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Alice Ollstein

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

Articles by Alice

In his highly anticipated appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted to shoot down recent reports that he failed to disclose a third meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016—on the sidelines of a Trump campaign speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

In response to questions from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sessions admitted that he may have had an “encounter” with Kislyak, but not a “formal meeting.”

“I didn’t have any formal meeting with him. I’m confident of that. But I may have had an encounter during the reception,” he said.

This is not exactly what Sessions said in his opening statement, in which he said he did not “recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel.”

After a round of cancellations and legal wrangling over the weekend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions agreed to testify in public Tuesday afternoon before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sessions takes the hot seat following explosive allegations about his undisclosed meetings with Russian officials, his recusal from the Russia investigation, and his role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

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President Trump’s private lawyer Marc Kasowitz has advised White House staffers—who are not his clients—not to retain their own lawyers, according to the New York Times. Kasowitz has also reportedly broken the long-standing protocol that presidents’ private attorneys operate through the White House Counsel’s office and don’t engage directly with other government employees whom they do not represent. These guidelines exist to make sure the staffers understand their rights and do not feel pressured to cooperate with their bosses’ private counsel. Kasowitz’s spokesperson told the Times these claims are “inaccurate” but refused to comment further.

As former White House attorneys have explained to TPM, Kasowitz is tasked with defending Trump personally, a job that inevitably conflicts with what is best for the White House as an institution.

But if Kasowitz did indeed tell White House staff not to retain their own lawyers, that presents additional problems. Those staffers may be interviewed in the coming months by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion with the Trump campaign, and any administration attempts to quash the federal inquiries.

Former White House counsel Robert Bauer warned that Kasowitz’s conversations “could be interpreted as an act of obstruction, a means of dissuading the witnesses from cooperating in the investigation.”

Telling the staffers not to retain their own counsel is also to Kasowitz’s advantage, making it easier for him to interview them as he builds his defense for Trump without having to go through a pack of lawyers each time.

A routine budget hearing in the Senate next week featuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions took on heightened importance following ousted FBI Director James Comey’s explosive Thursday testimony, which raised questions about what Sessions did both before and after he recused himself from the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

At least one member of the Appropriations Committee, Vice Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), plans to use next week’s budget hearing as an opportunity to grill Sessions about Russia, Comey and President Donald Trump. “I have many important questions for him to answer,” he said in a statement.

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During his feverishly-anticipated testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, ousted FBI Director James Comey made a host of major revelations about his handling of President Donald Trump and the federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election in the months before he was abruptly fired in May.

Importantly, Comey disclosed new information about actions he took when he became concerned about the Trump administration’s attempts to establish a “patronage” relationship with him and persuade him to drop the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Here’s an overview of some of the most significant moments from the hearing, where Comey revealed exactly what steps he took and why he took them.

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They began queuing up around 4 a.m.

By 9 a.m., the line hundreds of interns, congressional aides, and devoted members of the public snaked around the entire second floor of the Hart Senate Office Building, hoping desperately for a seat in hearing room for former FBI Director James Comey’s long-awaited testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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On Thursday morning, the world will finally hear from former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump in May as the investigation Comey was leading into Russian election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign kicked into high gear. Comey’s explosive testimony, according to a preview of his prepared remarks that dropped Wednesday, will touch on the salacious allegations in an unverified dossier on Trump, including bizarre, unconfirmed reports the Russian government had compromising records of him consorting with “hookers in Russia” that it planned to use as leverage.

The dossier—which originated as campaign opposition research before its findings caught the attention of top national security officials—has for months been the subject of much snickering in Washington, largely disappearing under the radar after it was leaked and published in January. But the document’s inclusion in Comey’s testimony puts it back in the spotlight, firmly part of the scandal that pushed Congress and the FBI to look into whether Trump improperly and perhaps illegally interfered in the Russia investigation. Improbably, on Thursday, a conversation about “hookers in Russia” between the former FBI director and the President of the United States will be entered into the official congressional record and debated in a public hearing.

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Many members of the Senate Intelligence Committee engaged in aggressive questioning Wednesday morning, grilling the leaders of the NSA, FBI, DOJ and the Director of National Intelligence about whether President Trump has intervened in ongoing investigations in Russian election interference and allegations of collusion with his campaign.

Only one, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), was cut off by the committee’s chair.

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