October 11, 2018

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is both the state's top election official and the Republican nominee for governor, and his aggressive "voter roll maintenance" has become an issue in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams, who is black, says Kemp is suppressing minority votes. Kemp has canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, including about 670,000 in 2017 alone, The Associated Press reports, and his office is sitting on more than 53,000 voter registration forms that ran afoul of the "exact match" system he put in place.

The "exact match" system, codified by the state's Republican legislature last year, sidelines a voter application if it doesn't exactly match the information on an applicant's driver's license or Social Security data. "If even an accent or a hyphen is missing from a name, the application gets blocked," reports Cameron Joseph at Talking Points Memo. Voters don't always know that their registration is blocked, AP says, and an analysis of records obtained through a public records request "reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia's population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp's office is nearly 70 percent black."

Kemp says he is fighting voter fraud and has made voting easier for all Georgians, pointing to an online registration system and expanded mail-in voting. He blames the "exact match" racial disparity on the voter-registration organization Abrams founded in 2014.

On MSNBC Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow noted that 53,000 votes could decide a neck-and-neck race like the Abrams-Kemp one. "Honestly, this is outrageous enough that it seems almost impossible that the courts will allow this to stand," she said.

Kemp and Abrams have been sparring for years over voting rights, and you can read more about their history — and the 214 polling places shuttered with Kemp's encouragement, disproportionately in rural and blacker counties, since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 — at Talking Points Memo. Peter Weber

2:48 p.m.

The G7 at Doral might be the only thing President Trump can look forward to right now.

After announcing that the Group of Seven summit would be held at Trump's Miami resort next year, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney took Trump's impeachment inquiry to a place he certainly didn't want it to go. Mulvaney essentially admitted to a quid pro quo agreement with Ukraine over security funding, and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) says it has made things "much, much worse" for Trump and company.

When asked why the Trump administration withheld security aid to Ukraine earlier this year, Mulvaney didn't just say it was because Trump wanted the country to probe the DNC email hack it likely had nothing to do with. And he didn't just let his comments stand when ABC News' Jon Karl said Mulvaney had just described a quid pro quo. Mulvaney suggested withholding aid was something the U.S. does "all the time with foreign policy," and that the press should "get over it."

Schiff, who is currently leading the House's impeachment investigation into Trump's urging of Ukraine to investigate his political rival, kept his response to Mulvaney's admittance simple. "Mr. Mulvaney’s acknowledgment means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse," Schiff said, not saying whether he'd like to bring Mulvaney in for congressional testimony and letting his comments stand from there. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:40 p.m.

President Trump plans to hold next year's Group of Seven summit at his golf resort, and former President George W. Bush's press secretary isn't happy.

Ari Fleischer, who served as Bush's press secretary from 2001 through 2003, slammed Trump Thursday after the White House announced the 2020 Group of Seven summit will be held at Trump's Doral golf resort in Miami, as The Washington Post reports.

This, Fleischer tweeted, is "one of the most foolish, unseemly things the [White House] could do."

During a press briefing Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney defended the choice by saying the Trump-owned property is "the best physical facility for this meeting" and saying that Trump wouldn't profit in "any way, shape or form." But when asked if the White House would share documents showing how they arrived at this decision, he said, "absolutely not." Brendan Morrow

2:22 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in Syria.

Pence after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a press conference Turkey will "pause" its operation in Syria "in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours." Turkey's offensive, Operation Peace Spring, will be "halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal," Pence also said.

This announcement comes after Trump pulled back troops from northern Syria last week, clearing the way for Turkey's military offensive in a decision that drew bipartisan criticism. A senior Turkish official told CNN after the announcement, "we got exactly what we wanted."

As part of the agreement, the United States won't impose additional sanctions on Turkey, Pence said, with Trump planning to withdraw the Turkish sanctions put into effect this week once the ceasefire is permanent.

Trump tweeted after Pence's announcement that "this deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago" and "there needed to be some 'tough' love in order to get it done." He added, "This is a great day for civilization." Brendan Morrow

2:09 p.m.

The quid pro quo didn't just happen. It happens "all the time."

During a Thursday press conference, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Ukraine's disproven involvement with the 2016 DNC email hack played a role in why the U.S. withheld security aid for Ukraine. And when ABC News' Jon Karl explained that Mulvaney had just admitted to a quid pro quo, he simply responded with "we do that all the time with foreign policy."

Trump's camp has claimed there was "no quid pro quo" in his call with Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky, and that security aid for Ukraine wasn't held up because Zelensky didn't move to probe former Vice President Joe Biden. But the administration has still neglected to answer just why that aid was withheld — until Mulvaney's admission Thursday.

"The look-back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that [Trump] was worried about" when deciding whether to release aid to Ukraine earlier this year, Mulvaney said, referring to Trump's belief that Ukraine had something to do with the DNC hack. He later said it had nothing to with Biden, and then told the gathered reporters to "get over it" when it came to the admitted quid pro quo. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:11 p.m.

The Trump administration's ethically dubious G7 decision is official.

Next year's Group of Seven summit will be held at President Trump's Doral resort in Miami, Florida, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced Thursday. The event will bring hundreds of diplomats, world leaders, and their staffers to the financially strained resort, raising its profile even though Mulvaney is claiming Trump won't profit from the event.

Apparently quoting people who chose the site for the G7, Mulvaney said Doral was "by far and away the best physical facility for this meeting." "It's almost like they built this facility to host this type of event," he added. Mulvaney brushed off questions regarding Trump's obvious benefit from the event, saying Doral will host it "at cost" so Trump does not make money from it.

The decision comes even after talks of a Doral venue raised heaps of questions about potential ethics violations. It's an especially risky decision considering the House's impeachment investigation is currently probing how Trump financially benefits from his presidency, and ironic seeing as Trump continues to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of using his position to enrich his family. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:23 a.m.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland will criticize President Trump before Congress Thursday, saying he disagreed with his decision to involve his personal attorney in Ukraine policy and delay aid to the country.

Sondland, a key figure in the Ukraine scandal, is testifying as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry, which was sparked by a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump abused his power by urging Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

In his opening statement, Sondland says that "security aid to Ukraine was in our vital national interest and should not have been delayed for any reason." Still, he tells Congress he does "not recall any discussions" with the White House about withholding aid in return for assistance in the 2020 presidential election.

Sondland also says he was "disappointed" when Trump in May 2019 directed him to talk Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters as officials were trying to set up a meeting between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine," he says.

Even so, Sondland says he felt he had no choice but to work with Giuliani if he hoped to set up a meeting between Trump and Zelensky, but he insists he "did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani's agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son." He also says, though, that when he spoke to Giuliani, the president's lawyer "emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into anticorruption issues," with Giuliani mentioning the 2016 presidential election and the Ukrainian gas company where Biden's son served on the board, although Sondland says he wasn't personally aware until recently of Biden's connection to the company.

Brendan Morrow

11:19 a.m.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) always knew he'd have to make the most of his time in Congress.

Cummings, the leader of the House Oversight Committee, died Thursday at 68 due to "complications concerning longstanding health challenges." He'd represented Baltimore in Congress for the past 23 years, and from his first day on the job, used it to call for finding "common ground" between opposing parties in the chamber.

After he earned his seat in a special election to replace retiring Rep. Kweisi Mfume, Cummings made a short floor speech recalling his time in the Maryland House of Delegates. "Our world would be a much better world, a much better place, if we would only concentrate on the things we have in common," Cummings recalled "often" saying in his previous position. He then relayed how his time in Congress would be centered on "a mission and a vision to empower people," and read a poem by Dr. Benjamin E. Mays to explain how he'd spend the short "minute" of his life.

Watch the whole speech, along with Cummings' first C-SPAN interview, below. Kathryn Krawczyk

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