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Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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A top FBI investigator who oversaw the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email set-up has stepped down from his role on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, ABC News reported Wednesday.

Peter Strzok, previously the head of the FBI’s counterespionage section, left Mueller’s team and is working in the FBI’s human resources division, unnamed sources told ABC News.

A spokesman for the Mueller probe declined to comment on the ABC News report.

Strzok was involved in the FBI’s Russia investigation in its infancy last summer, but only joined Mueller’s team last month, according to a CNN report at the time.

Vice President Mike Pence, leader of President Trump’s shady “Elections Integrity” commission kicked off its first meeting last month with a promise that it would have “no preconceived notions or preordained results.”

But like many of its other members, commissioner J. Christian Adams has done little to hide what has been his end-game: bullying state and local election officials into aggressive voter registration purges that civil rights groups worry will end in eligible voters getting kicked off the rolls. Now he will be joining on the commission several other figures known for their efforts to make it harder — not easier – to vote in an endeavor that many in the voting rights community believe will be used to justify tougher voting laws, including measures that will prompt sloppy voter purges.

For more than half a decade, Adams has been on his own private sector crusade to pressure election officials to agree to voter purge protocols beyond what are required by law.

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The Alexandria, Virginia home of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was raided by FBI agents late last month, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A spokesman for Manafort confirmed the report in a statement to TPM:

“FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well.”

The agents searched Manafort’s home in the early morning of July 26 and obtained various records, according to the Washington Post report. Manafort had already been cooperating voluntarily with the congressional investigations into Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign.

According to the Washington Post, “The search warrant indicates investigators may have argued to a federal judge they had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all records in response to a grand jury subpoena.”

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Recent reports that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is focusing on the finances of Donald Trump and his associates prompted the President’s defenders to cry foul about what they see as a burgeoning “fishing expedition.”

But former federal prosecutors said looking at the financial relationships that connect Trump associates to Russia is par for the course for an investigation like this. They told TPM they would have been more surprised had Mueller not included those financial ties in his purview.

“It would seem to me impossible to investigate the collusion issue without looking to see what is the relationship between Trump, his business associates, and/or relatives and people and entities in Russia,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who investigated organized crime for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern New York.

“You would have to. That is part and parcel of the investigation that Mueller is charged to look into,” he told TPM.

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The sprawling investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election has reportedly broadened to include potential financial crimes and obstruction of justice. But the probe now being led by special counsel Robert Mueller originally began as a counterintelligence investigation, which means a grand jury may have to contend with classified evidence obtained through highly sensitive surveillance and counterespionage tactics.

American intelligence allegedly captured the Russian ambassador’s account of a purported meeting at the Mayflower hotel with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, fired national security adviser Michael Flynn’s controversial phone call with that same ambassador during the Trump transition, and contacts between Russian interests and people associated with the Trump campaign, according to various reports over the past several months.

It’s not yet clear which, if any, of these incidents will make their way to a grand jury—which Mueller has reportedly begun using—but the Justice Department has well-established protocols for how to balance keeping top state secrets under wraps while getting the right information in front of a grand jury, according to legal experts.

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Sen. John McCain’s  (R-AZ) surprise, dramatic no vote that officially sunk the long-struggling Senate effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act was a fitting finale to a tumultuous and unpredictable legislative push. But the continued resistance of Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) illuminated the deep distrust that accrued over the Senate leadership’s secretive process, as well as the major substantive issues in the Republican health care bill that GOP never was fully ready to engage on.

From Day 1 the two veteran senators made clear what their top concerns were. They were shut out from a private group said to be working on a closed-door health care deal that was only the start of multiple norms busted and a unprecedented lack of transparency. And rather than meet their demands on the substance, Republicans attempted to cut side deals or even bully them, until they were just written off completely.

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When lawmakers began shuffling into the Senate chamber for a midnight vote — a mostly symbolic Democratic motion, which would precede the night’s main vote on the GOP Obamacare repeal legislation — Republicans showed few signs that the effort they sunk months into wrangling was about to go down.

Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) was all smiles leaning on a wall at the back of the chamber, watching other lawmakers trickle in. The other Republicans didn’t look ecstatic about the hours-long series of show votes they believed they were about to be subjected to, but appeared content to take a step forward on the fractious health care debate that had divided their caucus.

Then Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) walked into the room.

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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill failed spectacularly 49-51 in a key vote that was supposed to kick off a lengthy vote-a-rama process that would have culminated in the passage of the legislation. Instead, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the bill after the gavel dropped early Friday morning.

The Republican defections were Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ) and Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK).

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Senate Republicans finally released the text of their so-called “skinny repeal” bill, which they have dubbed the Health Care Freedom Act. The emergence of what had been a bit of a mystery bill came Thursday night, hours before they are expected to vote on it. Republicans say the bill is serving as a vehicle just to get Republicans to the next step of the legislative process: a conference with the House-passed Obamacare replacement legislation, where in theory a bill will be hashed out that can pass in both chambers.

The bill repeals only a few provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but most Senate Republicans have said that they do not want this to become law.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued a statement Thursday asserting the the House is “willing” to keep working on an Obamacare repeal-and-replacement plan, after the Senate passes the so-called skinny repeal, but he had some conditions of his own.

It’s not clear whether Ryan’s assurance would be sufficient to convince GOP senators who are reluctant to vote for skinny repeal and risk the House simply passing it, too.

“The House remains committed to finding a solution and working with our Senate colleagues, but the burden remains on the Senate to demonstrate that it is capable of passing something that keeps our promise, as the House has already done,” Ryan said. “Until the Senate can do that, we will never be able to develop a conference report that becomes law. We expect the Senate to act first on whatever the conference committee produces.”

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