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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President Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Saturday for his public takedown of the Graham-Cassidy proposal—the Senate GOP’s latest Obamacare repeal effort under consideration.

“John McCain never had any intention of voting for this Bill, which his Governor loves,” Trump said in the first of a trio of tweets. “He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!”

The President also accused McCain of taking the “sad” step of aligning himself with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) while abandoning his closest ally in the Senate, proposal co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The 81-year-old senator issued a lengthy statement on Friday saying he “could not in good conscience” vote for the measure out of concerns over the rushed process with which it was being rammed through. The Senate GOP has a deadline of Sept. 30 to pass an Obamacare repeal measure using the particular legislative vehicle they adapted to avoid a Democratic filibuster. In the name of expediency, Senate Republicans have pushed Graham-Cassidy forward without even getting a full score of its impact from the Congressional Budget Office.

“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” McCain said in his statement. “Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”

His full-throated opposition weakens the bill’s chances of passing, as Senate Republicans can only lose two Republican votes and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has already signaled he’s against it. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has also hinted that she would vote against the measure if it were brought to the floor.

As with previous repeal efforts, Trump has done little to publicly advocate for Graham-Cassidy outside of sending a few tweets. On Saturday, he fired off a few encouraging missives to senators likely to vote down the proposal, including Paul and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski.

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The Department of Homeland Security is under fire for waiting months to notify 21 states of the mostly unsuccessful efforts of hackers associated with the Russian government to infiltrate their election systems during the 2016 campaign.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) called the delay “unacceptable,” saying state election officials must be made aware of all such attempted intrusions, successful or not, so that they can strengthen their defenses.”

California’s Democratic Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, said that DHS ignored his office’s repeated requests for additional information.

“We shouldn’t have to learn about potential threats from leaked NSA documents or media reports,” Padilla said in a statement. “It is the intelligence community’s responsibility to inform elections officials of any potential threats to our elections. They failed in this responsibility.”

Padilla said that Jeanette Manfra, DHS’ Acting Undersecretary for Cybersecurity and Communications, falsely testified to Congress in June that all 21 states whose systems were targeted had already been informed.

“This was simply not true and DHS acknowledged they failed to contact us and ‘two or three’ other states,” Padilla said.

The hackers efforts’ did not affect election results or the systems themselves. They mainly consisted of attempts to scan the systems for vulnerabilities.

Besides California, other states that have confirmed being targeted include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, according to the Associated Press and states themselves.

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Continuing a streak of picking fights with famous athletes, President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed that he rescinded the White House invitation to the Golden State Warriors after some of the basketball team’s most prominent players said they had no interest in meeting with him.

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” Trump said on Twitter. “Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

Curry, a two-time MVP, and Warriors coach Steve Karr told the press on Friday that they were unsure if they would attend.

“I don’t want to go,” Curry said, according to USA Today.

“We don’t stand for basically what our President has – the things that he’s said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times, that we won’t stand for it,” Curry said, in an apparent reference to Trump’s subdued criticism of the armed white nationalists who took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia in August for a bloody rally.

The team later released a statement saying that they plan to “constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion” rather than meeting with the President at the White House.

This exchange of words came as the National Football League was criticizing Trump’s “divisive comments” about players who have taken to kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

The President told an Alabama rally crowd on Friday that any “son of a bitch” who does so should be fired.

Other giants in the sports world weighed in on Trump’s latest feud. Both ESPN anchor Jemele Hill and Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James pointed out that Trump was trying to take credit for disinviting athletes who had already rejected him.

“U bum,” James wrote in a tweet. “@StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite.”

This post has been updated.

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The morning after President Donald Trump called on National Football League owners to fire players protesting racism by kneeling during the national anthem, the NFL commissioner released a statement criticizing “divisive comments.”

“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” Roger Goodell said in a Saturday statement that never mentioned Trump by name.

Trump’s remarks came during an Alabama campaign rally for Sen. Luther Strange.

The President opined that it was a “total disrespect of our heritage” for players protesting racial inequality and police brutality to refuse to stand during the “Star Spangled Banner, adding that any “son of a bitch” who does so should lose his job.

DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL player union, said that those athletes “no longer can afford to stick to sports.”

The union “will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks,” Smith said in a statement.

Trump poured fuel on the fire with a pair of Saturday afternoon tweets, saying anyone paid for the “privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL” should be fired for engaging in this particular form of protest.

Trump’s comments represent the second time in recent weeks that the White House has forcibly inserted itself in a debate over politics in sports.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly told reporters that an ESPN anchor should be fired for making critical comments about Trump.

ESPN anchor Jemele Hill’s tweets calling the President a “bigot” and “white supremacist” were a “fireable offense,” Sanders said.

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Ostensibly in Alabama to boost the campaign of Sen. Luther Strange, President Donald Trump held forth for over an hour at a Friday night rally on topics including North Korea’s nuclear program, health care, Hillary Clinton, and the National Football League, at one point even promising the crowd that he would campaign for Strange’s opponent if he lost the primary.

“I told Luther if his opponent wins, I’ll be here campaigning like hell for him,” Trump told the Huntsville crowd, referring to former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore. He said Moore and Strange were “both good men.”

The Cotton State’s GOP primary has drawn national attention because it pits two pro-Trump candidates, one establishment and one decidedly not, against each other. Sarah Palin and former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka held a rally this week for the ardently Christian firebrand Moore, who was suspended for refusing marriage license applications for same-sex couples. Trump, in a surprise move, aligned himself with Strange, the establishment favorite backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

At the Huntsville rally, Trump tried to shift this perception, insisting that Strange would not do McConnell’s bidding.

“He doesn’t know Mitch McConnell at all. Luther is a tough cookie,” Trump said. “He doesn’t kowtow to anybody.”

But the President didn’t exactly stay on-message, telling the audience that he was “taking a big risk” by involving himself in the primary because Strange, who has consistently trailed in the polls, could very well lose.

“I shouldn’t be doing it—the last thing I want to do is be involved in a primary,” Trump said, adding, “I might have made a mistake.”

Seconds later, though, he insisted Strange was “going to win easily” and could easily defeat a Democrat in the December general election.

The six-foot-nine Strange, who Trump said he had taken to calling “Big Luther,” faces a difficult road to victory in Tuesday’s primary. The Washington Post reported that many supporters who packed the Von Braun Center were only there to see Trump and told the newspaper that they planned to vote for Moore.

“I don’t know who this guy is,” one Afghanistan war veteran told the Post of Strange. “I’m here for Trump.”

Those who showed up for a classic Trump rally got what they wanted.

The President again weighed in on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s efforts to build nuclear weapons, calling him “Little Rocket Man” and assuring the audience that he was “going to handle it.”

He told the crowd, who broke into “Lock her up” chants when Trump mentioned Clinton’s name, to “speak to Jeff Sessions about that.”

Invoking his signature border wall, Trump said that it “has to be see-through” so that no criminals in “wonderful, wonderful” Mexico hit anyone on the U.S. side in the head when they catapult “a hundred pounds of drugs” over it.

And he spoke at length about NFL players protesting police brutality and racism by refusing to stand during the national anthem, calling it a “total disrespect of our heritage.”

Team owners should respond to those players, Trump said, by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”

“For a week, (that owner would) be the most popular person in this country,” the President continued, “because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.

The crowd began trickling out early after Trump’s speech exceeded an hour, according to the Post. Strange, the candidate, had spoken for only four minutes.

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The Department of Homeland Security on Friday informed 21 states that their election systems were targeted by “Russian government cyber actors” during the 2016 presidential campaign.

As of late Friday afternoon, the states to acknowledge that the DHS told them they were targeted included Wisconsin, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, Delaware, ColoradoConnecticut and Washington.

Wisconsin’s elections commission claimed in a press release that the Russian hacking activity did not affect election results in the state or the systems themselves.

“Internet security provided by the state successfully protected our systems,” commission administrator Michael Haas said in a statement. “Homeland Security specifically confirmed there was no breach or compromise of our data.”

What the hackers did do was target “Internet-facing election infrastructure,” according to the Wisconsin commission’s account of its debrief from the DHS, in what was apparently an unsuccessful effort to seek access to voter registration databases and other sensitive information.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced that the DHS saw suspicious traffic from IP addresses on state networks, but that efforts to breach their voting systems were similarly unsuccessful.

Colorado’s elections commissions likened the scan to of their system to “burglars jiggling the doors of a house and moving on when they realize the doors are locked.”

The attempts to infiltrate election systems were one arm of what the U.S. intelligence community has determined was a multi-pronged “influence campaign” to interfere with the 2016 election and swing the results in Donald Trump’s favor. At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in June, DHS officials testified about these cyberattacks on U.S. election systems. Bloomberg News had previously reported that Russian hackers had attempted to delete or alter voter data in Illinois, and successfully accessed a campaign finance database in another state.

While some state officials, like Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, said they were aware of the attempted intrusion and notified the FBI of the activities, others expressed frustration that the DHS had not brought the cyberattacks to their attention earlier.

Haas, who testified at the June Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that he did not believe Wisconsin was one of the targeted states because he had received no notification from the federal government, said he had asked for more details on when the activity occurred.

This post has been updated.

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Milo Yiannopoulos’ much-hyped plan to yet again rile the University of California at Berkeley’s campus by inviting a host of provocative far-right icons for four days of public speeches appears to have imploded in spectacular fashion.

According to new reports in Vanity Fair and Mediaite, after student organizers failed to file the proper paperwork to reserve university buildings, and after Yiannopolous apparently neglected to notify some of the scheduled speakers that the event was even happening, the affair has been reduced to a Saturday press conference in San Francisco.

“Free Speech Week” seems to have been something of a fiasco from the start.

Per Vanity Fair, Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart News editor who lost his gig and a book deal over comments that appeared to condone pedophilia, had promised to book flights and hotel rooms for the long list of speakers that included former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, conservative pundit Ann Coulter and anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller.

But Bannon and Coulter never publicly confirmed their attendance, and several other speakers, such as James Damore, the Google employee who was fired over a screed he wrote on why women are less biologically suited to coding than men, said they were never even told they were invited.

A university spokesman told Vanity Fair that Berkeley Patriot, the student group behind the event, failed to complete the contracts required to rent private buildings on campus, leaving speakers without security and relegating them to public spaces.

Amid this steady stream of bad news, participants began to drop out. Lucian Wintrich, a writer with the far-right blog Gateway Pundit, announced his withdrawal Wednesday, citing “uncertainty surrounding the event on both sides.”

Though a few slated participants, including conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, told these publications that they still planned to deliver speeches, Mediaite cited anonymous sources who said Yiannopoulos intends to announce the event’s cancelation at Saturday’s press conference.

The former Breitbart editor is part of a wave of far-right provocateurs trying to gain media attention and student followings with high-profile campus appearances. Prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer is currently trying to arrange a nationwide campus speaking tour, and one of his backers has sued Michigan State University for rejecting a request to host Spencer on the East Lansing campus.

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Donald Trump, Jr. never held an official position on his father’s 2016 presidential campaign, nor did he join his father and sister in the White House as a member of the administration.

But the Republican National Committee is helping foot Trump Jr.’s mounting legal bills stemming from the multiple investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The RNC and Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign together have shelled out around $250,000 on his behalf to date.

The RNC’s ability to spend all this money on Trump Jr. is possible thanks to a rider that a powerful Democratic lawyer slipped into a government spending bill at the eleventh hour in 2014, allowing national party committees to establish special legal accounts for campaign-related expenses. Those accounts can take in three times the normal contribution limit to the parties’ general funds—which would be roughly $101,700 per person—and are subject to hardly any federal oversight. They serve as a deep, opaque pool of money that campaign finance experts described to TPM as a “gray area” or “wild west,” and their boundaries now are being tested as the sprawling congressional and federal Russia investigations press forward.

“The extent to which that money can be used for something like this has never really been nailed down by the Federal Election Commission,” Jan Baran, an election law expert at Wiley Rein who previously served as the RNC’s general counsel, told TPM of the RNC account.

Larry Noble, a senior director at the Campaign Legal Center who specializes in election law, criticized the FEC’s lack of guidance or regulations on the matter and said that the RNC footing Trump Jr.’s bills prompts a “real question of whether this is an appropriate use of their funds.”

“It raises the possibility that large donors will make large contributions knowing that the money is going to help the Trump defense,” he added.

FEC spokesman Christian Hilland told TPM that the committee couldn’t comment on specific details of the Trump campaign’s or the RNCs’ legal spending, but acknowledged that “the Commission has not promulgated regulations” related to the national party committees’ legal funds.

The RNC’s special legal fund, like the campaign itself, is permitted to cover any legal expenses that arise directly from a campaign or a government official’s duties in office. The costs of election recounts and routine compliance matters are covered; drunk driving arrests and sex scandals are not. If the RNC counts the legal defense of the President’s son, a private citizen, in the Russia investigation as a campaign-related expense, Noble asked, “where does that stop?”

The lack of clarity on this point was underlined by the RNC chairwoman herself in a July interview with Washington, D.C. radio station WMAL.

“I don’t even know if that’s legal, if we would even be allowed to do that,” Ronna Romney McDaniel said when asked if she could cover the legal costs for Trump and other officials caught up in the probe.

RNC lawyers have since determined that the funds they’ve paid to the President’s personal attorneys, which amounted to some $230,000 in August alone, are lawful, and are looking into the legality of covering the legal bills of current White House staffers, who must comply with gift rules, according to a Washington Post report.

Asked how the four administration officials who have retained legal counsel in the Russia investigation—Communications Director Hope Hicks, Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Don McGahn and senior adviser Jared Kushner—are covering their bills, a White House spokeswoman referred TPM to the RNC. The committee did not return repeated requests for comment.

Only Trump and his son have taken advantage of the RNC’s or the campaign’s legal funds so far. But campaign finance experts told TPM that there’s nothing legally preventing any other campaign associate or White House official from doing the same.

Those outside the administration have taken a wide range of approaches to their defenses in the probes. Higher-profile associates like longtime adviser Roger Stone and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, through his family, have established legal defense funds. Former campaign adviser Carter Page has taken the unusual step of not hiring any representation at all, despite having sat for over 10 hours of FBI interviews, telling TPM that he’s not concerned “since I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Still others are simply draining reserve funds to cover thousands of dollars in white-collar legal bills. Former campaign adviser Michael Caputo told TPM he has exhausted his childrens’ college funds and was planning to tap his retirement savings next.

Asked if he had contacted the RNC or Trump campaign for financial assistance, Caputo said, “They know where to find me.”

“Perhaps it’ll happen,” he continued. “But I think the priority is that we as Republicans protect the President and his family. People are like, ‘Oh aren’t you upset that they’re spending money on legal fees for people who are wealthy when you’re going through this?’ I’m not upset by that at all. I think it’s our responsibility.”

Page, too, said he was “not a bit” bothered by a President who claims to be worth $10 billion drawing funds from the RNC and his re-election campaign to pay legal expenses for himself and his son, while those loyal to him struggle to pay their own bills.

As with with Trump’s decision not to divest from his business empire and to hire his own family members for White House roles, the operative question seems to be less if he can take those steps than if he should.

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Paul Manafort offered a Kremlin-linked Russian billionaire private briefings on the Trump campaign while serving as its chairman, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Manafort emailed an overseas intermediary requesting that his message be passed along to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin with whom Manafort had previously done business.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in an email dated July 7, 2016, according to the report.

Post reporters were read part of the email, which Politico reported was sent from his presidential campaign account. It was one of tens of thousands of documents that congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team have received as part of their ongoing probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

There is no evidence in the documents to show that Deripaska either received the email or took any briefings from Manafort, according to the newspaper. Representatives for both Deripaska’s company and Manafort denied that there was anything inappropriate about the communications.

Manafort spokesperson Jason Maloni told the Post that no briefings occurred and characterized the email as simply an offer for a “routine” briefing on the state of the campaign.

Vera Kurochkina, a spokeswoman for Deripaska’s company, Rusal, told the Post that its requests for comment “veer into manufactured questions so grossly false and insinuating that I am concerned even responding to these fake connotations provides them the patina of reality.”

Per the Post’s report, the documents turned over to investigators include a number of email exchanges related to Deripaska, some of which focus on money Manafort believed he was owed by Eastern European clients, that appear deliberately vague and that refer to the aluminum magnate only by his initials.

Manafort has reportedly been informed by federal prosecutors that they plan to indict him for possible tax and financial crimes.

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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his wife were asleep in their Alexandria, Virginia apartment early on the morning of July 26 when a team of armed FBI agents burst through the door with a search warrant focusing on possible crimes committed as far back as 2006.

Those new details, including Kathleen Manafort’s shaken response to being searched for weapons, are included in a CNN report out late Tuesday on the accelerating investigation into Manafort and other Trump campaign associates.

A source briefed on the investigation told CNN that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team explicitly notified Manafort that they planned to charge him with possible tax and financial crimes.

While former federal prosecutors have suggested that Mueller may be trying to pressure Manafort into coughing up any dirt he may have on other members Trump associates, they told TPM that it was standard practice to notify an investigate target of a pending indictment and that Mueller’s team would not use this warning as an empty threat.

“If he’s been told that he’s a target—that he’s likely to be indicted—I think the way you interpret that is he’s likely to be indicted,” said Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who served as special counsel to Mueller when he was assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Criminal Division.

A spokesman for Manafort declined CNN’s request for comment.

The former Trump campaign official, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, is under scrutiny for the web of shell companies he used to purchase real estate, his offshore bank accounts, and the millions he received in payments from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. CNN noted that the search warrant covers much of the period when Manafort was working in Ukraine.

Agents reportedly took documents related to taxes and banking, as well as other materials relevant to the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

It is standard FBI practice to carry weapons and check residents for the same during a home search, but former federal prosecutors told TPM that the use of a “no-knock” raid was notable.

“They could pick his lock to go into his house which meant that they must’ve had strong evidence that he was going to destroy documents,” Nick Akerman, a former prosecutor on the Watergate investigation, told TPM. “That would have to be laid out in the search warrant application.”

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