Brennan: Trump Pulling My Clearance Is Attempt To ‘Scare’ Others ‘Into Silence’

As President Donald Trump mulls whether to revoke the security clearance of at least nine other former officials who have been critical of his presidency, former CIA Director John Brennan, whose clearance was abruptly pulled Wednesday afternoon, said the maneuver is just another White House attempt to “scare” others “into silence.”

Continue reading “Brennan: Trump Pulling My Clearance Is Attempt To ‘Scare’ Others ‘Into Silence’”

Conway On Husband’s Tweets: ‘Disrespectful,’ ‘Violation Of Basic Decency, If Not Marital Vows’

White House advisor Kellyanne Conway has a complicated relationship with her husband, George, who is a vocal critic of the her boss, according to a Wednesday Washington Post feature.

On the subject of George’s tweeting, the medium through which he expresses his discontent with the administration, she has harsh words. “It is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows,” she said.

On George’s side of things, he wishes he had never introduced his wife to Donald Trump in the first place. In 2001, the Conways moved into Manhattan’s Trump World Tower where George made an impassioned speech, advocating that Trump’s name stay on the building. Trump was impressed and offered George to join the condo’s board. George, to his great regret, passed on the invitation to his wife.

“Knowing what I know now,” George told the Washington Post, “I would have said no, and never mentioned it when I got home.”  

“If my wife were the counselor to the CEO of Pepsi and I had a problem with her boss, I would simply drink my Coke and keep my mouth shut,” he continued. “If the President were simply mediocre or even bad, I’d have nothing to say. This is much different.”

“I’m just saddened by how things turned out,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Lincoln Library In Debt, Contemplating Selling Off His Top Hat, Bloodied Gloves

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The hunt for auctioneers to settle a $9.7 million debt by selling off parts of a valuable collection of Lincoln artifacts, including an iconic stovepipe hat and gloves bloodied the night he was assassinated, began Wednesday, but the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation cautioned a sale isn’t imminent.

The foundation voted in a private meeting to begin seeking an auction house to dispose of parts of the Taper collection of 1,400 items related to Lincoln in a move that foundation CEO Carla Knorowski said is necessary to meet the debt’s due date, not as a tactic to scare up state funding.

But state officials, including the representative who holds the Illinois House seat in which the 16th president began his political career, raised questions about the timing of the foundation’s action and cautioned there’s still time before Lincoln lore is shipped out Illinois’ door.

The top hat purportedly belonging to the Great Emancipator and the blood-stained kid gloves are the crown jewels of an extraordinary bevy which also includes the quill pen left on Lincoln’s desk when he died; his presidential seal, replete with wax left on it from its last use; a book with his earliest known writings; notes between Lincoln and his wife, Mary; and Lincoln White House china.

“Lincoln is an economic engine. He always has been,” Knorowski told The Associated Press. “He’s what people look for, he’s who people look to. To this day, they ask, ‘What would Lincoln do?’ These items, whether it’s the hat or the gloves or a lock of his hair, they tell the story of the leader among leaders.”

The $25 million collection was purchased in 2007 by borrowing $23 million — Taper donated $2 million worth of items. There’s a $9.7 million balance due in October 2019 on a loan that’s been re-financed and has strained the patience of private contributors.

While no one wants to see Illinois lose any of the items, Knorowski said, the process for preparing to sell has to begin now. It took ten months to arrange and auction off Taper-collection items which belonged to movie star Marilyn Monroe.

Rep. Tim Butler, the Springfield Republican who represents largely the same area Lincoln did in the House for four terms beginning in 1834 , isn’t convinced the move is necessary.

“This is a really bad sign that they’ve started these proceedings,” Butler said. “I realize they’ve got to do some planning, but I would hope that the foundation wouldn’t move to that step until the absolutely last minute.”

There’s no question that the brash action serves as a wake-up call to anyone, including state officials, who might think it couldn’t happen. It could bolster foundation hopes to tap $5 million in tourism promotion funds — paid for by hotel occupancy taxes — that could serve as a “challenge” grant to inspire private contributors to put up the rest.

“After 11 years of fundraising for a specific campaign, there comes a point at which you have donor fatigue,” Knorowski said. “They need a new song, they need a new angle. … A tourism grant would break the logjam.”

Butler called turning to the state budget a “last step” after the foundation has “exhausted every avenue.”

Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, noted the idea for tax dollars is coming from a board “which the state government does not control, nor has a voice in, nor has an opportunity to review all their books.”

“The taxpayers probably have a lot of questions,” Schuh said.

Interim steps on debt reduction have shown good faith, if few dollars. The nine items associated with the late movie star Marilyn Monroe, including a dress that sold for $50,000 in June, were auctioned in Las Vegas. A foundation staff member started a crowdsourcing GoFundMe campaign , which has raised just over $10,000 from 213 people.

The foundation will request proposals from auction houses and interview bidders for their expertise and suggestions on how to set up a sale, Knorowski said. She said how quickly one would be hired and in place to begin the auction process would depend in part on the auctioneer. A Taper-collection sale could involve more than one auction house, she said.

Senate Report: Government Is Putting Migrant Children At ‘Significant Risk’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has made only incremental improvements to its troubled efforts to care for thousands of migrant children detained entering the U.S. without their parents, perpetuating a problem the Trump administration has aggravated with its “zero tolerance” immigration crackdown, a bipartisan Senate report said Wednesday.

Continue reading “Senate Report: Government Is Putting Migrant Children At ‘Significant Risk’”

Midwestern Dems Look For Big Midterm Gains After Decade Of Electoral Disaster

RACINE, WI — As he campaigned for GOP Senate candidate Leah Vukmir on Monday, retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) took a moment to bask in his party’s years-long streak of dominance.

“We have grown a lot. We have done really well here in Wisconsin. Remember when we didn’t have the assembly, or the Senate, or the Supreme Court, or a U.S. Senate seat, or the governor’s mansion, or the attorney general? We’ve won all those things since 2010,” he said, before turning to Vukmir. “We have one more hill to climb.”

But that hill’s looking much steeper this year in Ryan’s backyard than it has in nearly a decade. And Democrats, for the first time since President Obama ascended to the White House in 2008, are feeling like they’re running downhill in Wisconsin and other nearby Midwestern states that have shifted hard away from them in recent years.

Midwestern Democrats seem poised to roar back in the Midwest, riding a wave of suburban fury at President Trump, sky-high base enthusiasm, conservative-leaning and rural voters’ worry about Trump’s trade wars, and local dissatisfaction with GOP leadership over a number of bread-and-butter issues.

That’s especially true in the four Midwestern states where low Democratic enthusiasm helped Trump flip from Obama last election, handing him the White House: Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

In all four states, Democrats see a real shot at winning back the governor’s mansions that have eluded them for the past two cycles. Their three senators who face the voters this year — Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — appear likely to cruise to reelection. Four of the 27 House seats the Cook Political Report rates as GOP-held tossup races are in these states.

Voters in the very states that have moved right the hardest and powered Trump to the White House appear ready to punish his party, amidst signs that Democrats are getting off the mat and ready to make them look purple once more.

“This is the toughest election I’ve ever faced as governor,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) told TPM after a campaign stop Monday in Platteville, a small town in the state’s far southwest corner.

To take advantage of the national and regional mood, Democrats have nominated four gubernatorial candidates who inspire descriptions like “solid” and “steady” from various strategists and voters but don’t exactly light the world on fire. They’re focusing heavily on bread-and-butter issues like infrastructure, education and health care to go after their GOP foes.

Tony Evers in Madison, Wisconsin on primary election night, Aug. 14, 2018. (credit: Cameron Joseph/TPM)

Wisconsin state Superintendent of Education Tony Evers (D), who won his party’s nomination on Tuesday, has taken to calling the state’s many potholes “Scott-holes,” and has largely focused on Walker’s cuts to schools. Michigan gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign slogan is “Fix the damn roads.” The brand of economic populism Democrats’ Ohio gubernatorial nominee, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray, sounds a lot less fierce coming from him than like-minded Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Iowa gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell (D), an older, white businessman, lists education as his top priority as a candidate.

They may not be the most fiery candidates — but Democratic primary voters, who turned out in droves for these candidates (many of them winning over more vocal populists), seem fine with that if it means they can win and stop the conservative onslaught that has led to gutted unions, voter access crackdowns, and other hardline policies in the once-purple states.

“If you look across the map, what you’re seeing in the upper Midwest, with Cordray in Ohio, Whitmer in Michigan, Evers in Wisconsin, you’re going to see a lot of these states nominating relatively tame contenders,” said John Nichols, a Madison-based progressive journalist who writes for The Nation. “People really do feel beaten down by these last eight years in most of these states, and they didn’t just get beat by the other party, they faced what felt to an awful lot of them like structural assaults.”

Eight Years In The Desert

It’s hard to understate how bad the Obama years were for down-ballot Democrats in the Midwest — and how much of a psychic toll that took on his party. When Obama was elected in 2008, Democrats held the governor’s mansions in all four states. That ended in 2010, when Republicans flipped all four. They held them in 2014.

Heading into the 2010 midterms, Democrats held 26 House seats in the four states to just 20 for the GOP — 56 percent of the seats in the region. Today, they have just 13 seats to 29 for the GOP, 31 percent.

That’s partly because Republicans, suddenly in control of the states after 2010, gerrymandered all of those states but Iowa to make sure they’d hold lopsided margins in their congressional delegations and state legislatures. But that’s not the only reason: Most Democrats simply haven’t connected well with voters in these states, or have gotten caught up in bad national waves.

Iowa Democrats can’t blame gerrymandering: When the nonpartisan commission drew its congressional map, many predicted they had a strong chance at winning three of the state’s four House seats. Today, they hold just one.

Democrats had six of the states’ eight Senate seats after the 2008 elections. Now they have four. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) is the only Democrat who won a Senate race during this stretch without Obama’s coattails.

The final blow came in 2016, when Trump carried all four states, pulling off surprises in Michigan and Wisconsin to put him in the White House. His late surge helped carry Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) to a surprise reelection over former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI).

Those ghosts still haunt local Democrats, who warn against getting too complacent.

That includes Baldwin, who worries that national Democrats will assume she’ll be fine and not invest the resources necessary to help her survive an onslaught of outside money, much like what happened to Feingold.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in Milwaukee, Aug. 14, 2018 (credit: Cameron Joseph/TPM)

“We’ve banned the phrase ‘blue wave’ in our campaign. I feel like people begin to take things for granted,” Baldwin told TPM during a primary-day campaign stop in northwest Milwaukee on Tuesday.

She instead warned of the “green wave” of cash from the conservative billionaires who’ve long fueled Wisconsin’s GOP operation.

The Pendulum Swings Back

Other Democrats who saw how hard it is not to drown in a wave are feeling confident that the undertow will claim their opponents this time.

All four states have a long history that predates Obama of backing whichever party doesn’t hold the White House. Democrats hope that longstanding pattern will continue.

Former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI) lost in the GOP wave in 2010, then fell short in his bid to defeat Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in 2014, another Republican wave year.

He joked that he had “cycle envy.”

“It’s a significantly different political environment,” Schauer said, pointing to a huge Democratic surge in primary voters, a sign of lopsided base enthusiasm that also played out in Ohio and Wisconsin this year.

Democrats have seen plenty of other encouraging signs in those states. They flipped a pair of state Senate seats in Wisconsin special elections, and won a state Supreme Court race in a rout. In Iowa, they held onto a state legislative seat that Trump had won by a 21-point margin in 2016. Last week in Ohio, they just missed flipping a heavily Republican open House seat outside of Columbus.

Republicans agree.

“We know this is tough,” said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Iowa Republican Party, who warned there was a good chance his party would lose the governorship and two of their three House seats in the state. “There’s going to be a reaction to the Trump presidency and it makes life much more difficult.”

These aren’t the only Midwestern states that matter this year where Democrats are hoping a strong environment can help them hold their current seats and pick up some new ones. In a similar vein is nearby Minnesota, which Trump almost carried in 2016. Democrats look like they’ll hold the governor’s seat and both Senate seats, and are defending two House seats and looking to pick up three more. In Illinois, Democrats expect to retake the governor’s mansion and seriously contest three or four GOP-held House seats. In GOP-leaning Missouri and Indiana, Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) are staying competitive in tough races that the party likely must win to keep alive Democrats’ slim hopes of capturing the Senate.

The Stakes

These states and their neighbors play an obvious role in Democrats’ push for congressional control, and seizing at least one lever of power is crucial for Democrats to be able to block more policies that are anathema to their views. They might even be able to push through Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin if they do well enough in state legislative races.

The governor’s mansions make a big difference for congressional control as well: If Democrats win them, they’ll be able to block GOP House gerrymanders for the next decade.

And of course, these are the states Democrats need to figure out how to win again if they’re going to keep Trump from getting reelected.

“For the blue wave to catch, it needs to wash across the Great Lakes states, not just the coasts,” longtime Michigan Democratic strategist Jill Alper told TPM.

Posted in DC

Yes, I Agree

From TPM Reader JO

Great job by Tierney and Caitlin covering the Manafort trial. Their dispatches were every bit as good as Wapo, and generally better than the NYTimes. In particular, they showed a great touch for identifying the evidence that illustrated the prosecution’s game plan of corroborating Manafort’s knowledge and complicity with a thousand small lies and deceptions. Many news orgs just focused on the “drama” of provacative questions. Tierney and Caitlin recogized the broader patterns.

It would be truly shocking if Manafort is not convicted of many if not most counts. Of course, juries do crazy things, so we know until we know.

Again, fabulous job by the team.

Report Done On Boy’s Near-Hanging, But Not Released

CLAREMONT, N.H. (AP) — Almost a year after an 8-year-old biracial boy was nearly hanged, the New Hampshire attorney general’s office says a legal dispute is preventing it from releasing a report on its investigation.

Allegations have surfaced that several teenagers taunted the boy in Claremont with racial slurs on Aug. 28 and then pushed him off a picnic table with a rope around his neck. The boy’s grandmother had said his injuries were treated at a hospital.

The attorney general’s office says Wednesday that once its investigation was complete, it sought a court order to release the report, “due to confidentiality constraints and the ages of the children involved.”

The office says the report hasn’t been released because litigation over whether it may be released “is ongoing.” It didn’t provide further details.

Report: SEC Subpoenas Tesla About CEO’s Buyout Plans

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Wall Street Journal is reporting that government regulators have subpoenaed Tesla as they dig deeper into CEO Elon Musk’s recent disclosure about a potential buyout of the electric car maker.

The subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission demands information from each of Tesla’s nine directors. The Journal cited an unidentified person familiar with the matter. Fox Business News was the first to report the SEC’s action.

Both Tesla and the SEC declined to comment Wednesday.

The SEC opened an inquiry shortly after Musk surprised investors with an August 7 tweet revealing that he lined up the financing to buy all the Tesla stock from shareholders willing to sell.

The subpoena signals regulators have now opened a formal investigation into whether Musk was telling the truth in his tweet.

Brennan: Trump Revoking My Clearance Is ‘His Way Of Trying To Get Back At Me’

Former CIA Director John Brennan on Wednesday called President Donald Trump’s decision to strip his security clearance “part of a broader effort” to “suppress freedom of speech & punish critics.”

“I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he’s done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace.

“Revoking my security clearances is his way of trying to get back at me,” Brennan added.

The White House has never cited any abuse by Brennan of his security clearance during Trump’s presidency.

Watch below:

Republicans Flip Out Over Pearl Jam’s ‘Gory’ Poster Depicting Trump Corpse

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Republicans on Wednesday condemned a poster by Pearl Jam that shows the White House in flames and a bald eagle pecking at a skeleton they say is meant to depict President Donald Trump.

The National Republican Senate Committee compared it to the now-infamous photo of comedian Kathy Griffin holding a fake decapitated Trump head.

The rock group’s Twitter account says the official poster from Monday’s concert in Missoula, Montana, is a collaboration between bassist Jeff Ament and Bobby Brown, an artist also known as Bobby Draws Skulls.

The “Rock2Vote” concert aimed to encourage young people to vote in the November midterm elections and support Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who is from Ament’s hometown of Big Sandy.

The poster includes an accompanying message from Ament that says, “Y’all know the deal, we’re at a tipping point and its (sic) time for action.”

The poster shows Tester in a tractor flying over a burning Washington, D.C., framed by the letters “P” and “J,” with smoke forming the word “Vote” in the background.

Several objects and people are in the foreground, including a skeleton with a full head of hair lying face down, an eagle pecking at the bones of its foot.

Tester’s Republican opponent, Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale, also is depicted with a crab claw for a hand and carrying a “Maryland” flag, a reference to Rosendale’s native state.

The message from Ament accompanying the poster included the description: “D.C. burning. Tester Evel Knievel on tractor … over the cesspool below. Russian money, golf courses, hookers? Maryland Matt. Stars and Stripes as flames.”

Rosendale called the poster “disgusting and reprehensible” and called on Tester to “denounce this act of violence and blatant display of extremism.”

The National Republican Senate Committee, which is supporting Rosendale’s campaign, also blamed Tester for not speaking out against the poster it called “gory.” The committee compared it to other examples of public figures “encouraging violence” against Trump, like Griffin’s photo.

Tester officials said the campaign had nothing to do with the poster.

“We never saw the poster before the show and we don’t like it,” Tester spokesman Chris Meagher said. “And we don’t condone violence of any kind.”

Pearl Jam was traveling Wednesday and not immediately available for comment, according to Whitney Williams, a publicist for the Missoula concert.

Ament told The Associated Press in April that the band wanted to use the Montana concert to support local advocacy groups, encourage voter participation and boost Tester’s campaign. He said he believed that the political climate had become too divisive.

“Probably more than ever it’s important to have a congressman that can sort of make people think less emotionally about some of these things,” he said.

Trump Revoked Brennan’s Clearance Weeks Ago, Doc Says. Sanders Said It Was ‘Today’

Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday announced President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, but neglected to say that decision had apparently been made three weeks ago, according to a document distributed to members of the media after Wednesday’s press briefing.

Sanders announced the security clearance revocation without any mention that it seemingly wasn’t breaking news, nor any explanation for why it had apparently been kept a secret.

“Today, in fulfilling that responsibility [to protect the nation’s classified information], I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan,” Sanders read, quoting a statement from Trump.

But the statement was dated July 26, according to a document distributed to members of the media.

Sanders first mentioned that Trump was looking into revoking the security clearances of several critics of his — all of whom were former intelligence and national security officials — on July 23.

Why did Sanders maintain that Trump ordered Brennan’s clearance revoked on Wednesday? Was the July 26 date a mistake? Or, was it perhaps because she’d have some difficult questions to deal with today otherwise, on whether the President has used racial slurs, or how she could have screwed up statistics she cited regarding African American employment during the Obama administration.

Sanders didn’t respond to TPM’s request for comment about the Trump statement. But the White House seems to have realized it made an error.

Twitter CEO Calls ‘Time Out’ The Right Response To Alex Jones’ Call To Arms

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday stood behind his company’s decision to temporarily ban conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from the platform, rather than permanently ban him and his program as other tech platforms have done, after Jones on Tuesday called for supporters to ready their “battle rifles” against members of the media.

“Any suspension, whether it be a permanent or a temporary one, makes someone think about their actions and their behaviors,” Dorsey told NBC News’ Lester Holt, after calling the temporary ban a “time out.”

Jones was banned for a week from the platform after posting a Periscope video in which he urged viewers to ready their “battle rifles.”

“People need to have their battle rifles and everything ready at their bedsides, and you’ve got to be ready, because the media is so disciplined in their deception,” he said.

“Whether it works within this case to change some of those behaviors and change some of those actions, I don’t know,” Dorsey added later. “But this is consistent with how we enforce.”

Trump Strips John Brennan Of Security Clearance

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that President Donald Trump is revoking the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who served during the Obama administration and has been a vocal critic of Trump.

Sanders accused Brennan of “erratic conduct and behavior,” including using his “access to highly sensitive information” to make “outrageous allegations” and “wild outbursts” about the administration.

Brennan is outspoken in his disagreement with the President, most recently criticizing Trump’s characterization of former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman as a “dog.”

Per CNN, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was not consulted about the revocation.

Sanders then listed a group of former officials with security clearance—all who happen to be political opponents of the President’s—whose current status is now under review.

That list includes former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI Agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.

Sanders first threatened the security clearance of Brennan and some of the “under review” list in late July, accusing them of making “baseless charges” with “zero evidence.”

Watch below:

Trumpian Cognition and the Specter of the Russia Probe

When I wrote this post about Trump’s pre-Twitter, 2011-12 video blog I went back and watched a decent number of the mini-episodes. One of the things I watch for in watching these – just can’t help it – is his verbal focus and precision. (Here’s the video series I’m talking about.) Watch video of Trump from twenty years ago and it’s very, very different from the guy you see now. There was some of this in these videos from less than a decade ago. But there was something else that I noticed, something that took me a while to quite put my finger on because it’s the absence of something. Continue reading “Trumpian Cognition and the Specter of the Russia Probe”

Report: Hackers Targeted Dem Opponent Of Putin Darling Rep. Rohrabacher

The FBI has been investigating a year-long series of successful cyberattack against the campaign of Dr. Hans Keirstead, a Democrat who ran against Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican incumbent in California who is widely regarded as Russia’s most ardent defender in Congress, Rolling Stone reported Wednesday.

Continue reading “Report: Hackers Targeted Dem Opponent Of Putin Darling Rep. Rohrabacher”

When Sarah Sanders And The ACLU Teamed Up For Voting Rights

As the midterm elections approach, Republican state officials and lawmakers have stepped up efforts to block students from voting in their college towns. Republicans in Texas pushed through a law last year requiring voters to carry one of seven forms of photo identification, including handgun licenses but excluding student IDs. In June, the GOP-controlled legislature in North Carolina approved early voting guidelines that have already resulted in closing of polling locations at several colleges. And last month, New Hampshire’s Republican governor signed a law that prevents students from voting in the state unless they first register their cars and obtain driver’s licenses there.

One nationally prominent Republican, however, once took the opposite stance on student voting. As an undergraduate at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee — now White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — sued to allow students to vote after being one of more than 900 purged from the county’s rolls.

“It’s almost like taxation without representation,” she said at the time. “They thought that because we were young that they could walk all over us, but obviously that’s not the case.”

Illustrating the adage that politics makes strange bedfellows, the 2002 lawsuit paired a then-20-year-old Sanders with the American Civil Liberties Union. It began, as disputes over student voting often do, with a town-and-gown conflict. Reversing the usual pattern, a Democrat rather than a Republican instigated the student disenfranchisement.

For Sanders, the daughter of Arkansas’ then-governor Mike Huckabee, the little-known episode helped her carve out a niche as a political activist in her own right. It remains relevant today both because of her influential post in the Trump administration and because it suggests that Republican efforts to restrict student voting are largely pragmatic — intended to maximize the party’s electoral chances — and could change as circumstances warrant. It also indicates that Democratic support for on-campus voting may similarly hinge on the expectation that most students lean to the left.

While the Trump administration hasn’t weighed in specifically on student voting rights, it has supported states that impose voter identification requirements or purge voter rolls. By contrast, the Obama administration pushed to expand access to the polls. Contacted by ProPublica, Sanders requested a list of written questions, but then did not respond to them.

“It’s not lost on us that Sanders has joined an administration that is actively defending unlawful voter purges and voter disenfranchisement,” said Rita Sklar, who was executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas when it represented Sanders, and holds the same position today. “Maybe she can talk to her boss about it.”

The events that cast Sanders as a voting rights advocate stemmed from an election in Clark County, Arkansas, where Ouachita Baptist is located. In 1998, before Sanders enrolled there, an Ouachita junior named Jonathan Huber, who grew up in Louisiana, was elected to the county governing board.

While the student body at OBU, a small, religious college in southwest Arkansas, favored Republicans, the surrounding county historically voted Democratic. Huber, who told ProPublica he was the first Republican to win an election in the county since Reconstruction, credited his victory to the hundreds of college students he helped register to vote.

The students’ electoral muscle angered Floyd Thomas Curry, a Democratic attorney who lived in Huber’s district. In 2002, when Huber — who by then had graduated from Ouachita and settled in the area — was up for re-election to the governing board, Curry sued the county. He argued that, as temporary residents, students did not qualify to vote there.

“It became clear that my right to vote was just going down the drain,” Curry said at the time. “Even if these students voted the way I do, it’s still diluting my vote.”

A circuit court judge agreed. Just two weeks before the election, past the voter registration deadline and with early voting underway, Judge John A. Thomas ordered the county clerk to purge from the voter rolls anyone other than faculty or staff who registered using on-campus addresses, thus disenfranchising Sanders and 911 other students from OBU and neighboring Henderson State University. Thomas’s ruling cited an Arkansas law that temporary residents, including students, should vote in their hometowns — which, for Sanders, was Little Rock.

Sanders’ father, Gov. Mike Huckabee, assailed the decision. In the midst of a successful bid for re-election, he denounced the court order as an “absolute outrage,” “one of the worst things that’s happened in Arkansas politics in a long time,” and an example of the perils of “one-party fiefdom.” Shortly thereafter, he phoned Sklar, the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas.

“Well, Rita,” Sklar recalled the governor saying. “I guess there’s something else we agree on beyond not executing juveniles.” Huckabee did not respond to requests for comment.

Days later, the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit in federal district court in Little Rock on behalf of the disenfranchised students, with Sanders and four others named as plaintiffs. “It was an opportunity to bring a fairly standard student voting rights case about residency but in the reverse context where the victims, if you will, were conservative rather than liberal,” said Bryan Sells, then a staff attorney on the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who represented the students.

The ACLU’s involvement demonstrated its willingness to represent groups on both sides of the political spectrum. “It’s the kind of thing you wish people remembered when they start accusing the ACLU of being the legal arm of the Democratic Party,” Sklar said.

The ACLU contended that the constitutional guarantee of the right to vote overrode the Arkansas statute. While a state may impose reasonable residency restrictions, Sells argued, it cannot presume an entire class of voters — in this case students — are not residents without presenting a compelling reason. The lead plaintiff, Adam Copeland, grew up in foster care and had no home other than his on-campus housing.

Another plaintiff, J.D. Hays Jr., grew up a half-mile away from campus but had registered to vote using his college address. His father taught at OBU. Thomas’ ruling “meant that I couldn’t vote in the county that I grew up in. I didn’t have some other county,” Hays recalled recently. “I couldn’t go home to vote. I was home already.”

Sanders, who had served in high school as secretary of the Arkansas Federation of Teenage Republicans, became the students’ de facto spokesperson with the media, foreshadowing her White House role. A week before the election, U.S. District Court Judge George Howard Jr. ordered the county clerk to restore all purged individuals onto the voter rolls.

“I am very excited and very pleased,” Sanders told the press after her father called her in class to tell her about the ruling. “There’s still a lot to be done.”

Benefiting from the student vote, Huber was re-elected and went on to serve in the position for eight more years; he’s now a lawyer and licensed real estate broker in Clark County. Sanders graduated from Ouachita in 2004.

Republican efforts to suppress student voting became more prevalent after college-age turnout spiked in the 2008 election, contributing to Obama’s victory, said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. In 2014, Florida’s division of elections under a Republican secretary of state barred counties from placing early voting locations on college campuses. Saying that this policy created “a stark pattern of discrimination,” a federal judge last month ruled that campus buildings in Florida can be open for early voting this fall.

Sells, Sanders’ former ACLU attorney, said he hopes that her views haven’t changed and that she could be a voice within the Trump administration for broadening access to the ballot box. “If the occasion ever comes up in her job where she’s asked about voting rights, I hope she recognizes how important it was to her and to her fellow plaintiffs at the time, how important it is to other people who are seeking to vindicate their voting rights,” he said.

Sixteen years later, Floyd Thomas Curry now regrets seeking to suppress student votes. “When I realized I was opposed by the ACLU, I thought, ‘Gee, maybe I’m not right,’” Curry said in a recent interview. “In retrospect, I was dead wrong. It was not my proudest moment.”

The voting rights that Sanders helped Ouachita and Henderson students regain may still be paying dividends for Republicans. In 2016, Trump carried the once reliably Democratic county by 9 percentage points.

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Manafort Attorney Takes Dig At Mueller, Attacks Gates In Closing Arguments

ALEXANDRIA, VA — Closing arguments in Paul Manafort’s trial in Virginia featured a prosecution focused on Manafort’s “lies” and his defense’s claim that there major were holes in the government’s narrative about Manafort’s alleged bank fraud and tax fraud.

Manafort attorney Richard Westling made a number of sly digs at special counsel Robert Mueller. He claimed that the allegedly fraudulent loans weren’t being scrutinized “until the special counsel showed up and started asking questions” and, speaking about a particular Manafort loan in the case, he said that “typical DOJ prosecutors” do not prosecute people for pursuing loans in the way that Manafort had.

Because of those comments about a “selective” prosecution, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis said he would give members of the jury an additional instruction before they go to deliberation: “to ignore any argument about the Department of Justice’s motives or lack thereof” in bringing this case against Manafort.

Prosecution Walks Through Each Charge

Prosecutor Greg Andres handled the government’s closing argument, and in his inital hour and 40 minutes worth of remarks, he appeared calm as he deliberately laid out Mueller’s case. The jurors appeared attentive and most of them took what appeared to be meticulous notes.

Andres repeatedly argued that the evidence against Manafort is “overwhelming” as he discussed certain charges. He broke down each charge — which includes five counts of tax fraud, four counts of failure to file foreign bank account reports, five counts of bank fraud conspiracy, and four counts to bank fraud — by its particular elements.

Andres reminded the jury of testimony in which Manafort’s bookkeeper and tax accountants said that they unaware of his foreign business accounts. He also brought up charts that an expert witness had brought to the stand showing the amount of income Manafort reported to the government and the amount he hid each year — including some $15 million dollars that allegedly made it from Manafort’s foreign accounts to his vendors without being reported as income.

During the defense’s closing argument, Westling sought to rebut the foreign bank account allegations by displaying for the jury some of the signatures on documents Manafort’s used to open the accounts and noting how they differed from Manafort’s signature on documents taken from his apartment.

“Clearly something was going on with how the foreign banks were signed,” Westling said.

Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing, with whom Westling shared the defense’s closing argument, attempted to paint the tax and FBAR charges as more complicated than prosecutors made them out to be, and placed some blame for any confusion on Manafort’s accountants. He also took issue with some of the calculations made by the prosecution’s expert witness, arguing that he “assumed” every deposit into Manafort’s foreign accounts was income.

“Speculating or assuming is not the basis for a criminal conviction,” Downing said.

Downing argued that Manafort actually reported “almost all” of his income. He also suggested that Manafort’s accountants may have made him believe that classifying income as a loan (a scheme prosecutors focused on) was appropriate.

Downing’s argument, that Manafort was not to blame for the errors on his tax return, had been expected by Andres, however; in his initial remarks, he described Manafort as “capable and bright.”

Defense Goes After Gates

In the second half of the defense team’s closing argument, Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing spent time attacking Rick Gates, Manafort’s former deputy who pleaded guilty and began cooperating with investigators. Downing claimed that the signatures bearing Manafort’s name on foreign bank accounts did not actually belong to Manafort himself, signaling that Gates was holding the reins in any schemes involving overseas money.

Downing said that Gates came to court last week trying to “look all clean shaven” but that he showed himself to be a “liar.” (Gates wore a beard in previous court appearances related to special counsel Mueller’s probe.) Downing lamented that Manafort trusted Gates while he was stealing from him.

“How foolish he must feel,” Downing said, referring to Manafort.

<<enter caption here>> on February 23, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, DC, for a hearing at which he would plead guilty, February 23, 2018. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Downing went on to charge that the special counsel’s office was “so desperate” to go after Manafort that it secured a plea deal with Gates. He then suggested that jurors could not rely on Gates’ testimony that he had discussions with Manafort about hiding some of his foreign income and accounts.

“He’s just fabricating it to get his probationary deal,” Downing said.

The attacks on Gates too had been anticipated by Andres, who in his initial round of remarks acknowledged some Gates’ unsavory conduct while arguing that it made sense that Manafort intentionally “didn’t choose a boy scout” when tapping Gates to assist him in his alleged crimes.

“What about Mr. Gates’ affairs?” Andres asked, referencing a question asked by the Manafort’s attorneys when they questioned Gates on the stand.

“Was it to distract you?” Andres asked further.

He told the jury that he does not expect them to take Gates’ testimony “at face value” and instead asked them to “verify” Gates’ claims with testimony from other witnesses.

Later, in his closing argument, Downing defended his decision to mention Gates’ affairs. He said that he only brought it up to reveal that Gates was stealing from Manafort because he was living beyond his means.

“He couldn’t even get his story straight,” Downing said of Gates.

Andres returned to the Gates point during his 15-minute rebuttal, pointing out emails offered in the case that didn’t include Gates as well as those from Manafort giving him directions.

“You are the quarterback,” one of Manafort’s emails to Gates said.

“Guess who the coach of that team is,” Andres remarked.

‘The Star Witness In This Case Is The Documents.’

When laying out the government’s bank fraud allegations, Andres paid particularly close attention to the emails, memos and other documents offered in the prosection’s case.

“The star witness in this case is the documents,” Andres said.

Andres spent a great deal of his initial remarks walking the jury through the first bank fraud charges, which related to a $3.4 million loan from Citizen’s Bank. He then breezed through the remaining loans, perhaps because he felt he was running low on time or because he felt that evidence was fresher in jurors’ minds.

He reminded the jury that prosecutors admitted evidence suggesting that Manafort submitted false documents inflating his income, backdated documents claiming a loan was forgiven, and lied to banks about where he lived and which properties had mortgages.

Westling attacked the charges of bank fraud conspiracy, which make up about half of the total bank fraud charges, by arguing that the government hadn’t shown any such agreement and that prosecutors had in fact stressed that loans only benefitted Manafort. He took apart each claim about individual loans, pointing to evidence that suggested that Manafort did correct information by the time of the closing and arguing that some of Manafort’s representations had no bearing on whether the bank would have approved the loan. He focused on the allegedly fraudulent loans from Federal Savings Bank — whose CEO was a Trump campaign advisor and allegedly promised a role in the administration.

Westling, for his part, argued that not only Gates, but Manafort’s bookkeepers and accounts, and the employees at the banks where he was seeking loans, were often included in emails where the allegedly misleading information was represented for the loans. Westling argued that Manafort was not concealing his conduct the way one would expect of someone seeking to defraud a bank.

Westling also attacked the government’s narrative that Manafort was broke when he turned to seeking allegedly fraudulent loans. He pointed to a bank’s 2017 memo, based on the understanding that Manafort made no income in 2016, showing Manafort with an adjusted net worth of $21 million.

“How can we say he didn’t have money?” Westling asked.

Andres, in his rebuttal, questioned those claims about Manafort’s worth, and said that those numbers were as false as the allegedly doctored financial statements Manafort provided to the bank.

(This post has been updated.)

Closing Arguments Underway In The Manafort Trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Paul Manafort lied to keep himself flush with cash and to maintain his luxurious lifestyle when his income dropped off, prosecutors told jurors Wednesday in closing arguments in the former Trump campaign chairman’s financial fraud trial.

The government’s case boils down to “Mr. Manafort and his lies,” prosecutor Greg Andres said.

“When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort’s money, it is littered with lies,” Andres said as he made his final pitch that the jury should weigh a trove of evidence presented over the past few weeks and find Manafort guilty of 18 felony counts.

Attorneys for Manafort, who is accused of tax evasion and bank fraud, will have their chance in front of jurors later in the day.

Andres took jurors through a methodical rundown of the 18 charges, and the documentary evidence supporting each.

A screen showed jurors emails written by Manafort that contained some of the most damning evidence indicating he was aware of the fraud, and not simply a victim of underlings who managed his financial affairs.

“Mr. Manafort’s scheme, when you break it down, was not all that complicated. But it was hidden, for sure,” Andres said.

Andres highlighted one email in which he said Manafort sent an inflated statement of his income to bank officers reviewing a loan application he submitted. He highlighted another in which Manafort acknowledged his control of one of more than 30 holding companies in Cyprus that prosecutors say Manafort used to funnel more than $60 million he earned advising politicians in Ukraine.

Prosecutors say Manafort falsely declared that money to be loans rather than income to keep from paying taxes on it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, a loan is not income, and income is not a loan. You do not need to be a tax expert to understand this,” Andres said.

Several jurors took notes while Andres talked; others gazed attentively. Manafort primarily directed his gaze at the computer screen where documents were shown, rather than looking at jurors.

Manafort chose not to testify or call any witnesses in his defense.

The case doesn’t address allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been tasked with investigating those allegations, as well as possible collusion with the Trump campaign, although that’s not part of the fraud case against Manafort.

But as a result of the ongoing probe, Mueller’s legal team says it discovered Manafort hiding millions of dollars in income he received advising Ukrainian politicians. The defense has tried to blame Manafort’s financial mistakes on his former deputy, Rick Gates. Defense attorneys have called Gates a liar, philanderer and embezzler as they’ve sought to undermine his testimony.

The defense rested its case Tuesday more than two-hour hearing that was closed to the public. The judge has not given any explanation for the sealed proceeding, only noting that a transcript of it would become public after Manafort’s case concludes.

Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, told reporters outside the courthouse that they chose not to present a defense case because they believe “the government has not met its burden of proof.”

Also Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III rejected a defense motion that the case should be dismissed on those same grounds. Manafort’s lawyers asked the judge to toss out all the charges, but they focused in particular on four bank-fraud charges.

The government says Manafort hid at least $16 million in income from the IRS between 2010 and 2014 by disguising the money he earned advising politicians in Ukraine as loans and hiding it in foreign banks. Then, after his money in Ukraine dried up, they allege he defrauded banks by lying about his income on loan applications and concealing other financial information, such as mortgages.

Manafort’s lawyers argued there is no way that one of the banks, Federal Savings Bank, could have been defrauded because its chairman, Stephen Calk, knew full well that Manafort’s finances were in disarray but approved the loan to Manafort anyway. Witnesses testified that Calk pushed the loans through because he wanted a post in the Trump administration.

Ellis, in making his ruling, said the defense made a “significant” argument, but that the decision was “an issue for the jury” to decide.

Prosecutors rested their case on Monday, closing two weeks of a testimony in which they introduced a trove of documentary evidence as they sought to prove Manafort’s guilt on 18 separate criminal counts. The prosecution depicted Manafort as using the millions of dollars hidden in offshore accounts to fund a luxurious lifestyle.

While the case against Manafort does not relate to any allegations of Russian election interference or possible coordination with the Trump campaign, the proceedings have drawn President Donald Trump’s attention — and prompted tweets — as the president has worked to undermine the standing of the Mueller investigation in the public square.

Trump has distanced himself from Manafort, who led the campaign from May to August 2016 with Gates at his side. Gates struck a plea deal with prosecutors and has provided much of the drama of the trial so far.

Gates testified that he helped Manafort commit crimes in an effort to lower his tax bill and fund his lavish lifestyle. During testimony, Gates was also forced to admit embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and conducting an extramarital affair.

After jurors were excused on Tuesday, lawyers for both sides conferred with the judge in open court on the language Ellis will use to instruct the jurors in their deliberations.

The only dispute was about what jurors should be told about how to interpret questions and comments interjected by the judge during the course of the trial.

Prosecutors, who have been frustrated by Ellis’ tendency to interrupt and chide prosecutors in front of the jury, sought stronger language to make clear that jurors do not need to adopt any opinions expressed by the judge.

At one point in the discussion, Ellis asked prosecutors whether they thought he had ever interjected his own opinions. Prosecutor Greg Andres, who has had the strongest confrontations with Ellis, said “yes.”

Ellis eventually came up with compromise language that was agreeable to both sides.

Kilmeade: Omarosa ‘Seems To Have Outsmarted The President’

“Fox and Friends’” co-host Brian Kilmeade said Wednesday that former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman “seems to have outsmarted the President,” who he said had “taken the bait” by tweeting attacks at her, boosting her book sales.

Lewandowski: White House NDAs Probably Not Valid, Enforceable

Two days after President Trump and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway confirmed the administration’s unprecedented practice of making White House staffers sign non-disclosure agreements, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told reporters that he doubts such agreements for federal employees could hold up in court.

“I just don’t know if they’re valid whatsoever,” he said, adding the caveat that he is not an attorney himself. “Other than the disclosure of classified information, which is a crime in and of itself, I don’t know how you hold a public employee, a government employee, accountable to a non-disclosure agreement. I don’t know how that’s enforceable whatsoever.”

Continue reading “Lewandowski: White House NDAs Probably Not Valid, Enforceable”

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Biden Cancels Illinois Dems Appearance Due To ‘Doctor’s Orders Not To Travel’

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday cancelled an appearance at an Illinois Democratic event due to “doctor’s orders not to travel.”

Biden had been scheduled to address the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch in Springfield on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Biden told CNN he would be “fine in a few days.”

Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association President Doug House wrote in a statement posted to Facebook Tuesday night, “Everyone who knows Vice President Biden knows that he gives our party and our country his all, but unfortunately he is sick and is under doctor’s orders not to travel.”

“The cancellation is of course disappointing, but it is clear that the circumstances are simply unavoidable,” House added.

Twitter Suspends Alex Jones For A Week After CEO Refuses To Ban Him

NEW YORK (AP) — Twitter says it is suspending the account of the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for one week after he violated the company’s rules against inciting violence.

The New York Times reports that Jones tweeted a link to a video calling for supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready against media and others.

Jones won’t be able to tweet or retweet from his personal account for seven days, though he will be able to browse Twitter.

The Twitter account for his “Infowars” show was not affected.

Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify have taken down material published by Jones, reflecting more aggressive enforcement of hate speech policies after online backlash.

But Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended his company’s decision last week not to ban Jones, saying he did not break any rules.

EPA To Unveil New Plan Which Reverses Obama-Era Coal Power Plant Regulation

President Donald Trump’s EPA will unveil a plan in coming days that unravels an Obama-era regulation meant to wean the U.S. off of coal power plants in favor of cleaner forms of energy, according to a Tuesday Politico report.

The proposal would let states write their own lax regulations, or opt out of regulations altogether, for coal-burning power plants. The EPA has reportedly acknowledged that the new proposal would result in increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, undermining  President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

The plan essentially will disregard regulations to let the plants burn more coal at a cost-efficient pace, thus encouraging businesses to use them instead of sources that don’t harm the environment.

Per Politico, environmental activists and Democratic states plan to fight the proposal when it is finalized. The EPA reportedly plans to argue that the Obama-era regulation would illegally regulate the power sector, and that the costs of compliance would be insurmountable.