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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A federal judge on Wednesday considered a request from Rick Gates’ attorneys to withdraw from representing him. The hearing was under seal — meaning neither the public nor the press could sit in on it — and afterward, Gates’ attorneys indicated that they were still under gag order, so they could not say what had happened.

The hearing, which lasted about an hour, came amid speculation that Gates is switching up his legal team, perhaps in effort to come to a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Last month, CNN reported that Tom Green, of the Washington, D.C. firm Sidley Austin, had been quietly brought on and was seen at Mueller’s office multiple times. The CNN report suggested his addition to the team was a sign that Gates may be negotiating with Mueller.

Green was not spotted entering the hearing Wednesday. Rather, three attorneys seeking to quit Gates’ legal team attended, as well prosecutors on Mueller’s team and Gates himself.

Gates, a former Trump campaign aide, is facing charges of money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose foreign lobbying. Paul Manafort, a Gates business partner and Trump’s former champaign chair, was also charged in Mueller’s probe. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Last week, three attorneys that have been representing Gates filed a motion to withdraw from their representation of him. Their reasons were filed under seal because they involve “highly sensitive matters concerning the Defendant and public disclosure of the information would potentially be prejudicial to the Defendant,” according to their filing.

After Wednesday’s hearing, an entry was added to the case’s public docket that said that U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson had heard the matter and that motion to withdraw was “taken under advisement.”

Update: This story has been updated to include a docket entry filed after the hearing.

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The top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee said that Steve Bannon should face contempt hearings if he continued to refuse to answer all of the committee’s questions. In a statement, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the committee was “united on this matter.”

Schiff’s statement also accused the White House of blocking Bannon’s testimony, alleging that Bannon’s lawyer informed the committee that he would only answer “a set of fourteen yes-or-no questions the White House had pre-approved” regarding the presidential transition, Bannon’s tenure in the White House and Bannon’s conversations with President Trump after he left.

Bannon’s initial appearance in front of the House Intel Committee last month devolved into confusion when he, apparently upon instructions from the White House, declined to answer any questions covering the time after the 2016 campaign. His refusal prompted the committee to serve him a subpoena on the spot — a rare moment of bipartisanship for an investigation typically wracked with acrimony.

As they came out of a committee meeting on Monday evening, House Intel Democrats and Republicans alike said they expected Bannon to show up Tuesday morning and comply with their subpoena.

“We have all the tools that the House has to enforce subpoenas and we’ll take the steps necessary,” Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), a Republican leader of the Russia probe, said. “I expect him to be here.”

However, later that evening it was reported that Bannon would be a no-show. The interview, according to Schiff and other lawmakers, has now been rescheduled for next week.

Meanwhile, Bannon is also planning to be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, during which he reportedly intends to answer anything Mueller asks of him.

“Testifying before the Special Counsel does not obviate Mr. Bannon’s obligations under the subpoena issued by the Committee,” Schiff said. “Should Bannon maintain his refusal to return and testify fully to all questions, the Committee should begin contempt proceedings to compel his testimony.”

Neither the White House nor Bannon’s attorney responded to TPM’s requests for comment.

Read the full Schiff statement below:

“This week, Steve Bannon’s counsel informed the Committee that the White House continues to prohibit Mr. Bannon from testifying to the Committee beyond a set of fourteen yes-or-no questions the White House had pre-approved. The White House’s bar on Bannon’s testimony covers matters during the transition, his tenure at the White House, and his communications with the President since leaving government service, even though the President has not in fact invoked executive privilege.

“This is unacceptable, and the Committee remains united on this matter – the Committee’s subpoena remains in effect and his interview has been rescheduled for next week. Testifying before the Special Counsel does not obviate Mr. Bannon’s obligations under the subpoena issued by the Committee. Should Bannon maintain his refusal to return and testify fully to all questions, the Committee should begin contempt proceedings to compel his testimony.”

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Days after a widely debunked GOP intelligence memo attacking the FBI became public, the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Monday to release a Democratic rebuttal to the Republican memo, sending it over to the White House for President Trump to approve of its publication.

“The majority found themselves in an insupportable position when they released a misleading memo and refused to release the Democratic response,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the committee, told reporters after the closed-door vote. “I think they were compelled to take the action they took today. And we think this will be very useful information for the American people to see.”

Democrats had claimed that the Republican memo, which alleged FBI misconduct in its Russia investigation, was misleading, and thus sought to assemble its own report based on the underlying intelligence that they say will add needed context.

Republicans on the Intel Committee last week blocked a Democratic move to release both memos at the same time, but had signaled that they were open to releasing the Dem memo once it went through the same process of classification review that the Republican memo did.

An open question is whether Trump will greenlight the Democratic memo the way he rubber stamped the Republican memo.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), a Republican who has been a leader of the Russia probe, said he was in favor Trump releasing the memo, while other Republicans on the committee were less committal one way or the other.

Earlier Monday, Trump tweeted the Democratic ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff had “illegally leak[ed] confidential information,” which some took as a hint that the President did not approve of the Dems’ memo’s release.

He has not read Schiff’s memo yet. Before he had read the Republican memo, however, he was picked up on a hot mic telling a lawmaker he “100 percent” supported its release. The Republican memo was written by staff of House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes, based on classified intelligence material the Justice Department turned over to the committee.

Republicans on this and other committees have amped up their attacks of the FBI, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation appears have been gaining traction and has already resulted in charges brought against four people associated with Trump or his campaign.

Schiff also said during Monday’s committee meeting, Nunes was asked again, as he was last week, about any coordination with the White House in their push to release the memo. Schiff said Nunes avoided answering the question directly and instead read a “very lawyerly” written response, “saying that the White House had not been involved in the actual drafting of the memo.”

“But in terms of whether it was coordinated with the White House, they were consulted or strategized, the whole concept, he refused to answer those questions,” Schiff said

Republicans have sworn that their memo was not an effort to undermine Mueller, but Trump himself undercut that point by tweeting that it “vindicates” him.

The dueling memos represented an unprecedented politicization of classified intelligence material, and particularly the FISA process by which the U.S. government seeks warrants to surveil U.S. citizens through a highly secretive court.

Prior to the Republican memo’s release, the Justice Department and the FBI very publicly objected to the publication of it. Schiff on Monday said the Democrats had already provided for the Justice Department their memo, and that they welcomed the Department’s vetting to protect sources and methods.

However, Schiff said that that he would also be seeking an explanation for any redactions made at the next step of the process, in case the White House seeks to include redactions for “political purposes.”

The Republican memo alleged that the FBI misled the FISA judge — or possibly, multiple FISA judges — by failing to fully describe who was behind the financing of research by ex-British spy Christopher Steele that they said was an “essential” part of the warrant to surveil Carter Page, a former advisor on the  Trump campaign. Steele’s research was funded by the DNC and the Clinton campaign through intermediaries.

It has since been reported that the FBI had suggested in its Page warrant that Steele’s research was politically motivated.

Dems have also objected to how the GOP memo describes committee testimony from retiring FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, during which (in Republicans’ words) “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the [The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] without the Steele dossier information.”

Outside FISA experts have been extremely skeptical, if not outright incredulous, the FBI would have based its Page warrant solely on Steele’s research.

The process GOP lawmakers used to release their memo was extremely obscure. After voting to let the full House of Representatives to view it last month, their vote last Monday sent it to the President, to give him the opportunity to object to releasing it.

Trump instead sought to declassify it in its entirety without any redactions.  Had he not, Republicans would have had the option of reading it from the House floor or into the congressional record, as a way of publicizing its contents.

“What will we do if the White House essentially redacts to protect itself or refuses to release? I think it’s going to be very hard for the White House, like it was hard for the Republicans on the committee, to block release of this. I am more concerned that they make political redactions,” Schiff said.

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Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is still going hard after Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who compiled the so-called Trump dossier.

After referring Steele to the Justice Department last month for criminal prosecution, Grassley was back at it Monday, publicly releasing a heavily redacted version of a memo alleging that Steele materially misled the FBI about his contacts with the media.

Grassley released his memo, which he sent Justice Department last month with the criminal referral for Steele, after receiving permission from the FBI to do so, with redactions. He unveiled it Monday alongside a letter to the Justice Department seeking that the department declassify the material redacted in the memo.

“The government should not be blotting out information that it admits isn’t secret, and it should not take dramatic steps by Congress and the White House to get answers that the American people are demanding,” Grassley said in a press release accompanying the memo and the letter.

Grassley’s desire to release a memo impugning Steele echoes the efforts of House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes, whose widely-debunked memo released last week alleged the FBI misled a surveillance court about its use of Steele’s research in a Russia probe FISA application.

With the redactions, it’s hard to make out exactly what Grassley is accusing Steele of. However, the unredacted portions of his memo reference fall 2016 media reports on Steele’s work, as well as statements Steele has made in a British lawsuits about his media contacts during that period.

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A memo written by the staff of House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) accuses the Justice Department of a “troubling breakdown” in the process it used to secure a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign advisor. But the memo omits sourcing for many of the claims it makes, casting doubt on some of its key assertions.

The memo was released Friday afternoon after being declassified by President Trump.

Democrats have argued that the GOP cherry-picked information from classified documents the Justice Department turned over to the committee. The FBI has also said the memo was misleading and inaccurate, making Trump’s decision to release it a major confrontation with his own agency.

As had been reported before its release, the memo focuses on a warrant, known as a FISA warrant, that the Justice Department sought in order to surveil former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page, after he left the campaign in the fall of 2016. It links the warrant to the dossier put together by ex-British spy Christopher Steele, as part of an oppo-research project into Trump funded at the time by the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

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Three attorneys representing former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates in charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller are seeking to withdraw from representing him, in a motion filed Thursday.

However, it is unclear why they have sought to quit. Their motion says that their reasons to withdraw “immediately” are listed in an exhibit that they have sought to file under seal.

The three attorneys quitting Gates’ legal team are Shanlon Wu, Walter Mack and Annemarie McAvoy.

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Since Monday, when the House Intel Committee voted to send Chairman Devin Nunes’ anti-FBI memo to the White House where it would be considered for public release, it’s been widely assumed President Trump would not be inclined to block it. This was seemingly confirmed when a hot mic picked him up telling a GOP lawmaker after the State of the Union that he was “100 percent” on board a releasing of the memo.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still questions about its path to publication.

How the memo is released will likely affect when the memo is released, and could also determine how much flexibility others will have in discussing its claims. The memo is said to accuse the FBI of abusing the process known as FISA to seek a surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign associate Carter Page. Democrats and even the FBI have warned that it is misleading and inaccurate, but because the underlying intelligence is classified, it will be difficult for legislators or the FBI to provide the public with a full rebuttal.

Trump could choose to declassify the memo — either with additional redactions, or as is — which would give a little bit more wiggle room for lawmakers — and perhaps the FBI — to discuss its claims. Once it’s declassified the White House could release it directly, or could send it back over to the House to release, NBC News reported.

Or he could signal that he has no objection to Congress releasing it, but leave the matter entirely in the House’s hands. In that scenario, the House of Representatives would release it by reading it from the House floor or into the congressional record, according to NBC News’s Mike Memoli. That process would have to wait for when Congress is back in session — likely not until Monday at the earliest.

On MSNBC Thursday afternoon, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a Republican on the House Intelligence committee who supports the memo’s release, said he would very much prefer for the President to go through a declassification process.

“We need the President to actually declassify the document because imagine this: If it’s just released publicly, you can actually read it for yourself. I can stand here in front of the cameras, and because it actually still maintains its classification — even though it might be all over the internet — I still can’t talk about the contents,” he said.

Comments by a senior administration to the White House pool reporter on Air Force One did not make entirely clear which route the President would take, but the official said that the President would let Congress know he’s OK with its release, “probably tomorrow.”

“The President is OK with it,” the official said, according to the pool report. “I doubt there will be any redactions. It’s in Congress’ hands after that.”

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has shed light on what may be driving the Trump administration’s push to ask about citizenship in the 2020 Census.

In an op-ed written for Breitbart, Kobach endorses an approach to drawing voting districts in a way that would undermine the political power of immigrant-heavy communities. That approach, which culminated in a 2016 Supreme Court case, emerges from decades-old conservative opposition to the priniciple of “one person, one vote.”

Kobach, a Republican who led President Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission, is known for pushing restrictive voting laws.

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The Democratic National Committee, in a court filing Wednesday, indicated it planned to appeal a court’s decision letting the Republican National Committee get out from under the consent decree barring so-called “ballot integrity” activities.

The underlying case is decades old, and stems from a 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election in which the RNC and the New Jersey GOP was accused of voter intimidation tactics targeting minority voters. A lawsuit brought by the Democrats resulted in the 1982 consent decree prohibiting the RNC and New Jersey GOP from poll watching and other related election day “ballot security” activities at voting sites. After the the decree was extended multiple times because of GOP violations of it, it was allowed to expire last month.

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The Democratic voter fraud commissioner who sued the now-defunct panel last year claiming it had shut him out of its operations is now asking a court to allow him to serve a subpoena on its one-time leader so that records related to the lawsuit are not destroyed.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said in the filing that he is concerned that the commission’s co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, will not preserve internal communications a judge had previously ordered he handed over.

“Defendant Kobach’s record with respect to compliance—even with court orders—is spotty, to say the least,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap cited a fine Kobach had to pay in a seperate lawsuit, after misleading the judge, as well as the Justice Department’s posture in his case, in which it has argued that it cannot compel Kobach to turn over the documents but has asked him to save them.

Furthermore, Dunlap said that he did not receive a letter the Justice Department claimed to have sent to all of the commissioners asking that they preserve their commission records as the litigation continues. Regardless, Dunlap said, a letter “cannot stand in the place of judicial process that creates legally-enforceable obligations.”

In short, DOJ has disavowed any authority to legally obligate individual commissioners to preserve or return Commission records in their sole possession, and—though Secretary Dunlap rejects these contentions—based on its own position, DOJ believes it is currently powerless to prevent the destruction or loss of documents and information,” Dunlap said.

Trump dissolved the commission in early January, as it faced a flurry of lawsuits alleging a lack of transparency, among other things.

Dunlap filed his lawsuit in November, and in late December, a judge ordered that the commission turn over the communications Dunlap had been seeking.

Since the commission’s termination, the Justice Department has been in a multi-front legal battle fending off to new challenges brought against it, many based on statements Kobach made to the press about the future of his inquiry.

A letter from DOJ attorneys to Dunlap’s legal team included in the latest filing, indicates that they saw no “legal basis” for the document preservation subpoena.

“[I]t is difficult to understand why DOJ is opposing the issuance of a subpoena that seeks only to protect the Government’s interest in the preservation of Commission records that are outside the custody of the federal government, nor is it clear why DOJ is advancing arguments that seek only to protect Defendant Kobach—an individual whom DOJ claims is no longer a client—from judicial process,” Dunlap argued in the filing.

Read the full filing below:

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