Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

Articles by

Among the many new questions following former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s guilty plea Friday to lying to the FBI is: Why did he lie in the first place?

By the time Flynn was interviewed by the FBI in late January 2017, his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak had been publicly reported. As Flynn’s guilty plea alleges, other members of Trump’s orbit had not just been aware of the contacts since they happened but had discussed them and even directed them in real time.

Here’s a run down of the sequence of events that makes Flynn’s decision to try to conceal the content of his contacts with Kislyak so mystifying.

We now also know that other people in Trump’s orbit knew about, and even directed, Flynn’s message to Kislyak about the sanctions.

As the Mueller filings detail, before talking to Kislyak, Flynn called a “senior official of the Presidential Transition team” who was with “other senior members” of the team at Mar-A-Lago, and they discussed that the “members of the Presidential Transition team at Mar-A-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.”

And yet by Jan. 24, he made “materially false statements” in a FBI interview about whether he discussed sanctions with Kislyak on a Dec. 29 phone call, among other things. The interview took less than two weeks after Washington Post columnist David Ignatius first reported the call.

Read More →

The public portion of a federal court hearing on the latest legal tussle between the House Intel Committee and the intelligence firm behind the so-called Trump dossier focused on whether a judge can halt a subpoena that the committee had issued on the firm’s bank.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon heard arguments from lawyers representing the firm, Fusion GPS, and House Intel, for nearly an hour, before kicking out the public for the parties to discuss aspects of the case that remain under seal. The main point of contention in the public portion of arguments was whether the court had the authority to block the subpoena — particularly as the bank itself is not objecting to it, but rather Fusion GPS as a third party intervenor.

Read More →

A month after turning himself in for charges he faces connected to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort reached a bail deal with Mueller’s team, according to court documents filed by Manafort’s lawyers Thursday.

Manafort’s lawyers are now seeking for a federal judge to approve of his release under the conditions laid out in the court filing.

Manafort has offered Mueller as bail four of his real estate properties in New York, Virginia, and Floridia, which his lawyers claimed were worth a total of $11.65 million.

Additionally, Manafort and his wife have agreed not to travel internationally, and Manafort would also limit his domestic travel to Florida, Virginia, New York and the District of Columbia. For any additional domestic travel, Manafort would seek the permission of the court, his lawyers said.

Read More →

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress Thursday that the FBI has a “foreign influence” task force to deal with election interference by outside actors.

“I take any effort to interfere with out election system by Russia or any other nation state or non-nation state seriously, because it strikes right at the heart of who we are as a country,” Wray said, in a response to a question about the FBI’s response to Russia’s election meddling by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY). Wray was appearing at a hearing in front of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Read More →

The Democratic National Committee will get the chance to depose Sean Spicer about whether he violated a longstanding legal order barring the Republican National Committee from engaging in poll watching activities, Politico reported.

The order is set to expire at the end of the week, as long as Democrats don’t provide evidence that the RNC had violated the order. The federal judge overseeing the consent order, Michael Vazquez, seemed generally skeptical that they would be able to do so, according to the Politico report on a Wednesday conference call with the case’s parties.

But Vazquez was willing to grant Dems the Spicer deposition due to reports about his presence on a floor of Trump Tower that was the hub of the Trump campaign’s poll monitoring operation on election night. At the time, Spicer was the RNC’s communications director and chief strategist.

For more than three decades, the RNC has been prohibited from engaging in so-called “ballot integrity” activities — including poll watching and making claims to election officials that certain voters are ineligible  — due to the consent order. The order stems from a 1981 election in New Jersey, during which GOP operatives created a “National Ballot Security Task Force” of off-duty cops and other volunteers that Democrats say harassed and intimidated voters, particularly in minority neighborhoods.

The Democrats brought a lawsuit that resulted in the 1982 order, and it has been extended in the past after allegations that the RNC was violating it. However, Democrats’ attempts to extend the consent order during the 2016 election, after President Trump and his allies revved up poll watching talk, failed. The RNC went out of its way to discourage its officials from engaging in any such activities, yet still faced multiple lawsuits leading up to the election.

The consent order applies only to the RNC and the New Jersey Republican Party. Other local GOP and activist groups can engage in their own poll watching. However, voting rights experts  — and even a former RNC chair — have worried that once the order was lifted, that the RNC would engage in the kind of election monitoring activity that would appear to intimidate and suppress minority voters.

According to Politico, the judge on Wednesday indicated it was unlikely that he would grant Democrats any other depositions beyond Spicer’s, but stopped short of saying whether he planned to allow the order to expire on Friday.

“It would seem as though there’s a lot unanswered by the article and a deposition of Mr. Spicer would be able to address those clearly,” he said.

Read More →

President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. is expected to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee next week, CNN reported.

Trump Jr. has become a sought-after figure in the various investigations into Russian election meddling. He was present at a June 2016 meeting with Kremlin-linked figures at Trump Tower — a meeting before which he was told by an intermediary that they would be presenting incriminating information on Hillary Clinton. (Trump Jr. published the email exchange on Twitter, ahead of a story the New York Times was about to drop on it, with a statement that claimed that Russians ultimately did not have any anti-Clinton information to provide at the meeting.).

He also was in contact with the Wikileaks Twitter account via private messages in the fall of 2016, The Atlantic reported.

Read More →

Rick Gates’ side-job producing a handful of D-list films has come back to haunt him in the case brought against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Whether Gates’ Hollywood dealings would attract the attention of Mueller has long been a question and it appears now that they have, as a separate fraud case brought in New York against some of Gates’ film producing associates is now causing Gates problems in his own criminal case.

Read More →

Special Counsel Robert Mueller in mid-October subpoenaed President Trump’s campaign for documents containing Russia-related key words, the Wall Street Journal reported and other outlets since have confirmed.

A source told CNN they were a matter of  “bookkeeping” and “largely perfunctory,” while other outlets also reported them as being described by sources as routine.

Yet, the subpoenas came in a stretch of the Mueller investigation when we now know the special counsel was interviewing top campaign officials and preparing a major release of court filings that would send ripples throughout Washington.

Read More →

Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced Thursday how he will approach blue slips — a procedure that in the theory encourages the White House to collaborate with the Senate on choosing judicial nominees.

In a prepared version of remarks Grassley will make on the floor Thursday, he laid out how his approach fits in with how past leaders of the committee viewed blue slips, even as it was a shift from the approach of his predecessor, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Nonetheless, Democrats are being deprived a tool that Republicans used with abandon to block judicial nominees under President Obama, often for the same reasons that Grassley said he will not tolerate for President Trump’s nominees.

The blue slip is a slip of paper the two senators from the home state of a judicial nominee each turn in ahead of his or her confirmation hearing. Under Leahy and under Grassley during the Obama administration, the nominees would not move forward to a hearing until their home state senators’ blue slips were returned. Eighteen Obama nominees were stalled because Republicans withheld their blue slips, in some cases for nominees that that the home state Republicans had previously recommended.

Many of the vacancies Trump can now fill is due to this pattern of obstruction.

The issue is now coming to a head because Sen. Al Franken (D-MI) has withheld a blue slip for Judge David Stras, nominee to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Grassley said Thursday he will not “allow senators to prevent a Committee hearing for political or ideological reasons.”

He added that if a White House did not “adequately” consult with a senator about a nominee that would be a “be a legitimate reason for withholding a blue slip.”

In Franken’s case, Grassley said that he reviewed the “the records of consultation” and found that the White House had “reached out to” Franken “several times” between January and May about the nomination, and ultimately considered the two alternatives to Stras whom Franken put forward in May.

“I am satisfied that the White House adequately tried to consult with both home-state senators. Therefore, I will not deny Justice Stras a hearing,” Grassley said.

Grassley also announced Thursday he would be moving forward with a hearing for Fifth Circuit nominee Kyle Duncan, for whom Republican Sen. John Kennedy (LA) did not return a positive blue slip but also did not oppose granting a hearing to.

“This is the correct distinction a senator should make when deciding whether to return a blue slip,” he said. “The blue slip is not meant to signify the senator’s ultimate support or opposition to the nominee. It only expresses the senator’s view about whether the nominee should get a hearing.”

He added that he was still more likely to respect withheld blue slips for district court nominees, as opposed to nominees for an appeals court.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the decision “couldn’t be more troubling.”

“There’s only one reason to eliminate the blue slip, and that’s to allow President Trump to completely cut Democrats out of the process of selecting judicial nominees and continue the pattern of selecting nominees far outside the mainstream,” she said.

Read More →

The internal legal battle roiling President Trump’s voter fraud commission escalated Thursday, with the Justice Department rebuffing a Democratic commissioner’s request for certain internal communications. The commissioner in turn asked a federal court to order the commission to turn the documents over.

According to court documents filed by Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D), his attorney was informed by DOJ lawyers representing the commission that internal communications documented in a separate lawsuit were not “part of the substantive or collective work of the Commission,” and thus not subject to disclosure under federal transparency laws. (A copy of the letter the DOJ sent Dunlap is included in the filings).

Read More →