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September 13, 2017
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After falsely claiming that 3-5 million people voted illegally for his opponent in the 2016 election, President Trump announced his intention in late January to set up a commission to investigate voter fraud, a decision he formalized with an executive order in May. On Feb. 22, a Heritage Foundation employee wrote an email to Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying he'd heard the "disturbing" news that the commission's chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, planned to make the panel bipartisan and urged that only like-minded conservatives be appointed, according to a copy of the email obtained by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center (CLC) through a freedom-of-information request.

The Justice Department redacted the name of the Heritage Foundation's self-proclaimed vote-fraud expert, but the conservative think tank effectively confirmed to Gizmodo that the author was Hans von Spakovsky, who was later appointed to the commission and is identified by the CLC as "widely considered the architect of the voter fraud myth." At the commission's second public meeting on Tuesday, before Heritage confirmed that Spakovsky wrote the email, Pro Publica's Jessica Huseman asked him "point blank" if he'd "authored this document, he said no." She posted audio of the exchange.

In the email, the Heritage Foundation employee presumed to be Spakovsky argued to Sessions that "there isn't a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud" and claim that the commission "is engaged in voter suppression," and that "mainstream Republican officials and/or academics" would also make the commission "an abject failure." The author also complained that none of the "real experts on the conservative side" had been appointed "other than Kris Kobach," the committee's vice chairman, Kansas secretary of state, and Breitbart News columnist.

Pence and Kobach eventually appointed seven Republicans and five Democrats to the commission, though one Democrat resigned. But the CLC said that the email adds "to the mounting evidence that the commission has no interest in true bipartisanship or an open discussion of how to solve the real problems in our elections." CLC president Trevor Potter, a former GOP chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said that Kobach's "farcical meetings" continue "to validate the worst suspicions about the commission: that it is designed to shrink the electorate for partisan advantage." He suggested they focus on "a true issue of election integrity" like Russians buying political ads on Facebook.

UPDATE: Spakovsky said in a statement that the email was sent to "private individuals who were not in the administration" and "was unaware that it had been forwarded" to Sessions. He added that he now believes the commission is "committed to uncovering the truth about election integrity and the other issues present in our election system." Peter Weber

5:41 p.m. ET
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Brothel owner turned Nevada Assembly candidate Dennis Hof has died, just a day after his 72nd birthday, Nye County police confirmed Tuesday.

Hof was often described as "Nevada's most famous pimp," and starred in the HBO documentary series Cathouse. The bombastic Hof also authored The Art of the Pimp, which foreshadowed his foray into politics earlier this year. Branding himself as the "Trump of Pahrump," Hof unseated a three-term incumbent to win the Republican primary for Nevada's state Assembly in June.

His curious blend of vice and politics led to quite the unique birthday party the night before his death. Hof was celebrating with porn star Ron Jeremy, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and tax opponent Grover Norquist, The Nevada Independent reported. The party doubled as a campaign rally at the Love Ranch, one of his several brothels.

A Nye County spokesman said Hof apparently went to sleep on Monday night, and was found unresponsive the next morning. His death looks "normal" on its face, Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly told the Independent, but there will still be an autopsy.

Hof's campaign manager, Chuck Muth, first tweeted about his death on Tuesday, and later told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he was "confused and stunned" by the news. Hof's Democratic opponent Lesia Romanov sent her condolences to "those who care about him." Nevada state law mandates Hof's name stay on the ballot this fall, but polling places will post that he has died. If Hof wins the election, county commissioners will appoint another Republican to take his place. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:31 p.m. ET
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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's (D-N.D.) crumbling path to re-election just took another wrong turn.

Heitkamp's campaign published an open letter attacking her opponent Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) for his disparaging comments about the "#MeToo" movement, running it as an ad in several North Dakota newspapers on Monday. Now, she's apologizing after finding out the letter outed some of its signers as abuse survivors, The Associated Press reports.

Heitkamp's re-election chances have evaporated over the past few months; the newest Fox News poll shows Cramer ahead by 12 points. She's tried to win over voters with a focus on fighting sexual assault, notably opposing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation despite the possibility of damaging her chances in the midterms. Cramer, meanwhile, called #MeToo a "movement toward victimization" an in interview with The New York Times last week.

The controversial Heitkamp letter decried Cramer's comments, and was signed by over 125 people. But some signers soon criticized the ad's publication, saying they "either hadn't authorized it or are not survivors of abuse," AP reports. Cramer quickly slammed the mistake as "revictimization of victims" when talking with AP, and one survivor whose name was unwittingly published said she would no longer vote for Heitkamp.

Heitkamp issued a statement saying she's "in the process of issuing a retraction" of the ad and "personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this." AP reports that a "clearly emotional" Heitkamp also said she would investigate how her campaign got these names. Heitkamp said she didn't see the ad before its publication, but still took responsibility for the "very flagrant error." Kathryn Krawczyk

4:04 p.m. ET
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One of President Trump's closest allies in the Senate is not buying his theory about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said that he believes the missing Washington Post columnist was murdered and that it was likely "orchestrated at the highest levels of government," per CBS News' Alan He.

Trump suggested on Monday that "rogue killers" may have been responsible for Khashoggi's disappearance, but Graham doesn't "think it was a rogue event." Graham said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is "the one pulling the strings right now." But Trump on Tuesday, seemingly without skepticism, promoted the crown prince's claim that he has no knowledge of Khashoggi's fate.

Khashoggi arrived at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, earlier this month and has not been heard from since. Turkish officials told the United States they found evidence he was murdered and dismembered by a Saudi security team, and gave The Washington Post scans of seven men they believe were part of the Saudi team responsible. Trump promised that "answers will be forthcoming shortly" as Saudi Arabia will "rapidly expand" its investigation. But Turkish officials told the Post that there has been a "lack of Saudi cooperation" in the investigation and that it appears the consulate was cleaned and repainted before they could examine it.

Graham said the Saudi crown prince is "very schizophrenic," and told Fox & Friends that he has "got to go." Until something new happens in Saudi Arabia, Graham added, he has "no interest in engaging with this government" because he "cannot imagine a more blatant example of contempt for a relationship than this." Brendan Morrow

3:20 p.m. ET
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Longtime Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) could be in danger of losing his re-election.

While the 13-term Republican representative is still the heavy favorite, election forecast website FiveThirtyEight lowered his odds of winning by about 10 points on Monday. Analyst Nate Silver chalked the shift up to good Democratic fundraising.

King's Democratic opponent, Liuba Grechen Shirley, raised more than King's last five opponents combined, The New York Times reported in August, and Grechen Shirley told Newsday in September that she outraised King by $25,000 in the last quarter.

Grechen Shirley now has a 26.9 percent chance of defeating King, based on FiveThirtyEight's model. For comparison, the same forecast gave President Trump a 28 percent chance of being elected in 2016.

This shift comes after the Cook Political Report moved King's seat from being "safe Republican" to "likely Republican" in September. The New York Times reported last month that Republican and Democratic strategists both felt King "might not be safe," especially after his district was redrawn in 2012 to include more registered Democrats than Republicans. Grechen Shirley, who has never held elected office, told the Times that she believes she can pull off an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-style upset.

Even if King does end up winning, as he is still likely to do, this could end up being the closest re-election of his career. FiveThirtyEight, after all, predicts he will receive 52 percent of the vote while Grechen Shirley will receive 48 percent. In 2016, King defeated his Democratic opponent by a margin of more than 20 points. Brendan Morrow

3:02 p.m. ET
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Fantasy series Grimm may have said goodbye just one year ago, but it's already gearing up for a comeback.

There's a spinoff in the works between NBC and Marvel's Iron Fist writer Melissa Glenn, Variety reported Tuesday. The untitled reboot will certainly include touches of the original show, since its executive producers, Sean Hayes and Todd Millier, and its creators, David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf, are reportedly coming on as producers.

The original Grimm followed Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt, played by David Giuntoli, who discovers he comes from a long line of guardians sworn to protect the mortal world from mythological creatures called Wesen. In his new role as a protector, or Grimm, Burkhardt enlists the help of his partner, played by Russell Hornsby, to maintain a balance between both realms.

Little is known about the spinoff, other than it will center around a female Grimm. No actors are attached to the show yet, but fans can reportedly expect to see some familiar faces alongside new characters.

The original series went off the air in March 2017 after six seasons. It quickly became a breakout show, and remained one of Friday's highest-rated scripted series throughout its run, reports Deadline. So get ready Grimm fans, because the story continues. Read more about the spinoff at Deadline. Amari Pollard

2:45 p.m. ET
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Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) seems to have raised more money than he knows what to do with. But he's still keeping it for himself.

O'Rourke, who is fighting to take Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz's Senate seat in Texas, raked in a record-breaking $38.1 million in the last fundraising quarter. Even though polls continue to predict a Cruz victory, O'Rourke isn't yet redirecting any of his efforts — or funds — to any other race.

Despite picking up steam, O'Rourke still trails Cruz by eight points, a recent poll from The New York Times/Siena College found. Similarly pessimistic polls prompted Democratic Party officials to push O'Rourke to send his overflowing funds to Democrats in tighter races, the Times reported.

O'Rourke did take a step in that direction with an $815,000 transaction to the Texas Democratic Party last month, campaign finance reports show. But that money could go further "in states where candidates just need a little extra to get over the hump," such as "Missouri, Tennessee, or North Dakota," one Democratic strategist told the Times. After all, reports have shown that a good chunk of O'Rourke's millions came from Democrats in states with competitive races of their own.

Still, O'Rourke rejected the idea of directing funds to other Senate races on Monday, telling the conservative Washington Examiner that if people "want to contribute to another campaign, of course they're welcome to do that." But as long as the remaining $22.9 million is in O'Rourke's war chest, he said, he's going to stay "focused on Texas" and "spare no expense" in the final stretch of his own campaign. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:24 p.m. ET
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump loves the troops, but do they love him back?

In a new Military Times poll, 44 percent of active-duty personnel said they approve of Trump, compared to 43 percent who disapprove. It's not the warmest reception, but at least it's higher than his approval with the general public. Still, his numbers within the military have sunk — in fall 2016, 46 percent of active-duty troops told the Military Times they approved of Trump, while just 37 percent said they disapproved. Analysis suggests the biggest change since 2016 is that many troops have made up their minds, instead of saying they have "no opinion" on Trump.

Though 43 percent disapprove of Trump, that's much better than his national disapproval rating among civilians. A recent Gallup survey found that 51 percent of Americans disapprove of the president. Among military women, Trump's disapproval rating in this poll, 68 percent, is higher than it was among women in general in a recent CNN poll, 62 percent.

Interestingly, though, about 60 percent of troops in this same survey said they approve of Trump's handling of the military and, in fact, believe it is in better shape now than it was under former President Barack Obama. Troops also overwhelmingly love Secretary of Defense James Mattis, with 84 percent approving of the retired four-star Marine Corps general who Trump recently called "sort of a Democrat."

The Military Times surveyed 829 active-duty troops online between Sept. 20 and Oct. 2. The margin of error is 2 percentage points. Brendan Morrow

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