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 Senate has scheduled for 10 p.m. ET a procedural vote to advance the House bill that would fund the government for a month, though the path to avoiding a government shutdown does not look any clearer in the hours leading up to the votes.

The government will shut down at midnight if a spending bill does not pass.

A few Democrats have defected from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) threats to block the bill, but not enough to guarantee the 60 votes the House bill will need move forward. A handful of Republicans have also said they will not vote for the month-long spending bill. Democrats object to how Republicans have shirked continuing an immigration program for young people brought to country illegally as children.

Senate Democrats plan to meet at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Democratic senators confirmed as supporting the GOP bill are Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Doug Jones (AL).

Neither Democrats nor Republicans — including members of the leadership teams — were able to give reporters many details about negotiations to keep the government open. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said earlier Friday evening he wasn’t sure if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Schumer were talking about a potential deal.

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A federal judge didn’t buy the Justice Department’s argument that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach couldn’t speak to what was being done with the data collected by the now-defunct voter fraud commission he led. The judge ordered that Kobach or another commission member file a declaration giving a full explanation.

The declaration will state “what information was collected or created by the
Commission and/or its members on behalf of the Commission, where that information was and is being stored, by whom the information has been accessed, and what plans were made by the Commission to maintain or dispose of the information,” U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke said Thursday.

The order came in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Florida against the commission and Florida last year, for turning over state voter roll data Kobach had requested.

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Republicans senators, at least publicly, put on a confident face while President Trump met with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — without any Republican lawmakers — at the White House as Congress scrambles to avoid a government shutdown, even as it was reported that they were privately worried the two native New Yorkers would cut a deal without them.

“I might feel better if the Speaker [Paul Ryan (R-WI)] were going over too, or the majority leader [Mitch McConnell (R-KY)],” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) admitted, when asked if he was concerned Hill Republicans might get rolled by Trump and Schumer negotiating. “It might be a more efficient way of getting everyone to yes.”

Otherwise he called the meeting a “positive step.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said he wasn’t worried. Cotton last week showed up at a meeting where Trump rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, surprising Democrats who were unaware the immigration hawk had been invited.

“Maybe the President will talk some sense into Senator Schumer and the Democrats to not shut down the government over amnesty for illegal immigrants,” Cotton said Friday.

“This President is a big boy, he can take care of himself,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who joined Cotton in helping scuttle the immigration deal last week.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) mocked a proposal by Democrats to pass an extremely short-term spending bill, and zeroed in on Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for leading “his own troops into a boxed canyon.”

“Apparently now he wants his members to default on their own demands,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Friday morning. “He’s spent days apparently persuading all of his colleagues to insist we cannot pass another continuing resolution. Now he wants them to pass one.”

“I feel bad for his own members,” McConnell lated added. “He’s painted them into a corner.”

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The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to release the transcript of its interview with Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the Steele dossier. The House committee’s move comes a week after Sen. Dianne Feinstein released the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interview with Simpson. Since then, the House committee has been under growing pressure to release its own transcript. (The rules for how the House committee can make the transcript public were different than they were for the Senate Judiciary Committee — Feinstein was legally able to act on her own — thus requiring Thursday’s vote.)

It will be interesting to see the differences between the contents of the two transcripts for a number of reasons. The first is timing: The Senate Judiciary interview occurred in August, while the House committee interviewed Simpson on Nov. 14. Some important things became known during that period. It wasn’t until Oct. 24, for example, that the Washington Post reported that the DNC, via an intermediary law firm, had helped finance the Fusion research on Trump that resulted in the dossier. That story enraged Republicans. A few days later we learned that the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication, was bankrolling the research project before the Democrats took over the financing. (Simpson, in his August Senate Judiciary interview, refused to answer any questions that would identify the clients of the Trump research project).

Secondly, Simpson and his firm Fusion GPS have had a much more hostile relationship, at least publicly, with the House committee than it has had with the Senate panels that are probing Trump’s Russia ties. At one point in October, the firm’s lawyers released a letter accusing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes of “unprofessional conduct.” Later, Fusion GPS even brought a legal challenge to block the House Intelligence Committee’s move to subpoena its bank records — though a judge ruled in the committee’s favor, allowing the subpoena to stand.

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The co-founder of the firm that produced the so-called Trump dossier told the House Intel Committee that early on in his investigation he saw “patterns of activity” from the Trump Organization that “might be suggestive of money laundering,” including dealings with Russian ties.

The allegation was one of many Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson discussed in an interview with the House Committee in November. The transcript was posted online Thursday after a bipartisan committee vote to release it.

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) bashed his Republican counterparts in a statement Thursday that said they have “refused to look into” the “key area” of whether the Trump Organization had engaged in money laundering with Russians.

“[W]e hope the release of this transcript will reinforce the importance of these critical questions to our investigation,” Schiff said in the statement.

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The communications between the White House and an attorney representing Steve Bannon during his House Intel interview Tuesday were about the scope of interview, and the attorney did not, as AP reported, relay “questions, in real time” to the White House, a White House official and a person familiar with the interview told TPM Wednesday.

Bannon’s attorney, Bill Burck, called the White House Counsel’s Office when the committee’s questioning went beyond the scope of Bannon’s time on the Trump campaign, and into the presidential transition and his time in the Trump administration, according to the sources. The White House maintains that congressional committees need to go through an accommodation process with the White House Counsel’s Office before asking about those periods.

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The Justice Department in a court filing Tuesday said that it had requested that former commissioners on President Trump’s now defunct voter fraud panel not share any non-public records collected by the commission with the Department of Homeland Security, and that DOJ lawyers asked vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, specifically to refrain from sharing the records.

“He has agreed to do so,” the filing said.

The filing was part of the continued litigation around the commission in the lawsuit a Democratic member, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, brought before the commission was shut down by President Trump. Dunlap has since asked the court to prevent Kobach from sharing the records, which include state voter roll data, with the DHS, particularly after Kobach told the media that the DHS would be taking over the commission’s work.

The Justice Department had previously argued that Kobach should not be treated as a defendant in the case — an argument DOJ attorneys reiterated Tuesday.

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A subplot of Special Counsel Robert’s Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort has been a series of sharp exchanges between the judge and Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing.

The sometimes testy interactions between Downing, a DC-based criminal lawyer, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson have made it into our reports on the case, but they haven’t been a focal point, in part because the case is still young and there’s a relatively small sample size of interactions.

But on numerous occasions, Jackson has scolded Downing for a lack of clarity in the court motions he’s filed, brought him up short for his interactions with the press, and implicitly questioned his lawyering decisions.

Here are just a few examples:


“This is a criminal trial and not a public-relations campaign.”

Downing started off on a bad foot with Jackson by hosting a press conference in front of the courthouse after Manafort’s arraignment in which he called Mueller’s case against Manafort “ridiculous” and based on “a very novel theory.”

The move earned an implicit rebuke from Jackson the next time Downing appeared in Jackson’s courtroom, where she slapped a gag order on the case.

“This is a criminal trial and not a public relations campaign,” she said.

She said the lawyers should “do their talking in the courtroom and the pleadings, and not on the courthouse steps.”


“Your position has changed two times since you stood up.”

At that same hearing, Jackson expressed confusion over what Downing was asking for as part of a bail package to release Manafort from home confinement.

Downing had previously filed a response to concerns that Mueller had raised about Manafort being a flight risk, but the filing did not explicitly lay out what sort of bond package he was seeking.

“I’m still just not exactly sure what you are asking for,” Jackson said. “Your position has changed two times since you stood up.”

She asked him to file a formal motion seeking to alter the conditions of Manafort’s release by midnight that night — a deadline Downing would end up blowing.

In a motion filed a day late asking for the deadline to be extended, Downing explained that he thought he would be able to meet Thursday night deadline by just reformatting a court document he had previously filed, but he “abandoned” that plan after “carefully considering the Court’s comments.”


“It didn’t come with the necessary information.”

As the bail negotiations dragged on, Jackson grew frustrated with the lack of detail given by Manafort’s attorneys about the worth of his real estate.

“It didn’t come with the necessary information,” the judge said about a bond proposal Downing offered in November.

Questions about Manafort’s assets would dog Downing for weeks. At one point he had to defend using Zilllow to estimate the worth of Manafort’s properties rather than a formal appraisal or tax documents.

“Zillow is actually considered to be pretty accurate,” Downing told the judge, prompting laughter in the court room.


“If I did that, you have to point the error out to me.”

At the hearing on Tuesday, Jackson wondered why Manafort hadn’t submitted the paperwork that would secure his release from home confinement. Downing argued that Jackson’s Dec. 15 order greenlighting his bond package had added $7 million to his required bail.

Jackson was incredulous, and noted that Downing has had a month to raise that issue.

“If I did that, you have to point the error out to me,” she said.


“I’m not entirely sure how you can say what you just said.”

Also on Tuesday, the judge discussed a civil suit Manafort has filed against Mueller. Downing questioned the characterization that the lawsuit was seeking to have Mueller’s indictment against Manafort thrown out.

In response, Jackson pointed to the specific count in the civil complaint asking the court to set aside Mueller’s actions against Manafort.

“I’m not entirely sure how you can say what you just said,” she told Downing.

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Any hopes by President Trump that the special counsel’s Russia investigation will be wrapped up by the first half of the year were put into question Tuesday, with comments by a federal judge indicating the trial for his former campaign chair and another former aide might not begin until September or October, in the run up to the midterm elections.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson declined to set a trial date for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates at a status conference Tuesday morning. 

Instead, noting the massive amount of discovery the defense was having to work through, she suggested that the May date proposed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team last week was too soon. She hinted that a date in September or October might end up being more appropriate.

Jackson said that a trial date would be nailed down after the first round of motions — in which the defense will have the chance to argue any defects in the prosecution or the indictment — are dealt with. Those motions and responses are to be filed in in February and March, she said, with a hearing on them set for April 17.

She scheduled another status conference before then, for Feb. 14, for other housekeeping issues in the case to be dealt with.

Manafort and Gates have been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose foreign lobbying. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Read the latest reporter’s notebook (Prime access) on this story »


Gates Chastised for Fundraising Video

Jackson also addressed the concerns she had raised last month over a fundraiser held for Gates’ legal defense fund, at which he appeared via a video statement. She had asked his attorneys to explain why that video message was not in violation of a gag order in the case.

The judge said that the legal defense fund was permissible and Gates was allowed to solicit donations and thank those who contributed to it. The problem, Jackson said, was that press was invited to the Dec. 19, fundraiser and that Jack Burkman — the GOP lobbyist who organized the event and whom Gates thanked in his video message — went on to bash the prosecution.

“It is hard to swallow,” she said, that Burkman was not acting as Gates’ surrogate, given that they had coordinated the video message for the event.

If one of Gates’ surrogates is publicly attacking the prosecution, particularly in front of the press, “you should not be cheering them on,” she said.

Gates’ attorney Shanlon Wu noted that they were not involved in putting together the guest list for the event.

Manafort’s Bail Hang-Up

It appeared Gates was close to be released from home confinement, with Jackson asking him to come back to her courtroom Tuesday afternoon to sign a last round of the paperwork before his release.

Manafort’s release, which the judge seemed to green light in a December 15 order, has been stalled by some confusion over what Jackson OKed last month. Manafort’s attorney suggested that her order actually added another $7 million to his bail requirements, for a total of $17 million. Jackson did not agree with this interpretation and pointed out that he has had a month to point out that error, if it did exist, in a motion.

Additionally, Jackson asked that a note from Manafort’s doctor that had been passed along to her be filed as a public notion for her to consider it.

The Civil Lawsuit Against Mueller

Andrew Weissmann, a lawyer for the Mueller team, brought up the civil lawsuit Manafort filed against the special counsel earlier this month. The complaint is in front of another D.C. district court judge. Weissmann indicated that Mueller planned to asked for the civil lawsuit to be dismissed. He questioned whether the venue was appropriate, given that the issues Manafort was raising could have been raised in the criminal case in front of Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

The judge said she was not going to opine on that question since the civil lawsuit wasn’t in front of her, but wondered whether it would be appropriate for that case to be transferred in front of her as well — something that wasn’t required, she said, but could be allowed.

“This is a rather unique situation,” she said, asking Manafort’s attorney if he had a position on transferring the case.

Downing went on to claim that the civil lawsuit was not in fact asking for the indictment against Manafort to be dropped, as had been suggested. Jackson questioned this claim, and even pointed to language in the second count of the civil lawsuit, which asked for the actions Mueller had taken against Manafort to be set aside.

“I’m not entirely sure how you can say what you just said,” Jackson told Downing. She asked the attorney to file by Friday his opinion on whether the civil case should be transferred to her court.

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


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