If the leaks that doomed Michael Flynn were a signal from the intelligence community, perhaps the message they intended to carry was: You ain’t seen nothing yet. The national security adviser’s abrupt resignation Monday night, which the White House says was a firing, came after it became clear that Flynn had lied to the public and to Vice President Mike Pence, alleging he had not discussed sanctions against Russia’s ambassador to the United States. On Tuesday evening, The New York Times added a set of new, if in some cases merely suggestive, information about further contacts between the Trump team and the Russian government—some of it directly contradicting statements made by Trump aides. The newspaper reports that four current and former intelligence officers say that Trump political and business associates “had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” The contacts came in the context of Trump repeatedly praising Russian President Vladimir Putin on the trail, as well as what intelligence officials and the Obama administration say were Russian efforts to boost Trump’s presidential hopes with hacks targeting Hillary Clinton and her political allies.
Five days after Donald Trump was elected president, Alex Halderman was on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Los Angeles when he received an urgent email. A respected computer scientist and leading critic of security flaws in America’s voting machines, Halderman was anxious to determine whether there had been foul play during the election. Had machines in Wisconsin or Michigan been hacked? Could faulty software or malfunctioning equipment have skewed the results in Pennsylvania? “Before the election, I had been saying I really, really hope there’s not a hack and that it’s not close,” he says. “Afterwards, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, there’s enough reason here to be concerned.’ ” Now, wedged into a middle seat on the cross-country flight, Halderman stared in disbelief at the email from Barbara Simons, a fellow computer scientist and security expert. Working with Amy Rao, a Silicon Valley CEO and major Democratic fundraiser, Simons had arranged a conference call with John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, to make the case for taking a closer look at the election results. Could Halderman be on the call in 15 minutes? United’s wi-fi system didn’t allow for in-flight phone calls. But Halderman wasn’t fazed. “I’m blocked,” he emailed Simons, “but I can try.” Within minutes, Halderman had circumvented the wi-fi and established an interface with computers at the University of Michigan, where at 36 he is the youngest full professor in the history of the computer science department. He dialed in to the call but did not speak, afraid of drawing attention to the fact that he was violating the airline’s phone ban.
State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation explaining why election systems should be deemed critical U.S. infrastructure. Geoff Hale, DHS’ cybersecurity strategy and integration program manager, outlined the changes and benefits that the recent designation provides during a Feb. 14 Election Assistance Commission meeting. The primary benefits, Hale said, are added protections against nation-states, guaranteed priority in DHS assistance requests and greater access to information on vulnerabilities. “Without institutionalizing this through a designation of critical infrastructure, there’s no guarantee the services would be available,” he said. “Being critical infrastructure, there are a set of international norms that” prevent countries from attacking these networks, said Hale. “And potentially waiting nine months for a risk and vulnerability assessment may not work on a procurement timeline” for election officials. Hale also stressed that the “full threat information” available to states that opt in for DHS assistance is not subject to state sunshine laws or Freedom of Information Act requests.
National: Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes. We did the research. | The Washington Post
The Justice Department just got a new boss: Jeff Sessions. He is raising alarms in the civil rights community. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is concerned about his “record of hostility” toward the Voting Rights Act and the enforcement of civil rights. The NAACP-Legal Defense Fund lamented that it is “unimaginable that he could be entrusted to serve as the chief law enforcement officer for this nation’s civil rights laws.” No one knows for sure how Sessions will perform as attorney general — the former Republican senator from Alabama did, after all, once vote to renew the Voting Rights Act, in 2006 — but for many his record is deeply troubling. What we do know is that voter identification laws are spreading rapidly around the country. Before 2006, no state required photo identification to vote on Election Day. Today 10 states have this requirement. All told, a total of 33 states — representing more than half the nation’s population — have some version of voter identification rules on the books. As we detail below, our research shows that these laws lower minority turnout and benefit the Republican Party.
APT28, the Russian hacking group tied to last year’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, has long been known for its advanced arsenal of tools for penetrating Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux devices. Now, researchers have uncovered an equally sophisticated malware package the group used to compromise Macs. Like its counterparts for other platforms, the Mac version of Xagent is a modular backdoor that can be customized to meet the objectives of a given intrusion, researchers from antivirus provider Bitdefender reported in a blog post published Tuesday. Capabilities include logging passwords, snapping pictures of screen displays, and stealing iOS backups stored on the compromised Mac. The discovery builds on the already considerable number of tools attributed to APT28, which other researchers call Sofacy, Sednit, Fancy Bear, and Pawn Storm. According to researchers at CrowdStrike and other security firms, APT28 has been operating since at least 2007 and is closely tied to the Russian government. An analysis Bitdefender published last year determined APT28 members spoke Russian, worked mostly during Russian business hours, and pursued targets located in Ukraine, Spain, Russia, Romania, the US, and Canada.
National: Senators from both parties pledge to deepen probe of Russia and the 2016 election | The Washington Post
Top Republican and Democratic senators pledged Tuesday to deepen their investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election in the wake of Michael Flynn’s resignation as President Trump’s national security adviser, opening a new and potentially uncomfortable chapter in the uneasy relationship between Trump and Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said such an investigation is “highly likely,” and the top two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), stood side by side Tuesday to announce that the committee’s ongoing probe must include an examination of any contacts between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. Flynn resigned late Monday after revelations of potentially illegal contacts with Russia last year and misleading statements about the communication to senior Trump administration officials, including Vice President Pence. “We are aggressively going to continue the oversight responsibilities of the committee as it relates to not only the Russian involvement in the 2016 election, but again any contacts by any campaign individuals that might have happened with Russian government officials,” said Burr, the chairman of the intelligence panel.
Editorials: The president lays the groundwork for a nationwide voter intimidation program | Sherrilyn Ifill/The Washington Post
White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller argued Sunday that President Trump was the victim of voter fraud in the election. “Voter fraud,” Miller insisted, “is a serious problem in this country.” This statement is untrue. He also said that “the White House has provided enormous evidence” of this fraud. This is also untrue. The president himself has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims, from last week’s allegation that then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost her race in New Hampshire because thousands of voters were bused in from Massachusetts to his fact-free insistence that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes because of 3 million to 5 million votes cast by “illegals.” And when he called for a “major investigation,” he was hardly opaque about his aims, with his press secretary, Sean Spicer, saying that the probe would be focused on “urban areas,” the same areas Trump told his supporters to “watch” on Election Day. Let’s dispense with the easy part. This issue has been studied, and every credible academic review has concluded that widespread voter fraud does not happen in this country. There are isolated incidents, such as the Iowa woman accused of voting twice for Trump. But there is no evidence that millions, thousands or even hundreds of instances of in-person voter fraud occur in the United States. One of the most reliable studies found only 31 instances of fraud in more than 1 billion votes cast over nearly 15 years. A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.
A case cited by the White House as evidence that non-citizens cast illegal votes in American elections did not actually involve any non-citizens voting, the latest in a series of misleading statements on the subject by the administration. Donald Trump’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, referred in a television interview on Sunday to an incident in her native Arkansas, which she said supported Trump’s claims about voter fraud. Trump has repeatedly alleged, without evidence, that he lost the national popular vote to Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, because millions of non-citizens voted illegally. His claim has been widely dismissed as a fabrication. … After the president and a senior aide revived the claims last week, Huckabee Sanders was asked on MSNBC: “Do you think that there are 3 to 5 million undocumented immigrants who cast votes, and that that would have swung the president’s election, in terms of the popular vote, his way?” Huckabee Sanders replied: “Look, I don’t know how many different voters voted illegally, but I do know that it exists. In my home state of Arkansas, there was a judge that was caught with, I think, roughly 180 ballots sitting on his kitchen table. So to pretend like voter fraud isn’t something real and doesn’t exist is laughable.”
Lynn Dierksen of Orlando was surprised to get a new voter ID card in the mail this week which revealed she was suddenly without a party. The Independent Party of Florida, founded in 1992, was stripped of its official status because it didn’t use a certified public accountant to audit its finances in 2014. “I really don’t like the change going out without people being informed,” said Dierksen, who had to call the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office to learn why she no longer belonged to the Independent Party. “Right now, with what’s going on with politics, I’m just suspicious of everything.”
Terre Haute legislator Clyde Kersey’s bill to establish automatic voter registration in Indiana through Bureau of Motor Vehicles will get a hearing today in the Indiana House Elections and Apportionment Committee. But the proposal’s “automatic” element will likely be diminished. Instead of applicants for BMV licenses and identification cards being automatically registered as voters, simultaneously, BMV employees would be required to ask customers if they want to become registered to vote. “So it’s an improvement, but a small improvement,” said Kersey. He’s a Democrat, whose party is vastly outnumbered by the Republican super majority in the House.
When the White House accused the press of actively covering up millions of illegal votes cast in the 2016 election, they suggested a conversation with the country’s most reliable source for overblown fears about illegal voting. America, meet the not-so-illustrious Kris Kobach. While you might come to know him as a Trump fan and a talking head on national news shows, in Kansas we’ve long known the Secretary of State in a quite different capacity: As a questionable administrator of the state’s elections who has an unquenchable thirst for the power to prosecute those who dare run afoul of his enhanced registration and identification requirements for voting. He didn’t really make his case, despite appearances on both CNN and the Kobach-friendly Fox News. Oh, and he’s not so good at the record-keeping required by the office he runs. The Kansas Legislature granted Kobach the power to prosecute people who double voted, or failed to comply with voting laws. And after making so much hay about the issue, Kobach produced a total of nine cases worthy of bringing to court – in most cases elderly voters who misunderstood some of the laws.
Voting rights advocates and college students in Maine are hoping to defeat a pair of bills that could make it more difficult for some people to vote. The Legislature will hold a public hearing on Wednesday to weigh the proposals, which have emerged at a time when Republican leaders, including the president, are saying the electoral system is wrought with voter fraud. The bill sponsored by House Republican Leader Ken Fredette deals with a section of voting law dealing with people who tend to move around — military service members and college students. But Fredette’s bill only targets students. It would require them to do one of three things before they can vote: register their car in Maine, prove they pay income or property taxes or show a driver’s license with a residence that matches where they want to vote. Fredette says the proposal is simple, to ensure that college students claiming Maine residency on Election Day are actually residents. “The last thing I want to do is disenfranchise anyone from voting,” he says. “However, we do have a Constitution and the Constitution says you in fact have to be a resident to vote.” But opponents have a different view.
Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria told a state Assembly panel on Tuesday that lawmakers should consider banning guns from polling places to guard against voter intimidation. Guns are banned at some Nevada polling places, such as at schools where weapons are illegal, but other polling locations are not included in such a prohibition, Gloria told the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. A voter could be intimidated seeing an individual carrying a weapon in a polling place, he said. No such legislation has been proposed in the 2017 session.
New Jersey: Democrats want to push future presidents to do what Trump wouldn’t: Release tax returns | Philadelphia Inquirer
If President Trump, or anyone else, wants to get on the New Jersey ballot to run for president in 2020, he could have to release his tax returns, if some Democratic lawmakers have their way. Whether legislators have that power was an open question Monday, as the Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would require candidates for president and vice president to disclose their federal income tax returns in order to appear on the state’s ballot. “Anybody who tells you they know whether it’s constitutional or not is not correct,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor at the University of California, Irvine, said of a state’s ability to require tax-return disclosure to get on the ballot. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman John McKeon (D., Morris), acknowledged that the proposal raised constitutional questions, but argued that such laws would likely be upheld “prior to the election four years from now.”
Texas: Murder, rapes have led to lighter sentences in Tarrant County than voter fraud | The Star-Telegram
The eight-year prison sentence given to a Grand Prairie woman for voting illegally has been touted by politicians as a case that sent a message. “In Texas you will pay a price” for voter fraud, tweeted Gov. Greg Abbott. “This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton said. But critics argue that Rosa Maria Ortega’s punishment, which was decided by a jury and drew national attention, was too harsh. “Illegal voting should be sanctioned but not like a violent felony,” The Wall Street Journal wrote in an editorial Monday. Sam Jordan, spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said the eight-year sentence was the jury’s decision. “Our prosecutors — one from the attorney general’s office and one from our office — made no punishment recommendation,” Jordan said. “We said do what you think is right. We didn’t ask specifically for penitentiary time.”
A second recount for a state House seat has some Republicans and town clerks crying foul, but Democrats say the incumbent who lost has a right to ask the Legislature to resolve the contested election. Susan Hatch Davis, a Progressive from Washington, went to court after the November vote showed Republican Robert Frenier of Chelsea beat her by eight votes, and a recount showed he won by seven. The court refused to authorize a second recount, so Davis asked the Legislature to intervene. Now the House Republican leader is accusing Democrats of trying to steal a seat to prevent the GOP from sustaining a governor’s veto.
Ten years ago, as Latin America’s “pink tide” reached its high-water mark, leftwing leaders such as Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa were in power across the continent. But death and election defeat have since culled their numbers and trimmed their power. Cuba is on a path of moderate reform after the death of Castro. Venezuela was lurching from one crisis to another even before Chávez succumbed to cancer in 2013. Morales’s days as president of Bolivia are also numbered after he failed in an attempt last year to change the constitution to allow him to run for re-election. This Sunday, Ecuador will also make a change, with the first presidential election in more than a decade not to be contested by Correa, who is stepping aside after winning three consecutive terms. Whether the country now follows the continental trend towards centre-right government or remains a bastion for the left is being contested in an unusually dirty campaign.
France: Did Russia Hack French Elections? Kremlin Denies Pro-Marine Le Pen Cyberattacks, Despite Emmanuel Macron Claims | IBT
Russia denied meddling in French elections Tuesday after a top aide to French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron alleged Russia hit Macron’s campaign with hundreds of cyberattacks. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s defense minister, said last week French intelligence agencies were attempting to fortify cybersecurity surrounding the election. The announcement followed allegations Russia intended to interfere in French elections in favor of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who is sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Intelligence agencies said they were concerned Russia would saturate the internet with bots leaving pro-Le Pen comments.
Unofficial counts indicate the acrimonious election for the Indonesian capital’s governor will head to a second round in April with the incumbent, a minority Christian, failing to secure the 50 percent needed for an outright win. Most of the quick counts carried out by research companies show incumbent Gov. “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, whose campaign was hurt by blasphemy charges, winning 40-43 percent of the vote. Anies Rasyid Baswedan, a former education minister who courted conservative and hard-line Muslims, trails by a couple of points. Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the photogenic son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was in a distant third place that eliminates him from the contest. Religion and Ahok’s Chinese ethnicity, rather than the slew of problems that face a car-clogged and sinking Jakarta, dominated the campaign and transformed the election into a high-stakes tussle between conservatives, who want Islam to be ascendant in politics and society, and moderates.
In an effort to attract more foreign residents to vote, Luxembourg’s government is attempting to make the process easier by allowing non-nationals to register on the electoral roll via the internet. The possibility for electronic registration has now been added to the reform of the electoral law approved by the government in the Council of Ministers. The new law will still have to pass through parliament.