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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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Bill Burck — a private lawyer for former President George W. Bush who has been deciding which Brett Kavanaugh documents from his time in the Bush administration would be turned over to the Senate — got an extended shoutout Tuesday as Judiciary Democrats entered their second hour of holding up Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearings due to the lack of transparency during the confirmation process.

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North Carolina lawmakers may have to redraw their illegally gerrymandered U.S. House map before November’s midterms, after a panel of federal judges ruled Monday that it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. State Republicans had even bragged about the partisan advantage that the map — drawn after courts threw out a previous map for being a racial gerrymander — had given it them. It’s not clear whether the court and the lawmakers will be able to come up with a system for redrawing the map on such a short timeline. The U.S. Supreme Court may also get involved to give the legislators relief from the lower court’s decision.

Meanwhile, it appears North Carolina Republicans are putting aside some of their anti-democracy antics, perhaps to help bolster their case that it’s too close to an election to make any changes to voting procedures. They dropped their appeal of a state court’s decision blocking a new GOP law that would have prevented a Republican candidate — feared by the GOP to be a spoiler in the state Supreme Court race — from having his party affiliation on the ballot. North Carolina Republicans had sought to prohibit Chris Anglin from claiming a GOP party ID because they believed the former Democrat had switched parties to draw Republican votes away from the GOP incumbent for the state Supreme Court seat.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled mostly in the Texas GOP legislature’s favor in a redistricting case earlier this year; now, a three-judge panel has ordered the state to redraw the one state House district found illegal by the Supreme Court in time for the 2020 election. The panel also ordered briefing on whether the racial gerrymander should put Texas back under the requirement for federal approval of new election policies — a requirement that no longer applied after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Voting rights groups also got a win through a settlement agreement with Arizona election officials requiring the state to send voter registration forms to some 300,000 people who had interacted with various public agencies in the last year, and to start offering voter registration to those who come in contact with the agencies in the future.

On the heels of a failed attempt in Georgia to close 7 of the 9 election sites in a majority-black county, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did an analysis of the poll closures in the last half-decade and found that 1/3 of Georgia’s counties have fewer precincts now than in 2012. Thirty-nine of those 53 counties have a higher-than-average poverty rate for the state, and 30 counties have populations that are at least 25 percent African American. The bulk of those closures occurred after the SCOTUS decision gutting the Voting Rights Act provision that required Georgia to get federal approval for election procedure changes, including polling place closures. The state has also not been monitoring the closures, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Georgia also caught flack last week for a move to block all foreign traffic to its election website, which will make it much harder for overseas voters to register to vote. Georgia is defending the move as a security measure to prevent hackers, but tech experts say it will have little effect in stopping cyber intrusions, while placing a major burden on eligible voters seeking to register.

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A lobbyist who worked with a similar Ukrainian clientele as Paul Manafort pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., Friday to failing to register as a foreign agent for work he did on behalf of a Ukrainian oligarch in 2015 through the present.

It’s not clear what relationship, if any, the lobbyist Samuel Patten has with Manafort, however Patten has worked extensively with Konstantin Kilimnik, a top associate of Manafort’s in Ukraine. Manafort had also sought to work for the Opposition Bloc, but was less successful at securing work in Ukraine after 2014.

The government was represented in the plea hearing by assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. DiLorenz and an attorney from Justice Department’s National Security Division, however members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team — namely Andrew Weissmann, who is leading the prosecution of Manafort — were present in the courtroom.

As part of his guilty plea, Patten is cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation. Rather than set a sentencing date at the plea hearing, DiLorenz asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to file a status report in 60 days, suggesting that prosecutors anticipate at least a few weeks of cooperation from Patten.

The guilty plea came late Friday morning, a short time after prosecutors first made any public filings in the case.

Patten pleaded guilty to one charge related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act violation. The offense carries a maximum sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine.

According to prosecutors, Patten was working to advance the agenda of Ukraine’s Opposition Bloc, a political party made up of the remnants of the pro-Russian Party of Regions, which fell from power in 2014. His company was paid $1 million by a Ukrainian oligarch, known in court docs as “Foreign National B,” from spring 2015 through 2017, prosecutors said. He worked with a Russian national called “Foreign National A,” who he shared 50-50 his company.

Their work included setting up meetings for members of the executive and legislative branches, as well as contacts with the media. Among the legislators with whom they were in contact were members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Patten helped draft talking points for Foreign National B, and assisted Foreign National B in writing op-eds for American publications.

Among those op-eds was one drafted in January 2017 on behalf of Foreign National B raising concerns about Ukraine’s relationship with the incoming administration. The article was shopped around and placed in a national publication in the U.S. that February, prosecutors said at Friday’s hearing.

Asked by Judge Jackson if the prosecutors’ retelling of those events was true, Patten said it was and that he did act as an agent for Foreign National B.

Patten was released on personal recognizance, but will need to surrender his passport and receive court approval to travel outside the Washington, D.C. area. Also as part of his conditions of release, he will need to check in by phone with the probation office weekly and continue seeing a therapist whose care he told the judge he was under.

The case against Patten was not brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, but CNN reported that Mueller referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. Mueller is set to try Manafort in September in Washington, D.C., on charges relating to Manafort’s own alleged failure to register as a foreign agent for work he did in Ukraine.

Patten appears to have had his first proffer meeting — a meeting used to outline for prosecutors what one is prepared to divulge in exchange for a plea deal — in May, 2018.

Correction: Due to an editing error, this article incorrectly stated the date of a status hearing in the case and the fine associated with Patten’s FARA violation.

 

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U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis granted prosecutors’ request for more time to say whether they’ll retry former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on the 10 counts on which a jury in Virginia was deadlocked last week. They will now have a week after the judge rules on any post-trial motions, such as a motion to acquit on those counts, that Manafort files. The prosecutors’ deadline was originally this past Wednesday, but instead they sought the extension. The defense, meanwhile, asked for 30 days from last week to file its post-trial motions.

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