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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Federal prosecutors in a letter to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood Monday pushed back on President Trump’s request that he and his attorney Michael Cohen get the first opportunity, before Justice Department lawyers, to review documents seized in FBI raids on Cohen last week.

“[T]he President still cannot identify a single case in which a court has ordered such a remedy, and for good reason — the President’s proposal would set a dangerous precedent,” the letter, from the deputy U.S. attorney overseeing the investigation and three assistant U.S. attorneys in New York’s Southern District, said.

The letter was filed about two hours before a hearing scheduled in front of Wood on Cohen’s effort to halt the review of the seized records by what’s known as a “filter team” or a “taint team” — a group of DOJ lawyers not working on the investigation tasked with sorting out documents covered by attorney-client privilege. Trump — having retained a new personal attorney last week — has sought to intervene in the matter. In a letter Sunday night, his attorney proposed letting Cohen review the documents first, and having him provide for Trump copies of documents that “relate to him in any way.” Trump’s letter also rejected another proposal that had been floated by Cohen: bringing in an independent special master to sort out the privileged documents.

The federal prosecutors in their letter to Wood Monday, called Trump’s position “extreme” and said that under his theory, “every person who has communicated with a lawyer would be given the power to turn every search warrant into a subpoena and to demand the return of lawfully-seized evidence in order to undertake their own review of the evidence.”

“Such a rule is unworkable and ripe for abuse,” the assistant U.S. attorneys said.

Read their full letter below:

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Federal prosectors in New York revealed on Friday that President Trump’s longtime fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen has been under grand jury investigation for months for alleged “criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings,” and that as part of the investigation they had obtained previously covert search warrants for multiple Cohen email accounts.

The revelations were made in a court filing made public after a hearing Friday morning during which Cohen’s attorneys sought to prevent prosecutors from having access to documents seized in Monday raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. Cohen’s attorneys are arguing that that either they or an independent third party should be allowed to sort out the records that fall under attorney-client privilege. Standard DOJ practice is that a team known as a “Filter Team” of DOJ lawyers separate from the prosecutors investigating the case undertake the review to screen out those documents.

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The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General report on Andrew McCabe, the former top FBI official who President Trump fired last month, was obtained and published by the New York Times on Friday, shortly after it was transmitted to Congress.

The Inspector General concluded that on four separate occasions, McCabe lacked candor in explaining his role in an October 30 Wall Street Journal story about internal Justice Department disagreements about its Hillary Clinton investigations.

“While the disclosure may have served McCabe’s personal interests in seeking to rebut the WSJ article on October 23 and to avoid another personally damaging WSJ story on October 30, it did so at the expense of undermining public confidence in the Department as a whole,” the Inspector General’s report said.

Three of those four occasions involved testimony under oath, the IG’s report said.

A major disagreement highlighted in the report is whether McCabe made then-FBI Director James Comey aware that he had authorized a top FBI official to participate in the story, which confirmed that there was an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

McCabe said he told Comey after the story was published that he had OKed the disclosure, which was in his authority as the deputy director. Comey had told the IG investigators that McCabe did not inform Comey that he had greenlit the leak. The IG report — citing other evidence that backed Comey’s account — sided with Comey’s retelling of that conversation.

Before firing McCabe, Trump had zeroed in on contributions a political group aligned with then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) made to McCabe’s wife’s unsuccessful campaign for state senator in 2015. McCabe’s termination as Deputy FBI Director — just hours before he would have been eligible for the bureau’s full retirement package — came as Trump was escalating his war on the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The official rationale for the termination of McCabe from the Justice Department was that McCabe misled IG’s investigators probing the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email inquiry. McCabe has denied allegations that he misled the IG.

In a statement Friday, McCabe’s lawyer Michael Bromwich said Comey’s own description of his conversation with McCabe about about the WSJ story — on which two of the four lack of candor conclusions are based — is that his recollection was uncertain.

“[McCabe’s] treatment was far more harsh and far less fair than he deserved, and his reward for the loyalty he showed to his country over the course of his career was a truncated form of administrative due process, including the lack of any right to appeal outside the Department of Justice (DOJ),” Bromwich, a former DOJ IG, said.

“The rush to fire McCabe late on a Friday night, just hours before he was to retire, casts a tremendous shadow over the integrity of this process,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “There’s really no way to look at McCabe’s firing other than overtly political.”

Read the full report below:

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A hearing on the search warrants used to raid the home, office and hotel room of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, has been scheduled for Friday morning in a Manhattan federal courthouse.

Judge Kimba Wood is presiding over the 10:30 a.m. ET hearing.

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J. Christian Adams, who sat on President Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission, is being sued over reports his group issued accusing hundreds of Virginians of having illegally registered to vote .

The lawsuit was filed Thursday against Adams and his group, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, in federal court in Virginia. It targets the voter fraud allegations the group made in reports called “Alien Invasion in Virginia” and “Alien Invasion II,” which claimed that hundreds of non-citizens had likely committed felonies by registering to vote.

The lawsuit is being brought by four people who say they were falsely mislabeled as non-citizens who illegally registered to vote in the reports, despited the fact that they are all citizens.  The League of United Latin American Citizens is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which is being spearheaded by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Protect Democracy, two pro-democracy groups.”

The complaint said Adams’ claims amount to voter intimidation, because his reports “recklessly” labeled certain Virginians who had been removed from the rolls as non-citizens, without proving that they weren’t removed for other reasons. One plaintiff in the lawsuit, for instance, was removed because of a paperwork error, according to the complaint. Adams’ reports contained personal information of those named including addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers, according to the complaint.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller requested that a judge issue subpoenas for 35 witnesses to appear at the trial scheduled in federal court in Virginia for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to a filing dated April 6.

The filing does not say who Mueller intends to subpoena, just that he is requesting that they appear before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis when the trial starts July 10.

A separate case brought against Manafort by Mueller is scheduled for trial in Washington D.C. in September. Manafort is facing an assortment of charges of financial crimes, as well as failure to disclose foreign lobbying, stemming from work he did in Ukraine prior to the campaign. He has pleaded not guilty.

See the filing below:

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Monday’s news that FBI agents had raided President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was a major shock and an “extraordinary” move for federal investigators, former prosecutors told me last night.

But it’s helpful to look back at some of the signs that the investigation into Cohen was heating up, and hints that investigators were, in particular, looking into the hush money that he paid out to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with Trump starting in 2006. At least one of the banks involved in the October 2016 transaction had been in touch with investigators, according to previous reporting.

Cohen has said he used his own home equity line to make the payment, directing the funds from his account at First Republic Bank through an entity he had set up in Delaware, Essential Consultants LLC. From the Essential Consultants account, he wired the funds to an account set up for use by Daniels’ lawyer, Keith Davidson, at City National Bank in Los Angeles.

First Republic Bank, the Wall Street Journal reported last month, conducted its own internal investigation of the transaction after it received a subpoena from federal investigators. First Republic then flagged the results of the internal probe for the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a source told the Journal.

First Republic Bank declined to comment to TPM. Thomas Barrack, a close friend of Trump’s, sits on the bank’s board. His private equity firm was a part of an investment deal to buy the bank from Bank of America in 2010.

City National, meanwhile, had apparently launched its own internal review of the transaction in September 2017, when it asked Daniels’ lawyer Davidson — nearly a year after the payment was made to his account — about the source of the money, the Washington Post reported.

It was not clear if the inquiry was prompted by interest from law enforcement, or whether it was just a routine audit by the bank, the Post said.

“As a matter of policy, we don’t confirm or comment on inquiries from regulatory agencies or law enforcement, including subpoenas,” City National said in a statement to the Post.

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Federal prosecutors are seeking Trump Organization records related to an $130,000 payment that President Trump’s private attorney made to a porn star who has claimed to have had an affair with Trump in 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The request was related to raids conducted on attorney Michael Cohen’s home, office and a hotel room he was using Monday. The search warrants sought information on the payments, the New York Times and others reported.

The Wall Street Journal report on the request to Trump Organization is based on a personal familiar with the matter.

Cohen set up a separate entity through which he funneled the payment in October 2016, which he said came from his home equity line. Days before the 2016 election, the money was wired to a bank account connected to an attorney then representing porn star Stormy Daniels, whose birth name is Stephanie Clifford. Clifford, under a pseudonym, signed a nondisclosure agreement about the affair.

Trump Organization lawyer Jill A. Martin’s name was on a filing in an arbitration battle over Daniels’ efforts to speak publicly about her affair, the Wall Street Journal reported last month. Martin told the Journal at the time that she was involved “in her individual capacity” and that the “company has had no involvement in the matter.”

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The records sought in the search warrants used to conduct multiple raids on Michael Cohen Monday included documents related to hush money used to silence alleged mistresses of Donald Trump, as well as information on Cohen’s taxi medallion business, according to reports by the New York Times, CNN and others.

Investigators were looking for records related to payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, both who have claimed to have had affairs with Trump before he was President, the New York Times reported Tuesday. The White House has said Trump has denied the affairs, while Cohen — the President’s longtime personal attorney — has said that Trump was not involved in the $130,000 payment Cohen wired to an attorney representing Daniels just days before the 2016 election.

The FBI agents also were interested in information related to $150,000 that National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, Inc., paid McDougal, according to the Times. A.M.I.’s chief executive David J. Pecker is a friend of the President’s. The company bought the rights to McDougal’s story, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2016, but never ran her allegations that she had an consensual affair with Trump in 2006. Buying the exclusive rights prevented McDougal from taking her claims elsewhere.

Cohen’s tax medallion business has also attracted the attention of the investigators, sources familiar with the search warrant told CNN. The warrants sought information about Cohen’s associates in his taxi cab business, a source told Wall Street Journal. The warrant’s request for documents related to the medallions comes after Cohen’s companies were accused by New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance of owing the state about $40,000 in unpaid taxes. Cohen told TPM last year that the taxes are collected from drivers by the management company he uses, run by Gene “The Taxi King” Freidman.

One source also told CNN that the warrant sought information about other, smaller investments. The warrant mentioned being related in part to election laws, CNN said.

The searches were conducted by the public corruption unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, the Times reported. The interim U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman, is recused from the investigation, ABC News reported. 

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who is overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and has been a target of criticism from President Trump — was involved in the decision to conduct an FBI raid Monday to seize the records of Trump’s personally attorney Michael Cohen, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The report was based on three government officials.

Separately, ABC News reported that interim U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District, Geoffrey Berman, whose office led the raid, has recused himself from the investigation. Rosenstein signed off on Berman’s recusal, ABC News reported.

Berman, a former law partner at Rudy Giuliani’s firm, was personally interviewed for the gig by Trump last year.

Trump has publicly bashed Rosenstein, and according to the New York Times, privately mused about firing him last summer, around the same time he considered firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He reportedly backed down from firing Mueller when his White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to carry the directive out.

After news of the raid broke Monday afternoon, Trump fumed at Mueller, Rosenstein and at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is recused from the Russia probe.

Asked if he’d seek to fire Mueller, which would require going through Rosenstein, Trump appeared to leave the door open.

“I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

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