Stormy Daniels seeks to reactivate ‘hush money’ suit

Lawyers for porn star Stormy Daniels are seeking to lift a judge’s 90-day hold on her lawsuit over a $130,000 deal she struck before the 2016 election to keep silent about a sexual encounter she says she had with President Donald Trump.

A federal judge imposed the stay last month as questions swirled about whether longtime Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels in 2016, was about to be indicted. Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, cited extensive comments about the issue by Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani in saying the stay should be removed.

"The general premise is that Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani have, once again, shot themselves in the foot by making public statements related to the $130,000 payment," Avenatti told POLITICO Thursday. "They clearly don’t need Mr. Cohen to mount a defense in the case. There’s no need to wait for resolution of the criminal matter… Continue reading “Stormy Daniels seeks to reactivate ‘hush money’ suit”

Mueller fights media access to secret court filings

Special counsel Robert Mueller is fighting a drive by media organizations to unseal secret court filings relating to searches and surveillance efforts undertaken as part of the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

While lawyers for President Donald Trump have suggested in recent weeks that the inquiry appears to be winding down, Mueller’s prosecutors submitted a court filing on Wednesday that painted a very different picture of an investigation that is moving forward on multiple fronts and could be jeopardized by premature disclosure of the records sought by news outlets.

“The Special Counsel’s investigation is not a closed matter, but an ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry,” prosecutors wrote in a brief submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. “The investigation consists of multiple lines of inquiry within the overall scope of the Special Counsel’s authority. Continue reading “Mueller fights media access to secret court filings”

One of Manafort judges wrestles with potential for conflicting rulings

A federal judge overseeing one of two pending criminal cases against Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, is weighing the possibility that the two different courts could issue conflicting rulings on disputed issues such as the legality of the FBI’s searches and perhaps even special counsel Robert Mueller’s authority to bring the prosecutions in the first place.

During a two-and-a-half-hour hearing on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson did not say precisely what problems might arise if she and her colleague in Alexandria, Virginia, wound up disagreeing, but she did ask a lawyer on Mueller’s team whether the prosecution had discussed that prospect.

Prosecutor Scott Meisler was noncommittal, but acknowledged that such a divergence would raise “difficult questions.”

“It has come up,” Meisler said. “I can’t say we’ve reached a definitive conclusion to present to the court today.”

In Washington, Manafort Continue reading “One of Manafort judges wrestles with potential for conflicting rulings”

Mueller moves to sentence Papadopoulos, signaling key step

A court filing Wednesday from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office may be a signal that his investigation into Russian efforts to coordinate with the Trump campaign is nearing a conclusion.

The filing asked a federal judge to start the process of preparing a pre-sentencing report for former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to investigators in the Trump-Russia probe.

The move indicates that a sentencing for Papadopoulos could come this summer — without him testifying at the trials of others who may have been involved in alleged collusion with the Kremlin on its attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. No one faces such charges at the moment.

It’s also possible that the filing is a sign that the investigation has progressed to the point that prosecutors have concluded Papadopoulos’s testimony would not be useful in any future cases.

"It means Continue reading “Mueller moves to sentence Papadopoulos, signaling key step”

Manafort defense targets Mueller prosecutor Weissmann

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s defense is going after one of special counsel Robert Mueller’s top deputies in a bid to persuade a federal judge to order a hearing into leaks to the media.

In a court filing Monday night, Manafort’s attorneys singled out prosecutor Andrew Weissmann over a meeting he attended with The Associated Press in April 2017 — about a month before Mueller was appointed to take over the Trump-Russia investigation. At the time, Weissmann headed the fraud section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

The precise nature of the session with the AP reporters is unclear, but it came a day before the news agency reported that financial records showed Manafort actually received payments attributed to him in a so-called black ledger of secret Ukrainian government compensation.

Manafort’s defense attorneys suggested the episode makes Weissmann a logical suspect as a source for anonymously sourced press accounts Continue reading “Manafort defense targets Mueller prosecutor Weissmann”

Supreme Court upholds employers’ right to require arbitration to settle workplace disputes

A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of employers to require employees to use private arbitration to resolve workplace disputes.

The 5-4 decision, split along the usual ideological lines, upheld the right of employers to use mandatory arbitration clauses to block the filing of class-action lawsuits over workplace issues such as unpaid overtime. The majority rejected arguments that forcing those cases into private, individual arbitration violated federal labor law.

Mueller team’s special status could save Virginia Manafort case

An obscure special status obtained by several of special counsel Robert Mueller’s attorneys could prevent a judge from ousting Mueller’s lawyers from their role in the prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in federal court in Virginia.

Several court filings indicate that when lawyers from Mueller’s office appeared in federal court in Alexandria earlier this year, they did so not only as representative of Mueller’s office but as special assistant United States attorneys (SAUSAs) attached to the United States attorney’s office there.

That designation gives the Mueller prosecutors a kind of dual status that could complicate any attempt by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to try to shift the case to federal prosecutors based in Alexandria–a possibility the judge mentioned on a couple of occasions during a contentious hearing earlier this month.

A spokesman for Mueller’s office, Peter Carr, confirmed to POLITICO that some of Continue reading “Mueller team’s special status could save Virginia Manafort case”

Source: Manafort’s ex-son-in-law in plea deal with feds

Jeffrey Yohai, an ex-son-in-law of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, secretly entered a guilty plea earlier this year to criminal charges of fraud in obtaining real estate loans, a source familiar with the matter told POLITICO on Thursday.

Manafort, who is facing a pair of criminal cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, invested with Yohai in real estate deals in New York and California.

Yohai’s plea deal with federal prosecutors based in Los Angeles requires cooperation with ongoing federal investigations such as Mueller’s, but there is no clear indication yet of the special prosecutor’s interest in his testimony, the source said. It was not immediately clear why the plea was taken in a closed courtroom, but that process is routine in some courts.

“I can only confirm that he has reached a plea agreement,” an attorney for Yohai, James Hinds, told BuzzFeed.

Contacted by POLITICO, Hinds said only: Continue reading “Source: Manafort’s ex-son-in-law in plea deal with feds”

Court refuses to halt ‘Apprentice’ contestant’s suit against Trump

A panel of New York appeals judges has turned down President Donald Trump’s request to halt a lawsuit filed by a former “Apprentice” contestant who claims Trump made unwelcome sexual advances toward her and then disputed her account of the interactions.

Lawyers for Trump have argued that he should not have to respond to the suit from Summer Zervos because it was brought in state court and allowing the case to proceed could interfere with Trump’s presidential duties.

However, on Thursday, five judges from the New York Supreme Court appellate division rejected Trump’s bid to stay the case while he appeals on that issue.

The judges’ order shed little light on their legal rationale.

“Upon reading and filing the papers with respect to the motion, and due deliberation having been had thereon, It is ordered that the motion is denied,” the judges wrote.

Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Zervos Continue reading “Court refuses to halt ‘Apprentice’ contestant’s suit against Trump”

Inside Mueller’s FBI team

President Donald Trump has repeatedly hurled insults at the FBI agents working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 campaign. Rudy Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney who’s now Trump’s lawyer, has attacked them as “stormtroopers.”

The vitriol is unsurprising. The agents are powering an investigation that has shadowed Trump’s entire presidency – and they are mostly unknown to the public, making them easy targets. They are a mix of bureau veterans and relative newcomers handpicked by Mueller and his prosecutors to handle the highest-profile and most sensitive federal investigation in a generation.

To assemble this portrait of Mueller’s FBI team, POLITICO scoured court records, news accounts, press releases and conducted more than two dozen interviews with defense lawyers and witnesses as well as with current and former FBI agents.

The agents who form the core of Mueller’s investigative team – who work mostly from a southwest Continue reading “Inside Mueller’s FBI team”

Lawyers spar at hearing on Russian troll farm case

A court hearing on special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal case against Russian internet trolls accused of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election devolved into squabbling on Wednesday, as a defense lawyer for one of the Russian firms charged in the case squared off with a prosecutor about their initial interactions.

The contentious but brief court session was the first hearing in the case before Judge Dabney Friedrich, President Donald Trump’s newest appointee to the U.S. District Court in Washington.

Mueller’s office obtained a grand jury indictment in February charging 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies with using social media and other means to foment strife in the U.S. in 2016 with a goal of advancing Trump’s electoral chances.

None of the defendants were expected to appear to face the charges, but one of the companies, Concord Management and Consulting, hired American attorneys who announced plans Continue reading “Lawyers spar at hearing on Russian troll farm case”

Justice Department appeals order to disclose Clinton grand jury records

The Trump administration is again fighting for greater secrecy in a Clinton-focused investigation: this time, the independent counsel probe that explored President Bill Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

A raft of court records from grand jury-related proceedings related to the investigation have remained secret for two decades, but last month a federal judge — acting on a request from CNN — ruled that the vast majority of the files should be made public.

But early Wednesday, the Justice Department appealed that decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The move is likely to delay the release of the request information for months or longer.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment, but court filings indicate that government lawyers made the broad assertion that the court lacks authority to release grand jury records for reasons of "extreme public interest" or any other reason not specifically detailed Continue reading “Justice Department appeals order to disclose Clinton grand jury records”

Trump statements get scrutiny in DACA appeal

Disparaging remarks that President Donald Trump made about Latinos and Mexicans surfaced Tuesday at a key appeals court hearing on the Trump administration’s bid to end the program protecting so-called Dreamers—immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

As a three-judge 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel considered whether to lift an injunction ordering the federal government to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Judge John Owens repeatedly raised the question of whether racial bias played a part in the Trump administration’s decision to wind down DACA.

Owens formulated his questions in constitutional terms, asking about "equal protection" claims, but a lawyer for DACA recipients jumped at the chance to talk about Trump’s inflammatory statements.

"The president both before and after he took office referred to individuals from the very countries they’re coming from as drug dealers, as druggies, as criminals, as bad individuals," said Mark Rosenbaum Continue reading “Trump statements get scrutiny in DACA appeal”

Federal judge rejects Manafort’s bid to dismiss Mueller indictment

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, to get an indictment against him dismissed by claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment was flawed.

In a blow to Manafort’s defense, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Mueller’s prosecution of the longtime political consultant on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine was “squarely” within the authority that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein granted to Mueller last May.

“The indictment falls 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,’” Jackson wrote.

“Manafort was, at one time, not merely ‘associated with,’ but the chairman of, the Presidential campaign, and his work on behalf of the Russia-backed Continue reading “Federal judge rejects Manafort’s bid to dismiss Mueller indictment”

Avenatti defends disclosures on Michael Cohen finances

Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ attorney, says he was exercising his free speech rights on a matter of critical importance to the American public when he released details last week about large corporate payments to President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Cohen’s attorneys have blasted the disclosure as an outrageous and reckless act that invaded their client’s privacy and linked him to some payments in which he had no involvement. Suggesting that Avenatti might have broken the law, Cohen’s lawyers urged a federal judge in New York to deny Avenatti permission to take part in litigation over records seized from Cohen’s home, office and hotel room last month in FBI raids executing search warrants.

However, Avenatti responded on Monday that his revelations about more than $1 million paid to Cohen by companies like AT&T, Novartis and Columbus Nova were no reason to block him from joining in the legal Continue reading “Avenatti defends disclosures on Michael Cohen finances”

Mueller’s office opposes hearing on leaks

A series of anonymously sourced news accounts about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation don’t amount to evidence of illegal grand jury leaks and could have come from defense attorneys or others outside the investigation, prosecutors said in a court filing on Monday.

Mueller’s team is also urging a federal judge in Virginia to turn down a request from Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, to hold a hearing in which witnesses could be summoned to testify about the alleged leaks.

“Manafort’s speculative claim of improper conduct falls far short of the showing necessary to warrant a hearing on potential violations of [a grand jury secrecy rule] or of his constitutional rights,” prosecutors wrote. “A pretrial hearing on alleged government leaks, which would itself generate publicity on the very matters that Manafort finds prejudicial, is unwarranted.”

Manafort, who is facing separate criminal cases brought by Mueller in federal court Continue reading “Mueller’s office opposes hearing on leaks”

Russian firm accused of funding U.S. election trolling disputes Mueller charge

A Russian firm with ties to an ally of President Vladimir Putin is challenging the legal basis of special counsel Robert Mueller’s charge that the company funded Moscow’s effort to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting — a Saint Petersburg-based business said to be controlled by a Russian oligarch known as Putin’s chef — are accusing Mueller of inventing a "make-believe crime" in order to achieve a "political" goal of prosecuting someone for interfering in the U.S. presidential race.

The Justice Department, attorneys Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikaly wrote in a motion filed in federal court in Washington Monday, has "licensed a Special Counsel who for all practical political purposes cannot be fired, to indict a case that has absolutely nothing to do with any links or coordination between any candidate and the Russian Government."

"The reason is obvious, and is Continue reading “Russian firm accused of funding U.S. election trolling disputes Mueller charge”

Supreme Court clears way for states to legalize sports betting

The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, striking down a 1992 federal law that limited gambling.

The justices ruled in favor of New Jersey, which argued that the federal law unconstitutionally intruded on state affairs.

Three justices dissented from aspects of the decision, arguing that the court should not have struck down the entire law but should have allowed some of its provisions to stand.

Lawyer says he took Schneiderman abuse allegations to Trump attorney

A New York-area attorney who claims to have discussed alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is trying to prevent any records of those discussions from being made public.

In a letter Friday to a judge overseeing the handling of records seized from Cohen’s home, office and hotel room by the FBI last month, attorney Peter Gleason said he conversed with Cohen about stories two women who claimed they were "sexually victimized" by Schneiderman, who resigned earlier this week after a New Yorker story quoted women who said he abused them.

"During my communications with Mr. Cohen I shared with him certain details of Scheinderman’s [sic] vile attacks on these two women," Gleason wrote. "The extent of Mr. Cohen’s memorializing any of our communications is unknown," Gleason added, asking U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood to seal any Continue reading “Lawyer says he took Schneiderman abuse allegations to Trump attorney”

Cohen lawyer blasts Avenatti over report on finances

An explosive report on the financial dealings of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen contains “numerous” inaccurate claims and other information that is true but was not legally in the possession of Michael Avenatti, a lawyer and prominent Trump critic, when he released it online, lawyers for Cohen complained in a new court filing on Wednesday.

Attorneys for Cohen said Avenatti’s conduct was so troubling that a federal judge should prevent him from entering a pending legal case in New York about the disposition of records seized from Cohen’s home, office and hotel room last month. Avenatti has sought to intervene in the proceeding as an attorney for Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who is suing Trump and Cohen in connection with a $130,000 payment allegedly intended to suppress her story of a sexual encounter with Trump.

The “Project Sunlight” report released on Tuesday by Avenatti, apparently based Continue reading “Cohen lawyer blasts Avenatti over report on finances”