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The hard-line Kansas Secretary of State who led President Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission says its work will be taken over by the Department of Homeland Security, in what he calls a “tactical shift.”

“What’s happening is a tactical shift where the mission of the commission is being handed off to Homeland Security without the stonewalling by Democrats,” Kris Kobach, a champion of restrictive voting laws, told Breitbart News.

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In a surprise move, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he was dissolving the bogus voter fraud commission he created after claiming without evidence that “millions” of people voted illegally in 2016.

“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Trump said in a statement via the White House press secretary. “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”

The commission had faced numerous lawsuits, including from one of its own commissioners, since its creation last May. It was vice-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who is known for pushing restrictive voting laws.

Civil rights groups worried that it would be use as a pretext to push for voting restrictions that would disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters, while privacy groups object to Kobach’s request for state voter roll information.

The commission met publicly only twice, in July and in September, while Democratic commissioner Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap alleged in a lawsuit that he had been cut out of its internal operations.

Read the full executive order below:

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –

TERMINATION OF PRESIDENTIAL

ADVISORY COMMISSION ON ELECTION INTEGRITY

     By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

     Section 1.  Executive Order 13799 of May 11, 2017 (Establishment of Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity), is hereby revoked, and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is accordingly terminated.

     Sec2.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

     (b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

     (c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party (other than by the United States) against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

                                DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE,

    January 3, 2018.

 

 

 

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Editor’s Note: Due to a reporting error, this story originally reported that Vkontakte had directly provided documents to Senate Judiciary Committee investigators about contacts between a company executive and the Trump campaign. TPM has no information on how the committee obtained the documents, and there is no evidence to suggest Vkontakte is cooperating with the investigation. We regret the error.

Senate investigators have obtained information about contacts between an executive at a Russian social media giant and the Trump campaign, TPM has learned.

The documents obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee relate to communication between VKontakte and Dan Scavino, a Trump campaign staffer who now works as the White House social media director.

Vkontakte, a social network similar to Facebook, ranks as the most popular website in Russia and is owned by the publicly traded Mail.Ru.

The nature of the documents obtained by the Committee isn’t clear, but previous reports in the press have detailed emails exchanged in 2016 between Konstantin Sidorkov, VKontakte’s director of partnership marketing, and Scavino.

The Washington Post first reported on the email exchange last month, citing “people familiar with the messages.” Sidorkov emailed Scavino and Donald Jr., offering to help make Trump’s campaign “the top news in Russia,” the Post reported. In response, Scavino expressed interest, but it isn’t clear that the conversation progressed beyond that introduction.

The Post added that Scavino’s liaison with Vkontakte was Rob Goldstone, the music publicist who also brokered the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr, and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

On Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent letters to Scavino and Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director, asking about the campaign’s contacts with Russia. “[T]he Committee has received information that you may have corresponded with Russian nationals regarding Trump campaign social media efforts,” Feinstein wrote to Scavino.

Vkontakte is broadly used in Russia, but its English-language users tend to be politically aligned far to the right of the mainstream, the Post reported.

TPM has contacted Vkontakte for comment and will update this piece with any response.

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Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Justice Department, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, claiming that Mueller’s investigation had overstepped its authority.

Manafort and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates are currently faced charges of money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose foreign lobbying as a part of Mueller’s probe. They have pleaded not guilty.

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President Donald Trump said Thursday that though he thinks Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s election interference makes “the country look very bad,” but he believes the outcome will be “fair.”

Trump held forth on Mueller’s investigation in a meandering 30-minute interview with The New York Times at his Mar-A-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, where he’s spending the holidays. No White House aides were present for the on-the-record conversation.

The President told the newspaper 16 times that the probe has discovered “no collusion” by his campaign, but added that he thinks Mueller is “going to be fair” to him.

Those comments are in line with what Trump has said previously, but run counter to a weeks-long effort by his supporters in Congress and in the conservative media to paint the investigation as hopelessly tainted by partisan bias. Those supporters have tried to pivot the national conversation towards Democrats’ dealings with Russia, instead.

Trump has enthusiastically assisted that effort, telling the Times that there was “tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats,” particularly those affiliated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He argued that special counsel investigators should focus their attention on past work that the lobbying firm of Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, did for a client referred by his own former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Trump called Manafort, who was indicted on a slew of financial crimes charges, a “very nice man” and “an honorable person,” repeating that he only managed the campaign for a short period of time. Manafort worked for Trump from March to August 2016.

Trump did not appear bothered by his associates’ indictments and plea agreements, or the fact that Mueller’s probe is continuing past the Christmas deadline his lawyers provided to reporters because, he said, there is nothing incriminating to find.

The Russia allegations were invented by Democrats “as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election,” he told the Times.

Trump also again took shots at his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, calling it a “terrible thing” and “certainly unnecessary.”

He praised the “loyalty” of Barack Obama’s first Attorney General, Eric Holder, and said he has “great respect” for what Holder did to “totally protect” the President.

Though Trump denied any interest in reopening a Justice Department investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, he asserted that he has the “absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.”

Trump is reportedly under scrutiny by Mueller’s team for obstruction of justice. The investigation has to do with his abrupt firing of former FBI Director James Comey after Comey allegedly declined Trump’s request that he swear a loyalty oath and drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

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As evidence for why Simon & Schuster did not want to move forward with publication of self-proclaimed far-right “troll” Milo Yiannopoulos’ autobiography “Dangerous,” the publisher has offered up the manuscript itself—annotated with a litany of scathing notes from one of its top editors.

The draft was included in court documents the publisher recently filed in New York State Supreme Court to defend its February decision to cancel a publication deal with Yiannopoulos worth $225,000. Yiannopoulos sued for $10 million in July over a breach of contract.

Manuscript notes from editor Mitchell Ivers show the impossible task Simon & Schuster faced: prodding an individual who built a career at Breitbart News off of demeaning Islam and using the word “lesbian” as a slur to produce a book suitable for mainstream publication.

Over and over, Yiannopoulos’ characteristic self-aggrandizement, penchant for ethnic smears, sloppy logic, and lack of humor are criticized by Ivers.

“Delete irrelevant and superfluous ethnic joke,” Ivers writes of a line about “informing cab drivers that curry is not a deodorant.”

“Don’t start chapter with accusation that feminists=fat. It destroys any seriousness of purpose,” he notes on a section titled “Why Feminists Hate Me.”

“If that headline is hate speech, THIS WHOLE BOOK is hate speech,” he implores on a section about a piece by Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti titled “Feminists Don’t Hate Men, But It Wouldn’t Matter If They Did.”

The “superficial and nonsubstantive” quality of the work is what ultimately prompted Simon & Schuster to cancel the book contract, Ivers said in a sworn affidavit. The decision to do so came at around the same time that Yiannopoulos was forced out from Breitbart and dropped from the Conservative Political Action Conference after a video surfaced in which he appeared to defend pedophilia.

Though Yiannopoulos was permitted to keep his $80,000 book advance, he sued the publisher in July. A New York Supreme Court judge in October rejected Simon & Schuster’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

But Yiannopoulos has otherwise had a spectacularly bad year. His effort to organize a “Free Speech Week” fell apart after he neglected to actually inform the slated speakers that they were invited. And in October, BuzzFeed published an explosive exposé on Yiannopoulos’ successful campaign to “smuggle” Nazi and white nationalist ideas into Breitbart’s stories and the broader political discourse.

It’s unclear why Simon & Schuster thought Yiannopoulos—whose views on women, gay people, minorities, and Muslims were well-known long before his concerted attempts to mainstream white nationalism were uncovered—was the best person to author a “serious work addressing political correctness and related free speech issues,” as they referred to the initial publication deal in a court document.

His contract was with Threshold Editions, a Simon & Schuster imprint aimed at a conservative audience, and Ivers has personally edited books by President Donald Trump, conservative shock-jock Rush Limbaugh, and Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe. At various points in his notes, Ivers praises Yiannopoulos’ “well argued” points about why Black Lives Matter has failed as a movement, or how the left abandoned white working-class voters.

But the notes by Mitchell, which circulated on Twitter Thursday, elucidate how the book failed to live up to what Simon & Schuster ostensibly thought they’d signed up for.

“Delete entire chapter”

 

“No need to drag lesbians into this!”

“I will not accept a manuscript that labels an entire class of people ‘mentally ill.'”

“If that headline is hate speech, THIS WHOLE BOOK is hate speech.”

“The way you casually bring up the KKK makes no sense”

“Stupid ethnic joke diminishes any authority”

“Delete irrelevant and superfluous ethnic joke” 

“This entire paragraph is just repeating Fake News.”

“Three unfunny jokes in a row.”

Read the full annotated manuscript below.

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A federal judge’s evident annoyance that Rick Gates participated, via a pre-taped video statement, in a fundraiser last week did not stop the organizer of the fundraiser from taking a swing at the judge.

“The actions by this judge to curtail First Amendment free speech rights are nothing short of Stalin-esque,” GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman, who is known for inserting himself in conservative causes célèbres, said in a statement Thursday. “I stand by what I said that night and my inalienable right to be able to say it.”

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Rick Gates’ attorneys argued in a court filing Wednesday that the former Trump campaign aide’s appearance, via a pre-taped video statement, at a fundraiser for his legal defense fund last week was not a violation of a federal judge’s gag order in his criminal case.

The filing also stressed that the fundraiser’s host, Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman, was not speaking on Gates’ behalf when he criticized the prosecutors in the case. It suggested that there would be more fundraisers for Gates’ legal fees to come and that those fundraisers will require “similar sentiments of gratitude” from Gates.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has begun interviews with Republicans National Committee staffers about the committee’s digital operations during the 2016 election, Yahoo News reported Wednesday.

According to Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff, Mueller’s team is examining whether the joint digital operation between the RNC and President Trump’s campaign “was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate.”

The report is based on two sources familiar with Mueller’s investigation.

The RNC did not to TPM’s inquiry, while a spokesperson for the special counsel declined to comment.

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What President Trump suggested is an embattled FBI official’s suspicious run for the exits may actually be a fairly typical career step for the FBI’s upper management, former officials at the bureau told TPM.

Reports over the weekend that Andrew McCabe — the FBI deputy director who has become a target of conservative criticism — is expected to depart early next year drove Trump to weigh in on Twitter.

As the reports mentioned, McCabe will become eligible for a full retirement package in March, and is expected to step down then.

The FBI did not return TPM’s request for comment.

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