largely supporting the voting system and Republicans opposing it. The citizens’ petition passed this week stemmed from a bill passed by the legislature in October 2017 that called for the passage of a constitutional amendment by December 2021 or a permanent end to use of the system.

LePage was a particularly ardent opponent. Hours before voters went to the polls, he called the system “the most horrific thing in the world” and threatened not to certify the election results.

Democratic Sec. of State Matt Dunlap swiftly shut down LePage’s threats, saying that he, not the governor, is responsible for certifying the results.

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Despite a resounding court defeat last week, a Michigan business group is asking the state’s top court to block a sweeping gerrymandering reform initiative from getting on the November ballot.

And thanks in part to the business group’s largesse in judicial races, there’s reason to think it could yet succeed in killing the reform measure.

Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), which is backed by the state Chamber of Commerce, on Monday filed a request with the state Supreme Court for immediate consideration of its complaint.

The move comes days after the state’s Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that the initiative meets the legal requirements to get on the ballot, and that the CPMC complaint was “without merit.”

The reform measure would take map-drawing responsibilities for congressional and state legislative districts away from the state legislature, which for twenty years has been controlled by Republicans. That has consistently allowed the GOP, which opposes the reform initiative, to win many more seats than its vote share deserves. For instance, in 2012, the GOP won just 45.6 percent of the vote in congressional races, but came away with 9 out of 14 seats.

Maps would instead be drawn by a citizens’ commission composed of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents randomly selected by the secretary of state. They would have to follow “accepted measures of partisan fairness” and avoid granting any one political party “disproportionate advantage.”

The measure’s fate now rests in the hands of the Supreme Court, which has a five to two Republican majority. As Bridge Magazine reported in a detailed investigation, two of the Republican judges up for election this year have received $15,000 each from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce — the same group that has pumped $185,000 into challenging the redistricting measure. The judges, Kurtis Wilder and Elizabeth Clement, also held a joint fundraiser at the Chamber’s headquarters in April. Neither judge has given any indication that they’ll recuse themselves from the redistricting reform case.

The grassroots group behind the reform initiative, Voters Not Politicians, says the new appeal is an attempt to block the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

“Our legal team will be vigorously opposing the latest effort by pro-gerrymandering groups to prevent the Voters Not Politicians proposal from appearing on the November ballot,” Voters Not Politicians executive director Katie Fahey said in a statement. “More than 400,000 registered voters signed petitions supporting a constitutional amendment to establish a fair, independent and transparent citizens redistricting commission to draw district boundaries without political or partisan bias. They deserve to have their voices heard.”

This post has been updated.

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A Justice Department investigation into whether Russians illegally funneled donations to the Trump campaign through the National Rifle Association (NRA) has uncovered a web of contacts between the gun group and allies of Vladimir Putin.

And the NRA still isn’t willing to provide any answers.

As McClatchy reported Monday, the DOJ probe has revealed that NRA executives met with Dmitry Rogozin, at the time a deputy prime minister, and Sergei Rudov, a major philanthropist, during a December 2015 trip to Moscow.

Rogozin was added to the U.S. government sanctions list in 2014 for his direct involvement in overseeing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, raising further questions about the propriety of the NRA’s contacts with him.

Overseeing the 2015 trip was Alexander Torshin, a Putin ally, lifetime NRA member, and former deputy head of Russia’s central bank. McClatchy first reported in January that the FBI was investigating whether Torshin gave money to the NRA in order to boost Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The gun rights giant has denied accepting foreign funds for election-related activities, which is against the law. But it has acknowledged taking in donations from foreign entities for non-political purposes, and has said it moves money between its various accounts as permitted by law.

Finances aside, the NRA’s interactions with Russian entities merit scrutiny, according to experts who study the region.

Anders Aslund, a Russia expert at the Atlantic Council, told TPM it was “impermissible” for the NRA to meet with someone like Rogozin. Aslund described Rogozin as a “hardcore nationalist” and “quite a famous person in Russia,” adding that the NRA executives would surely have known who he was.

The NRA did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment. A spokesman for the group told McClatchy that they had received no contact from the FBI.

Democrats in Congress are also investigating financial links between Russia and the NRA for any possible illegal activity. After exchanging a series of letters with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) the NRA’s general counsel cut off communications in April, saying they had provided all the facts needed to satisfy any “legitimate concerns.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday secured a grand jury indictment of Konstantin Kilimnik, Paul Manafort’s former business associate on his lucrative Ukraine lobbying. The indictment also came with additional charges for Manafort; the two were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice for trying to shape other witnesses’ testimony about their Ukraine work.

Legal experts say the judge overseeing the case likely will agree with Mueller’s June 4 request to revoke Manafort’s current house arrest and send him directly to jail. President Trump complained that, during his campaign, “we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on [Manafort], and he wouldn’t have been hired!”

A new lawsuit filed by Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti alleges that Daniels’ former attorney, Keith Davidson, “colluded” with Cohen by sharing privileged information about his client’s actions and trying to convince her to lie about her alleged affair with Trump. Per the complaint, Davidson served as a “puppet” for Cohen and for Trump, who was aware about the interactions between the two men.

Some of their communications were apparently included in the trove of materials seized from Cohen by federal agents. Special master Barbara Jones announced this week that, so far, only a tiny fraction of the seized materials are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Trump continued to stir the self-pardoning pot, parroting arguments his attorneys made in a letter to Mueller last January about the President’s complete authority to pardon himself. Rudy Giuliani went so far as to say that Trump could have shot James Comey and remained safe from criminal charges while President. The letter also made clear that Trump personally dictated Don Jr.’s misleading statement to The New York Times last summer about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

The Trump administration’s fierce war on leakers has yielded its first scalp: former Senate Intelligence Committee aide James Wolfe, who was charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. According to his indictment, Wolfe provided sensitive information about the committee’s work to several journalists, including one with whom he had an affair. Much of the information Wolfe disclosed involved the committee’s investigation into former Trump aide Carter Page.

The Guardian reported Wednesday that a director of Cambridge Analytica met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in February 2017 to discuss the 2016 U.S. election, and funneled cryptocurrency to Wikileaks.

Simona Mangiante, wife of ex-Trump aide George Papadopoulos, went on a bizarre conservative media tour, publicly begging Trump to pardon her husband. Trump is reportedly preparing paperwork to pardon at least 30 people, and is “obsessed” with pardons.

A number of GOP lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, broke with the President over his claims that an FBI informant who provided information on the Trump campaign to federal investigators was a “spy” installed by the Obama administration.

They also disagreed with the President’s impromptu suggestion that Russia “should be” allowed to rejoin the G-7 summit, a foreign policy negotiating group composed of the world’s leading industrialized nations.

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