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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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As primary elections get underway, we’re seeing new voter ID laws going into effect for the first time in various states. Iowa’s 2017 law got its “soft rollout” last Monday, when early voting began in the state’s June 5 primary. Last Tuesday’s West Virginia primary marked the state’s first election with a voter ID law.

Ohio’s primary, meanwhile, brought a major win for voting rights advocates. A gerrymandering-reform ballot initiative that encouraged bipartisan cooperation in drawing the state’s U.S. congressional maps passed overwhelmingly.

Tuesday also brought a defeat for voting rights activists in Oklahoma, where the state Supreme Court upheld the state’s 2010 voter ID law.

Texas has until Thursday to tell a federal judge how it will fix in issue in its voter registration system, which the judge previously ruled was in violation of the National Voter Registration Act. The state was sued by civil rights activists because it did not allow Texans to register to vote when they updated their driver’s license information online. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled early last month that Texas had violated the law, but only last Thursday did he issue his order, along with a 61-page opinion, giving the parties a week propose remedies.

In New Hampshire, Republican-backed proposals to tighten residency requirements — a move aimed at reducing the number of Democrat-leaning student voters in the state — remain alive, even as Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has shown skepticism.

A redistricting reform ballot initiative in Missouri will be up for a vote in November’s election, rather than in the August primary. Gov. Eric Greitens’ (R) decision to not shift the initiative to the primary has upset Republicans, who believe that the ballot measure could help boost Democratic turnout in the general election, when an important Senate race is also on the ballot. Greitens also declined to move to the primary two other ballot measures — a minimum-wage hike and a marijuana-legalization proposal — that could also mobilize Democratic voters. Some have speculated that his decision was motivated by spite for the Republican state legislators investigating him; their seats are also put at risk by a motivated a Democratic base.

Lawmakers at a congressional hearing on Census preparations were frustrated by the absence of John Gore, a top Trump DOJ official who was behind the push to add the citizenship question. Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said that he’d be willing to subpoena Gore.

In Kansas, the ACLU is alleging that the state is still failing to follow a judge’s order temporarily blocking its proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement. The requirement was halted before the 2016 election while the lawsuit challenging it went to full trial this spring. In a letter to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the ACLU pointed out that the websites of Kansas’ three largest counties describe the requirement as if it is still in effect; so does Kobach’s office’s website, where guides for voter registration also still mention the requirement. A decision on the merits of the case is expected in the next few weeks.

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Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he would follow what Republican in 2016 dubbed the “Biden rule” — that Supreme Court vacancies open within a year before a presidential election shouldn’t be filled until after the presidential election — if it happened before the 2020 election. He added that President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would not agree with the Biden rule if the vacancy opened under Trump.

Grassley’s comments came during an appearance on Iowa Public Radio Friday, where he was asked  if Trump would agree with holding the seat open for a vacancy that occurred in 2019 or 2020.

“It would be the one year of the ’20, if you want to follow the pattern of the Biden rule, and I’d follow that. That would just be the 12 months or, let’s say, the 10 months before the election 2020, no he wouldn’t agree with that,” Grassley said.

He was asked if McConnell would agree.

“No, he would not agree with that,” Grassley said.

Republicans conjured up the “Biden rule” when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, and they sought to block President Obama’s nominee, appeals court judge Merrick Garland. Grassley, whose committee oversees judicial confirmation proceedings, did not grant Garland a hearing. McConnell released a statement declaring that Republicans would keep the seat open through the 2016 election hours after Scalia’s death.

They titled the justification the “Biden rule” because then-Vice President Joe Biden, when he was a Senate Judiciary chairman, gave a speech discouraging then-President Bush from filling any hypothetical vacancies on the court before an election. Before Scalia’s death, there wasn’t much precedent — if any — for a vacancy opening up the year before an election when the party opposite the President control the Senate.

A McConnell spokesman declined to comment, while the White House didn’t respond to TPM’s inquiry.

TPM reached out to Grassley’s spokesman on the Judiciary Committee Taylor Foy when a Iowa Public Radio producer first previewed the comments in a tweet.

Foy said that Grassley was offering “his opinion of how folks may feel about the Biden rule.”

“He certainly wasn’t speaking for the President or the Majority Leader,” Foy said.

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Michael Cohen was aware of and discussed accusations of violent behavior against ex-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a lawyer alleged in a letter filed Friday morning in the litigation over the FBI raid of Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room.

Peter Gleason, a New York attorney who is not a party to the case, said in the letter that two woman came to him — one around 2012 and another in 2013 — alleging they had been “sexually victimized” by Schneiderman, who stepped down as attorney general this week amid allegations that he was physically violent with multiple woman he dated. (Schneiderman has denied the claims.)

Gleason said that former tabloid reporter Steve Dunleavy recommended he bring the evidence to Donald Trump. Gleason infers that Dunleavy did bring them to Trump-world, as the lawyer said Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, called him and they discussed the allegations.

Gleason told the New York Times that his conversation with Cohen happened shortly before Trump tweeted vague insinuations about Schneidman.

“Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone — next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner,” Trump tweeted in 2013.

Gleason said in the letter that he advised the two woman not to bring their allegations to law enforcement because he claimed that Manhattan prosecutors had ignored corruption claims he had brought to them in the past. He told the New York Times that Cohen suggested to him that if Trump ran for New York governor, as he was contemplating at the time, he’d seek to bring light to the allegations against Schneiderman.

Gleason is now asking the U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood — who is overseeing the handling of materials seized from Cohen’s residence, office and hotel room — to place a protective order on any materials pertaining to his conversations with Cohen about the allegations. Wood has already appointed a special master to sort through records seized by the FBI potentially protected by attorney-client privilege.

Wood on Friday afternoon ordered that Gleason file a legal memorandum supporting his request.

Gleason did not respond to an email and text from TPM seeking more information about his claims. Cohen, Cohen’s attorney, the White House, and the private attorney representing President Trump in the Cohen search warrant matter also did not respond to TPM’s inquiries.

Gleason told the Times that the two woman who came to him were seperate that the four woman referenced in the New Yorker report that broke the allegations against Schneiderman this week.

Ronan Farrow, whom with Jane Mayer, reported the New Yorker story, denied on Twitter that any of his leads came from Gleason or Trump associates.

Gleason, a former police officer and firefighter, is perhaps best well known for his representation of Anna Gristina, who was prosecuted for running a prostitution ring that catered to Manhattan’s elite. She admitted to the allegations in a 2012 plea deal.

Gleason has also repeatedly run against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, including last year. Additionally, Gleason is known for his collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia in his $2.5 million TriBeCa apartment.

Read the Gleason letter below:

Update: This story has been updated to include claims Gleason made in an interview with the New York Times, as well as an order from the judge overseeing the Michael Cohen matter.

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Rudy Giuliani and his former firm are in a war of words over Giuliani’s recent claims that it was common for lawyers at the firm to make hush money payments on clients’ behalf without the knowledge of those clients.

Soon after the law firm Greenberg Traurig announced that it was parting ways with Giuliani Thursday, the firm said in a statement to the New York Times that it did not condone the kinds of payments Giuliani described.

Giuliani last week, in various interviews, defended payments President Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen made to silence porn star Stormy Daniels, who has alleged that she slept with Trump. Giuliani, who recently joined the President’s personal legal team, said that Trump didn’t know about the $130,000 payment when Cohen made it, but later reimbursed him for the payment, even as Trump has denied the affair.

“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds or whatever funds—it doesn’t matter—and the president reimbursed that over the period of several months,” Giuliani said in one Fox News interview

“I represented clients who paid substantially more than that,” Giuliani said in another Fox News interview, before discussing unnamed clients who were in similar scenarios.

The New York Times inquired with Greenberg Traurig — where Giulaini was a partner, but took leave from to represent Trump — about those comments early this week.

The firm responded to the inquiry only after issuing a joint statement with Giuliani announcing that Giuliani was resigning from the firm, citing the long-term time commitment his representation of Trump would require.

“We cannot speak for Mr. Giuliani with respect to what was intended by his remarks,” Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman Jill Perry told the New York Times. “Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”

The Times reported that there had been concerns among the firms partners about Giuliani’s comments. Greenberg Traurig was also home to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who became the center of a massive corruption scandal in the mid-aughts.

Giuliani, however, has since pushed back, according to MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace, who said she spoke to him over the phone before her Thursday afternoon show. On Thursday’s broadcast, she said that she asked Giuliani about the Times report, and specifically about the firm’s statement.

“Quote, ‘They don’t know what they’re talking about. We do this all the time. They do this all the time for their clients,'” Wallace said Giuliani told her.

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I published an article this afternoon on how veterans of previous presidents’ legal teams see the current state of Trump’s. In my conversations with these veteran presidential lawyers, I asked about reports that Trump’s personal attorneys lacked security clearances, and whether this would pose a problem.

My sources’ reactions were mixed. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe that the Russian collusion aspect of the Mueller probe wouldn’t deal with classified information; as one former president’s attorney told me, Trump’s legal team and Mueller’s prosecutors are not on an even playing field if the Trump lawyers don’t have full access to any classified material that Mueller might be dealing with.

On the other hand, some attorneys pointed out that much of Mueller’s interest in interviewing Trump appears to be focused on obstruction-of-justice issues — which mostly don’t appear to involve classified information — and that the White House attorneys who have at least interim clearances can step in to help with any issues that involve classified information.

Still, one attorney, who worked for a Democratic president’s legal team, remarked that it was much more convenient when everyone on the team had clearances.

“I am in meetings with the president and his senior advisors and everybody’s got a security clearance at the highest level, so nobody has to think to themselves, ‘I wonder if I am allowed to say this in this room,'” the attorney said.

Trump personal attorneys Jay Sekulow, Marty and Jane Raskin, and Rudy Giuliani are all in the process of applying for security clearances, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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Representing a president wasn’t always this publicly messy.

For months, President Trump’s ever-changing crew of lawyers has had its hands full dealing with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. But the visible chaos surrounding the legal team in the past few weeks has been especially striking.

“It looks like a train wreck,” said Andy Wright, a White House lawyer during Democratic administrations.

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A Russian company accused of funding the effort to influence the 2016 election via social media pleaded not guilty in a D.C. federal courthouse Wednesday. Two attorneys representing Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, entered the not guilty plea. No other representatives of the company were present at the courtroom.

Concord Management was named in the grand jury indictment returned in February that also charged 13 Russians, and other entities allegedly linked to the effort. Those other defendants have not appeared in court, and Mueller’s team has said that they have had trouble delivering the summons.

Court documents filed over the weekend revealed a dispute between Mueller’s prosecutors and Concord Management, represented by Reed Smith attorneys Eric Dubelier and Katherine Seikaly, over whether Concord Management had properly been served.

Those court filings also revealed that in April, the day Dubelier and Seikaly formally entered their representation of Concord Management on the case’s dockets, they sent Mueller an extensive discovery request. Mueller’s team balked at going forward with the discovery without formal confirmation that Concord Management had accepted its summons, citing in a Friday filing the national security concerns involved in the discovery production. The discovery issue was not discussed at Wednesday’s hearing.

On Wednesday, Dubelier said Concord Management was submitting to the court’s jurisdiction and confirmed that the company had read a publicly-available version of the indictment.

Concord Management is partially owned by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Kremlin-linked restaurant mogul who was also named in the February indictment. It was one of the entities sanction by the U.S. in March for it involvement in Russian cyberattacks.

Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey asked Dubelier whether he was also authorized to represent Concord Catering, another company named in the February indictment. Invoking the old saying about prosecutors’ ability to indict a ham sandwich, Dubelier said that Concord Catering did not legally exist at the time in question, and that for Wednesday’s purposes, he was not authorized to speak on its behalf.

The lawyer representing Mueller’s team, Jeannie Rhee, brought up the question of Dubelier’s representation of Concord Catering again, pointing to filings with the Treasury’s Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the implementation of sanctions.

Dubelier shot back that it was “disturbing” that the prosecutors had access to the “confidential” filings.

Another hearing in the case has been scheduled for May 16.

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When Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled an indictment in February charging 13 Russians, who allegedly meddled in the U.S. election via social media, it would have been reasonable to believe that the case would never have a day in court. It was unlikely Russian President Vladimir Putin would extradite any of the people named.

But here we are, in part due to some surprising tactics apparently employed by Concord Management, accused in the indictment of funding the work of the Russian troll farm. The company has lawyered up, and a magistrate judge will hold an arraignment hearing at 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday. Concord Management is partially owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian business mogul and restauranteur so beloved by the Kremlin he’s known as “Putin’s caterer” and “Putin’s chef.”

The hearing at a DC federal courthouse comes as attorneys claiming to represent Concord Management have refused to accept Mueller’s summons of the company, but have already sought to proceed with an extensive discovery process.

In April, two DC-based attorneys at the respectable law firm Reed Smith filed court documents signaling that they would be representing Concord Management in the case.

On the same day, according to court documents posted last week, one of the attorneys, Eric Dubelier, sent Mueller’s team a letter requesting a broad swath of information about the special counsel’s investigation into Concord Management. He also requested, “[f]rom 1945 to present, each and every instance” where the U.S. government “engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes in any foreign country.”

Mueller — who, according to his Friday court filing, was having trouble delivering summons to the Russian defendants — responded to the letter on April 20 with a copy of the Concord Management summons. Mueller’s team requested that the Reed Smith attorneys confirm that they’d receive it, and provide more information about their representation of Concord Management. Concord’s lawyer, Dubelier, rebuffed it sharply, arguing Mueller’s team had not followed the appropriate court procedures in seeking to serve the summons.

When Mueller then turned to a federal judge on Friday seeking a delay on the previously scheduled May 9 arraignment hearing so that his office could settle the matter, Concord Management also opposed the move, again claiming the special counsel was violating the appropriate procedures.

The judge sided with Concord Management in an order Saturday but did not give any additional reasoning for declining to delay the arraignment.

The technicalities of whether Mueller had followed proper court procedures notwithstanding, former prosecutors told TPM that Concord Management is attempting to have its cake and eat it too, by seeking discovery without formally accepting the summons.

Alex Whiting, a Harvard Law Professor and former federal prosecutor, wrote in an email to TPM:

It appears that Concord Management may be trying to have it both ways, on the one hand leaving the issue of service cloudy so that it can later claim that it was never properly served and was therefore never within the jurisdiction of the court, and on the other hand trying to assert the rights of a party to extensive discovery. It seems likely that the judge at the arraignment on Wednesday will press the lawyers who claim to represent Concord to answer on the record whether Concord has been served and to establish that they do in fact represent Concord. Discovery should proceed only if those conditions have been met, and I assume that the judge will not permit the Concord lawyers, if that’s what they are, to play games on Wednesday. If discovery proceeds, Concord will likely not get all that they have requested as several of the requests appear to be either over broad or premature.

Randall Samborn, a former spokesman for the special counsel investigation into the Valerie Plame leak, cautioned against over-reading the judge’s decision against Mueller’s request for a delay.

“I don’t think that the order to appear resolves the government’s well reasoned position that the arrangement and discovery proceed absent counsel’s assurance that they’re accepting service of the summons,” Samborn told TPM.

Samborn added that it was in general “not unreasonable for any defendant to want to use proper means to obtain access for whatever information is being used against him,” but in Concord Management’s situation, the company was “trying to take advantage of two diametrically opposed positions.”

Eric Dubelier and Katherine Seikaly, the other Reed Smith attorney representing Concord Management, did not respond to TPM’s inquiry. A spokesman for Mueller’s investigation declined to comment.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday evening released an unclassified summary of one of the multiple reports it intends to release as part of its election meddling investigation. The summary focuses on the committee’s findings with regards to the cyber-intrusion campaign Russian-linked entities launched targeting state and local election infrastructure. It also includes updates to recommendations the committee previously offered for election official to protect their systems for the 2018 elections.

“Russian actors scanned databases for vulnerabilities, attempted intrusions, and in a small number of cases successfully penetrated a voter registration database,” the summary said.

The summary says that 18 states had their election systems targeted, and that the intelligence community had varying confidence another three may have been targeted.  Department of Homeland Security previously informed 21 states their infrastructures had been targeted, many via so-called “scans.” That notification last year did not clear up many questions surrounding the hacking attempts.

In at least six states, those attempted cyber intrusions went beyond scanning for vulnerabilities, the Senate Intel Committee said, and Russian-linked actors “conducted malicious access attempts on voting-related websites.” The majority of those access attempts were so-called “Structure Query Language (SQL)” injections, “a well-known technique for cyberattacks on public-facing websites,” the committee said.

In a “small number of states,” the committee said, those attacks targeted systems that were restricted from the public, and, “in a small number,” the cyber-intruders “were in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data.”

“[H]owever, they did not appear to be in a position to manipulate individual votes or aggregate vote totals,” the summary added.

It was previously known that Illinois’ voter registration system was targeted by an SQL injection attack. Additionally, Wisconsin’s election website was apparently targeted by Russians via a malicious banner or pop up ad, though state officials told TPM that the attempted hack was blocked by their cybersecurity system.

The Senate Intel summary cautions that its findings on intrusion attempts on state election infrastructures did not include any attempt on third party election vendors.

Read the summary below:

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The Trump-selected Justice Department official who pushed for the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was a no-show at the start of a congressional hearing on the state of Census prep, prompting House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to suggest he would subpoena the official.

Justice Department Civil Rights Division acting head John Gore was scheduled to be one of the House Oversight hearing’s witnesses, but he was not present when Gowdy introduced the panelists.

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