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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Dark clouds continue to gather around longtime Trump associate and GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone. This week saw several new reports indicating that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is narrowing in on Stone’s alleged involvement in coordinating with WikiLeaks to release emails related to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The most striking report came from NBC News, which reported that Mueller’s team had “reviewed messages to members of the Trump team in which Stone and [his associate Jerome] Corsi seem to take credit for the release of Democratic emails.”

Corsi is a conspiracy theorist and former Infowars correspondent credited with promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Mother Jones also reported that Stone texted radio host Randy Credico in January claiming he was working to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a “blanket pardon.”

Politico discovered a secret grand jury court fight that appears to be related to the probe, but its unclear which individual the matter involves.

In a Thursday court filing, federal prosecutors in New York acknowledged an “ongoing” grand jury investigation related to their probe into Michael Cohen. Various news organizations have asked a judge to unseal material related to the search warrants taken out against Cohen. In a filing opposing that request, prosecutors wrote that doing so would “interfere” with their probe into Cohen’s financial activities and whether Trump Organization officials violated campaign finance law by helping coordinate hush money payments to women.

Unsealing the warrant materials “would implicate significant privacy concerns for numerous uncharged third parties who are named,” prosecutors wrote. It could “prejudice an ongoing investigation in concrete, identifiable ways.”

Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who entered into a plea agreement with Mueller, went on Fox to claim he may ditch the whole thing. Papadopoulos made far-out, unsubstantiated claims that he was “framed” by an Obama-backed deep state conspiracy carried out by U.S. officials hostile to Trump.

Lawyers for alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina alleged that federal prosecutors were violating Brady Rules by making evidence against their client too difficult to access, and withholding some “exculpatory” materials. The government responded with a filing saying no such material existed, and insisting they’d complied with all requirements about turning over evidence.

The Russian government weighed in as well, calling Butina a “political prisoner” who was being unfairly treated by the U.S. government.

This week also saw a hearing in the New York attorney general’s suit against the Trump Foundation. It’s unclear when and whether the case will move forward, but if and when it does, discovery could shed more light on the Trump organization’s business practices, as officials from the company coordinated donations with members of both the campaign and the foundation.

Former Trump personal attorney Ty Cobb said the special counsel probe was not a “witch hunt,” calling Mueller an “American hero.”

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Politicians raising funds for charitable causes is nothing new and not an issue, lawyers for the Donald J. Trump Foundation argued in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday.

Maybe so. But certainly not the way Donald Trump did it, replied the New York Attorney General’s office, which is suing Trump and his family charity for alleged self-dealing.

The back-and-forth over the nature of Trump’s fundraising was one of the core threads running through the hearing today in Manhattan Supreme Court, where the Trump Foundation was pushing to have the case thrown out.

The radiator was working overtime in the stifling second-story room, but the windows had to be kept closed because of construction on the street outside. Reporters, lawyers, and onlookers crowded together on leather-topped benches and clustered on the window sills to observe the proceedings.

Alan Futerfas, a longtime attorney for the Trumps, argued in a long opening statement that the foundation’s conduct was perfectly normal and that “every penny” they raised went to charitable causes. After all, Futerfas said, politicians host the annual Al Smith dinner raising money for Catholic charities.

“Candidate can raise money,” Futerfas said. “Candidates go out and they say, ‘I’m here supporting this charity. The publicity inherent to that is absolutely proper.”

Judge Saliann Scarpulla intervened multiple times to point out that candidates do not typically do this at events promoting their own campaigns, as Trump did at an Iowa event before the 2016 Iowa caucuses. The Trump campaign urged donors to give money to his foundation, which would then be passed along to veterans’ organizations.

Candidates can raise money for charity, Scarpulla said, but “their campaigns are not directing where the money goes. That’s a completely different situation.”

Trump Organization officials and Trump campaign staffers exchanged emails dictating which organizations would accept the funds and how much each would get. The foundation was not involved in those decisions.

The campaign is saying “you need to get this voter group, so let’s send some money to them,” as Scarpulla put it.

Futerfas occasionally laughed, conceding she had a point. But he proposed that it was “refreshing” that Trump held this vets’ fundraiser rather than a typical campaign event.

Yael Fuchs of the attorney general’s office was more cutting in her assessment of the Trump team’s arguments.

They’re “completely conflating the identity of the foundation with the identify of the campaign,” Fuchs said.

“The timing and manner of distribution” of the $2.8 million in proceeds raised at the Iowa event “was also controlled and directed by the campaign for the political benefit of Mr. Trump,” she said, noting that Trump held “five political rallies” where he displayed “this big check from the Trump Foundation.”

That’s not what happens at the Al Smith dinner, or when Mitt Romney raised money for the Red Cross to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy, Fuchs argued.

“The money went directly to those causes,” she said. It was not distributed “based on the demographics of the recipients for my political benefit.”

Romney “didn’t call up the Red Cross and say please send vans to some neighborhoods in Staten Island” because he wanted votes there, Fuchs said.

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Far-right media figures aren’t the only ones promoting dark conspiracy theories about the pipe bombs sent this week to Democratic figures and news organizations.

Amy Tarkanian, former chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party and a surrogate for her husband Danny’s 2018 congressional race, shared messages on Wednesday suggesting that the “fake” bombs were a Democratic political ploy.

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The New York judge overseeing a lawsuit alleging that the Donald J. Trump Foundation served as a “personal piggybank” for the President issued no ruling at a Thursday hearing on the Trump team’s motion to dismiss the suit. But Judge Saliann Scarpulla seemed to suggest that the allegations laid out in the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit were legally sufficient for the case to move forward.

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The President’s lawyers didn’t want any more hearings in the case against the Trump Foundation before the November midterm elections.

But on Thursday, they will appear in a downtown Manhattan courtroom for a hearing on their own motion to dismiss a June lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. Underwood has accused President Trump and his three eldest children of running their family non-profit as a “shell corporation that functioned as a checkbook” for Trump’s business and political interests.

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