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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.

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The Michigan state Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments over a ballot initiative to reform the state’s redistricting process with an amendment to the state’s constitution. Previous courts have ruled in favor of the letting voters approve or reject the measure in November, but an opposition group largely funded by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce successfully convinced the state Supreme Court, where five of the seven justices are GOP nominees, to review their claims.

Funding for the Election Assistance Commission prompted a shouting match on the House floor last week, when Republicans blocked a Democratic measure to increase funding for the federal commission on the heels of special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury indictment of 12 Russian hackers who, among other things, targeted state and local election infrastructure.

While lawmakers feud over funding election cyber-security, the Justice Department on Thursday unveiled a major cyber-security report that outlined how it is addressing election meddling.

The White House earlier this month announced President Trump’s nominee for a Republican vacancy on the Election Assistance Commission. Trump put forward Donald Palmer on the recommendation of Speaker Paul Ryan. Palmer is a Justice Department alum and former Virginia elections official who is now at the Bipartisan Policy Center. I had a brief tweet storm recapping Palmer’s record, which includes a massive and error-riddled voter purge he oversaw as secretary of Virginia’s Board of Elections.

Speaking of voter purges, the Brennan Center released a must-read report that found notable increases in purge rates after the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision among states and localities that, before the ruling, had to get federal approval for changes to their election policies due to their history of racially discriminatory policies.

And Slate’s Mark Stern had a great report on how North Carolina Republicans’ attempt to tilt a state Supreme Court election in their direction, by canceling the primary for it, may have backfired now that a second Republican has jumped into the race.

By a party line vote, the Senate confirmed a Trump judicial nominee whose record on voting rights has prompted concern among civil rights activists. Andrew Oldham — who before his current role as general counsel for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), was deputy solicitor general for the state — defended Texas’ voter ID law, which was so extreme that even the very conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against it in its original form.

A poll released last week by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic illuminates the racial discrepancies among how Americans experience voting, and, more specifically, voting restrictions. African Americans and Latinos are both three times as likely as white voters to know someone who has been turned away from a polling place because he or she lacked a required ID. It’s not surprising then that 60 percent of Latinos and 62 percent of African-Americans worry about being denied the right to vote, compared to only 27 percent of white Americans who had the same concern.

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A statement by the Trump campaign, just before the 2016 election, that it was unaware of payments to a Playboy model claiming to have had an affair with Donald Trump was blown up Friday with the revelation of a tape recording of a conversation between Trump and his attorney discussing paying the woman.

When the Wall Street Journal reported on November 4, 2016 that National Enquirer had sought to quiet the model, Karen McDougal, by buying the rights to her story and never running it, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied both Trump’s affair and his knowledge about the payments.

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Among the changes in the voting rights landscape after a 2013 Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act was an uptick in voter purges in states and localities that, before the ruling, had to get federal approval for changes to their elections policies, a new report from the Brennan Center said.

The decision, Shelby County v. Holder, ushered in a slew of voting restrictions passed by the states that previously had to go through a so-called “preclearance” process, where a federal judge or the Justice Department had to OK their election policies, due to their history of racially discriminatory voting laws.

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A Microsoft executive, speaking Thursday on a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival, revealed that at least three candidates running in 2018 have been targeted by the same Russian intel agency behind the cyberatttacks on Democratic emails and systems in 2016, Buzzfeed reported.

Microsoft vice president for customer security and trust Tom Burt did not identify the candidates or their parties, according to Buzzfeed, but said that they were “all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint, as well as an election disruption standpoint.”

According to Buzzfeed, he said that Microsoft analysts uncovered a spearphishing campaign targeting the three candidates that linked back to a group believed to be run by the intel agency, the GRU.

Last Friday, a federal grand jury handed down charges against 12 Russians accused of the infiltrating the emails and systems of Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Hillary Clinton campaign,  including Clinton chairman John Podesta. The emails were released on Wikileaks and through two other websites that, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment, were fronts for the GRU hacking effort.

President Trump — on the heels of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin where he cast doubt on the intel community’s assessment that Russia was behind the 2016 hack —was asked by a reporter Wednesday if Russia was still targeting the United States. Trump appeared to answer “no,” but the White House has since argued that the “no” was not in response to the reporter’s question.

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Among the exhibits special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors might present at the Virginia trial for Paul Manafort, which is set to begin next week, are photos of a putting green at his Hamptons home, records pertaining to the $1 million he allegedly spent on antique rugs, his Yankees season tickets, and emails among his associates about his work in Ukraine.

Mueller’s team Wednesday submitted its exhibit list for the trial. It reads like a recap of Manafort’s allegedly lavish lifestyle that was described in the grand jury indictments handed down in D.C. and Virginia.

In the Virginia case, the former Trump campaign chairman is facing charges of tax fraud and bank fraud — fraud Mueller has alleged continued through 2016. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

Read the exhibit list below:

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If the Supreme Court wants to start dismantling Roe v. Wade, it can begin almost immediately after Justice Anthony Kennedy’s successor is confirmed, which means abortion rights groups are girding for political and legal battle across dozens of states unlike anything seen in the last 45 years.

The retirement of Kennedy this month is the biggest threat in decades to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. As President Trump himself promised during the campaign, the “pro-life” justices he would choose could lead to a Roe reversal “automatically.” There are indications that appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s choice for Kennedy’s seat, fits this mold.

If the Supreme Court was feeling bold, it could use any abortion case to overturn Roe and say that abortion is not a right enshrined into the Constitution. A number of states have so-called “trigger laws” that would ban or severely curtail abortion immediately if Roe was reversed.

Or the Supreme Court could take a more incremental approach, not reversing Roe outright, but giving states wider and wider latitude to impose restrictions on the procedure, until it is simply inaccessible for millions of women in red states, and particularly those of lower income status.

Regardless, what had been a deliberate and strategic battle by abortion opponents aiming narrowly at Kennedy’s vote is about to expand to an all-out war, and they are already well poised to take it to the Supreme Court’s doorstep.

Abortion law experts estimate that there are some four dozen abortion cases already in the legal pipeline, and more than a dozen of them at the appeals court stage.

“Anyone who cares about abortion rights should be watching every single case that’s in the federal courts right now,” David Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University, told TPM.

Gestational Bans

If the Supreme Court wants to take on Roe in the starkest of terms, there are plenty of states willing to send up bans on abortion very early in the pregnancy that would allow the court to do so.

Case Western University Law Professor Jessie Hill, who’s litigated cases in favor of abortion rights, pointed to fetal heartbeat abortion bans, which she said are “meant to be direct challenges to Roe v. Wade.”

Such prohibitions on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected typically fall around six weeks in the pregnancy, which for many women is before they know they’re even pregnant.

A judge just last month temporarily blocked Iowa’s fetal heartbeat six-week abortion ban that was passed by the state in early May. Previously, North Dakota in 2013 passed a six-week ban that was struck down by courts.

Other states have sought to ban abortions at 12 weeks in laws that were later rejected by courts, while many states have passed 20-week abortion bans — meant to bait Kennedy into an anti-abortion ruling —  though abortion rights proponents have been less inclined to bring lawsuits challenging those.

A similarly bold approach would be to send up to the Supreme Court so-called “personhood” laws, which seek to give fetuses from the moment of conception the same legal rights as persons.

Such a bill was introduced just this year in Ohio, where the legislation would have banned abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. Other states have tried and failed to get personhood measures on the books, or have seen their personhood measures struck down by courts.

Method bans

States have shown a willingness to ban abortions based on the method being used, rather than by the gestational point of pregnancy. Such an approach, depending on the law, would have the effect of banning abortion in a large number of cases.

A dilation and evacuation ban — commonly referred to as a “D and E” ban — is one such example. The method is extremely common after 12 weeks of pregnancy, and for a large part of the second trimester there would “no other method available,” according to Elizabeth Nash, an expert on state policy for the Guttmacher Institute.

“That’s a really big conflict with Roe,” she said.

Alabama’s D and E ban was ruled unconstitutional last year by a federal judge, as was Texas‘.

“That is the only way you can get an abortion in Alabama,” Jennifer Dalven, director of ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told TPM. “You can call it a method ban, but in essence its the same as a 15-week-ban.”

Alabama’s case is a little farther along procedurally — an appeals court heard arguments on the law earlier this year, while Texas’ appeals court arguments aren’t yet scheduled — but both are not far off from Supreme Court’s potential consideration. Mississippi’s version of the law was temporarily blocked by a judge this year, and other states have sought to outlaw the procedure.

Reason Bans

Bans targeting certain reasons that women seek an abortion may not ban the procedure outright, but if sanctioned by the Supreme Court could open the floodgates for politicians to determine why a woman can or cannot end her pregnancy.

“It’s no longer the woman’s decision based on her reasons,” Dalven said. “It would give the politicians the ability to say, ‘These reasons I approve of and you can have abortion, but other reasons are not acceptable.’”

An Indiana law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2016 that prohibits abortions sought due to a potential disability detected in the fetus was ruled unconstitutional by an appeals court in April. The deadline for that decision to be appealed to the Supreme Court is in September.

Ohio has a similar case, stemming from a 2017 law banning abortions after prenatal test indicating a likelihood of Down syndrome, that it is appealing to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after a district court temporarily blocked it this spring.

Clinic Restrictions

Justice Kennedy gave liberals a key fifth vote in striking down overly cumbersome clinic regulations in the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which established that a “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion” was an undue burden on abortion.

The decision was key in instructing courts to weigh evidence that the clinic restrictions —  often called “targeted regulation of abortion providers” or TRAP laws — would actually further women’s health against evidence that the restrictions sought to impede access to the procedure.

There are multiple cases percolating, including in Indiana, Texas and Virginia, that would allow the Supreme Court to revisit that standard, now that the liberal block has lost Kennedy’s vote.

“Because there is so much room for interpretation about what Whole Woman’s Heath does and doesn’t require, that’s a whole area that the court could just easily change direction on without overruling Roe and without looking like it’s doing anything too radical,” Hill said.

While the strategy might look like a more moderated approach, it could still have devastating affects on women’s access to the procedure, particularly among lower income women.

An appeals court last year sided with Arkansas in one such case, where the state is defending its requirement that medication abortion providers have admitting privileges with hospitals. (Admitting privileges were among the Texas regulations struck down in Whole Woman’s Health). The Supreme Court in May declined an opportunity to take up the case — where the law stands to close two of the Alabama’s three clinics — while the lawsuit continues at the lower court level.

In other cases, according to Nash, states are seeking to get around Whole Woman’s Health by arguing that the issue is fetal health, rather than the woman’s health, which was the focus of the 2016 case.

Another subset of TRAP laws gaining momentum are fetal tissue disposal regulations requiring burials or cremations of the tissue. Such a requirement is currently being litigated in Texas — where a trial is underway — and was also among the provisions in the Indiana law struck down earlier this year.

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U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Wednesday denied former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s request that evidence obtained from a July raid on his Virginia residence be thrown out for the upcoming trial.

“Given the nature of the investigation, the warrant was not too broad in scope,” Jackson said in her opinion, while also rejecting specifically the arguments Manafort made about the material sought on Manafort’s electronic devices.

“And, even if the Court could find fault with the warrant application if it were reviewing it in the first instance, the agents relied in good faith on a warrant signed by a United States Magistrate Judge,” she said.

Manafort lost a similar request he made in his case in Virginia, and in both cases he has been denied requests that evidence from a search of his storage unit be thrown out. He is facing charges of money laundering, failure to disclose foreign lobbying, bank fraud and tax fraud. He has pleaded not guilty. The trial in Virginia begins next week, and his D.C. case is scheduled for trial in September.

Read Jackson’s opinion on the residence search evidence below:

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A federal magistrate in Washington D.C. Wednesday ordered Mariia Butina held in detention until her trial on charges of failing to register as an agent of Russia and conspiring against the United States.

Butina also pleaded not guilty during the preliminary hearing. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in the nation’s capital Tuesday following her arrest there Sunday.

Federal prosecutors argued that Butina was an “extreme flight risk” who should not be allowed to go free pending trial. The government, represented by Erik Kerenson, argued in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson that if Butina went to a Russian embassy or was picked by a diplomatic car, there would be nothing law enforcement could do about it, and Russia also could legally provide her with a passport that would allow her to leaved the country.

Butina, represented by Robert Driscoll, was seeking to be released on bail, and contended that she had already been cooperating with various inquiries prior to her arrest.

After the hearing, Driscoll told reporters that he respected but disagreed with the court’s order.

“She’s been aware of a criminal investigation into her conduct for months and made no attempt to flee, nor has the government, which has had her under surveillance for the entire time, alleged that she has,” he said. “We remain confident that she will prevail in this case”

Driscoll told the court that she had been contacted by the Senate Intelligence Committee in the fall of 2017 and testified before the committee for eight hours in April behind closed doors. She also provided the committee with some 8,000 pages of documents, Driscoll said.

Driscoll also revealed that that in March 2018 the Federal Election Commission inquired with her about certain contributions.

FBI agents searched Butina’s residence on April 25, Driscoll said, adding that she and her attorneys were present for the search.

He said that her attorneys then reached out to the U.S. Attorney in South Dakota, which was referenced in the search warrants for her home, to offer them information.

Kerenson countered this claim by arguing that Butina’s offer was to assist in a fraud investigation into an individual referred to in court docs as U.S. person 1. To his knowledge, he said she was never told that she was the subject of the investigation.

U.S person 1 is, based on corroborating details, believed to be Paul Erickson, a South Dakota-based longtime GOP operative. Later in the hearing Driscoll referenced that Butina’s boyfriend lived in South Dakota, and that Butina this summer planned to move with him.

Kerenson’s presentation to the judge went through some of the details in a motion the government filed ahead of the hearing, but he also made new claims about her activities in the U.S. He said it was “absurd” for her attorneys to claim she was simply in the United States as a student.

He recounted an alleged December 2014 text exchange Butina had with whom Kerenson desribed as a wealthy Russian businessman. The businessman told Butina that he wanted her to work in the United States, according to the prosecutor, “not go on a tourist trip.”

He described alleged notes found on a thumb drive obtained at U.S. Person 1’s residence, under a folder titled “Maria Butina” that referenced laying a “groundwork,” according to Kerenson, to influence high-level politicians.

Kerenson presented a photo, referenced in the court docs and exhibited for the courtroom, of Butina with a male individual he described as a suspected Russian intel operative. Driscoll argued that Butina was unaware of the individual’s ties to the FSB, Russia’s security agency, and said that they were simply two Russian nationals sharing a meal.

After Driscoll claimed that there was no evidence that Butina had ever visited the Russian embassy or been in a diplomatic car, Kerenson alleged the existence of a photograph of Butina with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Driscoll argued that Kislyak was already the former ambassador when the photograph, at a movie screening at a Russian cultural center, was taken.

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Lawyers for Andrew Miller, a former Roger Stone aide who is fighting a grand jury subpoena in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, as well as at least five attorneys from Mueller’s team spent nearly an hour and a half Wednesday in the D.C. courtroom of Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell.

The two defense attorneys, when exiting the courtroom at a little before 11 a.m. ET, confirmed they were representing Miller but would not say anything more about what happened behind closed doors or why they were there.

They had entered Howell’s courtroom around 9:30 a.m. ET, a few minutes after a handful of Mueller prosecutors entered the courtroom. Reporters were not allowed to enter the closed courtroom.

Among the members of Mueller’s team TPM spotted were Michael Dreeben, Elizabeth Prelogar and Adam Jed.

Miller’s attorneys had last month sought to quash the subpoena, Politico reported. His appearance in front of Mueller’s grand jury was postponed, according to the Politico report, with lawyers from Mueller’s team offering Miller’s attorneys potential dates for hearings in front of Howell. One hearing would be on whether Miller’s motion to squash was timely, according to Politico, and the other on its merits.

It is not clear whether Wednesday’s closed-door proceeding was either of those hearings, or about something else.

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U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis on Tuesday denied a request by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to move his upcoming trial away from Alexandria — a Virginia suburb of D.C. — and to Roanoke, Virginia, about a four hour drive away.

The trial, where Manafort is facing charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller of tax fraud and bank fraud, is scheduled to begin in Alexandria next week.

Ellis, in his eight-page order, rejected Manafort’s argument that the D.C. media frenzy around his case, as well as Alexandria’s education level and political leanings, make it more likely that a jury pool would be biased against him.

Ellis noted that the jury would be selected from geographic area covering 3 million people, and that the media attention on the case was national in nature, rather than specific to the Northern Virginia area. The judge also said that “jurors’ political leanings are not, by themselves, evidence that those jurors cannot fairly and impartially consider the evidence presented and apply the law as instructed by the Court.”

Read the judge’s order below:

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