“Two Democrats won state legislative contests on Tuesday night, flipping the seats from Republican hands and marking the 38th and 39th legislative flips since President Trump’s inauguration. Democrats have now also flipped six this year alone,” the Daily Beast reports.
Archives for February 2018
“Four Commerce Department political appointees working on interim security clearances lost their jobs Tuesday because of problems in their background checks, the latest fallout from the intensifying public scrutiny on administration officials working without permanent clearances,” the Washington Post reports.
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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the U.S. Senate’s second highest-ranking Republican, “expressed doubt that Congress will pass legislation to increase infrastructure spending this year, citing time constraints,” Reuters reports.
“The U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election — but never told the states involved,” NBC News reports.
The states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.
“Top-secret intelligence requested by President Obama in his last weeks in office identified seven states where analysts — synthesizing months of work — had reason to believe Russian operatives had compromised state websites or databases…The officials say systems in the seven states were compromised in a variety of ways, with some breaches more serious than others, from entry into state websites to penetration of actual voter registration databases.”
“Department of Housing and Urban Development officials spent $31,000 on a new dining room set for Secretary Ben Carson’s office in late 2017 — just as the White House circulated its plans to slash HUD’s programs for the homeless, elderly and poor,” the New York Times reports.
“The purchase of the custom hardwood table, chairs and hutch came a month after a top agency staff member filed a whistle-blower complaint charging Mr. Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, with pressuring department officials to find money for the expensive redecoration of his offices, even if it meant circumventing the law.”
“Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience,” the Washington Post reports.
“Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico.”
“It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance.”
“On March 17, 2017, WikiLeaks tweeted that it had never communicated with Roger Stone… In his interview with the House Intelligence Committee last September, Stone, who testified under oath, told lawmakers that he had communicated with WikiLeaks via an ‘intermediary,’ whom he identified only as a ‘journalist.'”
“Private Twitter messages obtained by The Atlantic show that Stone and WikiLeaks, a radical-transparency group, communicated directly on October 13, 2016 — and that WikiLeaks sought to keep its channel to Stone open after Trump won the election.”
“White House communications director Hope Hicks is the latest close adviser to President Trump to refuse to answer questions about the administration or transition period, posed by House investigators as part of their probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election,” the Washington Post reports.
“Democrats and Republicans emerging from the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing interview with Hicks on Tuesday noted that she resisted answering any questions about events and conversations that occurred since Trump won the election, despite the fact that Trump has not formally invoked executive privilege with the panel.”
An Arizona Republic survey of Sen. John McCain-related tweets collected in an NBC News database of messages finds that Russian accounts routinely spread insults and conspiracy theories smearing McCain as a “traitor” and a “RINO.”
“That the Russian Twitter trolls sought to discredit McCain, R-Ariz., was perhaps predictable given the six-term senator’s longstanding criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who officially sanctioned McCain in 2014.”
“Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access,” Politico reports.
“Kushner is not alone. All White House aides working on the highest-level interim clearances — at the Top Secret/SCI-level — were informed in a memo sent Friday that their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level.”
Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor “who allegedly delivered word of Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails to Donald Trump’s campaign,” is missing, BuzzFeed News reports.
“His biography disappeared from one university where he taught and he quit his job at another university. His email and cell phones went dead. And politicians, colleagues and journalists can’t find him.”
“Neither can Anna, his 31-year-old Ukrainian fiancee, who says he is the father of her newborn child. And her story, snatched from the pages of a John le Carré novel, offers a glimpse at the human collateral damage of an intelligence operation in which the mysterious Mifsud was allegedly a central figure.”
“The morning after the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s press staff warned House candidates and their staffs not to ‘politicize’ the shooting that day. Politicization… included talking about gun violence prevention policy,” HuffPost reports.
“All the evidence I’ve seen so far indicates that there is much more interference from the U.S. government than the Russian government.”
— Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, in a CNN interview, denying any Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a frequent harsh critic of President Trump, will visit New Hampshire on March 16, WMUR reports.
“Flake’s appearance in the first-in-the-nation primary state is sure to ignite intense speculation that he is considering challenging Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.”
Cook Political Report: “It’s not normal for Republicans to be worried about losing a seat President Trump carried by 20 points. But with two weeks to go before the March 13 special election, Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone is locked in an extremely close contest against Democratic prosecutor/Marine veteran Conor Lamb, who has significantly outspent him.”
“We’re moving the race from Lean Republican to Toss Up.”
“What’s made the race so close, many Republicans admit, is that Lamb has simply proven to be a stronger candidate than Saccone.”