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.

Articles by

Shortly after Michael Flynn was forced out of the Trump administration, his lawyer pushed out a statement claiming that the ousted national security adviser had “a story to tell.” One top Democratic senator investigating Russia’s election interference thinks he’s already telling it.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a former U.S. attorney and ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism, says the “tea leaves” suggest Flynn is cooperating with the special counsel’s Russia’s probe. He laid out the “signals” in a pair of interviews on CNN and MSNBC this week.

For one, Whitehouse said, Flynn has gone radio silent. He is not speaking with the press and, after requesting immunity in exchange for interviews with congressional committees in March, has refused to testify publicly. Then there’s the rash of subpoenas out of the Eastern District of Virginia for bank records and documents relating to the retired lieutenant general’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group. In Whitehouse’s words, the FBI also has Flynn “dead to rights” on a statement he gave to the FBI in late January about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak. Current and former U.S. officials told the press that he denied discussing sanctions against Russia in that interview with bureau agents—an omission that could have grave consequences.

Whitehouse also noted that Comey testified before his committee that it was “long-standing practice” for cooperating witnesses to clear up any outstanding compliance issues with the federal government. Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent in March for lobbying work he did on behalf of Turkey shortly after leaving the Trump administration, as Whitehouse pointed out.

There is no proof or public indication that Flynn is cooperating with the special counsel. His lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on Tuesday. Flynn has not been charged with a crime, and Kelner has previously denounced what he called “unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo” against Flynn.

Experts on national security law who spoke with TPM said Whitehouse’s “signals” alone are not enough of a basis to assume Flynn’s cooperation.

“There are a lot of reasons he could be going silent, including being smart and having counsel tell him to do so because of his exposure,” Rebecca Lonergan, a former federal prosecutor who handled foreign surveillance cases, told TPM, acknowledging that Whitehouse may possess information that the public does not.

“[Whitehouse] is likely basing this off his understanding of how these investigations unfold and the fact we knew four months ago that Mike Flynn wanted and was willing to speak,” Juliette Kayyem,  a national security analyst who first raised suspicions that Flynn may be cooperating with federal investigators back in March, told TPM.

As Kayyem noted at the time, other Trump allies known to have contacts with Russia, including former campaign adviser Carter Page and the President’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, have agreed to come before congressional committees investigating Russia, but Flynn has not.

There are plenty of reasons why both Flynn and the special counsel would be interested in some sort of cooperation agreement, legal experts told TPM.

“It’s a no-risk proposition for the government to flip someone like Flynn,” Lonergan said.

As a member of the Trump campaign, transition, and administration, Flynn may have information about other Trump associates of interest to prosecutors. Meanwhile, he is the subject of a federal criminal probe and likely eager to reduce any possible charges.

“In most of these complex criminal investigations, deals are offered,” Kayyem told TPM. “And if you thought about who is the most vulnerable link, it’s clearly Mike Flynn.”

Flynn is reportedly under scrutiny for a host of issues ranging from his failure to disclose payments from Russian firms, his lobbying work on behalf of the Turkish government during the campaign, the content of his contacts with Kislyak, and whether he knowingly lied to the FBI about them.

Several of those issues touch on other members of Trump’s inner circle, making him a potential gold mine of information for investigators. Flynn was reportedly present at a December meeting in which Kushner spoke to Kislyak about establishing a secret communications backchannel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin. He also reportedly falsely told Vice President Mike Pence that he did not discuss sanctions during a separate conversation he had with Kislyak during the transition.

Investigators will want to know “who he met with, who knew about it, who advised him to do it, was it an order or an instruction,” said Jon Michaels, a national security law expert at University of California Los Angeles Law School. “Did you kind of go off on your own without their knowledge or direction? What kind of feedback did you relay back to the administration-elect?”

As Phillip Bobbitt, director for the Center for National Security at Columbia University Law School, points out, Flynn “could be the one person” who could implicate Trump and Pence in the Russia investigation.

Bobbitt posited in a May blog post for LawFare that Trump ordered Flynn to talk to Kislyak about lifting sanctions. This directive, Bobbitt says, would explain why the administration kept Flynn on staff for 17 days after the Justice Department warned that he was “compromised with regards to the Russians.”

“If Flynn were to be a prosecution’s witness, he would be able to say whether or not he did in fact lie to the Vice President,” Bobbitt told TPM, or if he was “told to say he lied to the Vice President” as cover.

Bobbitt cautioned that we won’t really know if Flynn has flipped until a witness list comes out, but that given the torrent of leaks about this investigation, the public is likely to see that list soon after Flynn’s own attorney does.

“If Gen. Flynn turns up on it as a witness for the prosecution, that pretty much says it all,” Bobbitt said.

Read More →

Federal investigators are now interested in the role Bijan Kian, co-founder of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s consulting firm, played in their lobbying work, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The report was based on information from an anonymous individual recently interviewed by the FBI, who said that agents from the criminal division asked as many questions about Kian and his involvement with a lobbying contract carried out by the firm that primarily benefitted the Turkish government as they did about Flynn.

Kian was responsible for securing and carrying out that work for Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, as Reuters and the Associated Press have reported. It netted Flynn Intel Group $530,000. Two other sources with knowledge of the probe told Reuters that investigators were looking at whether the payments Flynn and his firm received from foreign clients were lawful and whether they made the proper disclosures with the federal government to perform this work.

Both men retroactively registered as foreign agents for their Turkey lobbying, which involved producing negative public relations materials about an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for a failed coup attempt last summer.

While this contract, and other payments Flynn received from Russian companies, brought President Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser to the attention of federal and congressional investigators, as well as the press, Kian has mostly avoided the spotlight until this month.

TPM previously reported that a Washington, D.C. charity Kian co-founded, the Nowruz Commission, served as one point of contact for him, Flynn, and their Turkish client, Ekim Alptekin, who is a member of the board.

Alptekin has told news outlets that he came to know Kian while the Iranian-American businessman was promoting U.S. business interests abroad while serving on the Export-Import bank.

It is not clear if Kian is himself a target of the criminal federal investigation or if investigators are researching him to get a better sense of Flynn Intel Group’s operations, according to the report. He has retained a lawyer, Robert Trout, to handle the burgeoning probe.

Read More →

The House Intelligence Committee wants to hear from Brad Parscale, who was the digital director for President Donald Trump’s campaign, as part of its ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, CNN reported Friday.

Parscale would be on the list of Trump associates that the committee wants to testify about any connections between the Republican nominee’s campaign and Russian operatives. CNN reported in May that the campaign’s data analytics operation—widely credited with securing Trump’s surprise victory—was being scrutinized by federal investigators. Agents want to know whether Russian intelligence operatives relied on Trump campaign staffers or their data to assist with Russia’s targeted use of social media bots and “fake news” sites to sway American voters, as CNN previously reported.

The role of Jared Kushner, Trump son-in-law and senior adviser, in overseeing that data operation also is under scrutiny in the federal probe.

Parscale told CNN he has not been contacted by either federal or congressional investigators.

The bearded San Antonio-based Trump ally was highlighted in a Bloomberg Politics story shortly before the Election Day, which revealed that he was responsible for handling the campaign’s social media, online fundraising, and polling efforts. Their principal strategy was to push narratives that would suppress Democratic votes, according to the Bloomberg story.

Parscale has remained in the Trump orbit since the campaign. He now serves as digital, social and media adviser for America First Policies, a non-profit organized to promote the Trump White House’s agenda.

Read More →

The circle of people under scrutiny in the various investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election apparently has widened to include Rick Gates (pictured at left), former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s closest ally on the trail.

According to a memo sent out to former campaign officials and obtained by various news outlets, a lawyer for President Donald Trump’s transition team requested the preservation of all documents related to Russia and Ukraine, as well as travel records and all documents connected to a small handful of former campaign officials. Gates’ name was on that list, sandwiched between other Trump allies known to be under federal investigation like Manafort and Michael Flynn, the ousted national security adviser.

Gates told the New York Times on Thursday that he has not been contacted by federal officials. He brushed aside any allegations of personal wrongdoing, telling the newspaper “Everything was done legally and with the approval of our lawyers.”

“Everybody has tried to take these instances of anyone in the Trump orbit doing something in Russia, and then fast-forwarding however many years, and then saying it is evidence of collusion with Russia on the election,” Gates griped to the Times. “It’s totally ridiculous and without merit.”

Manafort and Gates joined the campaign together in spring 2016 to assist with preparations for the Republican National Convention. The duo was tasked with convincing delegates to vote in Trump’s favor, and worked from a box on Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena nicknamed “The Eagle’s Nest”—a reference to a Nazi Party country home gifted to Adolf Hitler, according to a Daily Beast report.

After Manafort was ousted from the campaign over reports that he received off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, Gates hung on, serving as a liaison to the Republican National Committee and assisting Trump donor Thomas Barrack Jr. with preparations for the inauguration. In January, he joined America First Policies, a new pro-Trump outfit organized by the campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, and former surrogate Katrina Pierson. He served there until March, when he reportedly was forced out over concerns about the work he and Manafort undertook in Ukraine.

That work is outlined in detail in the New York Times profile out Friday, which lays out the years Gates has spent as Manafort’s protege. They first crossed paths in 2006 at lobbying firm Davis Manafort, where they worked to bolster the image of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly former president Viktor Yanukovych. As the Times reported last year, Manafort was slated to receive $12.7 million in cash payments in a secret ledger of cash payments maintained by Yanukovych’s political party.

Gates’ name did not appear in that ledger, but he played a key role in seeking investment deals with Kremlin-allied oligarchs across Eastern Europe such as aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska.

Manafort’s financial dealings have been under scrutiny by federal investigators since 2014, and the federal Russia probe now involves agents from the Treasury Department division specializing in money laundering.


Read More →

Michael Cohen, longtime personal attorney to President Donald Trump, has retained his own legal counsel to handle the sprawling probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Cohen has hired Stephen Ryan of Washington, D.C. law firm McDermott, Will & Emery, as NBC News’ Katy Tur first reported Friday and Cohen confirmed to the Washington Post. Much of Ryan’s practice is devoted to trying cases for lobbyists, but he also has experience prosecuting criminal cases and directing investigations into organized crime networks.

The House Intelligence Committee approved subpoenas for Cohen back in May, asking for testimony, personal documents and business records. He said this week that he is scheduled to testify before the panel in early September—an appointment that the committee has not confirmed.

Cohen is a firebrand attorney best known for his colorful defenses of the President on TV and Twitter. As TPM has reported, he has extensive business ties to immigrants from former Soviet republics living in the U.S. and earlier this year helped deliver a Ukrainian lawmaker’s “peace plan” that called for lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia to the desk of Michael Flynn, the ousted national security adviser.

Cohen is only the latest Trump associate to lawyer up as the congressional and federal Russia investigations accelerate.

Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who has also been asked to turn documents over to the House Intelligence Committee, has retained Dennis Vacco, a partner at New York law firm Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, according to the Post. NBC reported that Caputo also has been contacted by the FBI.

News broke Thursday night that Vice President Mike Pence also hired outside legal counsel, Richard Cullen, to assist with queries about the multiple Russia probes. He said Friday that this move was “very routine,” according to a White House pool report.

Read More →

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) warned Friday that President Donald Trump’s tweets were making her “increasingly concerned” that he intends to oust the two officials overseeing the sprawling federal investigation into Russia’s election interference: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the special counsel he appointed, Robert Mueller.

“The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn’t apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired,” Feinstein said in a statement. “That’s undemocratic on its face and a blatant violation of the president’s oath of office.”

Trump has in the past 24 hours written a number of tweets calling the Russia probe a “witch hunt” being carried out by Rosenstein, Mueller and “very bad people.”

Just this morning, in a puzzlingly phrased missive, Trump bemoaned reports that he is under investigation for obstruction of justice after abruptly firing FBI Director James Comey last month. He appeared to blame Rosenstein for this development, writing, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”

Trump reportedly asked Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to write memos justifying Comey’s firing, but later said on national television that he planned to dismiss Comey so regardless of their recommendations, in part because of the “Russia thing.”

Feinstein noted that Trump does not actually have the authority to fire Mueller, and that any effort to appoint a replacement for Rosenstein with an eye toward shutting down the investigation would result in a “rude awakening” for the President.

“Even his staunchest supporters will balk at such a blatant effort to subvert the law,” Feinstein said.

Read her full statement below:

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement on recent statements by the president:

“I’m growing increasingly concerned that the president will attempt to fire not only Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible obstruction of justice, but also Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein who appointed Mueller.

“The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn’t apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired. That’s undemocratic on its face and a blatant violation of the president’s oath of office.

“First of all, the president has no authority to fire Robert Mueller. That authority clearly lies with the attorney general—or in this case, because the attorney general has recused himself, with the deputy attorney general. Rosenstein testified under oath this week that he would not fire Mueller without good cause and that none exists.

“And second, if the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he’s in for a rude awakening. Even his staunchest supporters will balk at such a blatant effort to subvert the law.

“It’s becoming clear to me that the president has embarked on an effort to undermine anyone with the ability to bring any misdeeds to light, be that Congress, the media or the Justice Department. The Senate should not let that happen. We’re a nation of laws that apply equally to everyone, a lesson the president would be wise to learn.”

Read More →

As special counsel Robert Mueller reportedly works to determine whether the President attempted to obstruct justice with regard to the sprawling federal probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, he need look no further than the words of Donald Trump himself.

Trump’s tweets (“Phony collusion with the Russians story”) and public comments (firing his FBI director because of “the Russia thing”) provide a wealth of evidence for the special counsel as he probes why and how the President may have tried to make the Russia investigation disappear.

Mueller “already has the proof that Trump fired Comey because of the Russia investigation,” according to Cornell Law School professor Jens Ohlin.

“Trump just flat-out said it on national television,” he said. “So what would normally be the most difficult part of the investigation is not difficult at all. The whole world has the evidence.”

It’s rare for the reported target of an obstruction of justice investigation to freely provide so much insight into his motives. But even setting aside Trump’s public statements, Mueller would have a staggeringly long list of known fact witnesses and potential fact witnesses to question.

As the Washington Post revealed this week, the obstruction-of-justice inquiry began just days after James Comey was fired as head of the FBI in early May. Mueller took control of that probe after he was named special counsel, according to the Post.

Based on various officials’ sworn testimony before Congress and what’s been reported about Trump’s deliberations around firing Comey, the list of potential witnesses Mueller could speak with run the gamut from top Justice Department and intelligence officials to White House advisers—even Trump’s golf buddies. Here’s who could have valuable information to offer Mueller.

Star witness James Comey

Two private conversations that Trump had with Comey would be central to Mueller’s investigation. As Comey testified in vivid detail last week, the day after national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced out, Trump asked him to linger behind after an intelligence briefing in the Oval Office and told him he hoped the then-FBI director could let the Flynn probe “go.” In a subsequent phone conversation on March 30, Comey says Trump asked what he could do to “lift the cloud” the ongoing Russia investigation created over his administration.

These requests, combined with Trump’s previous appeal for his “loyalty,” did not feel casual, Comey said.

“I took it as a direction,” he testified. “It is the President of the United States, with me alone, saying ‘I hope this.’ I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.”]

Comey kept detailed contemporaneous memos of the one-on-one conversations he had with Trump, which a friend, Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman, reportedly has turned over to Mueller’s office already. The former FBI director testified last week that he documented those conversations out of concern that the President would “lie” about their interactions.

He also testified that he briefed a number of high-level FBI staff about the contents of the memos so that they could corroborate his accounts. Those individuals, who could serve as fact witnesses for Mueller, include Comey’s chief of staff, Jim Rybecki; then-FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe; general counsel James A. Baker’ and McCabe’s chief counsel. According to Comey, some of those debriefing conversations also included David Bowdich, the FBI’s associate deputy director, and Carl Ghattas, the executive assistant director for the national security branch.

Top intelligence officials

Mueller plans to interview a number of senior intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency head Adm. Mike Rogers, and Rogers’ former deputy, Richard Ledgett, as part of the obstruction investigation, according to the Washington Post.

Shortly after Comey first confirmed that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign staffers and Russian operatives, Trump asked Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to stay behind following a March 22 briefing at the White House, according to the Post. Though Coats later testified he never felt pressured to intervene in the Russia investigation, he reportedly told associates at the time that the President had asked if he could convince Comey to lay off an investigation into Flynn.

Days afterward, Trump reportedly called each Coats and Rogers individually to ask that they publicly deny any evidence of collusion—a request they denied.
Ledgett wrote an internal memo documenting Trump’s call with Rogers, according to the Post and the Wall Street Journal. The Journal noted that during that phone conversation, the President cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election.

Attendees at Valentine’s Day briefing

While Trump cornered Comey alone on Feb. 14 to discuss the investigation into Flynn, a number of other senior White House officials can speak to the circumstances surrounding that one-on-one conversation. As Comey testified, he, Vice President Mike Pence, CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, National Counterterrorism Center Director Nick Rasmussen, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, were all present for a counterterrorism briefing.

Comey testified that when Trump asked him to stay behind afterwards, Sessions and Kushner dawdled.

“My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving which is why he was lingering,” he said. “I don’t know Mr. Kushner well but I think he picked up on the same thing.”

Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, also poked his head into the room at one point, according to Comey, before the President waved him away.

Mueller will likely be interested in asking these individuals whether Trump mentioned the Flynn investigation before, during or after that meeting, as well as asking them if they had any insight into why he asked Comey to speak with him alone, legal experts said.

“The particular story with Sessions and Kushner being sent out has to be confirmed by them,” David Golove, a constitutional law expert at New York University, told TPM.

“He might even want to speak to people who were in physical proximity to those rooms who could testify about what people’s reactions were as they were leaving the room, did anyone say anything when they left the room,” Ohlin said, noting administrative staffers like secretaries or schedulers could provide useful insight.

Anyone involved in deliberations over Comey’s firing

Although White House officials have put forth conflicting explanations for Trump’s abrupt dismissal of Comey, Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt that he would have ousted Comey no matter what advice he received and that the “Russia thing” was on his mind when he decided to go through with it. Comey testified that he believed the President’s account: that he was fired to “change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

Legal experts said Mueller will likely want to speak with the White House officials who reportedly deliberated with Trump and offered support for Comey’s ouster, particularly Kushner and Pence. Priebus, Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, White House Counsel Don McGahn, and Trump’s longtime bodyguard-turned-director of Oval Office operations Keith Schiller, who delivered Comey’s termination letter to FBI headquarters, also were among those involved, according to the Post.

Both Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who Trump tasked with writing memos to lay out the case for firing Comey, could also serve as fact witnesses for Mueller. The administration initially used those memos to justify the President’s move before Trump himself publicly blew up that narrative in the interview with Holt.

NatSec officials who heard Trump call Comey a “nut job”

Trump bragged about firing Comey, who he referred to as a “nut job,” to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak, in an Oval Office meeting the day after he made the bold move. Comey’s removal, Trump told the top diplomats, lifted “great pressure” on him created by the federal Russia investigation, according to a New York Times report.

The Times’ story was based on a document summarizing the gathering and the White House did not dispute it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and his deputy, Dina Powell, were all present for the meeting, making them potential fact witnesses.

Other unknown administration officials

The President’s loose lips and the unprecedented leakiness of his administration present another potential problem for Trump, as there is a vast network of White House and administration officials who may be privy to information valuable to Mueller.

These include members of the White House communications team and officials at the DOJ and FBI. The Post spoke to some 30 people for its story on the background of Comey’s firing, indicating just how wide a net could be cast.

A wide network of friends and hangers-on

The final group of potential witnesses includes Trump’s close confidantes from New York City and his various private clubs, who he is known to call up to grouse about his administration’s crisis du jour.

“He frequently calls people who work in the media or friends or former partners of his that he’s relied on for counsel—a kind of eclectic collection of people he considers to be loyal and have good advice,” Ohlin said. “So I’d imagine Mueller would want to speak to them all as well.”

Just this week, Trump ally and Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy kicked off a firestorm by suggesting that the President was considering firing the man now reported to be overseeing the obstruction of justice investigation: Mueller himself.

Read More →

Special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday visited Capitol Hill to discuss ongoing federal and congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election with the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice-Chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) called the meeting “constructive” in a brief statement and said they “look forward to future engagements” with Mueller.

Lawmakers and federal investigators are interested in much of the same information as they look into potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian operatives and try to determine whether anyone in the White House worked to obstruct justice. That information includes detailed memos kept by fired FBI director James Comey about his private conversations with President Donald Trump, which several congressional committees have requested and a friend of Comey’s said he has turned over to the FBI already.

CNN reported that the meeting likely involved “deconfliction,” or how each group of investigators could share information so that they can proceed with their respective probes without getting in each other’s way.

Burr told CNN that Mueller offered “clarity” on the Comey memos, but did not say if his committee would be able to access them or not.

He added that he did not think they would need to meet with Mueller again in person, but that they would get in touch “on any aspects that might bleed over from one [probe] into another.”

Read More →

More and more details are trickling out about James T. Hodgkinson, the man who opened fire on congressional Republicans’ baseball practice early Wednesday morning in Virginia, injuring several people including a member of House leadership.

The FBI confirmed late Wednesday that the 66-year-old Belleville, Illinois resident was the shooter, and that he died of injuries sustained while exchanging gunfire with police officers.

Hodgkinson was licensed to carry a firearm in Illinois, according to MSNBC. He also had a previous criminal history that included assault, according to police and court records.

And he appears to have been a fierce Trump critic and ardent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), according to social media accounts that appear to belong to Hodgkinson.

The FBI said it is actively investigating Hodgkinson’s “associates, whereabouts, social media impressions, and potential motivations.”

Hodgkinson had recently moved to the Alexandria, Virginia area, close to the baseball field were the shooting occurred. The city’s former mayor, Bill Euille, told the Washington Post that he began running into Hodgkinson daily at the local YMCA around “a month and a half ago,” where they would exchange small talk. Hodgkinson told Euille that he was unemployed and looking for work and the former mayor said he appeared to be “living out of the gym bag.”

Here’s everything we know about Hodgkinson so far:

He was on the “really progressive side”

St. Louis resident Charles Orear, 60, told the Washington Post that he met Hodgkinson, who he described as a friend, while volunteering on Sanders’ presidential campaign. In Orear’s account, Hodgkinson was a “quiet guy” who was on the “really progressive side of things.”

“He was this union tradesman, pretty stocky, and we stayed up talking politics,” Orear told the Post, expressing shock at news of the shooting.

“I know he wasn’t happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff,” the suspect’s brother, Michael Hodgkinson, told the New York Times, adding that the shooting struck him as “totally out of the blue.”

Sanders said in a statement from the Senate floor that he was “sickened” by the suspected gunman’s actions and condemns the shooting in “the strongest possible terms.”

In video posted to Twitter by a reporter for local Chicago station WGN-TV, Hodgkinson can be heard lamenting the economic strain experienced by many Americans during a 2011 Occupy Wall Street event in St. Louis.

“The 99 percent are getting pushed around and the 1 percent are just not giving a damn, so we’ve got to speak up for the whole country,” he said in the short interview clip.

A very anti-Trump, pro-Sanders social media presence

Social media accounts that appear to belong to Hodgkinson and a home inspection business that he reportedly ran, JTH Inspections, are full of posts promoting Sanders while criticizing Trump and GOP policies. The FBI was investigating those social media accounts, according to CNN.

One Facebook post from March read, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

He appeared to be a member of Facebook groups including “Terminate the Republican Party” and “Illinois Berners United to Resist Trump.”

Several of the posts that appear to have been written by Hodgkinson also are critical of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is described in one as a “Republican in a Democratic Pant Suit.”

A Twitter account under the handle JTH Inspections showed just four tweets, three of which also referenced either Trump or Sanders.

A prolific letter-to-the-editor writer

The Belleville News-Democrat, a newspaper in Hodgkinson’s hometown, reported that he sent their editor a series of letters criticizing GOP policies. The nine letters, all of which are dated 2012, call for the United States to raise taxes on the rich and rail against deepening income inequality.

“I have never said ‘life sucks,’ only the policies of the Republicans,” Hodgkinson wrote in one Aug. 28, 2012 missive.

Hodgkinson blamed former President George W. Bush for “ruining our economy” and urged Illinois voters to support former President Barack Obama in the presidential election to “get this country back on track.” He was also critical of Fox News and the network’s former anchor Bill O’Reilly, who he accused of promoting biased news.

A history of violent behavior

Hodgkinson apparently had a history of violent behavior. In April 2006 he was arrested on two counts of battery and unlawful damage to a motor vehicle, according to a St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office report obtained by HuffPost.

According to the partially-redacted report, Hodgkinson was attempting to pick up his daughter from an acquaintance’s home and “became violent” when she refused to depart with him. He “grabbed [her] by the hair and pulled her off the floor,” according to the report. Hodgkins also allegedly punched a woman who was at the home “with a closed fist” and aimed a shotgun at that woman’s boyfriend’s “face” when he attempted to intervene, according to the report.

The report states Hodgkinson was arrested at the scene, where police recovered a pocket knife, 12-gauge shotgun and clumps of hair pulled from a woman’s head. The case was later dismissed, court records show.

Clarification: This story originally cited reporting from NBC News that the woman Hodgkinson allegedly assaulted in 2006 was his own girlfriend. NBC has since updated its story to note that “the nature of Hodgkinson’s relationship with the victim is not clear.”

This post has been updated.

Read More →

A friend of former FBI director James Comey has given the bureau copies of memos the ousted intelligence official wrote to document his private conversations with President Donald Trump, Politico reported Tuesday.

According to the report, Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman turned over Comey’s meticulously detailed notes directly to the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the wide-ranging probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including potential obstruction of justice.

Comey testified last week that he asked Richman to provide summaries of some of the memos to reporters out of concern that Trump would “lie” about the nature of their one-on-one interactions. Under oath, Comey said that Trump asked him to swear “loyalty” and to quash an investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. He testified that he believes his firing was a direct result of his handling of the Russia investigation, and said that he passed along the memos with the hope that they would prompt the appointment of a special counsel.

Trump seized on those remarks to label Comey a “leaker” who acted in a “cowardly” and possibly “illegal” manner to get his side of the story out to the media. As many observers have pointed out, Trump had already fired Comey when he shared the memos and they did not include classified information, giving the ousted FBI director free range to share them.

The Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Senate Judiciary Committee and House Oversight Committee have all requested copies of Comey’s memos, per Politico.

Read More →