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 spokesman for Paul Manafort appeared to respond Tuesday to allegations made by special counsel Robert Mueller that the former Trump campaign chairman had engaged in witness tampering while facing charges in two criminal cases.

“Mr. Manafort is innocent and nothing about this latest allegation changes our defense,” spokesman Jason Maloni said in a statement Tuesday. “We will do our talking in court.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who’s overseeing the case against Manafort in D.C., gave Manafort’s lawyers until Friday to file a response to Mueller’s allegations, which first surfaced Monday evening in court documents. She also scheduled a hearing on the matter for the morning of Friday, June 15.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to throw Manafort in jail while he awaits trial.

Mueller in filings Monday night said that Manafort had sought to reach out to two former business associates who allegedly helped coordinate a group of former European leaders said to be involved in Manafort’s lobbying for Ukraine. According to the filings, Manafort tried calling and texting one of  the associates directly, while  his longtime business partner Konstantin Kilimnik — dubbed by Mueller as “Person A” — reached out to the both associates in encrypted texts where he said he was trying to deliver a message from his “friend P.”

The texts and calls started after Mueller revealed a new set of charges that included the allegations about the group of ex-European leaders, known in the court documents as the Hapsburg group.

“Basically P wants to give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the US, and the purpose of the program was EU,” one of the Kilimnik texts said, according to Mueller’s court filings. The filings also included emails that allegedly showed the Hapsburg group’s involvement in lobbying efforts in the U.S.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges, that have included money laundering and failure to disclose foreign lobbying, that have been brought against him.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller in court filings Monday evening accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of witness tampering and asked for a judge to revoke his current house arrest and send him to jail.

Prosecutors alleged that Manafort sought to shape the testimony of witnesses beginning earlier this year. They claim that a person they dub as Person A reached out over encrypted texts to two former business associates of Manafort who were involved in his Ukraine lobbying work, according to the filings. The texts started in late February, just after Mueller unsealed a new indictment against Manafort in Washington, D.C., the prosecutors said.

Manafort has been charged in D.C. with money laundering, false statements and failure to disclose foreign lobbying. He also faces charges that include bank fraud and tax fraud in Virginia. He’s pleaded not guilty in both cases.

The charges that were revealed in late February included allegations that Manafort used a group of former European leaders — called the “Hapsburg” group — to secretly promote Ukraine’s Party of Regions in the United States. According to Monday’s filing, Person A sought to communicate with two former Manafort associates who worked  at a PR firm that acted as a intermediary between him and the  “Hapsburg” group.

Person A told one associate that Manafort wanted to get in touch with the second associate to “give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which
is true) that our friends never lobbied in the US, and the purpose of the program was EU,” according to the texts quoted in the filings.

Manafort himself also attempted to reach one of the associates via texts and phone calls himself, according to a log of the alleged communications provided in the filings. One of those texts was a link to February 25 Business Insider story about how European politicians believed to be members of the Hapsburg group were reacting to Mueller’s allegations.

Mueller on Monday night filed a number of documents — emails and memos — he says shows that the Hapsburg group was in fact in engaged in lobbying in the United States. They include emails about connecting the European politicians with U.S. Senators, and placing op-eds in American news outlets.

Prosecutors are asking the judge, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, to rethink Manafort’s current placement in home confinement, and suggested that he may need to be put in jail.  The move comes after months of back and forth between prosecutors and Manafort over the terms of his release, whether he’s posted sufficient bond for his bail, where he can live and travel, and other related restrictions.

“Manafort’s obstructive conduct—carried out at a time when he was seeking relief from his current conditions of release—instills little confidence that restrictions short of detention will assure Manafort’s compliance with the Court’s orders and prevent him from committing further crimes,” Mueller said.

Read the Mueller request that Manafort’s house arrest be revoked, as well as the affidavit filed by an FBI agent about the communications below. A log of the alleged communications from Manafort and Person A to the two business associates are also below:

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President Trump’s insistent, baseless claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016 appear to have convinced a significant number of Republicans. Forty-eight percent of Republicans said they believed 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll released last Sunday. That’s the number Trump once touted without a shred of evidence. Only 17 percent of Republicans said that they did not believe that 3 to 5 million voted illegally.

The poll also found that Republicans — by a 56-point margin — said widespread voter fraud was a bigger problem than legitimate voters being prevented from voting. Democrats, meanwhile, said by a 23-point margin voter suppression was a bigger issue.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State and Attorney General’s office both noted this week how few actual cases of voting fraud occurred in the state. New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards, for example, said this week that it had uncovered only five cases of wrongfully cast votes since Sept. 2016 — one of which was the fault of an election official who gave a student incorrect information about where he should be voting.

Nonetheless, New Hampshire Republicans are pushing a measure that will make it harder for students to vote in the state. The GOP-led legislature has passed the bill, but Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has asked the state Supreme Court to review the legislation before he signs it.

The push in Maine to move to a ranked-choice voting system got another court ruling in its favor Tuesday, when a federal judge said that the state must use the system in the upcoming primary, in lawsuit brought by Republicans attempting to hold on to the old plurality-of-votes system.

The Trump administration is facing yet another lawsuit for its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — this one filed in Maryland on Thursday.

Thursday also brought a decision by the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals in an ongoing case about whether or not Texas violated the National Voter Registration Act. The court granted Texas’s request and temporarily halted a lower-court decision requiring the state to fix its online DMV system so that Texans who are updating driver’s license info online are also given the opportunity to register to vote online. For now, Texas won’t have to make the fixes ordered by the lower court while the appeals court considers its appeal of the case.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted last week that Wisconsin has been waiting for 16 months for a federal appeals court decision. The state had sued the ACLU to block it from using state records to contact voters who might have trouble getting voter ID. A state court version of the lawsuit has already been thrown out.

Eric Holder’s anti-gerrymandering group, National Democratic Redistricting Committee, made moves this week to pour $175,000 into two Wisconsin state special elections, as part of its effort to elect state-level Democrats who they say will draw fairer maps after the 2020 Census.

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President Trump, in a tweet Monday morning, said that the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller was “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL.” His claim runs contrary to a federal judge’s ruling in Washington, D.C. that upheld Mueller’s appointment and his authority to prosecute Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Trump misspelled the word “counsel” in his initial tweet, but corrected it in a version he sent about an hour later.

Earlier Monday morning, Trump claimed he had the ability to pardon himself — a legal question that is more open to debate than the President’s tweet suggested.

Manafort had brought two legal challenges to the scope of Mueller’s power, alleging that the appointment order was too broad because it allowed him to prosecute “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” and that he was operating outside his authority in going after Manafort’s lobbying work in Ukraine that predated the 2016 election.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed a private lawsuit Manafort brought challenging Mueller’s authority and declined to throw out the criminal case when Manafort brought a similar argument there.

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President Donald Trump, who has sworn that there was no collusion between him and Russia, tweeted Monday morning the claim that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself.

His declaration comes after he’s handed down a handful of politically-charged pardons and speculated about a few more — leading some to suggest that he’s sending a message to federal prosecutors and the associates of his campaign whom they are investigating.

The President’s ability to pardon others for federal crimes is well founded. But whether the President can pardon himself is a more open question among legal scholars.

A letter written by Trump’s attorneys in January to special counsel Robert Mueller that was obtained by the New York Times over the weekend claimed that the President “could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.”

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani — who replaced Trump lawyer John Dowd, one of authors of the January letter — made similarly bombastic claims while on the Sunday show circuit this weekend.

Giuliani suggested that Trump could pardon himself but that doing so would lead to his impeachment. He also said that the president couldn’t be indicted while in office, telling the Huffington Post Sunday that if Trump “shot [former FBI Director] James Comey” he would be “impeached the next day,” but that an indictment would have to wait until after he was impeached.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller and the company that allegedly helped fund Russia’s social media election-meddling campaign are in no rush to get to trial, a court document filed Friday indicated.

The document — filed jointly by Mueller and Concord Management, the one defendant in the Russian internet toll case that has shown up in court — is a proposed briefing schedule recommending deadlines for various motions they plan to file in the case.

The proposed schedule stretches all the way into November. The filing also notes that the proposed schedule doesn’t include additional motions that may be filed “depending on the materials received in discovery, including but not limited to a motion for a bill of particulars, motion(s) to suppress, and motion(s) to compel.” The filing says that the government hasn’t started turning turning over discovery materials yet.

Last week, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich granted both sides’ joint request that she pause the clock for three months on the countdown to a trial; that countdown is based on a calculation used to set a trial date under the Speedy Trial Act. Friedrich will have to approve the briefing schedule proposed in Friday’s filing as well.

Concord Management is facing charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, with Mueller alleging it funded the Internet Research Agency, the Russian organization alleged to have led the social media campaign. Concord Management is partially owned by Yevginy Prigozhin — a Russian restauranteur so cozy with the Kremlin he’s been nicknamed “Putin’s chef” — who is also named in the indictment, but has not entered an appearance in court. The company has pleaded not guilty.

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE, 16 (RUSSIA OUT) Russian billionaire and busimessman, Concord catering company owner Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen during a meeting with foreign investors at Konstantin Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June,16, 2016. Vladimir Putin attends the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Russian billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin attends a meeting, June 16, 2016, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

It’s not surprising that Mueller is OK with this case being slow rolled. In a previous court filing, the special counsel noted that this case “involves a foreign corporate defendant, controlled by another individual foreign defendant, that has already demanded production of sensitive intelligence gathering, national security, and foreign affairs information.” That filing was in response to Concord Management’s request for certain information about the case before its lawyers had even confirmed that they were accepting the summons.

When Mueller brought the case, few thought it would ever see a court room — given Putin’s likely unwillingness to extradite those named in the indictment — and many interpreted the indictment as an effort by Mueller to inform the public about that aspect of his investigation.

Discovery will get underway, now that the case is proceeding, and it is likely that at least some of the discovery materials will become public depending on what legal challenges Concord Management brings against Mueller’s case. The more time it takes to get through these pretrial disputes, the better, if Mueller is trying to delay the disclosure of information that affects other aspects of his investigation or is worried about how foreign powers might benefit from its disclosure.

It’s interesting, however, that Concord Management — which is being represented by Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikelay, who are based in DC — is also on board with this schedule. Dubelier has fought Mueller’s team tooth and nail at every step of the proceedings — from the summons issue, to an argument in court last month over whether Dubelier hung up on Mueller’s team during a planning phone call the week prior.

On the other hand, Concord Management has complained about the quantity and the form in which prosecutors have said they were planning to turn over the discovery materials. The time it will take to sift through that information may be driving Concord’s willingness to take its time in the proceedings.

“What I was most concerned about, your honor, though, is that, again based on the conversation we had Friday, I anticipate that we are going to get this massive dump of social media stuff that’s in Russian,” Dubelier said at a May 19 hearing. “This is an American court. That’s not what we’ve asked for. If they want to give it to us, that’s fine. We will deal with it. But it’s not what we’ve asked for.”

Read the Friday’s briefing schedule proposal below:

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The Justice Department’s Inspector General is expected, any day now, to release his much anticipated report on the department’s activities in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

The review is mostly focused on DOJ’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. It is separate from the Inspector General probe into surveillance warrants sought for an ex-Trump campaign advisor, nor will it likely cover the other GOP allegations of bias in DOJ’s Trump-Russia investigation. (The Inspector General, it’s worth noting, hasn’t formally announced any inquiries into the Trump investigation matters besides the one reviewing the surveillance warrants).

Rather, the Office of Inspector General — in its January 2017 announcement that it was opening its probe, at the behest of lawmakers of both parties — said the report would cover five major areas.

Here is what they are, what we know about them so far, and what questions remain:

Comey’s Clinton Press Conference, And His Two Letters To Congress

Among the episodes Inspector General Michael Horowitz is examining is a press conference FBI Director Jim Comey gave in July 2016 in which he stridently criticized Clinton for using an outside email server. Comey called Clinton’s actions “extremely careless,” but recommended that no charges be brought. The sort of announcement that Comey made then is typically left to the Justice Department. Comey has since defended the move by arguing that he was seeking to restore DOJ leadership’s credibility after Bill Clinton’s tarmac meeting with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which angered Republicans.

The Inspector General also is looking at Comey’s decision to send Congress a letter in late October 2016 announcing that the investigation had been reopened to search files found on a computer used by Anthony Weiner, who was being investigated for sex crimes and whose wife, Huma Abedin was one of Clinton’s closest aides.

Days later, just before the election, Comey sent Congress another letter indicating that nothing the FBI found had changed the conclusions it had previously reached in the  Clinton email probe. But by then, the news cycle had been dominated by the news that the email probe had been reopened.

It is not typical for the Justice Department to announce the opening or reopening of an investigation. And there’s a DOJ policy ordering that it stay quiet about investigations that could influence an election in the weeks leading up to election day.

Comey has said that even though he feels “mildly nauseous” that his announcement may have impacted the election, he doesn’t regret sending the letters.

Whether McCabe Should Have Been Recused From The Clinton Probe

Prior to the report set to be unveiled in the days to come, the Inspector General released the findings in its review pertaining to ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a frequent Trump target who was fired in February by Attorney General Jeff Sessions hours before he was eligible for full pension benefits. The Inspector General said then that McCabe misled its investigators who were reviewing his decision to permit details about internal feuds over Clinton investigations to be disclosed to the press.

This latest report also is examining the decision that McCabe not recuse himself from overseeing the Clinton probe. An October 2016 Wall Street Journal story revealing that McCabe’s wife, in an unsuccessful 2015 state Senate race, received campaign contributions by a group linked to Clinton supporter Terry McAuliffe, made McCabe a punching bag for Republicans, who called him biased.

McCabe sought ethics counseling when he became deputy director in February 2016, which is when he first had any oversight into the Clinton email probe and well after his wife’s campaign ended.

Ironically, the media leak that McCabe would later mislead IG investigators about was for a negative Clinton story depicting internal DOJ tensions over investigating her. The story confirmed a separate investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

“Among the purposes of the disclosure was to rebut a narrative that had been developing following a story in the WSJ on October 23, 2016, that questioned McCabe’s impartiality in overseeing FBI investigations involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and claimed that McCabe had ordered the termination of the [Clinton Foundation] Investigation due to Department of Justice pressure,” the Inspector General said in its McCabe report.

Did A DOJ Official Feed Inappropriate Info To The Clinton Campaign?

The Inspector General is probing communications between Peter Kadzik and John Podesta, who have been friends since both were at Georgetown Law.

Wikileaks posted an email Kadzik, then a DOJ official, sent to Podesta, the chair of Clinton’s campaign, in May 2015, flagging an upcoming hearing where a DOJ official would be testifying and was “likely to get questions on State Department emails.” Kadzik also flagged a detail in a court document being filed in an emails-related FOIA case.

Ethics experts who are skeptical that Kadzik violated DOJ policies have pointed out that he wasn’t using his government email, and that he was highlighting only publicly available information.

Other DOJ/FBI Leaks During the Campaign

The announcement also said that the Inspector General is probing “[a]llegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information.”

Clinton supporters have accused the FBI of leaking information about the investigations into her, with one report dubbing the FBI “Trumpland” for its Clinton hostility. There’s been some reporting that the leaks were coming from current or former federal investigators in New York, whom, it’s been speculated, have remained close to Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani himself bragged on Fox News that he had an advance warning from the FBI about the Comey letter to Congress.

An Interestingly Timed Clinton Foundation Records Release

A batch of FBI records related to President Trump’s father sought under the Freedom of Information Act was released October 30, while some FBI Clinton Foundation-related records were published on November 1, 2016. Their release was also promoted on an FBI Twitter account. The FBI records concerning the Clinton Foundation pertained to its investigation into President Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich — a probe closed in 2005. But the Clinton Foundation was also a political flashpoint for Hillary Clinton in her campaign.

The Twitter account that promoted their release had been dormant for more than a year before its reactivation the day before it tweeted the Clinton Foundation files. The Clinton campaign also said the timing was “odd” given there was no lawsuit deadline facing the FBI.

The FBI at the time said that the timing reflected “standard procedure for FOIA” in which records that requested three or more times are released publicly and processed on a “first in, first out” basis.

The day before the Clinton records tweet, the FBI Records Vault Twitter account also tweeted records related to Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father.

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The pressure President Trump put on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation extended beyond the March 2017 Mar-a-Lago conversation reported by the New York Times this week.

Unnamed sources detailed to Axios in a Thursday report additional discussions Trump had with Sessions over the phone and in person about his recusal. Two sources told Axios that Trump stopped short of ordering Sessions to undo his recusal, but rather told the attorney general he’d be a “hero” among conservatives if he did “the right thing” and reasserted oversight of the investigation. The probe is now being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

According to one of Axios’ sources, Trump also encouraged Sessions to open an investigation into Hillary Clinton, who continues to be the subject of “lock her up chants” at Trump rallies.

These conversations continued from March through the end of last year, Axios reported.

Sessions has said he was following Justice Department protocols in recusing himself from the Russia investigation. He also said in his confirmation hearing he would recuse himself from investigations into Clinton and any probes linked to the 2016 campaign.

Nevertheless, Trump has raged publicly and privately about Sessions’ recusal, and even Tweeted Wednesday that he regretted picking Sessions as an attorney general.

Both the White House and a Sessions spokeswoman declined to comment on the Axios report.

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On Thursday, President Trump announced the pardon of Dinesh D’Souza, a bombastic, conservative firebrand, known for making outright racist remarks. The case involved campaign contributions made by D’Souza’s mistress at his behest, as well as “nonsense” claims by D’Souza that he was targeted by the Justice Department for his attacks on President Obama.

D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to campaign finance violations for a scheme in which he used his mistress and assistant as straw donors to contribute $10,000 to the Republican candidate running against U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

The Republican, Wendy Long, was kept in the dark about the source of the payments, according to the indictment, despite her repeated questions to D’Souza about where they came from.

In 2012, D’Souza and his wife made a $10,000 contribution — $5,000 each, the legal limit — to Long. He then urged his assistant, Tyler Vawser, and a woman described as his lover, Denise Odie Joseph, to make $10,000 contributions in their and their spouses’ names. D’Souza eventually admitted, when pleading guilty, that Vawser and Joseph made the contributions with the understanding that they’d be paid back by D’Souza. (Joseph actually made a $15,000 contribution, $5,000 of which was returned by the campaign.)

Among the evidence prosecutors had was a secret recording Joseph’s husband made of Joseph telling him months before D’Souza was arrested that, if caught, D’Souza might eventually plead guilty.

However, D’Souza would first plead not guilty, Joseph told her husband, to provide “a window of opportunity to get his story out there,” according to the prosecutors.

As the case proceeded, there was some confusion about D’Souza’s relationship status with both women involved. D’Souza’s affair with Joseph had first been reported by the Christian magazine World in 2012, which caught D’Souza — then the president of a Christian college — checking into a hotel with Joseph. He said at the time that Joseph was his fiancée and that he “had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced.” Prosecutors, however continued to describe Joseph as a “woman with whom D’Souza was romantically involved” and the other woman as his wife. D’Souza, after the charges were brought in 2014, declined to clarify whether he was married to either woman.

Dixie D’Souza would eventually write a letter to the court that said Dinesh D’Souza had a “flawed character and lack of truthfulness.”

In the pretrial proceedings, D’Souza’s lawyers claimed that he was the target of prosecutors “because of his consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism” of President Obama. D’Souza had become a cult hero among the far-right for his anti-Obama books and films. One of his biggest cheerleaders when the charges were brought was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), then a rising Tea Party star,  who also on Thursday celebrated Trump’s pardon announcement.

D’Souza himself, in a 2014 interview with Sean Hannity, floated the idea that the charges were “kind of payback” for the anti-Obama film D’Souza made, which he claimed “seem[ed] to have gotten under President Obama’s skin.”

The prosecutors, led by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, denied the allegations of political bias, and told the court that D’Souza was “exploiting” his criticisms of Obama in a “baseless attempt to avoid criminal prosecution.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman sided with the prosecutors in the pretrial dispute, with the judge later calling D’Souza’s claims “nonsense”.

D’Souza’s guilty plea came unexpectedly in March 2014, on the same day trial was set to start.

“I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids,” he said at his plea hearing.

He was sentenced to eight months in a community confinement center, five years probation and a $30,000 fine.

A statement released by his attorney after the plea deal claimed that D’Souza’s illegal contributions were “an act of misguided friendship” toward Long.

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While Paul Manafort has claimed, so far without much success, that special counsel Robert Mueller has overstepped his authority by focusing on Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying, Mueller has left hints in various filings that his ongoing investigation into the former Trump campaign chairman may also be looking into something else.

It’s not clear exactly what that something else is, when or even if it will yield additional charges against Manafort, or whether it will bring the Russian collusion case closer to President Donald Trump or his associates. But there has been a series of intimations floated publicly by Mueller that suggest more is going on beneath the surface.

The most obvious signal was an Aug. 2 internal Justice Department memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to Mueller, disclosed with heavy redactions by Mueller last month, in which Rosenstein confirmed the special counsel’s authority to investigate Manafort for both the Ukraine allegations, and accusations that the Trump campaign and Russian colluded to influence the 2016 election.

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