US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in last month’s presidential election to boost Donald Trump’s bid for the White House, according to reports. A secret CIA assessment found that Russian operatives covertly interfered in the election campaign in an attempt to ensure the Republican candidate’s victory, the Washington Post reported, citing officials briefed on the matter. A separate report in the New York Times said intelligence officials had a “high confidence” that Russia was involved in hacking related to the election. The claims immediately drew a stinging rebuke from the president-elect’s transition team, which said in a statement: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” According to the Post’s report, officials briefed on the matter were told that intelligence agencies had found that individuals linked to the Russian government had provided WikiLeaks with thousands of confidential emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and others.
National: Key GOP senators join call for bipartisan Russia election probe, even as their leaders remain mum | The Washington Post
Two Senate Republicans joined demands for a bipartisan probe into Russia’s suspected election interference allegedly designed to bolster Donald Trump as questions continue to mount about the president-elect’s expected decision to nominate a secretary of state candidate with close ties to Russia. Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) — the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — joined calls by incoming Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Armed Services ranking Democrat Jack Reed (R.I.) for a thorough, bipartisan investigation of Russian influence in the U.S. elections. Their statement came two days after The Washington Post reported the CIA’s private conclusion that Russia’s activities were intended to tip the scales to help Trump. “Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” the four senators said in a statement on Sunday morning. “Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks.”
National: Barack Obama orders ‘full review’ of possible Russian hacking in US election | The Guardian
Barack Obama has ordered US intelligence to review evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election after coming under sustained pressure from congressional Democrats. The review will be one of Obama’s final instructions to the intelligence agencies, which will soon report to Donald Trump, whom congressional Democrats consider the beneficiary of a hack targeting the Democratic National Committee. Lisa Monaco, the White House counterterrorism director, announced what she called a “full review” at a breakfast briefing sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor on Friday. At the White House press briefing later on Friday, Eric Schultz, the deputy White House press secretary, denied the review was “an effort to challenge the outcome of the election”. “We have acknowledged who won the election,” he said. “It wasn’t the candidate the president campaigned for. He has gone out of his way to ensure a smooth transition of power.”
Editorials: 3 Reforms for America’s Vulnerable Democracy in Light of the 2016 Election | Robert Schlesinger/US News
The end is near. All remaining political disputes – recounts, in this case – must be wrapped up by Tuesday, six days before Dec. 19 when the members of the Electoral College meet in their respective states and ratify Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. The last procedural twitches of controversy from the 2016 election, in other words, are drawing to their inevitable close. But the book closing on the 2016 elections is a good time to take stock and consider reforms that this year has made painfully clear the system needs. After all, this election has inarguably highlighted serious vulnerabilities in the political system that need to be remedied because they are not unique to this year. I’ve got three common-sense ideas on that score. The first two reforms we ought to undertake are interrelated and have to do with ensuring the security, and thus the legitimacy, of the vote, whether from error – manmade or mechanical – or malicious attacks.
It’s not hard to see why Russia would have been tempted to tip the scales in America’s presidential election. American defense officials have been warning about Russia’s capabilities and dangerous intentions, calling Moscow the gravest threat to the United States. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, made it clear her administration would redouble efforts to punish and isolate Moscow for war crimes in Syria’s civil war and its aggression toward Ukraine and other neighbors. “I’ve stood up to Russia,” Ms. Clinton said during a debate in the fall. “I’ve taken Putin on and I would do that as president.” In Mr. Trump, the Russians had reason to see a malleable political novice, one who had surrounded himself with Kremlin lackeys. Mr. Trump bragged that the Russian president had once called him “brilliant.” In July, Mr. Trump said he hoped Russia would hack and divulge more of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, an astonishing invitation to a foreign power that appeared already to be meddling in an American election.
Florida: Jill Stein promotes Orlando law firm-backed protests for Florida recount | Orlando Sentinel
An Orlando law firm is calling for protests across the state Sunday backing a full hand recount of the presidential election in Florida – and they just got a boost. Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate behind recount efforts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, promoted the protests on Twitter Friday. “Here’s a list of places Florida voters will rally on Sunday to demand a recount,” she said, linking to a list of protest locations including the Orange and Osceola clerks of court offices in Orlando and Kissimmee.
Georgia: Homeland Security Says Georgia Computer Breach Incident Was Likely Inadvertent | Wall Street Journal
The Department of Homeland Security has reached a preliminary conclusion that what appeared to be an attempted breach of Georgia’s computer systems was due to an inadvertent configuration of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection computer, an official familiar with the matter said. The DHS official said a preliminary investigation had traced the incident to the computer of an employee at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection whose job responsibilities included verifying professional licensing information that are often maintained by state secretaries of state.
Officially, history will record President-elect Donald Trump as having won the 2016 presidential race in Michigan by some 10,704 votes. But Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in the 2016 election, believes that the numbers would be different if all 4.8 million votes cast in the Wolverine State were recounted. That won’t happen, Stein conceded in a rally in downtown Detroit on Saturday, a day after the non-recused members of the Michigan Supreme Court ruled, by a 3-2 margin, against Stein’s appeal, leaving the candidate with no recourse. “We may be moving out of the court of law, but we’re moving into the court of public opinion,” Stein said. … “In the three states where filed recounts, we had Donald Trump, his superPACs and the Republican Party pulling out all the stops,” Stein said. “And you have to wonder, why are they doing this? What is Donald Trump afraid of? Either he does not have faith in democracy or he does not believe he won this election.”
Imagine for a moment: What if Michigan’s 2016 presidential election had been a repeat of Florida’s in 2000? Imagine that Donald Trump’s lead over Hillary Clinton had been just 200 votes instead of 10,000 and that the whole country was waiting on one last state to pick its winner. Instead of examining hanging chads in Palm Beach County, the eyes of the world would instead be riveted on Wayne County, where one ballot box was sealed with duct tape and hundreds of precincts couldn’t be recounted because of other errors. A recount in Michigan in 2016 almost certainly wouldn’t have mattered. But what if it would have? “If this had been a scenario where Michigan would have been the deciding factor in a presidential election, we would have been embarrassed as a state,” said Jocelyn Benson, a law professor at Wayne State University who founded the nonpartisan Michigan Center for Election Law. “It would have brought national attention to the inadequacies of an election system that is in desperate need of reform.”
Voting Blogs: Decision Suspending Michigan ‘Recount’ Threatens What’s Left of American Democracy | Brad Blog
If allowed to stand, the reasoning behind U.S. District Court Judge Mark A. Goldsmith’s December 7, 2016 decision [PDF] in Stein v. Thomas to halt the Michigan presidential “recount” is flawed, at best. Issued, ironically enough, on the day we commemorate what President Franklin D. Roosevelt described as “a date which will live in infamy”, it is by no means an exaggeration to suggest that Judge Goldsmith’s reasoning could inflict greater harm on the very foundations of our constitutional form of democracy than that inflicted by the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The halt to the “recount” came just two days after Judge Goldsmith issued a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) directing the MI Canvassing Board to immediately commence the “recount” and one day after a U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal decision, upholding that TRO. Under that 6th Circuit appeals ruling, Judge Goldsmith was obligated to revisit the issue if “the Michigan courts determine that Plaintiffs’ recount is improper for any reason.” Separately, on Dec. 6, the Michigan state appellate court ruled that, under MI law, only a candidate who has a reasonable chance of winning has a right to initiate a post-election count. But that state court ruling, by three Republican judges, did not justify Judge Goldsmith’s decision to halt a “recount” that had been predicated on Dr. Jill Stein’s rights under the U.S. Constitution.
North Carolina’s fall election essentially wrapped up Friday as the trailing candidate in the state auditor’s race conceded near the end of a statewide recount and officials certified results for president, U.S. Senate, governor and scores of other contests. Democratic State Auditor Beth Wood won another four-year term after Republican challenger Chuck Stuber said it appears his campaign would come up short on the vote count. With nearly all 100 counties completing the recount Stuber requested earlier this week, Wood was leading by a little over 6,000 votes from more than 4.5 million votes cast. “Now that we have won I am ready to move forward with my third term to continue the mission in helping our state become a model for the nation in efficiency and budgetary effectiveness,” Wood said in a release.
Wisconsin: Judge Rules Against Attempt To Halt Wisconsin Presidential Recount | Wisconsin Public Radio
A federal judge has ruled against an attempt to halt Wisconsin’s presidential recount. Judge James Peterson denied the request from two super PACs that supported President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign Friday morning. “It’s crystal clear to me that I don’t have the basis to stop the recount,” Peterson said. “The recount looks like it’s going as the state said: smoothly.” The lawsuit claimed Wisconsin’s recount violates equal protection requirements, puts the state at risk of missing a federal elections reporting deadline and may cast doubt on the legitimacy of Trump’s victory.
The CIA’s conclusion that Russia covertly intervened to swing last month’s presidential election in favour of Donald Trump but its actions did not place the overall credibility of the result in doubt will be hard to swallow for some. The classified CIA investigation, which has not been published, may also have implications for the integrity of Britain’s Brexit referendum last June, and how upcoming elections in France and Germany could be vulnerable to Russian manipulation. The latest revelations are not entirely new. What is fresh is the bald assertion that Moscow was working for Trump. Democrats have been agitating for months for more decisive action by the White House following earlier reports of Russian-inspired hacking designed to undermine their candidate, Hillary Clinton. Some of the thousands of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and members of Clinton’s campaign staff that were leaked, reportedly by Russian proxies, were used to reinforce a key Trump campaign narrative, that of “Lying Hillary”.
China: Pro-democracy camp wins more than a quarter of seats on Hong Kong Election Committee | Hong Kong Free Press
The pro-democracy camp has seen a landslide in at least six sectors of Sunday’s Chief Executive Election Committee poll, and expects to win at least 325 seats in the 1,200-seat committee. The camp has won all seats in six professional sectors: social welfare, IT, health services, legal, education and higher education. The camp also gained almost all seats in the accountancy sector and the architectural sectors. In the medical sector, 85 people were running for 30 seats. The pro-democracy camp sent 19 candidates and all of them won. The camp also made some breakthroughs in sectors such as Chinese medicine, with three wins out of the 30 seats.
Colombia: How governments pitch a referendum is a big deal. Here’s what we learned in Colombia. | The Washington Post
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today, in recognition of his four-year effort to guide peace negotiations with Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC. The October announcement about the prize came just days after Colombians rejected a referendum on the historic peace agreement to end the armed conflict that has plagued the country for half a century. In late November, the two sides pushed through a revised peace deal addressing some of the concerns of those who voted against the referendum. Santos avoided another referendum by getting the senate and the lower house to approve the new pact. The outcomes of referendums — whether in Colombia, or the June Brexit vote or December’s Italian referendum — make it clear that getting people to vote for government initiatives is harder than one would expect.
Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh says he rejects the outcome of last week’s elections, after previously conceding defeat and vowing to step down. The president, who has ruled Gambia for more than 22 years, said on state television Friday night that he wants to see new elections. The announcement throws the political future of the West African country into question, and is a dramatic turnaround from last week when Jammeh called opposition candidate Adama Barrow to concede defeat after the president’s unexpected loss. Gambia’s state media broadcast a phone call last Friday in which President Jammeh told Barrow that he wanted to hand over power graciously and vowed not to contest the results of the December 1 election.
Kyrgyzstan has voted in favor of constitutional changes boosting the power of its government, the Central Election Commission said on Sunday, citing preliminary results of a national referendum. The commission said that with most ballots counted in the Central Asian nation of six million, about 80 percent of voters had supported the package of constitutional amendments proposed by allies of President Almazbek Atambayev. Voter turnout was about 42 percent. The amendments include provisions granting more powers to the prime minister and the government, which is dominated by members of Atambayev’s Social Democratic party.
Both main parties claimed victory in Macedonia’s general election on Sunday night. While the main ruling VMRO DPMNE claimed a slight lead of some 20,000 votes across the country, the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, came out celebrating in front of the government HQ in Skopje, insisting it won one or possibly two more seats than their rivals. The incomplete results from the State Electoral Commission show a tight race. Of 88.76 per cent of counted votes, VMRO DPMNE won 388,761 votes, or 38.36 per cent, while the Social Democrats won 368,144 votes, or 36.33 per cent. However, some projections show that this may translate into an equal number of seats for both parties with both VMRO DPMNE and for the SDSM having 51 seats in the 123-seat parliament.
Romania’s left-leaning Social Democrats have easily won parliamentary elections a year after a major anti-corruption drive forced the last socialist prime minister from power. Election authorities said on Monday that with 99% of the votes from Sunday’s balloting counted, the Social Democratic party had about 46% and the center-right Liberals were second with over 20%. The chairman of the Social Democrats, Liviu Dragnea, spoke on Sunday after exit polls were published showing similar results, saying: “There should be no doubt who won the elections. Romanians want to feel at home in their own country and I want Romania to be a good home for all Romanians.”