Allegra_w0kzhc

Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

Articles by

Nearly a decade ago, Republicans launched REDMAP, an audacious bid to win key statehouses and governorships in order to give themselves control over the redistricting process that followed the 2010 Census, so they could gerrymander district lines in their favor.

The project succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, giving them a major edge in successive election cycles.

Now, they’re looking to do it again.

The GOP has launched its first ever national group focused exclusively on how congressional and state legislative maps are drawn, with an eye on the next round of redistricting, which will follow the 2020 Census. And they have help from deep-pocketed, state-based super PACs devoted to holding onto their gains.

Last September, Republicans created the National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT) as an umbrella group for its redistricting plans—and an answer to Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which aims to give Democrats a louder voice in the redistricting process this time around.

The NRRT bills itself as the hub for a 50-state effort “solely focused on redistricting legal and data matters,” freeing up other GOP entities like the state legislative and congressional campaign committees to “focus on winning races and expanding their Republican majorities.” It says it plans to raise $35 million by 2020. (A spokeswoman didn’t respond when asked how much it had pulled in so far. Holder told the New York Times in February that his group had raised a bit over half of the $30 million it hopes to have by the same date.)

The group will work closely with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which masterminded REDMAP. In 2015, it launched REDMAP 2020, which aims to repeat the GOP’s success last time at winning statehouses and governorships in key redistricting battlegrounds. REDMAP 2020 initially had a $125 million fundraising goal through the 2022 cycle, but Matt Walter, the RSLC’s president, told TPM in a Thursday phone call that the number would balloon to counter Democratic efforts.

“That number was set in advance of this effort that has been robust and well-funded and highly focused by the left, so the commitment to match that by Republicans, conservatives and the right of center world is imperative,” Walter said.

“We see a variety of areas where the left of center world is focused on redistricting: state level offices beyond the legislative level, the advancement of ballot initiatives, and the courts as well,” Walter added. “The field of engagement and connection points have expanded.”

In addition to this centralized effort, there are local groups like #ProjectRedTX, a super PAC run by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s former campaign manager that recently pulled in $500,000 from a single donor.

The group did not respond to TPM’s request for comment, but its website features a pledge “to make sure that those that seek to turn Texas into a leftist haven cannot get a foothold by mis-using the redistricting process.”

Last time around, in 2010, Republicans poured money into winning control of key redistricting battlegrounds like Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Virginia. Then, they used that control to draw district lines in their favor in those statehouses and in Congress. The result was to skew political outcomes in each of last three elections: In 2012, for instance, Democratic congressional candidates got over 1 million more votes that Republicans, but, thanks to gerrymandering, the GOP came out with 33 more seats.

That gerrymander also means Republicans have key advantages baked in for next time, as David Daley, the author of “Ratfucked,” an account of the GOP’s most recent redistricting master plan, told TPM.

“Republicans are really sitting pretty,” said Daley, now the communications director for the anti-gerrymandering group Fair Vote. “A blue wave really is going to have to be a blue tsunami in these states. And it’s going to take two of them. It’s not going to be enough for Democrats to have a blue wave in 2018; they’re going to need to replicate it in 2020.”

Republicans sound unconcerned by charges that they’re planing to once again enthusiastically rig the system in their favor. For one thing, they note that Democrats have gerrymandered on their own behalf in blue states like Maryland and Illinois. A brief launch memo for the NRRT devotes a page to criticizing Obama for denouncing GOP gerrymandering, after using redistricting to create a more favorable map for himself while serving in the Illinois legislature.

Republicans could still be stymied, in part, by the Supreme Court, which is considering three major redistricting cases that could impose limits on how extreme partisan gerrymanders can be.

Voting experts agree that the courts are the best hope for Democrats and those who want less partisan maps. But they caution that the lawsuits against the last round of maps wound through the courts for years. In some states, 2018 could be the fourth cycle in which voters cast ballots in districts that courts have deemed unconstitutional.

As Holder has said, “success” for Democrats going into the next two cycles is primarily a matter of shattering GOP trifecta control of state legislatures and governorships. For Republicans, it means painting an already-red national map several shades darker.

Read More →

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles was a premeditated effort to set up a covert communication channel between Russian authorities and the Trump transition team, the Washington Post reported Wednesday night.

This explosive information comes from the sworn statements of one of the participants in the meeting and a cooperating witness in Mueller’s probe: George Nader, a top adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to several Trump officials.

Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, told Mueller’s team that the meeting between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Russian businessman Kirill Dmitriev was arranged so that the informal Trump adviser and Putin’s government could discuss relations between the two countries, according to the Post. Per the report, Nader helped organize the meeting in the remote island nation.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last fall, Prince described the meeting in starkly different terms. He said that he was in the Seychelles in his capacity as a private businessman in order to meet with the UAE’s royal family. He said he met with Dmitriev by chance, on the Emiratis recommendation.

Prince denied that relations between the incoming administration and Russia were discussed over the drink they shared at the Four Seasons’ bar.

As the Post, CNN and the New York Times have now reported, Nader became a cooperating witness in Mueller’s investigation in mid-January when he was intercepted by federal authorities at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. He had intended to travel on to a party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Those publications have reported that Nader had ongoing communications with key Trump team members, including former chief strategist Steve Bannon and adviser Jared Kushner. Nader met with the two Trump officials in New York in December 2016 and again in the White House after inauguration, according to their reports.

Separately, Kushner reportedly met with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition to discuss establishing a secret backchannel of communications with the Kremlin.

Read More →

A top adviser to the United Arab Emirates who met repeatedly with aides to President Donald Trump during the presidential transition is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to reports.

The New York Times reported Tuesday night that Mueller wants to know if George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, funneled money from the UAE to the Trump campaign.

Nader’s cooperation offers critical new evidence that Mueller’s investigation has expanded beyond Russia’s influence operations in the 2016 election to the efforts other countries may have made to illegally curry favor with the Trump campaign.

Nader was served with search warrants and a grand jury subpoena on January 17 after arriving at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport en route to a party at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, according to the Times. The report says the FBI seized Nader’s electronics and questioned him for several hours, and that he has subsequently sat down for multiple rounds of questioning about his interactions with the Trump team, and has testified before the grand jury.

CNN reported that investigators were interested in Nader’s presence at a December 2016 New York meeting between Emirati officials and Trump advisers that was held without the Obama administration’s knowledge. Per CNN, Jared Kushner, national security adviser-designee Mike Flynn, and Trump strategist Steve Bannon were all present.

Another key focus of Mueller’s inquiry: Nader’s previously unreported presence at a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles attended by Russian fund manager Kirill Dmitriev and Blackwater founder and informal Trump adviser Erik Prince. The Times reported that Dmitriev was representing Russian President Vladimir Putin at that meeting and that the Emiratis believed Prince was standing in for the Trump transition. Nader, who previously worked as a consultant to Blackwater, was also at the meeting representing the Emirati Crown Prince, according to the Times.

In November testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Prince ardently denied that there was anything untoward about the Seychelles trip or that he served as an envoy for the Trump campaign. He testified that he had a drink with Dmitriev on the suggestion of the Emirati officials he came to the island country to meet, and that they discussed “oil and commodity prices,” but little about the incoming Trump administration.

The conversations between Trump associates and Nader did not end there. The Times reported that the Emirati adviser held “meetings in the White House” with Kushner and Bannon prior to the latter’s departure from the administration.

The UAE is reportedly one of at least four countries that has discussed ways to gain leverage over, and manipulate, Kushner.

Read More →

Despite recent warnings from some of the top U.S. intelligence officials, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he was not worried about Russia trying to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

“We’ll counteract whatever they do,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. “We’ll counteract it very strongly. And we have back-up systems, and we haven’t been given credit to this but we’re working very hard on the ’18 election and the ’20 election coming up.

Those efforts include instituting a paper back-up system for votes, according to comments he made earlier in the presser.

“It’s called paper,” Trump said. “Not highly complex computers. Paper. And a lot of states are doing that. They’re going to a paper back-up. And I think that’s a great idea. We’re studying it very closely. Various agencies, including Homeland Security, are studying it very carefully.”

As he has many times before, the President also reiterated the unfounded claim that Russia’s influence operation did not have an impact on the election results and suggested that other actors may have also been involved. The U.S. intelligence community and Special Counsel Robert Mueller have not concluded that election machines or voting results were altered, but they have documented that millions of Americans were exposed to hacked Democratic documents and Russian social media accounts that sought to boost Trump’s campaign. The impact of Russia’s efforts is still not completely known.

“The Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever,” Trump told the assembled reporters in the White House’s East Room. “Certainly there was meddling and probably from other countries and maybe other individuals. And I think you have to be really watching very closely. You don’t want your system of votes to be compromised in any way.”

Trump then pivoted to a discussion of his accomplishments in office, predicting that the GOP will “do very well” in the midterms.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are among the U.S. officials who have warned that Russia is already attempting to interfere in the 2018 elections. The New York Times reported this weekend that the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million intended to be used to combat foreign interference in elections.

Read More →

With the future of his national college tour mired in litigation, white nationalist Richard Spencer is increasingly isolated.

Over the weekend, Spencer’s longtime friend and legal champion Kyle Bristow abruptly announced he was quitting politics and cutting ties with his Michigan-based foundation, which branded itself as the “sword and shield” of the white nationalist alt-right. Other ideological allies have criticized Spencer to the press or gone quiet. He’s cut off from key funding sources. And the violent acts that his supporters have committed before and after his college events have given fodder to schools trying to block Spencer’s appearances on the grounds that his events endanger their communities.

Even Spencer is acknowledging that things are rocky, telling TPM in a Monday phone call: “We’re just in a transitionary stage.”

Spencer is credited with coining the term “alt-right” to describe the loosely affiliated mass of mostly young white men with white nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic views who rose to national prominence during the 2016 election.

Speaking to TPM, Spencer called Bristow’s departure a “setback,” adding: “I obviously wish he had not done it, particularly at this time, but I do understand him and I support him.”

“The opposition recognizes that I’m not going anywhere so they’re trying to harass and threaten the people around me,” Spencer said.

That conversation came hours before Spencer’s chaotic appearance at Michigan State University. Prolonged litigation with the university, which Bristow fought on Spencer’s behalf, resulted in a mediation agreement that required Spencer to schedule his speech over spring break, at the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education, a farmyard barn a mile off of campus. A number of neo-Nazis and anti-fascist activists were arrested outside the venue after violent clashes with each other and with police dressed in riot gear.

Inside the building, however, the mood was sedate. Under 50 people turned out to listen to Spencer’s remarks about the need to create a white ethno-state and repatriate immigrants back to their native countries.

In the speech, Spencer acknowledged his disappointment that the alt-right has not recovered from the backlash over last August’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed. Though he described the event as “one for the history books,” he also called it “a bit of a disaster,” noting that the “blowback against us was tremendous.” 

Spencer lamented the mass expulsion of white nationalists from social media and online payment platforms in the weeks after Charlottesville. “I have a very hard time raising money online,” he said. 

His future appearances are mired in legal wrangling. Penn State University, the University of Cincinnati, and Ohio State University have all refused to host Spencer, leading Bristow to bring litigation on Spencer’s behalf in all three cases.

But over the weekend, Bristow suddenly jumped ship. He announced that he was no longer involved in those lawsuits, and was resigning as the director of the Foundation for the Marketplace of Free Ideas (FMI), a nonprofit that championed alt-right defendants. Bristow deleted his public Twitter account, which had featured a profile photo of him and Spencer smoking cigars. 

Bristow, who did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment, was very active in the seeds of what became the alt-right movement. As president of Michigan State’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom back in 2006, he tried to organize a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” and invited white nationalist Jared Taylor to give a talk on campus. (The YAF’s current chairman Grant Stobl told TPM that Bristow’s chapter was not authorized and that the group “prohibits racists”).

Though his racist views were well-documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other publications, Bristow’s abrupt resignation came after a series of articles in the Detroit Free Press about his college activism and FMI’s controversial ideas.

“This is a definite blow to the progress of the alt-right especially as it attempts to recruit young members on college campuses,” SPLC senior investigative reporter Ryan Lenz told TPM of Bristow’s departure from the movement.

Reached by phone Monday, attorney Jason L. Van Dyke, who was listed as FMI’s Director of Legal Advocacy, told TPM he had in fact resigned from the group last October “because frankly I did not approve of its involvement with Richard Spencer.”*

Van Dyke has in the past represented groups with ties to white supremacists and has tweeted death threats and racist epithets online.

The SPLC’s Lenz told TPM that “we’ll see in the coming weeks if FMI is a paper tiger or if the infrastructure to protect white nationalist speakers in this country that Bristow has established will hold up.”

For now, a replacement has stepped in. Ohio-based James Kolenich, who according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, believes that the white race must save itself from Jews, immigrants, and minorities, has taken over for Bristow in two of the school suits, which are currently in discovery.**

In an email to TPM, Kolenich mentioned three times that he only took up the cases for the fee and said that he did not know Spencer or Bristow.

“I have never spoken to or otherwise communicated with Richard Spencer,” Kolenich added. “Mr. Spencer is not, and never has been, a client if [sic] my law practice.”

Spencer, for his part, did not even seem aware that Kolenich was now advocating on his behalf.

“This new lawyer, I’ve never spoken with him so once this is over and I’m able to catch my breath I’ll certainly talk to him and see if we want to begin a relationship,” Spencer told TPM on Monday.

Spencer leaves Michigan with at least one supporter facing felony charges and no scheduled events on the horizon.

* This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version which described Van Dyke as a white nationalist. 

** This sentence has been corrected to make clear that Kolenich has taken over for Bristow in two of the lawsuits against universities that refused to host Spencer, not all three. 

 

Read More →

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is apparently homing in on two questions central to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election: What was the exact nature of President Trump’s business dealings in Russia prior to the 2016 election, and what did Trump know about the DNC hacking during the campaign?

In recent witness interviews, Mueller’s team has reportedly asked what compromising information Russia may have on the President, and why he abandoned plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The special counsel also has questions about the financing of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant there.

Another line of inquiry focuses on whether Trump knew that the DNC and top Democratic operatives’ emails had been hacked before the emails were made public — and whether he was involved in their release. Mueller is reportedly assembling a case against the Russians responsible for the hacking and dissemination of those messages.

The President responded to reports about the ongoing investigation in several tweet storms, seemingly inspired by Fox News segments. He denounced the “WITCH HUNT” against him and attacked his attorney general, calling Jeff Sessions’ “disgraceful” for tasking the DOJ Inspector General with looking into possible Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse rather than initiating an independent investigation.

Sessions offered what may have been his strongest self-defense to date, insisting GOP complaints about FISA warrants obtained for members of the Trump campaign were being “fully and fairly acted upon.” He pledged to continue to carry out his duties “according to the law and Constitution.”

Another White House official is creating fresh headaches for Trump. The day before she announced her imminent departure, Communications Director and longtime aide Hope Hicks, who has already been interviewed by Mueller’s team, admitted to the House Intelligence Committee that she sometimes told “white lies” on the President’s behalf.

Read More →

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is investigating the veterans charity that scandal-plagued Gov. Eric Greitens founded eleven years ago.

“The Attorney General’s Office has an open inquiry into the charitable activities of The Mission Continues, pursuant to the AGO’s enforcement responsibilities under the consumer protection and charitable registration and reporting laws,” Loree Anne Paradise, Hawley’s deputy chief of staff, told TPM in a statement.

The news adds to the pressure on Greitens, who last week was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking a nonconsensual partly nude photo of a woman with whom he carried out a 2015 affair. Greitens has denied allegations that he threatened to release the photo if the woman went public. His attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was brought by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat.

Greitens, a Republican, left the charity, The Mission Continues, in 2014. But questions about his enduring ties to it date back to his 2016 election campaign. In October of that year, weeks before voters went to the polls, the Associated Press revealed an overlap between people who donated to his campaign and to the charity.

At the the time, Greitens, who was in a tight race, denied using the donor list for The Mission Continues to raise money for his campaign. Doing so would be a violation of federal campaign finance laws, which bar non-profits from engaging in political activity on behalf of a particular candidate, and require campaigns to report the use of this sort of list as an in-kind contribution.

Missouri Democrats filed a complaint with the state ethics commission, and, last April, the governor agreed to a settlement in which his campaign retroactively disclosed that it did receive the donor list, and paid a $100 fine.

Still, Hawley, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, had previously declined to investigate the charity. But last week’s indictment over the alleged blackmail has shifted the political winds in Missouri, gravely weakening Greitens’ political standing.

Several of Greitens’ current and former staffers have reportedly been subpoeneaed to testify before the grand jury, including at least one who was involved in the Mission Continues controversy. And the GOP-controlled Missouri House is conducting its own probe of the blackmail allegations.

New information about links between the charity and Greitens’ campaign also has emerged recently.

On Monday, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a Greitens employee had emailed the donor list to campaign aides in January 2015, nearly two months earlier than the campaign had previously said. A number of people, including a New York Times reporter and Missouri high school student, came forward this week to say they began receiving emails from Greitens’ campaign years after donating to his charitable foundation, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And on Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Greitens used an email for the charity to arrange political meetings in January 2015, while he still sat on The Mission Continues’ board.

News of Hawley’s investigation came the same day that the AG announced he had found no wrongdoing in a separate investigation into the use of a secret self-deleting messaging application by Greitens and his staffers.

The governor campaigned on a platform of transparency.

Read More →

I have a piece up today looking at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to put off holding special elections for two state legislative seats. Most observers don’t think it’s a coincidence that Walker is procrastinating. Democrats have flipped 39 special election seats since Trump was inaugurated, and some are anticipating a “blue wave” this November.

However, as I mention in the piece, Walker isn’t the only GOP official looking to meddle with special elections, which are usually held in the event of deaths or resignations from state office. “Governors on both sides of the aisle optimizing timing for their own purposes is nothing new,” Carolyn Fiddler, who tracks state politics for the Daily Kos, told me. “But refusing to schedule them at all is new, and changing state law to prevent future special elections from happening to fill U.S. Senate seats is new.”

The latter is happening in Alabama, where the GOP-controlled House voted to do away with special elections for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats. The bill, which now goes to the state senate, would allow the governor to appoint an interim pick instead, who could end up serving for as long as two years.

This legislation, of course, follows a special election in Alabama in which the Republican establishment was badly stung. The soon-to-be-revealed-as-an-alleged-predator Roy Moore won the primary, clearing the way for a Democrat to win one of Alabama’s U.S. Senate seats for the first time in the 21st century. “I call it the anti-Doug Jones bill,” state Rep. John Rogers, a Democrat representing Birmingham, told the AP.

In Michigan, meanwhile, Gov. Rick Snyder is delaying a special election until the time of the Nov. 2018 midterms, leaving most of Detroit without a representative for some 11 months. Florida’s Rick Scott and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker won’t hold any more special elections for open seats in their states’ legislatures prior to the November race. These lawmakers say special elections are a costly waste of time and effort.

The last few years have seen steady stream of radical departures from political precedent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) holding up hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland until after the election is one example. The ongoing efforts by Republicans to disenfranchise minority voters through voter ID laws and gerrymandering is another. This latest effort to ignore special elections, Democrats say, also qualifies: It effectively strips voters of their right to be represented by representatives of their own choosing.

Read More →

Is procrastinating special elections a new, anti-democratic trend? Read a reporter’s notebook post (Prime access) on this article »

In late December, two Republican lawmakers stepped down from the Wisconsin legislature to join Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.

Their seats, in Assembly District 42 and Senate District 1, have sat empty ever since — and are likely to stay that way until January of 2019.

In a remarkable break from precedent, Walker announced at the time that he would not hold special elections in those districts, leaving 229,904 Wisconsinites without representation for almost a year.

Walker’s office has said it’s not worth the cost or effort to hold the votes, since regular congressional races will take place in November. But Democrats and their allies say Walker is just scared to lose.

“This is about them not wanting to be embarrassed by losing races in districts they have traditionally won,” Wisconsin Democratic strategist Sachin Chheda told TPM. “Everybody knows it, and I think it’s embarrassing that they’d make a decision on that basis rather than the small ‘d’ democratic tenets of giving people the right to choose their own representative.”

Walker isn’t alone. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is likewise waiting until the November election to replace departed congressman John Conyers, forcing the Detroit district’s mostly minority residents to go 11 months without representation in Congress. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott won’t hold any special elections for two open Florida seats. And after Democrat Doug Jones’ stunning Senate victory in December, the GOP-controlled Alabama House approved a bill that would scrap special elections for the state’s U.S. Senate seats, allowing the governor to appoint an interim replacement instead. That bill is currently before a Senate committee.

The trend comes amid a political climate that looks increasingly favorable to Democrats, thanks to President Trump’s enduring unpopularity. Democrat Patty Schactner in January trounced a well-known local Republican in a rural Wisconsin district—a win that Walker himself called a “wake up call.” And since Trump took office, Democrats have flipped some 39 seats, including two victories in Connecticut and New Hampshire this week.

In Wisconsin, Walker’s opponents see the governor’s move as the latest salvo in a sweeping assault on voting rights that began when he took office in 2011.

“There’s the [gerrymandered] maps, there’s these elections, there’s voter suppression, there’s the changing of campaign finance laws,” said Chheda.

This week, the National Redistricting Foundation (NDF), which is led by former attorney general Eric Holder, sued to require Walker to hold the special elections. The lawsuit cites a state statute that requires the governor to fill vacated seats “as promptly as possible.”

The foundation is an arm of the organization Holder created to give Democrats more control of the redistricting process in key state governments after 2020.

Per Wisconsin law, the governor must call a special election for any seat that becomes vacant “before the 2nd Tuesday in May in the year in which a regular election is held.”

Walker’s office has interpreted this to mean no election is necessary, since the two open seats were vacated in 2017 rather than the 2018 election year. And it says holding a special election would be impractical and costly.

“Voters are already going to the polls this year to elect new representatives in these districts,” Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg said in a statement. “This D.C.-based special interest group wants to force Wisconsin taxpayers to waste money.”

“The Legislature will be adjourned for 2018 before these seats could be filled in special elections, and staff in these offices are working for constituents until new leaders are elected,” Hasenberg added.

But Democrats note that Walker chose to call a special election for another seat vacated in late 2017: the Senate District 10 race that Democrat Schachtner won easily in January, but which had been reliably red.

“It is evident that Gov. Walker is picking and choosing elections to his liking,” Wisconsin Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling told TPM in an email.

The governors’ opponents face an uphill battle in getting the special election on the calendar. Every week that passes strengthens the GOP’s argument that there isn’t time to organize one. And, if the NDF’s case makes its way to the state Supreme Court, it will be heard by a body that has a 5-2 conservative advantage.

But Republicans and Democrats agree that Holder’s involvement raises the visibility of the issue ahead of the midterms, where Walker himself is up for reelection.

“Having this conversation happen about the fact that Scott Walker is afraid to hold elections when he’s on the ballot in nine months is not the worst story to have out there,” said Scot Ross of the progressive group One Wisconsin Now.

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Wednesday unleashed a new attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying it’s “disgraceful” that Sessions hasn’t launched an independent investigation into the handling of surveillance orders obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse,” the president asked in a tweet. “Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is a former career DOJ attorney.

The dual criticism represents Trump’s latest offensive in an ongoing onslaught on the independence of the Justice Department. In past administrations, it’s been seen as highly improper for the president to dictate who DOJ investigates or how it does so.

Sessions announced Tuesday that Horowitz will be tasked with probing the alleged abuses committed by top FBI and DOJ officials in obtaining surveillance warrants against former campaign aide Carter Page. Those alleged abuses were outlined in a memo compiled by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a Trump ally. National security experts and Democrats have dismissed Nunes’ conclusions, saying the memo lacks critical context and misstates evidence about why multiple judges decided to extend the warrant for Page.

As Trump noted in his tweet, Horowitz is currently probing the handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server — a pet issue for the president that Democrats, too, want answers about.

Trump’s comments about the probe may have been prompted by his TV-watching habits. Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, has been tracking the correlation between what airs on Fox News and Trump’s morning tweets.

As the group’s senior fellow Matt Gertz noted, Fox’s “America’s Newsroom” aired a segment at the top of the 9 am hour on the IG probe, suggesting it may take a significant amount of time to complete. Trump’s tweet came just over thirty minutes later.

Read More →

LiveWire