Brian Kemp, Enemy of Democracy

Shortly before the election, the president endorsed Mr. Kemp, and the political tide turned. He has a skill set that Mr. Trump desperately needed but was curiously silent about in his endorsement: He is a master of voter suppression.

Hackable polling machines, voter roll purges, refusing to register voters until after an election, the use of investigations to intimidate groups registering minorities to vote — Mr. Kemp knows it all.

.. Voter suppression keeps Georgia a red state. Since 2005, Republicans have controlled the State Legislature as well as the governor’s office. Now most of the congressional districts are Republican. So are nearly 64 percent of the state representatives and 66 percent of the state senators.

.. Whites make up less than 60 percent of the state’s population but more than 90 percent of people who voted Republican in the primary. The state’s gerrymandered districts, drawn and redrawn by the Republican-dominated Legislature, mirror the inordinate and disproportionate power of this constituency.
.. He has begun investigations into organizations that registered nearly 200,000 new Asian-American and African-American voters — efforts that resulted in the first majority-black school board in a small town.
His investigations yielded no charges, no indictments, no convictions, despite years of probing, suspects’ losing their jobs and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents knocking on doors. Yet the intimidation had an impact. An attorney from a targeted organization told a reporter: “I’m not going to lie; I was shocked. I was scared.”
.. While Mr. Kemp insisted that these investigations were about preventing in-person voter fraud (which basically doesn’t exist), he was more candid when talking with fellow Republicans: “Democrats are working hard,” he warned in a recording released by a progressive group “registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines.”

“If they can do that, they can win these elections in November,” Mr. Kemp said. Therefore, even after the multiple investigations yielded no indication of fraud, thousands of people registered during these drives were not on the voter registration rolls, and a court ruling kept it that way.

Mr. Kemp also used Exact Match, a version of the infamous Crosscheck database, to put tens of thousands of citizens in electoral limbo, refusing to place them on the rolls if an errant hyphen, a stray letter or a typographical error on someone’s voter registration card didn’t match the records of the state’s driver’s license bureau or the Social Security office

Using this method, Mr. Kemp blocked nearly 35,000 people from the voter rolls. Equally important, African-Americans, who made up a third of the registrants, accounted for almost 66 percent of the rejected applicants. And Asian-Americans and Latino voters were more than six times as likely as whites to have been stymied from registering.

.. But as diligent as he has been about purging eligible citizens from the voter rolls, Mr. Kemp has been just as lax about the cybersecurity of the state’s 27,000 electronic voting machines. Although there were a series of warnings about the ease with which they could be hacked, Mr. Kemp did not respond. Georgia’s electronic voting machines, which run on Windows 2000, leave no paper trail; as a result, there is no way to verify whether the counts are accurate or whether the vote has been hacked.

.. Mr. Kemp finally accepted federal dollars, which he had refused for years, to update some of the machines. But his efforts were too little, too late.

.. officials at Kennesaw State University, which provides logistical support for the state’s election machinery, destroyed the server that housed statewide election data.

.. That series of events, including an April visit to the small campus by Ambassador Sergey Kislyak of Russia, raised warning flags to many observers. But not to Mr. Kemp, who said that there was nothing untoward in any of it; the erasure was “in accordance with standard IT procedures.”

.. Mr. Trump’s endorsement, therefore, was no surprise. Mr. Kemp had pulled off an incredible feat: Georgia’s population increased, but since 2012, the number of registered voters has decreased.

He, like Mr. Trump, has been steadfast in riding the voter-fraud train, regardless of how often and thoroughly the claim has been debunked.

A Kemp victory in November is, therefore, transactional but essential for Mr. Trump. It means that there will be a governor, in a state that demographically should be blue, who is practiced and steeped in the nuances of disfranchisement. Mr. Kemp can rubber-stamp the Legislature’s voter-suppression bills that privilege the Republican Party, artificially increase the Republican representation in Congress and in the end protect a president facing mounting evidence of graft, corruption, conspiracy and the threat of impeachment.

 

Trump’s lawyers have turned over documents to Mueller with hopes of limiting interview scope

President Trump’s attorneys have provided the special counsel’s office with written descriptions that chronicle key moments under investigation in hopes of curtailing the scope of a presidential interview, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Trump’s legal team recently shared the documents in an effort to limit any session between the president and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to a few select topics, the people said. The lawyers are worried that Trump, who has a penchant for making erroneous claims, would be vulnerable in an hours-long interview.

.. Trump has told aides he is “champing at the bit” to sit for an interview, according to one person. But his lawyers, who are carefully negotiating the terms of a sit-down, recognize the extraordinarily high stakes.

.. Behind the scenes, his lawyers are moving into what one adviser called “crunchtime” — reviewing the likely questions Mueller’s team will have for the president.

.. Special counsel investigators have told Trump’s lawyers that their main questions about the president fall into two simple categories, the two people said:

  1. “What did he do?” and
  2. “What was he thinking when he did it?”

.. Trump’s lawyers expect Mueller’s team to ask whether Trump knew about Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition, for example, and what instructions, if any, the president gave Flynn about the contact, according to two advisers.

Trump said in February that he fired Flynn because he had misled Vice President Pence about his contact with Kislyak. He said he fired Comey because he had mishandled an investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The records do not include Trump’s personal version of events but provide a narrative of the White House view, the people said. Trump’s lawyers hope the evidence eliminates the need to ask the president about some episodes.

.. diGenova served as an independent counsel who investigated whether former president George H.W. Bush’s staff looked at former president Bill Clinton’s passport files during the 1992 presidential campaign.

.. “Former US Attorney for the District of Columbia Joe diGenova will be joining our legal team later this week,”

DiGenova and Trump share the view that a faction inside the FBI sought to frame Trump.

.. In 1997, DiGenova wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the Constitution allows for the indictment of a sitting president.

.. “The nation, in fact, could conceivably benefit from the indictment of a president,” he wrote in the column, which was published while Clinton was under investigation by an independent counsel. “It would teach the valuable civics lesson that no one is above the law.”

Jared Kushner Is China’s Trump Card

How the President’s son-in-law, despite his inexperience in diplomacy, became Beijing’s primary point of interest.

.. Kushner was intent on bringing a businessman’s sensibility to matters of state. He believed that fresh, confidential relationships could overcome the frustrations of traditional diplomatic bureaucracy. Henry Kissinger, who, in his role as a high-priced international consultant, maintains close relationships in the Chinese hierarchy, had introduced Kushner to Cui during the campaign
.. On at least one occasion, they met alone, which counterintelligence officials considered risky. “There’s nobody else there in the room to verify what was said and what wasn’t, so the Chinese can go back and claim anything,”
..  you think your background is going to allow you to be able to outsmart the Chinese Ambassador?
.. Americans are accustomed to reports of Russia’s efforts to influence American politics, but, in the intelligence community, China’s influence operations are a source of equal concern.
.. “The Chinese influence operations are more long-term, broader in scope, and are generally designed to achieve a more diffuse goal than the Russians’ are,”
.. Kushner often excluded the government’s top China specialists from his meetings with Cui, a slight that rankled and unnerved the bureaucracy. “He went in utterly unflanked by anyone who could find Beijing on a map,”
.. Kushner was “their lucky charm,”
.. “It was a dream come true. They couldn’t believe he was so compliant.”
.. By the end of the Obama Administration, seven White House officials were authorized to receive the same version of the P.D.B. that appeared on the President’s iPad. The Trump Administration expanded the number to as many as fourteen people, including Kushner. A former senior official said, of the growing P.D.B. distribution list, “It got out of control. Everybody thought it was cool. They wanted to be cool.”
.. Kushner’s difficulty obtaining a permanent security clearance has become a subject of fascination. Was it his early failure to disclose foreign contacts? Or did it have something to do with the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections?
.. Kushner had established links to China. A Kushner project in Jersey City, which opened in November, 2016, reportedly received about fifty million dollars, nearly a quarter of its financing, from Chinese investors who are not publicly named, through a U.S. immigration program known as EB-5, which allows wealthy foreigners to obtain visas by investing in American projects.
.. Ivanka Trump has her own business endeavors in China, where some of her branded handbags, shoes, and clothes are manufactured.
.. Trump would be “inundated with requests for thousands of calls from around the world,” they warned, through “campaign staff, outside advisers, and other third parties.” He must not accept them. Requests must be “methodically returned” in “a sequence of calls that will not create any diplomatic incidents or negative press stories.”
.. The President-elect must have a classified intelligence briefing before conversations with foreign leaders, and then conduct the meetings only when a note-taker and a national-security aide are present.
The aides suggested that Trump make five “waves” of calls over a number of days, starting with the United Kingdom and ending with Pakistan.

.. “Obviously, all that just got tossed aside,” a senior transition official recalled recently, because Trump was “excited that important people were calling him.”

.. In another break with protocol, Trump was accompanied to the meeting by his daughter and son-in-law, while they were still running their respective businesses.

..  he was urgently seeking an infusion of cash to repay a debt totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.

.. In 2007, the Kushner Companies had bought 666 Fifth Avenue, a forty-one-story office tower, for $1.8 billion, the highest price ever paid for a building in Manhattan at that time. The deal turned out to be a potential disaster for Kushner.

.. he was hunting for investors, in Asia and the Middle East, among other places, to shore up the building’s finances.

.. On November 16, 2016, Kushner had a private dinner with Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of China’s Anbang Insurance Group, to discuss Wu’s possible investment in 666 Fifth Avenue.

.. Months later, when the meeting was revealed, and Bloomberg News reported that the Kushner family stood to make as much as four hundred million dollars from the agreement with Anbang, Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, criticized it as a possible conflict of interest. The companies abandoned the negotiations.

.. In some cases, it was unclear whether Kushner was representing the transition or his business. On December 13th, at the recommendation of Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, or V.E.B., a Russian state bank.

.. Schiff pointed to statements by V.E.B. and a spokesman for Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, which suggest that Kushner held the meeting in his capacity as head of the Kushner Companies.
.. On December 2nd, encouraged by the fiercest anti-China hawks among his advisers, including Steve Bannon, at that time his chief strategist, Trump took a telephone call from the President of Taiwan
.. Chinese officials turned to the man that Kissinger had recommended to them: Jared Kushner. Kushner later told others that he took on the China portfolio reluctantly, after “clamoring” Chinese officials called Trump Tower and asked for him by name.
.. “It was clear that heated arguments were taking place among the President’s advisers.” On one side, hard-liners, including Bannon, who has said he believes that China is “bent on world domination,” advocated a confrontational stance on trade and other issues. On the other, according to Russel, “Jared Kushner was described as adamant that Mar-a-Lago should be exclusively about bonding.” Russel continued, “We were told that the theory was to first establish a warm family friendship, using meals and Trump’s personal charisma.”
..  China overwhelmingly achieved its objectives: a soft-focus summit with regal photo ops and little talk of trade and other touchy subjects. It was also an auspicious occasion for the Kushner family. While Xi met with Trump, Beijing regulators approved three trademark applications from Ivanka’s company, to sell bags, jewelry, and spa services.
.. Somebody with more experience, tied to the old ways, may not have necessarily been able to pull off the Mar-a-Lago summit like we did.” He added that the officials who have criticized his approach to foreign affairs “usually get pretty uncomfortable when they’re not in control of something and it doesn’t go the way they want.”
..  Chinese officials said that Cui and Kushner, in meetings to prepare for the summit at Mar-a-Lago, discussed Kushner’s business interests along with policy. Some intelligence officials became concerned that the Chinese government was seeking to use business inducements to influence Kushner’s views.
.. But the intelligence reports triggered alarms that Chinese officials were attempting to exploit Kushner’s close relationship with the President, which could yield benefits over time.
.. Wendi Deng Murdoch, the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch. Kushner and Ivanka Trump had known her for about a decade, and she was a regular guest at their Washington home. U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials have long speculated about Wendi Murdoch’s ties to the Chinese government
.. In November, the Chinese Society of Education issued a video quiz for primary-school students, which included the question “What number should you dial when you spot spying activities?”
.. The President’s children resist the argument that their undivested assets, their behavior, and their willingness to mix government service and personal profit present a target to adversaries and allies alike.
.. The senior transition official believes that’s a mistake. “They’re going to slowly, over time, get what they want out of him, and it’s not going to be obvious,”
.. Still, by his own description, he is as confident as ever that his instincts, honed in the family business
.. Porter read aloud from “The Inner Ring,” a 1944 oration by C. S. Lewis. It was Porter’s warning to his ambitious students about the temptations that haunt higher office, and the allure of favor-seekers.
..  “You will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world.”

Trump says he has nothing to fear from Flynn, then stokes new controversy with tweet

Trump’s lawyers have begged him not to tweet about Russia or the investigation, but the president said repeatedly Friday that he wanted to respond to the Flynn news, associates said.

Cobb has told others that he has been more successful than others at limiting Trump’s tweets because he talks to him frequently and reassures him

Meanwhile, an email written by a Flynn deputy that came to light Saturday suggests that many of Trump’s closest aides were informed that Flynn planned to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Flynn made a December phone call to Kislyak.

.. Burck said that Priebus “confronted General Flynn several times, including in front of others, on whether he had talked to Kislyak about sanctions and was consistently told he had not.”

.. Trump was in a buoyant mood as he crossed Manhattan on Saturday, bragging about his election win in Rust Belt states and the improving economy.

At several stops, he touted the Senate’s passage of the GOP tax bill and predicted that Democrats who voted against it would lose their next elections.

Trump’s stops included the palatial Upper East Side apartment of Steve Schwarzman, chairman of a global private-equity firm.

.. Trump also told the wealthy donors at the event that the legislation was for the middle class

 

Jared Kushner to Cooperate in Any Probe Into Meetings With Russians

Senior White House aide’s meetings with two key Russians have drawn the interest of agents

Officials said Mr. Kushner met in December with Mr. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. Mr. Kushner subsequently had an aide handle another meeting requested by Mr. Kislyak, during which the ambassador sought to arrange a meeting between Mr. Kushner and Sergei Gorkov, the head of Vneshekonombank, or VEB, the officials said.

That meeting between Mr. Kushner and Mr. Gorkov took place in December, a senior administration official said earlier this year.

.. The U.S. in 2014 had imposed sanctions against the Russian development bank as part of penalties that followed Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. The Treasury Department sanctions prohibit certain specified financial contacts with the bank and others on the sanctions list.

A senior administration official said earlier this year that Mr. Kushner didn’t know the bank was under sanction and “wasn’t there to discuss business.”

.. “The meetings took place in the format of a roadshow for Vneshekonombank’s 2021 strategy with representatives from major banks and business circles in the U.S.,” including the head of Kushner Cos., Mr. Kushner’s real-estate firm, the bank said.

How the Justice Department Could Investigate Jeff Sessions

Would Attorney General Sessions refuse to coöperate with an investigation his department was carrying out? Would his private lawyer—and he surely will get one, if he hasn’t already—litigate against the Justice Department in order to protect the records of his Senate office? It’s hard to imagine an Attorney General doing so—and remaining in office.

Would Attorney General Sessions refuse to coöperate with an investigation his department was carrying out? Would his private lawyer—and he surely will get one, if he hasn’t already—litigate against the Justice Department in order to protect the records of his Senate office? It’s hard to imagine an Attorney General doing so—and remaining in office.

Why Would Jeff Sessions Hide His Talks With Sergey Kislyak?

Obama had inherited a plan for an aggressive missile-defense system for Eastern Europe that was a major irritant to Moscow. Kislyak, who studied physics, was an expert on arms control, and explained that the system was not solely defensive, as the Bush Administration had insisted. A radar system to be deployed in the Czech Republic was of particular concern to Kislyak.

“I was the new guy, so I was willing to listen,” McFaul, who later became Obama’s Ambassador to Russia, said. “He was lecturing me about the dual capabilities of that radar and that it had capabilities against Russia. And I said, ‘That’s news to me.’ And he said, ‘Well, you need to learn.’ ”
.. “He could have been rough and abrasive and a Putin-style Russian Cold Warrior, which he was not. He played it very softly. Because he was not what people expected him to be, he ingratiated himself with the audience. ”
.. He’s very good on the geopolitical stuff and the domestic political stuff. Not shy, very understated.”
.. Despite the high regard in which he was held, Kislyak increasingly found that he had almost no audience in Washington.
.. Sessions insisted that he met with Kislyak only in his capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee. McFaul scoffed at that idea. “He’s meeting with Senator Sessions because of his relationship to Trump, not because of what he does on the Senate Armed Services Committee,” he said. “We now know he’s the Attorney General, but back then he was talked about for all kinds of jobs, including Secretary of Defense.”
.. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national-security adviser, had several conversations with Kislyak during the transition. In December, he met with Kislyak at Trump Tower, along with Jared Kushner, to “establish a more open line of communication in the future,” according to the White House.
.. To some extent, they all share Kislyak’s view that America, through nato and its eastern expansion, has been needlessly hostile to Russia, that Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty is a nuisance issue, and that the U.S. and Russia could be united by the common threat from isis.
.. The suggestions that there’s something wrong with speaking to Kislyak is really sensitive to me because, when I was the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, that’s what the Russian government did to me,” McFaul added. “They really discouraged people to meet with me that were not part of the government, and if there was ever a meeting with someone defined as the opposition it became crazy, awful, page-one news that I was meddling in their internal affairs. We don’t want to become that.”