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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After seven months, tens of thousands of dollars, and three court rulings, Michigan voters were officially given the opportunity to decide how the redistricting process works in their state.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 late Tuesday night to uphold an appeals’ court’s decision to keep a local citizens’ group’s anti-gerrymandering initiative on the November ballot.

“The court’s decision upholds our right as citizens to petition our government for positive change,” Katie Fahey, founder and executive director of the group, Voters Not Politicians (VNP), said in a statement.

Some of the over 425,000 Michiganders who signed the petition to get the measure on the ballot have already pivoted to voter outreach efforts, knocking on over 86,000 doors to date to explain their push for an independent redistricting commission, according to Fahey.

The Supreme Court’s ruling represents a final defeat for Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), a conservative group funded by the state Chamber of Commerce that fought to block the measure through the courts. CPMC maintained that the initiative, which would strip state lawmakers of the power to redraw U.S. House and state legislative districts after each decennial census, was too far-reaching to be addressed with one ballot measure. The group argued that redistricting reform should instead be handled through a constitutional convention.

A 3-0 state Court of Appeals ruling that found CPMC’s complaint “without merit” did not deter the group, which filed an appeal to the Republican-dominated Supreme Court. Nor did a 3-0 June vote by the Michigan Board of Canvassers to approve VNP’s measure.

This pitched battle drew national attention, with voting rights group Common Cause teaming up with former Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to file an amicus brief in support of VNP.

Kathay Feng, Common Cause national redistricting director, said she was “thrilled” with Tuesday’s decision.

Asked for comment, CPMC spokesman Dave Doyle sent a brief email to TPM: “Disappointed in the ruling but accept the decision. Nothing else to say at this point.”

If it passes in November, the VNP measure will establish a 13-person bipartisan commission — composed of four Republicans, four Democrats, and five independents — to assume control of map-drawing responsibilities. Commission members will have to adhere to “accepted measures of partisan fairness” and avoid granting any particular party “disproportionate advantage.”

The current fight to reform Michigan’s redistricting process comes after twenty years of GOP control over the state legislature

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The question of whether President Trump obstructed justice in the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn has always hinged on his familiarity with the details of that probe — and when he learned them.

A new report out Tuesday in the New York Review of Books suggests Trump knew that there was an ongoing criminal investigation into Flynn and his interactions with Russian officials when he asked then-FBI director James Comey on Feb. 14, 2017 to let Flynn “go.”

Reporter Murray Waas said that he reviewed a White House memo that “explicitly states that when Trump pressured Comey he had just been told by two of his top aides — his then chief of staff Reince Priebus and his White House counsel Don McGahn — that Flynn was under criminal investigation.”

According to Waas, “people familiar with the matter” have told him that both Priebus and McGahn also testified to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that they personally provided this information to Trump during a Jan. 26, 2017 meeting.

These details flatly contradict the case that Trump’s personal legal team has made in denying the obstruction of justice allegations. In a confidential January 29 letter to the special counsel leaked to the New York Times in June, two of Trump’s attorneys say that the President knew only that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI. Trump believed the bureau’s investigation was over and that Flynn had been cleared, his attorneys claimed.

Setting aside how odd it would be for Trump to ask the FBI director to end a probe that he didn’t think was happening, the special counsel is reportedly in possession of testimony and documents that contradict that version of events.

This evidence includes interviews with Priebus, McGahn and several other members of the White House Office of Legal Counsel, according to Waas’ reporting. Waas said it also includes the Feb. 15, 2017 White House memo outlining a timeline of the events that led up to Flynn’s firing, as well as “underlying White House records quoted in the memo.”

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Here we go again.

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it has identified an ongoing political influence campaign on its platform ahead of the November midterm elections, and has removed 32 pages and accounts “involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

The social media giant’s announcement came minutes after the New York Times reported that Facebook officials have been briefing lawmakers on this activity in a series of meetings on Capitol Hill this week.

As in 2016, this year’s effort is centered around divisive social issues. Among the most influential accounts nixed from the platform were “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being,” and “Resisters,” according to Facebook. The Resisters page partnered with five authentic U.S. progressive groups to organize an Aug. 10 rally marking the one-year anniversary of the deadly white nationalist “Unite the Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia, Facebook announced.

These so-called “bad actors” also shared memes criticizing colonialism and sexism, and paid third parties to run ads on their behalf, according to Facebook.

Facebook said it wasn’t clear if Russian intelligence officers were behind these efforts, but that “whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.”

As part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, a federal grand jury in Washington D.C., in February indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for a systematic effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election in support of Donald Trump. The IRA’s campaign involved creating hundreds of bogus social media accounts, some of which promoted false claims that Democrats committed voter fraud.

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The federal investigation into alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina stemmed from a series of suspicious, high-dollar money transfers to limited liability companies tied to Butina and her onetime boyfriend, South Dakota-based GOP operative Paul Erickson, according to a new report.

The Tuesday report by McClatchy laid out the origins of the probe into possible Russian attempts to infiltrate and channel money to the National Rifle Association. According to McClatchy, the NRA probe predates President Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, and is being overseen by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, rather than Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Butina was charged in July with conspiracy against the United States and serving as an unregistered agent for Russia who worked to infiltrate the NRA, among other conservative groups. She pleaded not guilty and is in a Washington, D.C. jail awaiting trial. Erickson has not been charged, but is believed to be the individual described in court documents as “U.S. Person 1” who helped Butina coordinate her activities.

Republican operative Paul Erickson also was involved in the financial dealings that drew investigators’ interest – transfers of money exceeding $10,000 to limited liability corporations, including two created in Erickson’s home state of South Dakota, the sources said. Both of these people, including one of the sources and a third individual, also spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the investigation.

Per McClatchy, the interest of investigators at the Treasury Department was first piqued after they received a number of Suspicious Activity Reports related to LLCs linked to the couple, including some funds transfers that “appear to have come from Russia.”

At a July 18 court hearing, both federal prosecutors and Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, suggested that there was a federal fraud investigation ongoing into Erickson in South Dakota. Both parties said Butina offered to assist in that probe.

Driscoll confirmed to McClatchy that some $20,000 passed through Bridges LLC, one of the South Dakota entities that the couple incorporated in 2016. The money consisted of four $5,000 payments that Butina received from the Outdoor Channel for consulting work on a segment about bear hunting in Russia, according to Driscoll.

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When the news broke last week that the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer was subpoenaed to provide testimony in Michael Cohen’s criminal investigation, the company resorted to one of Trump’s favored tactics: minimization.

CFO Allen Weisselberg was a “bookkeeper who simply carries out directions from others,” Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten said.

But that characterization of Weisselberg is belied by years of reporting, court documents and even Trump’s own words.

“Allen has been with me for thirty years and knows how to get things done,” Trump wrote in his 2004 book “Think Like A Billionaire.”

Weisselberg was hired straight out of college to serve as Fred Trump’s personal accountant. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming company controller and, ultimately, the Trump Organization’s top moneyman. The CFO and executive vice president was dispatched to give reporters tours of the Trump family’s properties, sat for daily meetings with Trump, prepared Trump’s own tax returns for a time and was heavily involved in side projects like Trump University and the Trump Foundation.

As a former Trump Organization employee told NBC’s Katy Tur, Weisselberg “knows where all financial bodies are buried.”

Managing the Trump Organization’s books

Along with Donald Trump, Jr., Weisselberg now manages the trust in which President Trump placed his businesses after entering the White House. Per ProPublica, those two are “the only people who know the details of the Trump trust’s finances.”

Weisselberg’s official duties, according to Trump’s descriptions in “Think Like A Billionaire,” included negotiating with financial institutions, tracking sales and acquisition of properties, and arranging for checks for Trump to sign.

Trump commended Weisselberg as “one of the toughest people in business when it comes to money” who helped him secure cash flows when his company was caught up in bankruptcy proceedings in the 1990s.

“When I was having some financial problems in the early 1990s, I called Allen into my office and told him there would be tough times ahead,” Trump wrote. “The banks were about to cut off our funding. Allen said, ‘No problem,’ and went back to his office, where he proceeded to renegotiate almost every payment from that point forward. He did whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line—and refused to succumb to the pressures of risk.”

“Now he’s negotiating with bankers on deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and he’s so tough that most banks would rather I negotiate the deal than him. He’s a loyal employee, and he’s the ultimate master at playing the cards of business,” he continued.

An anecdote in a 2016 New York Times story illustrates Weisselberg’s ability to play hardball. Lawyer Y. David Scharf told the Times that in the mid-2000s he contacted the company seeking payment for $470,000 in legal bills, and accidentally included one page of a bill intended for another client. An irate Weisselberg threatened to divulge the error to that other client unless the firm agreed to a 50 percent discount on the outstanding legal bills, per the account. The firm reportedly informed Weisselberg that his threat “smack[ed] of extortion,” and the parties resolved the matter.

Personal affairs and payouts to women

Weisselberg’s role as CFO involved handling some personal matters for Trump as well.

That included overseeing household expenses and personal purchases and, for a time, preparing Trump’s own tax returns.

More controversially, they also allegedly involved handling payments to women who claim to have carried out affairs with Trump. Weisselberg arranged for the Trump Organization to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 hush money payment made out to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Though a source close to Weisselberg told the Wall Street Journal that he didn’t know about the payout to Daniels, Weisselberg personally approved a $35,000 monthly retainer to Cohen.

On a secret 2016 recording made public last week, Cohen also assures Trump that he “spoke to Allen” about financing a deal with American Media Inc. to buy the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s account of her alleged affair with Trump.
“I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” Cohen said.

Signing checks for the “sham” Trump University

Weisselberg was intimately involved in handling the finances for Trump University, the defunct for-profit real estate seminar that was forced to pay out $25 million to former students who claimed they were defrauded.

In a Saturday CNN op-ed, Tristan Snell, the former New York assistant attorney general who helped oversee a state fraud investigation into the university, wrote that his probe “revealed that amid the sprawling tentacles of the Trump Organization, everything leads back to two people: Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump.”

Along with Trump’s three eldest children and Trump himself, Weisselberg was one of five authorized signatories for the Trump University bank account. He “personally reviewed all of the finances” of the organization monthly, and was the only individual permitted to issue payments or transfer money, according to Snell.

“In order for Trump University LLC vendors to be paid, Trump University checks had to be sent from Trump University LLC at 40 Wall Street to Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg at the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, for his review and signature,” the New York attorney general’s office noted in court documents.

Helping Trump pay himself through the Trump Foundation

Weisselberg served as treasurer for the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which was sued by the New York attorney general’s office in June for engaging in “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct.”

Though he was not named as a defendant, Weisselberg sat for a deposition in that investigation and admitted to engaging in various activities that violated state and federal non-profit laws against self-dealing.

One incident involved a $100,000 donation that the foundation made to settle a suit brought by the city of Palm Beach against Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. A handwritten note from Trump included in the petition directs “Allen W” to use the charity’s funds to resolve the suit.

Weisselberg also helped handle a series of payments the foundation made to veterans’ groups during the 2016 presidential campaign, violating laws that prevent non-profits from engaging in explicitly political activity. In his deposition, he described flying to Iowa in January 2016 with the foundation’s checkbook for a campaign event held shortly before the caucuses there.

“He’s my boss. I went,” Weisselberg told prosecutors in explaining his last-minute trip.

Overseeing Trump’s troubled Atlantic City empire

Weisselberg was named vice president of Trump’s Atlantic City, New Jersey casino empire in 2000, according to the Wall Street Journal. His appointment at Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, which in 2004 changed its name to Trump Entertainment Resorts, came after years of financial troubles and accounting scandals.

As the Journal reported, the company was forced to agree to a Securities and Exchange Commission cease-and-desist order, and filed for multiple corporate bankruptcies before becoming a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises in 2016.

Serving on the board at Miss Universe

Weisselberg served on the board of the Miss Universe Organization after Trump purchased the pageant in 1996. Though little has been reported on Weisselberg’s involvement with the company, Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant there has come under scrutiny as part of investigations into the links between Russia and the President’s associates. Cohen traveled along on that trip, where Trump met with various Russian oligarchs to discuss possible business ventures.

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In unnerving news for the Trump family business, Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg has officially been subpoenaed to testify in the criminal investigation into Michael Cohen’s financial dealings. Weisselberg has worked at the company since the ‘70s doing all sorts of work for Trump: cutting real-estate deals, handling personal financial transactions and serving as treasurer of the allegedly wildly corrupt Trump Foundation. Former Trump Organization employees and Trump chroniclers like journalist Tim O’Brien agree that Weisselberg knows “where all financial bodies are buried.”

Weisselberg was name-dropped on a recording released this week in which Cohen told Trump he had discussed purchasing the rights to a former Playboy model’s account of her alleged affair with the President. The Trump Org CFO also set up a monthly retainer through the company that was used to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

These disclosures have ratcheted up tensions between Cohen and his former boss, who called Cohen’s habit of secretly recording conversations — apparently prosecutors have over 100 — “so sad” and “possibly illegal.” (It’s not, in New York state.)

Cohen is also now dangling the allegation that he was in the room when Donald Trump Jr. told Trump about his upcoming June 2016 meeting with Russians who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump attorney Giuliani said Cohen has been “lying for years,” while Trump himself said Cohen was trying to “get out of “an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?).”

The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is now in possession of 12 audio recordings seized from Cohen after the parties involved waived attorney-client privilege.

Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial was postponed until July 31 to allow his attorneys more time to review documents produced by government attorneys. At a hearing this week, the judge unsealed the names of five witnesses granted immunity by the special counsel to testify. They all appear to work in the financial sector; several are tied to a small Chicago bank that provided Manafort $16 million in loans shortly after he left the Trump campaign.

Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina’s lawyers denied at a hearing this week that she allegedly offered sex in exchange for a job. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that she is a “political prisoner” who must be released promptly.

Reuters revealed that she and her handler, Russian Central Bank official Alexander Torshin met with U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve officials during a 2015 trip to D.C. The Washington Post reported that Russian billionaire Konstantin Nikolaev provided funding for Butina’s gun rights group.

A group of hard-right House lawmakers introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which are unlikely to go anywhere.

National Security Adviser John Bolton walked back Trump’s invite to Vladimir Putin for a D.C. meeting, saying their next encounter “should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over” or “after the first of the year.”

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Scott Walker was among the first to trip the alarm.

The Wisconsin governor started sending smoke signals about a “wake up call for Republicans” in the state back in January, when a Democrat won a state Senate special election in a rural, red district. A subsequent double-digit Democratic victory for a state Supreme Court seat showed the “risk of a #BlueWave,” Walker cautioned.

In April, the two-term incumbent predicted that this year’s reelection battle “is going to be tougher than any one I have been involved with, including the [2012] recall.”

On Thursday, Walker received the latest sign that he may be right. An NBC News-Marist poll brought the worst news in what has, so far, been a relatively smooth race for him.

Only 34 percent of Wisconsin’s registered voters said Walker deserves a third term, while 61 percent said it was “time to give a new person a chance.” In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup with state schools superintendent Tony Evers, the Democratic frontrunner, Evers led Walker 54 percent to 41 percent.

Though he believes the NBC poll’s sample was “too Democratic,” the results, said Wisconsin Republican strategist Bill McCoshen, “should send another wake-up call to the GOP base not to take the Governor’s race for granted.”

The Democratic Governor’s Association is investing heavily in the election, setting aside $4.5 million for ad buys for whichever of the eight Democrats still in the race wins the Aug. 14 primary.

DGA communications director Jared Leopold told TPM that the Wisconsin gubernatorial contest “will be one of the biggest and most competitive races of the cycle.”

Walker’s campaign, the Republican Governor’s Association, and the Wisconsin Republican Party did not return TPM’s multiple requests for comment.

No one thinks the road ahead will be easy for the eventual Democratic nominee. A Marquette Law School poll out last week had Walker a few points ahead in head-to-head match-ups against all eight of his Democratic opponents.

A powerful incumbent who has done much to advance a hard-right agenda—eviscerating unions, restricting abortion access and voting rights, stripping environmental protections—Walker has the full backing of the Wisconsin GOP. He has $6 million cash on hand, and has for months been churning out sunny TV ads that paint his legacy in a benign light.

Detractors and allies alike acknowledge Walker’s unrivaled fundraising prowess in the state, assisted by the Koch brothers’ network. They also note he won the contentious 2012 recall race.

But polling suggests that Walker has a legitimate threat in Evers, the mild-mannered head of Wisconsin schools who has thrice won statewide elections. Though Evers trailed some of his Democratic challengers in fundraising, with a meager $307,000 cash on hand as of mid-July, he has consistently led in the polls by double-digit margins and has far greater name recognition than the rest of the field.

As McCoshen, the GOP strategist noted, the NBC poll allows Evers “a much easier time convincing undecided Dems that he is the right guy to take on Walker.” A decisive win in the primary would give Evers “a huge bounce heading into the general,” McCoshen said.

Evers told TPM he is already gearing up for the next phase of the race.

“The most difficult piece will be transitioning from the primary race to a general, but that’ll be done in a short period of time and we’re clearly already thinking about that,” Evers told TPM in a recent phone interview.

Democrats see other warning signs for Walker lurking in the Marquette poll, where only 3 percent of respondents said they don’t already have an opinion about the governor.

Wisconsin Democrat Party spokesman T.J. Helmstetter said those numbers indicate that “he doesn’t really have any room to grow.” Helmstetter noted that Walker’s previous elections were held in 2010 and 2014—banner years for the GOP—and that he’s not used to campaigning in a less favorable environment.

“[Walker]’s been elected by relatively small margins when the wind was blowing at his back and now the wind appears to be blowing in his face,” the DGA’s Leopold told TPM.

Then there’s Walker’s links to the Trump administration. While neither side seems interested in making the race a referendum on the President, those ties may be some cause for concern. Trump is less popular in Wisconsin than in other states that swung his way in 2016. He had 42 percent approval in Marquette’s latest poll and only 36 percent in NBC’s, and is deeply underwater among independents in the state.

McCoshen acknowledged that Trump’s tariff war, which has caused Wisconsin-based Harley Davidson to outsource some production and taken a toll on the state’s manufacturing and agricultural industries, “might hurt Walker in the fall.”

Democrats say they’re happy to highlight those links to the President when they need to, like when Walker dispatched the National Guard to the border as the family separation crisis was unfolding. Trump is doing some of the work himself, referring to Walker as “a favorite of mine” at a joint appearance last week.

“He will be tied to Trump whether from his action or his inaction,” Evers told TPM.

By banking on the national tide of Democratic enthusiasm, Walker’s baggage, and a hyper-local campaign focused on education, jobs, and roads, Democrats hope they can squeeze out a narrow win in November.

Helmstetter, who did rapid response against Walker at the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign, said that Walker’s 71-day flameout on the national stage proved he isn’t the untouchable politician that his supporters like to imagine.

“I saw up close that the guy is not invincible,” Helmstetter said. “He’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been.”

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This week brought an unwelcome turn in the spotlight for a notoriously under-the-radar fixture in President Trump’s inner circle: Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.

Weisselberg’s name first cropped up in a now-public audio recording of Trump and his former fixer Michael Cohen discussing a payment related to Trump’s alleged  affair with a former Playboy playmate.

Then, on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Weisselberg has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury as part of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s criminal investigation into Cohen’s finances.

The revelation draws the President’s family real estate business even further into that federal probe, providing prosecutors with access to an individual intimately familiar with the Trump Organization’s operations and deals.

“Weisselberg’s involvement in this gives the prosecutors a foot in the door to the Trump Organization, if they didn’t already have one,” Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, told TPM. “It doesn’t open the door all the way, but it gives them a foot in the door.”

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization did not return TPM’s requests for comment.

Professional Trump chroniclers have for months suggested that Weisselberg, rather than Cohen, presented the secret to the Trump Organization’s finances. The trusted 70-year-old executive vice president and CFO got his start working for the president’s father, Fred, and has been with the firm since the 1970s. Currently, Weisselberg oversees operations of the firm alongside Trump’s two adult sons.

Save for a one-time turn as a judge on “The Apprentice,” Weisselberg has shied away from publicity, eschewing the bright lights of the campaign trial and the White House for a family-centered, quiet life in the Long Island suburbs. But several currently unfolding legal matters suggest that Weisselberg, like Cohen, played a hybrid role, handling all sorts of personal and business-related financial matters for Trump.

“While Cohen certainly helped Trump with a lot of sticky situations, money is always at the root of any issue,” former federal prosecutor Jeff Cramer told TPM. “Sooner or later, it all flows through the CFO.”

One matter involving all three men is a payment related to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s alleged 2006 affair with Trump.

In a recording Cohen’s attorneys released this week, Cohen tells Trump that he spoke to Weisselberg about how best to structure a deal to buy the rights to McDougal’s story.

“I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” Cohen said.

Trump, nonplussed, asks what the financial damage will be. A few moments later, Cohen reiterates that he “spoke to Allen about” the financing.

As the Wall Street Journal has reported, Cohen set up a Delaware limited liability company to buy the rights to McDougal’s account from tabloid giant American Media Inc. The National Enquirer, an AMI publication, had purchased McDougal’s story for $150,000 during the campaign but never released it in an alleged effort to help Trump.

Cohen ended up dissolving the LLC without ever making any payment to AMI, according to the Journal. Trump Organization attorney Alan Futerfas denied to the Washington Post that Cohen actually discussed the matter with Weisselberg, calling the CFO “a bookkeeper who simply carries out directions from others about monetary payments and transfers.”

The three men were involved in another unusual financial situation that did go through, however. In 2017, Weisselberg arranged for the Trump Organization to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about her own alleged affair with Trump. A source close to Weisselberg told the Journal that he was unaware of the payment to Daniels when he approved the $35,000 monthly retainer for Cohen.

Former prosecutors told TPM that attorneys in the Cohen case will want to know how much Weisselberg actually knew about these arrangements and whether these kind of payouts were standard practice for the Trump Organization.

“He’s going to be able to explain the financial records; he may be able to explain the thinking of Trump, Cohen, and other central individuals when the payments were made,” former Manhattan federal prosecutor Harry Sandick said. “He may know of records that exist that would also shed light on when and how they were made.”

Sandick noted that from the casual way Trump and Cohen discuss the AMI payment, “It doesn’t sound like a novel thing that’s never happened before. It sounds like something that happens all the time.”

Weisselberg has three options, prosecutors say. He can go in for what’s called a proffer session with the U.S. attorney’s office where he’ll take questions alongside his counsel and hand over any documents requested. He can agree to sit through grand jury testimony. Or he can plead the Fifth.

What route he goes will likely depend on the value of the information Weisselberg has to provide and how much liability he sees himself having. If he was, as Trump Organization attorney Futerfas put it, simply a “bookkeeper” with no intimate knowledge of the company’s more unorthodox dealings, he likely faces little legal exposure.

Rocah, the former Manhattan prosecutor, finds that line of defense unpersuasive: “It’s not like they called up 1-800-accountant. This is someone with a longstanding relationship that the [President] seem[s] to trust. So it’s gonna be hard for him to make that, ‘I had no idea’ defense.”

Complicating matters further is Weisselberg’s role as treasurer for the Donald J. Trump Foundation, the President’s beleaguered charity. In June, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood sued the foundation and its board—Trump and his three eldest children—for engaging in “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct.”

Though Weisselberg is not named as a defendant, his name is all over the complaint. In a quoted deposition, he admitted to not knowing he served as the foundation’s treasurer. He also copped to being intimately involved in improperly providing the charity’s funds to activities related to Trump’s 2016 campaign. Included in the complaint is a handwritten note from Trump directing “Allen W” to funnel $100,000 from the foundation to settle a personal legal matter—a violation of charitable tax law.

Seth Perlman, a New York-based non-profit attorney, said that as treasurer Weisselberg is ultimately “responsible for the finances of the organization.”

“He should be questioning what expenditures are being made,” Perlman continued. “That’s part of his job. Since there were no paid employees at this organization, he was also acting essentially as chief financial officer. So he’s really the primary person that should’ve been aware of what was happening and should have taken steps to stop it.”

Manhattan prosecutors will likely soon find out just how tuned in Weisselberg was to what was going on at the Trump Organization’s midtown headquarters.

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Veteran senior Trump Organization official Allen Weisselberg has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the criminal probe of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are investigating Cohen for a host of financial matters, including the hush money payments he made to women on Trump’s behalf. Sources familiar with the investigation told the Journal that Weisselberg is considered a witness in that investigation.

Weisselberg has worked at the Trump Organization since the 1970s, working his way up to become executive vice president and chief financial officer. He currently runs the business with Trump’s two adult sons. Weisselberg also served as the treasurer for the troubled Donald J. Trump Foundation, which was sued by the New York Attorney General for engaging in “repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests.”

The longtime ally of the president cropped up in a newly-released audio recording of Cohen and Trump discussing how to buy the rights of a former Playboy model’s account of her alleged 2006 affair with Trump. On the tape, which was made public by Cohen’s attorneys, Cohen said he spoke to “Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up.”

Cohen ultimately set up and dissolved an LLC without ever making any payments to AMI Inc., parent company of the National Inquirer, for Karen McDougal’s story.

But, as the Journal reported, Weisselberg did set up a $35,000 monthly retainer to Cohen through the Trump Organization that was used to reimburse him for the $130,000 he gave to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her from publicly discussing her alleged liason with Trump. A source told the newspaper that Weisselberg did not know about the payment to Daniels when he set up the retainer arrangement with Cohen.

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Last week’s Justice Department’s indictment of Russian national Mariia Butina refers to her as an “agent of a foreign government and official.”

The word “spy” does not appear anywhere in that six-page document, nor in the initial complaint against her, the accompanying 17-page affidavit filed by an FBI agent, or a 29-page request for pretrial detention. Butina has not been charged with espionage.

Still, she has been referred to as a “spy” by pundits and publications for her years-long effort to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and curry favor with high-level conservative operatives.

Experts on intelligence and the Russian political system told TPM that this is understandable. There’s a lot of overlap between the activities of “foreign agents,” “spies,” and unregistered “operatives.” The three-letter word also fits better in headlines.

But those experts caution that such a loose application of the term is unhelpful and actually works to conceal the specifics of what Butina was allegedly up to and on whose behalf. Spies are typically directly employed by a foreign government’s intelligence agency to gather and transmit information—particularly national defense secrets—back to their home country.

“The intelligence community distinguishes between agents/officers and assets,” Mike Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who focused on Russia, told TPM in an email. “The former are career spies on the agency’s payroll. They recruit the latter, often with money but also by taking advantage of ideological affinities, family connections, and blackmail.”

Butina, Carpenter continued, “seems more like an asset than an agent to me. My guess is she probably craved the access she had to senior Russian officials like [Russian Central Bank Deputy Governor Alexander] Torshin and was used by them as well as by Russia’s intelligence services, who saw in her an opportunity to create a front organization in the United States to penetrate the NRA and ‘2A’ political circles.”

Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who worked under Robert Mueller in the Justice Department, said calling Butina a “spy” was an “inappropriate, sort of hyperbolic use of that word.”

“These are terms that have very specific meanings; they carry huge criminal penalties,” Zeldin said.

Butina was charged with one count of failing to register as a Russian agent, and another of engaging in conspiracy against the United States.

Court documents related to her case lay out in detail how she allegedly worked at Torshin’s direction to make high-level connections in the NRA and Congress in order to influence policy attitudes towards Russia.

Some of her alleged activities are striking. The FBI alleges that Butina maintained contact information for members of Russia’s intelligence agency, lied about still being employed by Torshin on her F-1 student visa application, and received funding from a billionaire Russian businessman.

But there is no indication that Butina worked directly for the Federal Security Service, or FSB. She and Torshin allegedly spoke openly about their plans in Twitter direct messages, rather than over encrypted apps. Intelligence experts say these sloppy communication habits strongly suggest that the 29-year-old was likely more of an eager freelancer than a skilled intelligence operative.

Anders Aslund, a Russia expert at the Atlantic Council, called Butina’s practices “extremely unprofessional.”

“Her tradecraft, her basic operational security was sufficiently amateurish that she does not strike me as someone who has been trained,” Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher focused on Russia at the Institute of International Relations Prague, added in a phone interview.

Galeotti suggested Butina was something of a “wannabe” and that he’d prefer the term “unregistered foreign operative or lobbyist” to “spy.”

“I go back to this description of political entrepreneur,” Galeotti continued. “This is the way the Russian system works. People who reckon they have some chance of building some kind of connection, acquiring some kind of access which they can then leverage—in effect monetize—whether it’s taking it to the state, taking it to some oligarch or minigarch who might therefore be willing to use it.”

In one alleged exchange cited by prosecutors, Torshin jokingly likened Butina to Anna Chapman, the similarly red-haired spy arrested in the U.S. in 2010 for “recruiting sources and collecting information for Russia.”

The DOJ complaint against Chapman, who was ultimately sent back to Russia as part of a spy swap with the U.S., notes that she and the fellow members of her spy ring worked “to hide all connections between themselves and Russia, even as they act at the direction and under the control of the SVR,” a division of Russia’s external intelligence agency.

That was not Butina’s alleged modus operandi. Though she lied about details of her biography in her interactions with GOP politicians and U.S. gun lobbyists, prosecutors allege, she openly sought to promote Russian interests.

Was it a covert influence operation? As described in the allegations, yes. Was she a spy? Not exactly.

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