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3 new Mueller filings may show some of what ex-Trump aides have told investigators

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By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — Three new court documents are scheduled to emerge Friday that could shed new light on what Donald Trump’s former top aides have been telling — or not telling — federal investigators.

A federal judge in New York has ordered that prosecutors for the Southern District of New York and the Special Counsel’s Office have until 5 p.m. Friday to deliver sentencing memos designed to detail former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s cooperation in their ongoing investigations.

And special counsel Robert Mueller is also due to file a document spelling out what his team previously referred to as the “crimes and lies” that led them to cancel a cooperation agreement with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Legal experts say it’s likely that both documents will contain sections that are blacked out, as was the case with the sentencing memo Mueller filed Tuesday in the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The theory that Mueller would use these documents to inform the public about the progress of his ongoing investigation into Russian election interference and related matters did not pan out in the case of the Flynn memo. Key sections of that memo were redacted, including crucial questions about what Trump knew and when about Flynn’s lies to the FBI — and a whole page describing a separate criminal investigation.

Mueller’s decision to withhold that information shows, some experts say, that the former FBI director does not feel that his investigation is at risk of being derailed by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who had expressed open hostility toward it before his appointment.

“He disclosed so little in the Flynn memo that it led me to conclude two things,” said former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, an NBC News legal analyst. “One, he doesn’t have a sense of urgency, and two, he probably has a lot more investigating to do. If he was ready to show his cards, he wouldn’t have redacted all this stuff.”

Former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg says there may be something else at play:

“As usual, Mueller may be thinking two steps ahead of the rest of us.”

“If it’s public it won’t be sensitive and if it’s sensitive it won’t be public.”

Zeidenberg noted that Trump has not tweeted or uttered a word about Flynn since the sentencing memo on Flynn was filed, in contrast to Trump’s immediate attack on Cohen after Cohen pleaded guilty last week to lying about a Trump Tower project in Moscow.

“Trump’s been quite quiet since that filing,” Zeidenberg said. “He hasn’t attacked Flynn. If those blanks had been filled in, Trump’s head would have exploded — he’d be going crazy.”

“If Mueller waits and does his big reveal all at once, everything’s done. It’s too late” for Trump to engineer his firing, Zeidenberg said.

Michael Cohen exits federal court on Nov. 29 in New York.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

“If he were to have revealed everything on those redactions now, it could jeopardize ongoing matters, and it wouldn’t have been smart politically for his continued survival. I think it probably makes a lot of sense. Trump doesn’t want to attack Flynn because he doesn’t know whether Flynn is coming at him.”

As for the Southern District’s sentencing memo for Cohen, he is also cooperating in separate ongoing investigations that district prosecutors would likely want to keep secret, so that document may also be redacted.

Chuck Rosenberg, a former federal prosecutor and NBC News legal analyst who once worked with Mueller, said Mueller — a by-the-book former Marine combat leader — likely never considered making public anything to do with ongoing criminal matters.

The rule of thumb, he said, is “if it’s public it won’t be sensitive and if it’s sensitive it won’t be public.”

Rosenberg believes Friday’s filings will be “mildly interesting,” in that they may further describe in general terms how helpful prosecutors believe Cohen to have been, and also what sort of lies they allege Manafort told that blew up his plea deal.

But if Manafort’s lies were about Trump and Russian election interference, Rosenberg said, “We won’t see them.”

Tom Winter contributed.



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Missouri lawmakers keep resigning ahead of voter-approved lobbyist limits

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By Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Yet another Missouri lawmaker has resigned just ahead of a new constitutional amendment limiting his ability to become a lobbyist.

Democratic Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis resigned at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. That was one minute before a voter-approved amendment took effect requiring lawmakers to wait two years before registering as lobbyists.

State law had required only a six-month lobbyist waiting period.

Curtis, of Ferguson, will give up about $3,000 in salary by resigning a month before his term was to end. His resignation letter didn’t cite a reason.

There now are 13 vacancies in the 163-member House and three in the 34-member Senate. Nearly a third of those came after voters approved Constitutional Amendment 1 on Nov. 6.

Some left earlier to take jobs in Gov. Mike Parson’s administration.

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House could order new election in North Carolina after allegations of fraud

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says the chamber could take the “extraordinary step” of calling for a new election in a North Carolina congressional district if the winner is unclear amid allegations of voter fraud.

Pelosi said Thursday the House “retains the right to decide who is seated.”

She said “any member-elect can object to the seating and the swearing-in of another member elect.”

Officials in North Carolina are investigating voter fraud allegations. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes, but results are not certified.

Pelosi is nominated to become House speaker when Democrats take control in January. The House Administration committee has “full investigative authority to determine the winner,” she said.

It’s “bigger than that one seat,” she said, but about the “integrity of elections.”

A spokesperson for Speaker Paul Ryan, AshLee Strong, told NBC News: “There is an ongoing investigation by state officials, and the speaker believes that is appropriate.”

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