Eve Levin  //  10/1/17  //  Topic Update

President Trump referred to the multiple investigations into the 2016 U.S. presidential election as a “hoax” and blamed “Fake News” for increasing support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (NYT).

Special Counsel Robert Mueller began interviewing current and former White House officials this week (WSJ).

President Trump again criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ handling of the Russia investigation (WSJ).

Because Mueller does not have the authority to produce a public report as part of the investigation into Russian interference with U.S. elections, Congress should create an independent, bipartisan commission to do so, writes Asha Rangappa at The Hill.

  • Special Counsel Robert Mueller is barred from speaking publicly about his ongoing investigation, meaning fast-paced news reports do not give a full perspective of each development, argues Cristian Farias at New York Magazine.

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Special Counsels and the Separation of Powers,” focusing on two pending bills designed to protect Special Counsels from termination without good cause (Just Security).

  • The video recording of the hearing is available here.
  • The New York Times reports that the path forward was unclear for both bills.
  • Both Republican and Democratic senators said they would remain vigilant to protect the Special Counsel.

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein says that the Committee plans to subpoena documents from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (WaPo).          

  • Feinstein and Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley asked CIA Director Mike Pompeo to turn over information related to Russian interference.
  • The FBI had two separate FISA surveillance orders on Manafort, which may indicate that Manafort was working on behalf of the Russians, Asha Rangappa writes at Just Security. 

Roger Stone, a former campaign advisor to President Trump, testified before the House Intelligence Committee (NYTThe Hill).

  • An annotated version of Stone’s testimony is available here.
  • Stone’s statement was carefully worded to exclude factual assertions that he may be unable to deny, writes Renato Mariotti.
  • Stone said that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, expects to be indicted by federal prosecutors working for Robert Mueller.

Potential Congressional responses to Russian election interference via Facebook may not be successful given current Supreme Court campaign finance doctrine, writes Richard Hasen (Politico).

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called for the White House to disclose information related to White House employees’ use of private email (Politico).

  • Jared Kushner’s use of private email is different than Hillary Clinton’s, argues Aaron Blake (WaPo).
  • Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, was tricked into discussing Kushner’s private emails with a prankster (WaPo).

The federal government alerted twenty-one state governments that hackers targeted their voting systems in the 2016 presidential election (NYT).

  • Michael P. McDonald highlights the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council at DHS and notes the ways in which it is superior to President Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity (USA Today).
  • Reversing itself, the Department of Homeland Security told Wisconsin officials that the Russian government had not tried to hack the state’s voter registration system last year (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Ethics experts warn that President Trump’s reliance on Republican party and campaign accounts for legal fees related to the Russia investigation could raise issues (WSJ).

  • The funds come from a handful of wealthy donors, including “a billionaire investor, a property developer seeking U.S. government visas and a Ukrainian-born American who has made billions of dollars doing business with Russian oligarchs.”

A new non-profit organization seeking to raise awareness about Russian interference in the election, the Committee to Investigate Russia, released a video starring Morgan Freeman that generated criticism from the Russian government (NYT).

More than 3000 Russian-bought ads, which Facebook is preparing to give to Congress, sought to fuel racial and religious divides before the election (WaPoThe Hill).

  • Facebook lobbied the Federal Election Commission in 2011 for a waiver to disclosure laws requiring political advertising to include information about who paid for them (The Hill). 
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee invited executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google to testify in an open hearing as part of the Committee's investigation into Russian interference (WaPo).
  • President Trump claimed Facebook is biased against him after the social network provided the government with data on Russian-backed election advertising (WSJ).
  • Twitter discovered over 200 accounts associated with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election (LA Times).  
  • After the election, President Obama implored Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news seriously (WaPo).
  • Facebook has effectively taken on the job of the Federal Election Commission, Paul Blumenthal argues at the Huffington Post.
  • Members of the Congressional Black Caucus called upon Facebook to examine how Russian agents used the site to target Black Lives Matter before the election (NYT).
  • Representative Robin Kelly expressed her concern to Facebook in an open letter. 
  • Russian-language Twitter bots tried to boost claims of voter fraud before Germany’s national elections on September 24th (Mashable).

Special Counsel Mueller’s decision to use a warrant to request information from Facebook about Russia-backed ads, rather than a subpoena or an order under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, indicates he sought copies of the Russian ads as well as subscriber and billing information for relevant accounts, Ali Cooper-Ponte notes on Just Security.

  • The Russian government denied using Facebook ads to affect the 2016 election (The Hill).

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said that the DOJ and FBI’s refusal to permit two FBI agents to testify before the committee was invalid and violated the Constitution (The Hill).

Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr said that foreign actors interfering in the 2016 election targeted both conservative and liberal groups (The Hill).

Election officials in California have alleged that the Department of Homeland Security provided “bad information” about Russian hacking efforts (The Hill).

Representative Lamar Smith is investigating whether Russia purchased social media advertisements to influence the U.S. energy market (The Hill).

Senator James Lankford asserted that Russian trolls are currently exploiting the debate regarding kneeling during the national anthem (WaPo).

Buzzfeed is seeking information related to the Steele dossier from three federal agencies, former FBI Director James Comey, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Politico).

Updates | The Week of February 19, 2018

2/25/18  //  Daily Update

Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a new charge against Paul Manafort while Richard Gates pled guilty. Meanwhile, President Trump's proposal to arm teachers drew controversy in Washington.

Jacob Miller

Harvard Law School

Updates | The Week of February 5, 2018

2/11/18  //  Daily Update

The Nunes memo set off aftershocks; agencies scrambled to implement the Trump Administration's policies to mixed effect; and Congress passes a budget after a brief overnight shutdown.

Updates | The Week of January 22, 2018

1/28/18  //  Daily Update

President Trump attempted to fire Special Counsel Mueller in June 2017 over his obstruction of justice probe, but refrained after White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit.