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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An independent candidate who Democrats fear will pull votes away from their nominee in a three-way Kansas governor’s race will stay on the ballot, a state board ruled Thursday.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the decision in independent Greg Orman’s favor came after seven hours of scrutiny of petition signatures by a three-board panel. A Democratic legislative leader’s aide had filed a petition showing what they said were irregularities in some of the 7,700 signatures Orman submitted to get on the ballot.

The board’s ruling is bad news for Democrats, who believe that the socially liberal Orman will draw votes away from their nominee, state senator Laura Kelly. That could allow Republican nominee Kris Kobach, one of the nation’s most notorious hardliners on voting rights and immigration, to win by a narrow margin.

The three-person board who issued the ruling was composed of deputies representing top state officials, all of whom are Republican. Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker sat in for Kobach, according to the Capital-Journal.

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Federal prosecutors granted immunity to tabloid publisher David Pecker as part of their investigation into Michael Cohen’s hush money payments to women, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday .

CEO of National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc., during the 2016 presidential campaign to quash the stories of women’s alleged extramarital affairs with President Trump.

Cohen on Tuesday pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to eight counts, including two related to campaign finance violations regarding these payouts to women.

The Journal reported earlier Thursday that Pecker provided prosecutors with details about the payments they arranged, “including Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the deals.”

Cohen said under oath that he made these deals “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.”

According to the Journal, neither Pecker nor AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard will be charged in relation to the Cohen criminal investigation.

The court documents describe how Pecker volunteered in August 2015 to work with Cohen “and one or more members of the campaign” to deal with damaging stories about Trump.

The publisher ended up paying $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal for the rights to the story of her relationship with Trump. The Enquirer also tipped Cohen off about adult film star Stormy Daniels’ allegations of a sexual encounter with Trump, and Cohen shelled out $130,000 to keep her quiet.

Cohen pleaded guilty to causing an unlawful corporate campaign contribution for the McDougal payment, and to making an excessive campaign contribution in the Daniels matter.

He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count. His sentencing hearing on the campaign finance violations and six counts related to his personal financial misconduct is scheduled for December 12.

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There are so many investigative bodies looking into the Donald J. Trump Foundation and Michael Cohen’s activities right now that it’s getting hard to keep track.

Here’s what we learned after talking to sources in New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office, the Cuomo administration, and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance.

The Attorney General’s office has led the charge against the foundation, filing a civil suit in June that accused the charity of self-dealing and illegal coordination with the 2016 Trump campaign. The AG has an active, ongoing investigation into the foundation, and said it will “seek a criminal referral from the appropriate state agency as necessary.”

That same office in May negotiated a generous plea deal with Cohen’s former taxi business partner, Gene Freidman, that required Freidman to cooperate with both state and federal prosecutors.

The New York Department of Taxation and Finance has since mid-summer been carrying out its own probe into whether the Trump Foundation violated tax law. On Wednesday, it announced it had issued a subpoena to Cohen as part of that inquiry.

A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office told TPM that other state agencies besides the tax department could get involved as the probe proceeds.

The tax department cannot, of course, prosecute any matters on its own. Any wrongdoing its investigators discover will be referred to the AG’s staff for prosecution as part of their ongoing investigation.

That type of referral from the tax department is how the AG managed to carry out and secure their Freidman prosecution and plea deal.

A third entity, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, is also looking into possible wrongdoing by the foundation, and sharing information with the AG’s office and tax department “as appropriate.”

And, of course, these investigations are all separate from the proceedings that saw Cohen plead guilty in court this week: Those are being carried out by the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York following a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

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Left unaddressed in much of the coverage on Michael Cohen’s stunning eight-count plea deal was what he gave up in entering into it, and why he decided to do so.

Tuesday’s proceedings on the 20th floor of Manhattan’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse helped shed light on those questions. In brief: Cohen and his attorneys knew that the prosecution had rock-solid evidence that would likely convince a jury to convict him.

At one point, U.S. District Judge William Pauley asked Cohen attorney Guy Petrillo if he had any reason to believe that the defense could “prevail at trial.”

“I do not, your honor,” Petrillo replied.

The baked-in-the-cake nature of the proceedings stripped them of the tension of the spring’s courtroom battles over prosecutors’ access to materials seized from Cohen’s premises. Cohen, Petrillo and the federal prosecutors cracked smiles and amiably chatted at the counsel table.

Pauley initiated the hearing with a rapid-fire volley of questions aimed at ensuring Cohen was entering this plea of sound mind and of his own volition.

Full name: “Michael Dean Cohen.”

Age: “In four days, I’ll be 52.”

How far did you go in school: “Law.”

Did you consume any drugs or alcohol prior to this hearing: “Last night at dinner, I had a glass of Glenlivet 12—on the rocks.” (Is that your custom: “No, your honor.”)

Are you feeling alright today: “Yes.”

Are you satisfied with your legal representation: “Very much so.”

Pauley then took pains to explain what constitutional rights Cohen was sacrificing by entering this deal: a speedy trial by jury; the ability to issue subpoenas and cross-examine witnesses; the need for prosecutors to prove each count to jurors beyond a reasonable doubt; the ability to appeal or challenge his sentence.

The plea also meant Cohen was immediately giving up certain civil rights, such as his right to own a firearm, vote, or serve on a jury. Cohen’s voice cracked as he acknowledged that he understood he was forfeiting these rights.

Why Cohen, the Trump Organization “pit bull,” agreed to forgo all of this without a fight became clearer once Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Griswold was asked to run through the prosecution’s evidence.

It included: income tax returns, testimony from IRS agents and bank employees, bank loan applications, paper documents and audio recordings seized from Cohen’s premises, encrypted messages, text messages, phone records, emails, and subpoenaed records from search warrants to the National Enquirer’s parent company and the Trump Organization.

A trial on these charges, for which Cohen is facing up to 65 years, would have been a high-profile, grinding affair, scrutinizing Cohen’s businesses and potentially involving his family. And as we saw with a Virginia jury convicting Paul Manafort on eight counts Tuesday, it wasn’t guaranteed to end up much better for Cohen.

Copping to his wrongdoing with a plea deal likely prompted prosecutors to recommend a lighter sentence of only 46-63 months for Cohen. It likely made him appear more favorably to the judge who would ultimately decide what sentence Cohen received.

And it also meant that Cohen was able to walk out of court into the late-summer sun, free to go home to his family until his sentencing date in December.

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Multiple news reports over the weekend helped fill in the details about the nearly completed federal criminal investigation into Michael Cohen.

The probe into President Trump’s former fixer, referred to the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office by special counsel Robert Mueller, is reportedly in its final stages. Charges could come by the end of this month, and will likely touch on campaign finance violations and loans Cohen received for his taxi businesses.

Key entities have been subpoenaed, witnesses have testified before a grand jury, and prosecutors have pored over the reams of documents and emails seized from Cohen’s premises.

All that remains to be seen is whether prosecutors cut a plea deal with Cohen, or hit him with everything they’ve got.

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A verdict could come at any moment in the Alexandria, Virginia federal courtroom where former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is being tried on a slew of tax and bank fraud charges.

Prosecutors rested their case on Monday after 10 days of testimony from dozens of witnesses. Manafort’s lawyers said Tuesday that they would call none, alleging that the government “cannot meet that burden” of proof that would move a jury to issue a guilty verdict.

The trial yielded fresh evidence about favor-trading in the Trump campaign, even in its final days. The government released emails that showed that days after a Chicago bank gave Manafort a $9.5 million loan, Manafort emailed Jared Kushner recommending that the bank’s CEO serve as Army secretary in the Trump administration. The CEO, Steve Calk, had sent Manafort a ranked list of the government positions he wanted.

While he’s consistently distance himself from Manafort since his indictment, President Donald Trump on Friday expressed some sympathy for his former campaign manager, defensively telling reporters that Manafort is “happens to be a very good person” and that it’s “very sad what they’ve done” to him.

Pressure is building against longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. Robert Mueller’s prosecutors are looking through emails he sent threatening onetime associate Randy Credico for denying serving as the middle-man between Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Credico was subpoenaed to testify before Mueller’s grand jury on Sept. 7.

As part of her bridge-burning book tour, ex-reality star and White House official Omarosa claimed that she’s been interviewed by Mueller’s team. Citing no evidence, she alleged that Trump “absolutely” knew about the Clinton campaign’s stolen emails before WikiLeaks began publishing them in the summer of 2016. Omarosa said she also handed over to Mueller some of the secretly recorded conversations she’s been eagerly sharing with the media.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said that the President won’t agree to an interview with Mueller after Sept. 1 out of concerns that he’d be interfering with the midterms. Giuliani said they’re also willing to go to the Supreme Court to fight any subpoena requiring Trump to testify.

Former FBI official Peter Strzok was officially fired, months after anti-Trump texts were found on his cell phone. Trump said that the Hillary Clinton email probe, which Strzok helped carry out, should be “redone” now that he was gone.

Trump also stripped another critic, former CIA director John Brennan, of his security clearance. The White House initially citied national security concerns prompted by Brennan’s “erratic” behavior. Trump then told the Wall Street Journal he did so because of Brennan’s involvement in the Russia “witch hunt.”

George Papadopolous, whose drunken rants are widely credited for the launch of the Russia probe, was thrust back into the spotlight Thursday, when his wife Simona Mangiante said she wants Papadopolous to scrap his deal with Mueller.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Intelligence Committee efforts to investigate financial matters related to the Russia probe have been stymied by the Treasury Department, which has ignored and refused records requests.

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been referred to as the “king of voter suppression” and “the most racist politician in America today.”

As of Tuesday, after a chaotic week of ballot-counting and threats of a recount, Kobach is also the Republican nominee to become the state’s governor.

This was the outcome Democrats wanted. Whereas Kobach’s opponent, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, was seen as an electable, middle-of-the-road Republican, Kobach is a lightning rod. Kobach’s years-long war against phantom voter fraud and close ties to President Trump have made him a polarizing figure saddled with liabilities, presenting Democrats with an in.

But nonpartisan political scientists say that, thanks to a variety of factors, Kobach is actually favored to defeat Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly. Rather than vanquishing a politician loathed by progressives nationwide, Democrats may wake up in November with Kobach running the state.

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is known for instituting strict restrictions on who has access to the ballot box.

But does Kobach’s controversial two-term tenure have anything to do with the chaos currently unfolding in his own undecided GOP gubernatorial primary, where he’s leading by only dozens of votes?

Not directly, say local political experts. But in some oblique ways, it does.

First off is the matter of resources. Kobach used thousands of state dollars for the frivolous voter fraud suits that he initiated and argued on Kansas’ behalf. His opponent, Gov. Jeff Kolyer, has argued that Kobach should be on the hook for the $26,000 in legal fees he owes over the proof-of-citizenship lawsuit he lost in federal court earlier this year.

“When you’re working on something, there’s also what you’re not doing,” Michael Smith, Chair of the Political Science Department at Emporia State University, told TPM.

“Instead of looking for illegal voters who did not exist,” Smith said, Kobach would have better-served his state by ensuring that Kansas “had better voting equipment and reporting procedures.”

Then there are the errors made by entities he technically oversees as secretary of state.

Clerks in two counties said that the vote totals they turned over to his office were not accurately reported on the secretary of state’s website. Once Kobach’s office corrected the mistake, his lead dropped notably.

Poll workers trained by the county election commissioners Kobach oversees also slipped up. Some voters reported receiving the wrong type of ballot, while other unaffiliated voters said they were not provided with the document they needed to fill out in order to vote in partisan primary races.

These missteps prompted Colyer’s campaign to ask Kobach to recuse himself. Providing guidance on how to address voting problems in a race that he himself stood to win was inappropriate, Colyer’s team said.

Kobach reluctantly agreed to do so, but then appointed his deputy, Assistant Secretary of State Erick Rucker, to see out the primary process. Rucker has donated to Kobach’s gubernatorial campaign.

As Burdett Loomis of the University of Kansas put it to TPM: “Where irony comes into play here is he’s a tough-minded individual on fraud, but every time you see a decision being made that would help him [in the primary race], its not necessarily a strict constructionist decision. It’s a decision that would help Kris Kobach.”

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