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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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To those who were anticipating the indictment against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort that became public Monday, the unexpected unsealing of a guilty plea from another Trump campaign aide a little more than an hour later was a major shock.

But Special Counsel Robert Mueller wasn’t just giving close observers of the case a bonus surprise on a day being touted on Twitter as #MuellerMonday. Mueller was sending a message — multiple messages in fact — former federal prosecutors tell TPM and the unsealed court filings themselves suggest.

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Before the earthquake of an indictment that became public Monday against ex-Trump aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, a quieter battle was going on behind the scenes between them and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office — one that was detailed in another court document that was unsealed Monday.

An unsealed opinion of the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sheds light on the move by Mueller to have Manafort’s own attorney answer questions in front of his grand jury. His desire to speak with the lawyer, Melissa Laurenza, was previously reported. However, what was not known publicly until the opinion’s release was how hard Gates and Manafort fought her appearance, what exactly Mueller was seeking from her, and how his team won over the judge overseeing the proceeding.

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Even before Paul Manafort left his home in Alexandria, Virginia, early Monday morning to turn himself in to the FBI, reporters were waiting at the DC federal courthouse where he would appear later in the day.

By 1:30 p.m. ET, when Manafort and his longtime business partner Rick Gates, were schedule for an initial appearance, a queue of reporters lined the entire hallway up to U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson’s courtroom, a short walk from where the grand jury that approved of their indictment has been meeting.

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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and another former Trump aide, Rick Gates, have been accused of setting up a lobbying scheme on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian leader that concealed the ties the effort had to his political party.

The allegations come in the bombshell federal indictment in Washington, D.C., made public Monday as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The claims made Monday are not specifically related to the 2016 election; rather, they largely focus on Manafort’s and Gates’ activities before joining the Trump campaign. Among the allegations is that they did not properly disclose the lobbying work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law that is almost never used to bring criminal cases.

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Dane Boente, one of the most powerful U.S. attorneys in the country who has also served as a top official in President Trump’s Justice Department, is stepping down, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

As U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Boente has overseen a number of key investigations and prosecutions, and the office has been involved in the federal Russian election meddling investigation. A number of national security agencies sit in the Eastern District, putting his office at the center of many terrorism cases. Boente is also the acting assistant attorney general of the National Security Division of the Justice Department.

After Sally Yates was fired from her role as acting Attorney General for refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban, Boente served in that role temporarily as well. He also served as acting deputy attorney general in the early days of the Trump administration.

According to the Post’s report, he will not leave that until the official Trump’s pick for  assistant attorney general of the National Security Division, John C. Demers, is confirmed.  Trump has not yet nominated someone to succeed Boente as U.S. Attorney the Eastern District of Virginia.

Trump has reportedly been interviewing personally potential U.S. attorney nominees for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, both of which are also conducting investigations into Trump associates. For the President to get personally involved in that interview process is very uncommon, and has attracted criticism from Democrats.

 

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Nearly a year after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) was photographed with then-President-elect Donald Trump holding an apparent proposal to weaken a key voter law, court documents have been made public in which Kobach discusses the details of that proposal and what he discussed with Trump.

Kobach, according to excerpts of a depositions in an ACLU lawsuit unsealed Thursday, said the proposal referred to a “yet uncreated amendment” to the National Voting Registration Act (NVRA) and that it was a “conceptual statement.”

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President Trump’s voter fraud commission will be facing another layer of scrutiny, on top of the numerous lawsuits that have been mounted against it.

After receiving a request last week from three Democratic senators, the Government Accountability Office said Wednesday that it would be launching an investigation into the commission — albeit not for another five months, when the relevant staff will be available.

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New details of Cambridge Analytica’s outreach to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange emerged in a Wall Street Journal report Wednesday night that the data firm, which was working for President Trump’s campaign, had reached out to Assange offering to help organize the hacked emails Wikileaks had been releasing.

Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix told employees and associates of the firm, including Trump mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, via email about the pitch to Assange, according to the Journal, and Nix’s email said he had not heard back from Assange.

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Thanks to the Washington Post’s Tuesday night scoop that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had funded the opposition research project that gave rise to the so-called Trump dossier, a major question has been answered about the origins and evolution of the document, which has been a focal point of Russia-2016 investigation.

Through that new report, other reporting, and the litigation now surrounding the dossier, we are getting a clearer a picture of how the dossier came to be, to whom it was disseminated and when top national security officials thought it was valuable enough to make then-President Obama and President-elect Trump aware of it.

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