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Brian Kemp, background right, Chairman of State Election Board, and David Worley, left, member of State Election Board, during a meeting to lay out the case of alleged voter registration fraud against the New Georgia Project at the Georgia State Capitol o

Georgia's GOP gubernatorial candidate is overseeing his own election

10/11/18 08:40AM

The top elections official in Georgia is Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp is also a far-right Republican running for governor in one of the nation's most competitive and closely watched races.

Common sense suggests the GOP candidate would recognize his conflict of interest -- Kemp shouldn't officially oversee his own election, deciding, among other things, who gets to vote -- and stand aside, but that's not happening. Georgians are simply supposed to trust that he'll be responsible and even-handed.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, that's not working out especially well.

Last year, for example, the far-right Republican's office canceled over 600,000 voter registrations. This year, as the Associated Press reported this week, Kemp is raising even more questions about his official actions.

Marsha Appling-Nunez was showing the college students she teaches how to check online if they're registered to vote when she made a troubling discovery. Despite being an active Georgia voter who had cast ballots in recent elections, she was no longer registered.

"I was kind of shocked," said Appling-Nunez, who moved from one Atlanta suburb to another in May and believed she had successfully changed her address on the voter rolls.

"I've always voted. I try to not miss any elections, including local ones," Appling-Nunez said.

She tried re-registering, but with about one month left before a November election that will decide a governor's race and some competitive U.S. House races, Appling-Nunez's application is one of over 53,000 sitting on hold with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office. And unlike Appling-Nunez, many people on that list -- which is predominantly black, according to an analysis by The Associated Press -- may not even know their voter registration has been held up.

One of the underlying problems is that Kemp implemented a system called "exact match." In practice, if you've hyphenated your last name after getting married, or you sometimes use your middle initial, your name may not exactly match the listing in state files.

And if it doesn't, the Republican gubernatorial candidate is in a position to put your voter registration on indefinite hold.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell answers questions as members of the Republican leadership speak about the Defense Authorization Bill following caucus luncheons at the U.S. Capitol on June 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

McConnell urges Dems not to investigate Trump after midterms

10/11/18 08:00AM

Congress' Republican majority has shown no interest in conducting oversight of Donald Trump's presidency, despite its many scandals and controversies. GOP leaders realize that if Democrats gain any power at all on Capitol Hill after next month's midterm elections, the White House will face the kind of scrutiny it's been able to avoid for two years.

And Republicans aren't making much of an effort to hide their fears about the possible consequences.

In May, for example, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) warned that Democrats might try to hold the president accountable, complete with hearings and subpoenas. In August, Axios published a list "that's circulated through Republican circles," which meticulously previewed "the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House." It included, among other things, scrutiny of Trump's tax returns.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added his voice to the chorus during a lengthy interview with Associated Press reporters. When a reporter asked about possible Democratic scrutiny of the president's controversial finances, and whether that's "a legitimate line of inquiry," the GOP leader responded:

"I think it'll help the president get re-elected.... This business of presidential harassment may or may not quite be the winner they think it is."

It's an important look into the Senate majority leader's perspective. A fair amount of evidence recently emerged suggesting Trump committed tax fraud and spent much of his life benefiting from illegal handouts. If Congress were to explore the president's alleged misdeeds, however, Mitch McConnell would characterize it as "harassment."

When another reporter at the same event asked if there's anything that McConnell would consider a "legitimate" investigation into the Trump administration," the senator didn't answer directly, but he did say, "I do think as a matter of political tactics ... it would not be smart."

Or put another way, as far as the Senate's top Republican is concerned, the "smart" thing for lawmakers to do is to continue to look the other way when confronted with possible evidence of corruption.

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 10.10.18

10/10/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Gulf Coast: "Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm -- just shy of a Category 5 and the strongest ever to hit that part of the state in recorded history."

* Huh: "The Dow Jones plummeted by 818 points on Wednesday, closing at 25,608 and marking the worst day for the index since August 2016. The S&P 500 closed 3.3 percent lower, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq tumbled by 4 percent for its worst day since Brexit. Wall Street's 'fear gauge' or volatility index rose to its highest level since April."

* The "zero-tolerance" aftermath: "Federal officials insist they are reuniting families and will continue to do so. But an Associated Press investigation drawing on hundreds of court documents, immigration records and interviews in the U.S. and Central America identified holes in the system that allow state court judges to grant custody of migrant children to American families -- without notifying their parents. And today, with hundreds of those mothers and fathers deported thousands of miles away, the risk has grown exponentially."

* Related news: "Federal drug-trafficking prosecutions along the southwestern border plunged to their lowest level in nearly two decades this summer as the Trump administration launched a 'zero tolerance' crackdown on illegal immigration that separated thousands of children from their parents."

* Kavanaugh: "Ethics complaints filed against Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the weeks leading up to his confirmation to the US Supreme Court are still live, and they're being transferred to another judicial circuit, according to a letter made public Wednesday from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr."

* Does anyone take Trump's assurances seriously? "President Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. would "get to the bottom of" the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as some Hill lawmakers pointed fingers at the Saudi government and vowed congressional action."

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Image: President Trump meets GOP senators at the White House

Why Trump thinks imaginary protesters aren't receiving imaginary checks

10/10/18 03:55PM

If there's one thing that pretty much every political observer can agree on with this presidency, regardless of party or ideology, it's Donald Trump occasionally says odd things. Yesterday, however, he offered an especially odd head-scratcher.

On Twitter yesterday morning, pointing to nothing in particular, the president wrote, "The paid D.C. protesters are now ready to REALLY protest because they haven't gotten their checks -- in other words, they weren't paid!"

The obvious oddity was that there were no paid protesters, but his larger point was even tougher to understand. People who don't exist haven't been paid? What was Trump talking about?

It seemed possible that the president, who struggles to write well, simply wasn't expressing himself clearly, but a few hours later, during a brief Q&A with reporters, Trump said largely the same thing.

Q: Do you think the Democrats, on the other hand, will be energized because they saw the defeat of someone that they wanted (inaudible)?

TRUMP: Yeah, probably. I mean, there could be. But, you know, a lot of those were paid protestors. You saw that. They were all unhappy because they haven't been paid yet. I've been calling it. They were paid protestors. That was professional. That was orchestrated, when you look in the halls of Congress, and you see screaming like that.... These are paid protestors.

Again, Trump was talking about people who, in reality, don't exist. There were no "paid protesters." There were organizers who helped rally activists, but the people "screaming like that" did so because they were expressing their genuine beliefs.

And yet, the president seemed quite sincere about the idea that these activists "haven't been paid yet," as if Trump -- who has a fair amount of experience paying for supporters and then failing to pay his bills -- had some kind of first-hand knowledge about the details of financial arrangements that exist only in his imagination.

Eventually, however, we came to learn why Trump was so confused. The Washington Post explained:

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A man holds an earth balloon into the air as people fill the street before a global warming march in New York Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (Photo by Mel Evans/AP)

Trump says he 'will be looking at' key UN report on climate crisis

10/10/18 12:42PM

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to advise world leaders on addressing the climate crisis, released a rather terrifying report this week. As the New York Times  explained, the landmark report "paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has 'no documented historic precedent.'"

The article added that the document, "written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries who analyzed more than 6,000 scientific studies," described "a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040."

Yesterday, during a brief Q&A with reporters, Donald Trump addressed the findings publicly for the first time.

Q: Have you read the U.N. report this week warning about climate change, requiring drastic action --

TRUMP: It was given to me. It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren't so good. But I will be looking at it. Absolutely.

First, raise your hand if you seriously expect Donald Trump -- a president who can't pry himself away from his television long enough to read intelligence briefings -- "will be looking at" the lengthy IPCC document.

Second, the president's interest in knowing "who drew it" is not at all reassuring. We are, after all, talking about a report that was written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries, working under the auspices of the United Nations. Trump's comments yesterday suggested he's only inclined to believe scientific findings if he has reason to like the scholars behind them. Since none of the authors work for right-wing websites, it's unlikely he'll be impressed by "who drew it."

Third, there are no legitimate scientific reports that point in a "fabulous" direction on climate change. That said, if Trump sincerely believes that he "can give" us some, I'd love the White House to provide the public with the evidence the president referred to.

All of which is to say, the available evidence signals the need for immediate and unprecedented action, and this Republican administration doesn't intend to do anything.

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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.10.18

10/10/18 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Facing a tough re-election fight, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) released a two-minute video yesterday explaining her "no" vote on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. "Honestly, I don't think he told the truth," she says in the video. "And even if he did, he showed himself to be too biased to be impartial."

* In Arizona's closely watched U.S. Senate race, nearly all recent polling has shown Kyrsten Sinema (D) with narrow leads, but a new survey from an ABC affiliate in the state found Martha McSally (R) with a six-point lead, 47% to 41%.

* In Georgia's closely watched gubernatorial race, a SurveyUSA poll released yesterday showed Brian Kemp (R) leading Stacey Abrahms (D), 47% to 45%.

* In Ohio, a new Suffolk poll offered some good news for Democrats: Richard Cordray (D) leads Mike DeWine in the state's gubernatorial race, 46% to 40%, while incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) has an 18-point lead over his Republican rival, Jim Renacci, 54% to 36%.

* The news was a little better for Republicans in Nevada, where the latest NBC News/Marist poll found Sen. Dean Heller (D) leading Jacky Rosen (D) by two points, and Adam Laxalt (R) narrowly leading Steve Sisolak (D) in the state's gubernatorial race by one point.

* At a campaign rally in Iowa last night, Donald Trump said he hopes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) runs for president in 2020 because he wants to "finally get down to the fact as to whether or not she has Indian blood." At the same event, Iowa Republicans chanted "lock her up" -- though they directed it at Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), not Hillary Clinton.

* Less than a week after Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) decried groups on the left buying ads in the Supreme Court fight, a conservative dark-money group has launched a "six-figure" ad campaign thanking the Maine Republican for supporting Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

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