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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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The woman who had an affair with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens in 2015 told her then-husband that Greitens slapped her against her will, after she told Greitens she had had sex with her husband.

A lawyer for Greitens strongly denies the claim.

A lawyer for the woman’s ex-husband, as well as Roy Temple, a Missouri Democratic operative, told TPM about the husband’s claims.

Temple told TPM that the woman’s husband had recounted the incident to Temple in September 2016, based on what his wife told him. Temple at that time was the chair of the Missouri Democratic party. Greitens, a Republican, was elected governor in November 2016.

The woman and her husband sought a divorce in March 2016. Temple said the husband told him the incident occurred in early July, 2015.

Al Watkins, a lawyer for the husband, confirmed to TPM in a Thursday phone interview that his client had discussed the slapping allegation in an interview with KMOV, CBS’ St. Louis affiliate. KMOV, which broke the news of the affair, has not broadcast that claim, as of Thursday afternoon.

“My client has asserted that that is what he has been told by his former spouse,” Watkins said. “My client has gone on the record with that statement and I have no reason to believe anything other than the absolute veracity of my client.”

Watkins declined to put TPM in contact with the man. “He is prioritizing his family and navigating a difficult time,” Watkins said.

Calls and texts to a phone number listed online for the woman were not returned. A woman who answered the phone at the salon where the woman works hung up the phone when a TPM reporter identified herself.

TPM is not naming the woman or the husband, out of concern for their family’s privacy.

“Greitens invited her to the Greitens family home and into a guest bedroom,” Temple wrote in an email to TPM, describing what he had been told by the husband. “Before engaging in sex, Greitens asked if she had had sex with anyone since their last encounter. According to the account he gave me, she replied that she had had sex with her husband, at which time Greitens slapped her.”

A lawyer for Greitens denied that he had slapped the woman.

“This allegation is completely false,” the lawyer, Jim Bennett, said in an email. “It never happened. There was never any violence. Anything reported otherwise is untrue and we will explore pursuing all legal action. This was a consensual relationship that lasted multiple months and was years ago before Eric was elected Governor.”

The claims lend a new layer of gravity to the still-unfolding scandal embroiling the governor. Late Wednesday, Greitens admitted in a statement that he had conducted the affair but denied allegations that he blackmailed the woman into silence by taking a nude photo of her while her arms were bound by tape to exercise equipment in his basement.

“All I can tell you as a simple-minded man from the heartland of America, whether it’s extortion or blackmail or neither, it’s fucking disgusting,” Watkins, the man’s attorney, said of the March 2015 photograph incident.

The woman recounted that episode and other details of her relationship with Greitens in a conversation with her then-husband days after it occurred. A recording of that conversation, made by the husband without her knowledge, was among the evidence provided to KMOV to support the husband’s version of events.  

Watkins, the man’s attorney, said in a Thursday radio interview with St. Louis station KMOX that his client had previously declined to come forward out of concern for his family’s privacy. Watkins said he decided to do so after members of the media continued to contact him about the affair and even called one of his young children, leaving the minor in a “position of abject horror about what’s gone on.”  

Missouri state senators from both parties have called for an investigation into the blackmail allegations. Several Democrats have called for Greitens to resign immediately. Greitens reportedly told allies Thursday that he plans to stay in office. 

Though the affair only came to light this week, rumors have swirled about Greitens’ relationship with the woman since before he took office. Temple, the Democratic operative, told TPM he reached out to the man through a mutual close friend to obtain more information in early fall 2016. Over the course of a phone call and two in-person meetings at the man’s home in the first two weeks of September, the man provided Temple with details of the affair, and played him part of the recording describing the blackmail incident.

Temple told TPM that the husband had made “multiple recordings” of his conversations with his then-wife about Greitens because, as the husband put it, he “wasn’t sure that he was getting the full story.”

The recording describing the basement photograph episode is the only one that news outlets had made public by Thursday afternoon.

Asked if he believed more damaging revelations about Greitens had yet to surface, Watkins said he believed that was a “correct statement.”

Referring to Greitens’s admission of an affair, Watkins said: “It is always important when you’re bellying up to the bar, that you belly all the way up to the bar.”

Additional reporting by Tierney Sneed.

This post has been updated.

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A top official on the National Security Council last year proposed withdrawing some U.S. forces from the Baltics in an effort to please Vladimir Putin, the Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

Two former administration officials told the publication that Kevin Harrington, a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump for strategic planning, pitched the plan to remove or reposition some U.S. forces stationed in Eastern Europe in February 2017.

Though Harrington’s proposal never came to fruition, it represented a remarkable pivot from decades of U.S. foreign policy. One former NSC colleague, speaking to the Beast, called it a “gesture to the Kremlin that would enable the nascent Trump administration to see if its desire for a friendly relationship with Russia would be reciprocated.”

U.S. forces have been stationed throughout Europe since the Cold War as a counter-weight to Russia, and were detailed to the Baltics after the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

As the Beast previously reported, Harrington has proposed other measures that would please Putin, such as the easing of sanctions on the Russian oil industry.

Harrington is a former colleague of Trump ally Peter Thiel and of ousted national security adviser Mike Flynn. He managed to retain his high-ranking position on the NSC after Flynn was forced out of the White House.

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on this story »

 

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The former British spy behind an infamous dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia apparently broke off communication with the FBI because of a October 2016 New York Times story claiming that no such ties had been found, according to newly released testimony.

Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, who assembled the dossier based on research by the former spy, Christopher Steele, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Times article made Steele feel “concern about what was going on at the FBI.”

Simpson’s testimony took place in August. An interview transcript was made public Tuesday.

“There was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and we didn’t really understand what was going on,” Simpson testified, calling the Oct. 31 article “a real Halloween special.”

The Times story reported at a critical moment in the 2016 election campign that the FBI had found no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government” during a months-long inquiry. The story has come under fire in light of subsequent reporting, much of it by the Times’ own reporters, detailing contacts between the two.

Simpson testified that the article contradicted Steele and Fusion’s own research into Trump’s connections with Russia.

“Chris was confused and somewhat disturbed and didn’t think he understood the landscape and I think both of us felt like things were happening that we didn’t understand and that we must not know everything about, and therefore, you know, in a situation like that the smart thing to do is stand down,” Simpson said.

Simpson testified that Steele had two previous contacts with the FBI about his findings, one that he initiated in early July 2016, and another in Rome in September 2016 that Simpson said he believed was requested by the bureau.

The Fusion GPS founder said that passing information on to the FBI was not an aim of the initial project investigating Trump’s Russia connections. But Simpson said that Steele felt compelled to do so because of his “grave concern” about his findings.

The full transcript of Simpson’s interview was released Tuesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the committee. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had argued against making it public and referred Steele to the FBI for allegedly lying to federal investigators about his contacts with the media. Grassley said Feinstein’s decision to release the transcript “undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work.”

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Since Donald Trump first stirred crowds on the 2016 campaign trail with calls to “lock up” Hillary Clinton, legal observers have been warning about the dangers of politicizing the U.S. justice system. 

Those fears grew more urgent late last week with the news that the Justice Department has reopened its investigation into allegations of pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation, and is also taking a fresh look at the private email server Clinton used as secretary of state. In addition, two influential Republican senators recommended charges against the author of a dossier alleging ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

There’s no evidence that the White House had a direct hand in any of those actions. But the news comes after frequent calls by Trump for further scrutiny of all three issues, including demanding jail time both for Clinton and for Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide ensnared in the email probe. Trump already has appeared to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions to act in the president’s political interest, frequently attacking the AG for failing to protect Trump from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential Russian collusion.

Taken together, the developments suggest a concerted effort by the Trump administration and its allies to push back against Mueller’s intensifying probe, by marshaling the full power of the federal government against the president’s political opponents. That poses a direct threat to the independence and impartiality of the justice system, former DOJ officials told TPM.

“The fact that the White House has been screaming about the need to investigate these matters undermines the credible belief that this is the result of independent new evidence that’s come somehow to the DOJ’s notice, and not political pressure,” Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who worked closely with Mueller in DOJ’s criminal division, said in reference to the Clinton Foundation and email inquiries.

Some go further, linking last week’s developments with other steps by the Trump administration that seem to undermine the nation’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law. Ken McCallion, a former federal prosecutor and vocal critic of Trump’s ties to Russia, who as a defense lawyer has represented foreign political leaders targeted by authoritarian governments, called the situation “frightening.”

“If we are slowly sliding from a fully democratic country to a more totalitarian, pseudo-democratic one,” said McCallion, “one of the signs of that will be politicization of the decisions of the judicial process.”

The news of the revived Clinton Foundation investigation, which is said to be looking into whether Clinton traded donations to the charity for political favors while serving as secretary of state, has triggered perhaps the most alarm. That’s in part because it was first reported by The Hill’s John Solomon, who has been digging into the foundation for over a decade and whose work has frequently pleased conservatives.

More important, the foundation has already been thoroughly investigated. The federal probe was originally launched in 2015, reportedly in response to allegations leveled in a book by the conservative author Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash, a project that was backed by Steve Bannon. The inquiry went quiet in 2016 to avoid influencing the presidential race and resumed “about a year ago,” according to the Washington Post.

Exactly why the investigation was revived isn’t clear. Investigators in the Little Rock field office, where the charity has offices, are reportedly taking the lead.

No evidence has emerged at any point to indicate that the foundation’s donors received anything of value in return for their donations. Indeed, Clinton Cash’s most sensational claim, that Clinton helped a foundation donor win mining rights in Kazakhstan, have been convincingly debunked

Peter Zeidenberg, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said that without new, credible evidence of wrongdoing, the move to resuscitate the probe “smacks of pure political partisanship,” calling it “really troubling.”

The same day that news of the revived foundation probe emerged, the Daily Beast reported that DOJ also is looking into how Clinton and her aides handled classified material that passed through her private email server. That comes as the five-year statute of limitations for any potential federal felonies committed by Clinton, who left office in early 2013, draws near.

Clinton’s handling of classified information, like the foundation’s dealings with donors, has been exhaustively investigated. James Comey, then the FBI director, announced in July 2016 that a thorough probe had turned up no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Then, shortly before that year’s election, Comey said the bureau had obtained new evidence in the form of emails on Abedin’s computer. That highly unorthodox disclosure appears to have prompted a significant decline in Clinton’s support at a crucial moment. But Comey later said that those emails did not change the bureau’s assessment. 

Ziedenberg called the renewed focus on Clinton’s emails “preposterous.”

“Maybe this is being done for legitimate reasons but for appearance’s sake, it stinks,” Zeidenberg said. “The appearances are awful. The optics are horrible.”

The FBI’s hierarchical nature means that if an investigation originated from the top down, it would be difficult for agents to resist it, a former Obama Justice Department lawyer told TPM.

“You’re going to get people who will follow orders and be angry about it: ‘Okay I’ll investigate this and it’s stupid and it’s a waste of my time and I’ll do it,’” the person said.

“Because it’s a hierarchical organization there’s nobody to say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Attorney General, your judgment is political and I’m shutting this down.’”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment to TPM on the record about the Clinton Foundation and email inquiries.

It’s not only the Justice Department that’s being accused of improperly going to bat for the president. On Friday, in the first criminal referral related to Congress’s Russia investigation, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both members of the Judiciary Committee, announced that they believed Christopher Steele, a British spy who authored a dossier documenting allegedly improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, had lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters. The senators referred the case to the Justice Department for potential prosecution.

Both Grassley and Graham have lately seemed eager to defend the administration in connection with the Russia investigation. Graham has called for a new special counsel to probe alleged anti-Trump bias in the DOJ and FBI.

Democrats on the committee have expressed frustration at not being consulted. McCallion said he couldn’t remember such a referral being made on a partisan basis in his career.

The referrals came after Trump allies spent months attacking the dossier as unreliable and politically motivated, and arguing that its flaws undermine the entire Russia investigation. The president himself has called it “bogus” and lamented that it’s been used “as the basis for going after the Trump campaign.”

In fact, the dossier appears to have played little role in the decision to open the probe, and the FBI appears to believe its findings are credible.

Zeldin said it “doesn’t sit well” that months of witness interviews and the review of tens of thousands of pages of documents by the judiciary committee ended with what he said was essentially a “leak investigation.”

“You’d think if this was a serious concern as opposed to a political distraction, they would’ve made the referral without a public disclosure so as not to interfere with the FBI’s investigative efforts,” Zeldin added.

Sam Thielman contributed reporting.

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Milo Yiannopoulos’ lawyers will no longer represent the far-right provocateur in his $10 million breach-of-contract suit against publishing giant Simon & Schuster.

In a Monday filing in New York State Supreme Court, Stephen Meister and Jeffrey Weingart of Manhattan firm Meister Seelig & Fein formally announced that they were withdrawing as counsel for Yiannopoulos.

In a previous filing, Weingart attributed the split to a “breakdown” in the attorney-client relationship, citing Yiannopoulos’ insistence on “pursuing actions” with which his attorneys had a “fundamental disagreement.” Weingart also cited “irreconcilable differences” between attorney and client which he said he could not expand on because of confidentiality concerns.

Last February, after videos emerged in which Yiannopoulos appeared during an interview to condone pedophilia, Simon & Schuster canceled Yiannopoulos’ $225,000 contract for his autobiography “Dangerous.” Yiannopoulos sued the publisher in July, claiming breach of contract.

In a statement provided to TPM, Yiannopoulos blamed Simon & Schuster’s discovery tactics for the rupture with his lawyers, claiming the publisher tried to shield documents pertinent to his case form him and from the public.

“I will now be representing myself pro se, so I can directly see the material” Yiannopoulos said in the statement. “I look forward to revealing Simon & Schuster’s perfidy in court.”

In late December, Simon & Schuster filed court documents that included the draft of the manuscript turned in by Yiannopoulos, marked up with scathing notes from editor Mitchell Ivers. The documents were offered to explain why the publisher backed out of the project.

In an affidavit, Ivers called the draft “superficial and non-substantive.”

This post has been updated.

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Taylor Michael Wilson, a Missouri man facing federal charges for attempting to derail an Amtrak train last fall, has ties to neo-Nazi groups and had previously expressed interest in “killing black people,” according to court documents unsealed this week. The documents also say Wilson’s cousin told the FBI that Wilson attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last August.

Wilson, 26, was charged in U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Nebraska with an attempt to commit terror against mass transit systems by targeting a train traveling through a rural corner of the state in late October 2017.

According to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Monte Czaplewski, based on interviews with Wilson’s relatives and material obtained from search warrants, Wilson was carrying business cards for two white identity organizations, as well as several weapons, at the time of his arrest.

Wilson’s cousin and former roommate, Andrew Olney, told the FBI that Wilson joined an “‘alt-right’ Neo-Nazi group” that he’d “found researching white supremacy forums on-line,” according to the affidavit. Olney, who lived with Wilson from June to Oct. 2017, said that his cousin traveled to the August white nationalist rally in Charlottesville with members of that unspecified neo-Nazi group, and had expressed an interest in “killing black people,” particularly those involved in the mass anti-police brutality protests in St. Louis.

The FBI searched the cousins’ residence in December after Olney told the FBI that Wilson maintained a large trove of weapons in a hidden compartment behind the refrigerator. They uncovered a tactical vest, 11 AR-15 magazines, “white supremacy documents and paperwork”, a number of handguns, a shield, and a pressure plate, which is commonly used to build Improvised Explosive Devices, according to court documents.

On Oct. 22, 2017, Wilson was headed to his home in St. Charles, Missouri on Amtrak’s California Zypher train when he entered a restricted area and triggered the emergency break, bringing it to an abrupt halt, according to the affidavit. Law enforcement officials called to the scene discovered Wilson in an erratic state, alternately mocking train staffers and threatening them with violence. They found a fully loaded 38-caliber handgun in his front waistband and a fully loaded speedloader in his pocket, in addition to a backpack containing three additional loaded speedloaders, a box of ammunition, a hammer, a knife, wire cutters, and a respirator-style mask, according to the affidavit.

Wilson’s wallet also contained several business cards: one for the National Socialist Movement (NSM), one of the nation’s largest neo-Nazi organizations, and another for Covenant Nation Church, which adheres to the Christian Identity ideology popular in extreme-right circles.

Reached by TPM via phone on Friday, NSM Chief of Staff Butch Urban said Wilson had no formal connection with the group, which has its roots in the original American Nazi Party. Urban said the group maintains internal lists of official members, who must go through background checks and pay dues.

A phone number listed for William Davidson, the Alabama-based preacher listed on the Covenant Nation Church business card, was disconnected. Davidson told FBI agents in an interview that his church is part of the Christian Identity movement and believes that “white people are part of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel,” according to the affidavit.

The Anti-Defamation League describes the Christian Identity movement’s ideology as characterized by “virulent racist and anti-Semitic beliefs” as well as “extreme anti-government sentiments,” noting that its adherents have engaged in “criminal behavior ranging from hate crimes to acts of terrorism.”

FBI agents investigating Wilson in the weeks after his arrest found a wealth of other material confirming his white nationalist and extremist beliefs.

His cell phone featured a white supremacist banner that read “‘Hands up don’t shoot’ is Anti-white fake news — Altright,’” according to the affidavit. It also contained copies of several books providing detailed instructions on how to construct explosives, including “The Anarchist Cookbook” and Kurt Saxon’s “Poor Man’s James Bond Volume 5.”

Though Wilson’s father, Michael D. Wilson, initially denied even knowing the exact location of his son’s home, he eventually turned over some 15 firearms and tactical body armor belonging to his son over to the FBI, per the affidavit.

TPM left a message at the phone number listed for Wilson’s parents’ St. Charles address.

Wilson, who also faces state charges in Nebraska, is currently in federal custody. No name is listed for his attorney in the state case, but a competency evaluation requested by that attorney deemed Wilson capable of facing the charges against him.

Read the full criminal complaint below.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has learned that President Donald Trump took a number of steps to maintain control over the federal Russia investigation, including waging a campaign to keep Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from it, according to a New York Times report published Thursday.

Likely the most significant one: Trump ordered his White House Counsel, Don McGahn, to personally lobby Sessions to retain oversight of the probe, two people familiar with the matter told the Times. McGahn’s efforts were unsuccessful, and the Attorney General, under advice from career Justice Department officials, recused himself in late February.

These efforts on Trump’s part were uncovered as Mueller tries to determine whether the President obstructed justice by trying to derail the federal Russia investigation.

The Times also reported that Mueller’s team also has obtained the initial draft of a memo Trump planned to send to then-FBI Director James Comey, to justify his firing. White House aides stopped Trump from sending that letter, which described the investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated,” according to the Times.

As the Times and other publications have previously reported, Mueller’s team is also examining the false statement the President reportedly dictated about a June 2016 meeting campaign officials and his son Donald Trump Jr. had with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

Finally, the Times reported that days before Trump fired Comey, an aide to Sessions asked a congressional staffer if he had any negative information about the FBI Director, saying the Attorney General wanted one damaging article about Comey to appear in the press daily.

Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores denied to the newspaper that the incident ever happened.

White House special counsel Ty Cobb declined to comment to the Times for the story.

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The 2015 Charleston church massacre and 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville prompted a reckoning with the monuments that still dot the former Confederate States of America, with dozens of municipalities pulling down statues and relocating plaques and flags to museums.

Now two Republican lawmakers want to erect a new monument at the South Carolina statehouse—to African-Americans who fought for the Confederacy. It’s not surprising that they’re running into opposition from historians, who say almost no blacks chose to take up arms for the South. But the project is also at odds with the efforts of white nationalists who, for different reasons, want to ensure the Confederacy is remembered as a white supremacist project.

State Reps. Bill Chumley and Mike Burns told TPM their inspiration came from a group of descendants of African-American Confederate soldiers who reached out to them last October, wanting to construct a monument honoring their ancestors. The lawmakers say their only aim is educating South Carolinians about a forgotten part of their state’s history.

Civil war historians counter that the vast majority of blacks who served in the Confederacy were slaves working as cooks, servants, laborers. A very small number, some historians say, did serve as armed soldiers, but only because they were forced into doing so. They argue the myth of blacks volunteering as soldiers is designed to obfuscate the reality that slavery was the root cause of the conflict.

Meanwhile,  a younger generation of white nationalists proudly acknowledges that the South fought the Civil War to protect and propagate the enslavement of African-Americans. And they have pushed back against efforts to memorialize black Confederates.

“One of the things that this black Confederate narrative is trying to do is paint the Confederacy as a multicultural, progressive experiment in civil rights,” Kevin Levin, author of the forthcoming book “Searching for Black Confederate Soldiers,” told TPM.

“Hardcore white supremacists want to step back and say, ‘Look, the Confederacy was racist, their goal was the preservation of white supremacy and slavery. And they’re actually the ones who are on solid historical ground; they’re the ones that are cutting through the myth.”

In a 2017 blog post, white nationalist Brad Griffin decried so-called “Rainbow Confederates” who engage in “deceptive historical revisionism.” Another leading white nationalist, Matthew Heimbach, has written that the focus on non-white soldiers obscures the fact that the Confederate army believed in maintaining “the superiority of the White race in all affairs.”

Commenters on a recent article posted about the South Carolina monument on white nationalist site American Renaissance mock the effort to honor black soldiers as “tripe” and “cuckservatism at its most absurd.”

The lawmakers behind the proposal, which they pre-filed in December, both voted in 2015 against removing the Confederate battle flag from statehouse grounds. And they admit that they’re trying to advance the largely discredited idea that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights and economic issues, not primarily over slavery.

“It is in part about slavery,” Rep. Burns told TPM of the conflict, “but in fact it’s largely about the 35 percent tariff that was imposed on all goods and services coming in and out of the south in that period. The truth of the matter is that there were thousands of black Confederates serving on the side of the south.”

Burns and Chumley claim it was Walter Curry, a board member of South Carolina’s African-American Chamber of Commerce and great-great-great grandson of the state’s only known female African-American Confederate veteran, who first reached out to them about constructing the monument. Curry did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment. Chumley and Burns said they would release the names of the other black South Carolinian individuals and groups who pitched the monument idea to them next week.

“Whatever the circumstances were, they fought,” Chumley told TPM. “They picked up the cause. That’s what was admirable about it.”

But historians, despite some ongoing disagreement on the number and significance of the role blacks played in the Confederacy, say these sorts of depictions are historically inaccurate, not educational.

John Stauffer, a Harvard University historian who has clashed with Levin over his advocacy for the “symbolic” importance of black Confederates, told TPM that the “statistically insignificant” number who took up arms did so “essentially with a gun to their heads.”

There were a small number of free blacks in cities like New Orleans who outwardly supported the Confederacy to protect the few rights they had, and tens of thousands more enslaved laborers who worked on ironworks, railroads, and as body servants to Confederate officers on the battlefield. But a Confederate law prohibiting blacks from enlisting as soldiers, enacted out of fear that arming African-Americans would foment an uprising, wasn’t repealed until weeks before the conflict ended in 1865.

Stauffer cautioned that public monuments like the one proposed in South Carolina fail to provide this necessary context and are just another way of “purging slavery from the war.”

Scores of websites maintained by modern-day Confederate sympathizers aim to do just that, pushing dubiously-sourced news accounts and images of black men in uniform as proof that African-Americans were valued servicemen. Paul Gramling, Lt. Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told TPM the existence of black Confederates proves that the “reason for that war was money and taxes.” Kirk Lyons, head of the stridently pro-Confederate Southern Legal Resource Center, maintains a Facebook page devoted to those people, and said statues like the one in South Carolina would be a credit to the “contributions” of these “undercounted” supporters of the Confederate government.

The monument proposal has been assigned to the legislature’s judiciary committee, and Chumley and Burns hope to get a hearing to debate it once the body reconvenes next Tuesday.

Advancing the project will be an uphill battle.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Rep. Samuel Rivers, the only black Republican in the Palmetto State’s legislature and a member of the judiciary committee, said a “dicey” new Confederate statue was the wrong way to teach residents about their state’s history.

“I have no desire to continue to go backwards in some continuous battle that has already been won,” Rivers said. “I’m for educating us on what happened, but erecting monuments of over 100 years ago? Let’s move forward.”

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Wednesday’s disbanding of his federal commission on voter fraud won’t stop Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) from pursuing the issue with zeal.

Kobach, an ardent advocate for restrictive voting laws, on Thursday filed criminal charges against two people he alleges cast illegal votes in the 2016 election, according to a report from the Kansas City Star. Kobach is the only secretary of state in the country who has prosecutorial power, thanks to a 2015 bill he championed.

Kobach’s office charged Que J. Fulmer with two counts of voting without being qualified, one count of voting repeatedly, and another of “advance voting unlawful acts” for allegedly voting in Colorado as well as Kansas’ Hamilton County, according to the newspaper.

Bailey Ann McCaughey faces the same charge of voting more than once for allegedly casting ballots in both Colorado and Finney County, Kansas, as well as one count of election perjury, the Star reported.

The news comes less than 24 hours after the controversial voter fraud panel he helped oversee was dismantled via an order from President Donald Trump. The panel was plagued by a series of lawsuits alleging a lack of transparency and violation of privacy protections for requesting voters’ personal information.

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President Donald Trump’s beleaguered voter fraud panel will likely reconvene in January after getting waylaid by some eight federal lawsuits, according to the commission’s leader, Kris Kobach.

“Much of the past few months has been spent by commission staff answering discovery requests for information and drafting affidavits and things that like — going through the legwork of litigation, and that takes time,” Kobach, who serves as Kansas’s secretary of state, told the Topeka Capitol-Journal in an interview. “We have a very small staff in Washington, D.C., and that staff has been bogged down in litigation.”

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law—as well as one of the Democratic members of the panel—have sued the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, alleging a lack of transparency and that the collection of Americans’ personal data violates voters’ privacy.

That litigation has stalled the work of the panel, which has not met since September.

Kobach has been a leader of the effort to gin up concerns about voter fraud and build support for restrictive voting laws. Elections experts say widespread voter fraud doesn’t exist.

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