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Welcome to episode 16 of The Josh Marshall Show, in this episode Josh talks to author and historian Timothy Snyder. They talk about Timothy's book "The Reconstruction of Nations," a book about the evolution of national identity and the organization of national states in northeast Europe going back a bit more than four centuries in what are now the countries of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. To access the full episode, sign up for Prime or purchase the episode for $1.00 on Podbean.

President Donald Trump heaped vague praise on Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday, saying the current version of the bill has “gotten really, really good.”

Trump was responding to a question from The Hill’s Jordan Fabian, who asked him about the health care effort during a joint White House press conference with Trump and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

“Some people on Capitol Hill believe you can get one of two things next week, a vote on health care or a vote on a government funding bill,” Fabian told Trump, before asking which of the two the President prioritized.

“I want to get both. Are you shocked to hear that?” Trump responded. “And we’re doing very well on health care. We’ll see what happens. But this is a great bill. This is a great plan, and this will be great health care. It’s evolving.”

Murmurs Thursday morning of a compromise bill between the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group — the far-right and centrist House Republican groups, respectively — were tempered a few hours later.

“There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count on,” one senior Republican aide told TPM, noting that it wasn’t clear the compromise measure could pass the House.

“You know, there was never a give-up,” Trump continued, apparently referring to Republicans’ failed effort in late March to pass the American Health Care Act through the House.

“The press sort of reported there was like a give-up,” he said. “There’s no give-up. We started. Remember, it took Obamacare 17 months. I’ve really been negotiating this for two months, maybe even less than that, because we had a 30-day period where we did lots of other things, the first 30 days. But this has really been two months, and this is a continuation.”

“The plan gets better and better and better, and it’s gotten really, really good,” Trump continued. “And a lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon, I’d like to say next week, but it will be — I believe we will get it, and whether it’s next week or shortly thereafter.”

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday called off a man’s execution in a 2006 murder-for-hire case, citing concerns about false information provided to jurors that he believes influenced their decision to sentence him to death.

Ivan Teleguz was scheduled to be executed Tuesday, but McAuliffe commuted his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

It’s the first execution that the Democratic governor has stopped since taking office. McAuliffe is a Catholic who has said he’s personally opposed to capital punishment, but will uphold the law as governor.

Teleguz was convicted in 2006 of hiring a man to kill 20-year-old Stephanie Sipe, the mother of his child. Sipe was stabbed to death in her Harrisonburg apartment. Sipe’s mother found her body two days later, along with their 2-year-old son, who was unharmed.

McAuliffe said he believes Teleguz is guilty despite questions raised by attorneys and others after two witnesses recanted their testimony implicating him in the crime.

But McAuliffe said he would spare Teleguz’s life because the jury was told that the man was involved in another murder in Pennsylvania, which never happened. During the trial, it was also suggested that Teleguz was involved with the “Russian Mafia,” but there’s no evidence to support that, McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe said he believes that information made jurors fearful for their safety, noting that they asked the judge whether Teleguz had access to their personal information and addresses.

“To allow a sentence to stand based on false information and speculation is a violation of the very principles of justice our system holds dear,” McAuliffe said.

Teleguz’s attorneys applauded McAuliffe’s decision in a statement, and said the man will continue to fight to clear his name.

“Governor McAuliffe correctly recognized that our system of justice cannot stand by and allow an execution to proceed when jurors were told to impose a death sentence based on false information,” attorneys Elizabeth Peiffer and Michael Williams said in a statement.

Marsha Garst, the lead prosecutor in the case, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The governor had faced mounting pressure to intervene after religious leaders, death penalty opponents and the newspaper in Virginia’s capital city raised concerns about executing a possibly innocent man.

Since Teleguz went to death row, two men who implicated him have said they lied under pressure from investigators they claim were fixated on putting Teleguz away.

Kevin Whitfield, the lead police investigator in the case, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that he has never wavered from his belief that Teleguz is guilty. Sipe’s sister has also said her family still believes Teleguz is responsible.

“I do not have any doubt,” Whitfield said. “I feel as convinced as today as I did back then.”

After the two prosecution witnesses recanted their trial testimony in written affidavits, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a judge to conduct a hearing on Teleguz’s innocence claim.

But the judge rejected Teleguz’s bid after one of the witnesses, Edwin Gilkes, refused to testify and another — who had been deported to Kyrgyzstan — didn’t show up. Michael Hetrick, whose DNA was found at the scene, again testified that Teleguz hired him and Gilkes to kill Sipe.

Teleguz’s attorneys and supporters say that to save his own life, Hetrick told investigators what they wanted to hear.

Teleguz’s family came to the U.S. when he was a child to escape religious persecution in Ukraine, when it was controlled by the Soviet Union. He’s is deeply religious and spends most of his time in prison doing Bible studies, his attorneys said.

McAuliffe has overseen two executions since he took office in 2014. Convicted serial killer Alfredo Prieto was given a lethal injection in October 2015. Ricky Gray, who killed a well-known Richmond family of four, was executed in January.

Eight death row prisoners in Virginia have been granted clemency since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last Virginia governor to spare a condemned man was Gov. Tim Kaine, when he commuted convicted murder Percy Walton’s sentence to life in prison in 2008.

The governor’s decision in Teleguz’s case comes as an aggressive effort in Arkansas to conduct that state’s first executions since 2005 stalled for a second time this week when courts blocked lethal injections. Pharmaceuticals companies and other suppliers have objected to their drugs being used in executions and have been trying to stop states from getting supplies for lethal injections.

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Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at http://twitter.com/aedurkinricher. Read more of her work at http://apne.ws/2hIhzDb

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian panel charged with vetting candidates approved the country’s incumbent president and five challengers but disqualified former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running in next month’s presidential election, state television reported Thursday.

The decision by the Guardian Council means that President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, will face off against a field that includes two prominent hard-liners: Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf.

The Guardian Council, a cleric-dominated body that vets candidates, said it had compiled a final list of candidates earlier Thursday and that the Interior Ministry would announce their names by Sunday.

The panel controls elections and must approve all laws passed by parliament. It has never allowed a woman to run for president and routinely rejects political dissidents and others calling for dramatic reform.

Other presidential candidates who made the cut, according to an Interior Ministry statement carried by state TV, include moderate Senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, former conservative culture minister Mostafa Mirsalim, and former pro-reform vice president Mostafa Hashemitaba.

Ahmadinejad, who remains a deeply polarizing figure even among Iranian hard-liners, had shocked the country by registering last week. Khamenei had previously urged him not to run.

Ahmadinejad was president from 2005 to 2013, and was best known abroad for his incendiary rhetoric toward Israel, his questioning of the scale of the Holocaust and his efforts to ramp up Iran’s nuclear program.

He said upon registering that he was doing so to support his former Vice President Hamid Baghaei, who also failed to receive approval to run.

“He was an unwanted guest in the election,” Tehran-based political analyst Soroush Farhadi said of Ahmadinejad’s disqualification. He predicted the former president would nonetheless remain politically active during the campaign to create a “quasi-opposition face for himself” for the future.

Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a close ally of Ahmadinejad, downplayed the two candidates’ exclusion, saying on social media that Ahmadinejad and Baghaei had only registered out of “national, religious and revolutionary duty.”

“Thank god, the Guardian Council removed the duty from their shoulders,” he wrote.

More than 1,600 people registered to run for the May 19 election.

Under Iran’s clerically overseen system, the president is subordinate to Khamenei, who is Iran’s top decision-maker and has the final say on all matters of state. Khamenei appoints half the Guardian Council’s members.

Rouhani, 68, is hoping voters will deliver him a second term to see out his promises of greater personal freedoms at home and openness to the wider world as he works to turn around Iran’s sagging economy — a top priority for many voters.

The election will be in many ways a referendum on his administration’s negotiation of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. That agreement gave Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for limits to its nuclear program, but has been assailed by hard-liners who believe Iran gave too much away in exchange for too little.

While reliable polling information is not widely available, most political observers see Rouhani as the current front-runner even though he has been unable to significantly turn around Iran’s slumping economy. Every incumbent since Khamenei himself took the presidency in 1981 has won re-election.

Rouhani, though no radical, has the support of many reform-minded Iranians. Khamenei himself also might favor a second term for Rouhani despite his closeness to more hard-line candidates.

“Iranian presidents tend to become much weaker in their second terms, with a key cause being their greater susceptibility to control by the supreme leader and his institutions,” Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote this week. “This helps explain Khamenei’s possible abstention from active support for the hard-line candidates.”

Rouhani’s toughest challenge could come from Raisi, 56, a hard-line cleric and professor of Islamic law who has promised to fight poverty and corruption if he’s elected. Many hard-liners have rallied around Raisi, who got a boost last year when Khamenei appointed him head of an Islamic charity that holds extensive business interests in Iran.

He has held several judiciary positions, including serving as attorney general from 2014 to 2016, and is mentioned as a possible successor for Khamenei himself.

___

Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A group of civil rights organizations sued Georgia on Thursday, accusing the state of violating federal voting rights law by requiring voters to register three months in advance of a federal runoff election. The lawsuit claims that the state’s policy will prevent “untold numbers of people from voting” in the state’s hotly contested runoff in June between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday said that a shooting on France’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées “looks like another terrorist attack,” though few details have emerged yet about what motivated the incident.

“Our condolences from our country to the people of France,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. “It looks like another terrorist attack, and what can you say, it just never ends.”

Trump called the shooting “a terrible thing and it’s a very very terrible thing that’s going on in the world today.”

“We have to be strong and we have to be vigilant,” he said. “And I’ve been saying it for a long time.”

Paris police said that the attacker and one police officer died during the shooting Thursday afternoon, while another officer was wounded. Few details were immediately available about the shooting, though Reuters reported that it “could have been an attempt at an armed robbery.”

A divided 3-judge panel of federal judges ruled Thursday that the Texas legislature in 2011 drew its state house districts with the intention of diluting minority voters.

“With regard to the intentional vote dilution claims under § 2 and the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court finds that Plaintiffs proved their claims in El Paso County (HD78), Bexar County (HD117), Nueces County (the elimination of HD33 and the configuration of HD32 and HD34), HD41 in the Valley, Harris County, western Dallas County (HD103, HD104, and HD105), Tarrant County (HD90, HD93), Bell County (HD54), and with regard to Plan H283 as a whole,” the two-to-one decision, issued from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, said.

The finding is part of a pattern for the Texas legislature. A voter ID law it passed in 2011 has twice been found to have been enacted with intention of discrimination against minorities by a federal judge—the second time after using a higher legal standard laid out by an appeals court. The same panel of judges who decided Thursday’s ruling also found that the Texas legislature drew a handful of U.S. House districts in way that amounted to illegal racial gerrymandering.

A finding of intentional racial discrimination in violation of the Voting Rights Act risks putting Texas back under what is known as pre-clearance, the VRA process requiring certain states and localities to get federal approval for changes to their election laws. Texas was previously under the pre-clearance regime until the Supreme Court in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder gutted the formula determining the pre-clearance states under section 5 of the VRA.

Time will tell if the judges in those cases will seek to put Texas back under pre-clearance via section 3, which still stands. It is likely Texas will appeal those cases, given its history of fighting voting rights decision against it tooth-and-nail, meaning that the Supreme Court may get to weigh in on the state’s relationship with the Voting Right Act.

First daughter and trusted adviser to the President, Ivanka Trump announced Thursday that she is publishing a book about women in the workplace and will set up a charitable fund with part of her advance and book earnings. She said the unpaid part of her advance would be given to charity.

Trump made her announcement of the book, called “Women Who Work,” in a post on her Facebook page. Trump said the book will focus on empowering women in the workplace, though she said she recognized she her experience is not exactly ordinary.

“Like many other professional women, I have juggled the demands that come with growing my family and building my businesses, and I realize that I am more fortunate than most,” she wrote.

Trump said the Ivanka M. Trump Charitable Fund will make donations to The National Urban League and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, non-profits she calls “forward-thinking and innovative.”

Trump said to comply with ethics rules she will not promote her book and said that she wrote it before her father was elected.

“In light of government ethics rules, I want to be clear that this book is a personal project,” she wrote. “I wrote it at a different time in my life, from the perspective of an executive and an entrepreneur, and the manuscript was completed before the election last November. Out of an abundance of caution and to avoid the appearance of using my official role to promote the book, I will not publicize the book through a promotional tour or media appearances.”

Hawaii’s Democratic senators on Thursday quickly went after Attorney General Jeff Sessions for questioning how a federal judge from the Aloha State, which he instead referred to as “an island in the Pacific,” was able to block the Trump administration’s travel ban.

“Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics,” Sen. Mazie Hirono wrote on Twitter, adding that the attorney general’s remarks were “ignorant & dangerous.”

Sen. Brian Schatz also chimed in, urging Sessions to “have some respect” for his home state.

The attorney general made waves by telling conservative radio host Mark Levin on Wednesday that he was “amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.”

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson was one of several federal officials who moved in March to block President Donald Trump’s revised executive order barring refugees and immigrants from six majority-Muslim countries.

As Schatz pointed out, Watson was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 2013, when Sessions was still a Republican senator from Alabama.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seven pro-pot activists have been arrested by U.S. Capitol police while handing out free joints to Congressional staffers and people who work on Capitol Hill.

The demonstration Thursday afternoon was intended as a protest against federal interference with states that have legal marijuana.

Possession of up to 2 ounces of pot is legal in the District of Columbia, and the demonstration was held on city land rather than federal land in an attempt to comply with that law. But in a statement, police say they invoked federal law in making the arrests.

Police say a man and two women were charged with possession with intent to distribute, while four women were charged with simple possession.

One of the organizers, Nikolas Schiller, says police “decided to play politics” with the demonstration.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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