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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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In an unprecedented move, President Trump has ordered the Justice Department and FBI to publicly release a handful of former top government officials’ unredacted texts about the Russia investigation.

The affected officials include former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former senior FBI official Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page, and former Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr, according to a Monday statement from the White House.

Trump has attacked all of these individuals publicly, smearing them as part of a “deep state” effort to undermine his investigation by launching the “witch hunt” investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The president is not supposed to directly involve himself in ongoing federal investigations.

Trump has also directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Justice Department to immediately declassify a number of documents related to the Russia probe, the White House announced.

The relevant documents are the FBI’s application to obtain a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, all FBI interviews prepared about the Page surveillance applications, and all interviews the FBI conducted with Ohr about the Russia investigation.

The White House claimed Trump is making these requests “for reasons of transparency.”

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Following Friday’s announcement of Paul Manafort’s cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors, his attorney, Kevin Downing, made remarks outside D.C.’s federal courthouse.

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In a bombshell development, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is cooperating with the special counsel as part of the plea deal in his federal criminal trial.

The deal, announced in a D.C. courtroom Friday by federal prosecutor Andrew Weissman, included a “17 page cooperation agreement,” according to Washington Post reporter Spencer Hsu.

Journalists in the courtroom also reported that the “remaining charges” against Manafort would be dropped either at sentencing or at the end of his cooperation.

It’s unclear if Weissman was referring to the charges Manafort was facing in D.C. or the 10 counts that a Virginia jury hung on in his separate criminal trial there.

This news represents a huge blow to President Trump. Just a few weeks ago, Trump tweeted that he respected Manafort’s refusal to “break” and cooperate with federal prosecutors, calling him a “brave man.”

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The special counsel’s Friday superseding information against Paul Manafort is packed with new specifics about his lucrative work as an unregistered foreign lobbyist for Ukraine.

In damning, painstaking detail, the document lays out how Manafort worked to conceal and cover up the work he did on behalf of pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych.

Manafort is due in D.C. federal court at 11 a.m. ET for an arraignment and plea agreement hearing.

Here are some of the most striking details from the new information:

  • In commissioning white-shoe U.S. law firm Skadden Arps to write a report evaluating the trial of Yakuovych’s political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko, Manafort helped the government of Ukraine conceal the tremendous sum paid to the firm for this work.

  • Manafort directed his lobbyists to “plant some stink” on Tyomoshenko by alleging in U.S. news stories that she paid for the murder of a Ukrainian official. He urged them to take pains to cover their tracks.

  • In another attempt to smear Tymoshenko’s reputation in the U.S., Manafort launched a scheme to portray her as anti-Semitic because one of her Cabinet officials was allied with a Ukrainian political party that “espoused anti-Semitic views.” The Trump campaign chair said he would enlist what he termed “[O]bama jews” to help spread this story.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday filed a superseding information against Paul Manafort, ahead of what D.C. federal court now lists as a plea agreement hearing for the former Trump campaign chairman.

The two-count information charges Manafort with one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice through witness tampering. It’s also seeks forfeiture of assets Manafort obtained through the alleged scheme.

Earlier Friday morning, citing “officials,” the Washington Post reported that a plea agreement had been reached. It will be revealed in D.C. federal court at an 11 a.m. ET hearing. The agreement would resolve the cases against Manafort in D.C. and Virginia, allowing him to avoid a second criminal trial, according to CNN.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson must approve the plea agreement.

The pivotal unanswered question is whether the deal requires Manafort to cooperate with federal prosecutors, providing information about his tenure on the Trump campaign. Such an agreement would be a blow to President Trump, who has opined that witness “flipping” should be illegal. A deal that does not require Manafort’s cooperation would suggest that the former lobbyist is banking on a pardon from the White House.

In charging Manafort with conspiracy against the United States, prosecutors alleged in the new criminal information that Manafort engaged in money laundering, tax fraud, failure to file Foreign Bank Account Reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lying and making misrepresentations to the Justice Department.

Those allegations mirrors the indictments faced in both D.C. and Virginia, suggesting that the criminal information may be the basis for a plea agreement that covers both cases. The criminal information does not mirror the bank fraud charges that were part of the Virginia case, many of which the jury deadlocked on.

This post has been updated.

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