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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An appeals court Tuesday said that a privacy group suing President Trump’s so-called voter fraud commission was not itself a voter, and thus could not bring a claim alleging that the commission had failed to protect voters’ privacy in seeking states’ voter roll data.

“As we read it, the provision is intended to protect individuals—in the present context,
voters—by requiring an agency to fully consider their privacy before collecting their personal information,” the appeals court said, in denying the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s request to halt the commission’s data collection operation.

“EPIC is not a voter and is therefore not the type of plaintiff the Congress had in mind,” the court said.

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Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has until Wednesday to satisfy a federal judge that his participation, via a Facebook Live video, in a fundraiser for his legal defense fund was not a violation of the court’s gag order in his pending criminal case.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the show cause order Friday, after GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman held the fundraiser Tuesday in a hotel just outside Washington, D.C. According to the accounts of reporters there, members of the media nearly outnumbered the half-dozen attendees and it was unclear how much money Burkman raised for the fund, Defending American Rights Legal Fund.

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A federal judge Friday sided with a Democrat on President Trump’s voter fraud commission in his request that the commission turn over documents it had been withholding from release.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary decision backing the Democrat, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in his claim that he was entitled to view internal communications and other records that the commission has resisted releasing publicly.

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The creation and funding of a foundation ostensibly seeking to lax Russia’s ban on U.S. adoption is being examined by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

Rinat Akhmetshin — a Russian-American lobbyist with ties to Russian intelligence who attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting — is a registered lobbyist for the foundation, the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative. Another employee at the foundation, Robert Arakelian, has testified in front of Mueller’s team, Bloomberg reported.

The foundation was reportedly part of a larger crusade to roll back a U.S. sanctions program known as the Magnitsky Act. Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who also attended the Trump Tower meeting, was part of that endeavor on behalf of one of her clients, Denys Katsyv, who is listed on the lobbying registration documents for the foundation.

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Another day, another debate waged in court filings over whether the bail assets being proposed by Rick Gates are worth what Gates says they are.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in a court filing Wednesday, questioned the value of assets Gates offered in a bail proposal last week. In particular, Mueller expressed skepticism over how Gates assessed the value of a commercial property included in the package.

The details of Gates’ bail proposal were mostly obscured by redactions, but his lawyers claim that the package is worth $5.8 million — well over the $5 million in secured bail the judge in the case said she would need to see before approving Gates’ release from house arrest.

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President Trump’s nominee for Singapore ambassador will likely not be confirmed this year, CNN reported Wednesday, after revelations born out by the Special Counsel’s Russia probe raised questions about her testimony to Congress, among other concerns lawmakers had raised about her nomination.

Court documents related to the guilty plea former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn entered in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation led to reports that the nominee, KT McFarland was aware of Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials during the transition — contra her testimony to Congress. McFarland served as deputy national security adviser under Flynn.

Though her nomination had previously cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September, it has not yet to been brought up for a floor vote. Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-TN) told CNN it will be up to the White House whether to renominate for consideration next year.

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A controversial no-bid contract the EPA offered to a GOP opposition firm will come to an end, the firm Definers confirmed Tuesday.

Definers’ work for the EPA came under scrutiny after Mother Jones first reported the $120,000 contract, ostensibly for media monitoring, last week, noting that the firm previously hired by the EPA for similar work was not also involved in recent political campaigns. That contract was open for other bids.

A follow up report in the New York Times revealed that a top figure at Definers, Alan Blutstein, had embarked on public records requests related to low-level and mid-level career employees suspected of being critical of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. (Blutstein told the Times that his FOIA endeavors were not part of Definers’ EPA contract.)

“Definers offered EPA a better and more efficient news clipping service that would give EPA’s employees real-time news at a lower cost than what previous administrations paid for more antiquated clipping services,” Definers President Joe Pounder said in a statement Tuesday. “But it’s become clear this will become a distraction.”

Earlier Tuesday, Democrat lawmakers had sent a letter to Pruitt calling on him to end the contract and requesting that he turn over documents related to the EPA’s relationship with Definers.

Pounder, Blutstein and others at Definers are associated with America Rising, a GOP-aligned opposition research firm that turns up dirt on Democratic politicians. America Rising was also behind a PR campaign supporting Pruitt’s confirmation to lead the EPA.

Pounder has declined to answer the New York Times’ questions about who was funding that work.

Pounder said on Twitter Tuesday that four other government agencies had “expressed interest” in working with Definers, but that Definers would forgo bidding on those contracts.

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A pair of Democratic and Republican senators who have been involved in the investigations into Russian election meddling called for the Department of Homeland Security to make election cybersecurity a “top priority,” in a letter to the newly-confirmed DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen.

The letter, from Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), comes as the two lawmakers are working on a bill to improve the lines of communications between the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community and state election offices so that they can work to together to prevent foreign election meddling.

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In court filings Friday, attorneys for Rick Gates indicated that they had not come to a bail deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, but were seeking a federal judge’s approval anyway to be released from home confinement.

In bail package proposal offered to the judge, Gates is putting up $5.8 million in assets, according to his lawyers. The court documents contained many redactions obscuring the financial details of the proposed bail package and the identities of the two people serving as Gates’ bail guarantors.

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The judge in his criminal case has indicated that Paul Manafort had assembled a bail package that meets her requirements for releasing him from the home confinement he’s been under for the last month and a half.

In court filings Friday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson requested that Manafort’s attorneys submit one more round of financial documents to assure the court that his proposed bail guarantors — his wife and his daughter — could put up the bond being offered. Once those documents have been filed, Jackson said, she would release Manafort to travel back to Florida, where he has a home and where he will allowed to move freely in the South Florida area.

He would be allowed to travel to Washington D.C. for court appearances, but travel to D.C. for other reasons and to other domestic locations must get court approval, Jackson indicated. International travel would be prohibited.

Manafort’s attorneys had initially asked that he be allowed to travel freely between Florida, the D.C. area and New York, citing his need to earn a living.

Manafort has offered four properties he owns or co-owns as bail. As part of the proposed package, his wife Kathleen and his daughter Andrea will serve as guarantors to cover any shortfall between the properties’ worth and the $10 million in bail the court is seeking.

Manafort turned himself in to the FBI on Oct. 30, facing charges of money laundering, tax evasion and failing to disclose foreign lobbying as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Manafort’s bail negotiations had been bogged down by claims by Mueller’s team that it was struggling to confirm his net worth. Additionally, earlier this month he was accused of violating a court’s gag order on the case by allegedly ghostwriting an op-ed defending his lobbying work in Ukraine.

The judge scolded Manafort this week for his participation in the op-ed, but let the bail negotiations move forward.

Read the court filing below:

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