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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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The “general consensus” of the Senate Intelligence Committee thus far is that the  intelligence community was correct in assessing that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election, the committee chairman said Wednesday.

“Given that we have interviewed everybody that had a hand in the ICA [Intelligence Community Assessment], I think there is general consensus among members and staff that we trust the conclusions of the ICA,” Senate Intel Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a briefing to update reporters on the status of his committee’s Russia investigation.

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Additional reporting by Sam Thielman

It’s been more than three months since the Department of Homeland Security made the shocking revelation that election systems in 21 states were “potentially targeted” by Russian hackers. Yet, understanding what happened where and why some state officials were kept in the dark is still quite convoluted.

The DHS took a major step forward, about a week and a half ago, in bringing about some transparency, by officially notifying the 21 states that had been “targeted.” But even the way that disclosure went down was messy, and prompted some states — some rightfully, some in a bit of posturing — to publicly bash the DHS for the unneeded confusion.

“We spent a lot of time unnecessarily trying to figure out who knew what when,” Reid Magney, a spokesperson for Wisconsin Elections Commission, told TPM Friday, after the commission said in a statement that the DHS had “incorrectly claimed” that Wisconsin had previously been aware of the Russians’ attempted hack.

California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a blistering statement Friday slamming the DHS for being “a year late” and giving the state “bad information.” Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, on the same day, sent DHS a letter calling for it to “correct its erroneous notification.”

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The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee confirmed Monday that Facebook had turned over to congressional investigators the 3,000 ads that appeared to have been purchased by Kremlin-aligned Russian operatives and indicated that he would like for at least some of the ads to be made public by the end of this month in conjunction with an open hearing the committee is planning.

“Later this month, when our committee hears directly from tech firms in an open hearing, it’s my hope to make a representative sampling of these ads public at that time so we can inoculate the public against future Russian interference in our elections,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in a statement “But I am also committed to making all of these ads public as soon as possible, working closely with Facebook to address any privacy considerations.”

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The Atlantic has obtained the 2016 email correspondence between Paul Manafort and his longtime business partner Konstantin Kilimnik that appears to reference an effort to get back in the good graces of a Kremlin-aligned oligarch with whom Manafort had had a falling out.

The existence of the emails was previously reported by the Washington Post and according to the Post, they have been turned over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. However, the Atlantic report published Monday provides a fuller account of the exchanges between Manafort  and Kilimnik — which occurred at a time when Manafort was taking on a bigger role within the Trump campaign — as well as confirms that shorthand names used in the emails were references to Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska and one of his aides.

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Update: This story has been updated to include a response from the Department of Homeland Security.

President Trump’s voter fraud commission disclosed Friday more information about instances of internal communications among commission members, but not the content of the communications themselves. The disclosures came as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the panel.

The Justice Department, which is defending the commission, filed court documents that included a chart that noted emails and other types of communications sent among members, staff and administration officials. The commission is being sued by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for allegedly failing to meet government transparency guidelines.

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The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee bashed Twitter Thursday for an “inadequate” and “deeply disappointing” presentation the social meeting company gave earlier Thursday morning to the committee staff investigating Russian election meddling.

“I am more than a bit surprised, in light of all the public interest in this subject over the last few weeks, that anyone from the Twitter team would think that the presentation they made to the Senate staff today even began to answer the kind of questions that we’d asked,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) told reporters.

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Representatives for Twitter arrived in a Senate office building Thursday morning to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staff as part of its investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election.

After the Senate Intel interview, Twitter is also expected to meet with the staff of the House Intelligence Committee, as part of its own Russia probe.

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The House Intelligence Committee announced Wednesday that it plans to hold an open hearing on Russia with representatives from tech companies in the “coming months,” although it is unclear when exactly the hearing will be, which tech firms have been invited and whether those firms will agree to appear voluntarily.

The hearing will be about “how Russia used online tools and platforms to sow discord in and influence our election,” according to a statement from Reps. Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Republican and Democrat leading the committee’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) has recused himself from the probe.

“Congress and the American people need to hear this important information directly from these companies,” the statement read.

Scrutiny on how the Russians used social media to influence the 2016 campaign has increased since Facebook disclosed that about 3,000 ads were purchased by some 500 inauthentic Russian-linked accounts. Facebook has reportedly turned over information about the ads to special counsel Robert Mueller, and also is cooperating with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s efforts to understand more about Russia’s campaign-related activities on Facebook. Twitter, too, reportedly is meeting with Senate Intel investigators behind closed doors this week.

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At least one of the Facebook ads that were purchased by a Kremlin-linked troll factory during the 2016 campaign promoted the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Politico reported Tuesday, while others boosted Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) campaign even after he dropped out of the race.

“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein,” one ad says, according to Politico. “Trust me. It’s not a wasted vote. … The only way to take our country back is to stop voting for the corporations and banks that own us. #GrowaSpineVoteJillStein.”

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A group of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said in letter to the Justice Department Tuesday that the DOJ had not responded to previous requests for information in July and August, related to concerns that the Department was becoming politicized on voting rights and educational issues.

Their letter Tuesday also requested more information about any DOJ coordination with President Trump’s voter fraud commission, which was also the subject of their July request. Since then, a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a private group surfaced a February email that was forwarded to Attorney General Jeff Session from a conservative activist, who was later appointed to the commission, demanding that Democrats and even “mainstream” Republicans not be selected for the panel.

“These developments underscore the concerns many of us have raised about a return to the illegal politicization of the Department’s Civil Rights Division that took place under the Bush administration, and raise questions about the role of Department leadership in the formation and operation of this nakedly partisan commission,” the Democrats said.

The letter was signed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The Judiciary Democrats’ letter Tuesday sought more information about the exchange, as well as any other communications between current DOJ officials and other commission members as well as Bush-era DOJ officials who were involved in the politicized hiring scandal.

It also lodged more general requests about the “Department’s process for responding to Congressional inquiries.”

The letter Judiciary Democrats sent in July sought information about any coordination between the DOJ and the election commission on letters both entities sent out to state officials on June 28: the DOJ’s letter was about National Voter Registration Act compliance; the commission’s letter sought voter roll data. An for the DOJ has denied there was any coordination.

In August, they asked for more information about a report in the New York Times that the DOJ was seeking to file lawsuits against universities for their affirmative action programs and the project was being run out of the “front office,” meaning by Trump administration political appointees.

Both requests for information, according to the latest letter, were not met with a response from the DOJ.

“As outlined here, we continue to have serious concerns – as to both process and substance – about the Department’s apparent coordination with the thoroughly discredited Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, as well as its failures to respond to our numerous oversight requests,” the Democrats said.

The DOJ has recently responded to a FOIA request from the non-profit group the Campaign Legal Center. Seeking documents related to voter fraud allegations in the 2016 election, the Campaign Legal Center received earlier this month an email sent from a Heritage Foundation scholar whose name was redacted to a recipient whose name was also redacted. According to the chain of emails released to the non-profit, the Heritage email was eventually forwarded to Sessions.

Heritage later confirmed that the email had been sent by Hans von Spakovsky, a former Bush administration official whose known for pushing restrictive election laws. Spakovsky, now a member of the voter fraud commission, has denied that he was emailing the attorney general. Due to the redactions in the FOIA release, it’s unclear exactly how the email was forwarded to Sessions.

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