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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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The Special Counsel’s investigation into top White House adviser Jared Kushner’s foreign contacts is completely warranted, outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Tuesday.

“He deserves the scrutiny,” Christie said of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law in an interview with MSNBC.

“Because he was involved in the transition and involved in meetings that call into question his role,” Christie said, adding that Kushner may have acted appropriately. “If he’s innocent of that, then that will come out as Mueller examines all the facts, and if he’s not, that will come out too.”

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Donald Trump was warned that Russia and other foreign nations would try to infiltrate his presidential campaign in late summer 2016, after becoming the official GOP nominee, NBC News reported Monday.

Multiple government officials told NBC that both Trump and his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton were given routine high-level counterintelligence briefings by senior FBI officials in late July or early August, and were asked to alert the FBI about any suspicious outreach to their campaigns.

The White House dismissed NBC’s report as inconsequential, alleging, as the Trump administration often does, that the leak of information is more important than its content.

“That the Republican and Democrat nominee for President received a standardized briefing on counter-intelligence is hardly a news story,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, told NBC. “That NBC News hears about the contents of this classified conversation due to an inappropriate leak is a news story.”

The report said it was unclear if the warning regarding Russia was passed along to other Trump campaign officials.

But no evidence has yet emerged that Trump’s team notified the FBI about various contacts Russians or Kremlin-linked officials had with campaign officials prior to or following the late-summer briefing. Donald Trump Jr., former national security adviser Mike Flynn, and White House adviser Jared Kushner are among those known to have engaged in these meetings.

At the time the FBI issued its warning, the bureau was already aware of some contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Former FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress that the federal investigation into these communications began in July 2016.

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Those looking to discredit the special counsel’s Russia investigation got an assist this weekend from one of President Donald Trump’s attorneys, who alleged Saturday that Robert Mueller’s team inappropriately obtained a trove of presidential transition team documents.

“It’s not looking good,” Trump, who denied that he has any intention of firing Mueller, told reporters. “It’s quite sad to see that. My people were very upset.”

But the General Services Administration (GSA), which turned over thousands of emails exchanged during the transition, the special counsel’s office, and legal experts pushed back on transition lawyer Kory Langhofer’s claims, insisting that nothing about the process was unusual.

Langhofer’s laments about the violation of privacy and privileged attorney-client communications were rendered moot, experts and officials said, by the fact that the transition emails were housed on government servers and sent by people who were then private citizens. Communications exchanged by these individuals between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017 are pertinent to Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the presidential election and any coordination that may have occurred between the Kremlin and Trump campaign.

According to a letter Langhofer sent to congressional committee leaders, the “emails, laptops, cell phones, and other materials” for nine transition team members working on “national security and policy matters” as well as four other “senior” transition team members are now in Mueller’s team’s possession. They’ve been “extensively used” in interviews with witnesses, Langhofer alleged.

Here’s why this latest pseudo-scandal matters.

Trump team alleges violation of law, Constitution

In a seven-page letter to the heads of the Senate Homeland Security and House Oversight Committees, Langhofer alleged that GSA’s production of transition materials violated both the Fourth Amendment and a Presidential Transition Act requirement that “computers or communications services” used by transition staffers be “secure.”

Mueller’s team requested the documents in a pair of late August letters and received a flash drive containing them from the GSA on Sept. 1, according to the Associated Press. Langhofer blamed “career GSA staff” working with GSA Deputy Counsel Lenny Loewentritt for carrying out this process “without notifying TFA [Trump for America] or filtering or redacting privileged material.” He said the transition team did not learn of these “unauthorized disclosures” until Dec. 12.

GSA, Special Counsel say there’s nothing weird here

Both the GSA and special counsel said they carried out the process as required by law.

In a Saturday interview with BuzzFeed, Loewentritt, a career GSA employee, explained that all transition staff using GSA devices had to sign agreements asserting that “no expectation of privacy can be assumed.” They were explicitly warned, Loewentritt said, that information “would not be held back in any law enforcement” investigation.

Loewentritt also denied Langhofer’s claim that former GSA general counsel Richard Beckler, who died in September, promised the Trump transition’s legal team that they would be told of any requests made to the agency for document production.

Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement that Mueller did not require a subpoena or warrant to obtain the documents.

“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” Carr said.

Legal experts swat down claims of impropriety

Legal experts and former government attorneys bolstered claims that nothing improper or illegal transpired in obtaining the emails.

Former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason told the Washington Post that it “would be almost prosecutorial misconduct” for Mueller’s team not to sort through the transition messages, and that Langhofer’s decision to go to Congress rather than the judge overseeing the federal grand jury was suspect.

“You go to the judge and complain,” Eliason told the Post. “You don’t issue a press release or go to Congress. It appears from the outside that this is part of a pattern of trying to undermine Mueller’s investigation.”

John Bies, a Justice Department lawyer during the Obama administration, told Politico that presidential privilege did not apply to messages sent before Trump was sworn-in because “there is only one president at a time.”

Congress doesn’t seem interested in taking up the issue

In an interview with Business Insider, Langhofer said he took the issue to Congress rather than Mueller and the GSA because lawmakers “need to make sure this never happens again.”

Lawmakers don’t seem particularly eager to get in the middle of this fight, however.

“These are issues to be briefed by the parties (or others with cognizable legal claims and standing) and decided by the court — not Congress,” a spokesperson for House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told Politico in a statement.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the committee, said in a statement that the Presidential Transition Act “simply does not support withholding transition team emails from criminal investigators.”

Why the emails could be so important

White House attorney Ty Cobb announced last week that Mueller’s team has completed all interviews with White House staff requested to date, meaning senior Trump advisers have already given investigators their accounts of communications with or about foreign officials.

Those interviews occurred before the transition team knew that Mueller had access to physical copies of their transition emails, and, as Langhofer pointed out, Mueller’s prosecutors have “extensively used the materials” obtained from GSA in his interviews with witnesses.

“Mueller is using the emails to confirm things, and get new leads,” a transition source told Axios.

Mueller’s team can now cross-check the comments of any interviewee to ensure that they did not lie to federal agents—a crime to which both former national security adviser Mike Flynn and former campaign aide George Papadopoulos already pleaded guilty.

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The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday said a series of signs have left him “increasingly worried” that his Republican colleagues plan to imminently put an end to their investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference.

“It appears Republicans want to conduct just enough interviews to give the impression of a serious investigation,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in a series of tweets.

Per Schiff, there are no interviews on the calendar going into 2018, though there are “dozens of outstanding witnesses on key aspects of our investigation that they refuse to contact,” and multiple document requests have gone unmade. The California Democrat also criticized the GOP majority for declining to issue subpoenas related to “numerous avenues” of their probe.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) confirmed to the New York Times that he told a Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), that the year’s end represented a “natural boundary” to the investigative portion of their investigation.

“I feel no need to apologize for concluding an investigation,” Gowdy, who oversaw a two-year select panel investigation into the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, told the newspaper.

“If there is evidence of collusion, conspiracy coordination, with Trump and the Trump campaign, no one has produced it,” Gowdy added.

Spokespeople for the committee’s top Republicans, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Nunes told the Times that there was “not a chance I’m ever going to talk to you.”

Partisan tensions have hampered the panel for months, with Republicans focusing on their concerns about leaks from witness testimony and from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and Democrats pressing to find out if any members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle assisted Russia with their interference efforts

Tensions escalated further this week. Newly published anti-Trump texts exchanged between a former top FBI official who worked on the Russia probe and a Justice Department official prompted allegations that both Mueller’s investigation and the DOJ were hopelessly compromised. That FBI official, Peter Strzok, was removed from Mueller’s team as soon as the texts were discovered.

The messages provided fodder to those who share Trump’s view that the federal and congressional investigations are a “witch hunt,” which Schiff said is what has him “really concerned.”

“By shutting down the congressional investigations when they continue to discover new and important evidence, the White House can exert tremendous pressure to end or curtail Mueller’s investigation or cast doubt on it,” Schiff wrote. “We cannot let that happen.”

The rest of the thread is posted below:

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Sean Hannity may be perceived as Fox News’ most unabashed cheerleader for President Donald Trump, but Jeanine Pirro is giving him a run for his money.

“There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and our Department of Justice,” the former judge said in a remarkable opening monologue on last Saturday’s installment of her weekly Fox show “Justice With Judge Jeanine.” “It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but who need to be taken out in handcuffs.”

Pirro then ran through a list of intelligence officials who should be imprisoned for what she framed as a politically-motivated offensive to “destroy Trump”: former FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

This might just seem like particularly outlandish rhetoric from a pundit known for arguing that the sight of Muslims carrying boxes into their own homes should prompt calls to law enforcement, and urging police officers to turn their backs on “anti-Trump, leftist, socialist, cop-hating” New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

But Pirro’s words carry more currency with Trump than your average Fox host’s. The pair have been friends for some two decades, and the President continues to solicit Pirro’s legal advice. Last month, as the New York Times reported, Pirro sat down in the Oval Office with Trump and senior administration officials to try to goad him into appointing a special counsel to investigate a uranium deal involving Russia, approved while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

“She’s one of those people who calls him ‘Donald,’” former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo told TPM. “There are very few. She counsels him upon request. I mean, the President calls her.”

The two are bonded by their roots in the insular, tough-talking New York GOP political world; years of interfamilial professional and personal ties; stridently pro-police attitudes; interactions with the legal system that never quite landed them in trouble; and an innate understanding of how to keep the cameras on them—at any cost. For both the pundit and the President, politics is just good business.

“The President considers Jeanine a friend,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told TPM in response to a request for comment.

Before TPM reached out to Fox News for comment for this story, a network spokesperson called unprompted to ask about the nature of the upcoming story on Pirro and offer assistance. The network did not respond to a detailed list of questions provided by TPM on Thursday.

The ties between the pair date back to the early 1990s, when Pirro was a rising star in the Westchester County GOP and Trump was a real estate mogul trying to maintain his flashy image despite a string of bankruptcies.

Trump retained Pirro’s then-husband Albert, a politically-connected land use attorney, to assist him with several projects in Westchester. Al Pirro also served as a “lawyer-lobbyist for Trump” as he sought to stop New York from legalizing casino gambling to preserve his Atlantic City cash cows, Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza, according to a veteran political operative and acquaintance of Jeanine Pirro’s who requested anonymity to discuss her friendship with Trump candidly.

“So Al had this business relationship with Trump over numerous years,” the operative said. “Simultaneously, they all hung out together in Palm Beach” where the Pirros had a house and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is located.

The families grew close. A 1999 New York Magazine profile quotes Trump calling Al Pirro “incredibly intelligent and effective” and Jeanine “sexy as hell.” One anecdote from the profile describes Trump’s daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany, wandering the lawn at a 500-person Mexican-themed cookout at the Pirros’ Hudson, New York home, where an attendee said Jeanine was wearing “high heels, dancing the Macarena.”

At the time, she was in the midst of a soaring career trajectory. After starting as a Westchester County assistant district attorney in 1975, she was elected in 1990 as the county’s first female judge, and to three successive terms, beginning in 1993 and ending in 2005, as the county’s first female DA.

Frank Nicolai, a retired judge in the county whose time on the bench coincided with Pirro’s, remembered her to TPM as a “very hardworking judge, certainly knowledgeable about criminal law.”

“She was known at that time as somebody who was really interested in victim’s rights,” said Peter Leavitt, a retired Westchester county judge, noting that Pirro emphasized prosecuting cases involving domestic violence against women and children.

But Leavitt criticized the frequent TV hits Pirro would do to promote those cases, saying that “everything with Jeanine at that time was self-aggrandizement.”

Bennett Gershman, a Pace University law professor who has tracked Pirro’s career for years, called her “probably the most political prosecutor I’ve ever encountered.”

“She wanted to create a star moment for herself as a stepping stone for higher office,” said Gershman, who once filed a misconduct complaint against Pirro for discussing the H.I.V. status of an indicted sex offender during a press conference.

Her attempted star moment came in 2005-06 when she dropped out of the New York Senate race against Hillary Clinton (after receiving donations from the likes of Trump) and became the GOP nominee for state attorney general, losing by nearly 20 points to Andrew Cuomo. Her bids for statewide office were dogged by her husband’s legal troubles (Al Pirro was convicted in 2000 of hiding over $1 million in personal income on falsified returns, some of which his wife also signed) and her own. In 2006, Pirro came under federal investigation for asking former NYC police commissioner Bernie Kerik how best to secretly record her husband, whom she believed was cheating on her. No charges were ultimately filed, and the Pirros split up the following year.

Like Trump, Pirro ultimately found a home on TV, where their brash, say-anything personalities were assets. Trump spun “The Apprentice” into a hit franchise, while Pirro won a daytime Emmy for a reality court show, “Judge Jeanine Pirro,” before landing at Fox News in 2011. Trump was a frequent guest on the network.

When Trump announced his 2016 presidential run, Pirro became an early, ardent supporter. She advised #NeverTrump Republicans to “get in line” with the GOP frontrunner’s unorthodox campaign. According to Caputo, she would stop by Trump Tower for occasional meetings with Trump, “talking strategy and bucking him up.” The Access Hollywood recording in which Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women was “disgusting, devastating and embarrassing,” she told viewers, but she “still, without a doubt” would vote for him.

This unyielding loyalty paid off. Trump in March urged the public to watch an episode of “Judge Jeanine” in which Pirro said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) should step down for embarrassing the President by failing to pass Obamacare repeal. He filmed an episode of her show in the Oval Office in May, and the New York Times reported he rarely misses an episode of the 9 p.m. ET Saturday program.

Trump supporters are Pirro viewers, and vice versa. The longtime political operative friendly with the Fox host told TPM this symbiotic relationship sometimes means promoting narratives that might not be fully grounded in reality, but appeal to the converted.

“I think she realized that the Trump message works for her viewership and she’s feeding her viewership and it’s good for her ’cause it keeps her numbers up,” the source said. “And she’s a personal supporter of Trump ’cause she’s known him for so long.”

“That’s something the President never forgets,” Caputo said of Pirro’s allegiance. “She may have been stern with him about something she disagreed with, but she never left his column of support. Those are the people the President relies on most because they’ve never given up on him.”

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has turned over to Capitol Police an apparently forged document that he said falsely accused him of sexually harassing a former staffer, multiple outlets reported late Tuesday.

“It was a phony allegation,” Schumer said at the end of a Wednesday morning press conference on the GOP tax bill. “False from start to finish. We are pursuing every legal means to address it.”

The former staffer, who has asked to remain anonymous, told TPM in a statement that she did not write the document and that she had never been subjected to inappropriate treatment by the New York Democrat.

“The claims in this document are completely false, my signature is forged, and even basic facts about me are wrong,” the woman said of the 13-page, password-protected PDF. “I have contacted law enforcement to determine who is responsible. I parted with Senator Schumer’s office on good terms and have nothing but the fondest memories of my time there.”

Publications including the Washington Post, ABC News, CNN and BuzzFeed have said they received the falsified document, which was made to look like a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia but lacked basic information like the name of a lawyer for the staffer.

“We have turned it over to the Capitol Police and asked them to investigate and pursue criminal charges because it is clear the law has been broken,” Schumer communications director Matt House told TPM in a statement. “We believe the individual responsible for forging the document should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to prevent other malicious actors from doing the same.”

This incident comes shortly after an undercover operative associated with conservative activist group Project Veritas was exposed for trying to convince the Washington Post to publish a fabricated claim of sexual allegation against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (R).

The newspaper, which first surfaced credible allegations of Moore groping teenagers when he was in his 30s, realized the operative was falsifying her story while reporting out the details she provided. Moore lost the Senate race Tuesday night in a surprise upset by Democrat Doug Jones.

Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

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The FBI sat down with top Trump aide Hope Hicks at least twice earlier this year to warn her that Russian operatives sought to make contact with her during the transition, the New York Times reported Friday.

The attempted contacts point to Russia’s ongoing, persistent efforts to establish channels of communications with people in President Donald Trump’s orbit.

FBI agents met with Hicks at least twice in the White House Situation Room for a “defensive briefing,” offering her names and information about the Russians who had contacted her from Russian government addresses under false pretenses, according to the Times report.

Hicks, who now serves as communications director, has not been accused of doing anything improper and reportedly requested additional meetings to better understand what Russian operatives were attempting to do. She reportedly informed White House counsel Don McGahn about her discussions with the FBI.

The Times reported that Hicks was interviewed on Thursday and Friday by investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The young Trump adviser previously worked at the Trump Organization before joining the campaign as press secretary and ultimately becoming a senior figure in the administration.

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LATE UPDATE 4:42 p.m. ET: CNN on Friday afternoon issued a major correction to a story that incorrectly stated that Donald Trump and top aides received a Sept. 4 2016 email providing them access to hacked documents released by WikiLeaks prior to their publication.

As CNN acknowledged, the email was actually sent on Sept. 14, suggesting that the sender may have simply been pointing the Trump campaign to publicly available documents, rather than providing them with early access to information that could offer them an advantage.

“We have updated our story to include the correct date, and present the proper context for the timing of email,” a statement from CNN’s PR team read.

The correction comes hours after the Washington Post published a report based on a copy of the email obtained by the newspaper’s reporters that contained the correct date. According to the Post story, the email including a link to a “(huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC” and a “decryption key” was sent by a man who identified himself as Michael J. Erickson, president of an aviation management company.

The email was among a trove of online communications turned over to congressional investigators by the Trump Organization, and Trump Jr. was questioned about it in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. It noted that DCLeaks.com had also publicized emails from former secretary of state Colin Powell—a development that the press had reported that day, as the Post pointed out.

It was sent to Trump Jr., an email address that Trump reportedly seldom used, Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen, a Gmail account occasionally used by aide Hope Hicks, and several other Trump Organization employees, per the Post report.

Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, condemned the reporting on the email in comments to the Post, criticizing the House Intelligence Committee for allowing details of Trump Jr.’s testimony to be publicized.

“It is profoundly disappointing that members of the House Intelligence Committee would deliberately leak a document, with the misleading suggestion that the information was not public, when they know that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Trump Jr. read or responded to the email,” Futerfas said, adding that the leak “undermines the credibility” of the probe.

Trump Jr. sent out a series of outraged tweets criticizing CNN for reporting “#fakenews” and asking for a “full retraction.”

Original Story:

Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were emailed a decryption key and website address for documents hacked by WikiLeaks in the fall of 2016, CNN reported Friday.

Congressional investigators are seeking to determine whether the Sept. 4 email to the Trumps, which was turned over by the Trump Organization, is the latest example of entities or individuals associated with WikiLeaks trying to boost the GOP candidate’s campaign and tarnish Hillary Clinton’s.

Just three weeks after the email was sent, as previously reported, Wikileaks initiated an exchange of direct messages with Trump Jr., who occasionally responded to or acted on the messages the group sent him.

The early September message came from a man who listed his name as “Mike Erickson” and was sent to Trump Jr., his personal assistant, an email address set up for then-candidate Trump, and others at the Trump organization, according to CNN.

It reportedly suggested that recipients could have access to records associated with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose hacked emails were leaked 10 days later. CNN reported that a Russian front group was behind that release.

Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, told CNN that the President’s eldest son did not recall receiving the message and took no action on it.

After the story’s publication, Futerfas issued a statement, reiterating that the team did “not know who Mike Erickson is” and “never responded to the email.”

Congressional investigators are still trying to determine the legitimacy of the email and the identity of the sender.

In the final months of the 2016 race, the Trump campaign openly embraced the data dumps of hacked information from Democratic officials and individuals associated with Hillary Clinton. Trump famously told a crowd at a Pennsylvania rally, “I love WikiLeaks!”

In August 2016, longtime Trump ally Roger Stone claimed he had a secret “back-channel communication” with the group.

And the head of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked with the Trump campaign, reached out to WikiLeaks founded Julian Assange to offer help organizing and promoting emails deleted from Clinton’s personal email server. Assange said he rebuffed that offer.

Correction: An editing error inadvertently attributed the hacking of DNC documents to Wikileaks. We regret the error.

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The news that Donald Trump Jr. invoked attorney-client privilege Wednesday to refuse to testify about a key conversation with his father was met with confusion and some amount of mockery.

As House Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) put it, that privilege doesn’t typically protect “a discussion between father and son,” and shouldn’t stop Trump Jr. from discussing a phone call they had about negotiating the fallout from news reports over his June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked attorney.

Legal experts told TPM that there are specific situations in which Trump Jr.’s invoking the privilege would be legitimate, though they noted that publicly reported information on the circumstances of the call suggests that it was not. In any event, the Republican-controlled House committee is unlikely to compel the GOP President’s son’s testimony via subpoena. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, on the other hand, will surely want to know the details of this call, and will be less sympathetic in his pursuit of that information, the experts said.

“If you’re Bob Mueller and you get an interview of Donald Trump Jr., this is going to be one of the three or four main topics in your outline. Like at the Roman numeral level,” said Andy Wright, a former White House associate counsel under President Barack Obama.

“This strategy would not work in a grand jury or special counsel investigation unless it was a valid invocation of attorney-client privilege; whereas in Congress, it’s based more on congressional will,” Wright, who is now a professor at Savannah Law School, added, noting that Trump Jr.’s refusal to talk to Congress “may be effective in a practical way even if its legally defective.”

Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. Trump’s White House special counsel Ty Cobb declined to comment on the record.

At issue for the Russia probe investigators is what Trump Jr. said to his father after the New York Times broke the news that Trump Jr. met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who Trump Jr. was told had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, during a June 2016 sit-down at Trump Tower. The Washington Post reported that the President, while traveling back from the G-20 summit on July 8, 2017 on a plane full of aides, “dictated” a misleading statement released by Trump Jr about the purpose of the meeting. That statement said the meeting focused mostly on the ability of Americans to adopt Russian children.

Lawyers for both Trump and his son were on the call hammering out that response, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But the presence of attorneys alone does not validate Trump Jr.’s claim of attorney-client privilege.

Legal experts told TPM that the eldest Trump son’s legal team would need to be engaged in a common interest agreement with his father’s lawyers to openly share information; that the conversation would have to be specifically focused on obtaining legal advice rather than political crisis communications; and that no non-privileged parties could be listening in on the call.

“If Trump is talking on a plane full of people, that’s not a privileged conversation even if his attorney was there,” said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent who now serves as a senior lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. “He’s not representing everyone on the plane.”

It’s not entirely clear who else was involved with this specific call. Trump Jr. has acknowledged coordinating his statement with adviser-turned-communications director Hope Hicks, who was aboard Air Force One and speaking with Trump while the statement was being drafted, according to CNN.

Former federal prosecutor Steve Miller noted that the “crime-fraud exemption” could also come into play if either attorney was providing guidance on how to conceal the true purpose of the Trump Tower meeting.

“If legal advice is being sought or legal communications exist for the purpose of furthering a fraud, then it’s not privileged,” he said.

Getting to the bottom of these questions is more likely to be a job for Mueller’s team than for Congress, given that it is at the discretion of a committee chair to decide whether to accept a privilege claim. Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) so far appears uninterested in following up on his Democratic colleagues’ calls to subpoena Trump Jr.

“A lot of questions were asked and answered, and from my perspective all of our questions were answered,” Conaway said after the seven-hour interview wrapped.

As Rangappa put it, “I think that what was really going on with Don Jr. is that he was buying time. When he goes in to testify he’s testifying under oath so he’s getting locked into what he says. And anything he says that could later get disproven would make him liable for perjury.”

Trump Jr.’s attorney has reportedly requested more time to study whether they will ultimately voluntarily offer more facts about the father-son call. No deadline has yet been set to produce that information.

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Blackwater founder and Trump donor Erik Prince wasn’t pleased that the House Intelligence Committee called him in for a Nov. 30 interview, as his newly released closed-door testimony makes abundantly clear.

In the transcript of the over three-hour-long interview, an increasingly testy Prince offered blanket denials of any involvement in or awareness of untoward dealings tied to the Trump campaign and Russia.

“Front side, back side, no side, never got any indication of anything like that,” Prince said when asked if he knew of any exchange of information or discussions of establishing a backchannel line of communications between the Trump team and Kremlin.

The bulk of the questions focused on Prince’s secret January 2017 trip to the Seychelles, where he met with Kirill Dmitriev, an ally of President Vladimir Putin and CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. While the Washington Post, which broke the news of the meeting, reported that Prince presented himself as an “unofficial envoy for Trump,” Prince testified that the principal purpose of his visit to the island nation was an invitation to meet with members of the United Arab Emirates’ royal family, one of whom casually suggested he meet with Dmitriev for a drink.

Dmietriev was described to him, he testified, as a “Russian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past” who would be “an interesting guy for you to know, since you’re doing a lot in the oil and gas and mineral space.”

Prince testified that he was not representing the Trump team during their 30-minute conversation; that he couldn’t “recall” if he knew Dmitriev represented a state-banked investment bank sanctioned by the U.S.; and that he did not discuss sanctions or anything related to the incoming Trump administration with the banker. Dmitriev did, however, express “how much he wished trade would resume with the United States in a normal way.”

Prince repeatedly tried to turn his conversation with lawmakers towards the leaking of classified intelligence information, which he insisted should be the real concern of Capitol Hill and the intelligence community. He repeatedly asserted that he believed he’d been illegally “unmasked” by members of the Obama administration and that the revelation of his identity had affected his ability “to do banking, to do business.”

At points, the conversation took a turn for the comic. Prince, whose sister is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, repeatedly denied having a special relationship with the Trump team, despite acknowledging that he submitted foreign policy position papers on the Middle East to the campaign, frequently texted with campaign CEO Steve Bannon, and visited Trump Tower several times during the transition.

“How would you describe the role of a citizen voter who wrote policy memos for a campaign, made multiple visits to Trump Tower, made six-figure donations to the campaign, and conducted a number of meetings with the campaign’s manager?” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) asked.

“Someone who cares about their country,” Prince replied.

Prince became increasingly short with the predominantly Democratic lawmakers questioning him as the hearing proceeded, dismissing their queries as a “waste of time” and “fishing expedition.”

Read the full transcript of his interview below.

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