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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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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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A Republican member of President Trump’s shady voter fraud commission told reporters Wednesday that, as far as she knew, the commission’s work was on pause as it gets through some of the lawsuits against it.

“It’s my understanding that there were just so many lawsuits against the commission, that right now there’s nothing going on,” Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said, after appearing at a hearing in front of the Committee on House Administration.

She said that the emails and conversations among the commissioners had stopped for the time being, and she was not aware of the plans for the commission’s next meeting. Unlike some of the Democratic commission members who have raised concerns about the lack of transparency, she was not bothered by the absence of information about the commission’s next steps.

“It’s not the fact that anybody’s being shut out, it’s just the fact that they wanted to get some of these lawsuits settled and then move forward,” she said.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democratic member of the commission, wrote a letter to the commission’s executive director, Andrew Kossack, last week in which he said there was a “frustration with the lack of information that people are able to get out of the commission.” Dunlap told TPM that the reports that a commission researcher had been arrested on child porn charges was the final straw that prompted him to write the letter, as he was unaware of what research the staffer, Ronald Williams, was doing for the commission.

Alan King, an Alabama probate judge and a Democrat on the commission, has also said he was not sure what the commission has done since its last meeting in July.

Lawson on Wednesday said she also didn’t know the arrested researcher.  She added that she did not know any of the staff that was working for the commission, besides Kossack. Nonetheless, she expected that the commission would at some point meet again, even as it was very unlikely they would meet their goal of producing a final report by the February meeting of the National Association of Secretary of States.

“The information I received was, ‘Look, we just wanted to get some of these things behind us so we can get to work.’ It’s very chilling to know that you can’t really work without somebody suing over something that you’ve done,” Lawson said.

“It’s not that anybody would do anything wrong, but it’s just very chilling,” she later added.

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It seems that House Republicans are feeling nostalgic for their Obama-era investigations.

On the same day that the House Republicans on the Oversight and Judiciary committees announced an investigation into the Justice Department’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email inquiry, House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) touted another investigation being launched into Obama administration’s Justice Department, having to do with a 2010-11 Russian uranium deal that has gotten fresh scrutiny. That investigation is also being shared with the House Oversight Committee.

The announcement comes as the pace picks up on a number of congressional probes into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians’ meddling in the 2016 election.

Nunes, who has continued to operate at the fringes of House Intel’s Russia probe despite stepping down from leading it in April, said at a press conference Tuesday that he had not had any communications with the White House about the new uranium probe. He also seemed to vaguely deny that he had ever fully recused himself from House Intel’s Russia investigation.

“I would refer back to the statement that I originally sent out as my relationship with the Russia investigation,” Nunes said as he faced repeated questions about whether he has stepped aside from that probe. “I can give you the facts and you guys can write what you write, but sometimes if you write opinion, that’s not based on fact. That’s not what I said at the time, and I would prefer you guys stop referring to that. But I can’t control what you guys write.”

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The Republican leaders of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees announced the launch of an investigation into various decisions the Justice Department made during the 2016 campaign, including the FBI’s handing of the Hillary Clinton email inquiry as well as its decision not to make public its ongoing investigation into associates of President Donald Trump.

House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlate (R-VA) said in a joint statement that “Congress has a constitutional duty to preserve the integrity of our justice system by ensuring transparency and accountability of actions taken.”

The top Democrats on the committees accused Republicans of engaging in “a massive diversion to distract from the lack of Republican oversight of the Trump Administration and the national security threat that Russia poses,” in a statement issued a few hours after the new probe was announced.

“The Russian government continues to represent a clear and present threat to the United States and our democratic system, and we are the targets of near-constant cyberattacks by foreign adversaries,” Judiciary’s Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Oversight’s Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in the statement. “Yet House Republicans have taken no concrete steps to secure our next election. Apparently, House Republicans are more concerned about Jim Comey than Vladimir Putin.”

Gowdy and Goodlatte’s investigation comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee, and particularly its chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), has also signaled interest in examining some of the moves the DOJ made during the election.

According to Gowdy and Goodlatte’s press release, the probe will include (but is not limited to) the following questions:

  • FBI’s decision to publicly announce the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified information but not to publicly announce the investigation into campaign associates of then-candidate Donald Trump;

  • FBI’s decision to notify Congress by formal letter of the status of the investigation both in October and November of 2016;

  • FBI’s decision to appropriate full decision making in respect to charging or not charging Secretary Clinton to the FBI rather than the DOJ; and

  • FBI’s timeline in respect to charging decisions.

 This post has been updated.

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A prominent Democratic lobbyist whose brother happened to chair Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign has become the subject of a criminal inquiry as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, NBC News reported Monday.

Mueller’s reported interest in Tony Podesta, and his Dem-leaning lobbying firm the Podesta Group, stems not from any apparent links to Russia’s 2016 election meddling activities, but rather a failure to disclose 2012-2014 lobbying activity for a Ukrainian non-profit closely aligned with the interests of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.

The key figure in all of this is Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign chair during the summer of 2016, who was involved in setting up the campaign for the non-profit, the European Centre For a Modern Ukraine. Manafort’s longtime deputy, Rick Gates, directed the Podesta Group’s work — and the work of a GOP-leaning firm, Mercury LLC — for ECFMU, previously reported emails have shown.

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The tussle between the private research firm behind the so-called Trump dossier, and House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes — who in theory but not in practice has recused himself from the Russia probe — has escalated, with Nunes subpoenaing the firm’s bank and the firm going to court to block the subpoena.

The subpoena sought information about all assets held by Fusion GPS and its associates, including balances, transactions and other types of activities dating back the last two years. It comes as the firm has faced increasing pressure to reveal the clients that financed the dossier.

On Friday, the firm, Fusion GPS filed a lawsuit claiming that subpoena was a “blatant attempt to chill” political speech and a “fishing expedition.” The lawsuit was technically against the unnamed bank, but by Saturday the House Intel Committee  had sought to intervene in the case to defend Nunes’ subpoena.

The committee is expected to file by Monday evening a response to Fusion GPS’ request to the court that it place a temporary restraining order on the bank from releasing the records.

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