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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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a lengthy statement Friday afternoon announcing his opposition to the last-ditch Obamacare repeal effort in the Senate, which GOP leaders were hoping to bring for a vote next week.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said in the statement, referring to the bill Republicans were planning to put on the floor.

His opposition is a major setback, if not full-on death sentence, for the legislation. Senate Republicans can only lose two GOP votes and still pass the bill. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have also signaled they’re very likely to vote against the bill. The deadline for the Senate to move forward on the Obamacare repeal effort that passed out of the House is Sept. 30.

McCain was the key vote that torpedoed Senate Republicans’ last Obamacare repeal effort in July, with a late-night surprise vote against a previous proposal that would have gone to a conference committee between the House and the Senate. That dramatic vote came after McCain was rushed back to Washington from Arizona, where he has been receiving cancer treatments. McCain had voted in favor of advancing an Obamacare repeal bill in an initial procedural vote, but then gave a riveting speech on the Senate floor ripping lawmakers for abandoning the traditional legislative process.

Likewise, the statement McCain issued Friday focused on the process complaints about the latest bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and McCain’s good friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Their bill was only introduced earlier this month, and Republicans intended to vote on it next week with only a preliminary Congressional Budget Office score that would not have analyzed the legislation’s effects on health care coverage or its overall costs to the federal government.

If Senate Republicans do not pass a repeal bill out of their chamber by Sept. 30, they will have wasted the legislative vehicle they were using to avoid a Democratic filibuster.

McCain on Friday called for the Senate to get back to the bipartisan negotiations on a more limited Obamacare fix, that had been called off by Republicans as they hoped to push through the Graham-Cassidy repeal.

“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” McCain said. “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. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.”

The beginning of James Comey’s stint at Howard University is proving to be no less contentious than his tenure leading the FBI.

The former FBI director, who was fired by President Trump in May, appeared Friday to deliver a speech at the school’s Convocation Ceremony, only to have the beginning of his address held up by student protestors. Comey has joined the prestigious historically black college as a lecturer for the academic year.

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Update: This story has been updated to include a response from the Treasury Department.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee who also sits on the Intelligence Committee, announced Friday that he was placing a hold on a Treasury Department nominee, citing Russia-related documents that the Treasury has not yet handed over to the Finance Committee.

“I have placed a hold on the nominee because of the Treasury Department’s refusal to provide the Senate Finance Committee with Treasury documents related to Russia,” Wyden said in a statement. “The provision of these documents to the Committee is not only part of the oversight process, but is necessary if the relevant congressional expertise is to be brought to bear on the effort to follow the money.”

Isabel Patelunas, the nominee for assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis, has already cleared her vote out of the Intel Committee, and awaits a confirmation vote by the full Senate. Wyden’s hold can’t permanently block her moving forward, rather it just slows the process for her nomination to come to the Senate floor.

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Paul Manafort has been doing work for Kurdish Iraqis who are advocating for an independence referendum up for a vote next week, work that appears to have started around the time the FBI raided Manafort’s home as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

The work has not yet been registered as lobbying under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the New York Times reported, and Manafort’s spokesman would not say whether Manafort intended to register it.

Under FARA, those seeking to influence U.S. policy on behalf of a foreign entity or person are required to file paperwork declaring their work lobbying the U.S. government.

“If his work requires registration with FARA, Mr. Manafort will comply with the law,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told the New York Times.

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After months of speculation and vague reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was examining the activities of President Trump’s White House as part of his investigation into Russian election interference, the New York Times on Wednesday reported more details on which Trump decisions have apparently piqued Mueller’s interest, based on the documents his team has requested from the White House.

Less than an hour later, the Washington Post published its own more detailed account of the documents Mueller has requested, including “extensive records and email correspondence from the White House” that cover “everything from the president’s private discussions about firing his FBI director to his White House’s handling of a warning that the Trump national security adviser was under investigation.”

According to both reports, the Mueller team has organized its document requests into 13 different subject areas. Among those categories is an Oval Office meeting Trump hosted in May with Russian officials, during which he said his firing of FBI Director James Comey had relieved him of “great pressure.”

The decision to fire Comey is also among Mueller’s areas of interest, and according to the Washington Post, his requests include documents related to the initial statement made by then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer after the FBI director’s termination.

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In announcing Sept. 6 that it had found $100,000 in ad buys from “inauthentic” accounts “likely operated out of Russia” during the 2016 campaign, Facebook said that the “vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.”

It took the Daily Beast less than a month to find what it believes to be a Russia-linked account that did, in fact, explicitly promote then-GOP candidate Donald Trump.

The news website Tuesday surfaced the existence of a Facebook group called “Being Patriotic,” which the Daily Beast said bears many of the trademarks of other shady Facebook accounts that are believed to have had Russia ties. “Being Patriotic” went dark around the time Facebook deleted accounts linked to a Russian troll farm, according to the Daily Beast. The social media giant would not confirm to the Daily Beast the group’s Russian origins, but it did not challenge the Beast’s suggestions either.

“Being Patriotic” pushed at least four pro-Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton rallies, according to the Daily Beast, including a flash mob that was promoted to occur simultaneously in 17 different Florida locations. In at least a few cases, those events came to fruition, according to the Beast report, and resulted in known Trump activists showing up and promoting the events on their own social media pages.

Facebook’s disclosure of the inauthentic accounts appears to only be the tip of the iceberg of what sort of activity those accounts were involved in, per the Daily Beast:

After The Daily Beast found known Russian accounts that used Facebook’s Events tool to promote rallies inside the United States, the company said that it was not well positioned to determine “if something like coordination occurred” between the Trump campaign and Russia — something investigators and security researchers doubt because of the social network’s massive trove of information on its customers.

But the discovery of the “Being Patriotic” rallies suggests that the fraudulent activity on Facebook did indeed involve messaging on behalf of Trump, did prompt at least some Americans to rally on Trump’s behalf, and did result in the Trump campaign volunteers subsequently sharing material from those events.

Russia’s use of Facebook in its alleged campaign to interfere with the 2016 election has come under major scrutiny since the disclosure of the inauthentic accounts. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe has reportedly issued a search warrant to learn more about the activity on the site, and the Senate Intelligence Committee has said it would like Facebook to testify publicly about what happened — a hearing chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) would like to host as early as next month.

The Facebook page the Daily Beast identified Wednesday promoted flash mob events in Florida, a key swing state, in August 2016. Two of the planned locations — Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs — were sites of gatherings by Trump fans, according to photos and videos posted by Dolly Trevino Rump, the Trump campaign’s chairwoman for Broward County. Rump did not respond to the Daily Beast’s inquiries.

Other people who were listed as contacts on Being Patriotic’s events told the Daily Beast they remembered vaguely being contacted by the group to promote the rallies. Betty Triguera, listed as a coordinator on a Sarasota event page, said she heard about the event from Being Patriotic’s Twitter account — which has also been shut down, according to the Daily Beast. Jim Frische, whose name was attached to a Clearwater event page, remembered only vague details of being contacted about the event, and that it ended up being “a dozen or so people out on the street corner.”

Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who has been a focus of various Russia probes, responded Tuesday to a CNN report that he had been the subject of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (or “FISA”) surveillance order by calling for an investigation by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General into the revelation.

“If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” a statement from Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni said. Maloni then seemed to echo the claims by President Trump that the Obama administration was inappropriately surveilling Trump.

“The U.S Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous Administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” the statement continued. “Mr. Manafort requests that the Department of Justice release any intercepts involving him and any non-Americans so interested parties can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ – there is nothing there.”

According to CNN, the FISA order began in 2014, well before Trump declared his presidential run, out of interest in Manafort’s work lobbying for a Ukrainian political party. The surveillance paused for some time in 2016, CNN reported, due to lack of evidence, but then picked up again by the end of 2016 and into 2017.

The Senate Intelligence Committee announced late Tuesday that it has “invited” President Trump’s former lawyer and confidante Michael Cohen for a public hearing Oct. 25.

The announcement comes after the committee abruptly canceled the closed door interview it had planned with Cohen earlier in the day. The committee was unhappy that Cohen had released his opening statement to the press, in apparent violation of the committee’s agreement to let him testify behind closed doors.

Asked if the committee was considering subpoenaing Cohen, its Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) told reporters, “I don’t think we’ll need to.”

Earlier Tuesday — after Cohen left Capitol Hill having been informed by the committee that his interview Tuesday had been canceled — Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a strongly worded statement that they were “disappointed” he released the statement “in spite of the Committee’s requests that he refrain from public comment.”

Coming out of a seperate closed door briefing Tuesday afternoon, they elaborated that it is now the committee’s policy that those appearing behind closed doors for interviews regarding the Russia investigation must keep their statements to the committee private.

“We’ve changed the agreement that we’ve had with people since Jared Kushner was in,” Burr told said, referring to the President’s son-in-law, who released a statement with his closed door appearance in front of the committee this summer.

“And this is the model we’ll follow. We don’t expect individuals who come behind closed doors to publicly go out and tell…” Burr continued, before being interrupted by Warner

“…their side of the story only,” Warner interjected.

The leaders of Senate Intelligence Committee announced that they canceled a closed-door interview with Michael Cohen, an attorney and a confidante of President Trump’s, due to his decision to release a public statement ahead of the planned meeting Tuesday morning.

“We were disappointed that Mr. Cohen decided to pre-empt today’s interview by releasing a public statement prior to his engagement with Committee staff, in spite of the Committee’s requests that he refrain from public comment,” Intel Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a statement.

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It’s not surprising that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is interested in the role Facebook played in Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election. Yet, the news that broke over the weekend that his team had obtained a search warrant to access information about Facebook’s recently disclosed Russia-linked ad spending is the clearest sign yet of the breadth of his probe, the pace at which its moving along and what kind of case he might be trying to build, regardless of whether he ultimately brings criminal charges.

“This is not a wild goose chase, it’s not just a fishing expedition.  [It shows] that there is good reason to be believe that someone committed criminal behavior, we just don’t know who that was and exactly what the behavior was,” Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, told TPM.

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