Member of Trump's voter fraud panel pushed to exclude all Democrats, moderate Republicans, academics
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
A South African court on Friday doubled Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius' prison sentence for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, to 13 years and five months, The Guardian reports.
Prosecutors challenged the double amputee's initial sentence of six years as being too lenient, and the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that it should be increased to 15 years, minus just over a year and a half for the time Pistorius has served. "This is an emotional thing for them," said Steenkamp family spokeswoman Tania Koen. "They just feel that their trust in the justice system has been confirmed this morning."
Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp in his home on Valentine's Day in 2013. He said he thought she was an intruder when he shot her through a bathroom door. He was originally convicted of manslaughter, but the appeals court upgraded the conviction to murder. Jeva Lange
On Thursday morning, the U.S. Navy announced that it had ended the search for three crew members lost in the crash of a Navy aircraft in the Philippine Sea near Okinawa, Japan, on Wednesday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families," said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton in a statement, as reported by NPR.
The twin-engine, propeller-driven C-2A Greyhound was carrying 11 crew and passengers to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it went down. "[E]ight U.S. Navy and [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force] ships, three helicopter squadrons, and maritime patrol aircraft covered nearly 1,000 square nautical miles in the search for the missing sailors," the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.
The Navy confirmed an investigation is ongoing. The crash came after the 7th Fleet, based in Japan, had several deadly collisions involving ships in the Pacific. Jeva Lange
President Trump is a man who knows how to have a holiday. While the White House has been quick to confirm that the president is doing executive work throughout his stay at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, Trump couldn't help but brag that he is also "quickly" playing 18 holes with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson at his course in Jupiter, Florida. "Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!" he tweeted.
Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
After Turkey call I will be heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf (quickly) with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
Golfing or not, when tragedy struck abroad on Friday, Trump was quickly back online. "The world cannot tolerate terrorism," he wrote, condemning an attack in Egypt on "defenseless" Sufi Muslim worshipers as "horrible and cowardly." Jeva Lange
An estimated 115 million Americans are expected to participate today in the annual bargains bonanza Black Friday, CBS News reports. "Unemployment has dropped, so people are really thinking that folks are going to head to the stores and head online this season," said USA Today business reporter Charisse Jones. "They're thinking sales will be up about 6 percent and $1.4 trillion will be spent by consumers."
Investment banking firm Jefferies found that only 13 percent of customers said they'd be spending more on Black Friday this year, compared to 17 percent last year, indicating that more people are shopping online throughout the month than on just one day. Adobe Analytics reports that this year's "Cyber Monday," for example, could see customers spending $6.6 billion on internet deals.
Lawyers for President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, have ended an agreement to share information with Trump's lawyers about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing four people involved in the case.
Trump's lawyers reportedly believe the move could mean Flynn is cooperating with Mueller's team. Lawyers sometimes pull out of such information-sharing agreements when their clients start negotiating deals with prosecutors.
Flynn had ties with Moscow before he joined Trump's campaign, and the White House has been preparing for his possible indictment since Mueller's team filed charges in October against Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign aide Rick Gates, and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Read more about what this means for the Mueller investigation at The New York Times. Jeva Lange
At least 200 people were killed Friday and more than 100 others injured when Islamist militants attacked a Sufi mosque in Egypt's Sinai province, state run news agency MENA reports. "I can't believe they attacked a mosque," one cleric from the town told The New York Times, speaking anonymously out of fear that he could also be attacked.
The attackers planted bombs inside the mosque, then fired on worshipers as they tried to flee, The Associated Press reports. Extremists in the region have targeted Christian churches in the past, but attacks on mosques remain relatively rare. The worshipers at the mosque attacked Friday were Sufi Muslims, who are considered heretical by Sunni extremists. Jeva Lange
While driving to Philadelphia in October, Kate McClure ran out of gas. The 27-year-old was stranded and alone on the side of I-95 when a homeless man approached her. The man, whose name was Johnny, told her to get back in the car and lock the doors while he went to get help.
Johnny returned with a can of gas he bought with his last $20, according to The Associated Press.
McClure got to her destination safely but couldn't stop thinking about her savior. So she launched a GoFundMe campaign with a $10,000 goal to get Johnny set up with an apartment, a reliable car, and a few months worth of expenses.
As of Thanksgiving, McClure's campaign has reached more than $200,000. "It just blew up," McClure told AP.
Johnny, 34, who has been without a home in the Philadelphia area for about a year, says he hopes to get a job at the nearby Amazon warehouse in Robinson, New Jersey. Lauren Hansen