Robert Mueller let Donald Trump Jr. off the hook too easily for potential campaign finance violations that arose from the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian operatives. Mueller’s questionable exercise of prosecutorial discretion is bad news for how campaigns and foreign entities might conduct themselves in the runup to the 2020 elections.
Like many others, I am still poring over Mueller’s 448-page partially redacted report. My initial general impression of Volume 1—the part dealing with Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the connections between Trump—is that Mueller and his team did a thorough and fair job in investigating what happened and in describing the facts. But on the potential campaign finance violations, Mueller fell short in numerous ways…..
I’m afraid that this flagging of the issue does more harm than good. Mueller has now given campaigns credible reason to believe they can accept help from foreign governments because they may have a constitutional right to do so. That’s even more troubling for what it says about 2020 than what it says about 2016.
I was talking to one midwestern Democrat about this. And this person told me they figured it was pretty likely Pennsylvania and Michigan would return to the Democratic fold in 2020. They were much less certain about Wisconsin. Indeed, they thought President Trump had a good shot at winning it.
Let’s set aside whether these prognostications are accurate. Let’s focus on the hypothetical.
When I pulled up my map I was surprised and dismayed to see the following.
If you take the 2016 election and re-add the number of electoral votes set aside by faithless electors you get Trump 306 and Clinton 232 electoral votes. (Presumably, though we can’t be certain, you don’t have faithless electors if they can really change the result.)
If you take combined 36 electoral votes of Michigan and Pennsylvania and remove them from the Trump column and reallocate them to the Democratic column you get a 268 to 270, an effective tie and an actual tie at 269 each if Democrats win both district electoral votes in Maine. This assumes all the other blue or swing states stay in Trump’s column. One faithless elector makes it a tie. This is not at all an impossible scenario. The country would be ill-prepared in practice to manage a tie election in any circumstance. In present circumstances, the result could be very dark.
The political Left often criticizes—and the mainstream media frequently report on—the network of center-right nonprofits funded by billionaire entrepreneurs Charles and David Koch. But few politicos know of a left-wing leviathan in Washington, D.C., with a reach rivaling that of the Koch network. This study by the Capital Research Center documents a shadowy web into which nearly $600 million flowed in 2017, the most recent year for which tax returns are available. Operating under the aegis of “philanthropy,” this network is housed in and staffed by a for-profit, privately held consultancy called Arabella Advisors, LLC.* Arabella manages four nonprofit entities—the New Venture Fund, Sixteen Thirty Fund, Windward Fund, and Hopewell Fund—each of which shares an address and interlocking officers with Arabella.
An array of U.S. companies have told the Trump administration that a citizenship question on the 2020 Census would harm business if it leads to an undercount of immigrants, undermining the data they use to place stores, plan inventory and plot ad campaigns.
Corporate executives, lobbyists and representatives from major industry groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and the International Council of Shopping Centers have raised the issue in meetings with government officials, according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the matter. Some meetings date back to 2017, when the administration was first mulling adding the question.
Industry officials continue to seek assurances from the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department that the question’s impact on the quality of Census data will be minimized, according to the sources, who described the meetings on condition of anonymity.
Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill through the state House on Monday that would fine community groups that submit incomplete voter-registration applications, an unusual move that the bill’s opponents have denounced as voter suppression.
“It’s clearly intended to have a chilling effect on voting efforts across Tennessee,” John Ray Clemmons, a Democratic state representative, said of the bill.
Tens of thousands of new black and Latino voters were registered in Tennessee in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, but thousands of applications in Shelby County were disqualified by state election officials for what critics say were frivolous reasons. Republicans have cited the dispute as rationale for passing the legislation.
The state Senate passed legislation Monday that increases criminal penalties for election-related crimes in Texas. Voting rights groups have said they worry the bill could criminalize honest mistakes, among other things.
Supporters say the sweeping election bill is aimed at cracking down on voter fraud. It is on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s list of priority legislation the session.
Among other things, Senate Bill 9 increases criminal penalties for anyone who provides false information on a voter registration form. Currently, providing false information on an application is a Class B misdemeanor. Under the bill, it would become a “state jail felony.”
The legislation also increases criminal penalties for casting a ballot – including a provisional ballot – if you aren’t eligible to vote. Provisional ballots were created under federal law to allow people to vote if they aren’t sure they can; the votes are counted only if election officials can prove a voter is eligible. Groups say the bill could undermine these protections.
Since there are only two footnotes in the letter and this is the only substantive footnote, one can assume Barr thinks the legal definition of “coordination” used is significant. He is right.
The question of whether the Trump campaign interacted with the Russians as they interfered in the 2016 election, and whether that interaction is illegal, is often framed in terms of whether there was “collusion” between the campaign and the Russians. However, “collusion” is not a term of art and has no specific legal meaning in this case. In fact, the word “collusion” never appears in Barr’s letter.
Rather, Barr quotes Mueller as looking at whether the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” The question of whether the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russia is central to the question of whether the campaign violated campaign finance law, which prohibits foreign nationals from making political contributions and candidates from accepting such contributions. A contribution is defined as “anything of value” and can include giving money to the campaign or spending money to support a candidate’s election in coordination with the campaign. The latter is called an “in-kind” contribution.
Therefore, if the Trump campaign “coordinated” with the Russians in their efforts to help get him elected, the Russians made, and the Trump campaign accepted, a prohibited in-kind contribution from a foreign national. If they did so knowingly and willfully, it is a criminal violation. The FEC’s current regulation, 11 CFR § 109.20(a), provides: “Coordinated means made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or a political party committee.” Coordination can result if a “communication is created, produced, or distributed after one or more substantial discussions” between the campaign and the person paying for the communication, regardless of whether there was any “agreement” about the communication.
The FEC did not reach this definition lightly. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002ordered the FEC to rewrite its coordination rules and explicitly stated: “The regulations shall not require agreement or formal collaboration to establish coordination.” The reason for this was clear and easily explained by the Supreme Court when, in 2003, it upheld this congressional directive in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. According to the court, “expenditures made after a wink or nod often will be as useful to the candidate as cash.” As the court further explained, “[a] supporter easily could comply with a candidate’s request or suggestion without first agreeing to do so, and the resulting expenditure would be virtually indistinguishable from [a] simple contribution. …”
But the time and energy going into cultivating a grassroots donor base early in the election cycle also carries clear benefits for the party and its eventual nominee — namely, a potentially massive pool of proven donors who could be tapped again in the general election.
Presidential candidates have, of course, achieved varying degrees of success in their attempts to court small dollars. Topping the list: Sanders, who raised 84 percent of his new money from donors giving $200 or less. Compare that to former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who raised 10 percent of his cash from small donors.
More than half the money that 14 Democratic candidates for president raised from individual donors during the first quarter of 2019 came from donors giving a total of $200 or less. That compares to less than a third among a smaller Democratic field of primary candidates in early 2015.
The Democratic National Committee’s decision to use grassroots fundraising as one of two ways to earn a spot in the first two primary debates — candidates must demonstrate their campaigns have received contributions from at least 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states — was “a new wrinkle which elevates small dollars,” said David Karpf, a professor at George Washington University who studies politics and digital strategy.
Sedgwick County residents will now have the option to vote at any polling place on Election Day.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly this week signed into law Senate Bill 130, which gives counties the option to let voters cast ballots at any polling place in the county — not just the one they’re been assigned.
“This law is about local control and protecting every vote,” Kelly said in a statement. “I applaud all of the local and state officials who worked together to make this law a reality, especially those in Sedgwick County who were the driving force behind it.”
The proposal had the backing of Sedgwick County and Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman and Wichita Democratic Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau.
I’ve just received what I’ve been told is a copy of the overseas ballot sent by Susquehanna County, PA. Gary Johnson is omitted, the Constitution Party candidates are listed as being from the Conservative Party, and it has the wrong VP for the Green Party.
The Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee voiced their objections Monday in a letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee chairman, and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who chairs a subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties. The two Democrats sent letters to officials in Georgia, Texas and Kansas earlier this year asking for documents related to controversial election decisions in 2018.
“We have serious concerns that your letters appear to be an attempt to insert the Committee into particular state election proceedings, for which we do not see a legitimate legislative purpose,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member on the committee, wrote in a letter signed by three other Republicans. “By seeking voluminous records relating to election administration of sovereign states, your investigation offends state-federal comity. In fact, the respective states are already working to resolve any issues with their election administration.”…
The Republicans also wrote directly to the officials in the three states the committee is focused on and suggested the inquiry was not legitimate. One of the state officials, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), told the committee last week he was rebuffing the request for information. GOP Reps. Chip Roy (Texas), Jody Hice (Ga.) and Michael Cloud (Texas) also signed Jordan’s letter.
Raskin pushed back on the letter in a statement Monday evening, saying the committee had broad investigative power. “The U.S. Congress has the power and obligation to enforce the voting rights of the people as spelled out in the 14th, 15th, 17th, 19th, and 24th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, a power we have exercised repeatedly in statutes like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Americans with Disabilities Act to shut down state action hostile to democratic participation,” he said in a statement.
Rep. Maxine Waters is embracing corporate campaign contributions as the new chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, even as some progressive Democrats have sworn off fundraising from businesses.
The California Democrat’s campaign received about $210,329 in contributions during the first three months of this year, most of which came from industry PACs, according to a Federal Election Commission filing. About $38,329 came from individual contributions.
The figures suggest Waters is following through on a pledge to have an “open-door” policy with industry, even as she uses the gavel to crack down on financial firms in the name of consumer protection. In all, she saw her contributions grow nearly 18 times over from the $12,009 that her campaign reported in the first three months of the last election cycle in 2017.
Waters’ allowance for corporate PAC donations sets her apart from other liberal icons such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who have pledged to not take the money. Some of it may come with the territory — Waters’ predecessor, former Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), was a top recipient of finance industry contributions, which he shared with fellow Republican candidates on and off the committee.
The two presidential candidates who entered 2019 with the largest bases of supporters — President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — led the 2020 field in fund-raising in the first quarter of the year.
Presidential candidates were under a Monday night deadline to file their fund-raising numbers for the first three months of 2019. The Trump campaign reported bringing in about $30 million in the quarter, while Mr. Sanders’s campaign raised about $18 million in the quarter. Other Democrats reporting large hauls to the Federal Election Commission included Senator Kamala Harris of California, whose campaign raised about $12 million, and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, whose campaign raised more than $9 million.
The Trump campaign is spending nearly half (44%) of its Facebook ad budget to target users who are over 65 years old, as opposed to Democratic candidates who are only spending 27% of their budget on that demographic, according to data given to Axios exclusively from Bully Pulpit Interactive.
The letter, which came as House Democrats investigate allegations of voter suppression in Texas, trumpeted one of Paxton’s favorite statistics. All told, the letter said, the Election Fraud Unit had “prosecuted 33 defendants for a total of 97 election fraud violations” in 2018. The investigations and prosecutions have “taught us that organized voter fraud is happening in our state,” Jeffrey Mateer, the first assistant attorney general, wrote in the letter.
In fact, all but three of the 33 cases Paxton’s office touted ended with the accused entering a prosecution diversion program, HuffPost found through a public records request to Paxton’s office. (Another 15 cases are pending, and there are 75 active election fraud investigations, according to the AG’s office.) The 30 defendants who ended up in diversion programs had a stipulation of guilt, but generally, people who participate in such programs avoid criminal consequences so long as they don’t reoffend.
Prosecution diversions are typically used in cases where the accused doesn’t pose a major threat to public safety — maybe the offense is minor, the defendant is unlikely to reoffend, or the facts may not be sufficient for the government to win a case, experts told HuffPost. The fact that there are so many “de minimis,” cases — meaning too minor to merit consideration or prosecution — suggests that the Texas AG “wanted the numbers,” David Iglesias, the former United States attorney in New Mexico, said.
Attorney General William Barr has indicated that a redacted version of the Mueller report is likely to be sent to Congress this week and made public. It could come any day now, though a Good Friday release, coinciding with the beginning of Passover, would be the news dump to end all news dumps.
Whenever the report comes, how will we know what to look for? From Barr’s summaryreleased a few weeks ago, we expect the report to focus on both the question of possible “collusion” between Russian agents and Americans as well as whether the president obstructed justice in seeking to prevent a full and fair investigation of possible collusion.
Passover begins with asking four questions, and in that spirit, I begin with four questions about possible collusion that I have been anticipating since the Barr summary that I hope we will be able to answer once we get to dig into the report itself.
““The Titanic was launched with less hubris and more preparation.”
Justin Levitt, in his forthcoming Columbia Law Review article, Citizenship and the Census, as quoted in Adam Liptak’s NYT Sidebar preview of the upcoming oral argument in the census citizenship question case before the Supreme Court.
NYT reports, with the subhead: “More than 900 million people — over 10 percent of the world’s population — could head to the polls over several weeks. The government is committed to polling every voter, no matter how isolated.”
Before any well-known Democrats even began their White House bids, President Trump’s re-election team had spent more than $83 million on rallies, fundraising and other expenses associated with the thick of a heated race.
Mr. Trump set up his 2020 operation as he moved into the White House, the earliest start of any president in modern history. His three political committees raised more than $127 million between January 2017 and the end of last year, mostly from small donors, according to Federal Election Commission reports. But the PACs aren’t waiting for the general election to start spending, a Wall Street Journal analysis of FEC reports found.
By the end of Monday, 16 Democratic presidential candidates must file FEC reports on their first-quarter fundraising and spending. About half have already announced top-line numbers, led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who reported raising $18.2 million. Mr. Trump’s campaign and two related PACs called Trump Victory and Trump Make America Great Again, which also benefit the Republican Party, must also file first-quarter reports.
Currently, to put a measure on the ballot, organizers must gather a number of voter signatures equal to a certain percentage of the vote cast in the most recent election for governor (but never greater than 10%). They must also collect half that percentage in at least 15 of Arkansas’ 75 counties.
This new amendment, however, would increase that requirement to a majority of 45 counties. Given that Democrats and black voters are heavily concentrated in a few highly populated counties such as Pulaski (home of Little Rock) and in the rural Delta region, this provision would effectively require those backing progressive measures to gather a significant number of signatures from rural, conservative-dominated counties. Conservatives, however, would not have to do the same in urban, heavily Democratic areas.
“It was like ‘Jeopardy,'” said Dale Ho, director of voting rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the lawyers who will argue the case in the Supreme Court. “They had the answer. They needed the question.”
Step aside, Super Tuesday — and say aloha to ranked-choice voting.
While contests in 11 states on March 3 will elect the most delegates in the 2020 presidential primaries, it’s April 4 — and the party-run primaries in Alaska and Hawaii — that might actually transform our politics. Both states plan to use ranked-choice voting to elect their delegates to the Democratic National Convention. With the vote possibly divided among more than 15 candidates, there’s real potential of a plurality nominee who doesn’t unify Democrats.
In June 2016, five months before the American presidential election, Julian Assange made a bold prediction during a little-noticed interview with a British television show.
“WikiLeaks has a very big year ahead,” he said, just seconds after announcing that the website he founded would soon be publishing a cache of emails related to Hillary Clinton.
He was right. But an indictment unsealed on Thursday charging Mr. Assange with conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer in 2010 makes no mention of the central role that WikiLeaks played in the Russian campaign to undermine Mrs. Clinton’s presidential chances and help elect President Trump. It remains unclear whether the arrest of Mr. Assange will be a key to unlocking any of the lingering mysteries surrounding the Russians, the Trump campaign and the plot to hack an election.
The Justice Department spent years examining whether Mr. Assange was working directly with the Russian government, but legal experts point out that what is known about his activities in 2016 — including publishing stolen emails — is not criminal, and therefore it would be difficult to bring charges against him related to the Russian interference campaign.
The limited early fundraising hauls announced by Democratic presidential hopefuls show that no clear front-runner has yet emerged in the race, and portend a drawn-out and divisive primary slog before the party unifies against President Trump.
The overall sum raised by nearly 20 Democratic presidential candidates so far is on par with the amount raised by a much smaller field at this point in 2007, a sign that candidates are struggling to break through in a crowded contest that remains wildly unpredictable.
The first-quarter fundraising reports that will be made public next week are typically seen as a key early measure of viability for primary candidates. But the figures trickling out from the campaigns show Democratic voters don’t yet know where to channel their anti-Trump energy — and money.
While much attention has focused on the question of whether the Trump campaign encouraged or conspired with Russia, the effort to target Sanders supporters has been a lesser-noted part of the story. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, in a case filed last year against 13 Russians accused of interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign, said workers at a St. Petersburg facility called the Internet Research Agency were instructed to write social media posts in opposition to Clinton but “to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”
That strategy could receive new attention with the release of Mueller’s report, expected within days.
Sanders told Vermont Public Radio last year that one of his campaign workers figured out what was going on, alerted the Clinton campaign and told them, “I think these guys are Russians.” But Sanders said he never knew, and he later backed off his suggestion that his staff did. A spokesman referred questions to 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver, who said in an interview that Sanders “misspoke a little bit and conflated a few of the facts. . . . He did not know, I did not know, none of us knew” that Russia was behind the efforts.
Only recently, with the latest analysis of Twitter data, has the extent of the Russian disinformation campaign been documented on that social media platform.
On April 23rd, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Department of Commerce v. New York, a case that raises questions of administrative and constitutional law, and that has the potential to affect the accuracy of the 2020 Census, thereby impacting congressional representation and federal funding decisions.
Join ACS for a discussion with experts about whether the addition of a citizenship question to the census violates the Administrative Procedures Act and/or the Constitution’s enumerations clause, and whether the trial court had the authority to order the deposition of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to ascertain the motive for the question’s inclusion.
Jennifer Nou, Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School
Daniel Tokaji, Associate Dean for Faculty and The Charles W. Ebersold and Florence Whitcomb Ebersold Professor of Constitutional Law, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
Kara Stein, Vice President of Policy and Program, ACS, moderator Thursday, April 18th 3:30pm ET
This event is approved for 1 hour of California MCLE credit.
Facing an investigation over the state’s botched efforts to screen its voter rolls for noncitizens, the Texas Attorney General’s Office is declining congressional leaders’ request for information about the review.
In a Thursday letter to top officials with the House’s main investigative committee, Jeffrey Mateer, the state’s first assistant attorney general, indicated the state was brushing off a request for documents and communications from the Texas secretary of state and attorney general because the committee lacks “oversight jurisdiction.”
Instead, Mateer wrote, the state will treat the congressional inquiry as a public information request under state law, which grants the Texas attorney general’s office broad control over what information can be withheld from the public.
Automatic voter registration has led to a spike in average registration rates in every state where it’s been implemented, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. In the first study of its kind, the Brennan Center analyzed the effects of automatic voter registration (AVR), a system in which eligible citizens are automatically registered to vote at agencies like the DMV unless they opt out.
Controlling for all other factors, the study shows that AVR has successfully increased voter registration rates in seven states and the District of Columbia. In short, automatic voter registration has chipped away at the antiquated obstacles to registering eligible citizens to vote.
In his new book, “Who Wants to Run?” Stanford University political scientist Andrew Hall investigates a familiar question — why Congress is so polarized — but comes to a less familiar answer. He writes, “Most legislative polarization is already baked into the set of people who run for office.” To understand more, I asked him some questions via email. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our exchange.
John Sides: I was struck by this statistic early in the book: Even if voters had picked the most moderate candidate in every U.S. House election between 1980 and 2014, 80 percent of the polarization between Democratic and Republican members would have occurred anyway. Why is that important to know?
Andrew Hall: The point of that 80 percent statistic — which is based on an analysis that Adam Bonica first developed — is that there just aren’t a lot of moderate choices for House voters. If we want to understand where polarization is coming from, we have to understand why so few moderate people run for office.
Lawyers for Gregory B. Craig, a White House counsel in the Obama administration, expect him to be indicted in the coming days on charges related to his work for the Russia-aligned government of Ukraine.
The case against Mr. Craig, 74, stemmed from an investigation initiated by the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III….
he case against Mr. Craig is related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which the Justice Department is prioritizing in part because of scrutiny related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation.
The law requires Americans to disclose detailed information about lobbying and public relations work for foreign governments and politicians, and it has been the basis for charges brought against several people investigated by the special counsel.
Mr. Craig’s lawyers do not necessarily expect him to be charged with violating the act.
Rather, they expect him to be charged with making false statements to the Justice Department officials examining whether he was required to register under the law for work he did in 2012, while he was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Issue One was joined today by 15 other organizations from across the ideological spectrum in urging all Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to publicly disclose information about their campaign top fundraisers on a regular basis during the 2020 presidential election.
Presidential candidates have long utilized individuals known as “bundlers” to help them raise the funds necessary to wage competitive campaigns, and it has long been a bipartisan tradition for candidates to voluntarily disclose information about their campaign bundlers. This transparency practice has been embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, including President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (President Donald Trump broke with tradition and did not release a list of his campaign bundlers in 2016.)
The book tells the stories of lots
of great groups and the work they are doing to reach voters in their communities.
Perhaps my favorite story is from the Texas affiliate of Mi Familia Vota. That
organization went to taco trucks in heavily-Latino areas of Houston to give
them voter registration forms to hand out to their customers. On the voter
registration deadline, taco truck owners were calling Mi Familia Vota to ask
for more forms, as so many people wanted to register to vote. Organizations
like these actively work in local communities to reach voters where they are.
I also tell the stories of two
amazing organizations, VoteRiders and Spread the Vote, that focus on voter
mobilization and issues of voter ID, each with their own strategy and reach.
Their models rely on local volunteers, who often help to secure the necessary
underlying documentation that a voter may need and offer rides to the DMV to
obtain an ID. As Spread the Vote notes, having an ID is helpful for everyday
life, not just Election Day.
These are just a few examples. Great
organizations exist in all 50 states. The Appendix lists groups in every state,
as well as national organizations, dedicated to voting rights, election reform,
and campaign finance. No matter your state, you can flip to the back of the
book and find a couple of organizations that focus on voting rights and
election reform. Give one of them a call.
This is, I hope, a different book.
Although I spent considerable time doing research, the focus goes beyond an
academic audience. I hope that everyday Americans will read the book and feel
inspired about what is possible. We need not suffer from the doom-and-gloom
that most people think invades our voting rights discourse. We can promote
positive reforms that will truly improve our election system. We can achieve
much higher turnout and much less apathy about our democracy. All of us can
help to take back our elections and change the future of voting.
joint intelligence bulletin (JIB) has been issued by the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation to state and local authorities regarding Russian hacking activities during the 2016 presidential election. While the bulletin contains no new technical information, it is the first official report to confirm that the Russian reconnaissance and hacking efforts in advance of the election went well beyond the 21 states confirmed in previous reports.
As reported by the intelligence newsletter OODA Loop, the JIB stated that, while the FBI and DHS “previously observed suspicious or malicious cyber activity against government networks in 21 states that we assessed was a Russian campaign seeking vulnerabilities and access to election infrastructure,” new information obtained by the agencies “indicates that Russian government cyber actors engaged in research on—as well as direct visits to—election websites and networks in the majority of US states.” While not providing specific details, the bulletin continued, “The FBI and DHS assess that Russian government cyber actors probably conducted research and reconnaissance against all US states’ election networks leading up to the 2016 Presidential elections.”
James R. Adams is a resident and member of the State Bar of Delaware. For some time, he has expressed a desire to be considered for a judicial position in that state. Following the announcement of several judicial vacancies, Adams considered applying but ultimately chose not to because the announcement required that the candidate be a Republican.
Because Adams was neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he concluded that any application he submitted would be futile. Adams brings this suit against the Governor of the State of Delaware to challenge the provision of the Delaware Constitution that effectively limits service on state courts to members of the Democratic and Republican parties. Adams claims that under the Supreme Court’s precedent in Elrod v. Burns and Branti v. Finkel, a provision that limits a judicial candidate’s freedom to associate (or not to associate) with the political party of his or her choice is unconstitutional. The Governor argues that because judges are policymakers, there are no constitutional restraints on his hiring decisions and he should be free to choose candidates based on whether they belong to one of the two major political parties in Delaware— that is, whether they are Democrats or Republicans. We disagree and conclude that judges are not policymakers because whatever decisions judges make in any given case relates to the case under review and not to partisan political interests. We therefore conclude that the portions of Delaware’s constitution that limit Adams’s ability to apply for a judicial position while associating with the political party of his choice violate his First Amendment rights, and we will accordingly affirm in part and reverse in part the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Adams.
Stephanie Mencimer reviews Joan Biskiupic’s fantastic new book on John Roberts, The Chief. The review focuses on Roberts and race, and discusses the Crawford voter id decision and the Shelby County voting rights case. A good read.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress largely agree with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s finding that Russia tried to meddle in U.S. democracy — and that foreign interference remains a serious threat. “Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, after Mueller finalized his investigation last month. But McConnell has made it clear that he’s unlikely to allow the Senate to vote on any election-related legislation for the foreseeable future.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee that has jurisdiction over election security legislation, blames House Democrats for McConnell’s hardline stance. Blunt said Democrats overreached in January when they passed H.R. 1, a sweeping measure focused on voting rights, campaign finance, and government ethics….
David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, said he could provide “no guidance” on whether an election security bill authored by Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma might be able to gain traction in the Senate. But Blunt said McConnell will not even bring a GOP-led election bill to the floor for fear Democrats might try to amend it.
“The House action on election legislation has actually made it even less likely that that bill could possibly be on the Senate floor,” Blunt said in an interview. “Their (H.R. 1) bill was a combination of everything that Democrats have wanted to do over the past 20 years all put into one big bill … That bill’s just not going to go to the floor. Neither is any other bill that opens the door to these issues. Leader gets to decide that and he has made it clear.”