[Lost in the Sauce] KY cuts thousands of polling locations ahead of primary

Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater… or a global health crisis.

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Mueller report

On Friday, the Justice Department released a slightly-less-redacted version of the Mueller report.

Donald Trump was told in advance that Wikileaks would be releasing documents embarrassing to the Clinton campaign and subsequently informed advisors that he expected more releases would be coming… In July 2016, Roger Stone told Trump as well as several campaign advisors that he had spoken with Julian Assange and that WikiLeaks would be publishing the documents in a matter of days.

The newly unredacted portions of the Mueller report also show that after the initial email dump by WikiLeaks, Trump personally asked Manafort to keep in touch with Stone, who in turn told the then-campaign chairman to keep him “apprised of any developments with WikiLeaks.” Investigators were also told by Gates that Trump had multiple phone conversations with Stone during the campaign and that, following one call held en route to LaGuardia airport, “Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.”

Mueller examined whether President Donald Trump lied to him in written answers during the Russia investigation… In written testimony to Mueller’s team in November 2018, Trump denied being aware of any communications between Stone, Manafort, Gates, or Donald Trump Jr and WikiLeaks or Assange. Yet, the newly public portions show that Trump did know about a Stone-Wikileaks connection.

  • Considering the contradictory evidence, the special counsel’s office weighed the possibility that Trump “no longer had clear recollections” of what happened two years earlier, but also wondered whether “the President’s conduct could also be viewed as reflecting his awareness that Stone could provide evidence that would run counter to the President’s denials and would link the President to Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks.”

More from Bolton

I wrote about the main takeaways from Bolton’s book last week. Since then, we’ve learned a few more details, which I’ll briefly list below. Bolton sat for an ABC interview on Sunday. You can read the transcript here.

In an Axios interview on Friday, Trump said he resisted punishing China for its mass internment of ethnic Uighurs last year for fear of jeopardizing trade talks with Beijing. This confirms a damning claim in Bolton’s book. As NYT writes, it is a blunt admission of Trump’s transactional approach to human rights and willingness to subordinate other U.S. policy priorities to a potential trade deal he considers vital to his re-election.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “President Trump’s admission that he is looking the other way and enabling one of the worst human rights atrocities of our time in order to ink a trade deal is appalling… Since Day One of his Administration, President Trump has had the tools to hold Chinese officials accountable for these human rights abuses and others including in Hong Kong by deploying sanctions under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act, yet has refused to do so.”

Bolton said he was worried about leaving Trump alone in a room with Vladimir Putin. “Because I didn’t know what he would say,” Bolton continued, “it’s certainly not advancing the interests.” (ABC)

Bolton writes that Trump was eager – even desperate – to meet with Putin. Bolton said he saw Trump display “the same fascination with speaking with a leader like Putin that we saw with respect to Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un… The president himself used to comment on how strange it was that in one trip he took to a NATO summit, a summit with Theresa May, the prime minister of Britain, and then Vladimir Putin in Helsinki that he thought the easiest, most pleasant one might be with Vladimir Putin.” z/story?id=71287825))

Trump compared his courtship of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to dating and “always wanted to be the one who broke up with the girl first,” Bolton told NPR. “[Trump] used that to describe whether he would cancel the summit with Kim Jong-un first or whether we would risk the North Koreans canceling it.” When NPR interviewer Steve Inskeep asked if the president had “a kind of romantic approach to numerous dictators”, Bolton agreed: “Yeah, I think that’s an accurate description.”

Bolton says Trump “directly” told him his goal last year was to link “military assistance and that opportunity to go after Joe Biden.” “It was a trade. It was a trade of an investigation in exchange for the security assistance,” Bolton says. This is the definition of quid pro quo. z/story?id=71287825))


Russia and Putin

To add to what Bolton recounted about Trump and Putin’s relationship (above), former National Security Council member Fiona Hill told The New Yorker about her experiences…

Hill said Trump’s translator for a 2017 meeting with Putin told her that Trump assured the Russian leader that he believed Putin never meddled in the 2016 election. Trump then took the translator’s notes. At the end of the meeting, Putin told Trump, “Let’s talk later.” The two had a private conversation at dinner with only Putin’s translator present.

  • Later that year, Trump and Putin had another unscheduled exchange, at an economic summit in Da Nang, Vietnam. A White House official who accompanied Trump said he overheard the beginning of the conversation, in which Trump engaged in “mundane small talk” with Putin, before he and his foreign counterparts were escorted out of the room. Hill said, “That’s the one meeting where nobody has any clue about what was discussed.”

The Kremlin and White House are reportedly discussing exchanging Paul Whelan for convicted arms dealer “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout. In 2011, Bout was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization

  • Matthew Miller, who led Attorney General Eric Holder’s communications team, responded: “This would be a real travesty. Bout has the blood of thousands of people on his hands, and his arrest and extradition was a major U.S. accomplishment that some of our allies helped us with at significant cost.”

Top Democrats introduce bill to stop Trump’s Germany withdrawal… Sen. Menendez said in a statement that “This drawdown weakens America and Europe. And Vladimir Putin understands and appreciates that better than anyone.” Rep. Engel added: “President Trump has once again made foreign policy decisions based solely on his absurd affection for Vladimir Putin, a murderous dictator who has attacked America and our allies.”

More:

  • US fighter jets intercept 8 Russian warplanes near Alaska for 4th time in a week
  • Researchers uncover six-year Russian misinformation campaign across Facebook and Reddit

Congress

Tomorrow, June 24, Mueller prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky and DOJ official John Elias will testify before the House Judiciary Committee about AG Barr’s interference. Zelinsky withdrew from the Roger Stone case when Barr intervened to soften the sentencing recommendation

House Judiciary Chairman Nadler is preparing to subpoena Barr for his testimony on July 2. Nadler is investigating Barr’s involvement in the forced resignation-turned-firing of SDNY prosecutor Berman, as well as the DOJ’s reversal in Michael Flynn’s case.

Both the House Democratic and Senate Republican police reform bills are being brought to the floor this week. McConnell will need seven Democrats to vote in favor of the GOP bill in order to advance the legislation. It is unlikely to be accepted by the House without significant changes.

How the two versions compare: The Democratic bill bans chokeholds, while the GOP bill disincentivizes chokehold use (allows it if an officer is “in danger”). Democrats end qualified policing and ban no-knock warrants, but the GOP allow both policies to continue unchanged. Finally, the GOP adds additional funding for police; the Democratic bill does not. (source: MSNBC)


Voting and elections

Kentucky cuts THOUSANDS of polling locations ahead of today’s primary election. The 3,700 voting locations have been reduced to only 170. The biggest cuts per population occurred in counties with the largest black population in the state. This election will determine which Democrat faces Mitch McConnell in November.

  • Op-ed: It is no wonder that a recent study showed that in 2016, residents of entirely black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer to vote than their counterparts in entirely white neighborhoods. This disparity held up even within the same counties. Far too many election officials accept long lines, election after election, as the “usual.” Others accept long lines in minority communities as a cynical trade-off to ensure that members of their white communities don’t complain. Finally, others seek a partisan advantage.

Meanwhile, though thousands of voters have requested mail-in ballots in an attempt to avoid in-person voting, some have yet to receive them just days before the election date of June 23, when they must be postmarked.

Perhaps indicative of the upcoming troubles in Kentucky, the unemployment line in the state last week was an 8 hour wait from the back of the line. Police turned people away from joining the line eventually, taking their name and number in the hopes of getting a call from a real human to solve the hold/denial of their unemployment application.

A federal judge in Alabama blocked the state from enforcing a trio of restrictions for absentee and curbside voting for the state’s July 14 runoff election amid concerns from voters who say they are at a higher risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.

The Texas Democratic Party asked the U.S. Supreme Court to expand access of mail-in ballots to all voters in the stateincluding those afraid of contracting the coronavirus.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she plans to sign an executive order that would reinstate the voting rights of Iowans who have completed their felony sentences. It is unclear what form such an order would take.

Iowa Republicans added a last minute voter suppression measure to the state budget in an overnight session. The Republicans added new voter identification requirements for early voting.

Vice President Mike Pence and a half-dozen other senior advisers to President Donald Trump have repeatedly voted by mail… More than three years after leaving the Indiana governor’s residence, Pence still lists that as his official residence and votes absentee accordingly (which Trump would define as voter fraud if a Democrat did such a thing).


Immigration news

  • Bolsonaro fraudulently circumvented Trump’s COVID-19 immigration ban to smuggle his scandal-plagued ex-Education Minister into the U.S.
  • Trump let Nigel Farage break coronavirus travel rules “in the national interest” to attend his Tulsa rally. Chairman of the House Homeland Security Cmte. Bennie Thompson requested documents from DHA on its decision to wave the coronavirus travel ban.
  • Trump extended a freeze on green cards for new immigrants and signed an executive order to suspend new H-1B, L-1, J and other temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs through the end of the year.
  • Federal court rules that ICE can no longer enter NY courthouses just to arrest alleged undocumented immigrants
  • Authorities transferred hundreds of people between shadowy immigration prisons, ignoring the coronavirus threat. Criminal Alien Requirement, or CAR, prisons are a shadowy network of facilities overseen by the Bureau of Prisons but run entirely by private contractors and used exclusively to house noncitizens serving federal sentences, often for immigration-related offenses.
  • ‘Either he’s dead or he’s been kidnapped’: ICE detainees go ‘missing’ amid coronavirus
  • Why Is the United States Exporting Coronavirus? Holding asylum seekers, immigrants, and others in facilities where the virus easily spreads only to later send them to other nations is a public health hazard — here and abroad.

Miscellaneous

News stories that didn’t fit in previous categories.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump was asked what crime he thinks Obama committed: “Treason. Treason. It’s treason.” Trump continued by accusing Obama of spying on his campaign and said that he’s looking forward to the Justice Department’s investigation concluding.

The FBI used its most advanced spy plane to watch Black Lives Matter protests and the Department of Homeland Security used aircraft to surveil protests in 15 cities.

  • The Air Force inspector general is investigating the use of military aircraft to monitor protesters during recent unrest across the country, according to an Air Force spokesperson.

A large ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner draped on the front of the U.S. embassy in Seoul was removed after it was brought to the attention of Trump and Mike Pompeo. A large, multicolored “pride” banner recognizing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people was also removed.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s promotion to full colonel is in jeopardy over what some officials fear could be White House retaliation for his role in last year’s impeachment inquiry. Such promotions are typically signed off on by Army and then Pentagon leaders before moving to the White House and the Senate for a confirmation vote.

  • Multiple government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to address personnel matters, have voiced concern, however, that the White House could strike Vindman’s name once it is conveyed, effectively sanctioning him for testimony he gave under subpoena to House lawmakers.

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denied Sunday that former Vice President Joe Biden ever approached him about Burisma Holdings… “My absolutely clear answer: no, never,” Poroshenko told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

‘We are facing extermination’: Brazil losing a generation of indigenous leaders to Covid-19. Coronavirus has swept through tribes, killing elders – and inflicting irreparable damage on tribal history, culture and medicine

US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue ordered environmental rollbacks for the Forest Service, to allow for more grazing, logging and oil development on public lands.

The Arctic Circle Hit 101 degrees (F) on Saturday, its hottest temperature ever. The average high temp for June is 68 degrees (F). This dramatic warming of the Arctic up to triple-digit temperatures was not expected to happen until 2100 from climate change.

The Climate Crisis Is Killing Us, and America’s Premier Public-Health Agency Doesn’t Care… The government spends more on Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago than on the CDC’s climate program

Facebook deactivated dozens of ads placed by President Trump’s reelection campaign that included a symbol once used by the Nazis to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.

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