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 group of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said in letter to the Justice Department Tuesday that the DOJ had not responded to previous requests for information in July and August, related to concerns that the Department was becoming politicized on voting rights and educational issues.

Their letter Tuesday also requested more information about any DOJ coordination with President Trump’s voter fraud commission, which was also the subject of their July request. Since then, a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a private group surfaced a February email that was forwarded to Attorney General Jeff Session from a conservative activist, who was later appointed to the commission, demanding that Democrats and even “mainstream” Republicans not be selected for the panel.

“These developments underscore the concerns many of us have raised about a return to the illegal politicization of the Department’s Civil Rights Division that took place under the Bush administration, and raise questions about the role of Department leadership in the formation and operation of this nakedly partisan commission,” the Democrats said.

The letter was signed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The Judiciary Democrats’ letter Tuesday sought more information about the exchange, as well as any other communications between current DOJ officials and other commission members as well as Bush-era DOJ officials who were involved in the politicized hiring scandal.

It also lodged more general requests about the “Department’s process for responding to Congressional inquiries.”

The letter Judiciary Democrats sent in July sought information about any coordination between the DOJ and the election commission on letters both entities sent out to state officials on June 28: the DOJ’s letter was about National Voter Registration Act compliance; the commission’s letter sought voter roll data. An for the DOJ has denied there was any coordination.

In August, they asked for more information about a report in the New York Times that the DOJ was seeking to file lawsuits against universities for their affirmative action programs and the project was being run out of the “front office,” meaning by Trump administration political appointees.

Both requests for information, according to the latest letter, were not met with a response from the DOJ.

“As outlined here, we continue to have serious concerns – as to both process and substance – about the Department’s apparent coordination with the thoroughly discredited Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, as well as its failures to respond to our numerous oversight requests,” the Democrats said.

The DOJ has recently responded to a FOIA request from the non-profit group the Campaign Legal Center. Seeking documents related to voter fraud allegations in the 2016 election, the Campaign Legal Center received earlier this month an email sent from a Heritage Foundation scholar whose name was redacted to a recipient whose name was also redacted. According to the chain of emails released to the non-profit, the Heritage email was eventually forwarded to Sessions.

Heritage later confirmed that the email had been sent by Hans von Spakovsky, a former Bush administration official whose known for pushing restrictive election laws. Spakovsky, now a member of the voter fraud commission, has denied that he was emailing the attorney general. Due to the redactions in the FOIA release, it’s unclear exactly how the email was forwarded to Sessions.

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Longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone emerged out of a closed-door, three-hour-plus interview with the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday and told reporters that he answered “all” of their questions except one.

“The only question I declined to answer,” Stone said, was about the identity of a journalist he has claimed was an intermediary between him and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Stone, who is known for his wily relationship with the press and his flair for fashion, answered reporters’ questions after his interview for more than 10 minutes. He repeated what he previously told Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff, that he would not identify the Assange intermediary. He recounted what his attorneys have been told about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Paul Manafort, who was once Stone’s partner at a lobbying firm.

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Since Republicans embarked on their effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the question of how to handle preexisting conditions has roiled their negotiations. On the one hand, GOP leaders including President Trump have repeatedly sworn to protect sick people’s access to affordable insurance. On the other hand, Republicans have consistently folded to the demands of conservatives to gut those protections. The tradeoff that Republicans have not figured out is how to lower premiums for healthy people without screwing over those with expensive health care issues.

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The Congressional Budget Office on Monday said that the last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill Senate Republicans would result in “millions” fewer people with “comprehensive health insurance that covers high-cost medical events.”

“That number could vary widely depending on how states implemented the legislation, although the direction of the effect is clear,” the CBO said in its preliminary report of the bill, known as the Graham-Cassidy proposal, for its sponsors Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham.

Because the CBO was working on a tight deadline — Republicans hope to vote on the bill by the end of this week  — it said it it could not provide specific numbers on the coverage losses.

“CBO and JCT would need at least several weeks to provide point estimates of the effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage, and premiums,” it said.

Nonetheless, it pointed to three main reasons that coverage would drop drastically if the Graham-Cassidy bill became law: its cuts Medicaid funding; coverage losses in the individual market because insurance subsidies would be less generous; and the elimination of the penalty for people who do not have insurance.

The report will likely to little to address the concerns hesitant GOP senators have had about the hasty process leading up to the bill or its substance. Additionally the CBO appears to have analyzed an outdated version of the proposal, and it’s not clear how tweaks made to the revised version would affect its general conclusions.

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The latest version of the last-ditch Senate Obamacare repeal bill is — not surprisingly — a mess, and one of the areas bringing the most confusion and inconsistency is what the legislation has to say about protecting those with pre-existing conditions.

As Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley pointed out, those provisions appear to be sloppily drafted, and in some places, contradictory of one another. But according to Bagley and other health care experts, the ambiguity probably does not matter at the end of day if you look at another, particularly wonky provision: one allowing for states to permit insurers to operate separate risk pools.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made it known on Friday that the likely fatal blow that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) landed on Graham’s last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill would not hurt the two Republicans’ storied friendship.

“My friendship with John McCain is not based on how he votes but respect for how he’s lived his life and the person he is,” Graham said in a tweet storm and an accompanying statement about an hour after McCain announced his opposition to Graham’s legislation.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a lengthy statement Friday afternoon announcing his opposition to the last-ditch Obamacare repeal effort in the Senate, which GOP leaders were hoping to bring for a vote next week.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said in the statement, referring to the bill Republicans were planning to put on the floor.

His opposition is a major setback, if not full-on death sentence, for the legislation. Senate Republicans can only lose two GOP votes and still pass the bill. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have also signaled they’re very likely to vote against the bill. The deadline for the Senate to move forward on the Obamacare repeal effort that passed out of the House is Sept. 30.

McCain was the key vote that torpedoed Senate Republicans’ last Obamacare repeal effort in July, with a late-night surprise vote against a previous proposal that would have gone to a conference committee between the House and the Senate. That dramatic vote came after McCain was rushed back to Washington from Arizona, where he has been receiving cancer treatments. McCain had voted in favor of advancing an Obamacare repeal bill in an initial procedural vote, but then gave a riveting speech on the Senate floor ripping lawmakers for abandoning the traditional legislative process.

Likewise, the statement McCain issued Friday focused on the process complaints about the latest bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and McCain’s good friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Their bill was only introduced earlier this month, and Republicans intended to vote on it next week with only a preliminary Congressional Budget Office score that would not have analyzed the legislation’s effects on health care coverage or its overall costs to the federal government.

If Senate Republicans do not pass a repeal bill out of their chamber by Sept. 30, they will have wasted the legislative vehicle they were using to avoid a Democratic filibuster.

Graham said on Twitter that he “respectfully disagree[d]” with McCain’s decision, but said that their friendship was “not based on how he votes but respect for how he’s lived his life and the person he is.”

“I’m excited about solutions we have found in Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson. We press on,” Graham continued.

Cassidy’s response to McCain’s opposition was more curt:

“I am disappointed that Senator John McCain is not voting to repeal and replace Obamacare. But, as long as there are families being penalized because they can’t afford insurance costing $30,000 to $40,000 a year, I will continue to work for those families,” he said in statement.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, said on Fox News that losing McCain’s support was “certainly not a good development for passage of the bill.” He was hopeful, however, that there was “an opportunity between now and September 30th, the end of next week, to get a vote on this, an affirmative vote.”

McCain on Friday called for the Senate to get back to the bipartisan negotiations on a more limited Obamacare fix, that had been called off by Republicans as they hoped to push through the Graham-Cassidy repeal.

“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” McCain said. “Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.”

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The beginning of James Comey’s stint at Howard University is proving to be no less contentious than his tenure leading the FBI.

The former FBI director, who was fired by President Trump in May, appeared Friday to deliver a speech at the school’s Convocation Ceremony, only to have the beginning of his address held up by student protestors. Comey has joined the prestigious historically black college as a lecturer for the academic year.

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Update: This story has been updated to include a response from the Treasury Department.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee who also sits on the Intelligence Committee, announced Friday that he was placing a hold on a Treasury Department nominee, citing Russia-related documents that the Treasury has not yet handed over to the Finance Committee.

“I have placed a hold on the nominee because of the Treasury Department’s refusal to provide the Senate Finance Committee with Treasury documents related to Russia,” Wyden said in a statement. “The provision of these documents to the Committee is not only part of the oversight process, but is necessary if the relevant congressional expertise is to be brought to bear on the effort to follow the money.”

Isabel Patelunas, the nominee for assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis, has already cleared her vote out of the Intel Committee, and awaits a confirmation vote by the full Senate. Wyden’s hold can’t permanently block her moving forward, rather it just slows the process for her nomination to come to the Senate floor.

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Paul Manafort has been doing work for Kurdish Iraqis who are advocating for an independence referendum up for a vote next week, work that appears to have started around the time the FBI raided Manafort’s home as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

The work has not yet been registered as lobbying under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the New York Times reported, and Manafort’s spokesman would not say whether Manafort intended to register it.

Under FARA, those seeking to influence U.S. policy on behalf of a foreign entity or person are required to file paperwork declaring their work lobbying the U.S. government.

“If his work requires registration with FARA, Mr. Manafort will comply with the law,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told the New York Times.

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