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.

Articles by

Trump Justice Department official John Gore on Friday suggested that the Justice Department has been unable to fully enforce the Voting Rights Act without the decennial Census asking a question about citizenship.

Gore was asked by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) at a House oversight hearing whether the Justice Department has been unable to enforce the Voting Rights Act without the data.

Without accurate citizenship data? Yes,” Gore said, adding that the Justice Department has been “making do” by using extrapolations from the American Communities Survey, an ongoing survey sent to a small portion of the population.

The Census hasn’t asked the question on the version of the survey that goes to all households since 1950. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Gore spearheaded a DOJ request that the Commerce Department add a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 Census.

Democrats, Census policy wonks and civil rights advocates fear that asking the question will spook immigrant communities from participating in the Census. An undercount would have a major impact on political representation and federal funding for those populations.

Later in the hearing, Gore cited a Voting Rights Act case brought in Texas by private plaintiffs that he said was thrown out because the court said the ACS data on citizenship was not sufficient.

“We would like avoid that fate,” Gore said. He couldn’t name any other cases where the lack of Census data made a difference, however.

He also clarified his answer to Gomez.

“So, yes, we do need that [data] at the Census block level. Yes, we are making do with the currently available data to draw estimates as to what’s going on at the Census block level,” Gore said. “Our letter lays out why the hard count Census data would be more appropriate for that function, because it’s a hard count, and it would be simpler for us to use.”





Read More →

John Gore, the Trump Justice Department official who leads the Civil Rights Division, told Congress Friday that the department has “no position” on whether number of citizens should play a role in how congressional districts are apportioned.

He was responding to a question at a House Oversight Committee hearing from Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), who asked whether knowing the number of citizenships should play a role in apportionment.  Gore was behind the Justice Department request to add a citizenship question to the next Census.

“That’s a very important question. It’s a very important issue. It’s not one that the Department of Justice takes a position on,” Gore said. He added that the request was driven by enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, “not the separate question of how congressional seats are apportioned across the Constitution.”

The Constitution says that U.S. congressional districts should be drawn using total population. But some believe it’s an open question whether states can exclude non-citizens in drawing state legislative districts. Republicans in Missouri are already pushing to put such a requirement on November’s ballot.

Excluding non-citizens from redistricting stands to shift political power away from urban areas and other places with disproportionately high immigrant populations.

The Trump administration’s move to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — which Gore was behind — could encourage more states to try to draw districts based on citizenship rather than total population, both critics and proponents of such an approach believe.

Gore was in front of the committee Friday for a hearing on the census.

Read More →

Attorneys bringing a private lawsuit alleging a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to expose the private information of DNC donors and a DNC employee faced tough questioning from the federal judge in Washington, D.C. overseeing the case Thursday.

During arguments on motions filed by the Trump campaign and Roger Stone, who is also a defendant, to throw out the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle directed most of her questioning at Protect Democracy Project attorney Benjamin Leon Berwick, whose group is representing the private plaintiffs bringing the case.

Read More →

Texts and emails sent by President Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen show that his work on a Trump Tower Moscow deal continued at least through May 2016, well after January 2016 end-date Cohen previously claimed, Yahoo News reported Wednesday evening.

The messages were provided to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators by Felix Sater — a Cohen pal and former business associate of Trump’s — who previously told TPM that work on the Moscow Trump deal continued through at least late 2015.

Cohen, in congressional testimony, claimed work on the project, which never came to fruition, ended in late January 2016.

Yahoo News confirmed existence of the texts and emails with multiple sources who were able to describe them. Sater told Yahoo News he provided the texts to investigators voluntarily and without a subpoena.

The messages sent between Cohen and Sater show Cohen’s desire to involve high-ranking Russian officials in the project, according to Yahoo News. It was previously reported that in mid-January Cohen sought to reach out to the Kremlin, using a public facing email for Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Peskov says he saw Cohen’s message but never responded to it.

But the Sater-Cohen communications about the project continued well after that, according to the Yahoo News report, and Sater also encouraged Cohen to attend a St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in mid-June 2016, which Washington Post previously reported.

Cohen, citing the need to prepare for the 2016 Republican Nation Convention in July, did not attend the forum, the Washington Post reported.

Cohen’s discussions with Sater about the Trump Tower Moscow ended then, according to Yahoo News, but Sater said he continued working on a potential deal through December 2016, stopping only after Trump had been elected.

Read More →

Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti was sued Wednesday for breach of contract by his former law partner Jason Frank.

Frank alleges that Avenatti violated a settlement agreement that had been reached in December. Under the terms of the settlement, according to the complaint, Avenatti’s law firm was to pay Frank $4.85 million, with a $2 million installment due by May 14. Avenatti failed to wire the installment, the complaint alleges.

In a statement to TPM, Frank’s attorney Eric M. George said that Avenatti’s law firm “entered into a crystal clear written settlement agreement to resolve a prior lawsuit brought by Jason Frank, his former law partner.”

“The settlement agreement was approved by a federal court and was a condition of his law firm exiting bankruptcy,” he said. “Under this settlement, Mr. Avenatti’s law firm was required to pay Mr. Frank $4.85 million, all of which was personally guaranteed by Mr. Avenatti.”

Avenatti, in an email to TPM, said that Frank was “trying to capitalize on the situation.”

“The suit is completely bogus. Who cares?” Avenatti said.

Read the complaint below:

Read More →

Days before the New York Times reported a June 2016 meeting of Kremlin-linked figures and Donald Trump’s inner circle, an attorney for Donald Trump Jr. told another attendee of the meeting that there were no plans to go public about it, according to the attendee’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The attorney Alan Futerfas warned the attendee Ike Kaveladze that it might leak anyway, Kaveladze told the committee.

Kaveladze’s recollection of his June 2017 phone call with Futerfas was one of many new details — disclosed among thousands of pages of materials the committee released Wednesday — that capture how Trump-world attorneys scrambled to get the story straight about the combustible meeting well before it became public.

Their flurry of communications was set off by the discovery by Jared Kushner’s attorney of an email sent to Donald Trump Jr. and forwarded to Kushner in which they were promised information that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton. The email was discovered, the Washington Post reported, as Kushner’s attorneys were preparing to respond to the inquiries of the various congressional committees probing Russia’s election meddling.

Read More →

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning released transcripts of the interviews the panel did with people involved with the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where top Trump campaign officials and family members met with Kremlin-linked figures.

Links to the transcripts and other materials are below:

Donald Trump, Jr.: interview transcript and exhibits.

Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze, an attendee of the meeting: interview transcript, supplemental interview transcript and exhibits.

Anatoli Samochornov , translator at meeting: interview transcript and exhibits.

Rinat Akhmetshin, Russian-American lobbyist at meeting: interview transcript and exhibits.

Rob Goldstone, Trump-linked publicist who set up meeting: interview transcript, supplemental interview transcript, exhibits and supplemental exhibits.

Paul Manafort (declined to be interviewed): notes from meeting.

Jared Kushner (declined to be interviewed): prepared statement for committee.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian attorney at meeting: written responses and exhibits.

Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS, which produced Trump-Russia dossier: interview transcript, exhibits, clarification request and answer.





Read More →

Paul Manafort has struck out again in his efforts to get Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against him thrown out or curtailed on the basis that Mueller’s investigation was improper.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Tuesday denied Manafort’s request that she throw out the indictment brought in the criminal case against him in Washington D.C. She had previously thrown out a civil lawsuit Manafort filed against Mueller seeking to narrow his investigation. Manafort’s motion to dismiss the case Mueller brought against him in Virginia is still pending.

Manafort had argued that since the charges Mueller brought against him stemmed from Ukraine lobbying work predating the 2016 campaign, they were outside the scope of the Russian collusion investigation for which Mueller had been appointed. Jackson, in her 36-page opinion, rejected Manafort’s claims that the Ukraine business dealings were outside Mueller’s scope.

Referring to Mueller’s appointment order, she said that the charges fell “squarely within that portion of the authority granted to the Special Counsel that Manafort finds unobjectionable: the order to investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign.’ (Manafort had also challenged the provision of the appointment order that said that Mueller could investigate matters “that arose or may arise directly”  from the probe).

Additionally, Jackson said that the Justice Department regulations created for special counsel investigations are not enforceable for defendants in court.

She added said that it appeared, nonetheless, that Mueller had followed those regulations.

“He was appointed to take over an existing investigation, and it appears from the chronology and the written record that the matters contained in the Superseding Indictment were already a part of the ongoing inquiry that was lawfully transferred to the Special Counsel by the Department of Justice in May of 2017,” she said.

Manafort, a former chairman for the Trump campaign, has been charged in D.C. with money laundering, failure to register foreign lobbying and false statements. He has pleaded not guilty in that case, as well as in the charges that included bank fraud and tax fraud that were brought against him in Virginia.

Jackson said that she could have denied Manafort’s request to dismiss on the fact alone that Manafort’s Ukraine dealings fell within the appointment’s order

“Who had connections to the Russian government? Who attended meetings on behalf of the campaign? Given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest,” Jackson wrote, while pointing to news stories about Manafort’s business relationship with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and about the Trump campaign’s move, while he was chair, to soften the GOP party platform’s stance towards Russia.

“Given what was being said publicly, the Special Counsel would have been remiss to ignore such an obvious potential link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Thus, the indictment falls well within the authority granted to the Special Counsel to conduct the ongoing investigation previously confirmed by the then-Director of the FBI before Congress,” the judge said.

She also brought up a once-secret August 2 memo Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote specifically confirming Mueller’s authority to investigate Manafort’s Ukraine-related allegations.

“So even in the unlikely event that the Acting Attorney General and the Special Counsel never discussed what the investigation included at the time of the appointment, the singular event that defendant insists would be necessary to make his indictment valid – an explicit referral of the specific matter to the Special Counsel – has taken place,” Jackson said. In a footnote, she also shot down Manafort’s request to any other records memorializing internal Justice Department discussions about Mueller’s scope.

Read the opinion below:

Read More →

Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained a secret order from a federal magistrate judge to suspend the statute of limitations on one of the charges he ultimately brought against Paul Manafort, a court filing revealed Monday evening. Mueller did not inform Manafort of the secret order until after the former Trump campaign chairman had requested that charge be thrown out, the filing said.

Mueller also disclosed in the Monday court filing that, as recently as April 30 of this year, the government of Cyprus was still turning over documents related to the special counsel’s Manafort investigation.

Because investigators were relying on a foreign government to produce certain evidence, Mueller last June asked a magistrate judge in Virginia to suspend the statute of limitations on the charge that Manafort failed to to file a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR), according to the filing. Mueller ultimately brought that charge against Manafort in February. The judge’s decision granting Mueller’s request to suspend the statute of limitations was previously under seal, but was included in Monday’s filings.

The revelation came in a response to Manafort’s motion to dismiss the FBAR charge in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he is also facing tax fraud and bank fraud charges. That case is in addition to the one brought in Washington, D.C., where Manafort has been charged with money laundering and failure to disclose foreign lobbying.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

“Because the government secured a timely and valid order in this District to suspend the running of the applicable statute of limitations until at least the date on which the Superseding Indictment was returned, Manafort’s motion should be denied,” Mueller said in his motion.

According to Monday’s filing, investigators first sought the documents from Cyprus in early June 2017. The request is called a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT), and it was filed through the Office of International Affairs of the United States Department of Justice.

Investigators were seeking “among other evidence, bank records, articles of incorporation, and witness interviews concerning certain of Manafort and Richard Gates’s bank accounts in Cyprus,” according to the filing.

Because the statute of limitations was set to run out on June 29 — five years after the June 29, 2012 deadline Manafort would have faced to file the foreign bank report with the U.S. Treasury — prosecutors on June 26 came to Judge Claude M. Hilton with their request, which was filed ex parte, meaning only the government’s side was aware of it, and not Manafort.

Cyprus’ production of evidence has taken months, according to the filing, and investigators wrote to Cypriot authorities in December informing them that they were still missing some of the Manafort documents they had requested. Cyprus’ government did not respond to the request until April 30 this year, according to Monday’s filing, well after Mueller’s grand jury in Virginia handed down indictments against Manafort in February.

“The bottom line, then, is that Cyprus had not fully satisfied the government’s official request when the original and Superseding Indictment of Manafort were returned on February 13 and 22, respectively,” Mueller said. “As a result, no ‘final action’ had yet occurred as of the date of the operative indictments, and the applicable statute of limitations remained suspended.”

Cyprus began turning over documents in September, 2017, according to the filing.

Mueller’s filing also revealed that, at the time Manafort requested that the FBAR charge be thrown out, the prosecutors had not yet informed him of their successful request to have the statute of limitations suspended.

“The government has now produced that Order to the defense, together with redacted versions of the MLAT requests themselves,” the filing said.

Read the full filing below:

Read More →

State-level Republicans are pouncing on the Trump administration’s move to add a citizenship question to the Census as a way to boost their electoral advantage in the next round of redistricting.

Missouri Republicans last week advanced a measure that would put on November’s ballot a constitutional amendment to require state legislative districts to be drawn using the number of citizens, rather than total population. Two Republicans defected from the otherwise 90-34 party line House vote.

Asked during a Friday floor debate over how Missouri would implement the requirement, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dean Plocher (R), pointed specifically to the fact that the citizenship question will be on the next Census.

Read More →