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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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Ohio’s GOP-drawn U.S. congressional map is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, the ACLU alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The suit, the latest to target the practice of drawing district lines for partisan gain, points to the map itself, as well as what it calls the “tightly controlled process” Republicans used in 2011 to draw it. The map has routinely elected 12 Republicans to four Democrats, even as the two parties have split Ohio’s statewide congressional vote roughly evenly.

“The 12-4 map was drawn in secret in a hotel room, nicknamed ‘the bunker’ by the map drawers, to which only Republicans had access,” the lawsuit claims. “Versions of the map had to be approved by national Republicans, despite no official role in Ohio’s redistricting statutes for the national Republican Party.”

The complaint describes one district as a “detached shoulder blade with a robotic arm that reaches out from a shoulder of Cleveland into Akron.” Another district it dubs the “Snake on the Lake,” because it “eats its way across the southern border of Lake Erie, ingesting portions of five counties (none in its entirety).”

“The contorted shapes of some of these districts also make clear the length the map drawers had to go to in order to achieve their political goals,” the lawsuit says.

The challengers are asking the court to declare the congressional map an unconstitutional gerrymander and to block its implementation in future elections.

The ACLU is bringing the complaint on behalf of 16 voters as well as the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute. It names Gov. John Kasich, Secretary of State John Husted, Ohio House Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring and Ohio State Senate President Larry Obhof as defendants.

Earlier this month, Ohio voters passed a ballot initiative that creates a bipartisan process for drawing congressional district lines. But the lawsuit notes that, under the measure, if that process fails, Ohio’s legislature will be able to fall back on producing maps with a simple majority.

The complaint also quotes a friend-of-the-court brief Kasich signed in a Supreme Court redistricting case from Wisconsin, that said “partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional, are harming our republican government, and readily can be identified and addressed by courts.”

The Supreme Court is expected to issue rulings in the Wisconsin case and in a separate partisan gerrymandering case out of Maryland before its current term ends. One or both of those rulings could clarify when, if ever, partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional.

In addition to Ohio and Wisconsin, Republicans in Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, among other states, used the redistricting process at the start of the decade to draw lines that benefited their party. Those maps have given the GOP a major advantage in the state legislative and congressional elections that have followed.

Ohio has faced a number of lawsuits for its election practices in recent years. A challenge to its system of purging the voter rolls was heard by the Supreme Court this year, with a ruling also expected this term. The Supreme Court in 2016 allowed the state’s cutbacks to early voting to go into effect for the presidential election, after an appeals court reversed a lower court’s decision to block the cuts.

Read the lawsuit below:

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A handful of new court filings in recent days gave us fresh hints that we’re in for a big legal battle over the charges Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought against a company linked to a Russian oligarch known as “Putin’s chef.”

When Mueller’s grand jury in February handed down an indictment against the company Concord Management and Consulting LLC, as well as 13 Russians and other entities allegedly involved in Russia’s 2016 social media meddling, few thought the case would ever see a courtroom.

Within the last week, both Mueller and Concord Management have each asked the court for extensions on deadlines for expected briefs. In both requests, they were not opposed by the other side.

On Tuesday, Mueller and Concord Management additionally filed a joint brief, asking the court to extend the timeline by which they’ll be proceeding towards a trial.

The court document noted that the case is “both unusual and complex due to the number of charged defendants, volume of discovery and existence of novel questions of fact and law.” It reiterated comments made by Concord Management’s attorney in court indicating he planned to file “multiple” motions “challenging the indictment and other proceedings.”

It also revealed more detail about the discovery process so far:

The two sides are essentially asking the judge to pause the clock for three months, setting aside the typical countdown calculation that is used to set a trial date under the Speedy Trial Act.

Concord Management has been charged with conspiracy to defraud to United States, with Mueller accusing the entity of funding the Russian troll farm that created fake social media accounts to influence the 2016 campaign. Concord Management is partially owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is also named in the indictment. Prigozhin is a Russian restauranteur whose closeness to the Kremlin has inspired the nickname “Putin’s Chef.”

Since Concord Management lawyered up last month, its attorneys, the DC-based Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikelay, have moved forward with much bluster. They’ve taken issue with how Mueller’s prosecutors attempted to serve their client with a summons; they’ve been combative in court hearings; Dubelier was overheard telling Mueller lawyer Jeannie Rhee that her comments in court last week were “bullshit.”

From the latest round of filings, it appears that there is a bite behind that bark, and Concord Management’s attorneys are planning on fighting the case for many more months to come.

Read the joint filing below:

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Michael Avenatti’s law firm, Eagan Avenatti, was slapped with a $10 million judgment for failing to abide by the terms of a bankruptcy settlement, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The law firm reportedly missed a $2 million payment last week it had agreed to make to a former employee, Jason Frank.

“At this point, that’s what’s appropriate,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Bauer said at a hearing Tuesday, according to the Times.

The U.S. government is planning to file a motion alleging Avenatti’s firm failed to pay back taxes as part of the bankruptcy settlement, a Justice Department lawyer revealed at the hearing, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Avenatti pushed back on the Los Angeles’ Times reporting on Twitter and in a statement in the story calling it “over blown.”

Avenatti did not respond to TPM’s inquiry, but told Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner that he did not personally default on any taxes and that the dispute was unrelated to his work representing Stormy Daniels, a porn star paid by President Trump’s personal attorney to keep quiet in 2016 about allegations she slept with Trump.

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An appeals court dismissed Tuesday a request by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to overturn a federal judge’s finding that he was in contempt of court. The three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its dismissal that Kobach had appealed the contempt finding prematurely.

“Although the district court stated that it was imposing sanctions, specific sanctions
have not yet been imposed,” the judges wrote. “Here, not only has the district court not issued findings of fact and conclusions of law or final judgment, the district court has not determined a discernable amount of sanctions.”

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach in contempt of court last month for his failure to follow her order temporarily blocking the state’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement for the 2016 election. She knocked Kobach for failing to ensure that affected voters received the voter registration confirmation cards that typically go out to voters, and for not correcting an election workers manual posted online to reflect her order.

Her ruling on the merits of the proof-of-citizenship requirement, which was challenged by the ACLU and others, is expected in the weeks to come. She is also still being briefed on the attorneys fees she is requiring Kobach to pay related to the contempt motion.

At the trial in March, Kobach — who is representing himself rather than relying on Kansas’ attorney general — and his legal team ran into a number of issues following proper trial procedure.

Read the appeals court’s dismissal of his contempt-of-court appeal below:

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The top Trump campaign official who assembled members of the foreign policy team that became the subject of the FBI’s probe into Russian election meddling went on an Iowa radio show Monday to detail his recollections of meeting with an informant reportedly working for the feds.

Sam Clovis told the Simon Conway Show that he and the informant — an American academic based in Britain — met at a DoubleTree hotel in Virginia just outside of Washington on September 1, 2016. The two sat for coffee and had a “high level” academic discussion about China, Clovis said.

It was like two faculty members sitting down in the faculty lounge talking about research,” Clovis, who served as the campaign’s national co-chairman, said. “There was no indication or no inclination that this was anything more than just wanting to offer up his help to the campaign if I needed it.”

Clovis’ name popped up in a story last week about the informant in the Washington Post, which also identified the informant by name Monday evening.

President Trump met Monday with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats about turning over information about the informant to Congress.

Clovis, on the radio show, alleged that the informant meeting appeared to be “a deliberative and intentional effort on the part of the leadership of the FBI to create something that didn’t exist.”

The FBI, he claimed, was trying to “literally like plant evidence or to create an audit trail that would lead investigators on to something, then they would have justification to go back to their FISA warrants and all the other things.”

He said that the informant, in an email back and forth setting up the meeting, used his previous contact with Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page as “bonafides” to get in front of Clovis. Page had met the informant at a July 2016 conference, and was in touch with him on multiple occasions.

Clovis’ lawyer, Victoria Toensing, previously said, according to the Washington Post that the informant had not mentioned his other Trump contacts when reaching out to Clovis. Clovis said he wasn’t sure “where she got that information,” since she had access to the emails setting up the September 2016 meeting.

Toensing, in an phone interview Tuesday with TPM, backed up Clovis’ account. She told TPM that the informant had said in an email to Clovis that Page had recommended that they meet. She also claimed that the informant had told Page when they met at the conference that he was a big fan of Clovis’. Page confirmed Toensing’s account in an email to TPM.

Clovis suggested that the informant then used their meeting to get a meeting with George Papadopoulos.

The informant would eventually meet with Papadopoulos in mid-September, according to the New York Times, where he would ask Papadopoulos what he knew about Russia’s efforts to influence the election. (Papadopoulos denied having any insight, according to the Times.)

Clovis said Monday that his meeting with the informant was focused solely on the informant’s China research. Clovis claimed he didn’t think anything of the meeting, as the campaign already a had a “host” of people with China expertise, and that he didn’t even bother to open the attachments that the informant later emailed him on Sept. 27 with more of his research.

I took a meeting like this probably once a day — I had somebody like this who would sit down with me,” Clovis said. “Literally dozens of people that had academic credentials that wanted to help and be involved, and I met with them all the time.”

Update: This story has been updated to include Carter Page’s confirmation that the informant told him he was a big fan of Sam Clovis’.

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As part of his request that a federal judge in Virginia hold a hearing on alleged leaks to the media from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, Paul Manafort is pointing to a meeting that Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann allegedly had with Associated Press reporters in April 2017, before the special counsel was appointed.

Weissmann, then the head of the DOJ Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, met with four AP reporters on April 11, according to the court filing by Manafort Monday evening. A day later, the AP published its bombshell report that $1.2 million in payments listed for Manafort in a notorious black ledger found in Ukraine had made it to his U.S. consulting firm.

“[I]t has been reported that a complaint was made to the Justice Department by the FBI with respect to the meeting with the AP reporters, which suggests that normal procedures were not followed in this case,” Manafort’s court filing said. “The thrust of this motion requests that the Court hold a hearing on these unauthorized government leaks, and if there has been an internal investigation (or investigations) regarding such leaks, or if emails, notes or memoranda exist regarding the same, the Court and the defendant—whose Constitutional rights are actually at issue—are entitled to review the same.”

Manafort’s claims are based on a report by Fox News contributor Sara Carter on her personal website, as well as a Washington Times report that House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) had inquired with the Justice Department about the alleged meeting.

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment. A previous filing by Mueller’s team called Manafort’s allegations “speculative” and said that a pretrial hearing on the issue would be “unwarranted.”

Manafort has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia with bank fraud, tax fraud, and failure to file a foreign bank report. He has pleaded not guilty in that case, as well as in the separate case brought against him in Washington, D.C., where the charges include money laundering and a failure to disclose foreign lobbying.

The charges mostly stem from lobbying work Manafort did in Ukraine, before he joined President Trump’s 2016 campaign, where he served for several months as campaign chair. Manafort, in his request for a hearing on the leaks, has argued that the alleged leaks improperly influenced the grand juries that handed down indictments against him.

“Not only is leaking classified information a felony, but it was also apparently intended to create the false public narrative that Mr. Manafort was colluding with Russian intelligence officials during the Trump presidential campaign. This smear campaign may have in fact irreparably prejudiced the jury pool in violation of the defendant’s Constitutional rights,” he said.

Read the filing below:

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President Trump, in a meeting with top Justice Department officials Monday, was seeking that the Department turn over information about a reported informant the FBI used while investigating his presidential campaign, for use for his own legal team, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told Politico.

“He wants them to turn over the information that exists about the informant to the House and Senate committees — all the memos they have,” Giuliani said, adding that memos documenting the informants findings should also “be made available to us on a confidential basis.”

“We should be at least allowed to read them so we know this exculpatory evidence is being preserved,” he said.

Trump’s legal team, which Giuliani joined recently, is in the process of negotiating a possible sit-down interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Giuliani told USA Today that the memos could also play a role in whether Trump decides to be questioned by Mueller.

“I think they could help us, if they show there is no original basis for the investigation,” Giuliani said.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and others have reported that the FBI — in the early stages of its probe into contacts between Trump campaign and Russia — used an informant who interacted with members of the campaign. The Justice Department has resisted turning over information about the individual to congressional Republicans, citing fears about blowing the longtime source’s cover.

The White House initially sided with the Justice Department, but Trump in a tweet Sunday issued a “demand” that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI “the infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”

The Justice Department a few hours later said that it was referring the matter to DOJ Office of Inspector General, which is already investigating the surveillance warrant the DOJ successfully sought on former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. The Inspector General’s Office declined to comment on the Justice Department’s announcement.

On Monday, Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s overseeing Mueller’s investigation, as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that after meeting with the President,  the “Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign.”

“It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested,” she said.

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Democratic lawmakers had a chance to air their concerns about the addition of a citizenship question to the U.S. Census on Friday, when John Gore — the Trump DOJ official who requested that the question be included — appeared in front of the House Oversight Committee. He was a no-show at a Census hearing the Committee hosted earlier this month, prompting Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-GA) to threaten a subpoena. Gore dodged many of the Democrats’ questions about who was involved in the request, but defended the move as necessary for Voting Rights Act enforcement. Democrats and civil rights experts remain extremely skeptical of that rationale.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who approved Gore’s request, meanwhile, defended the decision last week by saying that he didn’t “think” that “the sky will fall” because the question was added.

The Supreme Court’s decision last week not to take up a case challenging the federal $2,700 limit on individual campaign contributions during a general election means that that limit will stand. The limit was previously upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking a judge to hold off on determining the attorneys fees he will have to pay for the plaintiffs in the Kansas lawsuit challenging the state’s proof-of-citizenship voter-registration requirement. The ruling that he would have to pay fees stems from the contempt of court finding that the judge in the case issued against him last month. Kobach, in a filing Sunday, asked the judge to pause the briefing on the issue while he appeals the contempt filing. A decision on the merits of the proof-of-citizenship case is expected in the weeks to come. Kobach was found in contempt of court for violating a judge’s 2016 order blocking the proof-of-citizenship requirement for the 2016 election.

Remember that Virginia state delegate election where the winner’s name was picked out of bowl because of a tie? Well, The Washington Post did some digging and found that 26 voters, who lived in a predominantly African-American precinct, were assigned to the wrong district. The mistake potentially cost Democrats the seat, as well as the opportunity to have an even split in Virginia’s House of Delegates. (Republicans now control it by 51-49 margin.)

Voting rights advocates got a win in Louisiana last week, where a bill to restore the voting rights of felons on parole or probation is advancing. Versions of the legislation have passed both the state House and Senate. The two versions must be reconciled before the measure can land on Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.

In Colorado, voters in November will have a chance to approve of two state constitutional amendments creating independent redistricting commissions to draw congressional and state legislative districts. The ballot initiatives were approved by state legislators last week.

Last week I reported on the effort by Missouri Republicans to put on the 2018 ballot a constitutional amendment requiring that state legislative districts be drawn based on number of citizens, instead of total population. That ballot initiative measure passed the House but died in the Senate, as the legislature completed its term Friday evening.

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The FBI agent who searched Paul Manafort’s storage unit should be present and ready to testify at a hearing about the legality of the search next week, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Friday.

Manafort has challenged the search of his storage unit, which was conducted just 10 days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over the Russia investigation. Jackson — who is overseeing the case brought against Manafort in Washington, D.C. — is holding a hearing on Manafort’s request to suppress the fruits of the search on Wednesday.

In dispute in the dueling court filings from Manafort and Mueller about the storage unit search is whether the FBI agent — whose name is redacted in the version of the affidavit filed in court — understood that an employee of Manafort’s had the authority to unlock and let the agent into the unit.

The employee, Alexander Trusko, had a key to the storage unit, and a lease that the agent examined prior to entering the unit showed him listed as an “occupant.”

After initially entering the unit on May 26 — during which, according to Mueller, the agent did not open any of the containers — the agent successfully sought a search warrant that was executed the following day.

Manafort in court filings argued Trusko was a former employee at the time of the search, that he did not have authority to let the FBI agent enter the unit and that there was no indication that Trusko shared use of the unit with Manafort.

Manafort claimed that the FBI agent knew all of these things when he entered the unit the first time. Furthermore, Manafort argued, the fact that the FBI agent sought a search warrant after entering on May 26 showed that the agent knew he wasn’t authorized to be in there in the first place.

Mueller countered in court filings that such “speculation” was “unfounded.”

Mueller argued that the agent understood the employee to be “currently” working for Manafort. In the affidavit Trusko is described as being a former employee of Manafort’s consulting firm DMP and current employee of Steam LLC, an entity also operated by Manafort. The agent understood, according to Mueller, that among Trusko’s duties as Manafort’s employee was moving materials into the storage unit.

“The relevant question in deciding apparent authority is whether ‘the facts available to the officer at the moment [would] warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the consenting party had authority over the premises,'” Mueller’s court filing said.  “Here the answer to that question is ‘yes.'”

Manafort is facing charges of money laundering and failure to disclose foreign laundering. A separate case Mueller brought against him in Virginia accuses Manafort of bank fraud and tax fraud. The former Trump campaign chairman has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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President Trump has been urging the postmaster general to double the U.S. Postal Service rates for Amazon, the Washington Post — which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — reported Friday. Some administration officials told the Post that many Trump attacks on Amazon — which include accusing the Washington Post of being its “chief lobbyist” — are driven by articles in the newspaper he didn’t like.

U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan has tried to explain to Trump that the contracts that establish postal rates go through a regulatory commission, according to the Washington Post, and that the U.S. Postal Service has benefited from its relationship with the online retailer.

In addition to his lobbying of Brennan, Trump has held discussions about Amazon’s business practices with other senior advisors, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, then-National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Domestic Policy Council Director Andrew Bremberg, the Washington Post reported.

Trump’s advisors have disagreed on whether Amazon is paying the U.S. Postal Service enough, with Cohn — who left the White House in March — serving as one Amazon’s biggest defenders, according to the WaPo report.

A review of the U.S. Postal service is underway, and is being led by Mnuchin counselor Craig Phillips and  Kathy Kraninger, an Office of Management and Budget official, the Washington Post reported.

Trump has not kept his disdain for Amazon or Bezos private. When bashing stories in the Washington Post about his administration on Twitter, Trump often labels the newspaper the “Amazon Washington Post.” He’s accused Bezos of using the Washington Post to “to screw public on low taxation” of Amazon.

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