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 has been doing work for Kurdish Iraqis who are advocating for an independence referendum up for a vote next week, work that appears to have started around the time the FBI raided Manafort’s home as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

The work has not yet been registered as lobbying under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the New York Times reported, and Manafort’s spokesman would not say whether Manafort intended to register it.

Under FARA, those seeking to influence U.S. policy on behalf of a foreign entity or person are required to file paperwork declaring their work lobbying the U.S. government.

“If his work requires registration with FARA, Mr. Manafort will comply with the law,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told the New York Times.

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After months of speculation and vague reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was examining the activities of President Trump’s White House as part of his investigation into Russian election interference, the New York Times on Wednesday reported more details on which Trump decisions have apparently piqued Mueller’s interest, based on the documents his team has requested from the White House.

Less than an hour later, the Washington Post published its own more detailed account of the documents Mueller has requested, including “extensive records and email correspondence from the White House” that cover “everything from the president’s private discussions about firing his FBI director to his White House’s handling of a warning that the Trump national security adviser was under investigation.”

According to both reports, the Mueller team has organized its document requests into 13 different subject areas. Among those categories is an Oval Office meeting Trump hosted in May with Russian officials, during which he said his firing of FBI Director James Comey had relieved him of “great pressure.”

The decision to fire Comey is also among Mueller’s areas of interest, and according to the Washington Post, his requests include documents related to the initial statement made by then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer after the FBI director’s termination.

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In announcing Sept. 6 that it had found $100,000 in ad buys from “inauthentic” accounts “likely operated out of Russia” during the 2016 campaign, Facebook said that the “vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.”

It took the Daily Beast less than a month to find what it believes to be a Russia-linked account that did, in fact, explicitly promote then-GOP candidate Donald Trump.

The news website Tuesday surfaced the existence of a Facebook group called “Being Patriotic,” which the Daily Beast said bears many of the trademarks of other shady Facebook accounts that are believed to have had Russia ties. “Being Patriotic” went dark around the time Facebook deleted accounts linked to a Russian troll farm, according to the Daily Beast. The social media giant would not confirm to the Daily Beast the group’s Russian origins, but it did not challenge the Beast’s suggestions either.

“Being Patriotic” pushed at least four pro-Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton rallies, according to the Daily Beast, including a flash mob that was promoted to occur simultaneously in 17 different Florida locations. In at least a few cases, those events came to fruition, according to the Beast report, and resulted in known Trump activists showing up and promoting the events on their own social media pages.

Facebook’s disclosure of the inauthentic accounts appears to only be the tip of the iceberg of what sort of activity those accounts were involved in, per the Daily Beast:

After The Daily Beast found known Russian accounts that used Facebook’s Events tool to promote rallies inside the United States, the company said that it was not well positioned to determine “if something like coordination occurred” between the Trump campaign and Russia — something investigators and security researchers doubt because of the social network’s massive trove of information on its customers.

But the discovery of the “Being Patriotic” rallies suggests that the fraudulent activity on Facebook did indeed involve messaging on behalf of Trump, did prompt at least some Americans to rally on Trump’s behalf, and did result in the Trump campaign volunteers subsequently sharing material from those events.

Russia’s use of Facebook in its alleged campaign to interfere with the 2016 election has come under major scrutiny since the disclosure of the inauthentic accounts. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe has reportedly issued a search warrant to learn more about the activity on the site, and the Senate Intelligence Committee has said it would like Facebook to testify publicly about what happened — a hearing chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) would like to host as early as next month.

The Facebook page the Daily Beast identified Wednesday promoted flash mob events in Florida, a key swing state, in August 2016. Two of the planned locations — Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs — were sites of gatherings by Trump fans, according to photos and videos posted by Dolly Trevino Rump, the Trump campaign’s chairwoman for Broward County. Rump did not respond to the Daily Beast’s inquiries.

Other people who were listed as contacts on Being Patriotic’s events told the Daily Beast they remembered vaguely being contacted by the group to promote the rallies. Betty Triguera, listed as a coordinator on a Sarasota event page, said she heard about the event from Being Patriotic’s Twitter account — which has also been shut down, according to the Daily Beast. Jim Frische, whose name was attached to a Clearwater event page, remembered only vague details of being contacted about the event, and that it ended up being “a dozen or so people out on the street corner.”

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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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