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Daily Reads: Admin. Wades into Voter Suppression Waters; Senators Interrogate Acting FBI Head on Future of Trump-Russia Investigation

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Daily Reads: Admin. Wades into Voter Suppression Waters

Donald Trump and Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state, pose for a photo following a November meeting at Trump International Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Election fraud or voter suppression? –> The Trump administration is setting up an “election integrity commission” to look into voter fraud, something the president maintains — falsely — was rampant during the 2016 election. “Vice President Mike Pence will be the chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be the vice chair — two men with very long histories of making it harder to vote, especially Kobach,” writes Ari Berman at The Nation. “Given the lack of evidence of voter fraud, the commission seems designed for one purpose: to perpetuate the myth of fraud in order to lay the groundwork for enacting policies that suppress the vote.”

To be very clear: Voter fraud is not a modern-day thing. As Gail Ablow wrote for our site last year, “Voter fraud is not rampant. In fact, voter fraud is so rare as to be effectively nonexistent. But the claim that voter fraud threatens the integrity of American elections is widespread, and is itself a deception.”

That deception disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of Americans, and can swing the outcome of elections. As we noted earlier this week, one study suggests voter-ID laws targeting students, the elderly and minorities in Wisconsin may have shifted that state from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. “Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis,” The Nation’s Berman reported on Tuesday. “Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.”

Kris Kobach, who will lead the commission with Pence, has been central to GOP voter suppression efforts. “To understand why Kobach’s presence on this panel is so alarming, you need to know his background. The architect of draconian anti-immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama — as well as the mind behind Mitt Romney’s ‘self-deportation’ rhetoric — Kobach has been a prominent champion for voting restrictions,” writes Jamelle Bouie for Slate.

“From his perch as Kansas’ top election official, Kobach has launched a crusade against ‘illegal voting,’ winning power from state lawmakers to prosecute ‘voting crime.’ In keeping with most studies of voter fraud — which find little to no evidence of its existence — Kobach has found just nine cases of alleged fraud out of 1.8 million registered Kansas voters.”

Russia investigation has a new steward –> James Comey was supposed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, but, instead, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe showed up. McCabe called the Russia investigation “highly significant” and said, contrary to White House claims, that Comey enjoyed widespread support within the agency, Mattathias Schwartz reports for The Intercept.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) also asked McCabe this: “For as long as you are Acting FBI director, do you commit to informing this committee of any effort to interfere with the FBI’s ongoing investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign?”

“I absolutely do,” McCabe responded.

Meanwhile, as the investigation moves forward, morale at the FBI is low. “Who cares, nothing matters, no one knows anything, everything sucks,” one veteran agent in the FBI’s criminal division told The Daily Beast.

Tillerson commits to Arctic climate research –> The secretary of state signed a statement endorsing greenhouse gas emission cuts and acknowledging the need for more climate research in the Arctic, which is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. The statement doesn’t mean anything for US policy — but does run counter to the climate change-denying rhetoric advanced by Trump. The statement acknowledges that the Paris Agreement has gone into force, but doesn’t give any hints about the US’s future involvement in it, Megan Darby reports for Climate Home.

The inequality of climate change –> As rising seas and stronger storms cause floods to swamp coastal cities, the poor are affected disproportionately. Climate Central’s John Upton spent months chronicling the plight of poor Atlantic City residents struggling to cope with surging seas in the present, with the worst yet to come.

Big spending in special elections –> Two of this year’s special elections — which partisans on both sides have framed as referenda on Trump and previews of the 2018 midterms — are attracting huge amounts of money from outside the state, Fredreka Schouten reports for USA Today. More than $20 million has been spent on federal-level races this year, largely in Georgia and Montana. Nearly half of that has come from just two Republican Party-aligned groups, the Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Story in the numbers –> The New York Daily News reports: “Black and Hispanic kids accounted for 99 percent of all public school students handcuffed by NYPD school safety agents in crisis incidents in 2016, data published Monday shows.” The data is yet another sobering fact about a city that remains one of the most segregated in the country.

He never returned –> At Jacobin Magazine, Peter Dreier and Jim Vrabel tell the story of Walter O’Brien, the left-wing Massachusetts politician behind the song “Charlie on the MTA,” a campaign song that became a popular hit. During the Red Scare, Walter’s name in the final verse of the song — “vote for Walter O’Brien” — was changed to George, and the man behind the song faded into obscurity.

Daily Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Kristin Miller.



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