To support his call for a sweeping federal inquiry into his claims of vast voting fraud, President Trump turned on Friday to a little-known conservative activist whose work on the issue has been widely discredited and who has trafficked in conspiracy theories. “Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, a reference to a claim by Mr. Phillips, who helped create an app to report voter fraud, that he had “verified” such irregularities. With those words, Mr. Trump bestowed the imprimatur of the presidency on new ground: the feverish online fringes of American politics. In elevating Mr. Phillips, who last month on Twitter cited “spook friends” to claim that “the Israelis impersonated the Russians” and interfered in the American election, Mr. Trump returned to a familiar pattern. After a campaign in which he gave voice to outlandish falsehoods, including claims that Justice Antonin Scalia was suffocated by a pillow and Senator Ted Cruz’s father had a connection to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Mr. Trump has not left his penchant for conspiracy-mongering at the White House door.
National: Republicans in Congress don’t want anything to do with Trump’s voter-fraud probe | The Washington Post
If President Trump is waiting for the Republican Congress to join him in his quixotic quest to launch the first investigation in American history that will uncover systematic voter fraud — well, he may be waiting a while. ABC reported Wednesday that Trump would like Congress’s help as he launches a “major” investigation to find the 3 million to 5 million votes he claims were cast illegally. For a variety of political and logistical reasons — but mostly political — Congress will almost definitely not have Trump’s back. “We haven’t been discussing that,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in an interview Wednesday with MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren when asked whether Congress would join in. “The president has 100,000 people at the Department of Justice, and if he wants to have an investigation, have at it,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of one of the top House investigative committees, told CNN.
National: Russian Charged With Treason Worked in Office Linked to Election Hacking | The New York Times
The authorities in Moscow are prosecuting at least one cybersecurity expert for treason, a prominent Russian criminal defense lawyer confirmed on Friday, while a Russian newspaper reported that the case is linked to hacking during the United States presidential election. While surely touching a nerve in American politics, the developments in Moscow left a still muddled picture of what, exactly, a series of arrests by the security services here signifies. But the virtually simultaneous appearance of at least four prominent news reports on the hacking and several related arrests, citing numerous anonymous sources, suggests that the normally opaque Russian government intends to reveal more information about the matter, though it is unclear why.
National: Have Russians arrested a source in U.S. probe of election meddling? | The Charlotte Observer
With mystery surrounding the recent arrests in Moscow of several high-level Russian cybersecurity figures, speculation mounted Friday that one of the men may have been an informant who provided crucial information to the United States about Russian meddling in the U.S. election campaign. The speculation came from two former employees of the National Security Agency, which intercepts, deciphers and analyzes the world’s electronic communications. News of the arrests filtered out in reports beginning Wednesday and it has shaken the insular world of cybersecurity, espionage and cybercrime. Among those arrested for suspected treason was Sergei Mikhailov, deputy chief of the cyber intelligence department of the FSB, Russia’s main security agency. The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta said Mikhailov had been detained in December, and led away with a sack over his head from FSB headquarters in Moscow.
National: Republican redistricting is taking a beating in the courts, right now | The Washington Post
Recent court decisions in three states are putting carefully carved Republican-drawn state legislative districts at risk — and could even threaten the entire process of partisan map drawing. On Friday, a federal court ordered Wisconsin legislatures to redraw their state House legislative districts after finding in November that the districts were unconstitutionally partisan. The order will essentially require lawmakers to redraw state Senate maps as well. The November decision was the first time this decade that a court has thrown out legislative maps because they favored voters of one party over another. Subsequently, this will be the first time in a decade that lawmakers will have to redraw maps specifically to make them more fair for both parties. Thirty-seven states allow their legislatures to draw their electoral maps, and what these lawmakers have come up with has had a profound effect on U.S. politics. After capturing 21 chambers in the 2010 elections, Republicans redrew nearly half of all congressional districts — four times as many as Democrats.
Editorials: Voter fraud investigations have already happened. They don’t support Trump’s assertions. | Bangor Daily News
President Donald Trump, who has big and expensive plans to build a wall with Mexico and to make huge federal investments in the nation’s roads, bridges and airports, could save a little taxpayer money by forgoing a federal investigation into voter fraud. Trump tweeted Wednesday that he would launch a federal investigation of voter fraud, “including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” Instead, he could review the reports already produced by and for people looking for voter fraud. Their conclusions: voter fraud is “extraordinarily rare.”
No doubt realizing that he was losing the cable-news message war, President Trump has called for a witch hunt in an attempt to prove the voter fraud lie he has been telling himself about why he lost the popular vote in November. On both sides of the aisle, conventional wisdom chalks this up to the president being a very insecure person struggling with the reality that 54 percent of American voters chose someone else, but that doesn’t give the president his due. Trump’s staggering inferiority complex clearly is just one of two reasons he’s telling the biggest version yet of a lie that his party has been telling about voter fraud for years. The other reason is that he’d like his party to win the 2018 midterm elections and he’d like to be reelected in 2020, and to do those things he needs to suppress voter turnout. By deliberately undermining confidence in the integrity of our democracy, the president can make it quite a bit easier for his party to push legislation making it harder for certain eligible voters to vote. Curtailing voting rights by dishonestly inventing widespread fraud has been a major part of the Republican Party’s political strategy for a while. Now that plan is getting a major boost from a president who has no problem just making stuff up.
Florida: Joint House resolution would restore felon voting rights after three years | Florida Politics
A new joint resolution in the House would allow felons the right to vote in Florida three years after their sentence is up. The resolution by Rep. Al Jacquet of West Palm Beach would, if passed on the next general election (or a special election specifically for this) ballot, amend the statutes on voting to extend the right to felons. A previous resolution failed to even make it on the ballot in 2016 due to not getting the required number of signatures in time by Florida Rights Coalition President Desmond Meade, who spearheaded the movement to do so.
Georgia Democrats are facing an uphill climb as they try to expand voters’ rights by allowing same day registration and removing ID requirements. The minority lawmakers control less than one third of the state Legislature, but are putting forth a set of proposed laws to expand voter access. President Donald Trump falsely maintains there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 election. Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been adamant that no illegal votes were cast in the state. … Georgia already offers voters the option of registering online, but three Democratic lawmakers are pushing for registration to be even easier. They introduced bills to allow automatic voter registration when obtaining or renewing a drivers’ license, or during any other interactions with a state agency.
The special election for the congressional seat formerly held by new CIA Director Mike Pompeo has added urgency to pending court decisions in multiple federal lawsuits challenging restrictive voter registration requirements in Kansas. Gov. Sam Brownback has called an April 11 special election to fill the 4th District seat, which represents southern Kansas. Preliminary court orders allowed Kansans who registered using a federal form or at motor vehicle offices to vote in the November election even if they didn’t conform to a disputed Kansas requirement to provide documentary proof of citizenship to vote, such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport.
Michigan: Detroit clerk addresses troubled election; state audit shows no proof of voter fraud | Michigan Radio
Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey has broken her public silence about irregularities in the city’s November’s election results. Michigan’s presidential recount was halted mid-process. But the partial recount revealed that more than half of Detroit precincts were legally ineligible to be recounted, because reported vote counts didn’t match the actual number of ballots. That prompted the state to launch an audit, which is still wrapping up. Winfrey has said very little during that time. But state elections officials have now said there is no evidence of fraud, a finding Winfrey reiterated that at a press conference Friday. Instead, she said it mostly revealed a lot of “human error” at the “precinct level.”
North Dakota lawmakers are again considering changes to the state’s voter identification requirements, an issue that has landed the state in federal court over previous laws passed by the Legislature. House Bill 1369 would help preserve the integrity of the state’s elections, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said in testimony to the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Friday, Jan. 27. “By no means does this bill attempt to disenfranchise voters,” he said. “This bill only attempts to verify and make that those voters are, in fact, true North Dakota residents and are allowed to vote.” The bill would require qualified electors to provide a driver’s license, non-driver’s identification card or tribal ID. If the ID doesn’t include the required information or is out of date, the voter could present supplemental documents such as a current utility bill, bank statement or a government-issued check.
Virginia: After bitter fight with McAuliffe over felon voting, General Assembly finds little consensus on reform | Richmond Times-Dispatch
It was the biggest policy fight in Virginia last year, but nearly halfway through the General Assembly session, nobody’s really talking about it.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s push for a sweeping expansion of voting rights for more than 200,000 felons, which drew blasts of criticism from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and a successful Republican legal challenge in the Supreme Court of Virginia, seemed to tee up a big issue for lawmakers in the 2017 legislative session. McAuliffe and other Democrats railed against the disenfranchisement policy in the state constitution as a relic from Virginia’s racist past that should be eliminated.
After striking down Wisconsin’s legislative maps as unconstitutional two months ago, a federal court Friday ordered Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers to redraw the districts by Nov. 1 to ensure their use in the fall 2018 elections. The three-judge federal panel rejected the state’s request to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in on the case, which is being watched closely nationwide because it relies on a novel legal argument. But the panel also denied a request by the Democratic plaintiffs that the court draw the maps. The judges said that was a task better left to the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature and Walker, saying there was no evidence they wouldn’t comply with the order. “It is neither necessary nor appropriate for us to embroil the court in the Wisconsin Legislature’s deliberations,” the panel wrote.
The House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Thursday voted down a bill to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. But it advanced bills concerning a system for permanent absentee ballots, election recounts and the date at which an absentee ballot must be accepted. Committee members voted down a voter ID bill that was brought by committee member Rep. Lars Lone, R-Cheyenne. Lone said he was given a ballot for an incorrect precinct when he went to vote and said if he had been required to show identification, that situation could have been avoided. Lone said he was not bringing the bill because of voter fraud concerns.
With an election looming in Fiji in 2018, the commission responsible for overseeing preparations has been allowed to lapse out of existence. On 9 January, the three-year term of the independent Electoral Commission, a constitutionally-mandated seven-member body tasked with supervising the Elections Office, which is responsible for preparing the vote, expired. Opposition parties say there appears to be no rush to replace the commission, which they say raises concerns about the state of Fiji’s nascent democracy as it prepares to enter its second elections since Frank Bainimarama’s 2006 coup. “There are no longer commissioners and there is no longer an Electoral Commission in place and that’s serious because it’s a constitutional office,” said Biman Prasad, the leader of the opposition National Federation Party. “It shouldn’t be allowed to remain vacant but that is exactly what has happened.”
Lisa was a Russian-born teenager living in Berlin who last January said she had been abducted and raped by three men she alleged were immigrants, noting they were “southerners” who spoke poor German. As the story spread on social media, Russian media outlets pounced on it, widely reporting the 13-year-old girl had been held as “a sex slave”. Before the police could complete their investigation, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, accused the German authorities of “sweeping problems under the rug”. Berlin responded by warning Moscow not to exploit the case “for political propaganda”. A few days later, prosecutors concluded the girl had not been abducted or raped, but had gone to a friend’s home to hide from her parents after getting into trouble at school. Despite the prosecutors’ findings, Russian media issued dire warnings about sex crimes committed by immigrants, prompting an outcry in Germany’s ethnic Russian community. Protests were staged across the country, including a demonstration by 700 people outside Angela Merkel’s chancellery.
Haiti held a final round of legislative contests as well as long-overdue municipal elections on Sunday, closing a repeatedly derailed electoral cycle that started in 2015. President-elect Jovenel Moise’s political faction and its allies are hoping to increase their majority in Parliament with eight legislative runoffs. Voters were also choosing 5,500 district authorities in local elections whose tardiness over a decade has exasperated many. Alix Pierre, a Port-au-Prince lawyer and one of hundreds of voters gathered at a polling station in the Canape Vert section of Haiti’s capital, said he was relieved the 2015 electoral cycle was finally concluding. “It took such a long time to get here,” he said after casting his vote.
Indonesia: Election Commission to invite foreign observers to monitor Jakarta poll | Asian Correspondent
Indonesia’s General Elections Commission (KPU) says it will invite representatives of election commissions from across Southeast Asia and international NGOs that focus on the electoral process to observe the Jakarta gubernatorial election next month. According to Jakarta Post, the KPU will host its “Election Visit” program for the poll on Feb 15 and give observers a chance to monitor the vote. KPU commissioner Sigit Pamungkas said the program to be held at the KPU office in Central Jakarta from Feb 13 to 16 is aimed at introducing Indonesia’s election system to other countries. “We will invite the participants to monitor polling stations across Jakarta on election day. They will hopefully get an idea about the electoral process in Indonesia,” Sigit told Jakarta Post. “Apart from observing our elections, they could also share how elections are run in their respective countries,” he added.