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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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The Justice Department has requested the banking records of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as part of its investigation into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives working to influence the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Federal investigators asked Citizens Financial Group Inc., a Rhode Island-based bank, to turn over Manafort’s records in mid-April, according to the report. The newspaper noted it’s unclear exactly what information DOJ requested or whether other banks received similar requests.

New York City real estate records reviewed by the Journal revealed that Citizens gave Manafort a $2.7 million loan in 2016 to refinance debt on a Manhattan condominium he owns.

Manafort had an unusual pattern of using shell companies to make all-cash purchases of real estate properties, transferring the properties to his own name, and then taking out large mortgages against them, according to a March investigation from WNYC.

The GOP operative and lobbyist has intimate ties to pro-Russian politicians and business leaders, and is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny from the FBI as part of its probe into Russia’s election interference. Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.

The New York attorney general and Manhattan district attorney also recently opened investigations into Manafort’s real estate holdings, the Journal reported.

The real estate holdings of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, are reportedly the subject of investigations by the New York attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News reported over the weekend on the investigations into millions of dollars in property owned by Manafort, a longtime lobbyist who ran the Trump campaign between April and August 2016. WNYC reported back in March that Manafort had a pattern of using shell companies to purchase multi-million dollar residences entirely with cash, including an apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and declined Bloomberg’s requests for comment. A spokesperson for Manafort told the publication that any leaks about ongoing investigations would be a “crime.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that an investigation out of Schneiderman’s office would focus on whether Manafort’s transactions were used for money-laundering, while Vance’s would look at any possible fraud.

In the mid-2000s, Manafort was paid by a Russian billionaire to develop a strategy to advance the interests of President Vladimir Putin, and he also was reportedly paid millions of dollars off the books as a consultant for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party. Manafort, who is also under investigation by the FBI for possibly colluding with Russia to help Trump win the election, has denied any wrongdoing.

Manafort’s spokesman said in April that the former campaign chairman was planning to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. He does not appear to have done so yet.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has made no public announcement about what he plans to do after finishing out his final term in Congress, but he has been telling Capitol Hill colleagues he may soon head to Fox News, the Washingtonian reported Saturday.

Two Republican lawmakers who have spoken to Chaffetz, as well as four House Republican aides, told the newspaper that he said he plans to take on a “substantial” on-air position for the conservative news channel.

This move may come as early as July, according to the report—over a year and a half before his term in Congress would end.

TPM has reached out to Chaffetz’s office for comment.

The House Oversight chairman announced in April that he made “a personal decision to return to the private sector” and would run for no elected position in 2018, in part to spend more time with his family.

“I just turned 50,” he said on MSNBC. “I’m sleeping on a cot in my office.”

Chaffetz left the door open to holding political office in the future, telling the Deseret News he would take a “serious, serious look” at running for governor.

The Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit will turn over records requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into potential ties between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russian operatives who intervened in the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Unnamed sources told the newspaper that the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which specializes in fighting money laundering, will share financial information with the committee, though they declined to elaborate on the nature of those records.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Bur (R-NC) and Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) wrote to FinCEN on April 26 requesting access to the same records the FBI has obtained as part of its own probe into Russia’s election interference, according to the Journal. The newspaper’s sources said that the committee has found information that prompted them to pursue more details about Trump’s business ties.

The Journal also reported that Trump’s Atlantic City, New Jersey casino, the Trump Taj Mahal, was hit with a $10 million civil penalty by FinCEN in 2015 for “willful and repeated violations” of anti-money laundering requirements.

Trump this week fired FBI Director James Comey, in part, he acknowledged, because of the FBI’s continued focus on the “Russia thing,” which the President has dismissed as “fake news.”

On Friday, Trump’s lawyers released a letter saying that a review of the past 10 years of the President’s tax returns reflect little income from Russian sources. The letter allowed that there were “a few exceptions.”

Two senior Democrats want Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to resign if he declines to install a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Friday cautioned that President Donald Trump’s sudden dismissal of FBI director James Comey can’t allow the probe to be derailed.

“In an interview with NBC News, President Trump admitted to firing FBI Director James Comey because of his investigation of the Trump campaign’s Russian connections,” Durbin said in a statement. “That is dangerously close to obstruction of justice. This morning, the President tweeted a thinly veiled threat to Mr. Comey, which could be construed as threatening a witness in this investigation, which is another violation of federal law.”

Trump admitted to NBC that “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia” was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey, calling it a “made up story.”

After reports came out about a January dinner in which Trump reportedly asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him, the President tweeted that the former FBI Director “better hope” there were no recordings of their conversations.

In her own statement, Feinstein said she supported “Durbin’s call for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to resign if he is unwilling to appoint a special counsel.”

“These investigations are far too important to risk disruption, delay or interference,” she added.

The Trump administration initially attributed Comey’s dismissal to a memo Rosenstein wrote condemning the FBI director’s management of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

The career prosecutor was appointed by Trump in January and only confirmed by the Senate in late April.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Friday declined to comment directly on President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to dismiss FBI Director James Comey, saying he couldn’t account for the flurry of activity coming out of the White House.

“I’m focusing on what’s in my control, and that is what is Congress doing to solve people’s problems,” Ryan said at an event in Delavan, Wisconsin, according to CNN.

“I’m going leave it to the President to talk about and defend his tweets,” Ryan said, pledging to focus on health care and tax reform.

Trump unleashed a torrent of tweets Friday morning railing against reported ties between Russia and Trump campaign associates, the “Fake Media,” and Comey himself. He issued a veiled threat against the former FBI director, saying that if Comey has any intention of speaking to the press, he’d “better hope” that there are no recordings of their private conversations.

As he has since early in the 2016 campaign, Ryan said it was up to Trump to account for his controversial tweets.

“I’m working on making sure that we make good on our promises and fix people’s problems,” Ryan said, according to CNN. “That’s what’s in my control, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

Still, the House Speaker joined GOP leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in saying it was Trump’s prerogative to dismiss Comey.

“He lost the confidence of the president,” Ryan told Fox News on Wednesday. “It is entirely within the president’s role and authority to relieve him and that’s what he did.”

Comey’s dismissal alarmed lawmakers investigating Russia’s interference in the presidential election, including some senior Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Fired FBI Director James Comey is willing to testify before Congress on the condition that he is able to do so in public, the New York Times reported Friday.

Comey declined an invitation from the Senate Intelligence Committee to be interviewed in a closed-door hearing next Tuesday, according to Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the ranking Democrat on that panel.

But a “close associate” of Comey’s told the Times he is willing to speak as long as he can do so in an open hearing.

President Donald Trump abruptly fired the FBI director, who was leading the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election and possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian operatives, earlier this week.

Comey’s dismissal sent shockwaves through Washington, D.C., with lawmakers questioning the timing of Trump’s decision and the rapidly changing explanations for why it happened.

The White House first attributed Comey’s dismissal to a memo by the deputy attorney general criticizing his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, before Trump told NBC News that he decided to make this move on his own. The President also said he thought the Russia probe was without merit, and that it factored into his decision to oust Comey.

Fired FBI Director James Comey turned down an invitation to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee next week, according to that panel’s leading Democrat.

Asked on MSNBC Friday afternoon if he believed it was “critical” to speak to Comey, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) affirmed that it was, but said “he won’t be testifying on Tuesday” as he was invited to do.

“I have enormous respect for Jim Comey and I believe at the appropriate time and place, he will tell his side of the story,” Warner continued. “And my hope is that will be in front of our committee.”

Trump unceremoniously fired Comey late Tuesday afternoon. His administration first cited a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was sharply critical of Comey’s controversial handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, before Trump revealed that he made the decision to fire Comey unilaterally.

The FBI and House and Senate Intelligence Committees are all conducting investigations into Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election, including possible collusion between Russian operatives and Trump campaign officials.

Two senior Democratic lawmakers on Friday asked the White House to turn over any recordings or other materials related to President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, alleging that the President’s actions raised the possibility of “obstruction of justice.”

“Under Section 1512 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, it is a crime to intimidate or threaten any potential witness with the intent to influence, delay, or prevent their official testimony,” Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote in a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn.

“The President’s actions this morning—as well as his admission yesterday on national television that he fired Director Comey because he was investigating Trump campaign officials and their connections to the Russian government—raise the specter of possible intimidation and obstruction of justice,” the lawmakers continued.

Trump tweeted on Friday that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations” if he intends to speak to the press.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly declined to address the tweet during his daily press briefing, saying there was “nothing further to add on that.”

He did not confirm or deny whether the President had set up recording devices in the Oval Office or elsewhere in the White House.

Conyers and Cummings said that Comey should be allowed to give his account in public testimony, and to receive copies of any recorded conversations between Trump and the former FBI director if they exist.

“We also request all documents, memoranda, analyses, emails, and other communications relating to the President’s decision to dismiss Director Comey,” they added.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also released a statement on Friday calling for the “immediate” release of any such secret recordings.

Read the full letter from Conyers and Cummings below.

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