Category Archives: Election Integrity

Not just Russia – the Middle East leg of the Mueller investigation

From time to time there has been reporting on another leg of the Mueller investigation into Middle East countries attempting to influence the 2016 election — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel — and possible “collusion” with the Trump campaign. It does not receive nearly as much attention as the Russia leg of the Mueller investigation.

The Daily Beast reports that this may be about to change early next year. Get Ready for Mueller’s Phase Two: The Middle East Connection:

Over the past year, the indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas have largely been connected, in one way or another, to Russia. But now, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is preparing to reveal to the public a different side of his investigation. In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries’ attempts to influence American politics, three sources familiar with this side of the probe told The Daily Beast.

While one part of the Mueller team has indicted Russian spies and troll-masters, another cadre has been spending its time focusing on how Middle Eastern countries pushed cash to Washington politicos in an attempt to sway policy under President Trump’s administration. Various witnesses affiliated with the Trump campaign have been questioned about their conversations with deeply connected individuals from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, according to people familiar with the probe. Topics in those meetings ranged from the use of social-media manipulation to help install Trump in the White House to the overthrow of the regime in Iran.

Now, according to those same sources, the Special Counsel’s Office is ready to outline what cooperating witnesses have told them about foreigners’ plans to help Trump win the presidency. Two sources with knowledge of the probe said Mueller’s team has for months discussed the possibility of issuing new charges on this side of the investigation.

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The path forward is clear: impeachment is coming

The Department of Justice reaffirmed on Friday that the President of the United States is an unindicted co-conspirator who coordinated with and directed Michael Flynn to commit criminal felonies on his behalf as his proxy.  The Special Counsel also gave a glimpse, without disclosing all his cards, that he has evidence of “political synergy” (collusion) between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Americans elected a Russian asset and a criminal to the White House. It’s time to come to terms with this stark reality.

The path forward is clear: impeachment is coming.

The Washington Post reports, Court filings directly implicate Trump in efforts to buy women’s silence, reveal new contact between inner circle and Russian:

Federal prosecutors filed new court papers Friday directly implicating President Trump in plans to buy women’s silence as far back as 2014 and offering new evidence of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president — disclosures that show the deepening political and legal morass enveloping the administration.

The separate filings came from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III Mueller Cohen Sentencing Memo (.pdf), and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York  SDNY Cohen Sentencing Memo (.pdf) ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Taken together, the documents suggest that the president’s legal woes are far from over and reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. But the documents do not answer the central question at the heart of Mueller’s work — whether the president or those around him conspired with the Kremlin.

The documents offer a scathing portrait of his former lawyer as a criminal who deserves little sympathy or mercy because he held back from telling the FBI everything he knew. For that reason, prosecutors said, he should be sentenced to “substantial” prison time, suggesting possibly 3½ years.

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Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature loses in court again

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has blocked efforts by Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican-controlled Legislature to create new exceptions to laws that require disclosure of campaign finance spending. Ruling restores expanded oversight by Clean Elections Commission over campaign finances:

In a ruling released Wednesday, Judge David Palmer said a 2017 measure unconstitutionally conflicts with a 1998 voter-approved law designed to reduce the influence of money on politics.

Wednesday’s decision most immediately limits the ability of political parties to spend unlimited dollars on behalf of their candidates without disclosing the expenditures. It also voids some exemptions that lawmakers created in campaign finance laws, like allowing people to pay the legal fees of candidates without it counting against the legal limit of how much financial help they can provide.

But attorney Jim Barton, who represented those challenging the 2017 law, said the most significant part of the ruling is it restores the right of the voter-created Citizens Clean Elections Commission to police and enforce campaign finance laws against all candidates and their donors, not just those who are running with public financing.

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Michael Flynn sentencing memorandum indicates that the Special Counsel is far from done

The media waited with bated breath in high anticipation of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing memorandum for Michael Flynn, hoping that it would lay out a more complete narrative of his case, as the indictments previously filed have done.

The media was disappointed by the Sentencing Memorandum (.pdf) and heavily redacted Addendum (.pdf). This is because Michael Flynn is a cooperating witness in at least three criminal investigations that are ongoing, and the Special Counsel must maintain this information as confidential. The non-public sentencing memorandum is filed under seal.

Andrew Prokop at Vox.com analyses, 4 takeaways from Mueller’s sentencing memo for Michael Flynn:

[T]here’s a lot in the text itself and between the redacted lines in the documents, amounting to four key takeaways.

First off, Mueller is quite happy with Flynn’s cooperation — happy enough to recommend that he serve no prison time. (This is a notable contrast to the positively scathing memo Mueller’s team wrote about George Papadopoulos, in which they said he did not provide “substantial assistance” and complained that he talked to the press.)

Second, Flynn is cooperating in not one but three different investigations — Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, a separate criminal probe, and a third investigation of some kind. But most of the details of these other probes are redacted, including even the type of the third investigation.

Third, the cooperation Flynn provided to Mueller’s probe specifically appears to break down into two main areas. One focused on contacts between the Trump transition team and Russia, but we don’t know what the other one is yet.

Finally, the many redactions indicate that there’s still a whole lot going on behind the scenes that Mueller doesn’t yet want the public to know about.

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GOP election fraud in North Carolina 9th congressional district

Republicans purvey the myth of in-person voter fraud at the polls, for which there is no evidence to substantiate their conspiracy theory.

If voter fraud is going to occur, it will occur with early voting mail-in ballots. The hand-full of voters prosecuted for “double voting” in Arizona are snowbird residents who voted in their home state and also voted in Arizona. None served time.

But what happened in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district is not about voter fraud (the media really needs to stop using this term incorrectly). This is an actual case of election fraud — the stealing of an election by the GOP — through voter suppression of minority voters’ early mail-in ballots.

The Washington Post reports, North Carolina election-fraud investigation centers on operative with criminal history who worked for GOP congressional candidate:

[A] local operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless ran his command center for Republican Mark Harris in the 9th Congressional District primary this spring.

Dowless sat at a desk at the back of one of the strip’s vacant storefronts, where he oversaw a crew of workers who collected absentee ballots from voters and updated the Harris campaign on the numbers, according to Jeff Smith, who is the building’s owner and a former Dowless friend.

Smith provided his account about the primary campaign to state investigators, who are examining whether Dowless’s activities then and in the general election violated North Carolina’s election laws, which allow only individual voters or designated close relatives to mail a ballot.

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