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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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President Trump, in a meeting with top Justice Department officials Monday, was seeking that the Department turn over information about a reported informant the FBI used while investigating his presidential campaign, for use for his own legal team, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told Politico.

“He wants them to turn over the information that exists about the informant to the House and Senate committees — all the memos they have,” Giuliani said, adding that memos documenting the informants findings should also “be made available to us on a confidential basis.”

“We should be at least allowed to read them so we know this exculpatory evidence is being preserved,” he said.

Trump’s legal team, which Giuliani joined recently, is in the process of negotiating a possible sit-down interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Giuliani told USA Today that the memos could also play a role in whether Trump decides to be questioned by Mueller.

“I think they could help us, if they show there is no original basis for the investigation,” Giuliani said.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and others have reported that the FBI — in the early stages of its probe into contacts between Trump campaign and Russia — used an informant who interacted with members of the campaign. The Justice Department has resisted turning over information about the individual to congressional Republicans, citing fears about blowing the longtime source’s cover.

The White House initially sided with the Justice Department, but Trump in a tweet Sunday issued a “demand” that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI “the infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”

The Justice Department a few hours later said that it was referring the matter to DOJ Office of Inspector General, which is already investigating the surveillance warrant the DOJ successfully sought on former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. The Inspector General’s Office declined to comment on the Justice Department’s announcement.

On Monday, Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s overseeing Mueller’s investigation, as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that after meeting with the President,  the “Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign.”

“It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested,” she said.

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Democratic lawmakers had a chance to air their concerns about the addition of a citizenship question to the U.S. Census on Friday, when John Gore — the Trump DOJ official who requested that the question be included — appeared in front of the House Oversight Committee. He was a no-show at a Census hearing the Committee hosted earlier this month, prompting Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-GA) to threaten a subpoena. Gore dodged many of the Democrats’ questions about who was involved in the request, but defended the move as necessary for Voting Rights Act enforcement. Democrats and civil rights experts remain extremely skeptical of that rationale.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who approved Gore’s request, meanwhile, defended the decision last week by saying that he didn’t “think” that “the sky will fall” because the question was added.

The Supreme Court’s decision last week not to take up a case challenging the federal $2,700 limit on individual campaign contributions during a general election means that that limit will stand. The limit was previously upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking a judge to hold off on determining the attorneys fees he will have to pay for the plaintiffs in the Kansas lawsuit challenging the state’s proof-of-citizenship voter-registration requirement. The ruling that he would have to pay fees stems from the contempt of court finding that the judge in the case issued against him last month. Kobach, in a filing Sunday, asked the judge to pause the briefing on the issue while he appeals the contempt filing. A decision on the merits of the proof-of-citizenship case is expected in the weeks to come. Kobach was found in contempt of court for violating a judge’s 2016 order blocking the proof-of-citizenship requirement for the 2016 election.

Remember that Virginia state delegate election where the winner’s name was picked out of bowl because of a tie? Well, The Washington Post did some digging and found that 26 voters, who lived in a predominantly African-American precinct, were assigned to the wrong district. The mistake potentially cost Democrats the seat, as well as the opportunity to have an even split in Virginia’s House of Delegates. (Republicans now control it by 51-49 margin.)

Voting rights advocates got a win in Louisiana last week, where a bill to restore the voting rights of felons on parole or probation is advancing. Versions of the legislation have passed both the state House and Senate. The two versions must be reconciled before the measure can land on Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.

In Colorado, voters in November will have a chance to approve of two state constitutional amendments creating independent redistricting commissions to draw congressional and state legislative districts. The ballot initiatives were approved by state legislators last week.

Last week I reported on the effort by Missouri Republicans to put on the 2018 ballot a constitutional amendment requiring that state legislative districts be drawn based on number of citizens, instead of total population. That ballot initiative measure passed the House but died in the Senate, as the legislature completed its term Friday evening.

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The FBI agent who searched Paul Manafort’s storage unit should be present and ready to testify at a hearing about the legality of the search next week, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Friday.

Manafort has challenged the search of his storage unit, which was conducted just 10 days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over the Russia investigation. Jackson — who is overseeing the case brought against Manafort in Washington, D.C. — is holding a hearing on Manafort’s request to suppress the fruits of the search on Wednesday.

In dispute in the dueling court filings from Manafort and Mueller about the storage unit search is whether the FBI agent — whose name is redacted in the version of the affidavit filed in court — understood that an employee of Manafort’s had the authority to unlock and let the agent into the unit.

The employee, Alexander Trusko, had a key to the storage unit, and a lease that the agent examined prior to entering the unit showed him listed as an “occupant.”

After initially entering the unit on May 26 — during which, according to Mueller, the agent did not open any of the containers — the agent successfully sought a search warrant that was executed the following day.

Manafort in court filings argued Trusko was a former employee at the time of the search, that he did not have authority to let the FBI agent enter the unit and that there was no indication that Trusko shared use of the unit with Manafort.

Manafort claimed that the FBI agent knew all of these things when he entered the unit the first time. Furthermore, Manafort argued, the fact that the FBI agent sought a search warrant after entering on May 26 showed that the agent knew he wasn’t authorized to be in there in the first place.

Mueller countered in court filings that such “speculation” was “unfounded.”

Mueller argued that the agent understood the employee to be “currently” working for Manafort. In the affidavit Trusko is described as being a former employee of Manafort’s consulting firm DMP and current employee of Steam LLC, an entity also operated by Manafort. The agent understood, according to Mueller, that among Trusko’s duties as Manafort’s employee was moving materials into the storage unit.

“The relevant question in deciding apparent authority is whether ‘the facts available to the officer at the moment [would] warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the consenting party had authority over the premises,'” Mueller’s court filing said.  “Here the answer to that question is ‘yes.'”

Manafort is facing charges of money laundering and failure to disclose foreign laundering. A separate case Mueller brought against him in Virginia accuses Manafort of bank fraud and tax fraud. The former Trump campaign chairman has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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President Trump has been urging the postmaster general to double the U.S. Postal Service rates for Amazon, the Washington Post — which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — reported Friday. Some administration officials told the Post that many Trump attacks on Amazon — which include accusing the Washington Post of being its “chief lobbyist” — are driven by articles in the newspaper he didn’t like.

U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan has tried to explain to Trump that the contracts that establish postal rates go through a regulatory commission, according to the Washington Post, and that the U.S. Postal Service has benefited from its relationship with the online retailer.

In addition to his lobbying of Brennan, Trump has held discussions about Amazon’s business practices with other senior advisors, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, then-National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Domestic Policy Council Director Andrew Bremberg, the Washington Post reported.

Trump’s advisors have disagreed on whether Amazon is paying the U.S. Postal Service enough, with Cohn — who left the White House in March — serving as one Amazon’s biggest defenders, according to the WaPo report.

A review of the U.S. Postal service is underway, and is being led by Mnuchin counselor Craig Phillips and  Kathy Kraninger, an Office of Management and Budget official, the Washington Post reported.

Trump has not kept his disdain for Amazon or Bezos private. When bashing stories in the Washington Post about his administration on Twitter, Trump often labels the newspaper the “Amazon Washington Post.” He’s accused Bezos of using the Washington Post to “to screw public on low taxation” of Amazon.

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The Justice Department official behind the request that the Census add a citizenship question for its 2020 survey stonewalled many of the questions asked by House Oversight Committee Democrats’ about the move at a Friday hearing.

John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division,  cited the lawsuits brought against the decision in order to dodge questions about why he sought the change. The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, at times raised his voice and expressed frustration over the excuse.

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Trump Justice Department official John Gore on Friday suggested that the Justice Department has been unable to fully enforce the Voting Rights Act without the decennial Census asking a question about citizenship.

Gore was asked by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) at a House oversight hearing whether the Justice Department has been unable to enforce the Voting Rights Act without the data.

Without accurate citizenship data? Yes,” Gore said, adding that the Justice Department has been “making do” by using extrapolations from the American Communities Survey, an ongoing survey sent to a small portion of the population.

The Census hasn’t asked the question on the version of the survey that goes to all households since 1950. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Gore spearheaded a DOJ request that the Commerce Department add a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 Census.

Democrats, Census policy wonks and civil rights advocates fear that asking the question will spook immigrant communities from participating in the Census. An undercount would have a major impact on political representation and federal funding for those populations.

Later in the hearing, Gore cited a Voting Rights Act case brought in Texas by private plaintiffs that he said was thrown out because the court said the ACS data on citizenship was not sufficient.

“We would like avoid that fate,” Gore said. He couldn’t name any other cases where the lack of Census data made a difference, however.

He also clarified his answer to Gomez.

“So, yes, we do need that [data] at the Census block level. Yes, we are making do with the currently available data to draw estimates as to what’s going on at the Census block level,” Gore said. “Our letter lays out why the hard count Census data would be more appropriate for that function, because it’s a hard count, and it would be simpler for us to use.”

 

 

 

 

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John Gore, the Trump Justice Department official who leads the Civil Rights Division, told Congress Friday that the department has “no position” on whether number of citizens should play a role in how congressional districts are apportioned.

He was responding to a question at a House Oversight Committee hearing from Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), who asked whether knowing the number of citizenships should play a role in apportionment.  Gore was behind the Justice Department request to add a citizenship question to the next Census.

“That’s a very important question. It’s a very important issue. It’s not one that the Department of Justice takes a position on,” Gore said. He added that the request was driven by enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, “not the separate question of how congressional seats are apportioned across the Constitution.”

The Constitution says that U.S. congressional districts should be drawn using total population. But some believe it’s an open question whether states can exclude non-citizens in drawing state legislative districts. Republicans in Missouri are already pushing to put such a requirement on November’s ballot.

Excluding non-citizens from redistricting stands to shift political power away from urban areas and other places with disproportionately high immigrant populations.

The Trump administration’s move to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — which Gore was behind — could encourage more states to try to draw districts based on citizenship rather than total population, both critics and proponents of such an approach believe.

Gore was in front of the committee Friday for a hearing on the census.

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Attorneys bringing a private lawsuit alleging a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to expose the private information of DNC donors and a DNC employee faced tough questioning from the federal judge in Washington, D.C. overseeing the case Thursday.

During arguments on motions filed by the Trump campaign and Roger Stone, who is also a defendant, to throw out the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle directed most of her questioning at Protect Democracy Project attorney Benjamin Leon Berwick, whose group is representing the private plaintiffs bringing the case.

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Texts and emails sent by President Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen show that his work on a Trump Tower Moscow deal continued at least through May 2016, well after January 2016 end-date Cohen previously claimed, Yahoo News reported Wednesday evening.

The messages were provided to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators by Felix Sater — a Cohen pal and former business associate of Trump’s — who previously told TPM that work on the Moscow Trump deal continued through at least late 2015.

Cohen, in congressional testimony, claimed work on the project, which never came to fruition, ended in late January 2016.

Yahoo News confirmed existence of the texts and emails with multiple sources who were able to describe them. Sater told Yahoo News he provided the texts to investigators voluntarily and without a subpoena.

The messages sent between Cohen and Sater show Cohen’s desire to involve high-ranking Russian officials in the project, according to Yahoo News. It was previously reported that in mid-January Cohen sought to reach out to the Kremlin, using a public facing email for Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Peskov says he saw Cohen’s message but never responded to it.

But the Sater-Cohen communications about the project continued well after that, according to the Yahoo News report, and Sater also encouraged Cohen to attend a St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in mid-June 2016, which Washington Post previously reported.

Cohen, citing the need to prepare for the 2016 Republican Nation Convention in July, did not attend the forum, the Washington Post reported.

Cohen’s discussions with Sater about the Trump Tower Moscow ended then, according to Yahoo News, but Sater said he continued working on a potential deal through December 2016, stopping only after Trump had been elected.

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Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti was sued Wednesday for breach of contract by his former law partner Jason Frank.

Frank alleges that Avenatti violated a settlement agreement that had been reached in December. Under the terms of the settlement, according to the complaint, Avenatti’s law firm was to pay Frank $4.85 million, with a $2 million installment due by May 14. Avenatti failed to wire the installment, the complaint alleges.

In a statement to TPM, Frank’s attorney Eric M. George said that Avenatti’s law firm “entered into a crystal clear written settlement agreement to resolve a prior lawsuit brought by Jason Frank, his former law partner.”

“The settlement agreement was approved by a federal court and was a condition of his law firm exiting bankruptcy,” he said. “Under this settlement, Mr. Avenatti’s law firm was required to pay Mr. Frank $4.85 million, all of which was personally guaranteed by Mr. Avenatti.”

Avenatti, in an email to TPM, said that Frank was “trying to capitalize on the situation.”

“The suit is completely bogus. Who cares?” Avenatti said.

Read the complaint below:

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