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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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee in March over the Trump administration’s controversial decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the committee announced Tuesday.

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On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani told the New York Times that President Trump and Michael Cohen were in talks to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow through Election Day 2016. By Monday, Giuliani was claiming that he had no idea if that was true at all.

Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted out the statement Trump’s attorney put out “clarifying” his comments to the newspaper.

“My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President,” Giuliani said. “My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions. The point is that the proposal was in the earliest stage and did not advance beyond a free non-binding letter of intent.”

This is a notable reversal given that Giuliani had said he was directly quoting Trump when he told the Times the project discussions were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.”

Giuliani made the cable news rounds on Sunday to discuss the project, acknowledging for the first time that work on it endured through October or November of 2016.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that was “big news” that should have been surfaced earlier.

Trump has insisted there would be nothing wrong with him working on—and failing to fully disclose—a major development project in Russia at the same time that the country was covertly working to elect him as president.

Discussion of the development resurfaced after BuzzFeed reported Thursday that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about their work on it. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office took the rare step of issuing a statement calling the article “not accurate.” BuzzFeed is standing by their story.

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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) expresses scathing contempt for President Trump’s White House hires in his upcoming book “Let Me Finish,” according to an Axios excerpt released Monday.

As in a previously released excerpt targeting Jared Kushner, Christie characterized Trump’s administration picks as unprepared, unprofessional, and unworthy of their titles. “Riffraff,” as Christie put it.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is described as a “Russian lackey and future federal felon.” Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned last summer amid a swirl of ethics scandals, is called “greedy and inexperienced.” Former White House adviser Omarosa Manigault, who drew headlines for holding a photo shoot for her wedding on White House grounds, is dismissed as an “Apprentice show loser” doing “whatever Omarosa’s job purported to be.”

Christie’s book chronicles his time in politics, including his decision to jump on board the Trump train shortly after ending his own presidential campaign in 2016. The former governor was chosen to run Trump’s transition team after the GOP nominee’s surprise victory, but, as he recalls in the book, he was quickly fired from the job, with other staffers tossing his work “in a Trump Tower dumpster.”

Christie writes that he could have saved Trump “heartache,” chaos, and public humiliation had he followed the “detailed road map” that Christie laid out for the administration.

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BuzzFeed is insisting on the accuracy of a recent article disputed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which reported that President Trump asked Michael Cohen lie to Congress about their efforts to develop a Trump Tower Moscow.

“We’re being told to stand our ground. Our reporting is going to be borne out to be accurate, and we’re 100 percent behind it,” Anthony Cormier, one of two investigative reporters who worked on the story, told CNN in a Sunday interview.

Cormier, who was joined by BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, said that the months-long reporting process involved “rigorous” vetting. The two anonymous federal law enforcement officials who served as BuzzFeed’s sources are “standing behind” their information, Cormier said.

The report, which detailed alleged conduct that Trump’s own attorney general nominee suggested would have constituted obstruction of justice by the president, dominated the news cycle on Friday. But on Friday evening, Mueller’s typically press-shy office released a rare statement taking issue with the story.

“Buzzfeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” Mueller spokesman Peter Carr said.

The statement did not specify which aspects of BuzzFeed’s article are “not accurate.”

BuzzFeed’s Smith told CNN he is “eager” to find that out, and that Jason Leopold, the other reporter behind the story, submitted a Freedom of Information Act requesting details on how the statement from Mueller’s office came together.

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This week brought the clearest-cut example to date that President Trump allegedly violated federal law while in office. BuzzFeed reported that Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign. Two federal law enforcement sources told BuzzFeed that Trump ordered Cohen to falsely claim that work on the project ended months earlier than it did in order to obscure his involvement.

(Update, 10:30 p.m.: On Friday night, a spokesperson for the Special Counsel’s Office, Peter Carr, took the very rare step of saying that aspects of the Buzzfeed report were false. “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” Carr wrote.)

The bombshell article also reported that Trump held “at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen” about the project, that Ivanka and Don Jr. received “regular, detailed updates,” and that Trump was keen to take Cohen up on his suggestion to travel to Russia to meet with President Putin about developing the tower.

Trumpworld is denying the whole story, with Trump, Rudy Giuliani and White House communications staffers smearing Cohen as a fabricator trying to save his own skin and BuzzFeed as an unreliable source.

Anthony Cormier, one of the BuzzFeed journalists, insists his reporting is “rock solid” and that he’s seen the underlying documents bolstering it. The special counsel learned of Trump’s directive through interviews with Trump Organization witnesses, internal company emails, and text messages, per BuzzFeed.

Attorney general nominee Bill Barr affirmed that this sort of request would constitute obstruction of justice in his Tuesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In that hearing, Barr pledged he would not fire Bob Mueller without cause or interfere with the special counsel probe.

Barr also said he would make Mueller’s final report public to the extent “the law allows,” releasing to Congress his own version of the report stripped of confidential, privileged or grand jury information.

That wasn’t enough for Democratic lawmakers and even several Republicans, who said the full report must see the light of day. Barr is expected to be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Trump seems more focused on Cohen than Barr, signaling again this week that Cohen is covering up his father-in-law’s crimes.

That testimony will be severely limited due to Cohen’s ongoing cooperation with multiple federal probes.

Rick Gates is also continuing to cooperate with the feds, Mueller and his attorneys said in a request to postpone his sentencing.

Law firm Skadden Arps reached a civil settlement with federal law enforcement over work it did on Ukraine’s on Paul Manafort’s behalf. Mueller submitted a heavily-redacted filing detailing how Manafort allegedly violated his plea agreement.

ABC reported that more associates of far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi and GOP operative Roger Stone have been subpoenaed, including Corsi’s stepson.

And Congress got more investigative fuel following reports that the FBI opened a counterintelligence probe into whether Trump was working as a Russian agent after he abruptly fired James Comey last May.

Trump also reportedly blocked the rest of his administration from accessing briefings on his face-to-face meetings with Putin, even confiscating one interpreter’s notes. Democrats want to dig further and possibly even subpoena the interpreter.

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Update: Nearly 24 hours after Buzzfeed published its report, special counsel Robert Mueller, via a spokesperson, issued a statement disputing key elements of the story.

A potentially momentous Thursday BuzzFeed report provided the clearest-cut indication yet that President Trump may have violated federal law. Two federal law enforcement sources told the publication that Trump personally directed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about matters related to the Russia investigation—an order that Trump’s own attorney general nominee believes would constitute obstruction of justice.

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