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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Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who has been a focus of various Russia probes, responded Tuesday to a CNN report that he had been the subject of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (or “FISA”) surveillance order by calling for an investigation by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General into the revelation.

“If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” a statement from Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni said. Maloni then seemed to echo the claims by President Trump that the Obama administration was inappropriately surveilling Trump.

“The U.S Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous Administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” the statement continued. “Mr. Manafort requests that the Department of Justice release any intercepts involving him and any non-Americans so interested parties can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ – there is nothing there.”

According to CNN, the FISA order began in 2014, well before Trump declared his presidential run, out of interest in Manafort’s work lobbying for a Ukrainian political party. The surveillance paused for some time in 2016, CNN reported, due to lack of evidence, but then picked up again by the end of 2016 and into 2017.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee announced late Tuesday that it has “invited” President Trump’s former lawyer and confidante Michael Cohen for a public hearing Oct. 25.

The announcement comes after the committee abruptly canceled the closed door interview it had planned with Cohen earlier in the day. The committee was unhappy that Cohen had released his opening statement to the press, in apparent violation of the committee’s agreement to let him testify behind closed doors.

Asked if the committee was considering subpoenaing Cohen, its Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) told reporters, “I don’t think we’ll need to.”

Earlier Tuesday — after Cohen left Capitol Hill having been informed by the committee that his interview Tuesday had been canceled — Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a strongly worded statement that they were “disappointed” he released the statement “in spite of the Committee’s requests that he refrain from public comment.”

Coming out of a seperate closed door briefing Tuesday afternoon, they elaborated that it is now the committee’s policy that those appearing behind closed doors for interviews regarding the Russia investigation must keep their statements to the committee private.

“We’ve changed the agreement that we’ve had with people since Jared Kushner was in,” Burr told said, referring to the President’s son-in-law, who released a statement with his closed door appearance in front of the committee this summer.

“And this is the model we’ll follow. We don’t expect individuals who come behind closed doors to publicly go out and tell…” Burr continued, before being interrupted by Warner

“…their side of the story only,” Warner interjected.

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The leaders of Senate Intelligence Committee announced that they canceled a closed-door interview with Michael Cohen, an attorney and a confidante of President Trump’s, due to his decision to release a public statement ahead of the planned meeting Tuesday morning.

“We were disappointed that Mr. Cohen decided to pre-empt today’s interview by releasing a public statement prior to his engagement with Committee staff, in spite of the Committee’s requests that he refrain from public comment,” Intel Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a statement.

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It’s not surprising that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is interested in the role Facebook played in Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election. Yet, the news that broke over the weekend that his team had obtained a search warrant to access information about Facebook’s recently disclosed Russia-linked ad spending is the clearest sign yet of the breadth of his probe, the pace at which its moving along and what kind of case he might be trying to build, regardless of whether he ultimately brings criminal charges.

“This is not a wild goose chase, it’s not just a fishing expedition.  [It shows] that there is good reason to be believe that someone committed criminal behavior, we just don’t know who that was and exactly what the behavior was,” Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, told TPM.

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It was almost like Ty Cobb, the White House’s top lawyer for the Russia probes, was asking to be overheard.

Usually, when one needs to unload to a colleague about a coworker’s paranoia and shady professional decisions, one goes somewhere where those secrets can be kept to oneself. Discreetly.

But not Cobb, who took John Dowd, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, to a popular steakhouse not far from the White House — and conveniently for the New York Times, right next to its D.C. bureau — to dish about a dispute with White House Counsel Don McGahn over how much to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), an eccentric lawmaker known for his pro-Russia stances, proposed to the White House a pardon deal for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a Wednesday phone call Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Rohrabacher suggested to President Trump’s chief-of-staff, John Kelly, that the administration end Assange’s various legal problems in the U.S. In exchange, Assange would turn over a digital storage device that Rohrabacher said would clear Russia of allegations of interference in the 2016 election, according to the report.

The congressman told Kelly that if what Assange turned over was not the proof promised, “he would get nothing, obviously,” according to the report. Over the course of summer 2016, WikiLeaks published thousands of emails from Democratic officials believed to have been the target of a hacking campaign backed by the Russians.

Rohrabacher traveled to London last month to meet with Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy, where the WikiLeaks founder is avoiding extradition to the U.S. Once the meeting was reported, Rohrabacher indicated his plans to tell Trump what he heard from Assange. On Thursday, he told the Los Angeles Times he had “spoken to senior people at the White House about arranging a meeting” with the President.

A Trump administration official told the Wall Street Journal that Kelly did not deliver Rohrabacher’s message to Trump, and that the chief-of-staff instead told Rohrabacher his idea “was best directed to the intelligence community.”

Rohrabacher told the newspaper in a brief interview that he could not “confirm or deny anything about a private conversation at that level.”

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The Justice Department aide who the White House announced Friday would be President Trump’s pick for a top DOJ position appears to have also been present at a key meeting between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-FBI Director James Comey.

Jody Hunt, Sessions’ chief-of-staff at the Justice Department and Trump’s pick to be assistant attorney general of the department’s Civil Division, will have to go through a Senate confirmation process that will include a grilling by the Judiciary Committee. Among the things the committee members may want to ask him about was a meeting that occurred between Sessions and Comey in February.

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A bipartisan Senate bill aimed at protecting special counsels from being fired for sketchy reasons was given a companion bill in the House Friday, with the unveiling of the Special Counsel Integrity Act by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).

It is the companion to a bill introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) last month, amid concerns that President Trump might seek to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election. There is another Senate bill, introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) geared towards shielding special counsels from unjust terminations by the President. But the Special Counsel Integrity Act is the first also to be introduced in the House, according to the House Judiciary Democrats’ office.

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WASHINGTON – More than two hours after Jason Maloni, Paul Manafort’s spokesperson, was spotted heading into the federal courthouse to testify in front of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury, he emerged from the room where grand jury was convened around 11:30 a.m. ET and spoke briefly to the press.

“My name is Jason Maloni. I’m the president of JadeRoq. I was order to appear today before the grand jury. I answered questions and I’ve been dismissed,” Maloni, who was accompanied by his attorney Erik Bolog, said.

He declined to answer any questions, but was generally upbeat when he encountered the handful of reporters huddled outside the grand jury room. He made his brief remark outside of the courthouse where photographers and TV crew also waited.

Maloni had been subpoenaed by the Mueller probe late last month, in a sign of increasing scrutiny on Manafort, who served as President Trump’s campaign chairman in the summer of 2016. In July, Manafort’s home was raided in the early morning hours by FBI agents, who reportedly obtained documents related to Manafort’s business dealings around the world.

Manafort’s former attorney, Melissa Laurenza, has also reportedly been subpoenaed by the probe, but it is unclear if and when she will appear in front of the grand jury.

Beyond the Mueller probe, Manafort has also become a subject of focus for the other bodies investigating Russia’s influence in the 2016 election. He appeared in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors in July, and the Senate Judiciary Committe is also seeking to interview him, though its chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has said he is having trouble getting cooperation from Manafort’s legal team.

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A spokesperson for Paul Manafort was spotted by CNN Friday heading for the grand jury overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election. The spokesperson, Jason Maloni, was subpoenaed late last month, along with Manafort’s former lawyer, the Akin Gump attorney Melissa Laurenza.

As Maloni arrived in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., where the grand jury is convened, he was asked if he was ready to testify, according to the CNN report.

“Hell yeah,” Maloni responded, while also giving a thumbs up.

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