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By Rex Huppke - Chicago Tribune

President Donald Trump and members of the political party he has transformed into a cult spent much of the Republican National Convention violating the laws of time and fiercely criticizing the current administration of Joe Biden. “Hold on,” you say. “Biden isn’t president, Trump is.” Let me help you out. Trump’s main campaign argument is this: “You see all this horrible stuff going on right now? If you elect Joe Biden, the horrible things happening in America right now will happen.” Granted, people who grasp concepts like chronology and object permanence will struggle with the logic behind that argument. It sounds like Trump and his groupies are saying the country is a mess right now, but that mess isn’t Trump’s fault, it’s the fault of Biden if he wins the election three months from now.

Gosh, this isn’t getting any easier to explain. Let me just show you an excerpt from Trump’s speech accepting the GOP nomination at the Republican National Convention: “Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police and the terrorism in our cities threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country. “Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally; some have even been its victims. “I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.”

OK, I’m guessing the “January 20th, 2017,” bit might have thrown you for a loop. That because I forgot to mention the excerpt is from Trump’s RNC acceptance speech in 2016, not from the speech he gave Thursday night on the White House lawn. What’s funny is that all the stuff he said in 2016, shortly before he got the job of president, is effectively the same stuff he’s saying now, in 2020, after four years on the job. Another thing he said in that 2016 speech was this: “I alone can fix it.”

“Some stations have so much mail backed up, it’s three times more than the volume you would see at Christmas,” a Chicago postal worker said.
By Mary Pflum

In Chicago, postal employees say backlogged mail is stacked so high in some facilities that workers barely have space to walk by. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, mail handlers tell NBC News first class and priority mail is still running several days a week behind schedule on average. And in Tacoma, Washington, multiple postal workers said new mandates mean many mail trucks per week are being ordered to set out on their routes five minutes early — often entirely empty.

One week after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he was temporarily suspending changes to the United States Postal Service, NBC News spoke with eight postal union representatives from throughout the nation, all of whom expressed concerns and provided examples of ongoing delays in mail delivery. They said the recent removal of hundreds of postal sorting machines and rigid new operational directives for mail trucks and carriers have exacerbated the slowdown. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Keith Richardson, president of the American Postal Workers Union, Chicago, Local 1, and a post office veteran who’s worked 28 years as a mail processing clerk.

Postal workers associated with unions — seven of which represent nearly half a million workers — say their organizations offer them some protection to speak openly about the problems. Union leaders seeking to protect workers' livelihoods and overtime may have an interest in being critical of DeJoy over fears that the Postal Service could be privatized and their bargaining position reduced. “Some stations have so much mail backed up, it’s three times more than the volume you would see at Christmas,” Richardson said, noting Chicago’s International Military Service Center and Henry McGee Postal Station are particularly overwhelmed. “You can’t even walk down the aisles. It’s a wonder carriers can get in and out.”

While DeJoy announced last week he would put a halt to the removal of any more postal sorting machines and mailboxes until after the election, postal workers say he failed to lift a series of recently implemented postal mandates that include a system that requires trucks to leave facilities at specific times, even if vehicles and mailbags have not been fully loaded.

By Nick Miroff

SAN DIEGO — Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump’s border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through, according to U.S. agents and officials with knowledge of the damage. The breaches have been made using a popular cordless household tool known as a reciprocating saw that retails at hardware stores for as little as $100. When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, according to the agents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the barrier-defeating techniques.

After cutting through the base of a single bollard, smugglers can push the steel out of the way, creating an adult-size gap. Because the bollards are so tall — and are attached only to a panel at the top — their length makes them easier to push aside once they have been cut and are left dangling, according to engineers consulted by The Washington Post. The taxpayer-funded barrier — so far coming with a $10 billion price tag — was a central theme of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and he has made the project a physical symbol of his presidency, touting its construction progress in speeches, ads and tweets. Trump has increasingly boasted to crowds in recent weeks about the superlative properties of the barrier, calling it “virtually impenetrable” and likening the structure to a “Rolls-Royce” that border crossers cannot get over, under or through. The smuggling crews have been using other techniques, such as building makeshift ladders to scale the barriers, especially in the popular smuggling areas in the San Diego area, according to nearly a dozen U.S. agents and current and former administration officials.

By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump granted Alice Marie Johnson a pardon on Friday, after commuting her prison sentence two years ago. "We're giving Alice a full pardon. I just told her," Trump said in the Oval Office alongside Johnson on Friday afternoon. "That means you can do whatever you want in life. Just keep doing the great job you're doing. Alice has done an incredible job since she's been out, and recommending other people" to grant clemency. In 2018, Trump granted Johnson, a first-time nonviolent drug offender, a commutation, a week after Kim Kardashian West pleaded her case for Johnson's release during an Oval Office meeting with Trump. Johnson had already served 21 years of a life sentence after she was convicted on charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine and attempted possession of cocaine.

Johnson, now a criminal justice reform advocate, appeared at the Republican National Convention on Thursday evening, telling the story of her release and praising Trump's decision to sign a criminal justice reform bill, the First Step Act, into law. Johnson said during her speech that Trump "saw me as a person." "It was real justice reform," Johnson said of the First Step Act. "And it brought joy, hope and freedom to thousands of well-deserving people. I hollered, 'Hallelujah!' My faith in justice and mercy was rewarded. Imagine getting to hug your loved ones again. It's a feeling I will never forget. And to think, this first step meant so much to so many." This is the second pardon the President has granted this week. On Tuesday, Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, who used his time after prison for robbing a bank to create a reintegration program for former inmates. Ponder's pardon was taped at the White House and rebroadcast during the RNC.

Ayesha Rascoe at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.,

There are three words never far from President Trump's lips this summer: "law and order." As the country has recoiled against police brutality, sparking protests across the country, Trump has used the well-worn phrase over and over again in speeches, at times tweeting it in all caps. The message took center stage again at the Republican National Convention, as Trump presents himself as a "tough on crime" leader protecting the suburbs from the violence of U.S. cities.

It's a variation on a theme that has been central to Trump's political rise, and now Trump is betting that it will help get him reelected. "The words 'law and order' are words that Democrats don't like to use," Trump told a crowd in Minnesota last week. "They don't think they're politically good. There's nothing wrong with law and order. There's law and order, and you shouldn't be ashamed of it." Critics say Trump's focus on cracking down on "inner city" crime harkens back to racist campaigns from the likes of segregationist George Wallace in the 1960s.

NPR examined the way Trump has talked about "law and order" over the years, using a database compiled by Factba.se, a website that collects all of Trump's public statements. The specifics of Trump's rhetoric have evolved over time to fit a changing political landscape. But, certain themes — such as allowing the police to get "tough" — have remained the same. Trump's first major foray into public commentary on crime happened in 1989. Trump, then a real estate developer, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the death penalty against five Black and Latino boys accused of attacking a woman in Central Park.

"What has happened to law and order ...?" Trump said in the ad. "Let our politicians give back our police department's power to keep us safe. Unshackle them from the constant chant of 'police brutality,' which every petty criminal hurls immediately at an officer who has just risked his or her life to save another's." The five boys accused of the crime were exonerated years later. Trump has never apologized for the ad.

By - AFP

The 2020 US election race is rife with concerns about misinformation, and the first session of the Republican National Convention did nothing to dispel them. Several speakers made false or misleading claims on topics ranging from the US economy, President Donald Trump's first-term promises, and the potential for fraud if there is heavy reliance on voting by mail. The Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic -- considered its biggest weakness going into the election -- was at the forefront of questionable claims being made in an attempt to persuade American voters that the incumbent deserves a second term. AFP breaks down key claims below:

Coronavirus response
Critics of the president say his delayed response to the pandemic -- reflecting a consistent preference for the economy to remain open despite the public health risks -- has actually damaged US prospects. The country has more infections than would have been the case had he acted sooner to curb the virus, they say. But the Republican convention sought to portray steps taken as saving lives, rather than losing them. Natalie Harp, who sits on the Trump campaign advisory board, said had it not been for the president's "China travel ban, millions would have died." Donald Trump Jr said his father "quickly took action and shut down travel from China" in January. But rather than a ban the president imposed restrictions, effective February 2, accompanied by multiple exemptions. Only foreign nationals who had been in China within the past 14 days were banned. US citizens present in Hubei province within the same time period were subject to a mandatory quarantine upon returning home. No statistics show that millions of lives were saved. The president, for months, talked down the risk to Americans. As of 1100 GMT on August 25, the US accounts for the most deaths by country -- 177,284 from a global toll of 813,733 -- according to figures from official sources compiled by AFP. The number of US victims was not mentioned by any speaker on the convention's opening night.

Voter fraud
The president formally accepted the Republican Party nomination by repeating unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots would lead to voter fraud. He has previously gone as far as saying that the only way he could lose to Democrat Joe Biden is if the vote is "rigged." Voting experts say this is false. A 2017 study by the Brennan Center found that impersonation rarely happens in US elections. Incident rates are between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent, according to the study. Critics of the president say he is using scare tactics to create apathy that could stop would-be Democrats from voting. Mail-in voting is traditionally used by members of the US military and elderly voters. But Trump -- an official resident of Florida -- and members of his family and administration rely on it. The coronavirus means Americans are far more likely to try and avoid in-person voting this year. "There's simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None," Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in a 66-message thread on Twitter on May 27, 2020.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson and Maeve Reston, CNN

(CNN) Only voters can decide the political fate of Donald Trump. But the evidence of a dark, dispiriting election year suggests unequivocally that the President has failed to find answers equal to the magnitude and complexity of America's two great crises -- over health and race. So at the shape-shifting Republican National Convention on Wednesday, Trump's most loyal subordinate Vice President Mike Pence had little option but to do what he does best. He twisted the facts, spun a more pleasing alternative national reality and showered his boss with praise. Even by the standards of 2020, it was a disorienting night. Adding to the awfulness of another police shooting of a Black man and the shooting of two protesters (by an apparent Trump supporter) and the pandemic about to claim its 180,000th American victim, a monstrous hurricane tore towards the Gulf Coast. Already, there are doubts whether the President's big acceptance speech and a fireworks display Thursday at the White House in front of a pandemic-defying crowd of more than 1,000 people will be appropriate given what forecasters say are "unsurvivable" conditions facing those in the path of Hurricane Laura.

The RNC has had some effective moments -- especially in highlighting the stories of regular Americans from lobstermen to farmers who say they have benefited from Trump's economic policies. Democrats may have missed an opportunity in not doing more to highlight such inspiring stories. But for the third night in a row the convention offered a vision of a far different country than the one currently staggering through a cataclysmic year. It was a tale of a resurgent economy, a deadly virus defeated and a benevolent and wise President who was a champion of Black Americans, an empathetic counselor of professional women and a guardian of constitutional values worthy of mention in the same breath as the Founders.

Sam Gringlas

Even before the Republican National Convention began, government ethics experts warned that hosting campaign events from the White House South Lawn and the Rose Garden could violate federal ethics law. But just in the convention's first two days, Trump has gone even further — wielding the powers of his office and the federal government to promote his reelection campaign.

As part of last night's prime-time convention programming, Trump granted a presidential pardon from the White House. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared from Jerusalem, where he was on official state business, to make a campaign speech with the Old City as backdrop. And acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf performed a naturalization ceremony on television as Trump looked on.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity inside federal buildings or while on duty. Though the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the Hatch Act, federal employees like Pompeo, Wolf and any executive branch employees who helped stage the events, are not.Ethics watchdogs harshly criticized Trump's merging of official and campaign acts during the Tuesday night telecast.

"The Hatch Act was the wall standing between the government's might and candidates. Tonight a candidate tore down that wall and wielded power for his own campaign," tweeted Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (no relation to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe) that oversees high-level ethics issues inside the executive branch. Shaub left the office in 2017 after clashing with the Trump administration over the president's failure to divest from his businesses.

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS – The president of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday rejected the Trump administration’s demand to restore all U.N. sanctions on Iran, a move that drew an angry rebuke from the U.S. ambassador who accused opponents of supporting “terrorists.” Indonesia’s ambassador to the U.N., Dian Triansyah Djani, whose country currently holds the rotating council presidency, made the announcement in response to requests from Russia and China to disclose the results of his polling of the views of all countries on the 15-member council.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted last Thursday that the United States has the legal right to “snap back” U.N. sanctions, even though President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers that was endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. All the council members, except the Dominican Republic, had informed the council president that the U.S. administration’s action was illegal because Trump withdrew in 2018 from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Council president Djani told members at the end of a virtual meeting on the Mideast on Tuesday: “Having contacted the members and received letters from many member countries it is clear to me that there is one member which has a particular position on the issues, while there are significant numbers of members who have contesting views.” “In my view there is no consensus in the council,” Djani said. “Thus, the president is not in the position to take further action.“ That means the U.N.’s most powerful body, at least during Indonesia’s presidency, is not going to take up the U.S. demand. Niger takes over the council presidency in September, and its ambassador also sent a letter calling the U.S. action illegal. So it is likely to ignore the U.S. demand as well.

"It's all just shredding the Hatch Act," a current State Department official says of Pompeo's speech.
By Josh Lederman, Carol E. Lee and Andrea Mitchell

WASHINGTON — Diplomats who are barred by law from mixing work and politics say they're appalled by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's decision to address the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, breaking with long-standing traditions aimed at isolating American's foreign policy from partisan battles at home. It would be problematic enough, current and former U.S. diplomats said, if Pompeo were simply showing up at the convention to speak. But Pompeo's decision to use a stop in Jerusalem during an official overseas trip as the site for his recorded speech to fellow Republicans raises even more troubling questions about the message it sends to other countries and whether U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill, they said.

"It's all just shredding the Hatch Act," a current U.S. diplomat said, referring to the federal law that prohibits government employees from political activity on the job or in their official capacities. The official and others still working for the government spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Their comments were echoed by former U.S. diplomats who said the dismay within the diplomatic community was palpable. "People are extraordinarily upset about it. This is really a bridge too far," said former Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who spent 35 years in the foreign service. "Pompeo is clearly ensuring the State Department is politicized by using his position to carry out what is basically a partisan mission."

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump launched his convention week Monday with a bitter tirade against his rivals from four years ago and dark and unfounded warnings that voter fraud could deprive him of a second term. Speaking from Charlotte moments after he was formally renominated as the Republican Party standard-bearer, Trump delivered a screed that predicted a legally contested election in November and complained that Democrats were exploiting the coronavirus pandemic -- still raging in the United States -- to undermine his re-election. "What they're doing is using Covid to steal an election. They're using Covid to defraud the American people, all of our people, of a fair and free election," Trump said, without evidence, to applause from GOP delegates, who were gathering in North Carolina to conduct the formal business of the party convention.

It was hardly the optimistic message that Trump's advisers have been relentlessly previewing ahead of this week's renomination festivities. Instead, Trump's speech was indistinguishable from the meandering, grievance-filled appearances he has been making in the lead-up to his scaled-down convention. He repeated claims that, should rival Joe Biden prevail, the country would be overrun with violence akin to protests seen this summer in Minnesota and Oregon. He warned that Democrats were seeking to take away guns, religion and American energy production. And he raised grave predictions about the November vote, saying there were courts and judges across the country "who will hopefully give us a fair call" in a contested election.

By Paul P. Murphy and Marshall Cohen, CNN

Washington (CNN) During his testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee on Monday, USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy denied that he was responsible for cutting overtime pay across the US Postal Service. "I did not direct the cutback on hours at any of our postal offices, and finally I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime," DeJoy said in his opening statement to lawmakers, adding, "I did, however, suspend these practices to remove any misperceptions about our commitment to delivering the nation's election mail." Facts First: Though he may have suspended them, Dejoy's effort to declaim his role in the restrictions is a highly misleading attempt to draw a narrow distinction. A July 10 internal memo directed to all USPS employees did not explicitly state that overtime was ending. But it did create specific conditions that, union officials tells CNN, directly led to a significant majority of overtime opportunities being eliminated and prevented.

CNN obtained the July 10 memo from federal court filings in a lawsuit filed by a group of Democratic candidates in New York federal court against DeJoy and the USPS. While the memo does not bear DeJoy's signature, or mention his name, it's unclear how it could have been implemented without his knowledge or approval. As postmaster general, DeJoy is the chief executive over the entire USPS. Mail carriers are now required to return to their base on time, even if they have not finished their route -- leading to the drops in overtime that union officials say have occurred. As explained by an August 21 statement by the USPS, the July 10 memo also included the mandate that "extra trips" would be "authorized or accepted" and that carriers must "return on time." Responding to DeJoy's comments on Monday, American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein told CNN that DeJoy's policy changes were responsible for the mail slowdowns . "Regardless of the back and forth in today's hearing, it's an indisputable fact mail postal customers have witnessed a degrading and slowing of mail service since Postmaster General Louis DeJoy instituted changes in mid-July," Dimondstein said. "This slowdown is directly due to changes in the transportation of mail and an overall reduction in work hours."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the policy, though he will be appearing this week at the Republican National Convention.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to deliver remarks to the Republican National Convention this week is a break from all sorts of norms and precedents designed to keep America’s chief diplomat out of the partisan fray. It may also be violating State Department policy he himself approved, according to an email sent by his deputy. On Feb. 18, 2020, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun sent State Department employees an email, obtained Monday by POLITICO, that urged them to look at a handful of legal memos that laid out an updated set of limitations on the political activity of U.S. diplomats and other State staffers. The legal memos, obtained by POLITICO, include an instruction that says: “Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event.” That sentence is one of the few to be bolded in one of the memos.

Pompeo is a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, and the rules do not appear to make an exception for him. The rules also don’t appear to say that such appointees may attend a convention in their personal capacity. In fact, in his email, Biegun notes, “In my case, as a Senate confirmed Department official, I will be sitting on the sidelines of the political process this year, and will not be attending any political events, to include the national conventions.” In addition, the rules appear to be more restrictive for U.S. diplomats outside the United States than those on American soil.

By Jim Acosta and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

(CNN) Former chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele is joining the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans working to prevent President Donald Trump's re-election. "Today is the day where things should matter and you need to take stock of what matters to you -- and the kind of leader you want to lead in these moments. And for me, it ain't him," Steele, a political analyst for MSNBC said making the announcement to host Nicole Wallace on Monday afternoon. Steele was the first African American to be elected to statewide office in Maryland, serving as lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2007. He was also the first African American to serve as chairman of the RNC.

"I get my role as a former national chairman. I get it, but I'm an American. I get my role as a former party leader. I'm still an American," Steele told Wallace, adding, "And these things matter to me more than aligning myself with a party that has clearly decided it would rather be sycophantic than principled." Since leaving his position as RNC chair in 2011, Steele has evolved into one of Trump's most prominent Republican critics.
When Trump expressed frustration behind closed doors with people coming to the US from "shithole countries," Steele called it racist. In April, he said: "America, in some respects, has been abused by this president." And in June, he asserted that Trump does not believe America's ideals.
Rick Wilson, a political strategist who co-founded the Lincoln Project, said in a statement that Steele is "a singularly insi​ghtful and effective political leader" with "a remarkable track record of electoral success(.)"

Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York state’s attorney general is investigating whether U.S. President Donald Trump improperly manipulated the value of his assets to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits, and accused his son Eric of being uncooperative in the probe. The disclosure was made in a filing on Monday with a New York state court in Manhattan, where Attorney General Letitia James wants the Trump Organization, Eric Trump and others to comply with subpoenas her office issued. James’ lawyers said the subpoenas were issued as part of her “ongoing confidential civil investigation into potential fraud or illegality.” They said there has been no determination regarding whether any laws were broken. Lawyers for the Trump Organization and Eric Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump Organization has stalled a state inquiry into the financing of four properties for months, Attorney General Letitia James said in court papers.
By William K. Rashbaum and Danny Hakim

The New York State attorney general’s office has asked a judge to order Eric Trump to provide testimony under oath and the Trump Organization to hand over documents about four Trump properties it is investigating, asserting the company has stalled the inquiry for months, court papers show. Mr. Trump, who is President Trump’s son and the executive vice president of the company, abruptly canceled an interview under oath with the attorney general’s office last month, and last week the Trump Organization told the office that the company and its lawyers would not comply with seven subpoenas related to the investigation.

The filings in State Supreme Court in Manhattan come as President Trump faces legal actions on several fronts. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has suggested in court filings that it is investigating possible bank and insurance fraud by the president and the Trump Organization. The attorney general, Letitia James, started the civil inquiry in March 2019 after President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, told Congress that the president had inflated his assets in financial statements to banks when he was seeking loans and had understated them to reduce his real estate taxes. The office initially subpoenaed records from two of the Trump Organization’s lenders, Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank, seeking loan records for four of the company’s big projects and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills of the N.F.L. in 2014.

The Trump Organization at first provided some information and sought to forestall the attorney general from seeking a similar court order eight months ago, after the company failed to turn over information on a particular property. But more recently, the attorney general’s office said, the Trump Organization had stalled and stonewalled, according to the filings, some of which were sealed. The investigation is reviewing a number of Trump properties, including several that were raised in Mr. Cohen’s congressional testimony. The Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, N.Y., the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and the Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles were the subject of the subpoenas. The attorney general’s office has also asked the judge to order two lawyers to sit for interviews under oath: Charles Martabano, a land-use lawyer who does work for the Trump Organization, and Sheri A. Dillon, who has represented President Trump and his company on tax matters.

By David A. Fahrenthold

The New York attorney general is investigating President Trump’s private business for allegedly misleading lenders by inflating the value of its assets, the attorney general’s office said Monday in a legal filing. In the filing, signed by a deputy to Attorney General Letitia James, the attorney general’s office said it is investigating Trump’s use of “Statements of Financial Condition” — documents Trump sent to lenders, summarizing his assets and debts. The filing asks a New York state judge to compel the Trump Organization to provide information it has been withholding from investigators — including a subpoena seeking an interview with the president’s son Eric.

The attorney general’s office said it began investigating after Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, told Congress in February 2019 that Trump had used these statements to inflate his net worth to lenders. The filing said that Eric Trump had been scheduled to be interviewed in the investigation in late July, but abruptly canceled that interview. The filing says that Eric Trump is now refusing to be interviewed, with Eric Trump’s lawyers saying, “We cannot allow the requested interview to go forward … pursuant to those rights afforded to every individual under the Constitution.”

Many of the details of the investigation were redacted or left out of the filing. But it mentioned valuations of three Trump properties: a Los Angeles golf course, an office building at 40 Wall St. and a country estate called “Seven Springs” in Westchester County, N.Y. Last year, The Washington Post reported that Trump had inflated the potential sale value of the Seven Springs property in a “Statement of Financial Condition” — a type of document he sent to potential lenders to demonstrate his wealth.

By Shawn Langlois

President Donald Trump, once again, has run afoul of the Twitter police. In a tweet sounding the alarm on voting by mail, Trump claimed that mail drop boxes are “a big fraud” and “are not Covid sanitized.” As you can see, Twitter TWTR, 3.11% slapped a label on it:  With that notice, users won’t be allowed to like, reply or retweet the tweet. “Per our policies, this tweet will remain on the service given its relevance to ongoing public conversation,” Twitter said in a separate statement from its @TwitterSafety account.

As Trump continues to rail against mail-in ballots, the House approved legislation in a rare Saturday session that would reverse recent changes in U.S. Postal Service operations and send $25 billion to shore up the agency ahead of the November election. “Don’t pay any attention to what the president is saying, because it is all designed to suppress the vote,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi said, calling the Postal Service a “beautiful thread” connecting Americans. This isn’t the first time Trump’s been flagged for his posts, of course.

Norman Eisen and Aryeh Mellman

One of President Trump’s most famous campaign pledges was that he would come to Washington and “drain the swamp.” Our new paper details his failure—and the challenges that other oversight authorities have faced—doing just that when it comes to the flood of coronavirus spending. In recent weeks, the need for oversight of Trump administration coronavirus spending has reached an inflection point. There have been reports that 27 clients of Trump-connected lobbyists have received up to $10.5 billion of coronavirus relief funds; that beneficiaries have also included multiple entities linked to the family of Jared Kushner and other Trump cronies and political allies; and that up to $273 million was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to Trump’s election efforts. In addition, unnecessary blanket ethics waivers have been applied to potential administration conflicts of interest and many other transactions meriting further investigation have occurred.

This inflection point is worsened by the Trump administration’s resistance to oversight. During negotiations on the CARES Act, the president claimed that he personally would “be the oversight.” He backed up that assertion with a signing statement after passage of the CARES Act stating that he would not treat some of the inspector general reporting requirements as mandatory. The Treasury Department followed his lead by initially refusing to disclose the recipients of Paycheck Protection Program funds. They only relented in the face of crushing public and congressional pressure, resulting in a bevy of startling disclosures that call out for oversight. In “Addressing the other COVID crisis: Corruption,” we assess the challenges that the new coronavirus oversight authorities have faced in getting up and running, including from the White House. We explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of those authorities, and lay out a strategy for how they can do robust oversight in connection with the pandemic.

Money that should be going to needy Americans is going to Trump's friends and cronies. If anything, the swamp is bigger than ever.
Kurt Bardella Opinion columnist

Whatever happened to “drain the swamp” — one of the original promises from then-candidate Donald J. Trump? At the time, it was a powerful rhetorical refrain that harnessed a widespread sentiment that Washington had sold out the American people in favor of special interest influence. It was an effective rallying cry that created a tangible contrast between the outsider insurgency that was Donald Trump juxtaposed with the ultimate insider that was Hillary Clinton. And yet four years later, Trump has become the swampiest of swamp creatures, giving the Joe Biden campaign a very real opening to do to Trump what Trump did to Clinton.

If you’re among the 36.5 million Americans who have filed for unemployment insurance since mid-March, you might be asking yourself, “What happened to all of that money Congress passed to shore up the economy and keep small businesses afloat?” The answer: Too often, it went to donors, supporters, allies and former aides of President Donald J. Trump, aka The Swamp.

The friends of Trump that hit the jackpot
Clay Lacy Aviation, a private jet company founded by a Trump campaign and Republican National Committee donor, received $27 million in government funding through the $2 trillion coronavirus package known as the CARES Act. Phunware, a data firm that is doing work for the Trump re-election campaign, received $2.85 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — the average loan distributed through this program is $206,000. CloudCommerce, a company whose largest shareholder is Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, received nearly a million dollars through the PPP. Ronald Gidwitz is the president’s ambassador to Belgium and was the Trump campaign finance chair for Illinois. Gidwitz’s family is the largest shareholder in a company called Continental Materials Corp. They were approved for a $5.5 million PPP loan.

It is worth noting that Congress gave a much-needed "booster shot" to unemployment benefits by allowing some to receive an additional $600 a week, however, the influx of unemployment claims has created a massive backlog, delaying support from reaching millions of Americans. On top of that, emergency relief dollars intended to support small businesses are instead going to publicly traded companies with more than 500 workers. All the while, dozens of lobbyists with direct ties to the Trump administration and Trump campaign are cashing in, receiving tens of thousands of dollars from private companies to leverage their relationships and access to deliver a piece of those taxpayer dollars.

Two new reports find that Trump-connected lobbyists are thriving under his administration.
By Charlotte Klein

Lobbyists who have thrived under Donald Trump’s administration continue to do so in the throes of a pandemic, according to a new report from watchdog group Public Citizen. At least 40 lobbyists with ties to Trump—through his campaign, his inaugural committee, his transition team, or his administration—have either lobbied or registered to lobby on COVID-related issues, helping clients secure more than $10.5 billion in federal coronavirus aid in total. “The crisis offered an especially lucrative opportunity for those lobbyists who enjoy close ties to President Donald Trump and his administration—and they seized it,” noted Mike Tanglis and Taylor Lincoln, who wrote the report.

Ironically, Trump himself issued an executive order early-on in his administration that theoretically prevents former administration officials from lobbying the agency or office where they worked for a period of five years. It’s also supposed to prohibit political appointees from lobbying the administration while Trump is in office—all part of his “drain the swamp” campaign promise. Shockingly, that’s not quite how things have played out. Per the AP, at least five former members of the Trump administration are potentially in violation of the rule, including the wife of ex-White House counsel Don McGahn: - Trump is the swamp

By Chandelis Duster, CNN

Washington (CNN) More than two dozen former Republican lawmakers announced Monday they are endorsing Joe Biden for president. Former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and former Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania are among those throwing their support behind the Democratic presidential nominee through "Republicans for Biden," and the endorsements come on the morning of the first day of the Republican National Convention. Biden has repeatedly emphasized Republican support as he looks to build a broad coalition in his campaign against President Donald Trump. While the endorsements offer a symbolic boost to Biden as he seeks to win over persuadable voters, Trump is still overwhelmingly popular among Republicans, a point made by Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh, who dismissed the significance of the endorsements.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump's plan to sue Pennsylvania in federal court to determine how the state conducts mail-in voting has been effectively shut down by a US district court judge. The judge, Nicholas Ranjan of the US District Court in the Western District of Pennsylvania, decided Sunday that Trump's federal lawsuit against the Secretary of the Commonwealth over the use of drop boxes, poll watching and other voting processes should be put on hold, while state court cases about voting move forward. It's a setback for Republicans where there are several ongoing cases that could determine how the battleground state's voters cast ballots this election. Ranjan was appointed by Trump, and the federal courts in some instances can be considered friendlier to conservative interests.

"After carefully considering the arguments raised by the parties, the Court finds that the appropriate course is abstention, at least for the time being. In other words, the Court will apply the brakes to this lawsuit, and allow the Pennsylvania state courts to weigh in and interpret the state statutes that undergird Plaintiffs' federal- constitutional claims," Ranjan wrote Sunday. Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states where Trump has sued to make mail-in voting tougher making this case a closely watched one.

Reliable Sources

Bob Woodward's book "Rage" is due out on September 15. Despite giving Woodward ample access and many interviews, Trump is now predicting that the book will be a "fake." Woodward's former reporting partner Carl Bernstein says the president must realize that the book will "upend his easy, happy talking lies." Source: CNN


US President Donald Trump's eldest sister, a former federal judge, has said her brother is a liar who "has no principles", secret recordings reveal. The critical remarks by Maryanne Trump Barry were recorded by her niece, Mary Trump, who last month published a book excoriating the president. "His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God," Ms Barry is heard saying. "It's the phoniness and this cruelty." Mary Trump said she had taped her aunt to protect herself from litigation. Mr Trump responded to the latest revelations in a statement issued by the White House, saying: "Every day it's something else, who cares." The recordings were first reported by The Washington Post, after which the Associated Press obtained them.

'He had somebody take the exams'
In the secret recordings, Ms Barry criticises the Trump administration's immigration policy, which has led to children being held at migrant detention centres at the border. "All he wants to do is appeal to his base," she said. One of the claims made in Mary Trump's memoir - Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man - is that her uncle paid a friend to take a SAT test for him - a standardised exam which determines university placement. Ms Barry refers to this in the recording, even suggesting that she remembers the name of the friend involved. "He got into University of Pennsylvania because he had somebody take the exams," she said.

By Kelly Mena, CNN

(CNN) Maryanne Trump Barry called her brother President Donald Trump "cruel" and appeared to confirm her niece Mary Trump's previous allegations that he had a friend take his SATs to get into college, according to transcripts and audio excerpts obtained exclusively by the Washington Post. The Post obtained the previously unreleased transcripts and audio from Mary Trump, author of a recent bombshell book about the President and one of his most outspoken critics. Mary Trump, who has said that Donald Trump is unfit to be president and has voiced support for his rival Joe Biden, revealed to the Post that she had secretly taped 15 hours of face-to-face conversations with Barry in 2018 and 2019.

Among the some of the more critical comments made by Barry was commenting on how her younger 74-year-old brother operated as president. "His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God," she said, according to the Post. "I'm talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit." Barry, a retired federal appellate judge, the Post noted, has never spoken publicly about disagreements with President Donald Trump, but the audio seems to tell a different story of discord and a rift that began when she asked her brother for a favor in the 1980s, which she claims Trump has frequently used to try to take credit for her success. Barry also said at one point to her niece, "It's the phoniness of it all. It's the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel," according to the audio scripts and recordings.

New ad uses Trump's golf vacations to illustrate his many failed promises
Trump said in 2016 that he'd be too busy to golf during his presidency, but he's gone far more than Obama ever did
Brad Reed

President Donald Trump in 2016 promised that, unlike former President Barack Obama, he would be too busy working as president to go golfing. In reality, Trump has gone golfing far more often during his first term than Obama did over the same period of time, and a new ad from the progressive Meidas Touch super PAC uses Trump's golf addiction to show how he's failed to keep multiple promises made during the 2016 campaign. "Trump's promise? Keep America safe," the ad states. "Trump's course? The most coronavirus deaths in the world."

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN)White House counselor Kellyanne Conway announced Sunday evening she will leave her post at the end of the month while her husband, George Conway, said he was withdrawing from The Lincoln Project, both citing a need to focus on their family. "I will be transitioning from the White House at the end of this month. George is also making changes," Kellyanne Conway said in a statement. "We disagree about plenty but we are united on what matters most: the kids. Our four children are teens and 'tweens starting a new academic year, in middle school and high school, remotely from home for at least a few months. As millions of parents nationwide know, kids 'doing school from home' requires a level of attention and vigilance that is as unusual as these times."

George Conway tweeted minutes earlier that he was withdrawing from The Lincoln Project -- a group formed by anti-Trump Republicans -- to "devote more time to family matters." Kellyanne Conway is scheduled to speak at this week's Republican National Convention, but it's unclear if she will still do so. One of the Conways' high school-aged daughters has generated attention on social media about her family and their political views over the last several months. The Sunday evening announcement marks an abrupt end to Kellyanne Conway's high-profile time in the White House where she earned a reputation as one of the President's fiercest -- and most controversial -- defenders. She landed her position in 2016 after becoming the first female campaign manager to win a presidential race. But political tension with her husband had spilled into public view in recent years.

Stuart Stevens was a winning GOP operative. Now he feels terrible about what he’s done to the country.

Stuart Stevens spent four decades helping Republicans—a lot of Republicans—win. He’s one of the most successful political operatives of his generation, crafting ads and devising strategies for President George W. Bush, Republican presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Bob Dole, and dozens of GOP governors, senators and congressmen. He didn’t win every race, but he thinks he had the best won-lost record in Republican campaign world. And now he feels terrible about it.

Stevens now believes the Republican Party is, not to put too fine a point on it, a malign force jeopardizing the survival of American democracy. He’s written a searing apologia of a book called It Was All a Lie that compares his lifelong party to the Mafia, to Bernie Madoff’s fraud scheme, to the segregationist movement, even to the Nazis. He’s pretty disillusioned.

While Stevens is one of the most prominent “Never Trump” Republicans, and It Was All a Lie is predictably scathing about the failures of President Donald Trump, the book does not blame Trump for the failures of the party he leads. It essentially takes for granted that Trump is as bad a president and a human being as his worst Democratic critics say—and that he constantly violates supposedly bedrock Republican commitments to free trade, family values, limited government and the Constitution. His point is that Trump is a fitting representative of the modern GOP.

It Was All a Lie is really about the party that spawned Trump and now marches in near-lockstep behind him—the party to which 67-year-old Stevens has devoted his career. The GOP’s abject surrender to its unorthodox and unconservative leader was a surprise to Stevens, but he has concluded that he shouldn’t have been surprised.

"If it looks like a cover-up, sounds like a cover-up, and smells like a cover-up, it's a cover-up."
Jake Johnson

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday accused the Trump White House of covering up the role Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin played in recruiting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Republican donor with no prior experience working for the U.S. Postal Service. In a letter to Robert Duncan, chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, Schumer wrote that as part of his investigation into DeJoy's selection and unanimous appointment in May, his office "learned of the role Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had with the Postal Board of Governors, including through meetings with individual governors as well as phone calls with groups of governors, which has not been previously disclosed by the board."

"This administration has repeatedly pointed to the role of [executive search firm] Russell Reynolds to defend the selection of a Republican mega-donor with no prior postal experience as postmaster general while at the same time blocking the ability of Congress to obtain briefings from the firm and concealing the role of Secretary Mnuchin and the White House in its search process," the New York Democrat wrote. Schumer demanded that the Board of Governors—which is completely controlled by Trump appointees—immediately release Russell Reynolds from any nondisclosure agreement barring the firm from providing details about its postmaster general search and provide a full "explanation of the role of President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin in the search process for a new postmaster and the selection of Mr. DeJoy."

At President Trump’s behest, the Treasury Secretary sought out appointees who would restructure the United States Postal Service.
By Kenneth P. Vogel, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Alan Rappeport and Hailey Fuchs

WASHINGTON — In early February, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin invited two Republican members of the Postal Service’s board of governors to his office to update him on a matter in which he had taken a particular interest — the search for a new postmaster general. Mr. Mnuchin had made clear before the meeting that he wanted the governors to find someone who would push through the kind of cost-cutting and price increases that President Trump had publicly called for and that Treasury had recommended in a December 2018 report as a way to stem years of multibillion-dollar losses.

It was an unusual meeting at an unusual moment. Since 1970, the Postal Service had been an independent agency, walled off from political influence. The postmaster general is not appointed by the president and is not a cabinet member. Instead, the postal chief is picked by a board of governors, with seats reserved for members of both parties, who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate for seven-year terms. Now, not only was the Trump administration, through Mr. Mnuchin, involving itself in the process for selecting the next postmaster general, but the two Democratic governors who were then serving on the board were not invited to the Treasury meeting. Since the meeting did not include a quorum of board members, it was not subject to sunshine laws that apply to official board meetings and there is no formal Postal Service record or minutes of what was discussed.

By Evan Simko-Bednarski, CNN

(CNN) A California Superior Court judge has ordered President Donald Trump to pay $44,100 to Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, to reimburse her attorneys' fees in the legal battle surrounding her nondisclosure agreement. The judge's order was issued Monday but posted online Friday by Clifford's attorneys. Clifford, an adult-film actress who says she had an affair with Trump from 2006 to 2007, signed a $130,000 nondisclosure agreement with former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who represented a shell company and a "David Dennison," which Clifford contends is a pseudonym for Trump. Trump denies the affair occurred. Clifford sued Trump in 2018, seeking to be released from the NDA. In response, Trump and his legal team agreed outside of court not to sue or otherwise enforce the NDA. The suit was dismissed and Clifford's claims ruled moot, as the NDA had been rendered unenforceable.

“Cooperation” or “collusion” or whatever. It was a plot against American democracy.
By The New York Times Editorial Board

From the start, the Trump-Russia story has been both eye-glazingly complex and extraordinarily simple. Who is Oleg Deripaska? What’s the G.R.U. again? Who owed what to whom? The sheer number of crisscrossing characters and interlocking pieces of evidence — the phone calls, the emails, the texts, the clandestine international meet-ups — has bamboozled even those who spend their days teasing it all apart. It’s no wonder average Americans tuned out long ago.

A bipartisan report released Tuesday by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee cuts through the chaff. The simplicity of the scheme has always been staring us in the face: Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign sought and maintained close contacts with Russian government officials who were helping him get elected. The Trump campaign accepted their offers of help. The campaign secretly provided Russian officials with key polling data. The campaign coordinated the timing of the release of stolen information to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The Senate committee’s report isn’t telling this story for the first time, of course. (Was it only a year ago that Robert Mueller testified before Congress about his own damning, comprehensive investigation?) But it is the first to do so with the assent of Senate Republicans, who have mostly ignored the gravity of the Trump camp’s actions or actively worked to cast doubt about the demonstrable facts in the case.

David Ignatius

As Democrats accelerate their drive to defeat President Trump in November, they have a potent new weapon in a report by a Republican-led Senate committee that chronicles the “grave counterintelligence threat” posed by the extensive contacts between Trump’s former campaign chairman and a Russian intelligence operative. The final volume of the report by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation arrives late in the game. Still, it offers the detailed accounting of how Russian spies worked with the Trump team that former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should have given the country last year. It offers raw material for the wide-ranging impeachment inquiry that the House of Representatives should have conducted.

Here at last is hard evidence — certified by GOP committee leaders and published this week — that shreds Trump’s false claims of a Russia “hoax” or “witch hunt.” Let us never hear that glib dismissal of fact again. From now on, the simple answer to Trump is: “That’s not what Senate Republicans found.” The document is 952 pages, stuffed with obscure names and details, and few will read much of it. But as someone who has spent four years examining arcane aspects of this story, I can summarize the findings that make the report so powerful.

The most important is that Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman for much of 2016, had repeated secret contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, bluntly described in the report as a “Russian intelligence officer.” Manafort had worked with Kilimnik since 2004, and shared detailed, sensitive information with him before, during and after the campaign. We knew that Manafort had worked with Kilimnik, but the scope of their interactions, as laid out in the report, is astonishing. In page after page, the report describes how Manafort communicated secretly with Kilimnik, shared internal Trump campaign data with him, discussed plans that would advance Russia’s interests in Ukraine and took other questionable actions.

Washington Post Editorial Board

IT’S WORTH wondering what the impact might have been had the Senate Intelligence Committee’s final report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election appeared six months ago, before the report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the twisted account of it provided by Attorney General William P. Barr. On their own terms, the Senate’s findings, released Tuesday after a bipartisan investigation, are explosive: that then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort “formed a close and lasting relationship” with “a Russian intelligence officer,” with whom he shared inside information from the president’s campaign and collaborated to concoct a false narrative that Ukraine, and not Russia, was behind the election interference.

Further, the Senate report states that the Trump campaign “sought to maximize” the impact of leaks of Democratic documents by WikiLeaks, knowing the original source was the Russian military intelligence agency, GRU. The campaign’s intermediary was Roger Stone, whose prison sentence for lying about his involvement and tampering with witnesses was commuted last month by Mr. Trump; the president, the committee “assesses,” lied when he said he never talked to Mr. Stone about WikiLeaks.

Then there is what the Senate investigators glimpsed but could not nail down. The report cites “fragmentary” evidence that Mr. Manafort’s Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik “may have been connected to the GRU’s hack and leak operation,” and two pieces of information linking the campaign chairman himself. The full truth is unknown in part because Mr. Manafort chose to incur an extended prison sentence rather than tell prosecutors the truth about his relationship with the Russian spy.

The bipartisan report provides new details on Trump’s conversations with Roger Stone and the activities of the president’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
By Ken Dilanian

The Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday, totaling nearly 1,000 pages, was the product of more than 200 witness interviews and nearly a million documents. It's the only bipartisan account of how the Trump campaign embraced Russia’s intelligence operation in 2016 designed to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump. Much of the report covers old ground, albeit with more detail than ever before. But there are some important new revelations. Here are some of them:

Trump’s campaign chairman was consorting with a Russia spy
The report says — in a first — that Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was a “Russian intelligence officer.” It also says Manafort was meeting regularly and sharing information with Kilimnik, including internal Trump campaign polling data. But because the men used encrypted communications, and because Manafort never truly cooperated with investigators, the committee was unable to determine exactly what the pair were up to. The report says there is information, blacked out in the document, suggesting both Kilimnik and Manafort may have had some link to the Russian operation to steal and leak Democratic emails. Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough for Mueller to bring charges. That fact pattern alone led the committee to label Manafort, who is serving prison time for unrelated offenses, a "grave counterintelligence threat.” Whether he actually “colluded” with the 2016 Russian intelligence operation may never be determined.

Trump almost certainly talked to Roger Stone about Wikileaks
The committee — including some key Trump allies — determined that Trump knew his campaign was communicating about Wikileaks, even though he told Mueller he didn’t recall that. Trump, in written responses to the special counsel’s office, stated: "I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign." Trump further claimed that he had "no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016 and November 8, 2016."

By Tara Subramaniam

Washington (CNN)During the final night of the Democratic National Convention, President Donald Trump continued to raise the alarm about potential voter fraud in the upcoming election. During an interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity, Trump said he's contemplating sending law enforcement officers to polling locations in order to monitor and prevent voter fraud.
"We're going to have sheriffs, and we're going to have law enforcement, and we're going to have, hopefully, US attorneys, and we're going to have everybody and attorney generals (sic)," Trump said.

Facts First: If history is any indication, Trump could run into some legal issues on this. Any conduct that intimidates voters is prohibited by federal law and several states expressly forbid law enforcement presence at the polls. Per a Department of Defense directive, DoD and National Guard personnel must also refrain from conducting "operations" at polling places. Furthermore, the President does not have the authority to send local sheriffs anywhere and sending armed federal law enforcement to the polls could result in violations of US criminal code.

Some of this is laid out explicitly in Section 592 of Title 18 of the US Code: "Whoever, being an officer of the Army or Navy, or other person in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, orders, brings, keeps, or has under his authority or control any troops or armed men at any place where a general or special election is held, unless such force be necessary to repel armed enemies of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both; and be disqualified from holding any office of honor, profit, or trust under the United States."

Republican pundits accept success of Biden’s convention address as Trump’s bid to portray Democratic rival as radical leftist falls flat
Tom McCarthy

Under pressure on on the last day of the Democratic convention, Joe Biden “hit a home run” with an “enormously effective” speech that blew “a big hole” in Donald Trump’s efforts to paint him as a mentally faltering captive of his party’s left wing. And that was to hear Fox News hosts Dana Perino and Chris Wallace tell it. “It was a very good speech,” added Karl Rove, a Republican strategist respected and reviled on either side of the aisle. Democratic hopes were riding high that when Biden rose to accept the presidential nomination on Thursday night, he might deliver the kind of speech to get voters nodding their heads instead of nodding off, and cable pundits talking about “momentum”.

Broadcast to tens of millions, Biden’s speech marked the first truly national moment of the 2020 campaign, with the formal conclusion of the Democratic primary on one hand, and the first clear picture of the presidential showdown – Biden v Trump, Uncle Joe v Maga Don – on the other. At a minimum, Democrats hoped, Biden would avoid the kind of verbal slips the Trump campaign has been using eagerly, if ironically given their own candidate’s cha-chas with incoherence, to attack him. But when Biden was done speaking on Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware, with one arm around Dr Jill Biden, fireworks in the background and his smile as wide as the country, Democrats were not alone in realizing that their nominee had not only connected – he had nailed it. “I went in there with expectations of adequate, and he knocked it out of the park,” said longtime Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a harsh Trump critic, on an overnight podcast Hacks on Tap. “It was so authentic to who Biden is, and … it caught the mood of the country, which is unity, steady, competence, ‘We can rise above this’. “I thought Biden had the moment of his life, and he ought to feel really good about that.”

Kevin Breuninger

A federal judge on Friday denied President’s Donald Trump’s bid to temporarily block a ruling allowing a subpoena for his tax returns and other financial records. The ruling came a day after the judge rejected Trump’s latest attempt to stop the Manhattan District Attorney’s office from enforcing a subpoena issued to his accounting firm. Trump’s lawyers on Thursday had filed a request for an emergency stay pending an appeal of that ruling. But Judge Victor Marrero wrote in his order Friday that Trump “has not demonstrated that he will suffer irreparable harm.”

Tucker Higgins

The White House asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to reverse a lower court ruling that said President Donald Trump’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter ran afoul of the Constitution’s First Amendment. The request to the high court renews a debate about the nature of the president’s use of social media.  A federal appeals court ruled last year that the president used his account as “an official channel of communication.” On that basis, the unanimous three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Trump has effectively created a public forum, and was forbidden from blocking users based on their political views.

The full appeals court declined to revisit that decision in March. But in a petition submitted to the justices, acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall told the court that the appeals panel inappropriately failed to distinguish the president’s official communications on Twitter from the personal nature of his decision to block users he disagreed with.  

In Trump’s world, the political utility of having a closet of conspiracy-crazed boomer rubes is worth the downsides.
Rick Wilson

Winning candidates often receive a congratulatory message from an incumbent president. It’s one of those pro forma niceties of the Old Washington, and Trump’s staff craves moments that make him look like something other than a ranting, gouty old racist, so tweeting “Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent. Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!” probably seemed like a good idea. Hell, Republican victories these days are few and far between.

But Marjorie Taylor Greene is crazier than a shithouse rat. We're talking weapons-grade, rabid, writing-your-manifesto-on-the-asylum-wall-with-your-own-feces crazy. Not to mention racist. And Trump’s Republican Party is increasingly full of Marjorie Taylor Greenes—elected officials and candidates who believe in the dangerously absurd QAnon conspiracy theory. The Party of Lincoln is now the party of Q. Thanks Donald!

A party at least aspirationally dedicated to limited government, individual liberty, the rule of law, the Constitution, and personal responsibility has descended on his watch into a fetid slurry of kooks, conspiracists, know-nothings, and racial arsonists. The mechanisms that elected and sustained Trump’s political power are catapulting into prominence and power people who make Larouchies look like sane, solid citizens.

The Trump campaign went after a lone GOP lawmaker criticizing the conspiracy theory labeled a potential domestic terrorism threat by the FBI.
Will Sommer, Asawin Suebsaeng

The Trump campaign and a top House Republican group are rallying around a QAnon conspiracy theorist expected to win a seat in the House this November, even attacking a GOP lawmaker who criticized the conspiracy theory that the FBI considers a domestic terrorism threat.  QAnon believer Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Republican primary run-off in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District on Tuesday. Because Greene’s district is heavily Republican, her primary win all but guarantees that a QAnon supporter will take a spot in Congress in November. Until now, leading Republicans have typically avoided openly embracing the party’s QAnon supporters, who follow a series of internet clues that have been posted by a mysterious figure called “Q” since October 2017.

QAnon believers embrace a theory of the world that imagines Trump is engaged in a secret war against a pedophile-cannibal “cabal” in the Democratic Party, Hollywood, and other institutions. QAnon believers are obsessed with a moment called “The Storm,” the much-awaited day they believe Trump will order mass-arrests of his political opponents and either imprison them in Guantanamo Bay or subject them to military execution. The FBI considers QAnon a potential domestic terror threat, and QAnon believers have allegedly committed two murders, a terrorist incident, and plotted two child abductions, among other crimes. Top GOP leaders have embraced Greene now that she has won the nomination. Donald Trump praised her in a tweet on Tuesday, calling her a “future Republican Star.”

By Natalie O'Neill

Now the post office’s head honcho is ruffling farmers’ feathers. Chicken farmers in Maine received thousands of dead chicks sent via the United States Postal Service after the agency’s budget was slashed by its new leader, according to a report. At least 4,800 of the adorable fluffballs arrived lifeless at poultry farms across the state after being shipped alive in breathable boxes from hatcheries, according to the Portland Press Herald. “Can you imagine, you have young kids and they are getting all excited about having a backyard flock and you go to the post office and that’s what you find?’’ Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, of North Haven, squawked to the paper. “This is a system that’s always worked before and it’s worked very well until these [cuts] started being made.”

By Morgan Gstalter

The Lincoln Project on Friday released a new ad attacking President Trump for calling for a boycott of the Ohio-based Goodyear tire company, accusing him of threatening American jobs during the coronavirus pandemic because his “feelings got hurt.” The ad, released in partnership with Republican Voters Against Trump, noted that thousands of Ohioans have filed for unemployment and are facing foreclosures or evictions due to the health crisis. “Times are tough in Ohio and Donald Trump is making it worse,” the narrator says. “Demanding a boycott to put Goodyear out of business.” The clip notes that a Goodyear boycott could put 3,300 union jobs at risk. “Why? His feelings got hurt,” the narrator continues. “Trump talks a good game, but he’s not on our side. Never has been, never will be.”

Reed Galen, a co-founder of The Lincoln Project, said in a statement that the last thing Ohioans need during the pandemic “is to suffer the economic aftershocks of a presidential temper tantrum.” The group, founded by well-known Washington Republicans like George Conway, said it plans to spend $425,000 airing the “Goodyear” ad through next week. Trump on Wednesday sparked controversy when he called for a boycott of Goodyear following reports that some employees in Kansas were told not to wear clothing with political messages, with “Blue Lives Matter” and “MAGA attire” listed as examples. “Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES - They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS. Get better tires for far less!” Trump tweeted. “(This is what the Radical Left Democrats do. Two can play the same game, and we have to start playing it now!).”

By Morgan Chalfant

Vice President Pence said Friday that he has no knowledge of the QAnon conspiracy theory and that he dismisses it “out of hand.” Pence was pressed in a pair of news interviews Friday morning on the conspiracy theory after President Trump earlier this week complimented its followers by saying they “love our country.” “I don’t know anything about that conspiracy theory,” Pence told “CBS This Morning” host Tony Dokoupil when asked if he or Trump actually believed in QAnon. Pence went on to criticize the media for devoting coverage to the conspiracy theory instead of focusing on the message laid out by Democrats at their convention and the upcoming November election.

Dokoupil continued to press Pence, accusing him of “adding oxygen” to the conspiracy theory by not denouncing it as false. “I don’t know anything about that conspiracy theory. I don’t know anything about QAnon, and I dismiss it out of hand,” Pence replied. In a subsequent interview on CNN, Pence disputed the notion that Trump had seemingly “embraced” the conspiracy theory with his remarks at a press briefing on Wednesday. “You said the president seemed to embrace it. I didn’t hear that,” Pence told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.” “I heard the president talk about he appreciates people that support him.” Pence again said he knew nothing of the conspiracy theory and added, “We dismiss conspiracy theories around here out of hand.”

Adam Payne

The Trump administration is on a collision course with its European allies after they refused to back a controversial move to reimpose sanctions on Iran. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday accused the UK, France, and Germany of "siding with the ayatollahs" after they said the US could not use a "snapback" mechanism to reimpose sanctions on Iran removed under the 2015 nuclear deal, the BBC reported. The Trump administration is seeking to reimpose sanctions on Tehran as it believes Iran has violated the terms of the 2015 agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Under the deal, the participating countries — the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China — lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran accepting limits on its nuclear activity, with the goal of stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The US walked away from the agreement in 2018.

By Kristen Holmes and Paul P. Murphy, CNN

(CNN) While Postmaster General Louis DeJoy may be suspending changes to postal service operations, it doesn't necessarily mean machines that had been removed will be put back in use, according to an email obtained by CNN. The email, sent hours after DeJoy's public suspension of changes on Tuesday, instructs postal workers not to reconnect any mail sorting machines that have previously been disconnected. "Please message out to your respective Maintenance Managers tonight," wrote Kevin Couch, a director of maintenance operations. "They are not to reconnect/reinstall machines that have been previously disconnected without approval from HQ Maintenance, no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager."
DeJoy announced Tuesday he would pause many of the new policies he put in place, including the removal of high-volume mail sorting machines, after postal workers, the public and some lawmakers, sounded alarms the changes were causing massive delivery delays, potentially putting the November election in peril. It's unclear if there's been additional guidance since Couch sent the email, which appeared to have been sent to managers in the western region.

Bill Bostock

More than 70 former Republican Party national-security leaders have written an open letter backing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, saying President Donald Trump is unfit to lead. "We are profoundly concerned about the course of our nation under the leadership of Donald Trump," the letter, published Thursday by the conservative advocacy organization Defending Democracy Together, said. "Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President." Amongst the signatories — who served during the Reagan, George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, and Trump administrations — are former CIA director Michael Hayden, former FBI and CIA director William Webster, former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, and former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"We are firmly convinced that it is in the best interest of our nation that Vice President Joe Biden be elected as the next President of the United States, and we will vote for him," the authors said. "We believe Joe Biden has the character, experience, and temperament to lead this nation. We believe he will restore the dignity of the presidency, bring Americans together, reassert America's role as a global leader, and inspire our nation to live up to its ideals."

By Daniel Dale

Washington (CNN) Hours before former Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to give his prime-time speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, President Donald Trump attacked him at length in a speech near Biden's birthplace. Speaking in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, just outside Biden's home town of Scranton, Trump delivered a wild monologue that involved unscripted musings about sharks, boxing, dishwashers and the maintenance of forests. It also involved a blizzard of false claims. We're still going through the transcript, but here are the ones we can tell you about so far:

The fairness of the election
Trump said of Democrats: "The only way they're gonna win is by a rigged election. I really believe that. I saw the crowd outside."

Facts First: This is nonsense. Trump is trailing in every major national poll and in many polls of swing states. The existence of Trump supporters does not mean he cannot lose fairly.

Biden's availability to the media
Trump said he had seen a news report that said Biden hasn't taken questions from journalists since July 17.

Facts First: We have no idea what Trump might have seen, but the July 17 date is incorrect. Biden took questions during a formal media availability on July 28. He also took questions from a group of four Black and Latino Hispanic journalists on August 4. And he has taken assorted other questions, including in a People magazine joint interview with Sen. Kamala Harris, his vice presidential selection, on August 14.

Obama and 'spying'
Trump repeated his familiar claim that former President Barack Obama got caught spying on his campaign.

Facts First: Investigators engaged in lawful surveillance of Trump campaign advisers in 2016. But there is no evidence Obama had any role in this surveillance. Trump has used the word "spying" to describe lawful FBI surveillance of people affiliated with his campaign as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia; the surveillance included court-approved wiretaps and the use of a secret FBI source who reached out to Trump advisers to try to arrange conversations and meetings. (FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Trump, has said he would not use the word "spying" to describe what he called "surveillance activity.")

By Laura J. Nelson, Maya Lau

Six weeks ago, U.S. Postal Service workers in the high desert town of Tehachapi, Calif., began to notice crates of mail sitting in the post office in the early morning that should have been shipped out for delivery the night before. At a mail processing facility in Santa Clarita in July, workers discovered that their automated sorting machines had been disabled and padlocked. And inside a massive mail-sorting facility in South Los Angeles, workers fell so far behind processing packages that by early August, gnats and rodents were swarming around containers of rotted fruit and meat, and baby chicks were dead inside their boxes. Accounts of conditions from employees at California mail facilities provide a glimpse of what some say are the consequences of widespread cutbacks in staffing and equipment recently imposed by the postal service. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, responding to a national outcry over service disruptions and fears of voter disenfranchisement, said this week he would suspend many planned changes until after the election. But postal workers say significant damage has already been done, including the removal of mail-sorting machines, which may not be replaced.

While the long-term effect of the cuts on U.S. mail service is unclear, the evidence of serious disruptions appears to be mounting, according to postal employees interviewed by The Times as well as customers, lawmakers and union leaders. Until this week, the postal service was implementing a sweeping plan to remove 671 mail-sorting machines, or about 10% of its total, from facilities across the U.S. — including 76 in California. Officials also slashed overtime pay and imposed a new policy that could delay outgoing mail. The cuts have had a ripple effect in California, snarling the operation of one of the biggest mail-processing facilities in the country and delaying the delivery of prescriptions, rent payments and unemployment checks. Some people have complained of going days without receiving any mail at all.

At least five high-speed mail-sorting machines have been removed from a processing plant in Sacramento, said Omar Gonzalez, the Western regional coordinator for the American Postal Workers Union. Additionally, two of the machines have been removed in Santa Ana and six in San Diego, Gonzalez said. Processing plants serve more than 1,000 California post offices, some of which deliver to far-flung, rural addresses that could be faced with high delivery costs if serviced by private mail carriers. Inside one sprawling facility at Florence and Central avenues in Los Angeles, which serves 92 L.A.-area post offices, seven delivery bar code sorters were removed in June, leaving three, Gonzalez said. Each of those machines, which would handle mail-in ballots, can process up to 35,000 pieces of mail per hour. “A lot of the machinery has already been gutted. Some of it has been dismantled and relocated or trashed,” Gonzalez said. “Although we welcome the news of the suspension of these changes, it’s just that — a suspension. The attacks and undermining of our operations will resume, maybe at the worst possible time, in December, our peak season.”

By Rebecca Klar

President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. is seeking to distance himself from the “We Build The Wall” crowdfunding campaign after former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and three others were arrested and charged with defrauding donors. A spokesperson for Trump Jr., whose name is listed on the organization's website as having endorsed it, said he had minimal involvement with the We Build The Wall group. “Don gave one speech at a single We Build The Wall event over a year ago with a group of angel moms and besides that, has no involvement with their organization,” spokesperson Amanda Miller said in a statement. A website for the campaign still included endorsements from Trump Jr., as well as former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the 2020 campaign, as of Thursday morning.

In a letter released hours before Joe Biden is set to deliver his nomination acceptance speech, over 70 senior officials called President Trump “unfit to lead” and outlined their support for his opponent.
By David E. Sanger

Four years after 50 of the nation’s most senior Republican national security officials warned that Donald J. Trump “would be the most reckless president in American history,” they are back with a new letter, declaring his presidency worse than they had imagined and urging voters to support former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. The new letter, released just hours before Mr. Biden formally accepts the nomination, lays out a 10-point indictment of Mr. Trump’s actions, accusing him of undermining the rule of law, aligning himself with dictators and engaging “in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as president.”

They also accused him of “spreading misinformation” and “undermining public health experts,” making him “unfit to lead during a national crisis.” “When we wrote in 2016, we were warning against a vote for Donald Trump, but many of the signatories were not ready to embrace his opponent,” Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, noted John Bellinger, a former legal adviser at the State Department and National Security Council who was among the authors of the past and current letters. “This is different: Each of the signatories has said he or she will vote for Biden. Signatories are now even more concerned about Trump, and have fewer concerns about Biden.” For the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Biden has invited a series of Republicans to speak, most notably Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Democrats are betting that these cross-aisle endorsements may bring over moderate Republicans who may have supported Mr. Trump four years ago, but are struggling with whether they can vote for a Democrat.

“While some of us hold policy positions that differ from those of Joe Biden and his party, the time to debate those policy differences will come later,” the new letter says. “For now, it is imperative that we stop Trump’s assault on our nation’s values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy.”


The US is to controversially initiate a process at the UN Security Council to reinstate international sanctions on Iran lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will submit a complaint accusing Iran of significant non-compliance and trigger the sanctions "snapback" mechanism. However, other world powers insist he has no legal right to do so. The US itself stopped complying with the accord two years ago, when President Donald Trump abandoned it. Once the complaint has been submitted, other countries on the Security Council will have 30 days to adopt a resolution to avert the snapback. But, as a permanent member, the US will be able to exercise its veto power. The Trump administration's move comes a week after the council rejected its bid to extend indefinitely an arms embargo on Iran that is due to expire in October.

How did we get here?
The nuclear deal saw the P5+1 group of powers - the US, China, France, Russia, the UK and Germany - give Iran sanctions relief in return for limits on its sensitive activities and international inspections to show it was not developing nuclear weapons. The accord has been close to collapse since the US withdrew and reinstated economic sanctions in 2018 in an attempt to force Iran to negotiate a replacement that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear programme and also halt its development of ballistic missiles.

Kirk Siegler

Todd Troyer retired as an iron worker in Milwaukee and moved to rural Wisconsin 15 years ago. The Vietnam veteran is a diabetic with heart conditions and gets his prescriptions and insulin through the mail. When it runs low, Troyer, 69, phones in an order to the pharmacy at the nearest VA hospital in Madison more than an hour's drive away. He depends on the mail especially now during the pandemic, as cases in his region are continuing to rise. "That's the thing I'm worried about, is it going to make it here or isn't it, I don't know," Troyer says.

As if things weren't already stressful enough, he says, now mail deliveries could be further delayed amid a standoff over the Postal Service's future. "What's the deal with screwing over the mail," Troyer says. "I mean, mail has been running since we had horse riders bringing it." In fact, you can trace the agency's roots back some 245 years, when Benjamin Franklin became the country's first postmaster general. A lot of people in rural areas, which were key to electing President Trump, are angry and organizing to save the Postal Service. The agency overseen by the president is mandated to deliver to all of America, especially remote zip codes where private carriers won't go because it's not profitable. Amid a growing outcry from rural leaders, the Postal Service director recently backed down from planned broad cuts to overtime for mail carriers and office hours, and vowed not to shut down anymore facilities.

Brian Schwartz

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested Thursday after being charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors through his “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign. Bannon and three associates were indicted in a federal investigation in the Southern District of New York. Prosecutors allege the four defrauded donors by raising “more than $25 million to build a wall along the southern border of the United States,” but some of that money was used for personal gain. The United States Postal Inspection Service assisted in the investigation.

Others in the indictment are Timothy Shea, a 49-year-old from Colorado accused of owning a shell company, Brian Kolfage, a disabled Iraq war veteran, and Andrew Badolato, who according to his own website was a contributor to Breitbart News, the conservative publication Bannon used to run.  The campaign was intended to raise money to help President Donald Trump fulfill a campaign promise to build a border wall. Instead, prosecutors allege that Bannon and his team profited off the arrangement.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) A federal judge on Thursday said New York state prosecutors could have access to President Donald Trump's accounting records for a criminal investigation, siding harshly against the President. The ruling by US District Judge Victor Marrero follows a landmark Supreme Court decision this summer that appeared to set up potentially lengthy delays on subpoenas for Trump's records. Yet the ruling on Thursday snaps attention back to the ongoing criminal probe of Trump's business dealings, and revives the possibility that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance could reach the records before the presidential election. "Justice requires an end to this controversy," Marrero wrote. Trump has already appealed. He's asking the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for emergency help as he tries to stop the subpoena from being enforced next week.

Vance's office has been examining whether Trump or the Trump Organization violated state laws in connection with hush money payments made to women alleging affairs with Trump. The investigation has also looked into whether business records filed with the state were falsified and if any tax laws were violated, CNN has reported. Trump had sued Vance to stop the grand jury subpoena of his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA for years of his records. But the judge said the case was no longer valid and should be tossed from court. Trump's appeal came an hour after the trial judge's decision. Previously, Vance had agreed to wait seven days on the subpoena after a ruling. The appeals court could hear Trump's challenge and will separately have to decide if the subpoena should be put on hold.

Trump claims "consideration for 'the Presidency itself' requires" more delay, protecting his records from prosecutors while appeals are ongoing. Speaking at the White House late Thursday morning, Trump referred to the inquiry as a "continuation of the witch hunt," a line he's repeatedly used in an attempt to discredit the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. But Marrero rejected Trump's attempt to use the court system for more delays. He built into his ruling a prohibition for Trump to revise his lawsuit as a way to keep it alive even if he's lost additional rounds in court. Trump's legal strategy to "enable the clock to run," Marrero wrote, "amounts to absolute immunity through a back door, an entry point through which not only a President but also potentially other persons and entities, public and private, could effectively gain cover from judicial process."

By Erica Orden and Kara Scannell, CNN

(CNN) New York federal prosecutors on Thursday charged President Donald Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon and three others with defrauding donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of a fundraising campaign purportedly aimed at supporting Trump's border wall. Bannon, 66, was arrested on a boat Thursday off the Eastern coast of Connecticut according to a law enforcement official. He will make his initial court appearance in New York later Thursday, according to the US attorney's office. Bill Burck, an attorney for Bannon, declined to comment. The four men are indicted for allegedly using hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to an online crowdfunding campaign called We Build the Wall for personal expenses, among other things.

Bannon and another defendant, Brian Kolfage, promised donors that the campaign, which ultimately raised more than $25 million, was "a volunteer organization" and that "100% of the funds raised...will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose," according to the indictment unsealed Thursday. But instead, according to prosecutors, Bannon, through a non-profit under his control, used more than $1 million from We Build the Wall to "secretly" pay Kolfage and cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bannon's personal expenses. And Kolfage, according to the charges, used more than $350,000 of the donations for his personal use.

Tom Porter

Supporters of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory are celebrating after President Donald Trump explicitly acknowledged and praised them in public for the first time. Speaking at a White House press briefing, Trump responded to a question asking about his views on the movement. QAnon posits that Trump is on a secret mission to dismantle a network of child abusers involving top Democrats, "deep state" agents, and Hollywood stars. There is no evidence this is true.

"I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," he said. "But I don't know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity." He added: "These are people that don't like seeing what's going on in places like Portland and places like Chicago and New York and other cities and states, and I've heard these are people that love our country."

Miles Parks

President Trump cast a vote-by-mail ballot in Florida this week after months of questioning the security of the method of voting, and in doing so he returned it to election officials using a technique many Republicans say should be illegal. The way Trump voted shows how he's had to walk a fine line, and often tweak his language around voting, to adjust for political realities and his own behavior. Trump submitted the Florida primary ballot by giving it to a third party to return, a spokesperson for the Palm Beach elections supervisor confirmed to NPR on Wednesday. Republicans often derisively refer to sending in a ballot this way as "ballot harvesting," and it's something Trump has criticized.

"GET RID OF BALLOT HARVESTING, IT IS RAMPANT WITH FRAUD," he tweeted in April. House Republicans recently introduced a bill to force states (which are generally allowed to establish their own rules around voting) to make the practice of turning in a nonfamily member's ballot illegal. Democrats, who often refer to the practice as "community ballot collection," mostly see it as helpful for vulnerable populations — one person turning in all the ballots for a nursing home or housing complex, for instance. They are suing to allow it in a number of states as part of a legal battle to make voting rules more flexible across the country in response to the pandemic.

Bipartisan intelligence panel says that Russian who worked on Trump’s 2016 bid was career spy, amid a stunning range of contacts
Luke Harding and Julian Borger

A report by the Senate intelligence committee provides a treasure trove of new details about Donald Trump’s relationship with Moscow, and says that a Russian national who worked closely with Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 was a career intelligence officer. The bipartisan report runs to nearly 1,000 pages and goes further than last year’s investigation into Russian election interference by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. It lays out a stunning web of contacts between Trump, his top election aides and Russian government officials, in the months leading up to the 2016 election. The Senate panel identifies Konstantin Kilimnik as a Russian intelligence officer employed by the GRU, the military intelligence agency behind the 2018 poisoning of the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal. It cites evidence – some of it redacted – linking Kilimnik to the GRU’s hacking and dumping of Democratic party emails.

Kilimnik worked for over a decade in Ukraine with Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager. In 2016 Manafort met with Kilimnik, discussed how Trump might beat Hillary Clinton, and gave the Russian spy internal polling data. The committee said it couldn’t “reliably determine” why Manafort handed over this information, or what exactly Kilimnik did with it. It describes Manafort’s willingness to pass on confidential material to alleged Moscow agents as a “grave counterintelligence threat”. The report dubs Kilimnik part of “a cadre of individuals ostensibly operating outside of the Russian government but who nonetheless implement Kremlin-directed influence operations”. It adds that key oligarchs including Oleg Deripaska fund these operations, together with the Kremlin.

The investigation found that Kilimnik tweets under the pseudonym Petro Baranenko (@PBaranenko). The account regularly propagates Moscow’s line on international issues, such as the conflict in Ukraine and the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The fact that a Republican-controlled Senate panel established a direct connection between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence makes it harder for Trump and his supporters to allege that the investigation into possible collusion was a “witch-hunt” or “hoax” as the president has repeatedly claimed, in the remaining three months before the election. The Republican-controlled Senate panel said it was hampered in its search for the truth by the fact that Kilimnik and Manafort kept their communications secret. They used burner phones, encrypted chat services, and frequently changed email accounts. They also messaged via a shared email draft.

The committee is dismissive of the dossier by the ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele, which alleged that the Kremlin had been cultivating Donald Trump for at least five years, but stops short of offering an opinion on whether the allegations within it are true. That dossier contained an allegation that Russia spied on Trump during a visit to Moscow in November 2013 and filmed him in his private suite at the Ritz-Carlton hotel with two prostitutes. Trump strenuously denies the claim. However, the Senate report offers the most compelling account yet of what went on inside the hotel. It alleges that a suspected Russian intelligence officer is stationed permanently in the building and presides over a “network” of security cameras, some of them hidden inside guest rooms. The officer’s agency is redacted, but is likely to be the FSB, the spy agency Vladimir Putin headed, in charge of counter-intelligence.

By Marshall Cohen and Kristen Holmes, CNN

(CNN) Embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy reversed course Tuesday, saying that all changes being made to the Postal Service would be suspended until after the November 3 election, just as 20 Democratic states announced plans to file federal lawsuits. DeJoy said that some of the deferred decisions mean that retail hours at post offices will not change, mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain in place and no mail processing facilities will be closed. At least 20 Democratic attorneys general across the country are launching a multi-pronged legal effort to push back on the recent changes that disrupted mail delivery across the country and triggered accusations that Trump and his appointees are trying to undermine mail-in voting.

The Democratic attorneys general plan to argue that DeJoy is illegally changing mail procedures ahead of the 2020 election as the Post Office braces for an unusually high number of mail-in ballots as voters look to avoid casting ballots at polling centers where they could potentially contract the coronavirus. DeJoy "acted outside of his authority to implement changes to the postal system, and did not follow the proper procedures under federal law," according to a statement from Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The USPS and DeJoy have maintained that the changes are intended to improve the agency's dire financial situation. DeJoy also rejects accusations that he made these changes at Trump's behest.

At least two lawsuits are being filed Tuesday. One led by Washington state will be joined by Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. Another group of state Democratic attorneys general are filing a similar lawsuit in a Pennsylvania federal court. These states include California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maine and North Carolina. The lawsuit led by Washington state makes liberal use of Trump's words and tweets against mail-in voting and connects them to the DeJoy's actions, saying the President has attacked mail-in voting more than 70 times "without supporting evidence."

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