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.

Articles by

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was in a D.C. federal courthouse Tuesday for the first time since his plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller was announced last December, for a brief hearing ostensibly about a proposal to tweak the logistics around his yet unscheduled sentencing date.

The judge, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, admitted he also called the hearing, in part, because he hadn’t yet had any face-time with Flynn.

“There was a level of discomfort,” Sullivan said, with the idea of interacting with Flynn  for the first time when he appeared in front of the judge in the future for sentencing.

The judge initially assigned to Flynn’s case, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, recused himself soon after Flynn entered his guilty plea, and the case was randomly reassigned to Sullivan.

Flynn, in a red tie and a dark suit, looked upbeat in the courtroom, telling Sullivan he was “doing OK.”

Outside, a spattering of protesters, both supportive and critical of Flynn, had shown up after far-right activists had called for flash mob to support him.

Mueller’s team and Flynn’s attorneys had previously filed court documents requesting that the judge order the pre-sentencing investigation of Flynn begin even while the special counsel was not ready yet to set a sentencing date. In joint court filings, Mueller and Flynn said that “due to the status of the special counsel’s investigation,” they were not ready to schedule his sentencing, but were requesting that work on the probation office’s pre-sentencing report begin so that they could later seek a more “expedited schedule” once Flynn was ready for sentencing.

On Tuesday, Flynn attorney Robert Kelner said that Flynn was eager to bring this “chapter” of his life to a close, and the government had offered this
“appealing” proposal so that he could proceed to sentencing as soon as possible.

Sullivan said that he was concerned that such a request was burden on the probation office, and argued that it would have to do the pre-sentencing investigation all over again once Flynn’s sentencing date was scheduled.

Instead, the judge offered to schedule Flynn’s sentencing date 60 days after the parties announce that they’re ready to proceed to sentencing, instead of the usual 90 days — assuming that doing so wasn’t a burden on the probation officers pulling together the pre-sentencing report.

Both Kelner and Mueller’s team — represented by Brandon Van Grack — said that they would “welcome” that proposal.

Flynn — who, before serving briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, was a top adviser to Trump’s campaign — pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contact with a Russian official during the presidential transition. He was fired in February 2017 because, according to the administration, he also misled Vice President Mike Pence about those communications.

Flynn and Mueller are scheduled to file another status report on August 24.

Read More →

Lisa Page — the FBI attorney who exchanged scathing texts critical of then-candidate Donald Trump with another FBI official, Peter Strzok — has been subpoenaed by the House Judiciary committee to appear in front of lawmakers for private questioning on Wednesday, a committee aide confirmed to TPM.

Her scheduled appearance Wednesday was previously reported by Bloomberg and CNN.

In a statement, Page’s lawyer Amy Jeffress said she had been “working with the Committee staff to arrange Lisa’s voluntary appearance” but that the “committees have not followed the normal process.”

Page is set to appear before the lawmakers the day before Strzok will testify publicly in front of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees. Strzok previously sat for an 11-hour session of private questioning by lawmakers. His lawyers have accused lawmakers of “selectively leaking and misrepresenting” his private testimony, and have called upon lawmakers to release the transcript of the questioning.

Read the full Jeffress statement on Page’s cooperation below:

“We have been working with the Committee staff to arrange Lisa’s voluntary appearance.  We asked the Committee staff to explain the scope of the investigation and provide sufficient notice that would allow her to prepare, which are normal conditions for congressional committees, but these committees have not followed the normal process.  The FBI has agreed to provide Lisa with her notes and other documents to allow her to prepare, but they have not provided those documents to date, so we are still waiting to work out a reasonable date for her interview.  Lisa has cooperated voluntarily with another congressional committee that had no objection to explaining the scope of its investigation or providing sufficient notice for her interview.  Lisa also cooperated fully with the OIG investigation and appeared voluntarily for multiple interviews, including after she left the FBI.”

Read More →

The states and localities challenging the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the Census secured a small victory last week. A New York federal judge ordered the administration to turn over more information about the documents it was withholding related to its decision to add the question. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman also suggested that up to 10 government officials may deposed, according to reports from a hearing Furman held in the New York-led lawsuit on Tuesday.

Opponents of a redistricting reform effort in Michigan were able to persuade the state’s Supreme Court to hold a hearing on the initiative. The hearing will be on July 18; supporters of the reform effort hope to get the initiative on the November ballot. Five of the seven judges on the court are Republican-backed, and two have accepted money from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — one of the chief opponents of the redistricting reform proposal — in their 2018 re-election campaigns.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who was penalized by a judge for running afoul of her orders and of trial procedure in his proof-of-citizenship voter-registration case — indicated last week that he will not be representing himself, as he did at the trial court level, when he brings the case for review by an appeals court. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt will be the lead counsel representing Kobach and the state during the appeal. Meanwhile, Kobach and the challengers of the requirement filed a joint status report with the district court judge outlining the steps the state has taken to be in compliance with her order striking down the proof-of-citizenship requirement. There are a few matters Kobach and the challengers seem to be in disagreement about, including whether Kobach can continue to track voters who show proof-of-citizenship when they register.

Less than a month after the Supreme Court issued its decision upholding Ohio’s system for purging voters from its rolls, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted issued a series of directives restarting the purges. No voters will be removed from the rolls before November’s midterm elections, but election officials can begin identifying voters who have not voted for two years and thus are candidates for being removed from the rolls. Unlike before, if voters renew a driver’s license or another state ID card using an address at which they are also registered to vote, it will confirm a voter’s address and prevent them from being purged. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, some 1.8 million Ohioans are at risk of being removed from the rolls.

Boston is considering a proposal to expand the franchise. At a hearing Tuesday, the City Council will weigh whether to allow non-citizens with legal status in the U.S. to vote in municipal elections.

Meanwhile, in Florida, a political committee has mounted a campaign to create, via an amendment to the state’s constitution, a “top two” primary system, like the one in California. The group behind the effort, Florida Fair and Open Primaries, is seeking to get the initiative on the ballot for the 2020 election and will need at least 766,200 petition signatures to do so.

Read More →

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a series of court motions late Friday seeking to delay and move his trial in Virginia, which is slated to begin in Alexandria later this month. He also reiterated his concern about alleged leaks to the media from the FBI and Justice Department, despite the judge in the Virginia case previously showing skepticism that such allegations would be addressed in the lead-up to the trial.

“Mr. Manafort has been subject to negative press since the leaking of the Special Counsel’s investigation more than a year ago; however, the recent bail revocation and his subsequent detention has exacerbated the situation,” one of Manafort’s court filings said. “Time is needed to allow passions to cool and to permit the seating of an impartial jury.”

Manafort is facing charges that include bank fraud and tax fraud in Virginia, in a case that was brought in addition to the charges of money laundering and failure to disclose foreign lobbying brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller in Washington, D.C. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Ironically it was Manafort who resisted the special counsel’s offer to consolidate the Virginia charges, brought in February, into the case in D.C., which was initially brought by Mueller last October. There was speculation that Virginia would offer Manafort a more favorable jury pool than D.C., but that keeping the trials separate also came at a risk, given the pro-prosecution bent of the Virginia district.

The D.C. case is scheduled to begin in September.

A Request to Delay the Virginia Case

It was well known, when Manafort first opted to let the case proceed in Virginia, that the Eastern District of Virginia has a reputation of moving quickly in case proceedings, earning it the nickname “rocket docket.”

Now Manafort is claiming he needs more time to prepare, pointing both to the decision by the judge in the D.C. case to put him jail while he awaits trial due to allegations of witness tampering, as well as the special counsel’s discovery production schedule.

According to Manafort, he received 50,000 pages of documents from Mueller only last Friday.

He requested that U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis delay the Virginia case until after his case in D.C. wraps up.

Manafort Offers More Details About Leak Allegations

At a hearing on June 29, Ellis said he wasn’t ready to hold a hearing on Manafort’s allegations of Justice Department leaks to the media, which Manafort requested. The judge also said he would not dismiss the case on the basis of the allegations, but that Manafort could seek a venue change (more on that later).

At that hearing, however, the special counsel turned over to Manafort notes drafted by the FBI on a meeting FBI agents and DOJ officials had with AP reporters in April 2017. The notes were referenced in questioning during the June hearing with an FBI agent who was present in the meeting and was later involved in a search of Manafort’s storage. (The appropriateness of that search was one of the topics of the hearing).

Manafort, on Friday, included those lightly-redacted notes in a court filing requesting that Ellis order the government to “turn over all communications and notes of the meeting as well as any internal complaints filed with respect to the same.”

Manafort Wants to Move The Trial To Roanoke

In addition to his request that his Virginia trial be delayed, Manafort on Friday requested that it be moved to Roanoke, an area of the state with a “more balanced” political split than Alexandria between Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters, Manafort said.

“It is not a stretch to expect that voters who supported Secretary Clinton would be predisposed against Mr. Manafort or that voters who supported President Trump would be less inclined toward the Special Counsel,” the filing said.

Should Mueller Get To Mention Manafort’s Trump Ties?

Manafort had requested last month that mention of Manafort’s work on the Trump campaign — which mostly came after the alleged activity giving rise to the charges — be excluded from the trial. On Friday, Mueller had a chance to respond in court filings.

The special counsel said that he specifically wanted to include in the case allegations that Manafort received $16 million in loans — using “false and fraudulent representations,” according to Mueller — from a bank whose executive was seeking to work for the Trump administration.

The banker, who is referred to as “senior executive at Lender D” in the Mueller filing, is Steve Calk, who served on the Trump’s campaign economic advisory team and reportedly desired to be Trump’s Army Secretary.

Read More →

The federal judge overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian internet trolls case settled a dispute Friday in the case over who could access the government’s discovery.

With an order setting up special restrictions, U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich required anyone — other than those on the defense team at the U.S. based-law firm hired by a Russian firm to fight the charges — seeking access to the discovery first to get her permission.

The order explicitly said that Yevgeny Prigozhin— a Russian oligarch known as “Putin’s chef” — would be barred from accessing the materials, absent Friedrich’s permission.

Prigozhin was among the 13 individuals and other entities indicted for election meddling, but he has not appeared in court. His firm, Concord Management, has however lawyered-up and entered a not guilty plea to the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Mueller has alleged that Concord Management funded the Russian internet troll operation.

Concord Management’s lawyers had been fighting for Prigozhin to have access to the discovery. Mueller had argued that access to the discovery should be restricted for national security reasons — an argument Friedrich on Friday mostly agreed with, though she stopped short of entirely barring Prigozhin from accessing the discovery if he didn’t enter an appearance with the court, as Mueller had requested.

The judge adopted a Mueller-proposed scheme to set-up a “firewall” team of government lawyers, separate from the prosecution team, to review requests from Concord Management’s U.S. attorneys to share certain evidence to individuals outside their law firm.

“Contemporaneous with any such requests, Concord’s counsel will provide an independent and Court-approved firewall counsel (who is not in the Office of the Special Counsel) with the name of the individual to whom counsel intends to release the sensitive discovery materials,” her opinion outlining the protective order on discovery said. “And if needed, the firewall counsel will alert the Court to any concerns that the government has about releasing the sensitive discovery materials to that individual. Absent further order of the Court, any such individual will be entitled to review disclosed sensitive materials only at a U.S. office of Reed Smith.”

Read the opinion and order below:

Read More →

In testimony about the events leading up to a search of Paul Manafort’s storage unit, a FBI agent revealed Friday that federal prosecutors and the FBI may have been tipped off to the possibility that Manafort maintained storage lockers after an April meeting with four Associated Press reporters.

The revelation came in a hearing in front of U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis on motions ahead of the trial in the case brought against Manafort in Virginia, which is set to being next month. Manafort, who is in jail while he awaits trial, was not present at the hearing.

The meeting between the AP reporters and investigators was previously known, and pointed to by Manafort in a court filing about media leaks related to the case.

However, FBI special agent Jeff Pfeiffer went into new detail about the actions he took after the meeting that culminated in the search of the storage unit in Virginia. Manafort has requested that the judge suppress the evidence from the search, because before getting a warrant, Pfeiffer entered the unit with the permission of a Manafort employee who had a key to it.

The meeting was set up on April 11, 2017, for prosecutors and FBI agents to receive information being offered by the AP reporters, Pfeiffer said during questioning by Uzo Asonye, an attorney representing special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. One of the AP reporters, who were in the midst of their own Manafort investigation, mentioned that Manafort had a storage unit. Pffiefer in his testimony said that it was either that meeting or other investigative efforts that led him to learn of the units.

Asonye asked Pfeiffer how the government officials responded to the information brought to them by the reporters. The agent said that the response from the officials was generally “no comment.”

In statement after the hearing, AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said that “Associated Press journalists met with representatives from the Department of Justice in an effort to get information on stories they were reporting, as reporters do.”

“During the course of the meeting, they asked DOJ representatives about a storage locker belonging to Paul Manafort, without sharing its name or location,” she said in the statement.

A week later, having secured a subpoena for the leases on the Manafort storage unit, Pfeiffer traveled to the facility and met with its manager. There, he received a list of individuals associated with the leases that he used as a list of potential interviewees, the agent said. The first person he interviewed on the list was Alex Trusko, an Manafort employee whose name was on one of the leases and had a key to the unit, where he moved files for Manafort.

After interviewing Trusko at his home on May 26, the agent went back to the facility, where Trusko let him into the unit, the agent said. Pfeiffer made observations and took photos, according to his testimony, but did not remove any items. Prosecutors then obtained a warrant and executed the search the next day.

During Manafort attorney Thomas Zehnle’s cross-examination of Pfeiffer, he asked the agent to name specifically who was at the meeting. He remembered DOJ prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who is now on the Mueller team, and two other federal prosecutors from the DOJ, and named two other agents, besides himself who were there for the FBI.

Pfeiffer said there were four AP reporters present, but did not remember their names.

Zehnle then directed the questioning to notes that were taken memorializing the meeting with the AP. The notes, according to Zehnle, said that at the end of the meeting the AP reporters asked the officials if they were “off base” with what they were pursuing, and that they were advised that they had a good understanding of Manafort’s business dealings.

Pfeiffer said he did not remember such a remark being made.

In addition to the storage unit search, Ellis heard brief arguments Friday on Manafort’s request that the evidence from a July search of his residence be thrown out.

Ellis said he would take both search-related requests under advisement.

Manafort’s attorneys had additionally asked that the judge hold a hearing an alleged government leaks to the media. After a back-and-forth with Ellis, in which Ellis made clear he would not dismiss the case on the basis of the alleged leaks, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing indicated he would seek a change of venue for the case.

“You better marshall all your evidence,” Ellis told Downing, adding that he should “do it quickly.”

Ellis announced he was denying a Mueller motion for a written jury questionnaire, and he walked through the oral process he’d go through to question a juror’s potential biases, known as voir dire. He said he would accept proposed questions from both sides, and they could submit additional proposed questions during the process.

“We are not going to ask jurors who they voted for,” Ellis said, and he was not going to question them on what magazines they read.

“We are not going to go down that road,” Ellis said.

Manafort was indicted by a federal grand jury on bank fraud, tax fraud and other financial crimes, mostly involving his consulting work for Ukraine before he became Trump’s campaign manager. He has pleaded not guilty.

The trial is scheduled to being July 25.

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from an AP spokeswoman.

Read More →

One chapter of special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling Russia probe appears to be coming to an end.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss on Thursday approved a Sept. 7 sentencing hearing for former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Prosecutors and Papadopoulos’ lawyers will each submit memos on his sentencing by Aug. 17 and Aug. 31, respectively, the judge’s order said.

Papadopoulos has been cooperating with Mueller’s probe since late July, when agents met him coming off a plane at a D.C.-area airport and took him into custody. His guilty plea to lying to FBI agents about his Russian contacts during the campaign was kept under seal and secret for months — revealed only in late October, on the same day Mueller unveiled charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Read More →

Like a bad penny, the Justice Department attorneys who have had to defend President Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission can’t escape an interview its leader, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, gave to Breitbart on the day of the commission’s demise.

Kobach’s claims to Breitbart — which included that the commission had already produced findings and that the Department of Homeland Security, with Kobach’s consultation, was going to continue the commission’s work — have come up again and again in the litigation that continued around the commission, even after Trump dissolved it due to mounting lawsuits.

A Wednesday order from a judge demanding that the panel’s internal communications be turned over to Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D), one of the members of the commission, was no different. Her order came six months after a previous decision, shortly before Trump disbanded the commission, that Dunlap receive the documents.

In her opinion granting Dunlap’s request for documents, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly cited multiple comments that Kobach made to Breitbart.

First was Kobach’s boast that he would be “working closely with the White House and DHS to ensure the investigations continue.”

That and other comments made by Trump and the administration suggested to the judge that “the issue would remain on the agenda.” Despite that, she wrote, “Nowhere did Defendants indicate that they would comply” with her previous order, handed down days before the commission was terminated, that Dunlap get the documents.

The second comment in the Breitbart article that popped up in the judge’s opinion was refence  “the voter fraud commission has revealed” certain findings.

The Justice Department argued that Kobach was not referring to any final commission report — which Dunlap, in bringing the lawsuit, alleged he was being denied participation in — but rather “reference material that was presented to the Commission at its meetings.”

The judge, pointing to similar comments made by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said “this suggestion of findings cannot be skirted so easily.”

She rejected the Justice Department’s attempts to walk back the comments about the commission’s findings. “[S]uch post-hoc rationalizations are not persuasive, particularly where Defendants offer no declarations from Mr. Kobach or the press secretary (or the President), nor even counsel’s own explanation of the press secretary’s statement on the part of those Defendants who indisputably remain in this case,” the judge said.

Whether the commission had in fact been working on a set of findings was key to Dunlap’s case because he had argued that he had been shut out of its work.

“A review of the records themselves will reveal whether some of them could be characterized as findings, or even a report, although they may not be captioned as such,” Kollar-Kotelly said.

Wednesday’s opinion was not the first time that this Breitbart interview and other comments Kobach made to the press after the commission’s disbandment had come back to haunt the administration — they had come up repeatedly in multiple lawsuits earlier this year.

For this lawsuit, the commission has until July 18 to turn over the documents Dunlap has requested.

Read the lawsuit below:

Read More →

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, calmly but firmly, asked House Republicans to step back from their crusade to hold him in contempt of Congress and to consider other ways to settle their dispute over DOJ document production instead.

We are not in contempt of this Congress, and we are not going to be in contempt of this Congress,” Rosenstein said at House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday. As Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray were being subjected to bruising rounds of questioning, House Republicans voted in favor of resolution calling on the Justice Department to turn over requested documents by next week.

Read More →

Appearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein denied the claims, made by Republican House Intelligence Committee staffers, that he threatened them in a tense conversation about Justice Department document production.

In denying the claims, which had been previously been denied by the Justice Department and the FBI, Rosenstein also made a subtle dig at how the staffers’ allegations were leaked anonymously to the media.

People make all kinds of allegations and in my business, we ask who’s the witness, now [are they] credible?” Rosenstein said, responding to a question by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). “And if somebody swears under oath that I threatened them, I’ll be happy to respond.” 

He pointed out that two other Trump DOJ appointees — FBI Director Christopher Wray and Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd — joined him in the meeting, as did two former GOP U.S. attorneys, before denying the allegations.

In February, unnamed sources told Fox News that Rosenstein threatened to use his subpoena powers in a January meeting. Fox News later reported on emails from Kash Patel, an aide to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who wrote to the House Office of General Counsel about the meeting. A second unnamed staffer also wrote an email to the House General Counsel alleging that Rosenstein launched a “sustained personal attack” on his colleague that he interpreted to be “a not-so-veiled threat to unleash the full prosecutorial power of the state against us.”

CNN followed up with the Fox News story with a report, based on an unnamed Justice official, that Rosenstein was only making clear that if Congress sought to hold him in contempt, he would be able to defend himself, “including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) returned to the allegations later in the hearing — as part of an extended tirade against the deputy attorney general — asking Rosenstein if he threatened to “subpoena their calls and emails?”

No, sir, and there’s no way to subpoena phone calls,” Rosenstein said, prompting laughter, and recommended that Jordan not depend on the press reports on the meeting.

Who are we supposed to believe, staff members who we’ve worked with who’ve never misled us or you guys who’ve we caught hiding information from us, who tell a witness not to answer our questions, who are we supposed to believe?” Jordan barked back.

“Thank for you making it clear it’s not personal, Mr. Jordan,” Rosenstein replied, sarcastically.

You should believe me because I’m telling the truth and I’m under oath. If you want to put somebody under oath, and they have something different to say, I’d be happy to respond,” Rosenstein added.

Read More →