‘Super Tuesday’ in the federal courts – Cohen pleads, Manafort found guilty

Donald Trump’s consigliere (fixer) Michael Cohen once said he would “take a bullet for Donald Trump.”

But today Michael Cohen entered into a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and agreed to be a cooperating witness. Just call Mikey Flipper today.

The big news: in counts seven and eight to which Michael Cohen plead guilty, involving payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal, Donald Trump is effectively identified as an unindicted co-conspirator, for the first time since Richard Nixon.

Bloomberg News reports from the courthouse, Cohen Faces December Sentencing on U.S. Charges: Plea Update:

Cohen Acted for Candidate in Violating Campaign Law (4:43 p.m.)

In acknowledging the charges against him, Cohen said he was directed to violate campaign law at the direction of a candidate for federal office. At the same candidate’s direction, he said he paid $130,000 to somebody to keep them quiet, which was later repaid by the candidate. He didn’t identify the candidate or the person who was paid, but those facts match Cohen’s payment to Clifford [Stormy Daniels] and Trump’s repayment.

Cohen Payment Was to Hide Alleged Affairs: U.S. (4:47 p.m.)

The prosecutor told the judge the purpose of the payments was to ensure that the individuals did not disclose “alleged affairs with the candidate.” Besides the $130,000 payment, Cohen admitted to making an illegal contribution of $150,000, which was how much McDougal received from the National Enquirer’s publisher to quash her story.

Lawfare Blog has a copy of the Michael Cohen plea agreement. Michael Cohen Plea Agreement (Scribd).

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LD 11 Incumbents Support for Public Ed

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I am a campaign manager for a candidate challenging Mark Finchem for the AZ House in LD 11.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this year, you probably know that this is an election year where K-12 education has been on center stage, at least here in Arizona. Here in LD 11, where I live, both Representatives Mark Finchem (running for reelection to the AZ House) and Vince Leach (running this year for the AZ Senate), have intimated they are supporters of education and have worked to restore funding back to 2008 levels.

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First of all, I believe that if a politician doesn’t specify they are a supporter of PUBLIC education, they probably aren’t. Secondly, funding for Arizona public education is still almost $800 million short per year from 2008 levels, even with the plus-up in budget approved this year. And oh by the way, bringing our funding back up to 2008 levels isn’t exactly something to brag about, and the 5 percent raises promised teachers in 2019 and 2020 don’t count until they actually happen. For now, they are just promises that future legislators will need to make good on. Continue reading

Outlaw Dirty Money initiative challenged in court

The same legal arguments being made by the GOP’s voter suppression team and its “dark money” allies (e.g., APS and “Kochtopus” tentacles) against the Invest in Education Act initiative and the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative were made against the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative on Monday.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith last week, reviewing the Invest in Education Act initiative, ruled that state legislators acted illegally in enacting a requirement in 2017 that all efforts by voters to enact their own laws must be in “strict compliance” with each and every election statute.

But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Kiley reached the opposite conclusion in reviewing the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative.

The conflicting rulings mean the Arizona Supreme Court will have to determine who is right — and soon as what the justices rule ultimately could determine what will be on the November ballot. Initiatives may not be decided at the ballot box but by seven justices of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Another issue the Arizona Supreme Court will have to decide is the constitutionality of the 2014 law that requires judges to toss signatures from circulators who don’t show up in court. Failure to show up in court in response to the subpoena means a judge must invalidate all the signatures collected by that individual – even if valid.

This 2014 voter suppression law is more directly at issue in yesterday’s review of the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative. The Arizona Capitol Times reports, ‘Dark money,’ renewable energy ballot measures in court:

The question of whether voters get to decide whether to outlaw “dark money” could depend on whether a judge voids a law that throws a hurdle in the path of initiative organizers.

GOP attorney Kory Langhofer who represents groups that now do not disclose the source of their funds contends that the Outlaw Dirty Money committee does not have sufficient valid signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. At a hearing Monday, Langhofer told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders there are flaws with many of the signatures.

But much of Langhofer’s case rests on the fact that he issued more than a dozen subpoenas to people who circulated petitions, people who he contends were not legally qualified. These include people who Langhofer contends have felony convictions or did not provide a proper address.

None of those subpoenaed showed up in court on Monday.

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#AZSen (BIG) TIDBIT: Sinema Campaign Blasts Thru $10M Mark; Increases Cash On Hand For General Election

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) plowed through the $10 Million mark in campaign receipts for her U.S. Senate race, according to her most recent FEC filing. The benchmark was likely reached sometime in mid-July, and the Democratic frontrunner now has $2.5M cash in the bank, despite having spent more on television ads than any of her opponents.

Sinema raised approximately $200,000/week during the “pre-primary” period of July 1 through August 8. Her primary opponent, attorney Deedra Abboud, has been running a shoestring campaign.

On the Republican side, frontrunner Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) is locked in a tight battle with Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio. None of the GOP candidates’ pre-primary filings are yet available – they were filed with the U.S. Senate, and it takes time for them to be posted on the FEC site.  However, as of June 30, McSally had had $4.2M cash on hand.

(Sinema’s complete report is published here.)

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Arizona Voter Registration Groups Sue Secretary Reagan For People Who Change Addresses With MVD; “Stamping Their Feet” Or “Protecting Qualified Voters”?

The League of Women Voters has filed a federal lawsuit against Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan on Saturday, as a result of a disagreement over when and how to change people’s addresses for voting purposes after they  filed a change of address with the Motor Vehicle Division. Is it an example of “stamping their feet in front of a judge” – as claimed by Reagan’s office – or “protect(ing) thousands of Arizonans from the irreparable loss of their right to vote this November.” That will be among the questions for the judge to decide.

Joining LWV in bringing the suit are voter registration groups Promise Arizona and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, with legal assistance by the ACLU (national and Arizona chapter) and others. They are asking that the Court order the Secretary to instruct County Recorders to count provisional ballots that may be voted at the voters’ old address (because that still shows as their voter registration address despite filing a change with MVD).

The Court is also being asked to order the Secretary of State to notify – before mid-September – all voters who filed change of addresses with MVD. The letter would instruct them as to their voting options and would include a voter registration form. (Click here to read the Complaint and related filings.)

After the voter registration groups reached an understanding last week with MVD, AHCCCS and DES about future cure to the agreed violations of the federal Motor Voter Act, Secretary Reagan announced that she had rejected the demands because changes are already scheduled for 2019 and trying it now “would only produce voter confusion.” Secretary of State Communications Director Matt Roberts told Arizona’s Politics that:

“It’s disappointing that organizations like the ACLU, Mi Familia Vota and the League of Women Voters are seemingly more interested in stamping their feet in front of a judge rather than accepting the fact that the changes they want are already scheduled. We’re confident the court will agree that sending a letter to five hundred thousand people saying the state changed their voter registration address right before an election isn’t the greatest idea.”


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A travesty of justice: GOP stonewalls on Judge Brett Kavanaugh documents while rushing his confirmation hearing

I previously explained that Judge Kavanaugh provided misleading testimony in his previous confirmation hearing.

Kavanaugh testified that he had no role in the Bush administration terrorist interrogation and torture program. A year after his confirmation, NPR reported Brett Kavanaugh may have been less-than-forthright with Congress at a crucial hearing last year to confirm his appointment to a seat on the powerful federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.  Federal Judge Downplayed Role in Detainee Cases.

In fact, in 2002, Kavanaugh and a group of top White House lawyers discussed whether the Supreme Court would uphold the Bush administration’s decision to deny lawyers to American enemy combatants. Kavanaugh advised the group that the Supreme Court’s swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy, would probably reject the president’s assertion that the men were not entitled to counsel. Kavanaugh had worked as a clerk for Kennedy. That meeting was first reported in The Washington Post. NPR independently confirmed the details with multiple sources.

Durbin now says he feels “perilously close to being lied to” at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.

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