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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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A Republican member of President Trump’s shady voter fraud commission told reporters Wednesday that, as far as she knew, the commission’s work was on pause as it gets through some of the lawsuits against it.

“It’s my understanding that there were just so many lawsuits against the commission, that right now there’s nothing going on,” Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said, after appearing at a hearing in front of the Committee on House Administration.

She said that the emails and conversations among the commissioners had stopped for the time being, and she was not aware of the plans for the commission’s next meeting. Unlike some of the Democratic commission members who have raised concerns about the lack of transparency, she was not bothered by the absence of information about the commission’s next steps.

“It’s not the fact that anybody’s being shut out, it’s just the fact that they wanted to get some of these lawsuits settled and then move forward,” she said.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democratic member of the commission, wrote a letter to the commission’s executive director, Andrew Kossack, last week in which he said there was a “frustration with the lack of information that people are able to get out of the commission.” Dunlap told TPM that the reports that a commission researcher had been arrested on child porn charges was the final straw that prompted him to write the letter, as he was unaware of what research the staffer, Ronald Williams, was doing for the commission.

Alan King, an Alabama probate judge and a Democrat on the commission, has also said he was not sure what the commission has done since its last meeting in July.

Lawson on Wednesday said she also didn’t know the arrested researcher.  She added that she did not know any of the staff that was working for the commission, besides Kossack. Nonetheless, she expected that the commission would at some point meet again, even as it was very unlikely they would meet their goal of producing a final report by the February meeting of the National Association of Secretary of States.

“The information I received was, ‘Look, we just wanted to get some of these things behind us so we can get to work.’ It’s very chilling to know that you can’t really work without somebody suing over something that you’ve done,” Lawson said.

“It’s not that anybody would do anything wrong, but it’s just very chilling,” she later added.

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It seems that House Republicans are feeling nostalgic for their Obama-era investigations.

On the same day that the House Republicans on the Oversight and Judiciary committees announced an investigation into the Justice Department’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email inquiry, House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) touted another investigation being launched into Obama administration’s Justice Department, having to do with a 2010-11 Russian uranium deal that has gotten fresh scrutiny. That investigation is also being shared with the House Oversight Committee.

The announcement comes as the pace picks up on a number of congressional probes into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians’ meddling in the 2016 election.

Nunes, who has continued to operate at the fringes of House Intel’s Russia probe despite stepping down from leading it in April, said at a press conference Tuesday that he had not had any communications with the White House about the new uranium probe. He also seemed to vaguely deny that he had ever fully recused himself from House Intel’s Russia investigation.

“I would refer back to the statement that I originally sent out as my relationship with the Russia investigation,” Nunes said as he faced repeated questions about whether he has stepped aside from that probe. “I can give you the facts and you guys can write what you write, but sometimes if you write opinion, that’s not based on fact. That’s not what I said at the time, and I would prefer you guys stop referring to that. But I can’t control what you guys write.”

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The Republican leaders of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees announced the launch of an investigation into various decisions the Justice Department made during the 2016 campaign, including the FBI’s handing of the Hillary Clinton email inquiry as well as its decision not to make public its ongoing investigation into associates of President Donald Trump.

House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlate (R-VA) said in a joint statement that “Congress has a constitutional duty to preserve the integrity of our justice system by ensuring transparency and accountability of actions taken.”

The top Democrats on the committees accused Republicans of engaging in “a massive diversion to distract from the lack of Republican oversight of the Trump Administration and the national security threat that Russia poses,” in a statement issued a few hours after the new probe was announced.

“The Russian government continues to represent a clear and present threat to the United States and our democratic system, and we are the targets of near-constant cyberattacks by foreign adversaries,” Judiciary’s Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Oversight’s Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in the statement. “Yet House Republicans have taken no concrete steps to secure our next election. Apparently, House Republicans are more concerned about Jim Comey than Vladimir Putin.”

Gowdy and Goodlatte’s investigation comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee, and particularly its chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), has also signaled interest in examining some of the moves the DOJ made during the election.

According to Gowdy and Goodlatte’s press release, the probe will include (but is not limited to) the following questions:

  • FBI’s decision to publicly announce the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified information but not to publicly announce the investigation into campaign associates of then-candidate Donald Trump;

  • FBI’s decision to notify Congress by formal letter of the status of the investigation both in October and November of 2016;

  • FBI’s decision to appropriate full decision making in respect to charging or not charging Secretary Clinton to the FBI rather than the DOJ; and

  • FBI’s timeline in respect to charging decisions.

 This post has been updated.

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A prominent Democratic lobbyist whose brother happened to chair Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign has become the subject of a criminal inquiry as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, NBC News reported Monday.

Mueller’s reported interest in Tony Podesta, and his Dem-leaning lobbying firm the Podesta Group, stems not from any apparent links to Russia’s 2016 election meddling activities, but rather a failure to disclose 2012-2014 lobbying activity for a Ukrainian non-profit closely aligned with the interests of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.

The key figure in all of this is Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign chair during the summer of 2016, who was involved in setting up the campaign for the non-profit, the European Centre For a Modern Ukraine. Manafort’s longtime deputy, Rick Gates, directed the Podesta Group’s work — and the work of a GOP-leaning firm, Mercury LLC — for ECFMU, previously reported emails have shown.

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The tussle between the private research firm behind the so-called Trump dossier, and House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes — who in theory but not in practice has recused himself from the Russia probe — has escalated, with Nunes subpoenaing the firm’s bank and the firm going to court to block the subpoena.

The subpoena sought information about all assets held by Fusion GPS and its associates, including balances, transactions and other types of activities dating back the last two years. It comes as the firm has faced increasing pressure to reveal the clients that financed the dossier.

On Friday, the firm, Fusion GPS filed a lawsuit claiming that subpoena was a “blatant attempt to chill” political speech and a “fishing expedition.” The lawsuit was technically against the unnamed bank, but by Saturday the House Intel Committee  had sought to intervene in the case to defend Nunes’ subpoena.

The committee is expected to file by Monday evening a response to Fusion GPS’ request to the court that it place a temporary restraining order on the bank from releasing the records.

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President Trump’s top liaison to Capitol Hill previewed the demands the White House would be making — in the form of a set of “principles”  —  in exchange for its support of a short-term bipartisan Obamacare fix that is gaining steam in the Senate.

Among the concessions the White House desires is eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short claimed on CNN Thursday would lower premiums.

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Democratic senators on Thursday announced legislation co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that would require major social media platforms to label political ads in much the same way they’re disclosed on television and radio.

The bill, The Honest Ads Act, comes in response to growing evidence that Russia exploited a number of social media platforms to interfere with the 2016 election and exacerbate divisions in U.S. political discourse. A companion bill, sponsored by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Mike Coffman (R-CO), is being introduced in the House.

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Three Democratic senators wrote to the U.S. Government Accountability Office Wednesday requesting  an investigation into President Trump’s much-criticized, sketchy voter fraud commission.

The senators, Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), say that the commission has not responded to any of their requests for more information about its operations. They pointed to disclosures that came through open records requests, litigation and investigative reporting that “raise questions about the partisan motives and actions of the Commission.”

“Without any [commission] response to Congressional inquiries, we fear that the manner in which [the commission] is conducting its work will prevent the public from a full and transparent understanding of the Commission’s conclusions and unnecessarily diminish confidence in our democratic process,” the senators said.

They go onto request that the GAO look at the commission’s funding, the information it bases its conclusions on, its methodology and the steps it took to protect voter information and follow regulations related to its work.

Read the full letter below:

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Criticisms that President Trump’s voter fraud commission is not operating transparently are now coming from within the hen house.

A Democratic member of the commission sent a letter to its executive director seeking more information about the communications among commissioner members, with federal agencies, with commission staff on its work “and/or policy proposals that may be offered to policymakers as either a component of any report or under separate cover of which this Commissioner may be unaware.”

“There’s been a lot of frustration with the lack of information that people are able to get out of the commission,” Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap told TPM.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Dunlap said he had not received a response to his letter from Andrew Kossack, the commission’s executive director.

Dunlap, in the letter, cites the Federal Advisory Committee Act in requesting “copies of any and all correspondence between Commission members in the possession of the Commission.” He also recounts his frustration when he first heard about developments and details about the commission’s work through inquiries from the media.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, Dunlap told TPM, was when a reporter texted him about a Washington Post report Saturday that a researcher for the commission had been arrested on child porn charges.

“Four days have gone by. We’ve heard nothing from the leadership of the commission or staff about the situation,” Dunlap said. Dunlap said he may have met the researcher, Ronald Williams, at a commission meeting, but was otherwise unaware of his role and what sort of research he was doing.

But it’s not just that. Dunlap told TPM he was surprised when he was asked by reporters about communications between the commission’s vice chair Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Republican commissioners J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky about a controversial request for state voter roll information. The communications that happened before Adams and von Spakovsky were formally named to the commission, and they were only revealed as part of a lawsuit against the commission.

“You have a situation where you have the names J. Christian Adams, Hans von Spakovsky and Kris Kobach keep coming up as being the architects of the work of the commission. But what about the rest of us?” Dunlap told TPM. “There are other members of the commission and nobody is consulting with me about what I think the issues are that we should be looking at.”

Despite his concerns, Dunlap said he does not have any intentions of quitting commission.

“I think that would be a one day story [if I resigned],” Dunlap said. “I think I am a lot more effective at the front lines than I am in retreat.”

Read his letter to the executive director below:

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions would not give a straight answer to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) request to confirm that he will not put reporters in jail “for doing their jobs.”

“I don’t know if I can make a blanket commitment to that effect,” Sessions said during his hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“But I would say this, we have not taken any aggressive action against the media at this point,” he continued. “We have matters that involve the most serious national security issues that put our country at risk, and we will utilize the authorities that we have legally and constitutionally if we have to.”

“We always try to find an alternative way, as you probably know, Senator Klobuchar, to directly confronting media persons,” he added. “But that is not a total blanket protection.”

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