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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his Topeka, Kan., office, Aug. 1, 2013. (Photo by John Hanna/AP)

Why so many Republicans wish Trump hadn't endorsed Kansas' Kobach

08/07/18 10:43AM

Just two days ago, Axios reported that senior Republican officials were "holding their breath," hoping Donald Trump wouldn't endorse Kris Kobach ahead of today's gubernatorial primary in Kansas. The report added, "A source close to Trump told me they thought the president had been convinced to hold off on supporting Kobach."

Of course, convincing Trump is one thing; making sure he follows through is something else.

President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the country's most prominent champions of unsupported claims of widespread illegal voting and former vice chair of the president's defunct vote fraud commission, in the state's GOP primary for governor.

"Kris Kobach, a strong and early supporter of mine, is running for Governor of the Great State of Kansas. He is a fantastic guy who loves his State and our Country -- he will be a GREAT Governor and has my full & total Endorsement! Strong on Crime, Border & Military. VOTE TUESDAY!" Trump tweeted.

The announcement comes on the heels of a New York Times  report that said the Republican Governors Association "lobbied the White House to stay out of the primary" and West Wing officials said they had "little desire for Mr. Trump to intervene here."

The president, however, has a habit of ignoring the wishes of those around him. As a result, Kobach is likely to get a boost ahead of today's primary, to the frustration of GOP officials who prefer current Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) -- who assumed the office after Sam Brownback (R) resigned to join the Trump administration -- and who believe Kobach is unelectable, even in a state like Kansas.

Indeed, the only person who was happier with yesterday's presidential endorsement than Kobach were the Democrats who are eager to defeat him.

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Image: Senior White House Advisor Stephen Miller waits to go on the air in the White House Briefing Room in Washington

White House eyes new limits on citizenship for legal immigrants

08/07/18 10:00AM

The recent fights over immigration legislation have hinged on an unexpected point: legal immigration. It's easy to forget, but it wasn't long ago that Democratic leaders were willing to give the White House the deal Donald Trump said he wanted: funds for a border wall in exchange for DACA protections for Dreamers.

But the president balked. If the deal didn't include significant cuts to legal immigration -- a position that used to be limited to the fringes of Republican politics -- Trump simply wasn't interested.

It's since become obvious that the legislative prospects for an immigration compromise are basically non-existent, and the president himself has advised GOP lawmakers to give up on the issue until 2019 at the earliest. But inside the White House, it's a different story. NBC News reported this morning that the administration is now expected to issue a proposal "that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards" if they have ever used a range of popular social-insurance programs, including the Affordable Care Act.

The move ... is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller's plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

Details of the rulemaking proposal are still being finalized, but based on a recent draft seen last week and described to NBC News, immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children's health insurance, food stamps and other benefits could be hindered from obtaining legal status in the U.S.

Immigration lawyers and advocates and public health researchers say it would be the biggest change to the legal immigration system in decades and estimate that more than 20 million immigrants could be affected. They say it would fall particularly hard on immigrants working jobs that don't pay enough to support their families.

As the NBC News report makes clear, such a move would not need approval from Congress. Trump and his team could act unilaterally and impose these changes.

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Virginia residents wait in line in the pre-dawn hours to vote in the Virginia primary at a historic property called the Hunter House at Nottoway Park in Vienna, Va., on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

Nervous GOP lawmaker caught up in clumsy Virginia election scheme

08/07/18 09:20AM

A couple of years ago, Rep. Scott Taylor (R) easily won his first congressional campaign, dispatching Democrat Shaun Brown (D) by nearly 23 points in Virginia's 2nd congressional district. Given the size of his lopsided victory, Taylor looked like a congressman who'd be around for a while.

This year, however, the Virginia Republican is apparently so concerned about his re-election chances that he's been caught up in a clumsy scheme.

After the 2016 race, the prospect of a Taylor-Brown rematch quickly evaporated. Brown was indicted late last year by a federal grand jury, which charged her with fraud and theft of government property. She announced soon after that she was no longer a Democrat and would instead run for Congress as an independent.

And that's when things got a little tricky.

According to documents filed with the FEC and the Virginia Department of Elections, at least four paid workers on Republican Congressman Scott Taylor's campaign for reelection collected hundreds of signatures to put Shaun Brown on the ballot as an independent candidate in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District election. [...]

The four workers collected these signatures in the last days before Virginia's primary election, which was also the deadline for Brown to submit the required signatures to state authorities. FEC documents show people with the same names and addresses were being paid by the Taylor campaign in this period. The payments were described as "payroll" or "campaign consulting – staff." There appears to have been a fifth worker, affiliated with Republican causes and the Taylor campaign, who aided the effort.

The scheme appears to have been first uncovered by WHRV, a public radio station in Norfolk.

Making matters worse, the Republican congressman's aides, who collected ballot signatures for the independent candidate, didn't do an especially good job: some of signatures were forged, and one included a prominent former official in the commonwealth who is dead.

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Ohio voters cast their votes at the polls for early voting in the 2012 US presidential election in Medina, Ohio, Oct. 26, 2012. (Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Ohio special election 'should be a slam dunk and it's not'

08/07/18 08:41AM

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) was asked over the weekend about today's congressional special election in his state's 12th district, which is a traditional Republican stronghold. The governor conceded that the race is "very close."

"It's really kind of shocking because this should be just a slam dunk and it's not. [...]

"It really doesn't bode well for the Republican Party because this shouldn't even be contested."

Quite right. This a district the GOP presidential ticket won by 11 points. Since World War II, the district has been represented by a Democrat for exactly one term, which paints a striking portrait of the area: a Republican has held this seat 77 of the last 79 years. Two years ago, then-incumbent Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) won re-election in this district by 37 points.

What's more, as NBC News reported the other day, outside groups associated with Republicans have spent nearly $4 million in this special election, which doesn't include the nearly $1 million the GOP candidate -- state lawmaker Troy Balderson -- has invested, "either on its own or in conjunction with the National Republican Congressional Committee."

Donald Trump personally visited the area over the weekend, headlining a campaign rally in support of Balderson's candidacy, which followed a local appearance from Vice President Mike Pence.

In other words, Republicans are pulling out all the stops for this guy. And yet, there's Danny O'Connor, a moderate Democrat and county official, who stands a decent chance of winning. A Monmouth University poll last week found Balderson up by just one point, while an Emerson College poll released yesterday showed O'Connor narrowly ahead.

It obviously matters who prevails, but Kasich's point from the weekend resonates: this contest should be "a slam dunk" for the GOP, and the fact that it's come down to the wire "doesn't bode well for the Republican Party."

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Firefighters douse flames as they approach the Casa Loma fire station in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Loma Prieta, Calif. on Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty)

Trump's rhetoric on California wildfire reflects ignorance, lack of empathy

08/07/18 08:00AM

Northern California continues to deal with a brutal wildfire -- now in its second week -- which has scorched more than 283,000 acres and killed two people. On July 27, Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in the state and authorized FEMA to help the disaster areas. That, obviously, was the right thing to do.

Yesterday, however, the president decided to start tweeting about the subject, which was clearly the wrong thing to do.

Trump insisted, for example, that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) "must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.... Think of California with plenty of Water - Nice!" The president added, "California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized."

Part of the problem is that Trump has absolutely no idea what he's talking about. NBC News reported late yesterday:

[T]he experts who have actually been involved in the crisis say there is no foundation to that claim.

Instead, they said the fire crews have had plenty of water to fight 17 fires, which, the experts noted, have been made more likely and more intense during the prolonged fire seasons that have come with climate change.... A spokesman for the state fire agency said crews battling blazes around California had experienced no water shortages during the prolonged siege.

When Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, was asked what might have prompted Trump's strange missives, McLean responded, "I have no idea."

But we do have some idea. Trump learned a couple of years ago about a dispute over water flowing into San Francisco Bay to support wildlife, which some want to be used in support of agriculture. Evidently, the president mangled the details, connected two unrelated situations, and felt comfortable flaunting his ignorance to the world.

And while that's embarrassing enough, that's only part of the problem.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 8.6.18

08/06/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Rick Gates took the stand at Paul Manafort's trial today and conceded that he committed crimes with Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

* Iran sanctions: "The Trump administration announced it will reintroduce sanctions on Iran at a minute after midnight Monday ET, a consequence of the president's decision to withdraw from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal."

* Afghanistan: "A Taliban suicide bomber killed three NATO service members on a foot patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday in an attack that also wounded a U.S. soldier and two Afghan troops, NATO said. The Czech military confirmed that the three killed were Czech service members."

* Indonesia: "The death toll from an earthquake that struck the Indonesian resort islands of Lombok and Bali rose to 98 on Monday as new information came in from areas where thousands of buildings collapsed or were badly damaged, authorities said."

* The AP has a striking report on a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States that "cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash" across Yemen.

* The day after in Caracas: "Venezuelan authorities have detained six people in connection with an apparent attempt to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro, according to the country's interior minister, Néstor Luis Reverol."

* Saudi Arabia doesn't appear to take criticism well: "Relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia are at a low point after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized the oil-rich country's human rights record last week. In response, Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada's ambassador and suspended trade deals."

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U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen following the classified House members-only briefing on election security in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, May 22, 2018.

Federal judge smacks down Trump admin's effort to rescind DACA

08/06/18 12:40PM

A few months ago, a federal court ruled that the Trump administration's attempt to rescind the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for Dreamers was "arbitrary and capricious." Judge John D. Bates offered Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen an opportunity to either provide "a coherent explanation" of the administration's legal position or to reissue its directive "for bona fide policy reasons."

That didn't go well.

A U.S. District Court judge in the District of Columbia ruled Friday that the Obama-era program offering temporary protected status to a cohort of immigrants brought here illegally as children must remain in place despite efforts by the Trump administration to dismantle it.

" ... The Nielsen Memo offers nothing even remotely approaching a considered legal assessment that this Court could subject to judicial review," Bates wrote. He added, later, "The Nielsen Memo demonstrates no true cognizance of the serious reliance interests at issue here -- indeed, it does not even identify what those interests are ... "

The full ruling, which is online here, is worth reading, if only to appreciate how thoroughly annoyed the federal district court judge seems with the DHS attorneys.

Its conclusion, for example, seemed especially brutal. "The Court did not hold in its prior opinion, and it does not hold today, that DHS lacks the statutory or constitutional authority to rescind the DACA program. Rather, the Court simply holds that if DHS wishes to rescind the program -- or to take any other action, for that matter -- it must give a rational explanation for its decision.... A conclusory assertion that a prior policy is illegal, accompanied by a hodgepodge of illogical or post hoc policy assertions, simply will not do."

Ouch.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.6.18

08/06/18 12:00PM

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

* Tomorrow will be a busy day for election watchers, with primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and the state of Washington. The marquee race, however, is tomorrow's congressional special election in Ohio's 12th district.

* On a related note, the latest Emerson College poll in Ohio's 12th shows Danny O'Connor (D) with a narrow lead over Troy Balderson (R), 47% to 46%. The survey was conducted, however, before Donald Trump headlined a local rally for Balderson on Saturday night.

* In Texas' U.S. Senate race, the latest Public Policy Polling survey shows incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R) with a four-point advantage over Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D), 46% to 42%. It's the third poll in a week that found Cruz's lead in the low-to-mid single digits.

* In Kansas' gubernatorial race, the Topeka Capital-Journal  reported that Secretary of State Kris Kobach's (R) operation "employs three men identified as members of a white nationalist group by two political consultants who have worked with Republicans in Kansas."

* Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) received a fake award from a non-existent Israeli outlet as part of Sacha Baron Cohen's series on Showtime. ThinkProgress noted that Perry didn't realize "he was duped" and treated the award as real.

* In the fight over Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, Politico  reports that America First Policies, a Trump-aligned advocacy group, is launching a new television ad campaign targeting vulnerable red-state Senate Democrats in Indiana, West Virginia, and North Dakota, urging them to support Trump's nominee. Protect Our Care, a progressive pro-health-care outfit, is doing the opposite, airing anti-Kavanaugh ads in Maine, Alaska, and Nevada.

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