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Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

McConnell Is Blocking Any Plan to Prevent a Russian Election Attack in 2020

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings today on the Mueller report and its devastating findings of the Trump campaign efforts to collude with Russia, and Trump’s obstruction of justice thereof. The Republican message, articulated by ranking member Doug Collins, is that this is all in the distant past — the Mueller report came out in early spring; it’s already late spring — and we should focus on the future. “We’re not bringing Russians front and center,” he complained. “If we were attacked, then the priorities should be to go on the battlefields and not to the sideshow.”

Funny thing about that: There actually are a lot of bills to safeguard the 2020 elections from the next Russian attack. Mitch McConnell is blocking all of them.

The New York Times reported a few days ago that McConnell is refusing to bring to a vote any bill to safeguard the elections from foreign attack. There’s a Democratic bill to provide election funding to state and local governments. There’s a bipartisan Senate bill to “codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials, and provide federal incentives for states to adopt paper ballots.” McConnell won’t allow any of them to come to a vote.

The threat from Russian election interference is actually quite severe. Russian intelligence breached at least one Florida county computer system and planted malware in a manufacturer of vote-tabulating machines, according to the Mueller report. While the probability that Russian hackers could actually change the outcome of the next election is low, the consequences would be extraordinarily high — especially if they do so by actual vote-rigging rather than mere information warfare.

Exactly why McConnell is so blasé about this threat is impossible to say, but the next time McConnell takes some action that sacrifices his partisan interests for the greater good will be the first.

Of course, Collins’s whole notion that guarding against the next Russian political operation requires halting all investigation of the last one is obviously disingenuous in the first place. The Mueller report shows in detail  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2019 at 4:32 pm

How a dead man’s hard drives are exposing the GOP attack on democracy

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Paul Waldman writes in the Washington Post:

Dead men tell no tales, but their hard drives do. That’s what happened to the late Republican operative Thomas Hofeller, a key figure in Republicans’ project to rig elections in their favor, after his estranged daughter discovered his cache of electronic documents and turned them over to Common Cause.
First we learned that Hofeller had been working with the Trump administration in its effort to add a citizenship question to the census in order to give a political advantage to Republicans and white people — an effort about which they have told repeated falsehoods to the public and even under oath. And now we learn that wasn’t the only piece of Hofeller’s work Republicans were likely lying about:

In 2017, after the Supreme Court affirmed that North Carolina’s GOP-drawn districts were illegally built around race, the state’s Republican leaders told a federal court they couldn’t quickly craft new boundaries in time for a special election later that year. They hadn’t yet started “the laborious process” of creating maps, they said, and still needed to talk to voters.
The court bought the argument, giving the state GOP nearly another year with a supermajority — an advantage it used to appoint judges and push constitutional amendments.
But a trove of once-secret documents from a strategist behind Republican gerrymandering efforts proves that argument was false, a watchdog group claimed in a Thursday court filing. In fact, that strategist, Thomas Hofeller, had already drawn up numerous maps and completed 97 percent of a plan for proposed state Senate districts and 90 percent of a House plan.

The background is that the Republican Party in North Carolina has for the past few years been engaged in some of the most blatant and systematic attacks on democracy to be found anywhere in the country. The gerrymander in question was so obviously intended to take power from African American voters that even the Republican-dominated Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that it had to be thrown out.
A voter ID law the GOP-controlled legislature passed was also ruled unconstitutional, with a panel of federal judges writingthat its provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” After a Democrat was elected governor in 2016, Republicans rushed through a bill curbing his power in a lame-duck session.
If there’s a ground zero for the GOP war on democratic representation, North Carolina is it. And every time, Republicans came up with a bogus justification for their actions that they somehow managed to repeat with a straight face.
In this case, it isn’t just whether they could complete new maps that they seem to have lied about. Common Cause alleges that while the state’s Republicans told the court they were not using data on race in order to draw the new maps, in fact, Hofeller was drawing new maps for them with race data that would enable them to once again cut African Americans out of power.
People being dishonest about their real motivations happens a lot in politics, of course. But there are some lies that stand out, those that are so obvious that the one uttering them can only be enjoying themselves watching how flabbergasted everyone is that they’d be so epically mendacious.
What complicates things is that so many in the media feel it necessary to treat those lies as legitimate, if perhaps questionable, claims. So when Republicans say their efforts to disenfranchise African Americans, young people and anyone else too likely to vote for Democrats are actually a product of their deep concern over “voter fraud,” they know exactly how it will be presented in the media. Republicans say this giant turd is actually a fine diamond; Democrats counter that it is, in fact, a giant turd.
Once you’ve gotten away with that kind of lying to the public, it might begin to feel as though you can get away with anything. Such as, for instance, lying to a judge. Sure, it’s technically illegal, but who’s going to find out? It’s not as if this consultant we work with is going to die, and then his hard drives will be found by his estranged daughter, and then she’ll turn them over to one of the organizations fighting us, and they’ll make its contents public. What are the odds of that happening?
Pretty low, no doubt. But in this case, it did happen.
This case made me think of the time when Trump aide Hope Hicks allegedly argued that the president and the White House should keep lying about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a group of Russians, because the emails from and to Donald Trump Jr. organizing the meeting “will never get out.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2019 at 4:04 pm

Kevin Drum points out some serious flaws in Elizabeth Warren’s Industrial Policy for Manufacturing

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Very interesting post. I am struck by the fact that Warren, presumably a progressive, is not making a strong push to protect and extend labor unions.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2019 at 8:12 pm

Campaign heats up with amazing offers!!

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 June 2019 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election, GOP

New evidence suggests census citizenship question was crafted to benefit white Republicans

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Tara Bahrampour reports in the Washington Post:

Just weeks before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, new evidence emerged Thursday suggesting the question was crafted specifically to give an electoral advantage to white Republicans.

The evidence was found in the files of the prominent Republican redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller after his death in August. It reveals that Hofeller “played a significant role in orchestrating the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Decennial Census in order to create a structural electoral advantage for, in his own words, ‘Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites,’ ” and that Trump administration officials purposely obscured Hofeller’s role in court proceedings, lawyers for plaintiffs challenging the question wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman. Furman was one of three federal judges who ruled against the question this year.

The letter drew on new information discovered on hard drives belonging to Hofeller, which were found accidentally by Hofeller’s estranged daughter. Stephanie Hofeller Lizon then shared them with the organization Common Cause for a gerrymandering lawsuit it is pursuing in North Carolina.

The files show that Hofeller concluded in a 2015 study that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting, and then pushed the idea with the Trump administration in 2017, according to the letter to Furman.

The evidence contradicts sworn testimony by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s expert adviser A. Mark Neuman and senior Justice Department official John Gore, as well as other testimony by defendants, the letter said.

The Commerce and Justice departments did not respond to questions about the new information.

It is unclear whether there is a way for lawyers challenging the citizenship question to get the new information to the Supreme Court, which will decide the case by the term’s end next month. Evidence in the case concluded with oral arguments April 23, when the conservative majority seemed inclined to side with the government.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in district court Thursday morning for “sanctions and any other relief the court deems appropriate, because of apparently untruthful testimony” by Trump administration officials in the earlier trials, said Dale Ho, who argued the case at the Supreme Court on behalf of the ACLU.

“We started at the district court because that where the misrepresentations were made,” he said. “We’re evaluating what other options would be appropriate.”

The ACLU also asked the court to allow previously redacted testimony from Neuman to be made public. On Thursday, Furman ordered that the government must provide a response by 10 a.m. Friday and called a hearing on the matter for Wednesday.

The new information indicates that blueprints for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census predated the Trump administration, but Donald Trump’s election allowed them to become a reality, Ho said.

“It just shows that there was a long-standing plan to weaponize the census to dilute minority voting power to try to forestall the electoral effects of the demographic changes that this country is undergoing,” he said.

Ho said sanctions could include fines imposed on witnesses or the government, a reopening of the case or an amendment of the final judgment to account for new evidence.

The population count from the decennial census is used to allocate $800 billion a year in federal funding and determine congressional representation and redistricting. Opponents of the citizenship question have argued that it will suppress response to the survey among immigrant communities, resulting in an undercount in the areas where they live.

Hofeller’s files also reveal that in August 2017, he helped ghostwrite a draft Department of Justice letter to the Commerce Department requesting a citizenship question and coming up with a rationale — to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said. He then gave this letter to Gore, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, in October 2017, they said.

The gen­esis of that request and the rationale behind it were key questions in trials challenging the question. Ross initially had told Congress that the request was initiated by the Justice Department in a December 2017 letter, but administration documents released in the case later indicated that it came at Ross’s urging, starting months earlier. Census and voting rights experts have said the question is not needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The Justice Department letter “bears striking similarities to Dr. Hofeller’s 2015 study, stating that a citizenship question on the Census was essential to advantaging Republicans and white voters,” the letter to Furman said. It added: “Based on this new evidence, it appears that both Neuman and Gore falsely testified about the genesis of DOJ’s request to Commerce in ways that obscured the pretextual character of the request.”

Critics of the question blasted the administration after the news broke. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2019 at 11:01 am

Political reporting in the US has been very bad for a long time: A trip down memory lane

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Kevin Drum points out this post by Bob Somersby:

When “Trump before Trump” took us down: The role of The Crazy has been substantial in modern American discourse.

Crazy people advance crazy claims; millions of people believe them. American discourse bows beneath the weight of this widespread crackpot behavior.

In yesterday’s report, we tracked this phenomenon back to the pious Reverend Falwell and the endless crazy claims about all the people Bill and Hillary Clinton had murdered. The syndrome extends to more recent claims by radio crackpot Alex Jones, and by the disordered Donald J. Trump himself.

That doesn’t mean that this destructive syndrome only exists “on the right.” The mainstream press corps has been mired in this type of conduct too.

Future scholars are now calling such conduct “Trump before Trump.” They sometimes refer to this mental erosion within the press as “The Rise of Leadership Down.”

The Crazy flourished within the mainstream press during the era of Falwell. Consider a crazy statement which appeared in Marc Fisher’s weekly column in the Washington Post magazine.

The crazy statement to which we refer concerned a White House candidate’s clothes. The candidate in question was also the sitting vice president. He was the odds-on favorite to receive the Democratic nomination in Campaign 2000.

In late November 1999, Fisher wrote a highly peculiar essay about Candidate Gore. His crazy claim was lodged among a raft of other peculiar and unfortunate statements. Here’s how his essay ended:

FISHER (11/28/99): So when Al Gore sneaks around and spends $15,000 a month to hire an oddball like Naomi Wolf, a controversialist who campaigns against the tyranny of the beauty culture and then plasters soft-lit glossies of herself and her perfectly teased hair all over the Internet and on her book jackets, we have two choices: We can say Gore’s a good man who’s been duped by over-eager aides, or we can say this is a man who does not know himself, a man who is unknowable, unreadable and therefore not fit to be president.

A person who makes her living by writing pop philosophy about sex tells a man who would be president of the United States that he must be a different kind of man, that he must be more assertive, that he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American. And he says, “Okay.”

To call him unreadable is to be charitable.

Just for the record—back in those days, we pseudo-liberals slept in the woods when people like Wolf were savaged in such identifiable ways. We let that kind of thing go.

That said, did Naomi Wolf “make her living by writing pop philosophy about sex?” It’s pretty much as you like it! For the record, two of the three books she’d written by that time had been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

One of the books, The Beauty Myth, had been chosen as one of the top hundred books of the century. But now, the disordered men and women of the upper-end mainstream press were spreading a web of noxious claims about Wolf, a campaign adviser to Gore.

These slanders included the noxious claim that Candidate Gore had “hired a woman to teach him how to be a man.” Candidate Gore was “today’s man-woman,” Chris Matthews loudly proclaimed on his crackpot TV show, Hardball.

These disordered figures were also convinced that Wolf had instructed Gore to wear “earth tones” on the campaign trail. This unfounded assertion helped lead to months of disordered claims about this targeted candidate’s clothes.

By Sunday, November 28, this ordered discussion had been underway for more than a month. This apparently forced Fisher to bump his roving band’s craziness up a notch.

Does Donald J. Trump make crazy claims? Yes he does, quite often. But on this day, Fisher was making crazy claims too. The craziest of his crazy claims may been this crazy statement:

Naomi Wolf had told Candidate Gore that “he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American.”

Truly, that was a crazy claim. As such, it was an example of the phenomenon known as Trump before Trump.

Had Naomi Wolf advised Gore about wardrobe? Like Fisher, we have no idea.

Candidates do take wardrobe advice, and Wolf was a campaign adviser. (With a crackpot press corps like the one we’re now describing, a targeted candidate must pay substantial attention to both wardrobe and hair.)

Wolf and Gore had both denied the claim that Wolf had offered wardrobe advice, but denizens of the upper-end press enjoyed the tale they were telling. In this case, Fisher seemed to be referring to a brown or perhaps olive suit Gore had worn to his first Democratic debate with Candidate Bradley, his only campaign opponent.

More than a month had passed since that time. But manifest crackpots of the press were still obsessed by the choice.

In fact, there was nothing outrageous about Gore’s suit, except in the mind of the crackpots. New Hampshire voters who watched that first Democratic debate had scored the event a draw. No one seemed troubled by Gore’s choice of clothes, and conservative icon Kate O’Beirne had praised the two candidates for the erudition each had displayed in discussing health care that night.

But alas! Inside the press room at Dartmouth College, three hundred journalists were hissing, booing and jeering every time Gore spoke. (On the record sources: Slate’s Jake Tapper, the Hotline’s Howard Mortman, Time’s Eric Pooley. We heard about this astounding conduct in a phone call from the site that very night.)

The children had been hissing and jeering every time Gore spoke! At the Washington Post, a Pulitzer winner decided to tell the world this:

MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.

Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—”I am not a well-dressed man.” It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation’s earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. Maybe it was the first step in shedding his Prince Albert image.

Mary McGrory, a veteran columnist and a Pulitzer winner, was writing live and direct from the realm of The Crazy.

She never mentioned the health care discussion whose erudition O’Beirne had praised. Instead, she chose to savage one candidate’s clothes in a pre-Trump manifestation.

McGrory was typing at the start of the war against Gore’s wardrobe. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2019 at 6:32 pm

Putin Accomplice Mitch McConnell Says Case Closed

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

During the 2016 election, CIA director John Brennan informed congressional leaders that Russian intelligence was interfering in the election in an effort to help Donald Trump win. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the conclusion, and depicted it as a frame-up. “You’re trying to screw the Republican candidate,” he charged, warning that he would refuse to sign a bipartisan statement warning Russia to back off. If blocking Russia meant hindering the Trump campaign, McConnell wasn’t interested.

This morning, McConnell took to the Senate floor to deliver a coda to this historic act. In a speech that was notably smarmy even by his standards, the Senate Majority Leader declared the Mueller report to be “case closed,” accused Democrats of refusing to accept the legitimacy of Trump’s election, and called for an end to all investigation or inquiries of Mueller’s findings.

“They told everyone there’d been a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign,” he announced. “Yet on this central question the special counsel’s finding is clear: case closed. Case closed.”

First of all, Mueller’s report did say it was unable to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump and Russia. But that is not the same thing as saying “case closed.” Indeed, on some of the most important avenues of potential conspiracy, Mueller was simply not able to establish conclusive answers. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, gave 75 pages of detailed polling to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian agent, but Mueller concedes he “could not assess what Kilimnik (or others he may have given it to) did with it.” Nor could Mueller fully nail down all of Roger Stone’s communications with WikiLeaks.

Second, one of the reasons Mueller could not establish a criminal conspiracy is that Trump signaled his willingness to pardon aides who stayed loyal, thus encouraging them to withhold cooperation. Attorney General William Barr has argued that the failure to prove an underlying crime means Trump should not be charged with obstructing justice, but of course, this means obstructing justice is okay as long as the obstruction works.
Third, McConnell’s speech danced around the massive evidence of obstruction of justice committed by Trump in the Mueller report. His speech, incredibly, didn’t even mention this topic, which occupies half of the Mueller report.

Instead, he addressed it in a backhanded way by defending Barr. The attorney general is a “distinguished public servant whose career stretches back almost 50 years,” he insisted. “He’s widely respected. Nobody claims he has any prior personal allegiance to this president.” That’s true, nobody does say Barr has any personal allegiance to Trump. Nor for that matter does McConnell, who has let his personal irritation with Trump’s lack of discipline slip into the media on occasion. What both men have instead is a partisan allegiance to Trump, which drives them to protect a figure they understand to be erratic and unfit for office, because doing so advances their interests.

McConnell framed his speech as a call for unity, insisting Russia’s goal was to divide the public. “Russia set out to sow discord. To create chaos in American politics and undermine confidence in our democracy,” he said. To continue pursuing the massive evidence of corruption and misconduct in the Mueller report would somehow help Putin. If Americans “remain consumed by unhinged partisanship,” McConnell said, “and keep dividing ourselves … Putin and his agents need only stand on the sidelines and watch as their job is done for them.”

Note here that McConnell is again denying the same thing he denied in 2016: that Russia intervened not just to “divide” Americans but specifically in order to help Trump win. If American political leaders in both parties had closed ranks and rejected Russia’s intervention, it might have backfired. Instead, McConnell assisted their effort.

He continues to assist by using all his powers to prevent Trump from being held accountable for his misconduct. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2019 at 3:25 pm

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