Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who believes Google should be investigated for treason and once wrote that American democracy has been in decline since women won the right to vote, is investing heavily in two of the Kansas City region’s most ambitious political startups.
Thiel steered six figures into a dark money group that backed Republican Kris Kobach’s failed campaign for Kansas governor, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
And now that Kobach is running for U.S. Senate, the PayPal co-founder is upfront about his financial support. Last week at his New York City apartment, Thiel and conservative pundit Ann Coulter co-hosted a fundraiser for the former Kansas secretary of state.
He also donated $300,000 to Missouri Republican Josh Hawley’s 2016 campaign for Missouri attorney general and $5,400, the maximum allowed under federal law, toward his successful 2018 run for U.S. Senate.
The Federal Election Commission chairwoman, Ellen L. Weintraub, on Friday took the dramatic step of using Twitter to release the entire draft of a memo addressing foreign election interference after its disputed publication in the agency’s weekly digest.
Ms. Weintraub, a Democrat appointed by President George W. Bush, said a Republican commission member, Caroline Hunter, had thwarted the release of the memo and the digest, so she self-published the materials in a tweet storm that drew widespread attention to the tensions on the commission.
Ms. Weintraub said on Sunday that the memo, which can also be found on the agency’s website, was drafted by the commission’s staff and was meant to provide guidance on rules about prohibited activities involving foreign nationals in elections.
She said it was unusual for another commissioner to object to publishing it in the digest, a weekly account of fines meted out by the agency for campaign finance law violations and other regulatory matters.
Peter Baker for the NYT:
The emerging battle over the future of Mr. Trump’s presidency will explore as never before the scope and limits of a commander in chief’s interactions with other countries. His adversaries echo the fears of the founders in accusing Mr. Trump of committing high crimes by pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on Democratic opponents while holding up American aid. Mr. Trump contends that impeaching him would infringe on the ability of future presidents to conduct foreign policy.
Unlike the impeachment battles involving Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, the debate over Mr. Trump turns on whether a president can solicit or accept help from abroad to advance his political fortunes and where lies the line between the national interest and personal interests.
A combination of personal and professional obligations will cut into blogging time over the next few weeks. Those who receive daily emails from me via the Election Law Listserv will find them somewhat less frequently.
Thanks for your patience.
President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter.
The comments, which have not been previously reported, were part of a now-infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State. He also said during the meeting that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him.
A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to all but a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters….
White House officials were particularly distressed by Trump’s election remarks because it appeared the president was forgiving Russia for an attack that had been designed to help elect him, the three former officials said. Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries’ elections, they said.
The previous day, Trump had fired Comey amid the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia. White House aides worried about the political ramifications if Trump’s comments to the Russian officials became public.
David Daley with the latest from the Hofeller files:
IN COURT AND IN PUBLIC, many top Republicans have denied gerrymandering gives them any advantage at all. They’ve captured state legislatures and won an edge in Congress, some have suggested, due to superior candidates, better campaigns, and natural geographic sorting that clusters Democrats in urban areas and spreads Republicans more efficiently across the suburbs and rural America.
“The problem is not district lines; the problem is weak candidates who run poor campaigns based on bad ideas,” said Chris West, spokesperson for former Virginia Speaker of the House William Howell, in 2017.
“We have better candidates, better issues and a better understanding of what our constituents want to do,” Wisconsin state Rep. Kathleen Bernier told the Wall Street Journal in the same year.
In a trove of never before published memos and emails, however, GOP leaders come clean: Their nationwide advantage in state legislatures and Congress is built on gerrymandering. And top Republican strategists and political operatives admit to weaponizing racial data and the Voting Rights Act in order to flip the South red and tilt electoral maps in their direction.
Those are among the revelations from over 70,000 documents, maps, and emails, obtained by The Intercept, that were culled from the hard drive backups of the late redistricting mastermind Thomas Hofeller. Though the exact purpose or destination — and sometimes even the author — of each memo is not always clear, the thinking revealed in the documents and drafts is illuminating. Some appear to be regular updates for Republican leadership, top stakeholders, and key donors.
Ned Foley at Medium.
I have written this piece for Slate. Here is my key point:
What Democrats need, then, is a clean impeachment strategy laser-focused on the Ukraine allegations. The allegation is easy to understand and does not require a Carrie Mathison cork board connecting the cast of characters with yarn. President Trump solicited a foreign government to provide dirt, perhaps manufactured, on one of his political rivals, Joe Biden, who he may face in the 2020 presidential election. Trump did so while the United States was withholding crucial financial aid from the Ukraine, reportedly at his behest alone. Trump professed a concern about “corruption,” but so far as we know the only supposed corruption he has ever expressed any concern about involved generally unsubstantiated allegations about Biden’s family, or other personal political and legal foes.
The story is clear whether we hear from the whistleblower directly or not. The President has admitted the conduct; he disputes only its wrongfulness, describing his call as “very legal and very good.” And already today there is enough for the House to conclude that the president has abused his power and is worthy of impeachment. That’s true whether or not the solicitation of foreign opposition research is a campaign finance crime—I believe it is and Special Counsel Robert Mueller suggested it could be illegal as well even as he raised what he considered to be First Amendment issues—and it is true whether or not Trump’s conduct as reported in the partial summary of the conversation with Ukraine’s president amounted to the crime of extortion or bribery. The mafia-like shakedown by Trump—along the lines of: That’s a really nice country you have; it would be a shame if something happened to it—needs to be condemned whether it amounted to a technical violation of the law or not.
And this is the key point: the ordinary argument that an impeachment close to the election is unnecessary because the voters can decide whether or not to keep the president in office does not hold water when the impeachable conduct involves attempting to manipulate the election process itself. It is indeed a matter of national security if the president is seeking to use the power of his office—and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money—to get a weaker foreign government to do his bidding in coordination with his personal lawyer.
Sure, the Republican-dominated Senate might not convict the president with a necessary two-thirds vote if the House impeaches (although the silence from many Republican Senators suggests they are still deciding what do to). But impeaching the president for an abuse of power in soliciting foreign help in the election will serve three purposes even if there is no conviction and removal from office.
You can find the complaint here.
Here is what I wrote when a three-judge state court struck state legislative districts as a partisan gerrymander:
First, it is not clear that there is enough time to bring such a challenge and get it done in time to affect the 2020 elections, the last elections to be used under the existing maps before the next round of redistricting. I am surprised there was not a state case against the congressional districts in the works earlier, and given discovery and potential appeals, and the upcoming calendar, it may just be too late. Even if state courts do not follow the Purcell Principle, at some point changing district lines comes too late.
Second, it is not clear to me that the ruling earlier this week has any precedential value in a challenge to congressional maps. Nick Stephanapoulos writes: “the North Carolina decision is just as applicable to congressional as to state legislative districts. North Carolina’s gerrymandered congressional plan—the plan the Supreme Court failed to invalidate in Rucho—is thus on thin ice. And so will be any efforts by the North Carolina legislature to gerrymander (or even to consider partisanship) in the 2020 redistricting cycle. As long as the North Carolina decision remains good law, North Carolina maps must be nonpartisan.” But I’m not sure that this is right.
The recent state decision was a state trial court, and I do not know that it is binding precedent in any challenge to the congressional maps. Perhaps under North Carolina law the new challenge would go before the same three-judge court. If not, generally speaking, trial court rulings are not precedential for other trial courts. Indeed, as I’ve explained, one of the reasons that North Carolina Republicans may have thrown in the towel on the state legislative race was to avoid a likely adverse opinion from the state supreme court, which would have been a definitive ruling on the meaning of the state constitution.