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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Beyond its rebuke of former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of President Trump-related memos, a Justice Department Inspector General report provides new information about how the memos came to be, how they made it into the hands of a Comey friend who leaked them to the press, and how the FBI learned that Comey was keeping and sharing his own copies of them.

Here’s a list of some of the reveals:

Comey Thought The First Memo He Wrote About a Trump Encounter Would Be The Last

How to brief Trump on the “salacious” claims in a Trump-Russia dossier was a topic of conversation at the FBI in early January 2017. FBI officials were seeking a “discreet” way to tell Trump about the claims, but they didn’t want to the incoming President to perceive the briefing as a “Hoover-esque type of plot” to hold information over him, according to the IG report.  They agreed that Trump’s response to the briefing —given one-on-one by Comey — might be relevant to the ongoing Russia probe. Comey also wanted a contemporaneous record of the briefing in case it became a “a source of controversy.” He said he didn’t have any plans to document his conversations with Trump beyond that.

Why Comey Shared The Memos With Only A Small Group at The FBI

Multiple people told the inspector general that Comey kept a tight hold on the memos — sharing them with only a small group of top officials — because he didn’t want them to impact the ongoing Russia probe.

A Whistleblower Provided the Inspector General a Set of the Memos

A short but tantalizing section of the report reveals that a unidentified DOJ whistleblower played a role in the inspector general’s investigation.

Page and Strzok Helped Assemble The Full Set of Memos After Comey Was Fired

Lisa Page and Peter Stzok — the FBI officials who later came under fire for their anti-Trump texts — collected a full set of memos and then uploaded them to the FBI’s case management system. They and others at the FBI told the inspector general they considered the memos to be FBI records, rather than personal documents, as Comey described them.

The Backstory On How A Comey Friend Became an NYT Source

Comey would ultimately share some of those memos with his friend, Daniel Richman with the instructions that Richman share it with the media. Earlier than that though, Comey told Richman about two meals he shared with the President in the first weeks of the administration and the “crazy story about the President wanting [Comey’s] loyalty.”  The anecdotes became the basis of a May 11, 2017 New York Times story and Richman admitted to the inspector general he was one of the Times’ sources. Richman said the reporter, who he had become friendly with, had called him two days prior to ask “what the hell is going on?” Comey said he had not instructed Richman to speak for that article on his behalf. Comey also didn’t know who the Times’ second source was for that story.

Prompted by Trump’s tweets claiming to have “tapes” of Comey conversations, Comey shared a memo of one of his Trump conversations with Richman on May 16. He did so by texting Richman a photo of the memo, and Richman described its contents to the reporter. The Times’ story about the memo indicated there was a second source, but no FBI official whom the inspector general interviewed knew who that source was.

The FBI Scramble To Retain the Memos That Comey Had Shared

When Comey revealed in congressional testimony he had shared the memos with a friend at Columbia Law School, there was a scramble at the FBI to get in touch with Richman, so that the bureau could get those memos back.

Richman cooperated with the FBI’s efforts to remove the memos from his computer and told the FBI that Comey had also shared some of the memos with his attorneys. Getting those memos off of Richman’s and the attorneys’ computer was a multistep process.

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Voter ID On Trial In Missouri: A week-long trial in the legal challenge brought against Missouri’s voter ID law ended on Friday. The state court lawsuit was brought by the ACLU on behalf of the NAACP and League of Women Voters, who argued the state has not done enough to educate voters about the new law. The law has already been narrowed by other court rulings that nixed the affidavit those without  photo ID were required to sign because its language was misleading.

The Trade Maneuver That Would Affect How Americans Overseas Vote: Back in June, I wrote about how Trump’s push to leave the Universal Postal Union, which regulates international mail delivery, could make voting more costly and burdensome for overseas voters, including military members. Now state elections officials are ringing the alarm, with Kentucky elections director Jared Dearing raising the issue at a recent EAC forum and telling the commission that sending ballots could cost as much as $60-a-voter if the exit — slated for October — happens. 

Ohio’s Push To Purge Continues To Be Messy: The war over Ohio’s upcoming voter purge hasn’t died down:

  • Voter advocates said they had found 4,000 active voters improperly on the purge list.
  • Secretary of State Frank LaRose countered that those were voters who had re-activated their registrations as part of the outreach effort and they had already been removed from the purge list.
  • When pressed LaRose admitted he hadn’t checked the actual names to confirm it was the same 4,000 individuals. Altogether, 10,000 voters were removed from the purge list as part of the outreach effort, he said.
  • State House Dems found a separate set of voters — 6,500 total — who they say shouldn’t on the list.
  • Another analysis of the purge list, published by the Dispatch on Sunday, found that some 1,600 eligible voters were improperly sent last-chance notices ahead of the coming purge. That discrepancy appears to stem from an error by the vendor that several Ohio counties use for list maintenance

LaRose — who also unveiled a bipartisan automated voter registration bill last week — has not backed down from plans to conduct the purge on Sept. 6.

Another Win For Census Citizenship Question Challengers: We’re still waiting for the next steps on the ACLU’s request for sanctions in the New York census citizenship case. But in a separate case brought in Maryland, civil rights groups secured an appeals court order removing language from the trial court’s ruling that said there was insufficient evidence of discriminatory intent. The Maryland challengers sought to remove the line with the revelation that a now-deceased gerrymandering expert — who previously studied how the citizenship data could be used to diminish the political power of Latinos — was involved in the push to add the question.

ALEC Getting Into The Census GOP Power Grab Game: You can tell that Republicans are taking seriously the idea of switching to citizen-based redistricting if they’re using ALEC to push the proposal. At ALEC’s annual conference this month, conservative advocates encouraged state legislators to adopt the redistricting metric — which will shrink the political representation of immigrant communities — while a Census Bureau official confirmed that states will have access to that citizenship data.

Dem Group Targeting State Secretary of State Races: The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State will try to flip five secretaries of state offices in 2020 and also will support Democratic candidates a handful more secretary of state elections in 2019. In many states, the secretary of state has a key role in administering elections.

Michigan Redistricting Reform Gets A Second Legal Challenge: The Michigan GOP on Thursday sued the state’s secretary of state over the redistricting reform initiative she’s implementing. This lawsuit is in addition to the lawsuit individual Michigan Republicans brought against the redistricting commission. Both lawsuits challenge the same aspect of the commission — its system of vetting potential commissioners that excludes party operatives and politicians — but use different legal arguments to do so.

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