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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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On Inauguration Day 2017, business associate of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn touted texts from Flynn promising to gut Russian sanctions that were hindering the nuclear project the associate was pushing, a whistleblower has told House Democrats. The texts were timestamped as being sent just as President Trump was delivering his Inaugural Address, the whistleblower said.

The whistleblower told Democrats that the associate had been informed by Flynn that the project was “good to go” and that the sanctions would be “ripped up.”

“This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people,” the associate, Alex Copson, told the whistleblower on inauguration day, according to the whistleblower’s account to the Democrats.

Copson is the managing partner of ACU, a company that had funded a 2015 trip Flynn took the Middle East that he failed to disclose on security clearance forms. ACU was pushing a nuclear project in the Middle East that Flynn is said to have lobbied for while in the White House. Flynn said on a federal filing that he served as an advisor to the company between April 2015 and June 2016.

Democrats revealed the whistleblower’s account in a letter sent by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC), which was released just as the New York Times published its own report on the claims.

An attorney for Copson rebutted the whistleblower’s claim in a statement to Business Insider that said “no member of ACU received any communication in any form” from Flynn during the campaign, the transition, when Flynn served as national security advisor or after he left the White House.

In his letter, Cummings, the ranking member of the committee, said that his staff had been in touch with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation about the whistleblower’s claim, and had been given the green light to move forward with their investigation of the account after Mueller indicated he’d “completed certain investigative steps” he had asked them to allow him to do.

The Democrats are now asking Gowdy to sign off on subpoenas for various White House officials, associates of Flynn’s and others involved in the nuclear project.

“If you choose to continue blocking our Committee’s investigation of General Flynn and allowing the White House to defy our bipartisan requests, the Oversight Committee will be faced with allegations of hypocrisy that are extremely difficult to defend,” Cummings said.  “The integrity of this Committee’s work will be questioned, and the credibility of its investigations will be severely degraded.”

In the whistleblower’s account laid out by the Democrats, the whistleblower saw and greeted Copson at an event in Washington on Inauguration Day.

Copson then showed the whistleblower a text from Flynn that was timestamped at 12:11 that day — which is when Trump was giving his address — though the whistleblower did not read the text itself.

The project in question was a proposal to build dozens of nuclear reactors across the Middle East, which its proponents said would increase economic and energy security in the area, and would boost in particular Iran’s rivals. ACU was partnering with Russian interests in pushing the project. Another company, IP3/IronBridge had its own campaign to push the proposal.

The plan’s champions claimed that it would generate $250 billion in revenues for U.S. companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. Once in the White House, Flynn set up meetings between figures working on the project and key administration officials and Trump allies, the Journal reported. At one point, a memo about the plan circulated around the White House that appeared to be a draft memo Trump could send to cabinet heads, though it’s not clear that it ever made it in front of Trump himself, the Journal and the Washington Post reported.

On Friday, Flynn entered a guilty plea in Mueller’s investigation admitting to lying to FBI agents about discussing sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016. The related court filings also mentioned Flynn’s failure to disclose work he did for a lobbying campaign on behalf of Turkey. They did not however mention the Middle East nuclear project.

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from Copson’s attorney.

Read the full Cummings letter below:

 

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Less than a week after former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn entered a plea deal admitting that he lied to FBI agents, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) indicated he was opening a probe into the “reported bias” of an agent said to be involved in Flynn’s questioning, as well as in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

Grassley sent a letter dated Tuesday t0 FBI Director Chris Wray seeking communications and records related to the agent, Peter Strzok. His request comes as a handful of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, where Wray is scheduled to testify Thursday, amped up their own calls for an investigation into the “unprecedented bias” against President Trump at the FBI.

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An attorney representing Rick Gates suggested Monday that he had been informed by prosecutors that they may bring more charges against Gates, who faces federal charges on 12 counts of money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose foreign lobbying in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

The comment, by New York-based lawyer Walter Mack, came in another case Mack is working on. Mueller’s team has raised the potential of a conflict of interest with Mack working on the two cases.

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The Russian lawyer at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with President Trump’s top campaign aides and family members said that Donald Trump Jr. asked her if she had evidence of illegal activity related to the Clinton Foundation, according to an NBC report on written answers the lawyer provided to a Senate committee.

The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said that she had no such evidence to provide Trump Jr., according to the report, and blamed the Trump-connected music promoter who acted as an intermediary in setting up the meeting for the miscommunication.

“Today, I understand why it took place to begin with and why it ended so quickly with a feeling of mutual disappointment and time wasted,” Veselnitskaya said in the questionnaire, according to NBC . “The answer lies in the roguish letters of Mr. [Rob] Goldstone.”

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One of President Trump’s personal lawyers is pushing back on reports that Deutsche Bank had received a subpoena for information related to Trump and his family’s financial records in a statement that the White House is also pointing to, when asked about the reports.

“We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are false,” Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”

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A Justice Department report released Tuesday shows Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation spending $3.2 million between its formation in mid-May and the end September.

The bulk of those expenditures are on personnel, with $1.2 million spent on DOJ employees reassigned to Mueller’s team and about $500,000 on others brought in on the investigation.

A release from the Special Counsel’s Office says that new expenditure reports will be released every six months, with the next one coming on March 30, 2018.

Beyond the $3.2 million being spent directly by Mueller’s team, an additional $3.5 million was spent by other entities in the DOJ that are involved in investigations supporting Mueller’s probe. That spending “approximates expenditures the components would have incurred for the investigations irrespective of the existence of the SCO,” the report said.

Read the full report below:

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In their scramble to explain a President Trump tweet that seemed to inadvertently support obstruction of justice allegations against himself, sources close to the White House have put out new details about interactions between former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and White House Counsel Don McGahn concerning former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, according to reports by the Washington Post and CNN.

Both reports, however, highlight what appears to be discrepancy between McGahn’s account of their conversations, and what Yates and others close to her have said.

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The German bank that has lent President Trump hundreds of millions of dollars over the years was subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Reuters and Bloomberg reported. Deutsche Bank received a subpoena “several weeks ago” for financial records related to Trump and his family, unnamed sources told the outlets.

“Deutsche Bank always cooperates with investigating authorities in all countries,” the bank told Bloomberg in a statement Tuesday that did not provide any additional information.

The move signifies Mueller’s willingness to cross what Trump and his allies have deemed to be a red line in the investigations into Russian election interference by looking into the President’s finances.

“I think that’s a violation,” Trump told the New York Times in July, though he declined to say whether he would fire Mueller if that line was crossed.

Democrats have sought unsuccessfully to obtain Trump’s Deutsche Bank records as part of their congressional probes. According to Bloomberg, the bank’s management is now more willing to share those records, and Deutsche Bank conducted its own internal analysis that found no evidence that its dealings with Trump were connected to the so-called Russian mirror trades affair, an alleged money laundering scheme to funnel Russian money out of the country.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intel committee, called the reported move a “a very significant development.”

“If Russia laundered money through the Trump Organization, it would be far more compromising than any salacious video and could be used as leverage against Donald Trump and his associates and family,” he said.

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from House Intel ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

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The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is calling for KT McFarland to “clarify” testimony she gave the committee on what she knew about former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador before she receives a floor vote confirming her as an ambassador to Singapore.

“Senator Cardin believes that before Senators are asked to vote on her nomination, Ms. McFarland should publicly clarify the information she said and sent to the Committee that now appears to be incomplete,” Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) spokesperson told TPM in a statement. “The onus is on her.”

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The agreement that Paul Manafort and Special Counsel Robert Mueller had seemed to have come to on releasing him from home arrest has fallen apart due to what prosecutors described in court filings Monday as an op-ed Manafort was “ghostwriting” with a Russia-based colleague “regarding his political work for Ukraine.”

The colleague has been “assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service,” prosecutors said, and the writing of the op-ed was in violation of a prohibition the judge had put on the case banning the parties from communicating through the media.

They were drafting the op-ed “as late as November 30, 2017,” the prosecutors claimed.

Last week, Manafort’s attorneys filed a bail package proposal that indicated that they and Mueller had hashed out a deal, a month after Manafort turned himself him, on the terms of his release.

In Monday’s filing, Mueller’s team acknowledged that they had come to that agreement —albeit with a few more conditions that Manafort’s attorneys had not mentioned in their brief — but later that day “learned facts that are pertinent to the bail determination before the Court.”

Prosecutors indicated to the court that they wanted to file the op-ed draft in question under seal.

“Even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would be a violation of this Court’s November 8 Order if it had been published,” they said. “The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of defendant Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication (much less for Manafort and his long-time associate to ghostwrite it in another’s name). It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts.”

Read the filing below:

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