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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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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was “shocked and horrified” to learn Monday that the statewide field director for his 2018 reelection campaign was a “hate-filled” white nationalist. TPM was one of the first outlets to cover the story.

“I had no idea he harbored these feelings,” the GOP governor said of his former staffer, 22-year-old Bennett Bressman. “He never expressed these views to me. I condemn these statements and this hateful worldview.”

In a press release denouncing the leaked online chats in which Bressman jokes about killing Black Lives Matter activists and journalists, Ricketts’ campaign noted that the governor had, after all, “addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas in 2018” and promoted the sale of “Nebraska beef” in Israel on multiple occasions.

But this week’s revelations are hardly the first time the governor has faced questions about his links to people with controversial, hateful views.

Ricketts himself repeatedly donated to famously racist Iowa Rep. Steve King. Ricketts gave King — who retweets open white nationalists and frets that whites will no longer be a majority in the U.S. — some $20,400 between 2009 and 2016.

Questioned about those donations after King asked in January how the terms “white nationalist, white supremacist” became offensive, Ricketts’ spokesman said that the governor “believes northwestern Iowans deserve a conservative voice in Congress who will continue fighting for tax relief, a vibrant economy, and strong family values.”

Then there’s Ricketts’ father, family patriarch and AmeriTrade founder Joe Ricketts. He made enemies in the media world in 2017 for shutting down alternative local news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist as soon as they voted to unionize. More recently, he made headlines for exchanging shockingly racist emails.

In leaked communications, Joe Ricketts said that “Islam is a cult and not a religion” and that Muslims are a natural “enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims.” He also pushed birther nonsense about Barack Obama. (To Pete Ricketts’ credit, he tried to convince his father to read a Snopes article trying to debunk stereotypes about Muslims.)

After the messages went public, Joe Ricketts said in a statement to the media: “I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong.”

The Ricketts family has warmly embraced President Trump, however, despite his countless disparaging remarks about religious and ethnic minorities and his administration’s hostility towards immigrants, documented and otherwise. Trump appointed Gov. Ricketts as a member of his Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations last year.

Ricketts’ brother, Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, is even more closely linked to Trumpworld. After dropping his bid to become Trump’s deputy commerce secretary because of his overly complicated financial affairs, Todd Ricketts was named as finance chair for the Republican National Committee.

In February, the RNC announced that Ricketts will now oversee fundraising for Trump’s reelection as part of a joint effort by the 2020 campaign and RNC to secure a second term for the President.

“As we head toward 2020, I will work to ensure President Trump and his campaign have the resources they need to fight for the American people,” Ricketts said in a statement.

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Judge T.S. Ellis sentenced former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to just 47 months in prison for tax and bank fraud on Thursday — far less than the 19 to 24 years recommended by special counsel Robert Mueller. Perhaps more gallingly, Ellis said that the former lobbyist for foreign dictators whose own daughters said he got rich from “blood money” led an “otherwise blameless” life and was involved in “lots of good things.”

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Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Monday announced a sprawling investigation into the Trump administration’s “threats against the rule of law,” requesting documents from some 81 individuals, corporations and entities associated with President Trump’s 2016 campaign, presidential transition and tenure in office.

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Michael Flynn will be a “principal witness” in the trial of his former business partner indicted for illegal foreign lobbying, according to court documents filed Friday.

In the filings, lawyers for Bijan Kian said that they needed to know exactly what the former U.S. national security adviser-turned-cooperating government witness told federal prosecutors.

Specifically, they want “all statements, transcripts, notes, records and memoranda” from federal prosecutors relating to anything Flynn told “any agent, employee, representative or elected official” of the US government.

Kian’s attorneys argue that the false statements Flynn made to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, for example, damage his “credibility” as a witness.

The lawyers are also subpoenaing Covington and Burling, the D.C. law firm that worked with Flynn Intel Group, for a slew of documents and communications. They suggest that Covington attorneys violated attorney client privilege by divulging to the government, without Kian’s consent, information about the firm’s failure to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for its work for the Turkish government.

Kian is also sometimes referred to by his full last name, Rafekian.

“The documents requested from FIG’s outside counsel will allow the defense to develop at trial whether FIG’s outside counsel (i) gathered from Mr. Rafiekian information that he believed was privileged and (ii) used that otherwise privileged information that was obtained from one shareholder (Mr. Rafiekian) for the exclusive benefit of another shareholder (Mr. Flynn) in an admitted effort to reduce Flynn’s sentence in the case to which he has pled guilty in the District of Columbia,” the attorneys write.

Kian was indicted in December for allegedly acting as a foreign agent and conspiracy for his work on a project to discredit and extradite a U.S.-based Turkish cleric loathed by Turkey’s government. He pleaded not guilty.

Flynn entered into a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller and other federal prosecutors in December 2017. He has admitted to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and lying to federal prosecutors about the work he and Kian did at Flynn Intel Group.

Flynn is continuing to provide “substantial” assistance to various government investigations, according to Mueller’s team, and has not yet been sentenced.

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