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Prosecution Emphasizes Manafort ‘Lied’ In Closing Statement

ALEXANDRIA, VA — Prosecutor Greg Andres completed his closing statement in Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial on Wednesday morning, emphasizing to the jury that the government believes Manafort repeatedly “lied” about his income.

“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and lied to get more money when he didn’t,” Andres told the jury.

Andres charged that the evidence presented in the case, including witness testimony, emails, and financial documents, is “littered with lies.”

Manafort is facing 27 counts in the case, including tax fraud and bank fraud charges. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Andres used his closing statement, which lasted for about an hour and 40 minutes, to methodically walk the jury through the charges against Manafort and the corresponding evidence presented by his team throughout the two-week trial.

As he discussed the charges, Andres repeatedly noted that Rick Gates, Manafort’s former deputy who pleaded guilty and began cooperating with the government, was often not involved in Manafort’s alleged schemes to lie to the government and banks. And he pointed out that when Gates was aiding his former boss, Manafort was aware of and directed his deputy’s activities.

Andres also addressed the defense’s tactic, employed during cross-examination of Gates last week, to paint Gates as untrustworthy. Andres said that the government’s evidence on the tax fraud charges and the charges on Manafort’s alleged failure to report foreign bank accounts was “more than sufficient” without Gates’ testimony.

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.

Though Andres’ closing argument was mostly a deliberate attempt to walk the jurors through the charges and evidence, Andres made an impassioned aside when discussing the defense’s mention of Gates’ affairs earlier in the trial.

“What about Mr. Gates’ affairs?” Andres asked, moving on to ask why the defense would focus on that, as opposed to Gates’ attempts to help Manafort break the law.

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

He then asked if Gates’ affairs “make Mr. Manafort any less guilty,” and suggested that it would only make sense that Manafort would choose someone like Gates to help him with his alleged schemes.

“He didn’t choose a boy scout,” Andres said.

Andres spent the bulk of his time walking the jury through the counts, beginning with the charges that Manafort filed false tax returns and failed to file a necessary FBAR report telling the government that he had foreign bank accounts. Andres spent a good deal of time discussing the law governing these counts and the evidence, perhaps because the testimony on those matters came earlier in the trial.

He reminded the jury of previous testimony from Manafort’s bookkeeper and tax accountants, who were unaware of his foreign business accounts. And he brought up charts from an expert witness showing the amount of income Manafort reported to the government and the amount he hid each year. He reminded them of numbers that prosecutors previously raised in evidence — that Manafort failed to report more than $15 million in income on his tax returns between 2010 and 2014, and that Manafort had 31 foreign bank accounts that he never reported.

Andres attempted to head off any argument from the defense that Manafort merely forgot to report his foreign income and accounts, or that Manafort was confused by the law. He showed documents that suggested Manafort took these steps intentionally and emphasized that he is “capable and bright,” and trained as a lawyer.

“Mr. Manafort knew the law but he violated it anyway,” Andres said.

Andres also offered a motive for Manafort’s alleged lies about his income.

“He wanted to hide that money and evade taxes,” Andres said.

Andres then moved into the bank fraud charges Manafort faces, telling the jury that the evidence on these counts is “riddled with false statements.” He told the jury that virtually all the witness testimony on this matter was backed up in documents.

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

Andres spent a great deal of time 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.

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.”

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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.

Italian Leader Blames Fatal Bridge Collapse On Private Company Greed

ROME (AP) — Italy’s deputy premier, Luigi Di Maio, is blaming the collapse of a major highway bridge in Genoa on a lack of maintenance by the private company that operates many of the nation’s toll highways.

Speaking in Genoa, Di Maio said Wednesday that he was looking at revoking highway concessions.

He said of the holding company that controls Autostrade Per Italia: “instead of investing money for maintenance, they divide the profits and that is why the bridge falls.”

Di Maio, who leads the anti-business 5-Star Movement party that is part of Italy’s coalition government, took a swipe at the Benneton group, which controls Autostrade SRL through its Atlantia holding company. He blamed previous Italian governments of turning a blind eye to the health of the nation’s toll highways because of political contributions.

Autostrade controls 3,020 kilometers (1,876 miles) of Italian highways.

Genoa prosecutor Francesco Cozzi says the investigation into the fatal bridge collapse is focusing on maintenance and the design of the 51-year-old bridge.

Cozzi told reporters Wednesday that he didn’t know if anyone bore legal responsibility for the collapse that killed at least 39 people but he said “for sure it was not an accident.”

Cozzi said there were no pending complaints involving the bridge in recent years, and that they were also checking archives.

But he noted if there had been serious concerns about the safety of the bridge in the prosecutor’s office “none of us would have driven over that highway 20 times a month as we do.”

Still, the head of Italy’s transport department has said that a $22.7 million safety upgrade for the bridge had been planned.

Pentagon Spox Under Investigation For Making Aides Run Her Personal Errands

Chief Pentagon spokeswoman and top aide to Defense Secretary James Mattis Dana White is under investigation by the DOD Inspector General for using her aides to perform chores and errands well outside their personal purview, according to a Wednesday CNN report.

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Giuliani Brags About Being Closer To Trump Than Omarosa: ‘I Know She’s Lying’

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani shielded the President from Omarosa Manigault Newman’s allegations that he knew about the DNC email hack before Wikileaks published them by bragging that he was “closer” to Trump that Omarosa.

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Omarosa: DeVos Said Black Students Lack ‘Capacity To Understand’ Her Agenda

According to former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos chalked up her panned commencement speech at the historically black Bethune-Cookman University to the students’ lack of “capacity to understand” her goals.

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Despite Allegations, Ellison Easily Wins Minnesota AG Democratic Primary

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Rep. Keith Ellison, the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee and first Muslim elected to Congress, won his party’s nomination Tuesday for Minnesota attorney general in a race clouded in the final days by an ex-girlfriend’s allegation of domestic abuse.

The allegation surfaced the weekend before Tuesday’s primary when the son of Ellison’s former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, posted on Facebook that he had seen angry text messages from Ellison to his mother and a video that showed him dragging Monahan off a bed.

Ellison easily emerged out of a crowded field that included state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, former Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, former Ramsey County Attorney Tom Foley and attorney Matt Pelikan.

Monahan, a Minneapolis political organizer, said via Twitter that her son’s posting was “true” but did not respond to an Associated Press request to review the messages and video. She later told Minnesota Public Radio News that she would not release the video because it is “humiliating.”

While Ellison called for Sen. Al Franken to step down when sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against him last November, Ellison said Tuesday night that there’s a crucial difference in their cases.

“In this case, it’s not true of me. It’s just not true. We’ll talk more about it in the coming days,” he said.

Ellison earlier denied any abuse or threatening messages and said the supposed video “does not exist because I have never behaved in this way.”

Ellison, 54 and divorced, is a six-term congressman and a leader within the Democratic Party. He became deputy chairman of the DNC last year after falling just short of the top job.

Ellison was among candidates rushing to file for Minnesota’s attorney general office after incumbent Lori Swanson made a late decision to run for governor.

He said he wanted to push back against President Donald Trump’s policies that he argued were hurting people, adding that he admired Democratic attorneys general in other states who had done so. He said his priorities included protecting former President Barack Obama’s health care law and restoring so-called “net neutrality” provisions scrapped by the Federal Communications Commission under Trump.

With a huge fundraising advantage and star power over his opponents — including a visit from 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders — Ellison was considered the heavy favorite before the Monahan allegation surfaced.

Many voters had cast ballots before Monahan’s allegation emerged. More than 117,000 early votes had been received statewide by Monday morning. By comparison, only about 234,000 votes were cast among all parties in the 2014 attorney general primary.

Onetime Teen Mom, Now Celebrated Teacher, Wins US House Primary

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A onetime teen mother who became a celebrated teacher defeated a veteran politician Tuesday in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat currently held by Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who didn’t seek re-election amid criticism of her mishandling of a sexual harassment case in her office.

Wolcott educator Jahana Hayes, who received a National Teacher of the Year award from President Barack Obama in 2016, will now face Republican Manny Santos, a former mayor of Meriden, in the November election. Despite being a political newcomer, Hayes is already on much better financial footing than Santos, who defeated two primary challengers to win the GOP nomination.

Hayes topped Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, a two-time lieutenant governor candidate. If she wins the general election in November, Hayes, 45, will be the first black woman to win a Connecticut congressional seat.

“When we started this campaign a little more than 100 days ago, we had no organization and no network. People told us we had no chance and no business trying to upset the status quo,” Hayes told her cheering supporters, who gathered at a Waterbury hotel. “And tonight, we proved them wrong.”

A Democratic primary was unthinkable a year ago, when many observers believed Esty would likely win a fourth term. But the outspoken advocate of the #MeToo movement abruptly announced in April she wouldn’t seek re-election after facing heavy criticism and calls for her resignation over how she handled the firing of a former chief of staff accused of harassment. Esty has said she regrets not moving along an internal investigation into the 2016 allegations, which ultimately revealed more widespread allegations of abuse.

Hayes, who grew up in public housing, has vowed to “fight for the soul of our nation” in Washington, D.C. During her acceptance speech, she called for Medicare for all, stronger gun laws, and an educational system that provides greater opportunities for all children.

In contrast, Santos has called Republican President Donald Trump’s economic policies “dead on” and has vowed to fight tax increases and unnecessary spending.

“A win for Republicans in this state is also a win for the people of this state. It is also a win for the taxpayers,” Santos said in a victory speech Tuesday night.

He comes into the general election at a significant financial disadvantage, with recent reports showing he has less than $500 in cash still on hand for the race after accounting for a campaign debt. In contrast, Hayes had about $360,000 as of July 25.
Santos urged his supporters to rally behind him this fall.

“It’s going to take every one of you, just like we did for the primary, to come out and support and spend your time,” he said. Former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson was the last Republican to hold the seat. She lost it in 2006 to Democrat Chris Murphy, who is now a U.S. senator and who encouraged Hayes to consider running for his old seat.

In April, Esty abruptly announced she wouldn’t seek re-election. She made the announcement days after apologizing for not protecting her employees from the male ex-chief of staff.

Steil, ‘Iron Stache’ To Face Off For Paul Ryan’s Seat In November

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Randy Bryce, a union ironworker known by the nickname “Iron Stache,” won Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the race to replace Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin for a seat he’s held 20 years.

Republicans, for their part, pinned their hopes on a former Ryan aide, picking Bryan Steil, an attorney who is from a prominent family in the same hometown of Ryan, in a five-way primary. Steil will face Bryce in the Nov. 6 general election.

Bryce called Steil a Ryan “clone” and branded him “Lyin’ Bryan” in a statement his campaign texted to The Associated Press on Tuesday evening.

“He has no idea what people in this district need,” said Bryce, who defeated Janesville teacher and school board member Cathy Myers in the Democratic primary.

Steil predicted voters will see stark contrasts in their policies. He said he wants to keep money in Wisconsin residents’ pockets. He said Bryce wants to pump more cash into Washington, D.C., and will work for a government takeover of health care.

“I don’t think people are going to be attracted to the failed economic policies of the past,” Steil, who since 2016 had served on the University of Wisconsin board of trustees, said in a telephone interview.

Bryce, who entered the race months before Ryan announced his retirement in April, fueled hopes among Democrats that they can take the southeastern Wisconsin seat that leans Republican. The thickly-mustachioed Bryce burst onto the national political scene with a slick campaign launch video a year ago, raising $6 million and snagging high-profile endorsements from the likes of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who campaigned for him, and labor activist Dolores Huerta.

But Republicans say the hype surrounding Bryce is just that. And personal baggage, including a history of legal and financial trouble, has plagued Bryce and fueled attacks from Myers. She argues that Bryce’s past, which includes failure to pay child support and a 20-year-old drunken-driving arrest, makes him unreliable and unelectable.

In other Wisconsin congressional races:

— 3rd District: In this Milwaukee district, seven-term Democratic incumbent Gwen Moore beat Gary George, a former state senator who was convicted of a felony in a kickback scheme in 2004 and ran unsuccessfully against Moore in 2014 and 2016. On the Republican side, deliveryman Tim Rogers beat Cindy Werner, a U.S. Army veteran who moved to Milwaukee 18 months ago from Texas.

— 5th District: In the suburban Milwaukee district, Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the second-longest serving member of the House first elected in 1978, defeated pediatrician Jennifer Vipond in his first primary in a decade. Sensenbrenner will face Democrat Tom Palzewicz in the general election.

— 7th District: In this northern Wisconsin district, Democrat Margaret Engebretson, an attorney, beat Brian Ewert, a doctor, for a chance to take on Republican Rep. Sean Duffy.

Trump’s Picks, Democrat Diversity Among Primary Winners

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democrats embraced diversity Tuesday in a primary night of firsts, while Republicans in Minnesota rejected a familiar face of the GOP old guard in favor of a rising newcomer aligned with President Donald Trump.

In Vermont, Democrats rallied behind the nation’s first transgender nominee for governor. Minnesota Democrats backed a woman who would be the first Somali-American member of Congress. And in Connecticut, the party nominated a candidate who could become the first black woman from the state to serve in Congress.

Still, Democrats in Minnesota also backed a national party leader who is facing accusations of domestic violence. He has denied the allegations, yet they threaten to undercut enthusiasm in his state and beyond.

On the other side, Trump tightened his grip on the modern-day Republican Party as the turbulent 2018 primary season lurched toward its finale. A one-time Trump critic, former two-term Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, lost a comeback attempt he was expected to win.

All but 10 states picked their candidates for November’s general election by the time the day’s final votes were counted. While the full political battlefield isn’t quite set, the stakes are clear: Democrats are working to topple Republican control of Congress and governors’ offices across the nation.

Four states held primaries Tuesday: Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Kansas’ gubernatorial primary, which was held last week, was finalized when Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded defeat.

In Minnesota, Republican County Commissioner Jeff Johnson defeated Pawlenty, who once called Trump “unhinged and unfit” and was hoping to regain his old post. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, endorsed just this week by Trump, won the right to seek a third term.

The president’s pick for Kansas governor, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, scored a delayed victory against Colyer, who became the first incumbent governor to fall this season.

In Vermont, Democrat Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination in her quest to become the nation’s first transgender governor. The former chief executive of Vermont Electric Cooperative bested a field of four Democrats that included a 14-year-old.

While she made history on Tuesday, Hallquist faces a difficult path to the governor’s mansion. Republican incumbent Phil Scott remains more popular with Democrats than members of his own party in the solidly liberal state.

Vermont Democrats also nominated Sen. Bernie Sanders, who hasn’t ruled out a second presidential run in 2020, for a third term in the Senate. The 76-year-old democratic socialist won the Democratic nomination, but he is expected to turn it down and run as an independent.

Democrats appeared particularly motivated in Wisconsin, where eight candidates lined up for the chance to take on Walker.

Walker’s strong anti-union policies made him a villain to Democrats long before Trump’s rise. State schools chief Tony Evers, who has clashed with Walker at times, won the Democratic nomination and will take on Walker this fall.

Once a target of Trump criticism, Walker gained the president’s endorsement in a tweet Monday night calling him “a tremendous Governor who has done incredible things for that Great State.”

Trump also starred, informally at least, in Wisconsin’s Senate primaries as Republicans try to deny Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin a second term.

Longtime state lawmaker Leah Vukmir, who was backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, won the Republican primary, even after struggling to explain footage recently unearthed from 2016 in which she called Trump “offensive to everyone.”

Tuesday’s primaries served as a test of Democratic enthusiasm in the upper Midwest, a region that has long been associated with liberal politics but has been trending red.

Trump won Wisconsin by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the state since 1984.

It was much the same in Minnesota, where Trump lost by less than 3 percentage points in a state that hasn’t backed a Republican presidential contender since 1972.

Nearly twice as many Minnesota Democrats as Republicans cast ballots in their parties’ respective gubernatorial primaries.

Pawlenty had been considered the heavy favorite in a two-person Republican contest for his old job. But he struggled to adapt to a GOP that had changed drastically since he left office in 2011 and flamed out early in a 2012 presidential bid.

The former two-term governor strained to live down his October 2016 comment that Trump was “unhinged and unfit for the presidency,” remarks that incensed many Republican voters in Minnesota and beyond. Johnson, his underfunded opponent, circulated Pawlenty’s critique far and wide, telling voters that he was a steadfast supporter of the president.

Johnson will face Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, who won a three-way race for his party’s nomination.

Three Minnesota women won Senate nominations, including incumbent Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.

Smith, who had been appointed to replace Democrat Al Franken, will face Republican state Sen. Karin Housley, ensuring a woman will hold the seat once held by Franken, who left Congress amid allegations of sexual misconduct toward women.

Nationwide, a record number of women are running this year for governor and Congress.

Meanwhile, a new scandal threatened to dampen Democratic enthusiasm.

Rep. Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s deputy chairman, captured his party’s nomination in the race to become the state’s attorney general. That’s after Ellison’s candidacy was rocked by allegations over the weekend of domestic violence amid a broader national outcry against sexual misconduct by powerful men in business, entertainment and politics.

Ellison has denied a former girlfriend’s allegations that he dragged her off a bed while screaming obscenities during a 2016 relationship she said was plagued by “narcissistic abuse.”

Also in Minnesota, Democrat Ilhan Omar, the nation’s first Somali-American legislator, won her party’s congressional primary in the race to replace Ellison.

In Connecticut, Republican businessman Bob Stefanowski emerged from a field of five Republicans seeking to replace the unpopular outgoing governor, Democrat Dan Malloy. Former gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont won the Democratic nomination.

Connecticut Democrats picked former teacher of the year, Jahana Hayes, to run for the seat vacated by Rep. Elizabeth Etsy, who is leaving Congress after bungling sexual abuse claims levied against a former staffer. Hayes could become the first black woman from the state to serve in Congress.

Scott Walker Faces The Toughest Gubernatorial Race Of His Career

MADISON, WI — Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his Democratic detractors have been in a no-holds-barred brawl for eight years now. But there’s one thing the two sides can agree on: This election is Democrats’ best chance to beat him.

Walker’s popularity isn’t what it once was — public polls show he’s never fully recovered from his aborted presidential run, and the polarizing figure’s numbers are underwater for the first time heading into an election. President Trump, who barely carried the state in 2016 and has started trade wars that are hurting some major local industries, isn’t helping him any.

Unlike his last elections, Walker is hoping to survive a political wave rather than surfing one.

Democrats, scarred from three failed efforts to defeat Walker in the state, are feeling an unusual feeling of optimism as they look ahead to the fall with newly minted nominee Tony Evers (D), the head of the state’s Department of Public Instruction and a former teacher.

The battle-tested Walker is the first to admit he’s facing the most challenging in-state campaign of his career.

This is the toughest election I’ve ever faced as governor,” he told TPM after a campaign stop Monday in Platteville, a small town in the state’s far southwest corner across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa.

Later in the day in Monroe, after being treated to a 10-second yodel and some tasty cheddar cubes from cheese shop owner Tony Zgraggen, Walker expanded on those thoughts.

In 2010, in 2014, nationally the wind was kind of at our back,” he said, before arguing that he successfully framed his 2012 recall election as an issue of fairness and won over moderates. “In this election the national wave is coming at us.”

There are signs that may be true — and that Democrats may finally have a shot at toppling their longtime nemesis.

Early this year, Wisconsin Republicans lost a shocker of a state Senate special election in exurban and rural northwestern Wisconsin that they’d held for nearly two decades. They went on to get blown out in a statewide Supreme Court race, losing by a double-digit margin. They’ve subsequently lost another state senate seat, one in similarly conservative northeastern Wisconsin.

One more major warning sign for Walker came Tuesday night, when roughly 100,000 more Democrats turned to vote in the state’s crowded gubernatorial primary than Republicans turned out for their own hard-fought Senate primary — even though the Senate race saw significantly more ad spending.

Walker has rung the alarm bells, including after the state Supreme Court loss:

Walker has also made some moves since his failed presidential run to signal to voters he’s more interested in results and less in his ideological firebrand image, one forged by his highly controversial dismantling of the state’s public teachers’ unions, passage of right-to-work legislation, a voter identification law, and deep cuts to state education. He recently got a waiver from the Trump administration to help stabilize the state individual health care exchange, essentially shoring up a key piece of Obamacare, and has looked to rehabilitate his image on education. He’s also hopeful that his bringing a large Foxconn plant to southeastern Wisconsin with $4 billion in tax incentives will help, not hurt, him in the fall.

Evers went quickly on the attack, blasting Walker for making deep cuts to the state’s education system, refusing to expand Medicaid, and declining to stand up to Trump on the President’s trade wars — including calls to boycott local company Harley-Davidson.

“If you come after Wisconsin’s businesses you’re going to have to answer to me. Donald Trump will no longer have a doormat here in Wisconsin,” Evers said in his Tuesday night primary victory speech in Madison.

And while he never mentioned Walker’s infamous war to tear down Wisconsin’s public-sector unions, Evers alluded to that divisive push.

“He started his reign of terror with divide and conquer, you’ll remember that,” he said. “I believe that what unites us is stronger than what divides us.”

On Monday, Walker pointed out to TPM that Evers once praised his education budget as “pro-kid.”

“The best testament to our commitment to education comes from Tony Evers,” he said. “If that’s his argument, his own words will be used against him repeatedly.”

The Wisconsin GOP was quick out the gate with a TV ad attacking Evers for failing to strip a disgraced local teacher of his license:

Evers isn’t the most charismatic or polished speaker, though Democrats aren’t sure that’s a negative for him in a year where voters are turned off by Trump’s bombast.

“He doesn’t have that scream into the microphone style. Thank god,” former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton (D) told TPM. “I want somebody that doesn’t depend on rhetoric.”

But the soft-spoken Walker isn’t the most charismatic politician either, as he proved during his flame-out of a presidential campaign.

The race will undoubtedly be a harsh and expensive one — Walker’s campaigns always are. But after a decade of heartbreak, Democrats are feeling like they might take down their public enemy.

When asked what the odds are that Evers will beat Walker, the soft-spoken Lawton laughed.

“Damn close to 100 percent,” she said.

Posted in DC

Tim Pawlenty Goes Down In Minnesota GOP Gubernatorial Primary

County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has beaten former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota’s Republican primary for governor, derailing Pawlenty’s bid to reclaim his old job.

Johnson won Tuesday despite Pawlenty’s enormous fundraising and name recognition advantages. He also won despite his own history as the party’s losing candidate for governor four years ago.

Johnson positioned himself as a more conservative candidate than Pawlenty. He branded the former two-term governor as part of the “status quo” and bashed him for calling Trump “unhinged and unfit for the presidency” in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.

Pawlenty was hoping to resurrect his political career after flaming out as a presidential candidate in 2011. He spent the intervening years as a Washington lobbyist.

Vukmir Wins Primary To Face Tammy Baldwin In Wisconsin Senate Race

Wisconsin state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) has defeated former Marine Kevin Nicholson (R) for the right to face Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in an uphill battle this fall.

Vukmir led Nicholson by 54 percent to 40 percent with 56 percent of the vote counted. The Associated Press has called the race.

Vukmir was heavily favored by Wisconsin’s powerful GOP establishment, winning the state party endorsement early on, getting strong support from many of the state’s powerful right-wing talk radio hosts, and winning backing from many elected officials including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). While Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) stayed officially neutral in the race, his son works on Vukmir’s campaign and his wife backed her.

But Nicholson, a former head of the College Democrats of America, had one valuable supporter: Deep-pocketed hard right-wing donor Dick Uihlein spent more than $10 million through super-PACs to back him and knock her down.

She starts her race as a heavy underdog against Baldwin, who has led her by high single digits in most recent private and public polls. Republicans hope that if Walker is winning comfortably this fall this race could become competitive — especially if Uihlein can be convinced to open up his wallet for her, and other wealthy Republicans decide to come in. Right now it looks like a long shot — and national Republicans are unlikely to prioritize the race given how many others appear like better shots for them this fall — but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) looked like a dead man running at this point in the 2016 campaign before winning reelection.

Vukmir and Baldwin were quick out the gate to attack one another.

“Wisconsin needs a senator who represents and will work for the people who make our state great — not the far left or out-of-touch elites,” Vukmir said in a statement. “Sen. Tammy Baldwin has been a disaster our state.”

Baldwin fired back.

“Wisconsinites want someone who will be in their corner and stand up to powerful special interests in Washington, not a bought-and-paid-for Senator,” Baldwin said in a  statement. “Leah Vukmir has a long record of putting her corporate special interest backers ahead of hardworking Wisconsin families, making the choice clear this November.”

Posted in DC

Somali-American MN Rep. Poised To Make History In Congress After Primary Win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The nation’s first Somali-American state legislator is poised to set the same historic mark in Congress after winning a crowded Democratic primary in Minnesota Tuesday to replace Rep. Keith Ellison.State Rep. Ilhan Omar captured the Democratic nomination for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, defeating a former Minnesota House Speaker and longtime state senator. It puts another notch in the meteoric political rise of a woman who spent her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp and immigrated to the United States at age 12 before winning her seat in the state House in 2016.

A Republican has not won the heavily liberal Minneapolis-area congressional seat in many decades, making Tuesday’s primary the de facto election. The seat opened when Ellison launched a last-minute bid for attorney general, leaving the seat after six terms.

Omar leaned heavily on her biography to win the race to replace him, positioning herself as the candidate best equipped to counter President Donald Trump in Congress. She defeated former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, among other candidates, to advance to the November election.

Omar won her state House seat in 2016 after defeating a well-regarded, 44-year incumbent in a Democratic primary. She’s served just a single term in the House, stuck in the minority and boasting few legislative accomplishments.

But she brought undeniable star power to the race, riding the fame from her history-making 2016 election to a spot on the cover of TIME Magazine and a cameo in a recent Maroon 5 music video.

She won late support from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York City congressional candidate who unseated a longtime incumbent in June.

Hallquist Becomes First Transgender Candidate To Win Major Party Nom For Governor

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Republican Gov. Phil Scott, despite a backlash from his base over gun restrictions he supported, won his party’s primary to seek a second term and will face a former utility executive who on Tuesday became the first transgender candidate to win a major political party’s nomination for governor.Scott defeated a challenge from Springfield businessman Keith Stern. He will face Christine Hallquist, who won the Democratic primary to run for the state’s highest office in November, when she would become the nation’s first transgender governor if elected.

Hallquist has said she doesn’t want Vermont residents to elect her governor because of her transgender status. Rather, she has said, she wants her candidacy to rise or fall on her plans to help state residents get higher-paying jobs, provide health care for their families and better educate their children.

She said she plans to appeal to voters with a progressive message that includes a livable wage, Medicare for all, free public college education and high-speed broadband access even to those who live on remote back roads.

Outside Vermont, though, she said she’s happy to carry the standard as the candidate who, if elected, would be the nation’s first transgender governor.

Scott, first elected in 2016, was facing a rebellion from his base due to his support for a series of gun restrictions that, while mild by national standards, angered many members of Vermont’s avid hunting community. The restrictions, which Scott signed into law in April, came after the arrest of a teenager on charges he was plotting a school shooting.

Those measures included raising the age to buy firearms from 18 to 21, restricting the size of gun magazines and requiring background checks for most private gun sales.

Scott will seek re-election in November by continuing his pledge to make the state more affordable, not raise taxes or fees, foster a better environment for businesses and attract newcomers to the state.

Hallquist defeated environmental activist James Ehlers; dance festival organizer Brenda Siegel; and 14-year-old student Ethan Sonneborn, on the ballot because a quirk in state law doesn’t require candidates to be of voting age. Democratic state Sen. John Rodgers, from Vermont’s remote and conservative Northeast Kingdom, failed in his bid for a grassroots write-in campaign, largely motivated by his displeasure with firearms restrictions.

Evers Emerges To Face Scott Walker In Wisconsin

MADISON, WI — Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers (D) has won his crowded primary, setting up a major clash with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the fall.

Evers led an eight-candidate field with 41 percent of the vote, with state firefighters union head Mahlon Mitchell in second place at 22 percent of the vote and 44 percent of precincts reporting as of 10:30 p.m. EST. The Associated Press called the race shortly after 9 p.m.

His victory sets up what Democrats hope is their best chance at defeating Walker since he ascended to the governor’s office in 2010.

The results set off a whoop and chants of “Tony, Tony” at Evers’ victory party, held across the street from Madison’s capitol building — one that’s been at the epicenter of protests and heartbreak for Democrats for the last decade.

Walker took a hit in-state with his presidential run, with numbers that had held steadily at 50-50 for the deeply polarizing figure sliding underwater. Most recent public polling suggests he’s never fully recovered — and in a swing state where President Trump will likely prove a drag.

Evers quickly turned to the general election, flaying Walker for his deep cuts to the state education budget — an area of strength for the state education head and public school teacher — before turning to healthcare and the state’s roads.

“I’ve seen, on the faces of our kids the devastation of Scott Walker’s cuts to public education,” he said. “I’ve watched has Scott Walker has made decision after decision that benefits himself and his wealthy donors, and not what benefits us, the people of Wisconsin.”

Evers’ solid statewide win sets him up well for the general election, and some public and private polls have already shown him ahead — a remarkable position for a challenger to be in before he even secured the primary. But the battle-tested and politically savvy Walker will be a tough out in a state he’s carried three times. And the governor has been preparing for months for what he recognizes will be his toughest statewide race in his career, with $5 million in the bank for the general election, while Evers emerges from the crowded primary with almost no money in the bank.

National Democrats have already committed $4 million to help Evers, but his allies acknowledge that the cash deficit needs to be closed for him to have a shot — and that his shoestring campaign will need to grow rapidly from his current three full-time staffers to compete with Walker’s vaunted machine.

He needs a big infusion of cash right now. This is the reality. This is our reality. Tonight, we’re the launchpad for a winning gubernatorial race in Wisconsin,” former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton (D) told supporters at Evers’ party.

Evers isn’t exactly the most charismatic candidate — he still sounds like the local school superintendent he once was on the stump, occasionally stumbling over his words, and the most unusual thing about him may be the way his name is pronounced (it rhymes with believers). But Walker isn’t the most telegenic candidate either — and Democrats are banking that their base is so fired up this year that running even-keeled candidates who can appeal to centrists turned off by Trump the GOP to win in big swing states.

Posted in DC

GOP Kansas Guv Concedes Race And Will Endorse Kobach

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded Tuesday evening in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, saying he would endorse Secretary of State Kris Kobach a week after their neck-and-neck finish threatened to send the race to a recount.

Colyer accepted defeat after a review of some provisional ballots from most Kansas counties failed to find enough votes for him to overcome a deficit of 110 votes at the time of poll closing in the Aug. 7 primary, out of more than 311,000 votes initially counted.

Kobach will face Democrat Laura Kelly, and is likely to face independent candidate Greg Orman, in the November general election in the decidedly conservative state.

The disputed race was intense and prompted a lengthy county-by-county review of provisional ballots. The aftermath of the primary included both candidates challenging each other’s legal interpretations, sending observers to monitor the vote count and raising the specter of lawsuits.

It included a fight over how to count unaffiliated voters who were simply given a provisional ballot by poll workers without first having them fill out a party-affiliation statement. Colyer’s campaign had representatives in all 105 counties when provisional ballots are reviewed.

Colyer also questioned whether Kobach — as secretary of state the top election official in Kansas — was advising counties not to count some mail-in ballots, including those with missing or unreadable postmarks.

Kobach removed himself from election-related duties on Aug. 10 until the primary outcome was resolved, but Colyer argued that Kobach still had a conflict of interest because his top deputy took over Kobach’s responsibilities.

Kobach rejected Colyer’s criticisms, saying his “unrestrained rhetoric has the potential to undermine the public’s confidence in the election process.”

Kobach, 52, has a national conservative following thanks to his strong stance against illegal immigration and his fervent defense of voter ID laws. He was vice chairman of the Trump administration’s election-fraud commission, though the commission eventually found no evidence to support Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election.

Kobach’s voter ID efforts also took a hit in June when a federal judge found the Kansas voter ID law he championed was unconstitutional.

Colyer, by contrast, is far more low-key. He is a 58-year-old plastic surgeon from suburban Kansas City. He served as lieutenant governor for seven years and took over as governor in January when Sam Brownback resigned to become ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

He helped craft state health care legislation as a lawmaker before his election as lieutenant governor in 2010. As lieutenant governor, he supervised a 2013 initiative that privatized Kansas’ Medicaid health coverage for the needy.

Provisional ballots are cast when questions about a voter’s eligibility cannot be easily resolved. The problem could involve a name not showing up on the voter rolls or a voter’s address not matching a photo ID in states where that is required.

National data from the Election Assistance Commission shows that the most common reason for rejection was that a voter was not registered in the state. Other reasons include provisional ballots being cast in the wrong county or wrong precinct and problems with a voter’s identification or signature.

Colyer ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002 before being elected to the Kansas House in 2006, then to the state Senate in 2008.

He has for three decades traveled abroad for medical relief missions, working and training local doctors in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Iraq and other countries.

Before becoming governor, Colyer was a loyal No. 2 to Brownback, even when budget problems that followed the governor’s aggressive income tax cuts caused his approval levels to plummet. Lawmakers in 2017 rolled back most of those cuts.

Colyer skirted legal trouble after making three $500,000 loans to Brownback’s and his own re-election campaign in 2013 and 2014. Two of the loans were paid back within days. Democrats speculated they might have been timed to inflate campaign-finance reports. They came as the Republican governor faced the prospect of losing to a well-financed Democratic challenger, Paul Davis. Brownback eventually won by a 50 percent to 46.1 percent margin.

Brownback’s office said the loans were in compliance with Kansas law and ethics regulations. A grand jury investigation ended with no criminal charges.

Watchdog Group Accuses Ross Of Criminal Conflicts Of Interest In Lengthy Complaint

A watchdog group on Monday accused Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross of several instances of criminal conflict of interest — in addition to lying in financial filings and to Congress — over his failure to divest millions of dollars in holdings in several companies, the value of which he may have knowingly impacted as secretary.

Much of the Campaign Legal Center’s (CLC) 115-page complaint to the Commerce Department’s inspector general was already known. Still, the report provided a granular view of the facts: that Ross improperly (and possibly illegally) maintained financial interests in several companies, whose value his decisions as secretary then affected, even after declaring that he’d divested from many of them.

One example is Invesco Ltd. Between the time Ross claimed to have sold his shares in the company and when he actually sold his shares, the value of his holdings rose by between roughly $1.2 million and $6 million.

“Ross held Invesco stock throughout most of 2017 while he was participating personally and substantially in the steel investigation,” the report states, referencing the inquiry Ross led into whether the U.S. should apply tariffs to imported steel on national security grounds. (Trump ultimately accepted Ross’ advice that it should.)

Ross and his spokespeople at the Commerce Department have dismissed these multimillion-dollar discrepancies as simple mistakes, something CLC demonstrated was “implausible.”

The complaint goes further, offering new information about specific instances in which Ross’ actions had a “direct and predictable effect” — the criminal definition — on companies in which he had a financial interest.

For example, one wholly-owned subsidiary of Invesco is WL Ross & Co. LLC, known as the company Ross used in a past life to gobble up struggling American steel companies like Bethlehem Steel and Acme Steel. By April 2017, the company had joined forces with China’s largest steel maker and others and was exploring acquisition opportunities in the country.

Even if the steel tariffs question hurt Invesco’s shareholders, the complaint said, “As a sophisticated investor, Ross may have thought his consideration of a steel tariff would advantage WLR’s negotiations, or he may have hoped to minimize the impact of a tariff by recommending a favorable procedure for granting exclusions.”

The same potential criminal conflict of interest applies to Ross’ then-unsold stock in The Greenbrier Companies, a railcar manufacturer dependent on imported steel. CLC’s overview of the timeline presents a clear case of one potential conflict of interest violation:

On Apr. 21, 2017, Ross issued a formal notice soliciting public comments and announcing a hearing on his steel investigation. On May 18, 2017, Ross took Greenbrier CEO William Furman to dine at the White House. On May 24, 2017, Ross presided over the public hearing on the investigation. On May 30, 2017, Furman filed a public comment expressing concern that the investigation would affect Greenbrier and asking that an exception be made for his Japanese steel supplier. On May 31, 2017, Ross divested some of his Greenbrier stock.

Greenbrier was one of a few companies whose stock Ross shorted — a maneuver usually used to bet against a company’s success — rather than following traditional methods to remove conflicts of interest, as he claimed was his intention. The Office of Government Ethics chastised Ross for the short sales and other undivested holdings in July.

Another company whose stock Ross shorted was Navigator Holdings Ltd., a Kremlin-connected shipping company specializing in natural gas products. In over 40 pages extensively detailing Ross’ interests in the company, the board of which he chaired at one point, CLC argued that “Ross participated personally and substantially in several particular matters directly and predictably affecting Navigator’s financial interests: the Trump administration’s effort to promote the LNG trade, seven trade agreements, and an investigation to determine whether the United States should impose a tariff on steel imports.”

In a press release announcing the report Monday, CLC’s ethics counsel, Delaney Marsco, said “Unless the Inspector General finds new information exonerating Ross, he at least appears to have violated the law several times.”

A lawyer for Ross, Theodore Kassinger, told several outlets:

Secretary Ross has not violated any conflict of interest law or regulation. He has not participated personally and substantially in, nor taken any action in regard to a particular matter that would have had a direct and predictable effect on his financial investments. He continues to follow the guidance of Commerce Department ethics officials regarding the matters in which he is personally involved. He has divested a very substantial part of the investments he held when he assumed the office of Secretary, and he has pledged to divest other remaining holdings even though he is not obligated to do so.

Read the full complaint here:

High Trust, High Fear: Inside the Dystopian Hellhole of Trumpism

Yesterday we decided to dig deeper into this matter of Trump White House NDAs. Kellyanne Conway said they all sign them in the Trump White House. Then President Trump confirmed the existence of NDAs for White House employees in one of his broadsides against renegade ex-employee Omarosa Manigault-Newman. I want to first discuss the NDAs and then some broader lessons we can draw about Trumpism from this latest turmoil. In this storm of back-biting, intrigue and betrayal we see in microcosm the world system on which Trump wants to build US relations with the rest of the world. But first, let’s discuss the NDAs. Continue reading “High Trust, High Fear: Inside the Dystopian Hellhole of Trumpism”

Georgia Dem House Candidate Jailed Long Past Election Day For DUI

A Georgia congressional candidate convicted of drunken driving was ordered by a judge Tuesday to spend the next six months in jail — a sentence that would keep the candidate locked up long past Election Day.

It was unclear what would become of Democrat Steven Foster’s campaign after he was sentenced by a Superior Court judge in Whitfield County. He was the only Democrat to run in the May 22 primary for the party’s nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Tom Graves in northwest Georgia’s 14th Congressional District.

Dan Lovingood, the 14th District chairman for the state Democratic Party, said Foster could remain on the November ballot if he refuses to quit the race.

“Ultimately, it’s his decision whether he decides to withdraw,” Lovingood said.

Georgia law says state Democratic Party leaders could select a replacement candidate if Foster withdraws from the race or is disqualified under party rules. Party officials did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Foster, 61, is a former physician from Dalton near the Georgia-Tennessee state line. He signed up for the race against Graves in March, nearly six months after he was charged with driving under the influence. A jury convicted him Aug. 6.

Even if he could campaign as a free man, Foster would be considered a longshot for the congressional seat Graves has held since 2010. President Donald Trump easily carried the 14th District in 2016. Graves ran unopposed in the last two elections. When he last defended his seat against a Democratic challenger in 2012, Graves won with 73 percent of the vote.

Foster’s defense attorney, Richard Murray, did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

Lovingood said he was stunned by Foster’s sentence — six months in jail followed by six months on probation, with credit given for the past week Foster spent locked up awaiting sentencing. The court clerk’s office confirmed the sentence to The Associated Press.

“We thought it would be time served at worst, and maybe some community service and DUI school, whatever he needs to do, and pay fines and court costs,” Lovingood said. “To me it doesn’t seem fitting.”

In Georgia, DUI is a misdemeanor until the fourth offense. First-time offenders face possible imprisonment of 10 days to a year.

Police pulled over Foster’s silver Mercedes on Sept. 23. A Dalton police report says Foster was stopped because he was driving with his headlights off after dark.

Foster told the officer he drank two or three beers about three hours earlier. The report said he swayed and stumbled during a field sobriety test. He then agreed to a breath test, which showed his blood alcohol content was .103. That’s above the legal limit of .08.

The patrol car’s dash camera recorded Foster ranting at officers, the Daily Citizen-News of Dalton reported .

“I hate this county. I prayed to God that he would curse it,” Foster said on the police video. “And guess what? He did. Man, I saw it hit and cursed, and I saw people laid off right and left — white people.”

FL GOP House Candidate Drops Out After Falsely Denying She’s A College Dropout

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — A Republican candidate for the Florida Legislature who falsely claimed she had a college degree and posted a purported copy of her diploma online dropped out of her race on Tuesday.

Melissa Howard told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune it was the right decision to drop out of the race for the Florida House seat.

“I made a terrible error in judgment,” Howard said. “I am thankful for everyone who gave so much toward my success, and I am deeply sorry.”

Howard last week posted a photo of herself with what looked like a Miami University diploma after being accused of lying about her degree. The Ohio university later sent reporters a statement saying she attended the school, but never graduated and the diploma Howard posted has inaccuracies.

Howard later posted an apology on her campaign Facebook page and admitted she didn’t graduate from the school.

The House seat represents portions of Manatee and Sarasota counties. She would have faced primary opponent Tommy Gregory if she had stayed in the race. Gregory told The Associated Press that he had talked to Howard by phone after she made her decision to drop out. She apologized for what she did and offered her full support of his candidacy, he said.

“She sounded sincere,” Gregory said.

Sarasota County GOP chairman Joe Gruters told the AP that Howard made the right decision.

“I think she saved the party and community a lot of heartache,” Gruters said. “I hope she gets the help she needs.”

With Florida’s primary in two weeks, it’s too late to get her name off the ballot. Vote by mail ballots were sent out a month ago, and about 20,000 Republican votes have already been cast.

“I can’t imagine that voters would have given her a pass on this, but we will never know,” Gruters said. “This is a good example for everybody, that if something is in their background, A, be prepared for it to come up, and B, the cover-up is always worse than what happened.”

How Kobach’s Tenure As Sec. Of State Plays Into His Own Mess Of A Gov Race

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is known for instituting strict restrictions on who has access to the ballot box.

But does Kobach’s controversial two-term tenure have anything to do with the chaos currently unfolding in his own undecided GOP gubernatorial primary, where he’s leading by only dozens of votes?

Not directly, say local political experts. But in some oblique ways, it does.

First off is the matter of resources. Kobach used thousands of state dollars for the frivolous voter fraud suits that he initiated and argued on Kansas’ behalf. His opponent, Gov. Jeff Kolyer, has argued that Kobach should be on the hook for the $26,000 in legal fees he owes over the proof-of-citizenship lawsuit he lost in federal court earlier this year.

“When you’re working on something, there’s also what you’re not doing,” Michael Smith, Chair of the Political Science Department at Emporia State University, told TPM.

“Instead of looking for illegal voters who did not exist,” Smith said, Kobach would have better-served his state by ensuring that Kansas “had better voting equipment and reporting procedures.”

Then there are the errors made by entities he technically oversees as secretary of state.

Clerks in two counties said that the vote totals they turned over to his office were not accurately reported on the secretary of state’s website. Once Kobach’s office corrected the mistake, his lead dropped notably.

Poll workers trained by the county election commissioners Kobach oversees also slipped up. Some voters reported receiving the wrong type of ballot, while other unaffiliated voters said they were not provided with the document they needed to fill out in order to vote in partisan primary races.

These missteps prompted Colyer’s campaign to ask Kobach to recuse himself. Providing guidance on how to address voting problems in a race that he himself stood to win was inappropriate, Colyer’s team said.

Kobach reluctantly agreed to do so, but then appointed his deputy, Assistant Secretary of State Erick Rucker, to see out the primary process. Rucker has donated to Kobach’s gubernatorial campaign.

As Burdett Loomis of the University of Kansas put it to TPM: “Where irony comes into play here is he’s a tough-minded individual on fraud, but every time you see a decision being made that would help him [in the primary race], its not necessarily a strict constructionist decision. It’s a decision that would help Kris Kobach.”